Saturday, June 29, 2019

Liberty or License?

In the United States, our weekend celebrations commemorate America’s independence from England in 1776. Wishing US readers a joyous holiday, and all readers the joy and peace found only in the perfect liberty of Christ, May you enjoy this repost from the archives. 

As we consider the battles the fledgling American nation endured, we realize that they were motivated by the quest for freedom from tyranny, taxation, and religious oppression. Liberty was the prize sought after at all cost, for as patriot Patrick Henry declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Our Declaration of Independence says that our Creator has given us “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” 

Even more important than political and religious liberty is eternal liberty, which only Jesus Christ can provide. Every born-again believer (John 3:3-8) who has trusted in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) has liberty from the oppression of sin. In His mercy, God spared His children from eternal death and damnation (Romans 3:25; 6:23). In His grace, He gave us eternal, abundant life with Him and our loved ones who know Him as Lord and Savior (John 3:16; 10:10).  

Jesus Christ has forever removed us from the penalty of sin, which is physical, spiritual, and eternal death (Romans 3:25; 6:23) He was the perfect, complete sacrifice, Whose finished, perfect work on the cross was sufficient to pay for all the sins of all mankind, past, present and future (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). When God looks at the born-again believer (John 3:3-8), He no longer sees our sins, but the perfect righteousness of His Son (Romans 3:22,25;5:18). 

But does liberty from the penalty of sin entitle us to lawlessness? Because of the curse of sin brought on by Adam’s disobedience, no man can perfectly keep God’s law (Exodus 20:1-17; Romans 3:23). Should we even try? Our society, country and even some churches seem to be marred by permissiveness that often promotes individual liberty over morality and the common good. They have rejected the Creator, Who has turned them over to the consequences of their own sin (Romans 1:28-31). 

Followers of Jesus Christ have the freedom of knowing that even when we do sin, we cannot lose our salvation (Romans 8:35-39). We are saved by grace, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), and Jesus Christ has freed us from bondage to sin (Hebrews 9:14-15). We can't earn our salvation by being "good" or by not breaking the law (Romans 3:10-12). Given our liberty in Him (Luke 4:18), are we not freed from the law? (Romans 7:4-6)  

If we are guilty of breaking even a single point in the law, whether in deed or even in thought, we are considered guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10-13).  Only One Person could keep the law perfectly, and that is Jesus, Who died and rose again so that we could be freed from sin and death (Hebrews 9:14-15). We still need the law, not for salvation (Romans 3:19-21; Hebrews 7:19), but as a mirror to show us our sin and our need for a Savior (James 1:22-25). 

Our liberty in Christ does not give us license to sin, because we are to love God and love one another (Matthew 22:36-40), showing our love by obeying His commandments (John 14:15,21). When asked if we can sin freely so that God’s grace can much more abound, Paul replied, “God forbid!” (Romans 3:31; 6:1-15). 

Once we are saved, we should be in the world to spread the Good News of the Gospel (Acts 1:8), but not of the world (John 15:19; 17:14-16). This requires us to be a living sacrifice to Christ (Romans 12:1), set apart from worldly habits, holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Only then can others believe our testimony that Jesus is our Lord Who has redeemed us from sin, for they see proof of it in our lifestyle (2 Peter 3:11). 

The greatest fear of the apostle Paul was that he would be a castaway, or put on the shelf and removed from active service to God (1 Corinthians 9:27). Even Paul, arguably the greatest man of faith and Christian service ever to walk the earth, had this fear, and so should we. 

Paul was highly sensitive to the potential consequences of his actions. He knew that Christians were no longer bound by the dietary laws of Moses, and that whatever he ate could not jeopardize his salvation. Yet Paul was careful not to do anything that a babe in Christ might perceive as sin, such as eating food known to be offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:4-13), because that might cause the newly saved to stumble in his Christian walk (Romans 14:13). 

Modern day examples might be drinking alcohol, indulging in off-color humor, or attending worldly entertainment. We can do all these without losing our salvation, yet they weaken our testimony to others and even cause them to be discouraged or to fall (2 Peter 3:17). There are consequences for them and for us, because we may lose our health, joy, peace, and opportunities for service. 

Every day we must fight the battle between our “old man,” or sin nature, who wants us to fall back in our sinful ways, and the new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), who wants us to yield to the Holy Spirit by following and serving Jesus (Romans 6). We can refrain from sin only by yielding to the Holy Spirit within us, Who cannot sin (1 John 3:9). 

When we do sin, breaking the commandments in thought or in deed (Matthew 5:28), as we do nearly daily by having a covetous, angry or lustful thought, it is because our old sin nature has momentarily won out over the Spirit (Romans 7:14-25). May we daily put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-13) to fight the devil and his traps luring us to lawlessness (1 Timothy 3:6-7), and praise God for the liberty He has given us in Christ!
© 2016 Laurie Collett

Saturday, June 22, 2019

View of the Summit

Photo by SRWvong 2019

I had a dream that my family and I were staying in a resort in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The hotel was at the foot of a majestic snow-capped mountain, and the grounds, buildings and roads were adrift in snow. Our family had planned to go on a hike up the mountain that afternoon, weather permitting, but we were reluctant to leave the warmth of the castle-like fortress and venture out on the trails.

In the meantime, I looked out the window and spotted an inviting hot tub, fed by a natural spring. Steam arose from the surface even as snow covered the shrubs and statuary surrounding it. The hot tub could be reached from an indoor swimming pool, so that the bather would never have to venture outside until they were submersed under the soothing jets.

Best of all, the location of the hot tub afforded a glorious view of the summit. As my family was still undecided about whether to go hiking, I was tempted to slip away for a comfortable soak that I was sure would dissolve all the tensions of travel.

But then I realized that the hot tub was near the street where tour buses were constantly arriving and departing, dropping off and picking up loads of people. Not only would there not be any privacy, but the fumes from the buses would be disturbing, and the large vehicles would mostly block the view of the mountain peak.

As I awoke and considered the symbolism of the dream, it reminded me of what we as born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) are to do once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). At that moment we know that Heaven, symbolized by the mountain peak gleaming in the sun, will be our eternal home.

But God did not save us just so that we would be guaranteed eternity in heaven rather than in hell, which is the final destination for all who have not trusted in the atoning sacrifice of His Son, as all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). If that were His only purpose, He would take us home at the moment of our salvation.

Instead, He wants us to embark on the spiritual journey of progressive sanctification. Once we are saved by His grace, we are to begin climbing up the mountain, not so that we can saved by our good works, but rather to accomplish the specific purpose He had planned for each us since before the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:8-10; 1:5,11; Romans 8:29-30; Jeremiah 29:11). That purpose includes good works to serve Him (James 2:17-26), to witness to others so that they can be brought into His Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:18), and to encourage fellow believers (Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:12,16).

In the dream, that journey was represented by the plan to hike up the mountain. Climbing it would mean leaving the place of comfort, warmth, and security, facing the cold, expending energy, struggling at times, following hairpin turns that might even lead downward, and facing dangerous conditions (Psalm 23). Yet these trials are part of our journey, for they strengthen our faith, give us wisdom and experience to counsel others going through similar trials (1 Peter 4:12; Romans 5:3-5), and shape us into the image of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:10).

Once we are saved and the Holy Spirit enters our hearts (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), we experience His presence like a bubbling spring. The Comforter (John 14:16) warms us from within, stirring up currents of joy, hope and peace as we contemplate our eternal destiny in glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58) living in that fair city paved with gold (Revelation 21)  where Jesus Christ is building mansions for each of us (John 14:1-4).

These feelings are a wonderful blessing and gift from God, and sometimes are best enjoyed by just resting in His presence. But we must be careful not to let them overwhelm us by becoming “so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly good,” as the saying goes. Many Christians, once saved, are content merely to know that they no longer have to worry about going to hell, and that they can just sit on the pew and soak up love and God’s Word emanating from the body of Christ.

The Great Commission given by Jesus to His disciples was to go, teach and baptize others of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), not to sit and bask in spiritual complacency. We are not to stay in the hot tub, where we could risk lethargy and overheating, but to start climbing up the mountain, following His lead. We know He will never leave us nor forsake us on that journey (Hebrews 13:5), that He will safely guide us through all the hazards, and that He will provide us with beautiful vistas and rest stops along the way (Psalm 23), in His perfect timing.

The tour buses in the dream I believe may represent souls coming to the earth, and intersecting with our mortal lives, by physical birth, and leaving by physical death. How could we rest comfortably, simply enjoying the peace of knowing we are saved, when we see souls stepping out into eternity every day, many if not most of whom are headed straight for hell? The fumes in the dream may be the whiff of brimstone warning us of what awaits those who have not trusted Christ (Psalm 11:6; Revelation 21:8).

The Holy Spirit kindles a fire within our hearts with a passion for lost souls. While we are on this earth, our time is so short (Job 14:1; James 4:14), and there are so many opportunities to witness so that souls will be led to our precious Lord Jesus (John 4:35). May we not be slothful or self-serving, but fervent in our Lord’s business (Romans 12:11), until He comes again! 

© 2019 Laurie Collett