He Sets the Prisoner Free

I was an indie kid. The term is convoluted, but to boil it down, my tastes and fashion sense were a silent rebellion against the mainstream. I avoided brand names and labels, and instead preferred finding vintage pieces at thrift stores — mixing and matching different styles to achieve an eclectic look against current trends.

My independent streak also manifested itself in my music selections. I prided myself on being into a particular band before they were popular; once they were popular I was no longer a loyal fan. I frequented bars with my friends to see indie rock bands, relishing in the obscurity of the music. My identity was in the indie scene with my indie friends.

I still went to church and gave a nod to my belief in Bible doctrine, but I had carved wooden idols into my soul and enshrined them in my heart. I bowed down to a certain genre of music, lifestyle, social scene, and attitude, instead of my Creator. This idol worship led me into slavery and subtly swept me away from worshiping the one true God. It was not always apparent on the outside, but I slowly hardened my heart as I indulged in sinful cravings of pride. Placing my identity in something other than Christ led me down a dark path of a love affair with the world, thereby making myself an enemy of God (James 4:4).

This adulterous behavior against my first love made me become just like my idols — spiritually mute, deaf, blind, and dumb (like Isaiah 44:9–20). The slow and subtle process of this heart idolatry in my life lasted a year. It wasn’t until a bad relationship with a young man was forced to an end that God showed me how far my heart had wandered. My eyes were opened to my bondage. My idols had consumed me. They turned on me right when I thought I was in control, but in reality they controlled me.

Liberty Became Slavery

What began as a foray into my Christian liberties became my slavery. You see, I knew none of the activities or interests I engaged in were sinful in and of themselves, but I was naive about the power of my sinful heart when coming in contact with those activities. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” Paul knew human desires are tainted with sin, which is why our desires can master us so easily.

Further down in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are not their own, because they were bought with a price. This image of being bought with a price refers to the slave market. It was an image reflecting a literal reality for the Corinthian believers, but still holds a spiritual reality for us today. The price Paul refers to is the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice needed to appease the wrath of God. In this powerful act of redemption, God bought us back to himself through his Son. Where were we before God bought us at the high cost of himself? In slavery to sin. A slavery we could not break free from on our own without a miraculous intervention.

This moment of salvation is — and is not — a one-time deal. We tell people we are “saved,” but Scripture takes this thought further and tells us salvation is also a process in which we are continually “being saved.” Until we are taken into glory, we will always need rescuing from ourselves on this earth. We will find ourselves enslaved to sinful desires once again, and we will need again the saving power of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection on our behalf. We are in continual need of rescuing and bondage breaking.

Yet God doesn’t stop at buying us out of slavery to sin. He buys us to make us slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:16–18). This slavery in God’s service leads to freedom and joy. As God showed me the wanderings of my heart in slavery to idols, I was reminded that my soul had been ransomed by God through the blood of Christ; I was not my own, because I belonged to my Savior. Yet I had denied this truth by living in pride.

Slavery Became Joy

I am ransomed. I am a ransomed child of God. Ransomed by the blood of Jesus Christ (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Peter 1:17–21; Revelation 5:9).

That one word — ransomed — is now central to my identity. God slowly restored what was lost. I now belong to him. I was bought with a price. This is my identity, my slavery, my freedom, my joy.

When I think back to this time in my life, the words from Charles Wesley’s “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” ring true:

          He breaks the power of cancelled sin.
          He sets the prisoner free. 
          His blood can make the foulest clean, 
          His blood availed for me.