Liberty vs Lawlessness
One of the immense issues facing the church today is the misuse of the perspective as to what liberty in Christ means. Some have taken the gift of liberty and have carelessly applied it to all aspects of their lives. Some have implemented liberty as the sole principle by which the church operates. For instance, the elements of worship instituted, in some people's opinion, falls under their liberty--assuming they've the right to instill whatever things are pleasing (to them or appealing to men) during public worship. They assume they have so much freedom that God no longer has any standard whatsoever as to what He expects from his followers. Some believe that there is absolutely no way that anyone who professes to know Christ will end up in hell. Some even go as far as to applying this "total" liberty in Christ to questioning the most unquestionable issues of sin explicitly mentioned throughout the entire bible. Some of these issues are things we will see that are, indeed, not included within liberty. So let's proceed with the perspective of liberty vs lawlessness.
Liberty is an amazing gift that Christians inherit because of Jesus' sacrifice for us. The concept of liberty is found throughout the New Testament as a stark contrast to the law of the old covenant. The problem is not understanding that liberty has been unlocked for Christians. In fact, I think we understand that quite well. It is more so understanding the extent to which we deem actions we commit covered under the concept of liberty.
So what is liberty under Christ? Is it the freedom to do whatever we please? Is it this loose concept that "no matter what, I'm okay"? Is it that God no longer cares about those things anymore; something we casually take for granted as we consider Christ's sacrifice as a way of justifying our lifestyle? Or is there a bit more to this liberty than we, as a generation, like to admit?
To begin, I will point out some verses that mention "liberty" in Christ.
"And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus..."(Galatians 2:4)
"Stand fast therefore In the liberty by which Christ has made us free..." (Galatians 5:1)
"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh..."(Galatians 5:13).
"as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God" (I Peter 2:16).
"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work..." (James 1:25).
"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty"(II Corinthians 3;17).
"because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).
There is absolutely no denying that there is liberty, and lots of it, in Christ! So often do we interpret this to mean the wrong thing. However, liberty is not something that we are unfamiliar with as Americans. In fact, we are quite proud of it. Without liberty, I would be unable to write this, you would be unable to read this, we would not be able to worship, speak freely, etc.
Here is something to consider: Can you still be held accountable though you are free? Are there still things, even as citizens of the United States, that we are prevented from doing, though we are in the land of liberty? Don't restraints exist in which we must adhere to, though free citizens? I know that I certainly cannot change the government of the United States. I cannot instill whichever laws I would like, nor can I take any away. I certainly cannot commit anything that would be considered a crime. If I were to do any of these, I would undoubtedly be held accountable. This is the way we should view the "law of liberty" that the bible is talking about.
Similar to how our government has written restraints--laws--that we must follow as citizens of America, so, too, does the citizenship of heaven have its righteous limitations of liberty (not all written). Consider the following instances in which should be viewed as prohibited activities and/or cautions:
I Corinthians 5:11 "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person."
I Corinthians 6:9-10 "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God."
I Corinthians 8:9 "But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak."
Romans 6:15 "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!"
Deuteronomy 12:32 "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it."
Hebrews 12:6 "For whom the LORD loves He chastens (disciplines), And scourges every son whom He receives."
While liberty is a major concept under which we are to live as Christians, it is not an invitation to live however we wish. There are limitations to the things we may do. There are actions that are inherently contradictive of the righteousness to which we are called. I fear that in today's modern church setting, we have wandered far from the discipline and fear that is also mentioned in the bible. We focus whole-heartedly on this ONE concept and completely ignore the fact that God is still God. He is in charge. He gets to make changes. He gets to say what is right and what is wrong. Not us. One of these verses even mentions someone being a "brother" who is living this way. Later, Paul says such people will NOT go to heaven. I believe we often make the arrogant mistake of believing what we are doing is an act of liberty, when it is actually an act of lawlessness.
Here's a quick look at some verses to consider:
Romans 6:19 "I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness."
II Corinthians 6:14 "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?"
I John 3:4 "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness."
Titus 2:14 "who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works."
I Corinthians 6:20 "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
Finally, from Jesus' mouth:
Matthew 23:28 "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."
Matthew 24:12-13 "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved."
God is still God. He is the master and Father. This means that the things we do must be carefully considered. Things pertaining to worship are undoubtedly at the top of things to consider with caution. God does not allow His children to run rampant without any repercussions. He expects obedience from us. His grace is free, but it is definitely NOT cheap. We must submit to the will of the Father, for we were purchased. We are no longer slaves of unrighteousness, but we are nevertheless slaves--slaves of righteousness. Our Master has expectations and limitations for those who call on Him.
I say this out of love. Brothers and sisters, I wish that we all walked according to the Word. I wish we didn't have such divisions. I wish we were humble enough to admit that we don't know all there is to know, and instead, turn to God's word for guidance in those things. I wish we didn't manipulate the scripture and cheapen who God is or what Christ has done. He is coming soon. I only hope to do my best in seeking Him daily, with diligence and humility, so that I am not led astray.
If there is anything I can do to help you in your walk with Christ, please let me know.
Until next time...