Ephesians 4:1 (New Living Translation)
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
The life of the New Testament prisoner was far from glamorous.
Dark, filled with diseases and overrun by rampant vermin populations, the prisons of early Rome capitalized on punishment by afflicting their prisoners with the pain of bondage.
But what if bondage was a form of freedom and not a form of punishment?
My grandmother once described sin to me as an opulent mansion, with every cell door wide open. Living in this prison of sin never feels constrictive at the time, but the moment you try to leave your cell, the doors slam shut.
Being bonded to sin is the ultimate robbery, luring you in with false promises of joy and happiness. Once you’re in, it takes and takes and takes. You’re left with nothing. If living in a prison of sin is this bad, how would being a prisoner of Christ be any better?
But friends, it IS better. In so many, many ways.
In prison, you are subject to the rules of another force. Your desires, no matter how strong, are lovingly guided and directed by the Father of Law Himself. The constraining of your body and mind leads to a retraining of your heart for God, which is obtaining ultimate Salvation in Christ.
It’s no accident that Paul spends the first three chapters of Ephesians spelling out the all-encompassing grace of God. Here in Chapter 4, he explains why we are to live rightly: because of what He’s done for us!
We shouldn’t walk in prisons of righteousness so that God will love us, but because He does love us. Christians are motivated to live in bondage out of gratitude for His saving grace, and not out of a desire to earn His love or salvation.
Many Christians have been released from their prisons of sin through the saving power of God, but still somehow find themselves sporting the bright orange clothes of their former lives. The power your former home holds over you will still be strong, and keep you from truly experiencing freedom as a prisoner of Christ. We are to cast these burdens off and become a new creation, or new prisoner, in Christ.
What does it take to be a prisoner of Christ? Paul lists several things in this chapter of Ephesians that alludes to the character of our new self:
Put off all falsehood
In your anger, do not sin
Steal no longer and work
Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth
Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving
Get rid of all forms of malice
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit for which you were saved
As they say in the business world, ‘dress for the role you want.’ Put off the clothes from the prison of sin and embrace freedom as a prisoner of the Lord.
Do not be afraid as you step into your new life. Don’t look back at the prison you’re leaving, or the suffering you’ve endured for so long. The salvation of Christ is at hand, friends! Let us walk as willful prisoners of the Cross.
As a prisoner of the Cross, how is serving God with gratitude different from serving Him under bondage? How has putting off your ‘old’ prison clothes made you a new prisoner in Christ? Christ alone is our salvation, and His yoke and burden are light to those who take up their crosses and follow Him. We don’t need to do anything more to earn His favor, walking in righteousness in gratitude for His marvelous salvation.
Colossians 1:10 (New Living Translation)
10 So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.