Grace "loosed me from my bonds and set me free!"

These simple words express the experience of the typical Christian, in every place, age, and language.

The grace of God in Jesus Christ brings freedom. To experience this grace is liberation. Our chains, shackles, burdens—describe them how we will—are broken. We are delivered from a guilty conscience. We come to trust in Christ and are immediately released. Then we progressively enjoy that freedom. We are no longer in bondage. Instead, we are free men and women in Jesus Christ.

E. T. Sibomana begins his hymn "O How the Grace of God Amazes Me" at the point of personal experience. Of course, our experience is not actually where the grace of God itself begins. It goes back much farther than our individual experience of it. But this hymn begins with our experience because this is where we take our first conscious steps into the sea of grace. Then we discover that it is in fact a boundless ocean that seems to have no bottom. As we sink into it, we begin to realize that its origins lie in God Himself in eternity. This is the grace that "loosed me from my bonds."

His own will, this much I know,

Set me, as now I show,

At liberty.

Charles Wesley earlier expressed the same thought. If you know anything about the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, you know that before they came to faith in Jesus Christ, they lived outwardly impeccable lives. Charles was a clergyman in the Church of England. No chains were visible. He had no apparent addictions. In his student days at the University of Oxford, he was marked by rigorous moral rectitude and energetic service. Few imagined they could match his holiness. One of his favorite books was titled A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. That summed him up. Yet as God worked in Wesley's life, he realized he was in spiritual bondage, "fast bound in sin and nature's night,"6 as he would later write. But when he was brought to faith in Jesus Christ, this was the song he wanted to sing again and again on the anniversary of his conversion:

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth and followed thee.

Such freedom is not limited to a select group of famous Christians. The gospel promises the same to everyone who trusts in Christ. Freedom from bondage is a central theme in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. He told the Jews of His day that only the gospel could release them:

"The truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). But what truth? He explained: "If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).

Here are two basic lessons.

Lesson One—Bondage

Jesus taught that we are all by nature in spiritual bondage. He had to be cruel to be kind.

The Jews to whom Jesus spoke—much like us—believed that they were certainly not in bondage to anything. But their response to Jesus' words revealed the deep spiritual bondage in which they were held. His words riled and angered them.

"Who do you think you are, saying that we need to be set free? How dare you! We are Abraham's children, his freeborn descendents." They claimed spiritual freedom as their birthright, but they were in spiritual bondage. "Most assuredly, I say to you," Jesus said, "whoever commits sins is a slave of sin" (John 8:34).