Saturday, October 13, 2012

Liberty

Legalism has had its effect on Christianity; there’s no doubt about that. Rules have been placed on people, expectations placed at levels that hardly anyone could reach. Then if a person failed in that expectation or rule, guilt trips were placed on them.

Then this turned into people “outdoing” one other in order to prove that somehow they were more spiritual than the failures that pastor always alluded to in his messages. The lying began…lying to God, lying to oneself, lying to other church members and lying to the pastor about their spiritual state… out of fear of how they would be viewed. In other words, it became a performance-based religion. This has left hundreds of thousands of Christians frustrated, overwhelmed, and in many cases, has chased these members off to the “mega churches” or other churches where there is no requirement, no rules, and little or no expectations.

 We often hear the phrase “I have liberty in Christ.” I agree. Galatians 5:1 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, and be not again entangled in the yoke of bondage.” In our culture and time, the “yoke of bondage” is often referred to as “rules of the church.” When a person leaves a church that has rules, in some cases “any rule,” they feel that they have found freedom and have re-connected with their “liberty in Christ.” Galatians 5:13 states “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; [only] use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” 

Here’s an observation that I’ve made with many people. When I hear the statement “I have liberty in Christ,” what usually follows is how they are now “less” involved than before... less faithful then they were before… less involved than they were before. For example: “I have liberty in Christ, so I don’t need to go to church as often as I was going…” “I have liberty in Christ, so I don’t need to give as much as I was giving…” “I have liberty in Christ, so I don’t need to be so concerned with modesty anymore.” The list goes on and on with statements like these as to what “liberty in Christ” has brought people. It’s almost as if people are looking to rid themselves of any guilt or conviction.

 Let me challenge you with a thought. If you follow this reasoning and liberty has brought less faithfulness to church, then would it not stand to reason that the person who doesn’t go at all has even more liberty? If liberty causes you to be less modest, then wouldn’t the skimpiest bathing suit as church apparel provide even more liberty? If liberty in Christ has brought you to less involvement, wouldn’t no involvement be even more liberty?

You see, this reasoning is flawed, especially when we see that we are not to use our liberty for an occasion to the flesh. If you look though at verse 13 quoted above, you never see the person who is exercising liberty as doing any less. In fact, the instruction for those in liberty is to serve one another in love. I’ve never seen true Christian liberty cause a person to do less. Love causes a person to do more. 

Remember when you first fell in love with your spouse? In expression of your love to your future spouse, did you explain that because you have liberty, you don’t need to be as faithful, as involved, or as committed? Of course not! Love brought you to the point of doing more because of love.

 The reason is that true liberty triggers heartfelt gratitude for what Christ has liberated us from and therefore a servant’s heart is evident. What I have seen liberty do for people is to clear up their wrong motives (serving for recognition, acceptance, or even the expectation that God would return to them the favour), and then by LOVE serve one another. When Christ made us free, He made us free indeed. Free from selfish motives… those we had prior to salvation… free from ulterior motives… those we had prior to salvation… free from “doing” in order to be recognized, accepted, or rewarded… that we had prior to salvation.

 What then does this liberty do for us? Matthew 5:44 tells us to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, pray for them that despitefully use us, and persecute us. Verses 46-47 tell us that the sinners return love for love, civility for civility… and how are we any better if that’s all we do?

 Liberty gives us freedom to love our enemies, bless them that curse, do good to them that hate, pray for them that despitefully use and persecute us. Liberty is not an opportunity for less, but rather more, out of a heart and motive of love. In other words, liberty is the ingredient that allows you to “Live the Difference.”

2 comments:

Matt Radford said...

Spot on. I spoke to people that claim Cornerstone Baptist Church is "to legalistic".

What I have found after visiting the different churches in Oxford county is that they present a "watered down" feel-good gospel and have strayed from the Truth.

Thanks Peter for this Blog.

Matt Radford said...

John 8:32-36

and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.