Consistent Inconsistency – Part 4 – Christian Liberty

One of the principles in evangelical churches that is often taught is that of “Christian liberty.” This is a wonderful doctrine that should be known throughout the hearts and minds of all true believers.

It is unfortunate that the average church member will not find a middle ground in this area, nor will many pastors or elders. The usual suspects for why this is the case are 1) legalism, or 2) liberalism. Let me explain and then give a few examples.

The road of Christian liberty often splits. The first road is often considered the HIGH road, and it is walked by well meaning believers. They believe they have the right to define what Christian liberty. However, this is not where they stop. They also believe that they have the right and the God-given responsibility to determine what is right AND what is not right for other believers.

The second road too often leads down a path that leads to the attitude, “Don’t judge me. I can do anything I want to in Christ.” This path invariably will lead to liberalism and destroys the testimony of Jesus Christ.

As you read these thoughts, consider what DOES NOT define Christian liberty.

  1. Christian liberty is NOT the dictates of a pastor or an elder board. If a pastor is preaching or teaching principles for life as though they were solid doctrine, then you must beware. Teaching principles and practices as if they were the foundation stone of the apostles and prophets is the quickest road to legalism and a sure sign that you are attending a church governed by a dictator rather than a loving shepherd.
  2. Christian liberty is NOT the ability to demand other brothers and sisters agree with my stand on an issue that is NOT clearly defined in Scripture.

Two simple definitions as they pertain to Christian liberty –

  1. Legalism – Excessive adherence to the law that manifests itself by forcing others to obey what the Scriptures do not explicitly teach. Such a position is based on a worldview that is rules-centered rather than being Christ-centered.
  2. Liberalism – Excessive lifestyles that supposedly allow a Christian to live any way they wish to do so. This philosophy is defined and supported by a worldview that is man-centered rather than Christ-centered.

Both of these positions are wrong. I want to give a few examples after sharing this excellent excerpt from www.GotQuestions.org.

“Question: “Christian liberty – what does the Bible say?”

Answer: Christian liberty is found in the Bible in several concepts. For example, liberty for the Christian can mean that he or she has been freed from the penalty of sin by faith in Jesus Christ (John 8:31-36Romans 6:23). Also, Christian liberty can refer to being freed from the power of sin in one’s life by daily faith in Jesus Christ as Lord of one’s character and conduct (Romans 6:5-6,14). In addition, Christian liberty can mean that Christians are freed from the Jewish Law of Moses in that the Law only “exposes” sin in one’s life but cannot “forgive” sin (Romans 3:20-22).

Finally, Christian liberty can mean that Christians are freed in respect to such activity that is not expressly forbidden in the Bible. Therefore one can feel free to engage in such activity as long as it doesn’t “stumble” or “offend” another Christian (Romans 14:12-16). Most of these activities revolve around social “do’s” and “don’ts, such as whether or not to wear certain kinds of clothes, make-up, jewelry, tattoos, piercings, and/or practicing certain things, such as smoking, social drinking, recreational gambling, dancing, or viewing movies or videos. As the passage in Romans 14 says, these things may not be strictly prohibited by God’s Word, but they can be bad for one’s spiritual growth or Christian testimony and can cause other Christians to stumble.

Furthermore, Christians who tend to vigorously promote such liberties can sometimes fall into a loose lifestyle of undisciplined living, while, on the other hand, Christians who tend to vigorously limit such liberties can sometimes fall into a legalistic lifestyle of being defined by what they are “against.” So, it is wise to seek God in prayer and His Word to determine whether or not a particular activity is actually forbidden in Scripture. If it is, it should be avoided. If it is not forbidden, then we should seek to determine how the activity reflects on our reputation as Christians and whether it will help us or hinder us in representing Jesus to unbelievers around us, whether it edifies them or not.

The ultimate goal for the Christian should be to glorify God, edify fellow believers, and have a good reputation before unbelievers (Psalm 19:14Romans 15:1-21 Peter 2:11-12). “For you brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). (emphasis mine)”

Here is the reality of life as a true believer. It is NOT easy being a Christian for the world clamors for our attention. The world demands that we look like them in every way, but they do not do this because they love God and His commands.

The world demands our undivided loyalty because they HATE Jesus Christ. When the world sees a true believer, it is like a massive thorn that has been jabbed under a person’s fingernail. The life of a true believer is called to bring conviction to the ungodly. We do not speak of being arrogant or haughty toward those who do not believe for we have nothing of which we can boast.

However, we have been chosen, by the Most High, with our calling being to be predestinated and conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Simply put, the world should be seeing Jesus Christ in us. He is the hope of glory.

Now, let us consider a few examples –

Ultimately, Christian liberty is the understanding that my liberty starts and stops with what is clearly defined in Scripture. If there is an explicit command for us to obey, we must obey. If there is an explicit principle for life, then we are called to follow the principle. If the principle governs the motives of our heart, but not our methods, then we are free in Christ to follow the choices before us.

However, that freedom stops at the end of your nose and mine. Christian liberty is not free to assault the choices other believers make. If you make a decision that does not affect me or cause me to stumble, then enjoy the freedoms you have in Christ.

We may look at some of these areas later in the series, but for now I will use a personal illustration. I do not partake regularly of any kind of alcohol, but I have in the past. We have used it to flavor meat while it was cooking. I have swallowed a lot of cough medicines that have alcohol as an ingredient. I do NOT believe that I am forever condemned for having done so.

On the other hand, I have NEVER been drunk or lost self-control for what I have taken has been in moderation. For this, I am thankful to the Lord. It does not make me a spiritual person for having not been drunk versus a brother or sister who has succumbed to drunkenness. If we are in Christ, we are BOTH forgiven.

If I invite a brother and his family to dine with our family and I know one of their family members have struggled with alcohol in the past, my Christian duty and responsibility will refrain from offering it to that person. My Christian liberty does NOT allow me to be a stumbling block to him or her while we are fellowshipping together. I am free to follow the dictates of the Holy Spirit in my life AS LONG as it does not cause another to fall into sin.

As I have stated previously, when I was growing up in various churches, we heard all manner of “sermons” about long hair on men, pants on women, the dangers of Christian contemporary music, going to movies, or drinking alcohol – just to name a few. While these messages may have been well meaning, they only served to bind brothers and sisters to a defined set of standards that were man-made, and not ones established by Scripture. More often than not, such “sermons” are the result of too little time studying the Word to understand what it means in its own context, but are the result of using Scripture to prove a point being made. Scriptures were either misquoted or misunderstood in order to put other believers under a bondage that nobody can obey.

While the areas of Christian liberty are myriad, here is another example. Many denominations demand women wear their hair up, or that men have to wear suit and tie to church in order to be of service, or that families have to uphold the same standards as the pastor and his family in their normal weekly lives.

When we served in Liberia, West Africa, we saw the futility of many Christians who felt as though they were bound to what they had been taught – by the western missionary from a western society trying to force a western perspective on people for whom Christ died.

Too many times, I have seen African churches singing western songs (most had no clue what the words meant) while sitting in a western style church setting and feeling inferior to others attending because they did not have the money to wear western style clothing.

Missionaries may mean well, but if the focus is on making those in foreign countries to look, smell, talk, and act just like us in church, then we have failed miserably in directing, teaching, and discipling those precious brothers and sisters to focus on Christ, and to focus on Him ALONE.

In the west, legalism has driven many from the protection of fellowships across this land and into the arms of those who demand liberalism be what defines the church. If you were to ask many who have gone to Bible college, what they remember about college life, many would have no hesitation to share all about the rules that they learned. They can probably remember the demerits they earned for breaking man-made rules, but few would probably begin by telling you how much closer they grew to Christ. What a sad commentary!

Pastors and teachers, we are called to be an example to the believers. We are called to be shepherds of the flock and protect those for whom Christ died. We are not called, nor do we have the right or the responsibility, to be dictators. We have no business setting standards or principles for life that are not found in the pages of Scripture.

Do NOT place yokes or chains of bondage on those who are in Christ. Romans 8:1 is clear, “Therefore, there is now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Let us conclude with this –

What is the chief end of man?

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This is where Christian liberty MUST begin AND end.

More thoughts to come —

Dump Them Both

I have lived almost half a century. Being both a US citizen and a British subject, I can say that I have seen my share of politics. I have seen the games, heard the lies, and watched the vitriol fly. This current election in the USA must be the worse I have ever seen. We are a laughingstock among the nations of the world, many of whom have no fear of us as a nation. More importantly, they have no respect for us because our leaders (and potential wanna-be leaders) have no respect for the laws of this land.

America used to be a very great nation. We are the nation that was silent for the first 3 years of The Great War, also known as World War I. Finally joining in, the men of this nation answered the call to arms and routed the enemies of freedom. That was ALL that was fought for.

The same thing occurred in World War II when the greatest generation of Americans who have ever lived rose up and resoundingly thrashed the enemies of freedom on two fronts (Europe and Asia). We asked for nothing, but gave much. After all was said and done, we sent more of men and women to former war fronts and America rebuilt those nations one brick at a time. We even paid for it with grants, many of which have still not been repaid.

The men and women who gave their lives in the theaters of war followed their orders so that we might have the freedoms we enjoy today.

Sadly, I never thought, and I am sure our Founding Fathers, nor those veterans of war from World War II on, could have thought or imagined that our nation would be allowed to flounder like a fish out of water. To think that the choices for President and Commander-in-Chief is down to the vulgar, trash-talking, debauched candidate on one side and a feminist, God-hating, traitor on the other side is just enough to make anybody with half an ounce of common sense want to vomit – violently!

However, there is something even worse than what we are seeing today. Our nation has become a nation that panders to evil. It calls good to be evil, and evil to be good. Our nation has become a culture that thinks it is entitled. It thinks it is entitled to disrespect the American flag while being paid millions of dollars. Sadly, most of the people who complain about this are the same ones who will still pay hundreds of dollars at sporting events every single week and thus support and endorse what is taking place.

Our society believes that is must speak from the pocketbook because after all, “it’s about the economy, stupid!” When will we ever learn? Obviously, it is true that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This once great nation is repeating history. History shows that Rome was NOT destroyed by her enemies. She was destroyed from within. Rome thought she was entitled to what she had. Ultimately, she was destroyed because she forgot the reason she existed was because of God and God alone.

Not only is our society at large a problem, but even the evangelical church is a problem. We have people fighting back and forth across the aisles of Facebook, Twitter, and even church itself trying to decide why and which of the lesser of two great, monstrous evils to vote for!

Seriously?? Let’s put this into perspective.

Let’s assume in a few years that the choice is down to a president who promises that he or she will only kill 10 Christians per day versus a president who promises that he or she will only kill just one (1) Christian per day. Are our only choices really to vote for the lesser of these two evils? The cries are growing louder and I can hear some saying, “Oh, that would never happen!”

May I remind you that we can easily substitute the word “Christian” in the above sentence and replace it with “baby” or “infant.” We end up with the same solution. We soothe our conscience by declaring that we are only voting for the president who “promises to only kill just one (1) baby a day” on his watch instead of standing for what is right.

You can argue all you want while using the illustrations of Joseph being second in command in Egypt, and Daniel being third in command in all of Babylon. Those two men were NOT voted in to their office. They were placed strategically, specifically, and sovereignly in those places of power by none other than God for a specific purpose.

The Christians of Rome had no option to “vote” for the lesser of two evil Caesars. They would NEVER have been told by the apostles to “vote your conscience” or “vote for the lesser of two evils and hope for the best.” Utter ridiculousness! They were commanded to obey the laws of the land, to remember who was in control, to pray for the leaders of the land, to watch for the Lord’s return, and to pray without ceasing.

Today, we have many who are not only self-acclaimed evangelicals, but even claim that they believe in the sovereign hand of God. They then turn around and think that the entire picture puzzle rests upon their feeble shoulders of clay. They declare that God is in control, but refuse to believe Psalm 2 that reminds us that God sits in the heavens and LAUGHS at the wicked. The wicked say, “Let us break their bands asunder” but God holds them in derision.

Today, our churches rarely pray and are certainly not watching and hoping for the return of the Lord. Our churches are more concerned about keeping the peace between rival factions in the congregation instead of saying, “Thus says the Lord…the wicked shall not prosper!”

In the meantime, having cast aside the belief in the sovereignty of God, we have become more and more pragmatic in our belief system. We justify the killing of only one baby a day because “maybe God will take this candidate out of the picture after he becomes president so that we can be blessed with the second person in charge” and America will truly become a Christian nation again. Our pastors and churches have accepted the handouts of the government and thus have been lulled into silence for the sake of a few dollars saved on church supplies at the local office supply store.

I would be a fool to encourage our readers to follow their heart. Your heart and mine cannot be trusted. Jeremiah 17:9 makes this very clear, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Both candidates are simply two sides of the same coin. They both endorse the murder of helpless babies and support the abomination of the homosexual movement. Evil is still evil and will always be evil. Please spare me the details of how “a vote thrown away is a vote for ______” or “if you don’t vote, you are not obeying your civic duty and thus in sin!”

No, no, no, and NO!!!!!!

I want to hear more pastors, Bible teachers, and evangelists crying out to God like Nehemiah to forgive their sins, the sins of their homes, and the sins of this nation. I want to hear more who will be willing, even as a top official, to pray for what is right and true, even if it means that you get thrown to the lions. I want to hear more cry for mercy for the tragedy that has befallen this nation, and plead to God asking, “How long, O Lord, will the wicked prosper?”

The truth is that if those who claimed the name of Christ were willing to cease being pragmatic in their approach to life and realize that the Scriptures are good for all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), then we would become a voice crying in the wilderness, “Make straight your paths for the King is coming.”

With all the arguments that have been bandied about as to who we should or should not vote for, I am truly appalled at the lack of integrity that is seen in every quarter. I am appalled at the emotions that are in play instead of the Scriptures. I am appalled at the reality that many who say they love the Lord and believe He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords live as though the rise and fall of America depends on them casting a vote for the lesser of two evils!

I have no right to tell you to vote for either candidate. Americans, by the law of the land, have been given the liberty and the choice to make as to what they will do in this election and every election after this.

Those who claim the name of Christ though have a much higher calling. We are not called to obey our emotions. We are not called to vote with our pocketbooks. We are called to be ambassadors of the King of Kings, and I have to wonder how many in the world look on us with disdain because we have fallen hard and fast away from the truths we claim to hold dear.

As a true believer in the sovereignty of God and the dictates of Scripture, I personally cannot and will not vote for either candidate. I will not violate my conscience in order to pacify my emotions. Finally, I choose not to vote ultimately because to do so means that I must practice situational ethics in order to justify either choice.

Like Joshua of old said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” We will wake up on November 6th giving thanks that we are one day closer to the return of the Lord. We will be able to sleep well at night knowing that we did not approve of one single candidate who stands daily to mock the Most High God. We will wake up knowing that no matter who will be the next president that our God still reigns and He ALONE puts up one and puts down another.

He alone can make our next Nebuchadnezzar to eat grass like a cow until he lifts up his eyes and praises the Most High God, and He alone can choose to feed the next Herod literally to the worms!

In conclusion, our readers have choices to make as well. My prayer is that each of you will pray about how you can make the right decisions that are in line with the Word of God. There should be and can be no other rule by which you decide your paths. Ultimately, we will each give account before God for the decision we choose to make, but we will not have the liberty to say that we loved what God hates because it was the better of all the other options.

Is There Really No Condemnation?

There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  ~Romans 8:1

I know the first part of this verse well, but I don’t often hear the last part quoted, which is really the important part of this verse. This was not meant to be taken as, once you pray and ask Jesus into your heart, He doesn’t see the wrong you do so you are no longer condemned. Unfortunately, some seem to interpret it just this way.

Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul tells us to:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

This is not something to be taken lightly. There is freedom in knowing Christ, but that freedom is to walk in His ways. That is where true joy and victory lies, not being enslaved to this world.

If there is sin in your life, I implore you to let it go. Ask God to deliver you. Sin may be pleasurable for a time, but the end is eternal death and separation from God. It is not worth it.

If you are playing the “church” game, attending services and looking the part on Sunday but living and talking like the world the rest of the week, repent! It is never too late to surrender to Him. Then, when you do that, don’t look back. Press on as fast as you can.

Life is short
Death is sure
Sin the cause
Christ the cure

Never Forget – Already Forgotten!

11th of November is a special day around many parts of the world.

Veterans Day – This is celebrated in the United States and is a national holiday designated to honor all military veterans who have served or who are currently serving. Wikipedia notes, “Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.”

Remembrance Day – Wikipedia notes that this “is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.”

What is not commonly known is that this is a special year of remembrance. The ode at the bottom of this post was written 100 years ago on the cliffs of Cornwall in the southwest corner of England. This poem was written as a tribute to those who had already fallen in the Great War of 1914-1918. It was the first national consideration of remembrance for those who fell in battle.

World War I, or The Great War, was the war that was to end all wars, but much of it ended up being a stalemate in the muddy trenches of Belgium, France, Holland, and Germany. Many of the war dead fell to disease and it is considered one of the bloodiest periods of human warfare. It would not be until World War II that the number of dead would exceed the number who died in World War I. On a global scale, the world had not seen such carnage and bloodshed since the Mongol Invasion in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Many are not aware that tens of thousands of boys no older than 14 were allowed to go to war and fight in the trenches.  While America joined the war in late 1917 and ultimately lost approximately 117,000 to battle and disease, what is often forgotten that this was not even 1% of the total death casualty of between 17-22 million. There is a reason why this Remembrance Day is special to many countries.

America has been blessed beyond measure and does not know the shame and disgrace in modern history of having troops march, rape, and pillage their way across this land. Europe has known this and the scars of these wars can still be found on lonely hillsides and in cemeteries. Many fell and were never recovered – known only to God.

Sadly, in this modern 21st century, we are but 100 years from the carnage that ravaged predominantly Europe in World War I. In those years, many have forgotten the true price of freedom. Young people know little to nothing about why this war even took place, and certainly are not taught why we should remember. History always repeats itself, and the one aspect that will eventually doom us is that we never learn from history. The Great War was not an insignificant dot on the landscape, but one that broke nations and would eventually lead to the Second World War in which an estimated 2.5% of the world’s population died, or between 60-85 million.

Thankfully, there are still some who do not forget those who died so long ago. We will remember those “for our tomorrow, gave their today.” And for all who served, whether fallen in battle or living veterans, we salute and honor you. You have stood in the gap where many refused to go so that we can enjoy the freedom of today. Many will never know and cannot know the sacrifice that still haunts the dreams of many, but they know.

To forget their sacrifice will be the greatest disrespect we can give to all veterans, past and present.

“They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.”Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen, Ode of Remembrance