|Picture from ocoeeridge1.com|
In chapter 2 of 2 Peter the disciple begins to give warning about false prophets and teachers (As a side note there is a strong focus in the New Testament on being aware of false teachers that we should take note of today.). Around about verse 12 Peter starts to paint a picture of the offerings of the false teachers which looks an awful lot like a list of sensual, fleshly desires and lusts, and it is. Then in verse 19 he explains that false teachers offer freedom but in the end all that is received is bondage to sin. As you see in the quotation above the last part of the verse tells us that whatever it is that overcomes us, or overwhelms us, is what will ultimately enslave us.
The obvious take-home lesson here is that if we allow ourselves to be overcome by sin we will, undoubtedly, become slaves to it. That being said, Peter does give us a prelude to this "bad news" in 1:3;
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
and verse 2:9;
then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.
Despite the fact that we are subject to falling into sin, or stumbling along the path, we have been given the means to overcome it by God. The truly incredible thing that struck me like a ton of bricks was actually something that is not written explicitly at the end of verse 19 but I think Peter leaves the statement open to this interpretation. After having given us a list of all kinds of sinful behavior it seems obvious, as I mentioned before, that the lesson would be that if we are overcome by sin we will end up slaves to it. However, the inverse could also be true. What if we are overcome by Christ?
What if we are so in awe of Christ, who He is, and what He has done on our behalf that we become slaves to Him? Is that not the Biblical ideal? In Romans 1:1 and Titus 1:1 Paul identifies himself as a "bond-servant" of Christ, a word that could just as well mean "slave." In 2 Corinthians 4:5 Paul again says that he is a bond-servant of the Lord rather than one who is bringing attention to himself. Peter also makes the same claim in his first letter, Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God (1 Peter 2:16).
How does one become a bond-servant or slave? I would suggest two elements to the answer to this question.
1. We must submit to Christ. This is a voluntary relinquishing of our will to His alone. James commands us to submit to God in James 4:7. God has given us freewill and we have the option, at least now, to voluntarily give ourselves over to Him. Make no mistake about it, there will come a day when the option is not given and every knee shall bow in submission to Christ Jesus as Lord and King.
2. We should be overcome by Christ. The explanation of this is somewhat difficult but I will try to do the best I can. Perhaps the best imagery for this idea comes from Revelation 1:17 which says;
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man.
John had just seen the risen and reigning Christ in all of His glory and the only thing he could do was fall down. The text doesn't say this but it sounds as if John passed out in the presence of Christ. The other day I was driving to Huntsville, Alabama to attend a friends wedding. The route took me through the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee before dropping into the foothills of northern Alabama. Along the way I found myself driving along the Ocoee River in south eastern Tennessee. The road followed the river as closely as a road can and as it wound back and forth through the gorge I was amazed by the beauty of the scenery. Then, all of a sudden, I made one turn and stretched out in front of me was Lake Ocoee. Though I was by myself in the car I actually said out loud, "Wow!" It was absolutely breathtaking and I was overwhelmed. The metaphor breaks down at this point because if I had remained entranced by the view I would have driven my car into the lake. However, for the rest of the trip my mind was a slave to that view and with each passing turn I found myself wishing for another, more dramatic glimpse of the lake.
As near as my feeble mind can understand this is what it means to be overwhelmed by Christ. Most of us can relate to the story that I just told. We all have seen views and scenery that takes our breath away. My question is, do we look with the same awe at the One who made the view? Do we catch glimpses of Christ and long for more? This must have been why John, at the end of his revelation, exclaimed, Come Lord Jesus. He had seen Christ, caught a peek at what was to come and the glory of God and he couldn't wait to see more. John, along with so many other characters from the Bible, was overwhelmed by Christ.
Just as a taste of sin leads to wanting more and more of it, tasting of Christ's glory and majesty leads to a desire for more and more if Him. The truth is, and a beautiful truth it is, that our hearts and minds "ain't big enough for the both of 'em." If our minds are filled and overwhelmed with sin there will be no room for Christ and the opposite is also true. If we, like Romans 12:2 encourages us, are being transformed by the renewing of our minds and are overcome by Christ there will be no room left for sin to enter in. Trying harder and harder not to sin will only get us so far and ultimately that effort will fail. The only possible way for us to overcome sin is to be overcome by Christ, thereby enslaving ourselves to Him. He is the only one who has truly defeated sin so why not pack our minds full of awe at His majesty, power, love, righteousness, justice, glory and all the rest?