by Matt Slick
I would like to introduce you to the freedom we Christians have in Jesus. But before I do that, I need to speak about the Law.
A lot of people in groups like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Jehovah's Witnesses live under a set of laws and social expectations that can be smothering. This is because when someone's salvation is tied to her behavior, attitude, appearance, and following a set of rules, then there can be little freedom to live, to make mistakes, and to grow. Instead, she lives in mild fear. The result is living in a church system where appearance is important, where failure is looked down upon, and where your social status depends on your outward godliness. Therefore, in such churches, people will put on a good face, a proper smile, and not really share serious issues in their lives.
Such attitudes are ungodly.
It is a good thing that Jesus loves us in spite of what we are, in spite of our imperfections. Jesus does not love us because of our appearance, or because we can keep ourselves from sinning, or because we have it all together, or because we are sincere. Instead, he loves us because of who he is, not because of who we are.
- 1 John 4:19, "We love, because He first loved us."
God is holy, beautiful, pure, infinite, righteous, and as the Scripture says, "God is love," (1 John 4:8). The nature of love is to give, "For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son," (John 3:16). Love is other-centered and sacrificial (John 15:13). And, God loves us because of him, not because of us. In other words, God loves us because of everything that he is not because of who we are.
Therefore when we love God, it is a response to his first loving us. And just as a parent's love is not conditioned on the performance of the child, neither is God's love for us conditioned on ours. But, whenever there is a religious system that fails to stand on the true gospel (the loving sacrifice of Christ alone), then there is no true indwelling of God. And, because he is not really living inside of the person, the person has to keep the Laws and ordinances to make up the difference. He or she has to perform properly, has to do right, and maintain that lifestyle in order to be accepted fully as a proper, spiritually mature person.
That is why religious groups that preach a false gospel will replace the truth with regulations. They do so because they don't understand that the regulations, those laws of purity that they must keep to be acceptable to one another and to God, reveal their lack of true freedom in Christ. There is a simple principle found in Scripture that is applicable here.
- 1 Timothy 1:9, "realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners..."
Try to consider the Law as an external set of rules that guide us. True Christians are not obligated to keep the Laws of God in order to be forgiven of their sins. If that were the case, then salvation would be based on our ability. It would also mean that God would be showing favoritism by "saving" someone who has been "good enough." Instead, the Law is a guide for the true Christian. the Law helps us when we have doubts about what to do or not to do. But it is not our keeping the Law that makes us right before God - or before each other.
- Romans 3:28, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law."
- Romans 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness."
- Romans 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
(By the way, justification is the condition of being righteous before God according to the Law.)
But when we are Christians, we are indwelt by the Lord Jesus (John 14:23). He lives in us and because he does, we don't need that law. We have him. This is not to say that it is okay to break the Law of God. We ought not to steal. We ought not to lie. But when Christ lives in us and when we experience his love and presence, then we "accidentally" keep the Law because the love of God flows out of our hearts. Loving God and loving our neighber is the fulfillment of the Law (Matt. 22:37-40). That is freedom.
Freedom in Christ
- Luke 4:18, "the spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed."
- John 8:32, "and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
- John 8:36, "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."
- Acts 13:38-39, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses."
- Galatians 5:1, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."
One of the signs of being a true Christian, besides believing in the true gospel, is experiencing a sense of freedom. We realize that we do not have to keep the Law in order to please God. We realize that God's favor upon us is not dependent upon our obedience, or our law-keeping. God's favor upon us is because of what Christ did on the cross. Therefore, we are free.
We are free to drink coffee, sip tea, watch a movie, dance, laugh, have a drink, and enjoy life. Yes, we are free to do these things and other things...but without sin.
However, our freedom means that we must not stumble anyone else. We must not abuse our freedom. We are not to be so careless. On the contrary, we are free to live and not have to worry about how our behavior affects God's attitude towards us because his attitude is one of love and acceptance that is guaranteed by the sacrifice of Christ. But, this is not to say that he won't discipline us if we stray. After all, God disciplines those whom he loves (Hebrews 12:6). We must be careful not use our freedom to stumble anyone else.
- Romans 14:21-22, "It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves."
- 1 Corinthians 8:13, "Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble."
- Galatians 5:13, "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."
These are, in a sense, New Testament laws. But think about what they are, Loving God and Loving your neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40). They are a call to express the love that you would have from God to your brothers and sisters in Christ. You are not to abuse your freedom and so cause them to stumble in their faith.
Dying with Christ to the Law
There is a concept that a lot of Christians are not aware of. I often teach it to them so they can experience more of the freedom they have in Jesus. The concept is simple. As Christians, we have died with Christ and therefore we have also died to the Law. It means that the Law has no more jurisdiction over us.
- Romans 7:1, 4, 6, "Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the Law), that the Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?...4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.... 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter."
- Galatians 2:19-20, "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
Because we are "in Christ" (1 Cor. 15:22), it can be said that when he died on the cross, we died with him. This is why it says that we have been crucified with Christ, (Romans 6:6). Therefore, we are freed from the Law.
- Romans 7:4, "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God."
All things are lawful
- 1 Corinthians 6:12, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything."
The reason that all things are lawful to us as Christians is because we have died to the Law and the Law has no jurisdiction over us. This means we are incredibly free. We are free to try and please God and fail and realize that our failures do not sever our relationship with him, nor do they jeopardize our salvation. We are free indeed to succeed and fail. We are free to love God and love our neighbor. We are free to have fun, to not be perfect, to not have to please our friends in church for social acceptance, and achieve spiritual worthiness. We are free to rest in Christ and in our freedom, we can explore what it means to live life and not live in fear. We are free from the requirements of the Law and so we are free to rest in Christ.
- Matthew 11:28, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."