In the Image of Christ
Colossians 3:8-11

Rightly Dividing Christian Liberty!

        Recently a friend of mine was surfing the Internet. He happened to go to the page of a respected Christian ministry and publication that has a lot of good materials for Christians. While visiting there he happened see a link that went to a man’s personal web page. Having heard of this man and knowing a bit about him through others, my friend thought he would check out this site. While there my friend saw an interesting article entitled, “How to Get To Heaven From Grand Rapids,” and thought it was a good article and a catchy idea. Finally he went to a couple of pages this fellow had devoted to the art he loved. Now, my friend really isn’t interested in art, but while he was there he thought he would check it out. He was shocked at what began to materialize on his screen, “pre-raphaelite” art of naked and immodestly dressed women. Not quite what you expect to find on a professing Christian’s  pages. He then wrote to this man confronting him about these sinful pictures on his site. To his credit he did remove them from his site, but instead of recognizing it as sin and repenting of it, he posted a short note in place of the pictures explaining why he removed them. In his explanation he said that he “wished to never cause anyone to be offended by any Christian liberty that they might feel”. Unfortunately he apparently does not have a Biblical understanding of what true Christian liberty is. We are not the one's that define Christian liberty, God does this for us in His Word. Consider this:

        “And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised...”  Luke 4:17-19 (KJV).

        Sadly, some have twisted the concept of Christian liberty to mean that one has rights or liberties in Christ to do certain things. This wrong concept is often used to account for things people practice that the Bible actually condemns. “Christian liberty” does not mean that we’re free to do certain things that we like, but that we have been liberated from sin to serve God. Christ didn’t die on the cross to give us liberty to do whatever we pleased. I know that “liberty” is a favorite word in America, where it has come to mean free to live as I please. But Biblical, spiritual, Christian liberty  is FROM sin, TO please God and do His will (see  Rom. 6:14-22). Christ died and rose again to liberate us from sin, death and eternal punishment. In Luke 4 the Lord clearly said that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him for a purpose. One of these things was to set at liberty them that are bruised. “Bruised” actually means broken or shattered. This is exactly what sin has done to our lives, and Christ suffered and died at Calvary to redeem and make us whole before God, not so that we could claim some individual independence. True believers are God’s possessions, His servants or slaves, as Romans 6 teaches. This is blessedness, to live to please and serve God, not self. True believers owe Him their lives, because He bought them with a blood-price, and they desire to please Him (Phil. 2:13). Christianity is about being servants to the Most High God, not about saying, “I’m free in Christ to live as I please, plan my life, realize myself, be happy, etc.”  If this expresses your attitude about the Christian life, then  you probably ought to question whether you really even know Him. Isaiah 53:6 describes the life of the unbelievers: “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”. What iniquity of us all? The iniquity of going astray, of turning every one to his own way. When a person is really converted, born again, he begins to go God’s way! It means the end of the self-life. Romans 14 is the passage often used to defend so called “Christian liberties.” But a careful study of the passage reveals that it actually pertains to one that has been saved out of Judaism or from under the Law. It deals with two clear issues. One is the eating of certain meats offered to idols, which the Jews were forbidden to do. The other is the observance of days, i.e. the religious calendar, something that God had commanded the Jews to do in the Old Testament. They were to observe the Passover, Pentecost, and other days marked by God, not men. But even if one attempts to use this passage to excuse sin that he calls his “liberties in Christ,” there are two very important principles that he dare not violate. One, he must not stumble his brother. Even if what he does is a bona fide “liberty” that the Bible allows (for ex., eating meat offered to idols), he should forego it because he loves his brother and the Lord more than himself. To insist on our “liberty” because we like it or it is our tradition, and thus stumble a brother, is to sin against him, and is a very grievous sin against the Lord.

        The second principle is just as important as the first. Christian liberty should never be used as an excuse for sin. Whether it be idiolatry, pornography, drunkenness or adultery. By no means will these ever be excused by the Scriptures. Sin is the very reason that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and died on the cross. He came to liberate us from sin's captive grip and slavery. “Liberate” actually means to change the status or ownership. This is exactly what Christ’s death on the cross accomplished. Those who repent and look to Him for their salvation go from being children of the devil to children of God.  His death on the cross should by no means allow anyone to shoe-horn sin into their lives or into a passage in the Scriptures. Holiness and righteousness should characterize us, yet far too often we hear professing Christians claiming so-called “Christian liberty” for practices unsupported by the Scriptures, that are actually sinful.

        “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.”  2 Peter 2:19-20 (KJV) 

        This false idea of Christian liberty is popular because it lets people do as they please. Churches can draw crowds preaching “liberty”, but they empty out by preaching holiness.  Worldly liberty has done much damage to the Name and cause of Christ. What kind of testimony is it when unbelievers see a professing Christian claim “liberty” to explain sinful behavior? How many people have been stumbled by the idea that once they are saved they can continue on in sinful practices because they have “Christian liberty?” Be careful! These verses should make us wary of those who claim liberty to explain sinful behavior, for they themselves are servants of corruption. They are again entangled and overcome, and that their end is worse than their beginning. If a Christian becomes entangled in sin, he will be ship-wrecked and ruined for the service of Christ in the end. But the passage speaks of apostates, who have never been delivered from the bondage of sin in the first place. True spiritual liberty actually makes us servants to others and to the Lord most of all. It changes our desires, from enjoyment of sin to seeking the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Do you desire to go to heaven, but until then you still cling to sin? This shouldn’t be!

        Friend, if you are claiming liberty in Christ to excuse or justify sinful practices, you are in great danger, of bringing reproach on the Name of Christ, stumbling other people, being disqualified, and maybe you are not truly saved. I urge you, dear friend, to examine your idea of Christian liberty. Subject it to the Scriptures. If you find yourself clinging to any sin under the guise of liberty, I pray that you will get to your knees and repent for doing so. In doing so this will help you to be more conformed to the image of Christ and that brings honor to the Lord.

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