The world has so framed the minds of people today that they live self-centered and selfish lives. Their sense of freedom is such that that they do not care about others, but only themselves. However, this kind of thinking is contrary to what the Bible teaches us. In one of his epistles, the apostle Paul gave an enlightening message when he said, “And he (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:15). This gives us a good purpose for our living—it is not self-centered, but Christ-centered. This manner of living is in line with what the apostle Paul said further, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). It is our old sinful nature that drives us to think independently and selfishly.
A better way to appreciate who we really are is to acknowledge not only our helplessness, but also our hopelessness without Christ. We were destined for destruction because of our sins, but Christ redeemed us through his death on the cross. Jesus practically paid the ransom price through his blood, that we might have a new beginning. For this reason, the apostle Paul said, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body” (1 Cor. 9:19-20). We owe him our life and should offer this life back to him. He will use it for his glory in powerful and marvellous ways.
In another way, the apostle Paul described our true relationship with Christ and how we ought to live our lives when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). This relationship is life-changing, in that we need to realize that we do not control our life anymore. It is like the relationship of a husband and wife, where they are no longer two, but one. Somehow, one of the parties has to consider the other in all of the decisions he or she will make. Even their activities are somewhat controlled, in that they defer to each other’s preferences. They give their best to please each other in order to keep their relationship strong and lasting. In the same manner, once we are in Christ, we no longer do things that are out of line with the Lord’s will. Our freedom is controlled by our desire to be pleasing before the Lord.
Our new birth in Christ comes with freedom. However, this freedom is muted or controlled. The apostle Paul again said, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love” (Gal. 5:13). We have the tendency to do things our way and not God’s way. We have been accustomed to living life for ourselves and it is a struggle to do otherwise. If we sincerely want to live a victorious Christian life, we have to sacrifice and give up the freedom that we used to know. Our newfound freedom demands that we live sacrificially and that we use it to serve others, realizing that we do not live for ourselves anymore, but for him who died for us.
When Jesus reinstated Peter, he did not only command Peter to feed his lambs, take care of his sheep and feed his sheep. He also gave him his term of service. He said, “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). By this, Jesus was telling Peter the manner by which he would serve the Lord until his death. He would live a martyred life, because it would entail many sacrifices. He would no longer be as free as he used to live. His life would be controlled and influenced by the flock that the Lord entrusted to him. He would do things contrary to his liking, but for the sake of the flock he would align himself. It was no longer his will and desires that would prevail, but in deference to the needs of the flock, he would make many sacrifices and concessions. He would no longer serve the Lord in his own terms, but would submit to the will of the Lord, even if it hurts.
Friends, let us consider him who redeemed us as we serve. We are no longer living for ourselves, but for him who loved us and gave himself up for us. Let us not serve him with selfish ambition, but sacrificially, always considering the good of others. When we serve, it is no longer based on our own terms, but with curtailed freedom. Yes, while we are called to be free, let us not use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature. Indeed, it is no longer us that live, but Jesus living in us. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Hallelujah!