Do you know an addict who’s been freed from their addiction? Perhaps you know someone who’s been rescued from sex trafficking? Redemption stories provide many reasons to give thanks.
Addictions keep people in bondage. Sex trafficking is a form of slavery.
So is sin.
Slavery inhibits thanks
The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 7: “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”
In talking with many addicts over the years, they feel powerless to defeat their addiction. In fact, the addiction serves a purpose the addict isn’t sure he wants to release. It feels protective, even though it’s destructive. It feels safe and comforting, even though it’s dangerous and seeks to destroy.
See the parallel with sin?
The victim of sex trafficking feels trapped. She often can’t see a way to escape. She’s held bondage through drugs and emotional abuse.
Who can provide the way of escape?
The addict often needs an intervention. The sex slave needs to be rescued. The sinner needs redemption.
What is redemption?
To redeem means to repurchase or buyback. In the book of Galatians, Paul explained, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). He goes on to explain that Jesus came “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:5-6).
Freedom leads to thanks
When a prisoner is released he rediscovers the joys of freedom. Often this leads to gratitude and a resolve to never return.
Freed from his addiction, the recovering addict now appreciates his newfound freedom, while never losing sight of the dangers of addiction.
Once reunited with her family, the former sex slave gratefully thanks those who rescued her. Often the rescuers put their own lives at risk to set her free.
Jesus said about his mission, “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18 ESV).
Or as Charles Wesley put it in the classic hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”:
He breaks the power of canceled sin,Charles Wesley
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
Don Hudson shares his story of redemption here.
Dangers of redemption
When I studied economic development in college, I noticed people often take for granted things for which they didn’t work. They often took it for granted and didn’t take care of it.
The same can happen with our redemption. We could never possibly contribute anything toward our redemption. Yet, with time we start to think we somehow deserved it. We take it lightly. We think we can sin without consequence.
The addict knows the ever-present danger of a relapse. Many former sex slaves live in constant fear that her former masters will find her and force her back into slavery.
A healthy fear of our former slave masters leads to even greater gratitude for what we have. That in a nutshell describes the spiritual battle of good versus evil played out cosmically between God and Satan.
Redemption produces gratitude
In remembering the stories of apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela famously said:
“The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free.”Nelson Mandela
The people of South Africa rejoiced greatly at their freedom to be free.
Jesus declared, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He purchased our irrevocable freedom.
Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. We’ve been ransomed and now we are adopted as children. We can freely call God our Father.
Sin’s power is broken. Like the addict who no longer feels powerless in the presence of the bottle, we have the power to resist Satan and sin.
The presence of sin continues for a while longer. As a result, we long for God’s return. Until then we continue to give thanks that we are his and that he is with us. “Greater is he who is in us than he who is in this world” (1 John 4:4).
Go somewhere quiet with your journal. Spend at least a few minutes writing down sins, addictions, or struggles where you’ve seen God set you free. Give him thanks for that freedom. In places that you still struggle, ask for grace, and thank him for the strength he gives you. If you know someone currently caught in the snares of addiction, pray for them and ask God to show you a way to reach out today to offer encouragement in their battle.
Jesus, I thank you for coming to rescue and redeem me. Thank you that I am no longer a slave to sin. I praise you for freeing me from sins of (idolatry, lust, pleasure, and self-deception) ________________ (fill in the blank). I pray for increasing gratitude for all you’ve done for me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.