The devil holds men in bondage to sin by making us lovers of life.
How can men be made to live sin-free lives? God answers in bemoaning false prophets: “If they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings” (Jeremiah 23:22).
This confirms Jesus’ word as “the bread of life” which provides the full counsel of God. Jesus says: “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
What precisely is Jesus’ antidotal word that frees men from sin? This is it in a nutshell: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).
This is the practical alternative to the mystical prescriptions of the blood of Jesus.
Love of life
Jesus reveals that the devil holds men in bondage to sin by making us lovers of life. Indeed, the love of life is the basis of all sin. We steal, cheat, fight, kill and commit adultery in order to save our lives. But the man who lays down his life out of love for God cannot sin. We only overcome sin by loving God instead of loving our lives.
Before Jesus, nobody knew that the love of life is the “sin of the world;” the father of all sins against God. It therefore became necessary for God to send Jesus as the light of the world to reveal this to us because if we do not repent of the love of life, we cannot inherit eternal life.
James says: “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God. Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). John is equally categorical: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
Meaning of the cross
The devil seals our captivity in the love of life by instilling in us the fear of death. This makes us use every possible means to secure our life in this world. However, in order to return home to God, our only Father in heaven, we have to die. Consequently, our fear of death betrays our pretensions to love God. It reveals instead our antipathy for God because we reject the only means by which we can be reunited with him.
Therefore, Jesus declared that he came into this world: “to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He did this so that: “through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Jesus is the shepherd who showed his sheep the way of escape out of the snare of the fowler (Psalm 124:6-8). He rejected the devil’s entreaties and refused to be seduced by the vanities of this world. He even allowed himself to be killed by wicked men, showing that it is by not loving our lives even unto death that we overcome the evil one (Revelation 12:11).
God validated Jesus’ example by raising him from the dead; demonstrating thereby that he who lays down his earthly life inherits eternal life. God now requires everyone to follow Jesus’ example.
Shepherding to salvation
The ransom of Jesus’ life should not be confused with a sacrifice. Jesus’ ransom was paid to the devil for the release of those in his captivity; but a sacrifice is given to God as atonement for sins.
Jesus’ bloodshed and death secures for us divine forgiveness by providing a living demonstration of the need for us to repent of the sin of the love of life and its corollary of the fear of death. This explains why Jesus said at the last supper: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
Jesus’ resurrection exposes death as nothing to be feared. It shows conclusively that death is actually the pathway to the believer’s glory. Therefore, Jesus says: “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
This is the challenge of our salvation for which Jesus himself became our fore-runner. In order to overcome sin, we must lay down our life. In order to save our life, we must lose it.