Preaching on Hosea 13 at church, we saw that Israel in the 700s BC was guilty of using their freedom to kill themselves. From a position of privilege, they went after idols – and died. We can feel how sudden and abrupt was this fall in verse one:
When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling;
he was exalted in Israel,
but he incurred guilt through Baal and died. (ESV)
Exalted Ephraim/Israel. (Hooray!) But he died. No freedom there, but self-chosen slavery instead.
Where is freedom, then? In the death-defeating work of the Lord. The people died in sin, but death is no obstacle to God. God will raid Sheol, the place of the dead.
I will ransom them from the power of Sheol,
I will I redeem them from death.
O death, where are your plagues?
O Sheol, where is your sting?
A change of heart will not come into my view.
(Verse 14, my version)
So, the secret of freedom is resurrection from the dead. When God gives new life, we can all be confident that our sin is beaten. For this reason, the resurrection of Jesus is news for the whole world of sin. And for this reason, Paul could quote Hosea centuries later with assurance of victory. See 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.
And yet … Christians who trust this do not always report the feeling of freedom! We’re stuck in lies, or greed, or sexual fantasy, or lack of love, and many other stumbling points. Life often feels like a slog.
For that reason, here are five short points about living the freedom that God has already given us.
- Remember: God is not changing his mind
Verse 14 above speaks of God’s single-track mind when it comes to sin (including my sin): he defeats the death of sin. God will certainly finish this good work. Press on!
- Jesus knows the course
Jesus told his disciples to take up his cross daily and follow him. When I struggle tomorrow against the sin I fell into yesterday, it’s no surprise to Jesus. In fact, it’s what he told us to do. Daily struggle is success. Don’t be surprised, and don’t read daily struggle as a sign of failure
- Celebrate progress
If you are a Christian, you are different today. By God’s Spirit, you will also be different tomorrow. Growth is real, even if frustratingly slow. Reflect, remember, and give thanks
- Expect lumps
Here’s an observation from experience, rather than directly from God’s word. I think normal Christian progress has ups and downs. As well as the progress, there will be stumbles. Forward, forward, forward, then back is still going forward. Don’t give in because life is lumpy
- When you feel stuck in sin
Ask this question, ‘What part of the gospel does my sin deny?’ Is it the completeness of Jesus’ forgiveness? Or is it that God is good? Or is it that Jesus is alive and present with you right now? Whatever it is, go back to the gospel and learn that truth
And remember always, it is for freedom that you have been set free.