What Shall We Do?
So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?”
So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?”
John’s message had its effect in a number of those who came to hear him speak. They were convicted that they were not right with God, for the fruit of their lives was contrary to God’s fruit. And with this conviction of their poor standing with God, they asked a logical question, “What shall we do?”
This is the question for us as well. It is a vital question with eternal consequences. Don’t you want to know, “what shall I do” to be free from guilt? Don’t you want to know “what shall I do” to be free from bitterness? Don’t you want to know “what shall I do” to be free from your past life of sin? Don’t you want to know “what shall I do” to be free from sin in the future? This is a very important question.
I can tell you from personal experience, prayer won’t save you. I can tell you from personal experience, reading the Bible won’t save you. I can tell you from personal experience, fasting won’t save you. I can tell you from personal experience, mission service won’t save you. I can tell you from personal experience, controlling your diet won’t save you.
In answer to the question, “What shall we do then?” John gives a list of things that the people can do. But it is not by doing those things that they would be saved. You can do a whole bunch of good and still be lost. “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Matthew 7:21-23.
You are not saved by doing good things. But when you are saved, you will do good things. Doing good IN ORDER TO BE FREE will never set you free. But that which sets you free will lead you to do good BEAUSE YOU ARE FREE.
So, how is freedom obtained? “What shall I do” to be free? The reality is, there is nothing you can do to set yourself free. We think that we have freedom to choose, but in a way that is not true, because we are slaves to sin. “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.’” John 8:34. Do you commit sin? Then you are a slave (prisoner) of sin.
If you are in prison with a death sentence (“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23.), you can choose who you hang out with, whether you will eat the food they serve today or not, whether you use a little soap or a lot with your shower, whether you look into people’s eyes or avoid looking, etc. But you can’t choose to get out of prison. When it comes to getting out of prison, you have no choice.
That is the nature of being a slave or a prisoner. You can choose how you do something. Sometimes you can choose whether you do something or not, or when you do it. But you can’t choose to be free. And we are born slaves of sin. We are prisoners. We have no ability to choose our way out of our captivity.
Does that mean we are hopelessly lost? Does that mean that we have no hope of going free? If we were left to rely upon our own capacities, the answer would be, “Yes!” We have no hope of going free. We are hopelessly lost. But, we weren’t left to rely upon our own capacities. God made a way to set us free.
If you were in prison, you couldn’t go free wanting or trying to go free. But if a provision was made for you to go free, you could choose to accept that provision for your freedom, and by accepting it, you could be free. For example, if someone chose to take your place, become a prisoner with a death sentence for you, and the judge or governor or whoever had the authority then offered you a pardon which gave you the right to get out of prison, then, by that provision made on your behalf and offered to you freely, you now have a choice to accept that provision and go free. You can’t go free by wanting or trying to go free. You can’t choose your way out of prison. But you can choose to accept the pardon, and by choosing to accept the pardon, you can go free.
Because of sin, man was hopelessly lost. We had no way out of sin. With the first sin, we became forever prisoners to sin with no hope of us ever being able to get out of it again. We were lost.
But God made a way for us to get out. God implemented and executed a plan that would offer us freedom from the prisonership to sin that we were in. The Father sent His only begotten Son to become a prisoner for us and pay the penalty that God’s law demands of those who break it. And by that divine provision, we then were given a choice to accept, by faith, the provision made for us. And by accepting that provision, we can go free.
God couldn’t change His law, for it is a holy as Himself. There is nothing wrong with His law, so nothing in it needs to be changed. The fact that Christ had to die as a substitute for man’s transgression shows that the law could never be changed, else the Father could have simply changed His law to meet man’s situation, and Jesus would never have had to pay such a terrible price.
So, “what shall I do” to be free from sin’s record and sin’s power in my life? Accept the provision of the perfect life of Christ in exchange for my sinful life. Allow Him to take my life and the penalty it deserves (eternal death), and by faith take His life and the reward it deserves (eternal life). It’s that simple. But its effects are profound. When you truly accept that provision on your behalf, it will change you–completely.
If, as a prisoner, you accept the free gift of the pardon offered to you, you now have the right to go free. You are considered a free man. But it’s not like “poof!” you’re outside of the prison all of a sudden. With that pardon, a whole system has been put in motion to set you free, but the process of you actually being released from the prison takes time and cooperation.
When you accept the pardon, an officer has to release you from your prison cell. And you have to cooperate by following the officer as he/she leads you down the hall. Another officer who monitors the first locked door has to unlock and open that door for you and the officer escorting you, and you have to cooperate by following the officer through the opened door. This process happens through several locked doors. You eventually are taken to a place where you receive instructions about the rest of your freedom process and are given non-prison clothes to wear. And you have to cooperate by taking off your prison clothes and putting on your new clothes. You are finally released to a place where you can get into a prison vehicle and transported to the place where you will be dropped off.
This whole process takes time. A whole mechanism is put in place to set you free. During the whole process, you are considered a free man/woman, because you have accepted the pardon that was freely offered to you, but it takes time to get you out of the prison and to the place of your complete freedom. And all along the way, you must cooperate with those who are in the process of setting you free.
What would happen if you “accepted” the pardon that was offered to you, but you refused to leave your prison cell? What would happen if you left your prison cell, but you refused to walk through the first unlocked door? What would happen if, instead of following the officer that was escorting you to freedom, you ran from him/her? What would happen if you tried to attack them and get their weapon and try to use it on them and others so that you could set yourself free? If you won’t cooperate with the process that is put in place to set you free, you won’t be free. You will remain a prisoner.
But who wouldn’t cooperate with those setting them free? Only those who believed it was a trick. Only those who didn’t believe it was freedom they were being offered. As long as you believe that you are being set free, you will cooperate.
If you were set free because someone else freely chose to take your place; if you were set free because someone else loved you so much that they were willing to become a prisoner for you and die in the prison so that you could be free, would you not respect them greatly? Would you not appreciate them greatly? Would you not love them? And if you loved them so much, what would you not be willing to do for them after you were free?
God loves you that much. He gave His only begotten Son to take your place. He made a way so that you can be free from your prisonership to sin. And He offers you every gift heaven can bestow that you might be completely free from sin and stand in complete righteousness in Christ. What would you not be willing to do for Him? Would you not be willing to give up those things that got you into prison in the first place? Would you not be willing to do or pursue what He wants for you? Love for the one who loved you so much will drive you to honor Him and obey Him. And that love will transform your life.
When you are free and in love with Him, will you want to pray? Yes! When you are free and in love with Him, will you want to read your Bible? Yes! When you are free and in love with Him, will you want to do mission service to let others know how they can be free? Yes! When you are free and in love with Him, will you want to conform your diet and lifestyle to what His plan & ideal is for you? Yes! You will do it all. You won’t do it to be free. You will do it because you are free!