Isn’t it amazing how there can be so much division within the body of Christ over how one practically lives out his faith. Yet, “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). Where does the division come from? How unbelievers laugh and mock over the bickering that can go on between those professing to have faith in Jesus Christ.
Freedom in Christ is the banner being waved about so much these days. If the father waves it, he can expect his children to be twirling their flags. Let’s spend one more Corner looking at this issue and its affect on the Christian family and our witness.
Only the Lord Jesus really knows, but I can’t help but wonder if chanting “Freedom in Christ” isn’t responsible for much of the non-doctrinal division among Christians. In your church, there is likely a polarization of two groups—same doctrine, but lifestyle choices are quite different.
Scripture gives us a great example of someone whose focus was on his freedom and rights. I expect most believers have read Luke 15:11-32 about the prodigal son. It begins with the youngest son asking his father for his inheritance. “Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me”(Luke 15:12). The request is odd since the father was alive, and one would not normally receive the inheritance until after the person died. However, out of his love for his son, the father chose to give the son what he asked for and would eventually be his anyway.
The father didn’t legally have to give it to him, but he did. We are told that he divided unto his sons, his living. He actually took his livelihood and divided it up. It would have reduced his income potential while he was alive, yet he divided it between them.
It would have been no surprise to the father that his youngest son would squander the money. He had lived with him and seen the rash, selfish choices he had made and would expect him to spend his inheritance on the desires of the flesh. The fact that the son demanded the inheritance shows a lack of respect and love for the father. The son was only interested in what he wanted and cared little for his father.
“And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living” (Luke 15:13). The son left his father and basically partied until he had no more money. He lived for the flesh and had the best time he could have while he had money. Notice how he left his father to pursue living for the flesh. Decisions which cater to the flesh will provide varying degrees of separation from the Father.
Think about the marriage relationship for a moment. Would it be pleasant to be married to someone who is always thinking about his or her rights and what he or she should be able to do? Isn’t that why many marriages are struggling though? Referring to Ephesians 5:22-29, we see that a good marriage is built upon the husband deferring to the wife and looking to her needs while the wife is looking to the husband and his needs. That is why marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. We are not to concentrate on our rights, but we are to concentrate on loving and serving the other. “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).
In the same way that focusing on our rights and freedom in marriage will separate hearts in that relationship, it will also distance us in our walk with Christ. The prodigal son left his father in pursuit of his rights and freedom.
Through the years I’ve listened carefully to Christians or read e-mails from them explaining the basis for their decisions. I would encourage you to pay close attention when you hear a believer giving his reasons for a choice he is making. Even more important, may we examine our own justification in making a decision. Most often I hear something like, “I thought about it and decided . . .” A close second might be, “I’m not aware of anywhere in the Bible that we are told not to do it.” Can you hear the “freedom in Christ” overtones in these reasons?
I’m sad to say that seldom have I ever heard, “I’ve searched the Bible for His direction, earnestly prayed and I believe Jesus is telling me to . . .” This is what you will likely hear from someone who understands that he is a servant of Jesus Christ. As Jesus was our example in His relationship with the Father, a servant is concerned about His Master’s direction.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). The servant of Christ who delights in obeying Jesus will have a close relationship with Jesus. The word “manifest” means to make known, to appear, and to be seen openly. If our focus is on what Jesus directs us to do, Jesus tells us that He will manifest Himself to us. Do you see how this is all about making Jesus real to our family versus a religion? It only takes one generation to lose faith. If we are looking for our rights, we may have a great time in this world, but it will lead to a shallow, distant walk with Jesus. I believe that is why many lose their children to the world. The children don’t see anything real in the parent’s faith.
Paul knew that all things that weren’t sinful were permissible for him, but they were not edifying—they didn’t lead to a closer walk with Jesus. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23). “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Obedience to Jesus’ direction (through His Word and via the Spirit) will edify in drawing us closer to Jesus.
Our society is absolutely consumed in the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment. Sadly, much of the “church” is following suit. Of course the “church” doesn’t follow after the things that are overtly sinful, because you can’t be a good Christian and do that. However, by pushing their freedom in Christ, they will go for anything that is not labeled sinful by Scripture instead of living as servants of the Lord Jesus and delighting in following Him.
Jesus will direct every aspect of our lives if we will but ask Him. Then as He gives us direction, we must obey Him (John 14:21). As we obey, He will tell us more and lead us in a way pleasing to Him that will give glory to the Father.