Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Have Freedom In Christ (Part Two)

Welcome, friends and fellow bibliophiles, to part two of "I Have Freedom In Christ". Today we're going to look at the ins and outs of the meaning of freedom, once we accept Christ's grace. I began last week with a look at God's judgement because I wanted to establish the fact that our choices will be judged--we cannot expect to do anything we like and say "His grace covers me". Yes, it covers us from the eternal consequences of our decisions, but it does not free us from an obligation to lay aside evil.

To pick up from where we left off:

Does this mean we are free to do anything? How far does Christian liberty extend, once we accept Christ's grace?

I have a lot of Scripture to include today, but let's start off with a few verses from Romans:

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
-Romans 6:15-22

Many people consider that when we are free from the bondage of sin we are free from bondage, period. No chains, no control, no unpleasant restrictions, nothing to make us feel guilty: after all, we shouldn't feel guilty--we're under grace!

I understand this to a certain extent. But let's keep going for a fuller explanation.

If we are "slaves to Christ", what does this imply?

We are under his authority; we are not our own; we need to obey him; he has the final say. Namely, we don't get to decide what we can and cannot do.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
-1 Corinthians 6:9-10

In this section, Paul is addressing a specific sin in the Corinthian churches. They are claiming that "all things are lawful to them", but Paul counters this with the statement that they are still under the control of their God and King, and the church was not excused from sin. This quote "all things are lawful to me" is the one phrase upon which Christian liberty hinges. But in the actual verse, the quote itself is not intended to be set forth as a Scriptural principle:

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
-1 Corinthians 6:12 (ESV)

Paul is countering the plea of the church congregants with a correction: it's not true that all things are lawful--on the contrary, neither all things are helpful, nor are they up-building in the faith. We are bought with a price; we are slaves to Christ, and only what Christ bids us read is lawful to us: only Christ.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

Not all things are lawful: only what is true, what is noble, what is right, pure, lovely, and admirable: the problem with asking "aren't all things lawful?" is the attitude behind it. We're asking what we can get away with. How close we can get to the line and still honor Christ is not the question. The question is, how close can we get to Christ? How well can we honor Him?  When we ask "Is the book clean enough?" we're really asking "Can't I get away with it?"

Often, liberty in Christ is merely a front to excuse indulgence of the flesh. When we claim liberty, we must be very careful that we are not trying to push our own wants, rather than seeking the will and blessing of our heavenly Father. We know that our hearts are seeking him when we ask "Lord, is this beneficial? Is this true and praiseworthy? Is this how you would have me spend my time?"

Two trademarks of slavery are as follows: number one, your actions are not yours to decide; you obey what your master tells you to do. The second is that your time is not yours to dispose of; it is your masters to fill with his goals and objectives.

Our reading choices are not our own. They are Christ's, and the time we spend reading is Christ's. We must bring all our books and our reading standards to the light of his law for us. This whole concept of slavery to Christ may seem harsh to advocates of Christian liberty. After all, it seems so constricting. But think of it this way: it's supposed to be.

When we are slaves to Christ, we are restrained from committing evil.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
-Galatians 5:16-18

We take captive the desires of the spirit, and the temptation to expose ourselves to evil:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
-2 Corinthians 10:5

Even Paul admits, when he evangelizes as if he is not under the law that he is under law:

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
-1 Corinthians 9:21-26


And after all, is following the "law"--having restrictions in what we can and cannot read--so terrifying after all? According to Psalm 19, the law of God is a very precious thing:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple. 
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes. 
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous
-Psalm 19:7-9
It is much safer to be in "chains" under Christ, then to be in the bondage of the flesh. We are either in bondage to the one, or to the other--there is no middle ground.

How that specifically plays out, along with the question of judgement, will be addressed on Friday. Until then, I wish you all delight in your reading as you obey the law of Christ.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

2 comments:

  1. Great post Lady B! I love what you had to say . Keep on writing!
    S.H ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Lady B,
    Very good post! You had some WONDERFUL points. :D :D
    Love, Sister

    ReplyDelete

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