Love for neighbor creates unity in the community and we should seek unity.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal 5:13)

In Christ we have been set free from the demands of the law. Not that we set the law aside in that we shouldn’t follow God’s Word. No, we must and we should follow God’s Word. A disciple is someone who follows a master. Jesus is our master. We are His disciples. We should follow Him. But we are free from the law’s bondage over us. It is no longer our tutor, teaching, training, restraining and pointing. It has accomplished it’s goal in that it has pointed us to Christ.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. He embodied it perfectly, never breaking a single command. As a result, He is able to be our perfect sacrifice, fulfilling the law on our behalf so as to make those who believe in Him through faith righteous.

Having experienced the freedom Christ provides, we should not use your freedom to satisfy the desires of our flesh. In fact, the opposite is true. Having been set free from the bondage of sin, we should use our freedom to follow Jesus in living according to God’s Word.

Not that it is a bad idea, but we don’t need to memorize all the commands in God’s Word in order to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The whole law, as we are told in verse 14, can be summed in their phrases, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). Paul is playing off Jesus’ answer in the gospels to a question regarding what is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered it is to love God and the second greatest was to love your neighbor (Matt 22:36-40). I believe both ideas are implied here, but the specific focus of the passage in on community, which is why the second greatest commandment is quoted.

It is wrong to say that you love God, while at the same time hating your brother. If you love God, you will love your brother. You will not use your freedom to bite and devour them. Instead, you will use your freedom to show love and care for them. If we seek to devour another instead of living in unity with them, we will be devoured ourselves. So as others attempt to take a bite out of us, we should press into love.

Love for neighbor creates unity in the community and we should seek unity. It is what the law, although imperfectly, was seeking and what we are capable of now that we are freed from the bondage of sin in Christ. We are capable of loving and living in unity with our fellow brothers and sisters. We must press into unity in our community by loving others as we would love ourselves.

To Indulge or Not?

Indulge, Roses, Chocolate

Should we deny our natural desires? Should we not indulge in everything and anything? After all “food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”, isn’t it? (1 Cor. 6:13a)

The Corinthian Hedonists

The Corinthians sure thought they could and should indulge in everything and anything, whether that be sex, drugs, food, or the like. They believed if you want to have sex with someone, you shouldn’t hold yourself back because after all your body was made for sex and sex for your body. If you want to go out and have a good time, why not use some drugs because your body was made for drugs and drugs for your body. If you want to indulge in food, then indulge because after all your body was made for food and food for your body.

Many in our day believe the same as the Corinthians. We refer to them as Hedonists. Hedonism is defined as

The ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.

The Bible’s Answer

Paul, writing to the Corinthians, takes their slogan “food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” and turns it on its head when he says,

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” (1 Cor. 6:13b)

In other words, we weren’t created to indulge in whatever pleasures we want, we were instead created to glorify God in our bodies.

Why We Shouldn’t Indulge

Knowing we would quickly disregard Paul’s idea as an antiquated and uptight position moderns have moved past, Paul gives a couple of reasons why we shouldn’t indulge in every pleasure that comes our way.

(1) Our bodies are members of Christ

As members of Christ we must be careful what we participate in because we actually connect Christ to it. Paul says,

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!” (1 Cor. 6:15)

It is a scary thought to think, especially when we think of what we have done, that Christ goes with us where we go. He participates in what we participate. He is connected to what we are connected. For that reason, we must be careful what we indulge in.

(2) Our bodies are the Temple of God

Paul reminds us of this idea by saying,

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19a)

In the same way that the Temple in Jerusalem housed the Spirit of God, our bodies now house the Spirit of God. Just like the Temple was honored, our bodies should be honored. Just like immoral acts were forbidden to take place in the Temple, immoral acts should be forbidden to take place in our body. Just like the Temple was used to glorify God, our bodies should be used to glorify God.

(3) Our bodies were bought with a price

Look at what Paul says in the rest of verse 19 and on into 20,

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19b-20)

In these verses Paul is hitting on the idea of redemption. Redemption is a marketplace term. In the marketplace slaves were bought and sold. When a slave was purchased, his ownership changed hands, and his former master was no longer his master.

That is the same thing that takes place in salvation. We are redeemed from sin, satan, and death. It is no longer our master. Instead God is our master, which tells us Christians aren’t redeemed to live how they want. Instead we are redeemed so we can live how God wants.

So instead of indulging in anything and everything, we should indulge in God. We should find our pleasure in Him and Him alone. He is the only One who will ultimately satisfy and fulfill our longings.

Question for Reflection

  1. What do you think, should we indulge in whatever we desire? Why or why not?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: What is Christian Freedom? You can listen by clicking here.

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Judge Not is Not a Shield to Hide Behind

It is not uncommon to hear people say:

Aren’t we all sinners? What gives you the right to make moral judgments about someone else? Isn’t that God’s job?” “Do not judge, or you to will be judged.”

A Real Life Example

I posted an article one time on Facebook that questioned homosexuality. One comment I received said, “Aren’t you a Christian? I thought Christians were not supposed to judge others.” After which, my friend, or used to be friend, de-friended me.

Some people who make these claims know where this verse is found, and other do not, but both groups are using this verse out of context. Incase you did not know, the verse is found in Matthew 7:1.

Why is this verse commonly used, or might I say, misused?

People desire to shield their sin. They want to keep others at bay. They desire to have “unrestrained moral freedom, autonomy, and independence” [1]. In short, they don’t want anyone to question their behavior, thoughts, or ideals.

What Does This Verse Really Mean?

Even though people use this verse to dissuade others from judging their behavior, the verse actually does not mean we cannot ever judge another person. Let’s look at this verse in context, and you will see what I mean.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

After reading this verse in context, it should be apparent that what Jesus is addressing here is not all judgment, but hypocrisy. He was after the Pharisees who judged others without first dealing with their own sin.

In these verses, we see first, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees by telling them to “Judge not.” Then, He tells them “the measuring stick they used to measure the lives of others will be the same measuring stick held up against their lives by God Himself” [2]. After which, we are told that the Pharisees sin is greater than the sin of those they were judging. They had a log in their eye, which is by far greater than a speck.

The key to these set of verses comes in verse 5 when Jesus tells them to remove the log in their eye first before dealing with the speck in their brother’s eye.

Essentially, Jesus is giving them two commandments:

  1. Stop judging others in a hypocritical fashion.
  2. Get the sin out of your own life [3].

So then, Jesus is not telling us that we cannot judge others. Rather, He is telling us that we are not to be hypocritical. We are not to judge others, when there are massive sins in our lives that we are not willing to deal with.

It is like a father chastising his daughter for her suggestive and scandalous dress, then after she leaves, he looks at pornography. His actions are hypocritical. He is not dealing with his own sin before dealing with the sin of his daughter.

Can We Judge?

The answer is yes. In fact, it is our duty to judge others, so that they will grow in their Christian life. We are to spur one another on to growth and godliness, and we are to keep each other accountable. Hebrews 10:24-25 says,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

In order to stir one another up and hold them accountable, we have to look into people’s lives and make judgments about how they are living.

However, if we are not humbly submitting our own lives to the Word of God for review, and if we are not willing to allow others to help us in that task, then we are not to judge others. If we are examining our own lives, and we are dealing with our own sins, living a life of genuine repentance, then we can judge others.

So then, we can judge others, but not before we deal with the sin in our own lives.

The Proper Way to Judge

When we judge others, we must do it in a loving way. We are not judging them in order to make ourselves look better. We don’t come at them from a morally superior position. No, we approach them in love, humbly recognizing we are all sinners, we have all fallen short of God’s glory, and we all need Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If we approach people from that position, then we have a right, neigh a duty, to speak into their lives, so that we may wage war on the flesh together.

Conclusion

Jesus did not say these words, in order to keep us from ever making any moral judgments about others. Nor is He giving us this verse so we can shield our own sin from review. Rather, He is attacking the Pharisees, who were hypocrites because they did not deal with the massive amount of sin in their lives (log) before passing judgment on others, whose sin was not as great (speck). So then, when we look at this verse in context, we see that we can judge others, as long as we are first judging ourselves, and as long as we are approaching them in a loving manner.

Resource

[1] Eric Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, 26.
[2] Ibid., 27.
[3] Ibid.

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Who is Responsible for Religious Liberty In America?

Just recently in my Baptist Heritage class, I learned an interesting fact regarding who was responsible for religious liberty in America. Specifically, who was responsible for the establishment of the Bill of Rights and a separation of church and state. Here is what one author has to say:

In tracing the emergence of religious liberty in America, Joseph Dawson concluded, “If the researchers of the world were to be asked who was most responsible for the American guarantee for religious liberty, their prompt reply would be ‘James Madison.'” However, Dawson continued, “If James Madison might answer, he would as quickly reply, ‘John Leland and the Baptists.'” If that sounds too partisan, overlooking the role of other denominations, it does focus upon Baptists’ great contribution in winning religious liberty in America. Baptists provided many of the ideas undergirding religious liberty, and they spearheaded the public agitation which led to the Bill of Rights [1].

Without my Baptist Heritage class, I would have never known that Baptists were intimately tied to the fight for the Bill of Rights. I am grateful for their work as well as the sacrifice and persecution those men faced in working toward Religious Liberty in America.

Resource

[1] Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 283.

Thoughts on the Bondage of Sin from the Aquarium

Recently, I went to the Fort Worth Zoo. While I was there, I visited the Great Barrier Reef exhibit, where I watched two small sharks swimming in a tank. Supposedly, these sharks are from the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. They were transplanted from their home to an aquarium in Fort Worth Zoo where they spend their days swimming around and around. They are unable to leave their small aquarium, making it almost like a jail cell to them. They are held in bondage, limited by the glass walls the zoo erected in order to showcase them to the public. Most likely, these sharks do not know that they are encapsulated in a watery prison in Forth Worth, which exists thousands of miles away from their true home in Australia

Much like these sharks, those who have not accepted Christ as their Savior are in bondage, but believe they are free. However, no man apart from God is truly free. Instead, they are mastered and enslaved by sin (Rom. 6:14-15). Only by the saving work of Jesus Christ are we made free (Rom. 6:18).

What are we made free from?

We are free from the mastery of Satan and sin over our lives (1 John 5:19; Rom. 6:18). When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, the bondage of sin is broken (Rom. 6:7). We are no longer mastered by sin (Rom. 6:14). Instead, we are free to make our own choices, choices that we could not make apart from Christ’s redeeming work in our heart, leaving us free to work for God’s glory and not our own glory.

Implications

If we do not profess Christ as our Savior, then we are in bondage. We may believe ourselves to be free, but we are not. We are actually driven and forced by an unredeemed heart. This means everything we do is tainted by sin.

It is a popular thing right now to send relief efforts to those in need, which is a good and needed charity, but is done for the wrong reason. Meaning we help the tsunami victims in Japan because we ultimately want to promote ourselves.

Another popular bandwagon that people jump on is social justice. Fighting for equality is an important task. However, without a redeemed heart, true equality will never be realized. In actuality, those working for equality will never see those they helped gain freedom as equals. Instead, they will continue to oppress the oppressed in order to glorify themselves.

Why?

Because the natural inclination of the human heart is to promote ourselves. And we cannot change that apart from the saving work of the Gospel. Only in the Gospel are we set free from the bondage of a sinful heart.

So then, only those who are truly redeemed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ are able to work and realize true equality without oppressing the people they helped because they are not seeking to glorify themselves; rather, they are working to glorify God.

Conclusion

As you can see, those who do not have a redeemed heart remain in bondage to sin and are not free, even though they believe themselves to be. Instead of freedom, they are enslaved by the Devil.

Response

There is hope. True freedom comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Look to Him as your Savior, trust that He is the only one who can set you free from the grasp of Satan, and you will be free indeed.