PASTOR RICK'S BLOG  

Oct 5

Are You Free?

 

 

Are You Free?

Scripture is clear and understandable, but it’s not exhaustive. Throughout the history of the church, believers have faced countless issues that God’s Word is silent about. While the Old Testament law provided detailed instructions and restrictions for most areas of life, believers today are not bound by God’s covenant with Israel—we’ve been set free in Christ. But how do we know what to do with our freedom?

In my lifetime alone, the church has wrestled with a wide variety of practical questions about how Christians ought to live. Should believers dance? Should they smoke or drink? Should men and women go swimming together? Should women wear makeup? Should people work on Sundays? Should women work at all? Should Christians attend movies or concerts? Should they watch TV? Should they send their children to public schools, or even private schools? Should Christians gamble? And should they tattoo their bodies?

Regardless of the issue, believers must not mistake Scripture’s silence as God’s indifference. The Bible might not specifically mention movies, TV, beer, or many of the other issues facing us today. But it does give plenty of principles to help us make good, God-honoring choices when it comes to the gray areas of life.

Is It Necessary?

When faced with one of life’s many gray areas, one of the ways to determine what you should do is to ask yourself, Do I need this? Is this thing—whether it’s an object, hobby, activity, or entertainment—a benefit to me, or is it excess baggage?

Hebrews 12:1 gives believers clear instructions to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

The Greek word for encumbrance basically means bulk, and it can be anything that distracts your focus or your energy from the task at hand. As God’s people we are to run the race He’s set before us with excellence. We can’t do that if we’re weighed down with worldly pursuits and distractions.

Is It Profitable?

In 1 Corinthians 6:12  Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.” Many believers have used the first half of Paul’s statement as license for the exercise of their liberty, but they miss his real point.

The question should never be What am I allowed to do?, but What is profitable for me to do? Whenever faced with a question of Christian liberty, every believer needs to ask himself if engaging in that activity is going to build him up to be a better servant of the Lord. Will it increase his effectiveness as a believer? If the answer isn’t yes, then why would you do it?

Is It Christlike?

A third principle helps us take a broad look at how to exercise our liberty. 1 John 2:6 says, “The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” Wow! What a standard! As believers, we know our lives are supposed to emulate Jesus—including how we live in life’s gray areas. The key is having His heart in the grey matters and a desire to glorify God in very way possible.

When it comes to making tough decisions about how to exercise your freedom, it’s always helpful to ask yourself, Is this what Christ would do? An honest examination of the issue from that perspective should push aside any personal desires and biases, and help you make God-honoring decisions that reflect the person and work of Christ in every facet of your life.

How will it affect others?

Another important question to ask yourself is How will this enhance my testimony? Colossians 4:5 says, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.” In other words, believers need to wisely consider how they behave, and how their behavior impacts their testimonies. How we live—particularly in the gray areas—shapes how the world evaluates us, our faith, and ultimately, our Savior. Is your behavior strengthening your testimony to the outside world? Does your lifestyle adorn the gospel, or is it a hindrance to it?

Is It Edifying?

And it’s not just a question of how the exercise of your liberty impacts others—you also need to consider what impact it will have on you. You need to regularly ask yourself, Will this build me up?  In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul expands on his earlier exhortation with these words: “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” Each of us needs to faithfully ask ourselves if each activity, entertainment, hobby, or diversion will have a positive or negative effect on our spiritual growth. An honest evaluation of what we might gain—as well as what we might lose—ought to accompany all of our gray-area decisions.

Is It Glorifying to God?

Finally, we need to regularly ask ourselves, Will doing this glorify Christ? In a way, this is the most basic element of Christian life. Believers have been set aside to glorify God and worship Him forever. But those activities aren’t reserved just for our eternity in heaven—they ought to describe the pattern of our daily lives. This life isn’t “our time” to do whatever we like. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

It is crucial that you understand the nature of Christian liberty. As a Christian, you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). Freedom from the law certainly does not mean that the principles of righteousness revealed in the Old Testament law are now nullified. It does not mean that the Ten Commandments have no application to your present life. It does not mean that you can subjugate God’s holy standards to personal preference. It obviously does not mean you are free from any moral requirements.

What does it mean? It means that Christians are not bound to observe Old Testament ritual. We don’t have to sacrifice animals, observe the laws of ceremonial cleanness, and celebrate all the new moons and feasts and sacrifices. We don’t have to follow the dietary laws given to Israel through Moses. We are free from all that.

Likewise, obviously, we are free from all Gentile religious ceremony and superstition. Whatever our religious background or heritage, in Christ we are free from all the trappings of it. We now live by God’s grace, which has the principle of true righteousness built in.

In other words, our spiritual lives are governed not merely by an external code, but by God’s grace, which operates in us to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law (Romans 8:4). Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly (Titus 2:12). And grace empowers us to live holy lives.

This tremendous liberty is one of the most remarkable aspects of the Christian life. We have no need to yield to custom or ceremony or human opinion. There are no earthly priests to intercede between us and God: “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). We don’t need to make a pilgrimage to a temple somewhere to worship; our very bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians  6:19). We can worship God in spirit and in truth anytime, anyplace (John 4:23-24). The Holy Spirit is given to us as our advocate and comforter (John 14:16,26). All things belong to us, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.1 Corinthians 3:21-23).  Wow!

Walk In Freedom

Pastor Rick

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