I have been listening to a lot of worship which is a good thing to do as being a worship pastor is part of my responsibilities. I had a wonderful experience and I truly worshiped God. I deeply love these experiences as they draw me closer to God. Later, as the play-list continued I started to hear a trend. After I worshiped and reflected I was noticing how often our music is reflecting on our freedom.
Now freedom in Christ is an amazing thing, but what do we all mean when we say it?
I hope that the reflecting on our freedom in Christ is freedom that is made possible by the grace given to us by faith towards a deeper understanding and relationship with God. It is not freedom that we think grace grants in regards to committing sins. This makes me sound like an old curmudgeon critiquing the music of those darn kids, I know, but I do think it is our tendency to adopt this posture of grace and freedom over an increase of faith and growth towards God. Case in point is when we occasionally see a prominent Christian musician saying things like God doesn’t consider certain sins sin anymore. This is a hallmark of getting theology from music lyrics rather than the Word of God.
So what does this freedom look like?
I read a recent article about how some churches do not really get grace. It was mostly helpful but it steered into the often too easy area of simply communicating that merely talking about sin is a problem and means you have a problem with grace. I do think our tendency is to get rose-colored glasses towards grace when we let the words grace and freedom run rampant without being couched in that Christian word theology. Before I get flogged for being a crusty old man let me bring up some scripture that I was just reading.
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Oh man Gabe is one of those law lovers over grace! No, I love grace and I live by it. But sadly I have seen a trend that leads to people and even churches to change their positions on sin that the Bible hasn’t conceded. Some may say they are more interested in grace than law and while I agree, that doesn’t look like what we may think it does.
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Ask yourself why does Paul spend so much time in 1 Corinthians addressing the churches behavior? Why does he remind the Colossians of their tendencies towards sins ? (Col 3) Why does he chastise the Galatians for failing to judge right and wrong doctrine? Why does he spend so much time in Romans spelling out the task of living in a body with a sinful bent and still requiring character, even admitting his own challenge? (Romans 7) Why does he remind the Thessalonians of their conduct before the world? (1 Thess 4) Why does he remind Timothy of the usefulness of the Law in 1 Timothy 1? Why is conduct an issue for elders and deacons, aren’t they under grace? Why does Paul urge Timothy to teach about fleeing lusts, and about becoming a vessel of honor by conduct? Why is he concerned about departing iniquity? (2 Timothy 1) Why does the writer of Hebrews say that there is a fearful expectation of judgment if we go on sinning purposefully after we have been forgiven? (Hebrews 10:26,27). I could go on and use examples from Peter and James and Jude about the problems from persisting sins and I could even remind how in Revelation that Jesus himself is threatening to remove the very lamp-stands from churches because of their conduct, but I hope the point is made.
Yes, we are totally and absolutely forgiven and made free from the bondage of sin, and yes our conduct matters. We have to hold these two truths in conjunction or grace can become licence. True freedom grants it to others such as grace from God. False freedom hordes it for itself such as in license. Freedom is meant to drive us into the arms of God towards a faithful obedience. I obey because now it is a joy to be in a gracious relationship with God. I obey because I experience joy from pleasing my maker. I obey because I recognize how God’s ways are not only better but beneficial. Therefore when I do sing about freedom I am not joyfully singing because my relationship with God is characterized by freedom from obeying.
We still have a responsibility to obedience which ever-side of grace we are on. It is just that I do not strive by the power of the law but I obey by the comforts of grace through faith. I have Holy Spirit help, I have a rule of love and when I fail he is faithful and just to forgive all unrighteousness. 1 John 1. This discussion shouldn’t be graceful Christians versus legalistic Christians when all we are talking about is obedience which is really just faithfulness. Jesus says if you love me you will keep my commands. (John 14:21) He says go and preach the Gospel teaching all that I taught you. (Matt 28) Paul says the purpose of the scriptures are for teaching, reproof, correction, and training for righteousness. (2 Tim 3:16) James reminds us that hearers alone and not doers of God’s word deceive themselves, that faith without an outworking is dead.
When we sing about how we are forgiven understand it is real because we will need to probably seek it again tomorrow. When we sing about being free understand we now have the help of the Holy Spirit and the grace of forgiveness to fail but we raise up again and seek forgiveness. We are free to seek forgiveness, we are not free because we need none.
1 Peter 2:16-17 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Galatians 5:13 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.
Splitting hairs? Well I hope that for most of us then this is just a friendly reminder rather than a wake up call. Whom the Son has set free is free indeed. Use your freedom to love, use your freedom to serve God!