Who or what are you in bondage to?
In the fourth chapter of Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote, "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called" (Eph. 4:1). At the writing of this letter to Ephesus, Paul was a prisoner in Rome. It’s believed during this time period that Rome was under the rulership of Nero. He was consumed with power and feared subversion so much that he had his own mother, sister, and wife put to death. Much of Rome was burned by fire due to Nero’s desire to rebuild Rome’s edifices with his own statue carved into each. The Senate summoned Nero to a trial where he was to be tried, convicted, and executed. Yet, Nero was so evil and twisted that he lied and convinced the Senate that the Christians were responsible for setting fire to the city; and, Nero made them believe that Paul was the chief arsonist.
This is the kind of Emperor Nero was and because of his devious ploys Paul was placed in prison. What is important to note is that Paul didn’t describe himself in terms of where he was. He didn’t describe himself as a prisoner of Nero or a prisoner of Rome. The terrible circumstances of being unfairly placed in prison didn’t define Paul’s identity. He described himself as a prisoner of the Lord. The word prisoner (desmios) describes a person who is bound, linked to, or a captive of someone else. Paul was not bound by Nero, he was bound to the Lord. His identity and character were linked to Christ.
When Paul was leaving Ephesus, just prior to his imprisonment, he said to the elders, "And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me" (emphasis mine, Acts 20:22-23). Paul stated that he was "bound by the Spirit." His life already belonged to God so no one could take it. Truly, your character will always be revealed by who or what you are in bondage to. If out of your mouth come complaints and you’re bemoaning what you are going through, you might be bound by circumstances more than the Spirit. Paul relinquished his life to the Lord; therefore, he didn’t fear the bonds and afflictions that awaited him. When you give your life completely to Jesus nothing or no one poses a threat to you.
Paul continued, "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). That is a remarkable statement; the only reason for Paul’s existence, according to him, was to fulfill the assignment of the Lord. In other words, Paul threw his life away to the Lord God Most High. He was in total bondage to the Lord. His identity was so wrapped up in Jesus that he was impervious to bonds, afflictions, prison, or Nero.
Returning to Ephesians chapter four, Paul, a prisoner of the Lord, implores each of us to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling" with which we have been called (Eph. 4:1). All of us have been called by Christ. God predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Christ (Eph. 1:5). We are to walk worthy of that calling and the only possible way to accomplish that is by relinquishing our lives to the Lord. Jesus made this very plain when he said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). This is the radical call of Christ. We’re not just "sort of a" Christian; we are all in or we’re not in at all. We belong solely unto the Lord or we belong to something else. Walking worthy of our calling means that we have surrendered our life completely to God and He is free to do with us whatever He desires.
So I ask again: who or what are you in bondage to? That is the essential question to answer because authentic freedom is only found in our surrender to Christ. My challenge to all of us at the beginning of this year is to consecrate our lives to God in a fresh manner. Allow your identity to be established by the Lord, not by people or circumstances. Choose to walk worthy of the high calling of Christ; choose to walk as a prisoner of the Lord.
Lord, we don’t want to be on bondage to people, circumstances, or the enemy. Freedom only comes when we surrender to you. We give you our lives today, and we receive life and life to the fullest, amen.