Monday, April 29, 2019

What Is "Freedom in Christ"?

I'm for freedom.  I'm a capitalist.  I believe in a democratic republic, a free country.  I preach salvation by grace through faith alone and not by works.  There is no greater freedom than that in Christ.  If I wasn't writing this in a coffee shop, I might jump and down right now with freedom. I have the freedom to do that.

Christ freed me from sin.  I couldn't do that.  I was helpless under the Mosaic Covenant.  I couldn't stop sinning, but with the new covenant, Christ freed me to live righteous.  Even then, I sin, but He frees me from the punishment of sin.  I have power over sin, because of the freedom in Christ.  I praise God through Christ has set me free.  Amen!

I'm not getting to heaven by works, unless we're talking about the work, the finished work of Christ, which produces good works in me.  I can do good works.  Paul exclaims at the end of Romans 7, thank God for the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.  If I was stuck with only the law of sin in my members, I could never do good, but through His workmanship, I can both will and do of his good pleasure.

Someone emailed this week and said the following, "We DO have freedom in Christ. Kent mocks that idea" (caps written by original author).  Kent is me.  So, according to this statement, I mock the idea that we have freedom in Christ.  It's a strange statement to read about myself, because I've preached for freedom in Christ on many occasions, really mention and preach it every week if not every day of my life (probably more than my critic), and could show notes from those sermons as evidence.

I did a search on my blog to see if I had written on it.  In 2016, I wrote a two part series (part one, part two) on "The Truth Shall Make You Free."  I have written about Christian liberty and also its perversions by evangelicals (here, here, here, here).  As a brief aside, I don't believe they very often have or want freedom.   I'm not sure they would even like the kingdom of God, because they would have to submit to Christ.  I have never mocked freedom in Christ and I would be glad to read the occasions that I have.  Many people who have listened to me have been opened up to Christian liberty, who have never heard it, and I've been told that many times.  I look out at a congregation of free people at Bethel Baptist Church.

Since then, I talked to the person who wrote the email to get a better understanding of the false accusation.  Almost by any definition, the statement is false, unless someone were defining "freedom in Christ" in a very narrow way that belies all teaching on freedom in Christ for the entire history of Christianity.  What I found through direct contact was that I mock the idea that we do have freedom in Christ, because I oppose the drinking of alcohol.  At least I found out what he meant.

The argument as it would relate to freedom in Christ seemed like the following.  People today take different positions on drinking alcohol, some prohibit it and some permit it.  Since there is more than one position taken, there is this dispute on the matter between Christians, those who prohibit it should allow liberty to those who permit it, and not judge them in this matter.  Those who judge it as sin, like me, mock freedom in Christ.  Okay.

It's true that I don't believe Christians have freedom to drink alcohol.  However, that doesn't mean that I don't believe Christians don't have freedom or liberty.  All activities can be divided into three categories:  scriptural, unscriptural, and non-scriptural.  I believe and would defend Christian liberty in the first and the third.  On the second, I believe we have freedom from unscriptural behavior, not freedom unto unscriptural actions.  "What shall we sin that grace may abound?  God forbid."

"In Christ" is a sphere or a position.  Christ is holy.  Our position "in Christ" isn't freedom to sin.  It isn't freedom even to do what we want.  It is freedom to do what Christ wants us to do, which is what it means to be "in Christ."  If someone doesn't want to do what Christ wants Him to do, why would He be interested in that position or sphere?  When someone looks at the classic Christian liberty passage in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 6-10, one can see that the point of the liberty is Jesus Christ, not himself.

We don't have liberty in unscriptural activities.  I believe drinking alcohol is unscriptural.  Unscriptural activities are sin.  The gospel of Christ, His freedom, gives a believer freedom not to drink alcohol.  He is delivered from drinking alcohol, because that is sin.  I'm saying drinking alcohol is bondage, not freedom.  I'm not mocking freedom in Christ.  I love it.  I don't have to drink alcohol, because of what Christ has done for me.  If I love Him, I keep His commandments, and they are not burdensome to me.  Sin no longer has dominion over me, because I'm under grace.

The discussion is really not about freedom in Christ.  It is about whether drinking alcohol is sin or not.  I believe it is a violation of scripture to drink alcohol.

In 2013, I wrote an article, "Everybody Draws Lines (It Really Is All About Why)."  Sin is transgression of the law.  Grace, liberty, freedom is not about transgressing the law.  I say transgressing, and that is crossing over a boundary, or a line.  In James 2:10, James writes that if we even cross over one line, we've broken the whole law.  Jesus said that the greatest in His kingdom is the one who keeps the least of His commandments, that is, crosses over the least of those lines.

Crossing God's boundaries isn't good.  It isn't freedom.  It is bondage.  It hurts the person who does it.  Even if everyone didn't want to cross a line, he would be helpless not to do that, except it be by the grace of God.  Until he is saved by the grace of God, he can't help himself.  I'm not saying he's the worst he could be, but he is still going to keep transgressing the law, except by the liberty by which Christ sets us free.

Drinking alcohol is not liberty or freedom.  Saying that you can do that doesn't mean you are more free than someone else.  This is what I call left wing legalism, people who think that because they have less regulations, they are more free.  Rather than say, God's grace enables me to do everything he wants me to do, they shrink the list down to a manageable number and call that freedom.  This is actually what the Pharisees did.  They eliminated the "weightier things," which are the harder things to do, and opted for the easy things.

Grace or liberty is not about shrinking the number of regulations.  It's not adding either, but God said not either to add or take away.  Modern evangelical reductionism isn't freedom.

What we see happening is the list of certain things shrinking in evangelicalism and the list of uncertainty growing.  Almost nothing can be judged because almost nothing is wrong anymore.  What especially becomes uncertain are numerous carnal lusts, inventing an unholy, worldly placebo of Christianity that isn't the grace of God and wouldn't require it.  The freedom is lasciviousness that denies the Lord Jesus Christ.  There's almost nothing different from the world in it.  This perversion is exposed in 2 Peter and Jude among other places.

I watched the 1988 vice presidential debate between Lloyd Benson and Dan Quayle.  There is a whole Wikipedia article to the famous quote of Benson.
Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy. 
I know freedom in Christ.  And the modern evangelical "freedom in Christ" is no freedom in Christ.  I don't mock freedom in Christ.  I don't even mock the counterfeit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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