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Jesus Proclaims Liberty to the Captives
L. R. Shelton, Sr.

Our Lord was anointed to proclaim liberty to the captives. We find this great truth set forth in Isa.61:1, "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." We see in this great text that the Lord Jesus was anointed by the Father to proclaim liberty to the captives.

Let’s look at the natural man in his state of captivity. He is a captive of Satan, according to II Tim.2:26, "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." Satan has carried away every individual out of the light of God’s favor, and he holds them fast as his captives in his kingdom, because he is the god of this world (II Cor.4:4). So it is the work of Christ in His perfect life, in His death on the cross, and in His resurrection from the grave, to proclaim liberty to such captives of Satan.

Luke 4:18 says, "He hath anointed me...to preach deliverance to the captives." The meaning of the word "liberty" is deliverance, and Christ proclaiming liberty means He releases or gives liberty to the captives of Satan. The word "preach" means proclaim or announce to Satan’s captives in the name of the God of Heaven, the King of Heaven, that He has purchased their freedom by His death on the cross. It is indeed good news to a captive of Satan, who has come to realize that he is held a prisoner of Satan, to know that it is the work of Christ to release him from his bondage, to let him go, to set him free, or to set him at liberty. I proclaim in the name of my blessed Lord, the King of kings and Lord of lords, that Christ has purchased the deliverance of the prisoners of Satan. Does that mean anything to you, my friend?

All Are Captives of Satan

Now let me bring to your attention, in the first place, how sinners have become Satan's captives. First, he has taken them in war. II Pet.2:19 says, "Of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." Satan waged war against our first parents and overcame them, and by overcoming our first parents he brought all mankind into captivity to himself. Yes, Satan carried his point – God permitted him – and gained his victory, and man has legally become Satan's captive.

Then everyone born into this world becomes a captive of Satan by birth. In Matt.23:15 they are called children of Hell, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." Every individual born into this world is a captive of Satan, as his parents are captives – all are born under the power of Satan. Salvation then is a deliverance from the power of Satan and a translation into the kingdom of God (Col.l:13). In Ex.21:4 we find the law of the slave. If a slave married while he was yet a slave, even though he obtained his freedom at the end of seven years, his wife and children born while in slavery still belonged to the slave master until they were able to obtain their freedom individually. Though you and I may be redeemed by the grace of God, delivered from Satan by God's power, yet our children born to us are captives of Satan. They are captives by birth. Now you let that soak into your heart, Mother! Let that soak into your heart, Father. Christ said in John 8:44, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." So every individual out of Christ is a captive of Satan, held prisoner by Satan, a child of Satan, and a child of Hell, until he is redeemed by the blood of Christ and delivered by power from Satan.

The Condition of Satan's Captives

With these thoughts in mind, let's notice now the conditions of Satan's captive. Every individual held captive by Satan is in the kingdom of Satan, which is the kingdom of darkness, according to Acts 26:18. Paul was commanded to preach to turn sinners "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." Then in Col.1:13 this great truth is also stated, "Who (God) hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." Sinners of today are not in the place that God put them when He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; they have been transported into another kingdom, into a far country, according to Luke 15:13. They are far away from God, from His covenant, and from His Son.

Oh, sinner, could it dawn upon you that you are in Satan's kingdom of darkness where everything is black and dismal, where sin, darkness, and death reign! (Matt.6:23). You are in such a kingdom of darkness that there is no ray of light or life! Oh, that the Holy Spirit would awaken you out of your sleep of death (Psa.13:3), and you could see your situation! Then you would be the most unhappy subject that Satan ever had in his kingdom. I know I am speaking to some out there who are very unhappy. Ah, you are stirred, you are deeply moved. You are miserable. The only reason a sinner is content in his present state is because he is asleep in Satan's lap, according to I John 5:19.

In the second place, every captive of Satan is robbed and plundered of everything that is of any value at all; Rev.3:17 says, "Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." The light of the mind is lost, the righteousness of your will is perverted, the holiness of your affections is polluted. You have been "robbed and spoiled" by a hellish conqueror, Satan (Isa.42:22). Oh, that you could wake up and see! May the Holy Spirit so quicken you until you will be shaken out of your sleep of death and you will see yourself a poor, wretched sinner, robbed by Satan. You are just a poor captive; you have nothing good left.

Then, in the third place, Satan has so dealt with you as his captive until you are literally stripped of everything. You walk about naked, barefooted – you have no covering for your sins. Ah, when you look at the captives of war and see brave soldiers and ranking officers stripped of all their insignia, stripped of everything they hold dear, marching as captives down the street of the foreign city, what a melancholy picture! But what a more terrible sight to see a precious soul stripped by Satan of all its robes of righteousness and driven before him covered with nothing but rags (Rev.3:17 and Isa.64:6)! Oh, sinner, this is your shameful case. You are a captive of Satan. Once I was there. When God opened my eyes and showed me my awful, ruined condition, showed me that I was held captive by Satan, I could not flee his territory – I could not break his bands! Knowing that He had proclaimed liberty unto the captives, I cried unto the Lord and He heard my cry, broke the bands of Satan, and set me free – gave me liberty in Christ Jesus my Lord! Do you know what I'm talking about, friend?

Then, my dear sinner-friend, you have not only been transported to the kingdom of darkness, been plundered and robbed and stripped, but you are conquered by the power of Satan. You no longer are master of yourself. II Tim.2:26 says, "Who are taken captive by him at his will." Your liberty is gone, and gone forever, unless Christ delivers you; you are a slave to the master of tyrants, and you are serving him to your own ruin. You are not only his captive, my sinner-friend, but, alas! you have no liberty. You must come and go at his beck and call; you must obey his every command, according to Rom.7:23. There is a law in your members, which brings you into captivity to the law of sin and death. My sinner-friend, if you get anything of any value, you can't keep it; Satan tears it from you. If you receive a conviction of sin and make a resolution to amend your life, you can't carry it out – Satan will not rest until you have thrown it away. You may be seemingly deeply moved under this message, and you may be made to cry out and say, "Preacher, that's my condition; you are describing me, but I can't retain the impressions. All my resolutions pass away." It is because Satan will not let you keep them. You are bent on pleasing Satan. That's right.

In the next place, you are secure in his territory; you cannot get away. You are kept by the strong man under the power of darkness and in the kingdom of darkness, according to Col.1:13. You also find a great gulf fixed between you and all the spiritual good. You may long for it, but you can't get to it. You may cry out in your heart, "Oh, that I were saved, but what a gulf between me and Christ! Surely He doesn't think upon me. I am held so securely by the power of Satan, the chains of sin, and by my own sinful habits and desires." Not only that, my friend, but Satan keeps guard over you; every moment day and night he guards you. You cannot escape to flee to God. He has you bound with your own hellish lusts, and you can't shake them off. In other words, you cannot escape from him unless One stronger than all the powers of Hell come to deliver you. Christ came to proclaim liberty to such a captive as you.

You may ask, "Why doesn't God come and deliver me now?" My friend, it may be that He wants you to realize fully what your condition is in Satan's territory so that you will never forget from whence He delivered you.

I want to tell you, my friend, I'll never forget from whence my Lord delivered this poor old sinner! Never do I cease to thank my Deliverer, the Lord Jesus, for hearing my cry, coming to my rescue, taking me by force out of Satan's net as his prisoner, and setting my feet upon the rock of freedom in Christ, and putting a new song in my mouth, a song of deliverance, whereby I am praising Him daily for salvation and deliverance.

Let me call your attention to one other fact. If you make any effort to escape, you are so watched until you can't get away. Strong guards are set over you. You never feel your old passions and lusts, the old desires of your flesh, the lusts of your eyes, or the pride of your life (I John 2:15-17), as you do when the Holy Spirit begins to convict you and show you what you are by nature. It seems as if all Hell is turned loose in your bosom, that you may know who you are by nature, what you are by nature, and the judgment you are under (John 16:7-11). These are the inward guards that Satan sets over your heart and life to hold you fast.

Satan also has his outward guards: unsaved religionists who are members of his kingdom. As soon as a soul becomes serious or disturbed about his soul, they are right there to comfort him, to turn him back, to try to kill conviction. There are his social friends, his business friends, his religious friends – all combined to turn him back from being delivered out of Satan's territory! What a deplorable condition you captives are in! Do you see your condition? Then there is hope for you.

When we think of a sinner being held captive, we think of his precious soul. What a deplorable condition man's soul is in under the bondage of sin and Satan! We think that when one of our soldiers is taken captive by a foreign power, placed within the stockade, and treated cruelly, it is something awful – and it is! but how much more awful is the captivity of your soul! Satan lays hold upon the inner man, and no matter where you may go as an individual, he holds you fast, because he holds your soul.

This captivity is universal; it extends to all the faculties of the sinner's soul. Your mind is Satan's captive – you don't understand things spiritual. You are blinded by Satan, and the natural man "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: because they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor.2: 14). Did you ever stop to think that when God made man, He formed the mind of man; He gave man knowledge to guide him in the way of happiness? Did you ever stop to think that the mind is the eye of the soul, by which the individual may see the difference between sin and beauty, and that it was given him to pilot him through all the quicksands of life? But man, being wounded by the deceit of Satan, according to Gen.3:5, fell into the hands of the most dastardly enemy of all the universe, and he has robbed you of the light that God gave you; he has shut you up in utter darkness, and if "the light that is in thee be darkness," oh, what darkness! It is so dark, sinner, until you can't see any way to escape. You are like those men at Lot's house, blinded, groping in darkness and trying to find a door, but you find no way out, do you?

To make it more terrible, sinner, Satan has set up a false light in the mind which, instead of leading your poor captive soul out of darkness, leads you into pits and snares, and turns sweet into bitter, causes you to glory in your own shame and to mind earthly things, according to Phil.3:19. Not only that, but Satan has taken away your tender heart and given you a heart of stone; he's taken away your righteousness and given you filthy rags. And Satan holds you fast in that condition! Yes, everything in the world is colored with that false light that you have, so much so until you look upon the head of that serpent coiled in your bosom with a smile and think it a rosebud! Yes, you'll look upon sin, and think it is a virtue. You'll laugh in the face of Hell, because you sense no danger. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov.14:12; 16:25). That false light shuts out the Sun of Righteousness (Mal.4:2). That false light is so deceiving until multitudes think they are saved, and are rejoicing in that false light, while they are on the road to Hell, but don't know it. They are making merry in their own heart to their own damnation! Oh! may the Lord take hold of your heart and lead it into the love of God! He alone can do it. It is God that "worketh in you both to will and to do of his (own) good pleasure" (Phil.2:13). Yes, Satan has loaded your mind with such heavy chains that you cannot come to Christ at His call. The Lord Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44).
Then, again, Satan holds captive your affections, according to Gen.6:5, "And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Then again, our Lord said, "Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). In the first creation man's affections were holy; they were subject to the guidance of the mind and were at the command of the will, but as a captive of Satan your affections have been prostituted. You no longer love God, but only the lusts and desires of your own carnal heart. Your affections are so held captive by Satan and your old depraved nature until they go crawling in the slimy pits of lust, in the channels of covetousness, jealousy, hatred, and malice. Your affections now feed upon things of the earth, and are earthly. You can no more teach a child to love God than you can teach a snake to love man.

We want to notice one or two more things about man's captivity. It is a hard captivity. You are made busy, but you are working to your own ruin. You are constantly kicking against the pricks. You are digging your own grave; you are feeding your own lusts, while you starve your soul. By so doing you are not only damning your own soul, but you are ruining the souls of others – you are carrying snares for others. You are weaving your own net of destruction. You are digging the pit into which you will fall, never to rise again. You are kindling the fires of your own Hell. You are gathering together the lusts of your own bosom that will torment you throughout eternity, because Hell will be a place where no passion or lust of the human heart will ever be satisfied (Rom.2:5). My friend, you are destroying your own soul. Listen, friend! Wake up, sinner! You are courting death! Your depraved, unbelieving heart makes you love death, makes you consent to be damned with Satan your conqueror forever and ever. God have mercy upon you!

This is a perpetual captivity. There is no end unless you be ransomed. Satan never releases his captives except they are taken from him by the power of God. Death does not release the captives of Satan, for the grave holds the prisoners, though they will not hear the voice of their conqueror until he meets them in Hell together. Death weds you and Satan together forever. Death, death, death – listen to it! – binds you to Satan throughout the cycles of eternity. Listen, friend, listen! If you have never listened before, will you listen now? May the fear of God fall upon you!

Now, face this awful condition of your captivity. Remember, it's voluntary: you serve Satan at your will. Satan does not have to drive you; you run at his call; according to Rom.3:15, "Their feet are swift to shed blood." You serve Satan as your master by your own consent and choice. This is the most tragical aspect of it. Sinner, you are a captive of Satan, and you do not want your liberty unless grace changes your heart. You glory in your slavery; you love your captivity. You are well pleased with your condition. When I proclaim liberty to you, you are angry with me and tell me, "Preacher, I love my master; I will not go free. I do not want to go free. I love sin and the pleasures that Satan gives me." As a young girl said the other day, "Ha, ha! I'm having the time of my life now. I'm free to do as I please," and she is drinking sin to its bitter dregs.

In conclusion, let me say, my dear sinner-friend, that you are Satan's captive. May the Holy Spirit convince you that you are Satan's captive. May you be convicted of this great fact that not many are troubled about their state, and may the grace of our God trouble you and let you see the awful condition that you are in. May the grace of God fall upon you. May the great grace of God fall in your home right now and touch your heart, mother – touch your heart, father – touch your heart, daughter – touch your heart, son. Let me say further, that I am talking to you! "Thou art the man;" I'm talking to you! "Thou art the woman;" you are held captive by Satan. You will not believe it, but, my friend, it's you! I know you are blinded; I know Satan has put out your eyes, according to II Cor.4:4. I know the Gospel is hid from your eyes. I know many of you who have made professions of faith have turned to a very religious life, but you are still children of Hell. You are unregenerated. You are children of wrath. You are the captives of Satan, and the "spirit that now worketh" in you is the spirit of Satan (Eph.2:2). Oh, that the grace of God would open your eyes and let you see that you have been stripped of all your righteousness, all your natural goodness, let you see that you have been spoiled of everything in the world that is worthwhile! I wish you would admit that you are Satan's captive, that you have not been made free by Christ. But if God has spoken to your heart, will you listen to His voice, will you bestir yourself that you may be set free? May you remain no longer at ease in your present condition. May the Spirit of the living God so reveal your condition to you that a cry of anguish will arise from your heart, "Lord, save me, or I perish! Lord, deliver me! I am the sinner. Lord, release me from this bondage of sin!" May there come from your heart such a cry.

Will you think with me, oh sinner-friend, along this line? You only have a short time to live, and then you'll be his captive forever in Hell. Bestir yourself! Your life is uncertain. Death has carried many off, and will you be carried to the prison house of Hell, where you will have to bid farewell forever to liberty? "When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us;...he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are" (Luke 13:25).

If you refuse to come now to be delivered from Satan's bondage, you may never be delivered. Now is the time of your liberty. "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Cor.6:2). Listen, friend; remember this great fact, that Christ has paid the ransom price for your deliverance, and liberty and freedom is proclaimed in the Gospel. "Do you mean you are talking to me, Pastor?" I am talking to you, sinner-friend. Christ has paid the ransom for your deliverance.

Listen to our text again, "The LORD hath anointed me...to proclaim (or preach) liberty to the captives" (Isa.61:1).

There's liberty for you, my friend; there is freedom in Christ; and in the name of our blessed Lord I proclaim liberty to you. I cry out to you, captives – there is freedom in Christ! There is deliverance in Christ. There is liberty in Christ; He came to set you free. Look, sinner, look! Look to Him. Turn to God from your sins (I Thess.1:9). Turn to Him in your captivity. Turn to Him in your misery. Turn to Him now! He alone will save you. My friend, will you? May the blessings of our Lord rest upon you. May the great grace of Christ rest upon you, friend.



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