If Jesus paid the penalty for my sin, if He died to free me, do I really need to live for Him now that I’m free? Do I owe God my life?

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).

Romans 6:22-23 may cause us to wonder:

1. If I’ve been set free, why am I a “slave of God?”

2. Is God’s gift of eternal life based on my holiness rather than simply on His sacrifice?

3. If forgiveness and eternal life are gifts, do I need to repay Him by living for Him? 

“Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe.” (Hymn written by Elvina Hall)

Is it true? Did He pay the full price for my sin, and yet I still “owe” Him my life? If it is truly finished, if God is satisfied, if I am justified, why must I live a life as a “living sacrifice?”

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).

Living as a slave, or as a living sacrifice, does not sound like a great trade to us, humanly speaking: the promise of eternal life, as long as we sacrifice our earthly life and bodies to God? 

Am I Really Free as a Believer in Jesus?

Before being set free from sin, we belonged to the enemy of God, Satan, and we lived to carry out his desires.

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). 

Are we really rescued by God to become slaves again, just in a different way? Is this what the Bible is really saying? Many people have this view of Christianity – that it’s a long list of restrictions and a life void of fun, freedom and pleasure.

Man with anxieties around him

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Bulat Silvia 

The Seriousness of Our Slavery to Sin and Satan

The scenario we were in spiritually speaking is not hard to imagine if we allow our minds to connect it to the physical slavery happening in our world today, namely sex trafficking. “Much like the grooming tactics employed by sexual predators, sex traffickers lure their target into an online relationship, with the ultimate goal of meeting in person. Traffickers use a deliberate process to identify and recruit their victims. It happens in three main phases: scouting, manipulating and trapping. Victims are often showered with love, romance and promises of a better life. Others are lured in with false promises of a job, or given expensive gifts. The end game of the trafficker however, is to force or manipulate their target into prostitution” (Internet Safety 101).

The above wording reminds us of the devil, “the father of lies.” Starting with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), and continuing even with Jesus Himself (Matthew 4:1), Satan has been targeting, deceiving, grooming and tempting humans using:

1. Disguise (such as a talking serpent and an angel of light – Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:14)

2. Doubt (“Did God really say…” Genesis 3:1-3)

3. Deceit/Lies (“You will not certainly die” Genesis 3:4)

4. Demons (intelligent, strong, invisible, evil spirit beings) 

Satan’s ultimate goal? Destruction!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Like a predator or trafficker, Satan’s end game is to deceive and then “devour” (1 Peter 5:8) using any device and means necessary. 

The Significance of Our Rescue

Continuing on this spiritual thread using our physical analogy of trafficking, if Satan is the trafficker or predator, Christ is our Rescuer! We sometimes take credit for “coming to Jesus,” but the truth is that we were “dead” in our sins, blindly following the enemy of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). We could not have broken out of captivity by ourselves.

But God, in His great love and rich mercy, saved us from our distress, brought us out of darkness and broke our chains (Psalm 107:10-14)! 

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:1-3a). 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” (Ephesians 2:8).

We were born sinners, and therefore born into slavery (Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:2-3, Genesis 8:21), destined for spiritual destruction and death (Romans 6:23). And yet God, because of His great love for us (John 3:16), gave His only Son, Jesus, to rescue us. 

Imagine being duped by a cruel, controlling, and greedy sex trafficker and held captive for years, forced into all manner of wickedness and perversion. And then imagine being found, rescued and set free! Would you choose to fully embrace your freedom and live for yourself, or would you live the rest of your days for your rescuer? Most of us would live for ourselves. We would be done answering to a master!

But what if the rescuer was a king or queen and the richest, most loving, and most powerful person on earth, and he or she not only rescued you but also adopted you, meaning that you would go from a destitute, desperate, hopeless captive to:

- Chosen and accepted

- A beloved son or daughter

- An heir to the kingdom

- Richly loved and cherished

And all that was expected was that you would love your adopted parent and live your new life with faithfulness, joy and gratitude.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 1:4-5).

woman with arms raised with clouds behind, where the spirit of the lord is there is freedom

Photo credit: Unsplash/Mohamed Nohassi

The Splendor of Our Rescuer

But our story is even greater! Our Rescuer is also our Creator and the Eternal and Almighty Son of God! His expectation is that we live a life set apart for Him and the reward for living for Him will be eternal blessings at His right hand. 

This is how King David felt about it…

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalms 16:5-11).

David understood the joy, pleasure, and delight of living for God, His rescuer and deliver! In fact, He wrote over 70 songs, or Psalms, to that affect. He described living for God this way:

- You make my lot secure

- The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places

- I have a delightful inheritance 

- My heart is glad

- My tongue rejoices 

- My body rests secure

- There is joy in your presence

- There are eternal pleasures at your right hand

Free to Live Abundant Lives in Christ

Even though the New Testament uses the imagery of being living sacrifices and slaves to God, we misunderstand if we assume that a life set apart for God’s pleasure and glory is not freedom. 

“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 … You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:1, 13).

Rather, what the Apostle Paul is communicating is that we are set free to live abundant lives for God rather than lives in captivity. So many believe that God wants to keep us from happiness, but instead, He desires that we live lives safe from the things that can hurt us . . . Even destroy us.

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” – C.S. Lewis

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/GordonImages

Kristi Walker has been a missionary in Berlin, Germany for over 15 years working with an international church as the Director of Student Ministries. She is the author of two books - Disappointment: A Subtle Path Away from Christ and Convinced. Applying Biblical Principles to Life’s Choices.