One of the treasures we have in Christ is freedom! The freedom we have in Christ should fill the Christian life with great joy and excitement!
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32)
Sometimes this freedom we enjoy irritates our more legalistic brothers and sisters! And, unfortunately, there can be a bit of the Pharisee in all of us! It is sometimes very easy for us to project our own convictions on others… going beyond what Scripture itself says. We just assume that because we have a conviction that everyone else should have the same conviction.
Scripture makes it clear that we need to be sensitive to our more legalistic brothers and sisters, while at the same time enjoying our freedom in Christ.
“But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?” (1 Corinthians 10:28-30)
For example, some Christians can have very different ideas about how, where, and when we should worship or do our group Bible studies… And even though the Bible doesn’t specify these details, we can find ourselves putting a guilt trip on others who do not feel the same way we do!
We can get all bent out of shape over what kind of music is appropriate for true worship.
We can get irritated and angry with one another because we do not agree about end-time prophecies, or about the role of women in the church, or about whether certain spiritual gifts were temporary, or about the moderate use of alcohol vs. total abstinence or about which Bible translations are ok to use. I’m sure you can add to this list.
It can be very difficult for us to accept that our own personal strong convictions may not be shared with other very sincere followers of Christ! And it may be difficult for us to give them room to be free in those areas!
Not only that, but we can find ourselves losing some of the joy of our freedom in Christ because of the pressure we feel from our more legalistic brothers and sisters. If we find some of the joy seeping out of our lives, it may be good to do a check up to see if we are losing it because we are trying to hard to live up to the expectations of others instead of simply living to glorify God. When we live our lives totally focused on God, we will be thrilled at the sheer joy that floods every cranny of our lives!
On the other hand, there really is a danger that we will use the concept of freedom as an excuse to continue in sin. In those cases we are not really wanting to hear from God. We are not really focusing on Him. We are avoiding Him. And we are trying to convince our own minds that God doesn’t really care that much about our sin. We may call it freedom. But in truth, it is excusing sin. The excuse may come in various forms. “Other Christians are doing it, so it must be ok.” “God surely understands because of my special circumstances.” “God’s grace covers my sins, so it’s ok to continue this lifestyle.” “I’m sure God will forgive me later, when my circumstances change.”
God, knowing that we could be tempted to misuse freedom in this way, gave us some warnings.
“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.” (Galatians 5:13)
“Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.” (1 Peter 2:16)
Be open to God. Ask Him to keep you sensitive to His promptings.
Then, when you feel an inner pressure to do (or not to do) certain things, ask, “Father, are You giving me direction here? Or am I just being pressured to try to keep the legalists happy?”
The joy level in your life can be a great indicator. If your joy level is not sky-high, it’s time to pray, “Father keep me balanced here! Don’t let me lose the joy of my freedom in Christ because of the pressure from legalists! And, on the other hand, don’t let me get by with rationalizing my sin by calling it freedom!”
Rejoice! We are free in Christ!
And stay in the battle!