Psalm 28:9, Oh, save Your people and bless Your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
We all know about the Exodus event—God rescuing His people from Egyptian captivity. Since Moses’ birth, God devised ways to protect him and lead him to rescue the Israelites from slavery. This Exodus event correlates to another rescue when God sends an angel to Joseph telling him to take pregnant Mary to Egypt in order to evade the wrath of Herod, who was seeking to kill male infants in Bethlehem who were two years and under out of fear of the Messiah. The Pharaohs during the Israelites’ 400-year captivity felt threatened by the large numbers of the Israelites and ordered an edict to kill all male infants. And again, a ruler felt threatened by God’s people and ordered an edict to kill male infants under two years of age. God made a way to rescue Moses in order to rescue His people from captivity to Egypt, and God made a way to rescue His Son Jesus in order to rescue His people from captivity to sin.
Sometimes we feel trapped in our sin. Sometimes we feel like we’re slaves to it. The reality is that we were slaves to sin. Notice the past tense. Paul uses this language too: “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness… But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:20, 22). Before we receive Christ, we only serve sin and have no desire to serve God and we don’t care about His will. However, when we receive faith, Christ sets us free from sin and are able to serve God. As the Lutheran Study Bible puts it, “Lives devoted to sin yield sinful results; lives devoted to God yield holy results” (Engelbrecht, 1,921). Now, as believers, the reality is our condition as simul justus et peccator (simultaneously saint and sinner)—we are justified as saints but still struggle with sin. We still deal with temptation, but what sets us apart is our justification in Christ.
Because of this tension, we still struggle with temptation, and sometimes it may seem overwhelming like we’re enslaved to it. I know this all too well. Some of you might have read my testimony about my ongoing recovery from pornography addiction. I was addicted to it for 12 years. I felt enslaved to it and I kept doing it because I felt that no matter how hard I tried, I would always be a slave to it, but I was wrong. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The last clause is key. God doesn’t make the temptation disappear; He enables you to endure it by providing the way of escape. My struggle with this sin was nothing new. My way of escape was my best friend who invited me to our accountability group. All the times I tried stopping on my own didn’t work, and then God brought this friend into my life who also struggles with pornography addiction and invited me to the group. Since then, I’ve been able to endure it because of the strength God gives me with the help of these men. The temptation hasn’t gone away; it’s still there, but God gives me the strength to overcome the temptation because I trust Him to do so.
Even though I felt enslaved to pornography, I wasn’t. Jesus set me free from sin over 2,000 years ago on the cross. Although I felt enslaved to my sin, Christ persevered by providing the way of escape and enabling me to endure it. That would not have happened if I were an unbeliever. Jesus rescued me from sin on the cross and He rescued me from this addiction. God can do the same for you. If you’re struggling with any particular sin, keep praying about it. God will provide the way of escape so that you may endure it. Trust Him that He will do so. The above Corinthian passage says, “God is faithful.” Even when I was unfaithful in my sexual sin, God was faithful and provided a way of escape. God can do the same for you. Paul echoes this later on to Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). These are not excuses for sin, for we have been brought out of it and called to live away from it (see Romans 6:1-4). God’s faithfulness means He does not abandon us. Rather, He rescues us not because we deserve it, but because of His incomprehensible love for us—for you.
Rev. Edward A. Engelbrecht, Various Editors. The Lutheran Study Bible. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009).