And free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2, verse 15.
Does anyone remember the movie “Moonstruck?” In it, Olympia Dukakis’ husband was cheating on her. Throughout the movie, she kept asking everyone “why do men cheat?” All kinds of answers ensued until she asked her prospective son-in-law. His answer? “Because they fear death.”
He couldn’t have been more correct. Indeed, Hebrews 2, verse 15 says exactly that. We sin because we are held captive by sin. And we are held in captivity by our sins because we fear death.
All kinds of things result from this. More sin is probably the one with which we’re most familiar. God never does things that lead us to sin as our only option; you need a gut check if you’re in a set of choices where the best ones involve some kind of wrongdoing. That’s because sin begets sin; wrong creates wrong. While good can indeed result out of our wrongdoings – and thank God for grace – generally the only thing that results from bad choices is bad consequences.
Yet if you’re like me you’ve found yourself wrapped up in your sins and you feel you don’t know the way out. You don’t see any easy way out because, whether you’ll admit it or not, you’re afraid of the ultimate punishment. What if you died now? You’d be dead in your sin. What if someone finds out? You actually might be dead meat! What if the punishment is more than I can stand? You may wish you were dead.
Most of all, what if I’m not good enough for God? Ah, there is the most deceptive sin of all: the subtle idolatry of assuming you have to do something to please God, to make yourself good enough so He will accept you. To make yourself worthy of avoiding death.
Now would be a good time to re-read verse 15. Key in on those first three words “and free those.” You can’t do anything to make yourself pleasing to God. There is absolutely nothing on this planet that you can do that will earn your way into heaven. There is absolutely nothing you can do to make yourself worthy enough for God to love you. What’s more, death is a consequence of sin; it was promised to us by God, face to face with our ancestors Adam and Eve. Whether we fear it or not, death will happen as a natural response to our sinful nature. Cue the worried moonstruck face. If you’re an actor or a modern college snowflake, are you frightened yet? Run for your safe space!
Is that bleak? Not at all. Indeed, re-read those words again – “and free those” – and remember that Jesus freed you. He loved, lived, died, and rose to free you from the grip that sin held over you. Whether you remember it or not, whether you choose to put aside your guilt or not, whether you want to admit it or not Jesus and only Jesus did everything necessary for God to love you, forgive you, and welcome you into paradise. Indeed, Jesus did everything necessary for you to let go of the self-imposed slavery to sin that you keep carrying around.
Guilt? Let it go because it’s only you hurting yourself. Shame? Time to end it and move forward. Dread of consequences? You may indeed endure consequences but know that Jesus will be with you and will give you every bit of strength and courage to endure them in a Godly way. Fear of death? You don’t need it anymore because Jesus’ perfect sacrifice made it so that, when your physical life ends, you’ll enter Paradise and, with Him there, stand in front of God the Father blameless. God won’t see your sins or your guilt or your fear. Instead, He’ll see you through the blood of Jesus, which will clothe you perfectly and render you holy again.
For too long, we let the devil hold us in slavery to our sins. He shrouds us in guilt, shame, anger and fear, telling us “yeah but what about X.” He plants deceit and doubt in our hearts and tries to cloud over the bright light that is Jesus. When you choose to believe in Jesus, all those clouds begin to evaporate. Instead of the foggy darkness of fear we get to feel the warm liberation of love. Talk about being genuinely moonstruck and this ain’t no movie.
For more reading: 1 Corinthians 15:50, Ephesians 6:12, John 1:14, Genesis 3:15, 1 Corinthians 15: 54-57, 2 Timothy 1:10, 1 John 3:8.
Lord Jesus, thank You for your liberating love, for freeing me from the fear of death. Stand with me today to ward off the darkness when it tries to creep in from the boundaries of my life.