When I talk to people about Jesus one of the reasons I often hear for why they don’t want to accept Jesus is that they don’t want to give up their freedom. They say religion is full of rules of what you can and cannot do. My response is always, “You are correct, religion is full of rules, but I am talking to you about having a relationship with Christ, not living a life full of religious rules.”

What is the freedom that so many cling to over having a relationship with Jesus? Maybe it is the freedom to drink alcohol whenever they want. After all, many say there is nothing wrong with having a drink or two to relax. There are times that a drink or two leads to several more. In the best case, the next morning you wake up with a hangover. You are left searching your foggy memory from the night before to see if you did anything foolish or anything you regret. In other cases, you may wake up next to someone you met the night before which opens you up to a host of other issues. Some have woken up in a holding cell because they were arrested for DUI. Are those things true freedom?

That freedom that so many hold onto over a relationship with Christ is really the bondage of sin. The things that so many think are freedom actually hold them in bondage to addiction, anger, bitterness, and many other things that lead to a life full of struggles.

Before I became a pastor, I did jail and prison ministry for 9 years. At the end of one service, an inmate asked if he could share something with the other inmates. He told them that he had just been sentenced to life without parole. He continued to say that even though he would spend the rest of his natural life in prison, for the first time in his life he was truly free.

How could someone who was looking at spending the rest of his life in prison say he finally found true freedom? The gospel message had set him free from the bondage of sin. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1 NKJV).

The so-called freedoms that so many don’t want to give up are keeping them in bondage to their sins. We read in the Gospel of John: “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’” (John 8:34-36 NKJV). True freedom is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Tim Hammond is the pastor of Oak Street Baptist Church in Kingman, AZ.