I read a story recently which resonated with me,1 and I thought it was a great illustration of my own experiences with God. It helped me to understand, and hopefully to explain, a little more about righteousness by faith.
It was a story of a slave in ancient times who was on the auction block at a slave market. As the auction began, and people started placing bids on him, he began to mutter to himself, “I will not work, I will not work.” Slowly the bids increased, and likewise his volume increased, to the point where people in the crowd began to hear him. He noticed the bidding slow down, and he began to shout all the louder, “I will not work! I will not work!” There was, however, one man who continued to bid, and ultimately paid a very good price for this slave who wouldn’t work. So the winning bidder took the man away with him and they headed out to his property.
I felt like I was a slave to sin. No matter how much I wanted to be something other than what I was, I couldn't change it.
As they neared the property, the slave saw a beautiful cottage beside a river. He wondered what it must be like to be free to live in such a beautiful place. He then realised that they were pulling up near the cottage, and he asked about who lived there. His new owner replied, “This is your new home, come in and take a look around.” He then reiterated what he had said back at the markets, “I still won’t work for you.” To his surprise, his owner turned around with a smile on his face and said, “I know. You don’t have to work for me, or anyone anymore. I bought you to set you free!” The slave didn’t know what to say. He was shocked at first, but then as he realised just what this man had given him, his freedom, he fell to his knees in front of the man and said, “Master! Thank you! I will serve you for the rest of my life.”
I realised just how much I was like this slave, feeling like I was trapped, having no choice in what I could do with my life. I felt like I was a slave to sin. No matter how much I wanted to be something other than what I was, I couldn’t change it. Just like this slave, who couldn’t free himself, but rather needed someone else to purchase his freedom for him.
It reminds me of Paul who wrote how he felt like a slave to sin. He felt as though he couldn’t do the things that he wanted to, and always did the things he didn’t want to! Yet he asks if there is any hope of deliverance, and answers his own question by saying, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord . . .” (Romans 7:25). Paul recognised that our relationship with sin is one of slavery, and no matter how much we want to stop sinning, we can’t without a saviour.
That’s where Jesus comes in. He realised that we didn’t want to work, we didn’t want to be slaves to sin, and so He left His heavenly home and paid the price for our freedom.
So our ransom has been paid! We are freed from our slavery to sin! But how will we respond to this freedom? Will we just go back to the master we’ve been freed from and offer to continue serving him? Or will we choose to accept our freedom and run to the arms of Him who purchased our lives with His own blood?
I know when I finally realised that there was a God out there who loved me so much, more than His own life in fact, and that He had purchased my freedom, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t really know how to respond, except to offer my life to His service.
Some people see Christians who follow their convictions and live their lives according to principles they believe God has called them to, and they think these people are trying to work for their salvation. Unfortunately I think there are some out there who are doing this, as there’s always a counterfeit to the truth, but I’d like to think that the majority of people who are doing “righteous” works aren’t doing it for salvation, but rather because of salvation.
I know that when I felt called to be a part of By Beholding His Love, I felt like it was out of my comfort zone and I was ill-equipped for the ministry. But when I thought about just how much God had given for me, there was no hesitation to make any sacrifice for His sake. I knew God had freed me for a reason, and that He loved me more than I could imagine, so I trusted His leading.
I now have the joy of sharing this great message of hope, of freedom, with so many people who need to hear it. It’s wonderful to be able to let people know that they don’t have to stay in slavery to sin. To let them know that their freedom has already been purchased by One who loves them so dearly that He laid down His life for them. It’s so rewarding to be able to share this message of hope that has brought me such peace and joy.
So I hope in reading this story that you have come to see that sometimes people are working because they have to, but there are many who are working because they want to. When deep within your heart you realise that you have been given the greatest gift of all, and it’s totally free, it’s difficult to walk away without an attempt to say thank you. I know I’ve made a choice to serve God out of gratitude and love, not out of obligation.
1. I found the story retold in To Know God by Morris Venden, and have paraphrased it here.
Daniel Laredo is vice president of By Beholding His Love, a supporting ministry to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.