John 8:36 is one of the most well-known scriptures in the Bible, yet many people don’t understand it. The Son set you free… but from what? Actually, there are many different areas of bondage from which Jesus has set us free.
Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Slave to the World’s System
Many believers are slaves to the world’s system to some degree. The world says, “When you’re sick, go to the doctor first. Go to college and get a four-year degree or you won’t have a future. If you give your money to charity, it’s gone, so take care of yourself first.”
However, the Son set you free from the world’s system and ways of thinking! Whereas doctors can certainly help us when needed, Jesus has provided healing. Regarding education, His plans are better than ours, and we can allow Him to position us for success, with or without a university degree. The truth is that when we give financially in faith, we will supernaturally increase!
The only thing keeping us from living in the freedom Jesus purchased for us is ourselves. As Romans 12:2 says, don’t be just like the world around you. Instead, change your life by adopting God’s patterns of thinking found in the Word of God. Begin to train your mind to respond to life’s challenges with thoughts of faith and victory so you can live in freedom!
Let’s look more closely at the context of John 8:36. Here, Jesus was specifically referring to freedom from the power of sin and freedom from trying to become righteousness through works of the law.
The Son Set You Free
The term “the law” refers to two things. The Old Covenant Mosaic Law is referred to as “the law,” but this phrase also refers to any rule or regulation that we put on ourselves to please God or cause Him to bless us.
Paul wrote his letter to the Galatian church because there were Jews teaching new Christian believers, whether Jew or Gentile, that they must still follow the laws that God had given Moses. They were insisting that the only way to righteousness was to perform the law by their own works. Unfortunately, in trying to do this, they were moving right back into the bondage from which Jesus came to free them!
The truth is that your relationship of right standing with God is based only on your faith in Jesus, who fulfilled the law perfectly for you. It isn’t based on your own works or efforts in your flesh. The Son set you free from the pressure of living perfectly to stay in relationship with the Father. So, to counteract this false teaching, which was resulting in bondage, Paul wrote:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
The Battle of the Flesh
We experience bondage when we don’t realize that righteousness is of faith and not of works. When we believe the lie we must behave right to stay in fellowship with God, and that sin is just a normal part of being human, we become slaves to sin. Focusing on sin, rather than righteousness, results in our repeating the same mistakes, no matter how much we wish we wouldn’t.
Paul described the struggle this way:
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice…
21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
This passage can come across as both extremely relatable and confusing! What is Paul saying here?
When we know the right things to do, and want to do those right things, that is our spirit telling us the difference between right and wrong. However, many times we find ourselves behaving in the complete opposite manner! Why? Because we live in a physical, fleshly body that tempts us to unrighteous behavior. In addition, our natural, unrenewed minds tend to cheer on those fleshly, sinful desires!
The Strength of Sin
Normal human behavior is to focus on our faults, our weaknesses, with the knowledge that they are “wrong.” However, what that does is actually empower those behaviors! When we look at our lists of rules and regulations—most of which we are likely violating—it actually strengthens those sins in our lives.
…the strength of sin is the law.
A dear friend and mentor of ours tells a story that illustrates this point perfectly. One day, a group of children was playing in the yard. He told them, “You can do anything you want to out here, but do not, do NOT, spit on this flower!” As he retreated inside the house, he spied on them through the window. To a one, each child made a point to spit on the flower!
Why? Normally, children don’t make it a habit of spitting on flowers. If our friend hadn’t told them not to, would any of them have even thought to spit on that flower? Probably not! However, since he had made it a “law,” their flesh told them, “We must spit on it!”
The “law” gave strength, or power, to sin—to break the rules. This law can be both the actual written standards we find in the Bible, or those we create ourselves. From “thou shalt not bear false witness” to “thou shalt pray for one hour each day,” any rule, standard, or principle can cause our flesh to act to break it.
The Promise of Freedom
Understanding that the law gives strength to sin, how do we escape this trap and still live holy lives? How has the Son set you free? Paul went on to give the answer to the struggle:
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Jesus delivers us from this deadly struggle of being bound to sin. He has set us free from bondage to relying on our own behaviors to ensure a strong relationship with God. Through Him, we also have freedom from the power of sin to live righteously!
Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.
How can this be? Many of us feel chained to repeating our mistakes, over and over again. We have become slaves to sin in our flesh, even though our hearts desperately desire to be free. Yet, here the Bible clearly states that we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness!
The key to our freedom is not by vowing to do the right things. It doesn’t rely upon using our willpower to refuse to do wrong. The key to our freedom rests entirely upon our focus. Is our focus on our weaknesses and faults, or on the promise of freedom and the power of God within us?
Power from God to Live Righteously
We are spirits who live in physical bodies and have souls. If our focus is on our flesh (the body and soul parts of us), we will continue to follow those desires. It’s like when driving down the highway. If you focus your vision on the lines, you will find yourself drifting toward them. The key to driving straight is to keep your eyes on the road ahead.
In the same way, by focusing on faults and failures, we will continue to drift toward those behaviors rather than away from them. However, if we redirect our focus to our true identity, and the righteousness we are in Christ, we will begin to see our behavior conform to that image.
God has given us the power to live righteously by His spirit within us. He doesn’t want you to live life under guilt and condemnation, in bondage to sin. The Son set you free from the power of sin to become a slave to righteousness instead!
Scriptures to Focus on God’s Power Within
Read and meditate on these verses that confirm the power of God that is already inside of you to live righteously through faith:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength [causing it to multiply and making it to abound]. [II Cor. 12:9.]
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
…not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.
That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The focus of all of these scriptures is not on us, but on the Savior, whose Spirit lives within us and empowers us! As you keep your eyes stayed on your true identity in Christ, your life will begin to reflect His life. You were created, designed, and destined to be conformed into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). The Son set you free, so keep your eyes on Jesus, and allow Him to perform the work within you (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NLT).
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