What does true freedom really mean? One of the most powerful stories of freedom that I have ever heard is the story of Louie Zamperini. Laura Hillenbrand tells his story in her book Unbroken. Louie was an Olympic athlete and solider who was captured by the Japanese during WWII. He spent 27 months in an internment camp being starved, beaten, torture, and worked almost to death. He endured some of the worst physical slavery imaginable, and he overcame it all. The day he was released, the only phrase running through his mind was, “I’m free! I’m free! I’m free!”
But Louie Zamperini was not free. The worst slavery…spiritual slavery… was still in front of him.
After his release, Louie was consumed with a hatred that made him want to find the man who had so brutally tortured him and kill him. Along with murderous rage came alcoholism and abuse of his wife. And these things Louie was not able to overcome.
Louie’s life is a picture of our lives apart from Christ. You and I may never have been physically enslaved, but everyone has experienced spiritual slavery.
The Scripture teaches that everyone who sins is a slave of sin. There were some Jewish people who were with Jesus. They thought they were free because they were descendants of Abraham, but the Lord firmly set them straight: “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (Jn. 8:34) In other words, it doesn’t matter what your background is, everyone who sins is enslaved to sin. And everyone sins.
Worse, there’s no way to free yourself from this slavery to sin. Those who try by doing enough good works, still end up enslaved. In the book of Galatians, false teachers were teaching Christians that they needed to obey the Mosaic Law to be free from the slavery to sin. But Paul told them, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse…No one is justified by the Law before God.” (Gal. 3:10-11) In other words, it doesn’t matter how many good works you’ve done, even if they are the good works in the Bible. It’s still true that everyone who tries to be freed from the slavery to sin by doing good works…is still a slave to sin and is condemned by God because of it.
This is why Louie was not truly free.
However, as you know, there is a way to be set free from spiritual slavery. In Galatians, Paul continues by teaching that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to be set free from spiritual slavery. The reality is, everyone desperately needs to be set free from slavery to sin because those who are slaves of sin are under God’s condemnation, which will ultimately mean eternal judgment. To fix this problem, Jesus, took the sinner’s place and died on the cross, enduring God’s eternal condemnation for you. Anyone who admits that they are a slave to sin and trusts in Christ alone for salvation… is no longer a slave to sin.
And if that is you, then do you know that you are truly free. Paul says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free!” (Gal. 5:1) And since you are truly free, how is this truth affecting your life? What difference does it make to you daily that you have been set free? How does it affect you heart towards the Lord and towards others? How does it change what brings you joy and what you do? Is the wonder of your gospel freedom precious to you? I need to be reminded all the time.
The rest of Louie’s life does just that. Louie heard the good news of Jesus Christ at a Billy Graham crusade. As he listened, he tried to continue to convince himself that he was a good man, but his excuses sounded hollow in his own ears. He finally admitted his need for salvation from the slavery of sin and believed the gospel
In that moment, he became a new man. After that, his murderous rage was gone. He dumped his alcohol down the drain, repented to his wife, and loved his family from the heart. Most amazingly, he visited the men who had tortured him, running towards them with forgiveness and love. Louie was finally free. He spent the rest of his days telling the story of gospel freedom to everyone who would listen.
You, too, are truly free. How does this reality change your life today?