My devotional reading today in Jeremiah was aided by a quote from Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will shared by John Meunier on his blog, which reads,
[T]he Scripture sets before us a man who is not only bound, wretched, captive, sick and dead, but who, through the operation of Satan his lord, adds to his other miseries that of blindness, so that he believes himself to be free, happy, possessed of liberty and ability, whole and alive. Satan knows that if men knew their own misery he could keep no man in his kingdom.
Luther knew that apart from a miraculous work of grace in our lives our bondage to sin and death is absolute and total. The most frightening thing about our bondage is that we cannot see it. It has become such a natural part of our lives, so ingrained in our being, that we cannot imagine a life any different. We even begin to approve of those who do the same things we are doing, or who remain in a bondage similar to our own (Rom. 1:32).
Which leads me to the passage in Jeremiah that spoke to me today:
Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil (Jer. 13:23, NIV).
So long as we think we are essentially good people who occasionally do bad things we remain blind to our disease, and thus to the cure. It’s not until we are brought to a place where we cry out with Paul, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?” that we are on our way to freedom. We would not know that about ourselves – that we are wretched – unless the Holy Spirit revealed it to us by a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Rather, we would tell ourselves “peace, peace” like the lying prophets of Jeremiah’s day (Jer. 6:14), and we would gather around ourselves teachers who would tell us the same (2 Tim. 4:3).
We are born into sin in the same way a leopard is born with spots, and you and I, left to ourselves, can no more change that state than a leopard can change his skin. Ephesians 2:1-4 reminds us that we are “dead in our sin” and we walk according to the course of this world, feeding the passions of the flesh. We can do no other unless God intervenes…and God did!
Jesus did not die on a cross just so you and I could remain in bondage to our sin, applying superficial healing to our wounds, but to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). If you are in the pit of despair today, and you are beginning to see your wretchedness – your spots – and despise where your sin has brought you, then REJOICE! You could not and would not see this for yourself, but only through the supernatural work of God in your life, destroying the work of the devil which has for so long kept you blind to your disease. And what God has begun in you He will see to the finish! Continue saying YES to Him, and you will, by God’s grace, find yourself free…a NEW creation! (2 Cor. 5:17).
A friend recently asked me, incredulously, “You mean I can be FREE from the lustful thoughts that have kept me in bondage for years?” The answer to that is the same answer Paul received when he saw his spots in Romans. He knew that left to himself he could not change his spots, or free himself from bondage to sin and death. There was only one answer for him, and for us today:
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:24-25)