Tyrannical rule normally ends badly. Bullying bishops, strong-handed elders, and death-dealing dictators often see their abusive power structures collapse under their own weight. However, the timing of such events is far less predictable. Nations and organizations will labor years under over-bearing leaders who sustain their power by constructing false narratives, playing on fears, and using old-fashioned intimidation. Even when removed from power, authoritarian leaders frequently haunt their former dominions.
Unfortunately, similar dynamics operate in our spiritual lives.
As Christians, we follow a victorious King who, rising from the dead, overthrows the usurping tyrant of the world, Satan (Lk. 4:5-7; 11:14-23). Indeed, Satan’s grip, holding us in death, is an abusive and de-humanizing exercise of power. He is bent on destruction, twisting and maiming his subjects for his own ends. However, Jesus, submitting to death on the cross, destroyed Satan’s dominion by rising from the dead (Heb. 2:14-15). Death could not hold “the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14) because Satan had no rightful claim upon him (Acts 2:24, 31). Evil over-reached, and in so doing, destroyed itself.
However, though defeated, Satan’s power is not yet vanquished (Eph. 4:27; 6:11; 2 Cor. 2:11; 1 Pet. 5:8). His shadow lingers as he continues to impose his defunct authority.
Unfortunately, Christians frequently fail to appreciate the connections between their daily struggles with sin and this unfolding cosmic drama. But they are real and important to recognize, no matter how allergic we are to talk of the supernatural world.
Prior to our conversion, we are slaves of this tyrant (Rom. 6:15-20). Like Pharaoh, Satan is a ruthless taskmaster, demanding more bricks be made from less and less straw. Yet we do his bidding, willingly. Tragically, we are sympathetic to our master’s agenda, even though he exploits us, paying horrendous wages (Rom. 6:23).
Fortunately, God has rescued us from the iron fist of the tyrant. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he has toppled the Devil’s power, transferring us from the dominion of sin and death into the realm of grace and righteousness (Rom. 6:11, 14, 17-18; Col. 1:13).
So what does this mean for the Christian daily dealing with sin?
First, we are free from the tyrant’s accusations. This is what Satan does, he accuses (in Hebrew “Satan” literally means, “the accuser”). However, in Christ, he has no power to condemn us (Rom. 8:31). Consider what John writes in Revelation 12:10-11:
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
Satan seeks to hold us in his power by accusing us, burdening our conscience with guilt and shame. Like Victor Hugo’s infamous Javert, Satan knows only accusation, failing to comprehend grace. But Christ has destroyed his power, settling the legal demands, and bringing an end to his charges (Col. 2:14-15). Therefore, don’t allow Satan to take up authority where he has none. His accusations have been erased—forever nullified—by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Take hold of Jesus’ victory in faith and silence the indictment of our enemy.
Second, we are free from the tyrant’s control. Once slaves, now we are sons (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:7). As sons, we are again slaves, but slaves of a new Master—Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:16-18). He exercises his authority over us, not to destroy, but to free us. Yes, we are under authority, but a new kind of authority, one that gives life, leading us unto love and righteousness (Rom. 6:18, 22; 1 John 3:9-10).
As Christians, our great challenge is to believe the audacious truths that God’s grace bestows on us when we are united to Jesus. As newly emancipated slaves, we don’t always know how to handle grace. Long accustomed to the brutality of the tyrant, our categories don’t allow for such freedom. But consider what Paul writes in Romans 6:17-18:
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
When we believe in Jesus (this is what Paul means by saying “become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching”), we are set free from sin’s tyranny over us. In other words, God emancipates us at conversion. No longer slaves of sin, we are slaves of God empowered to bear fruit (Rom. 6:22; 7:4). New life, from the risen Jesus, fills our bodies, motivating, enabling, and sustaining us as we follow our new Master.
Our challenge is to live by faith, trusting that Jesus has liberated us. In such faith, we then progressively put sin to death and bear fruit for God. Certainly, we are not to expect perfection (1 Jn. 1:8, 10), but we are also not to presume mediocrity (1 Jn. 3:3-8). The former makes too little of sin while the latter makes too little of grace. The Spirit of Christ lives within us, granting us a new heart with new affections and capabilities (Rom. 8:9-11).
Jesus frees us from Satan’s accusations and tyranny, allowing us to follow him as slaves of righteousness. Don’t allow the tyrant to trespass into realms where his authority has been dismissed. Take up your freedom, given in Christ Jesus, and experience the liberating power of grace.