Every Thought Captive

Free to Leave the Country

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.

Romans 6:13

Back in the early 80s I went with a group to Uganda, a dark and difficult country at that time. The reign of the despot Idi Amin had just ended, but all of the chaos that he had caused was still there. Oppression, hate, and economic anguish pervaded the lives of its citizens. It was hard to preach the Gospel there.

We were stopped at gunpoint more than once by drunken soldiers, who, for a candy bar they saw on the dashboard of the car, could just as easily have shot us and gotten away with it. It was a reign of terror. After two weeks there we boarded a 747 jet at Entebbe Airport, bound for New York. But, as one last way the reigning authorities sought to taunt us as ministers of the Gospel, they made us sit on that tarmac for three hours in the hot, central African sun with no air conditioning. They teased us as to whether or not they were going to give us permission to actually leave. Finally we were cleared for takeoff. As the jet’s wheels left the runway, cheers went up from everybody on the airplane, because at that moment we were no longer under the reign and rule of the despots of Uganda. We had a wonderful sense of freedom as the plane sped its way home.

Early the next morning as the plane approached New York City, the sun came up behind us from the east and shone in all its glory on the city’s skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Someone began singing softly, “America, America, God shed His grace on thee.” And we all started singing. What an amazing sense of freedom! No longer under the power and the tyranny in Uganda!

What if we had gotten a call from that government authority at that airport that we must return to Uganda? Would we have gone back? No!

We think we would say that, but we don’t. Returning to our old authority, sin, is common for Christians. It’s like the slaves freed in 1863 by the Emancipation Proclamation. Many of them left the plantations, but as they got only a few miles away, they turned around and went back to the plantation because they didn’t know where to go. Insanely, they went back to their old slave masters.

We belong to that which we obey. The tremendous irony is that Christians made free of the reign of sin and its rule can insanely submit again to that old master from whom they have been freed. C. S. Lewis, called sin “temporary insanity.” Sin is a contradiction of our identity. 

What is the solution? The apostle Paul says to “present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Present is a soldiering term meaning literally “to place one at another’s disposal.” A soldier who enlists or is drafted puts himself at the disposal of his commanding officer. Paul also says, “Present the members of your body.” Present the physical side of your life, but first your mind, your affections, and your will. From them your actions flow.

It is strenuous and practical activity you must enter to avoid sin’s control. Some people advise “just let go and let God.” Let me warn you: do not let go! It will not be God who rushes in to take over. This mortal flesh is so strong, it will overwhelm you if you let go. No, instead, take hold, take hold of yourself and present yourself as an instrument, as a weapon of righteousness before your King. He will employ you with joy in His work—the extension of His Kingdom deep into your heart and then wide into the world.

There are only two possibilities for you and me, just as every man and woman who has ever lived has had citizenship in one of two kingdoms. We live either under the reign of sin or the reign of grace. The moment we are justified we are taken immediately out of the realm of sin, and we are put into the Kingdom of God’s Son. That is what has happened to you, believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. You have been removed from the dominion of Satan and put into the Kingdom of God’s Son. You are no longer a citizen of the realm where sin dominates. You are new. You are alive from the dead.

Now go and live that way. Become who you are. Live according to the citizenship that you have been given. Don’t go back. Live this day in the freedom that is yours in Christ.

About the Author

Photograph of Skip Ryan

Skip Ryan

Chancellor and Professor of Practical Theology, Redeemer Seminary; Assistant Pastor, Park Cities Presbyterian Church