We all come to Christ from different places. I kind of sum it down to two. Slavery, where we’ve spent our whole life trying to appease an angry God, please an impossible God, and earn our way to heaven; or freedom, where we lived like the devil and had no care for the consequences.
The Bible describes salvation as both freedom (Galatians 5) and slavery (Romans 6). What I love is the verse, 1 Corinthians 7:22, which says in essence, if you came to God from a background of slavery, consider yourself to be God’s freeman. And if you came to God free as a bird, consider yourself to be God’s slave. Paul is talking about real slaves and real freemen, but I imagine the principle carries over.
I came to God as a slave. I spent my whole life trying to earn His love and forgiveness and it took Him ten long years of debilitating depression to make me realize such a thing is impossible. My Old Self was a slave, very good at being a slave, and I followed every voice that urged me to act or refrain from acting—guilt, fear, religion, none of them Christ’s.
I believe God’s Word presents salvation from these two radically different perspectives (freedom and slavery) because there are two radically different types of people who come to Christ. For someone who, like me, is used to slaving for a master who wants me dead and can never be satisfied, Jesus assures me I am already dead, and He is infinitely satisfied. For someone who, unlike me, began their life jumping into every sin with both feet and never feared hell until Jesus got ahold of them, the slavery that is salvation in Christ is the most incredible reality in the world, because they learn they are bought with a price and their life is not their own (1 Corinthians 6:20).
If I have been crucified with Christ and He lives instead of me, all pressure is off, because in the freedom that is salvation, Someone Else has taken up the cause of living that perfect life I couldn’t. Someone Else’s character lives in me, controlling me and making me holy. And Someone Else will stand before God in my place, for salvation and reward. To be God’s freeman, I need only to remember this: I am dead, and Jesus lives.
If I have been crucified with Christ and He lives instead of me, then I must give no reign to the sinful flesh that wants to reassert control. My body belongs to Someone Else, bought with highest price. My words reflect Someone Else. My life glorifies Someone Else and I must never forget that my life is now lived by faith in that Someone Else, not according to my Old Self desires. To be God’s slave, I need only to remember this: I am dead, and Jesus lives.
Whether from slavery or freedom, whether we see salvation as the incredible freedom that it is, or the marvelous slavery to a good Master that it also is, we are all aiming toward the same glorious reality: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). There is no better reality than that.