When you study an event in the Bible you can often study it on two levels – let’s call it a “practical level” and a “spiritual level.” The practical level teaches us something we can apply to our everyday lives whereas the spiritual level gives us a glimpse into something a bit deeper.
For example, when studying the account of Abraham offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice, on a practical level we learn the importance of faith and trusting God completely. Studying the same story on a spiritual level we discover that Abraham represents God the Father and Isaac represents Jesus; and this account is a foreshadowing of how God would offer His Son as a Sacrifice (remarkably, Jesus was crucified at the very same place Abraham brought Isaac).
Taking a deeper look at John 11:44…
Keeping all this in mind let’s look at John 11. There we find Jesus raising Lazarus back to life. On a practical level this is a wonderful example of Jesus’ power over death. Now let’s take a look from a spiritual level. John 11:44 is the verse we’re going to focus on. It says:
“The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” – John 11:44 (NASB)
If we break this verse down we find four types of Christians.
Number One – The Dead Christian
“The man who had died came forth.”
The first type of Christian we find is “The Dead Christian.” Interestingly enough, the dead Christian isn’t a Christian at all. Jesus was talking to dead Christians in Revelation 3:1 when He said to them, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”
When Jesus says they “have a name that you are alive” He means they call themselves Christians (‘Christian’ means one who follows Christ), but in reality they “are dead” because they don’t follow Christ in their hearts. Perhaps they call themselves Christians because their parents make them or its tradition or whatever.
There are many dead Christians out there today, but Jesus offers them hope. He ended His conversation with these Dead Christians in Revelation 3 by saying if they could overcome their sin He would make sure their name was in the Book of Life and would confess their names before the Father and His angels. But how does one overcome?
1 John 5:5 tells us: “Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (See also 1 John 4:15 & 1 John 5:1.)
Once a person believes in, and follows Jesus with their heart, they are in Christ’s love and forgiveness. And all who are in Christ “shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Number Two – The Bound Christian
“Bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.”
The second type of Christian we find is “The Bound Christian”. This is a Christian who is alive in Christ, but one who is bound by their sin. Romans 6 is a great chapter for gaining insight into this. Listen to what Paul says in verse 16:
“Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (See also John 8:34.)
We can follow sin or we can follow God. The first leads to breaking fellowship with God, the second leads to a wonderful relationship with Him (John 15:10).
So how does the Bound Christian become free? First, he applies 1 John 1:9 to his life:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (See also Psalm 32:5 and Proverbs 28:13.)
If you confess your sins Jesus will forgive you. When you do that you are set free from sin. And “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Second, we pray a prayer like we find in Psalm 25:4: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths.”
We ask God to teach us His ways, to help us follow His commands. Yes, there will be times when we stumble, but we don’t have to be slaves to sin. We can be slaves to righteousness. When this happens we can rejoice they way Paul did when in Romans 6:17-18 he said:
“Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
Number Three – The Free Christian
“Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him.”
The third type of Christian is the “Free Christian.” The free Christian is alive in Christ, and is free from sin and that allows him to enjoy fellowship with God. His life is full of blessings. So what’s missing? Just one thing: The free Christian is keeping his blessings to himself.
Let me explain. First look at John 21:17. Jesus is talking to Peter:
“‘Do you love Me?’ And Peter said to Him, ’Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’”
We are all blessed with some sort of gift. Some are good at encouraging, others are able to teach, and still others have the gift of compassion. There are many other gifts as well and as you study them you’ll notice that all the gifts God gives are designed to serve others.
That’s what Jesus is saying in the verse above: “If you love Me serve others”. This stands in sharp contrast to the world which put its emphasis on serving yourself.
And that brings us the final type of Christian…
Number Four – The Complete Christian
“And let him go.’”
The fourth and final type of Christian we find is the “Complete Christian.” We call him complete because he alive in Christ, freed from sin, has a wonderful relationship with God, and is a blessing to everyone around him.
This is what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16:
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
What this verse means is we should live our lives in a way that when people see us, they see Jesus.