CAUGHT AND CAGED

We live on an acre lot with our house surrounded on the side and back by dense woods.  We have various feeders out with a plethora of cardinals, woodpeckers, titmouse as well as other brightly colored birds swirling around the backyard as the squirrels and our canine daughters eat the birdseed that falls to the ground.  These are our welcome visitors. 

Then we have some unwelcome visitors as well.  We have seen a groundhog for several weeks and, given the kind of damage they can, and have, inflicted on the house, my Beloved bought a trap so we could capture it and send it on its merry way via the City’s Animal Control van.  He put the trap in the backyard with an apple for bait and, low and behold, the next morning there was a plump groundhog munching on the apple, seemingly unaware that his ingress and egress had been drastically reduced.  The Animal Control officer took him away to a relocation place far from our yard.  Expecting there to be more than one groundhog in the woods, we set the trap again and went to bed.

In the morning, we could tell that the trap had worked and captured its prey.  What we could not tell from the house was that it was not a groundhog.

Racoon in overturned trap
Raccoon in overturned trap

Rather, it was a huge, angry raccoon.  He was so mad about things that he had turned the trap over in his machinations trying to escape, to no avail of course.

When I saw the pictures of the critter in the trap, my mind went to our situation as sinners.  We each have disobeyed God, multiple times in our lifetime: in fact, it is more likely correct to say that we have disobeyed God’s law multiple times per day!  We are caught in the trap of sin and we cannot, on our own merit or work, get out of the situation. 

“The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.

Proverbs 5:22 

Then, in the New Testament, Scripture repeats that all mankind has sinned. 

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Romans 8:7-8

We are then told that redemption must come from outside ourselves as a gift of grace from God through the atoning work of Christ Jesus: 

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” 

Romans 3:22-24

Racoon in trap
Trapped, caught and unable to get free!

Like the raccoon that was trapped and unable to get free, we, too, are trapped in sin and we cannot get free even though we struggle and fight.  Sin has too strong a grip on us.  But, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, and as a gift of God’s grace, we can be set free from sin’s trap.

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 8:2

Listen to the song “Free Indeed” as sung on Scripture Memory Songs: Overcoming Guilt, the song focusing on the words of John 8:36 and Galatians 5:1, using the NIV translation.

Praise the Lord for His incredible, wonderful gift of life and love in His Spirit and through His atoning work on our behalf.

Father, I praise Your name for your grace and your wonderful gift of life through your Spirit.  Thank you for releasing us from the bondage of sin and death when we receive, by faith, Jesus Christ as our Savior.

ERADICATION OF FREEDOM

We were traveling through East Tennessee doing errands and found ourselves in Morgan County, near the Frozen Head State Park.  I have heard of this park for years but had never visited the location, so we took the opportunity to do so.  The park was beautiful and we were very glad to have taken this side-trip. 

frozen-head-state-park-trees-forming-arch-2
Frozen Head State Park, Morgan County, Tennessee.

However, on the way to and from the park, we passed the Morgan County correctional facility.

morgan-county-correctional-institution
Morgan County Correctional Facility, Morgan County, Tennessee

As we drove by, we could not help but notice the “razor wire” in multiple layers that surrounded the facility. 

morgan-county-correctional-institution-3
Morgan County Correctional Facility, razor wire surrounding facility.

The sight put me in a somber, introspective mood.  Being incarcerated and seeing the outside world but not being able to get to it would be terribly difficult.  I have had occasion to work with female prisoners in various facilities and I believe that it is fair to say that life there is hard, both physically and emotionally.

While I have not been in jail, I have experienced a period of time when I could not move off my bed.  Many years ago, I was in a body cast that ran from my head to my left knee.  I was immobile in bed, unable to move my body, for over 7 months.  I gained some measure of “freedom” when the leg part of the cast was cut off and I could sit up and walk again, while wearing the body part of the cast.  All in all, the cast experience was almost 14 months. 

My experience was not pleasant by any means, but even on my darkest days, I knew the time of my inactivity was limited.  I had an end date when the cast would come off and I could, slowly, return to normal activity for a 10 year old. 

That is not the case for many of those incarcerated in the jails of our country.  There is no certain end date for their release to the outside world. 

As bad and as dreary as that scenario is, there is one scenario that is far worse.  We know that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were cast out of the Garden of Eden because their union with God was broken by their disobedience.  And, as a result, Adam’s descendants live in sin. 

According to Strong’s Lexicon, in Hebrew, the root word “sin” is the Hebrew word חַטָּא chaṭṭâʼ, khat-taw’; that refers to “a criminal, or one accounted guilty:—offender, sinful, sinner.”  Generally speaking, to sin is to miss the mark; to violate God’s law thereby bringing judgment on yourself.  In short, disobedience is the crux of sin … we disobey God’s law and we all must pay the penalty for it.  Sin is the ultimate bondage and enslavement for all mankind.

The first time the word “sin” is stated in Scripture is found all the way back at the beginning.  In Genesis 4:7 we read God speaking to Cain after his offering was not accepted by God:

“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Genesis 4:7 ESV

Shortly after these words were spoken, Cain did not rule over sin.  Rather, he gave in to it and murdered his brother Abel.

Scripture talks of sin as putting us in bondage. 

“For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. For the cursing and lies that they utter,”

Psalm 59:12 ESV

“The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.”

Proverbs 5:22 ESV

In the New Testament, Jesus told those who were feeling free because of their status as children of Abraham:

“They answered Him, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.’”

John 8:33-34 ESV

We, in the modern world, intrinsically know the truth of these statements from Scripture.  Notwithstanding the bravado from the thrill of repeated criminal activity or from the high brought on by illicit drugs, when the excitement is gone, what remains is the sure awareness that we have done wrong, that is, we experience guilt.  Whether we want to admit it or not, we know that we have violated God’s law.  

We don’t have to be imprisoned in a jail with razor wire to be in bondage.  We might be a slave to drug or alcohol addiction.  We might be a slave to smoking or overeating.  Sin can even be hidden in respectable clothing … it can come in the form of gossip or malicious speech, both of which can be subtle but dangerous addictions.  It can come in the form of doing good things for others for the purpose of praise and glory to you, instead of doing those same things for the glory of God.  Any time we rob God of the glory that is properly His, we have committed sin.   And, the more often we sin, the more sin becomes our master. 

How do we get out of the razor-wire confinement imposed by sin?  We look to the One who took our sin on Himself.  We must repent and cling to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has paid the price for our sin.  We don’t need to keep sinning because He has broken its power over us.  Paul says it like this:

“For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Romans 6:10-14 ESV

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 ESV

Listen as the Centurymen sing the beautiful hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” from their album The Centurymen Silver Anniversary,

The power of Jesus’ name is the answer to the bondage of sin.  While sin eradicates, obliterates, and otherwise destroys our freedom, the Lord Jesus Christ has broken sin’s shackles and replaces that bondage with freedom in Him.   Praise His Holy Name!

Father, I thank You that Your Son has conquered death and sin; that He died so that Your children could have freedom from sin and could live with You eternally.  I praise Your Holy Name!