Mary was having such discomfort from her teeth that she was only eating soft food due to the new palate separator that had recently been “installed” across the roof of her mouth. The orthodontist told us that it would not hurt her at all, so we decided she ought to be taken back to have it checked.
The orthodontist affirmed that the appliance appeared normal. One option offered was to remove the palate separator for a while and then reinstall it. The other option would be to stop turning it for a week and then slow down the daily adjustments from a full turn to a half turn. Teri thought about the choices. She said she preferred the break from turning and trying to adjust it more slowly than to go through the removal and reinstallation of the appliance.
To Teri’s surprise, the orthodontist turned to Mary and asked her what she would like to do. Mary said she wanted to do whatever her mommy thought best. Compounding Teri’s surprise, the orthodontist continued, “But, Mary, it is your mouth. What do you want to do?” However, she never paused long enough for Mary’s answer nor for Teri to help her understand Biblical authority or even the laws of the state regarding the care of a minor. She went on to agree with leaving the appliance in and adjusting it more slowly.
What the orthodontist said was true. It is Mary’s mouth. Most adults would quickly realize, though, how absurd it would be to expect an eight-year-old child to have the wisdom necessary to make this kind of decision. Even Mary knew she was ill-prepared to make the choice on her own, and that is why she deferred to her mommy.
Imagine for a minute what it would be like in your home if instead of teaching your young children to listen to your direction and instruction, you encouraged them that they were their own person. They should make their own decisions as long as they abide by the law. Think about the havoc it would wreck on their lives and your home.
The children would stay up until all hours of the night doing whatever they wanted to do. Feeding them would be horrid because they would only want to eat what sounded good to them. Every child would want something different to eat.
Forget about being able to educate the children. They would not want to learn anything if it required effort. Their lives would revolve around whatever their flesh wanted, since they would have the freedom to make all their own law-abiding decisions. However, they would lack the wisdom to make the right decision. Anytime they were challenged concerning a poor decision, the response would be, “Wait a minute. I’m free to make any choice I want to make. That’s what you have taught me. You can’t tell me it’s wrong. I’m not breaking any law.”
I wonder if the above scenario isn’t similar to a popular teaching among Christians, even conservative Christians. I believe this teaching has hindered the effectiveness of Christians in reaching a lost and dying world. What could that be? It is the promotion of our freedom in Christ. How could such a wonderful truth be so disastrous to the church? Why discuss something like this in an article where the underlying goal is to encourage Christian fathers in their leadership and role in the home?
The reason it is a beneficial topic is that if our freedom in Christ is our focus, it is important to see what we will reap in our Christian walk and in the lives of our children. How sad the barren harvest this teaching has sown. Will you reap a similar harvest in your home also? Will your life, and your children’s lives, be ineffective for Christ? Let’s begin by looking at what I believe Scripture tells us our focus should be. Then we will contrast that with a harmful focus on our freedom in Christ.
If we aren’t to focus on our freedom, what should our focus be? In Romans 1:1, Paul introduces himself: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” Paul refers to himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. The word servant in the Greek is doulos. It means a slave who has permanently subjected his will to another.
Looking at Paul’s other introductions, he most commonly refers to himself as an apostle (Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1, and Titus 1:1). In the Greek, that word is apostolos and means one sent forth. This carries the definition of one both under the authority of another and on a directed mission. Paul primarily saw himself as a servant on a mission directed by his Lord Jesus. Paul’s focus was not his freedom in Christ. On the contrary, his focus was subjection to the One Who sent him to serve.
It is no surprise that Paul saw himself as a man with a mission for his Master and didn’t emphasize his freedom in Christ (1 Corinthians 10:23) because that is how his Master, Jesus, was. Jesus repeatedly told us that He only did and said what the Father told Him to do and say. “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19).
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:28-29). Jesus didn’t seek to exercise His rights, but He followed the will of the Father.
“Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:28-29). Not only did Jesus obey the Father, He took it to the next step and always sought to please the Father.
Jesus is God, and He is wisdom personified. Any decision He would have made on His own would always have been just and right. Yet on earth, He only did and said what the Father told Him to do and say. It wasn’t because He needed it this way, but it was to be an example of how we are to live for Him in His service. “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).
As God, Jesus did not call on His freedom, but He laid it down for the Father’s will. Paul’s focus was similar in viewing himself as a servant on a mission for His Lord. Yes, Paul had freedom in Christ, but he laid it down at Jesus’ feet.
This issue of whether to focus on freedom in Christ or whether to focus on being a servant is so important for us as parents as we consider its impact on our children. Every time I have heard freedom in Christ used as a reason why something is permissible, it has to do with catering to the flesh. It provides the “perfect” escape and “permission” to follow the flesh. I have never heard someone say it is their freedom in Christ to serve more rigorously or to deny themselves in some way.
If Christians make decisions based on their freedom in Christ (meaning their right to choose), we can expect to see similar outcomes as when young children make their own decisions. In the same way a young child cries, “Mine!” many Christians are crying, “It’s my freedom in Christ!” The focus is clearly on self, versus seeking what Jesus, the Lord and Master, is directing.
May we be agreed that if we are saved, then we are servants of Christ? We are here to obey and follow Jesus’ direction for the glory of the Father. As parents, if that is our attitude regarding our Christian role on Earth, we will be modeling for our children the same heart that Jesus and Paul had. There is no focus on what our own personal choice is in a matter, but only a desire to know the mind of Christ and His will for us. Life becomes simpler if we follow His leading.
Do you desire to be a family that is effective for the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, then focus on being a servant and not on your freedom. Jesus will direct you into ways of service that will have an impact on your family, neighborhood, city, state, and country. Man has no real wisdom on his own regardless of how intelligent he believes he is. No matter how good our ideas are in how to use our time, it is nothing compared to how Jesus will use our time if we will yield to His direction. Our freedom (liberty) is to be used in serving others, not ourselves.
Galatians 5:13: “For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”
1 Corinthians 10:23-24: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.”