Are there any restrictions on Christian freedom?
Today's question is this:
Are there any restrictions on our Christian freedom?
Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus warns them not to use their God-given freedom for the wrong purposes . . . “to indulge the flesh” . . . so what does that mean for us as Christians today? How should we view our freedoms and assert them? Or should we?
Just how free are we anyway?
While we live under the prevailing government of whichever land we live in, in my case, the United States, our freedom in Christ is something that our governments do not give us and cannot take away from us.
So what does this Christian Freedom mean?
As Christians we are free from the overwhelming burden of trying to keep the Mosaic (Old Testament) Laws like the ones you may know as the Ten Commandments (or the many others that have been expanded upon those) in order to earn God’s favor or God’s forgiveness (and thus life everlasting as part of God’s Kingdom). We are free from the bondage of sin and the ultimate result of sin - eternal condemnation.
A bond-slave is a person in bondage, bound to their owner/master whom they work for; as opposed to a hired servant who chooses to work in exchange for payment. Being a slave means someone else legally owns that person. Being a slave to sin, to a sinful lifestyle then, is essentially like being owned by that sin. You can’t escape it.
People sometimes don’t like to use the word “sin” these days, preferring to use other words instead. But “mistake” seems milder, and with a built-in excuse . . . an unawareness. A miscalculation with no ill intent. “Accident” similarly has an air of excuse by surprise and unexpected results. But “sin” – that smacks of willfulness, knowingness and awareness. That’s not to say that we always know or expect what the experienced results will be to their full extent.
Why would we return to bondage/imprisonment, when we’ve received freedom from sin and it’s hold on us?? Because once we enter into sin it does grab hold doesn’t it? Think addictions like drugs and alcohol, habitual behaviors like shoplifting and lying. Just as recidivism rates are continually high for repeat offenders in our criminal justice systems, so it is with our human natures and returning to the bondage of sinful behaviors. We naturally gravitate back to what we know, what’s familiar, even when we know it’s bad for us – if we aren’t on guard.
So we have this warning.
Don’t go back!
Don’t become a slave to the sin again!
Some folks would try to convince us that it’s legalistic or judgmental to even suggest avoiding sin. To label anything as sin is assumed to be intolerant of the people involved. But if we are to remain free, we must have clarity on what to avoid in order to not become captured again. Not because we aren’t free, but because we are!
We are free of these sinful behaviors and lifestyles that are so harmful to us and to others around us. We are free to choose wisely. Just as the wise mother teaches, trains and warns her children to help them be aware of dangers and make safer choices in life, it’s not to prevent them from living free and enjoyable lives but to help assure that they’ll be able to do so safely..
You may be scratching your head and asking, but Dawn, didn’t you start out saying we were free from having to follow the Mosaic Law, the Ten Commandments and all?
Let me ask you, as a mom have you ever had a rebellious child, or have you been a tad bit rebellious yourself even? Maybe just for a few minutes . . .?
Imagine this scenario:
Let’s say a 13 year old is about to go practice the new piano piece she likes and is really hoping to impress her piano teacher. But just as the thought is forming in her mind she hears her mom calling out to her that she needs to go practice piano now because those lessons aren’t cheap. No conflict there, right? She was just about to go practice.
But oh no! . . . Resistance has suddenly flared up. The girl immediately wants to do something else, anything but practice piano. This may or may not be a fictional example.
But notice - the warning is protective, not destructive. It comes from a place of belonging not a place of intolerance or rejection.
As Christians if our goal is to follow Jesus, to grow in righteousness, to be more Christ-like, then learning and living in God’s ways is going to be our goal. We work out of personal desire to be our best, highest, most authentic selves who God created us to be! He knows us as we are, AND as he made us to be.
The old song, the hymn, Just As I Am, is one I used to sing or play almost every Sunday growing up in our little country church on Sand Mountain. The song is an answer to the invitation to come to the altar and come to Jesus and says --
“just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me . . .” and as if in a court of law, there is no plea bargain, no exculpatory plea, no option that will remove or mitigate the just verdict of guilty, except this one – only the plea that the penalty is already paid in full by the blood of Jesus.
Sin is serious. So is our need of a Savior and the fact that we have one in Jesus! All you've been is not all you are! We not only get to get free from the guilt of our past sin, we get to get transformed into the real authentic self we were created to be.
How do you avoid the traps of sin and also live authentically?
Three Steps to Live Authentically while Separating from Sinfulness:
First we need a new point of view regarding sin. When we’re clear on sin, then we can look at it and know that’s not part of our identity. Separate the sin from your identity. Sin has no part in who you were created to be.
Second, we need a standard. God’s Word, the Bible is the standard from which we can get that clarity to know what to avoid, how to live out our freedoms in a way that preserves them, to avoid returning to a life of slavery to sin.
Third, we need to take assertive action. We can get into the habit of capturing our thoughts. Once captured we can then deal with them. Assess them and their related feelings, what the feelings mean, and whether they align with God’s Word and our values and who we are, our goals of who and how we want to be.
The more you take your thoughts captive and resist temptation, the more you build this new pattern into your new identity. You get to decide which thoughts to keep and which ones to throw away. Don’t think all the thoughts that come your way are part of you and your identity.
Becoming our full authentic selves is an ongoing process.
Don’t forget. We already have God’s favor as his children. We don’t have to earn it. But as his children it’s wise to learn from him and take his warnings seriously. This is the difference between freedom and rebellion. This is the difference between orphan mindset and beloved child mindset. It really is a battle of the mind.
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