CHRISTIAN LIBERTY PART 7

CLARIFYING SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FREEDOM

PART V

In my last post I dealt with the adverse effects that our exercise of freedom can have on ourself or on others. Not everything that we’re free to do is edifying us or others. So what do we do with a freedom that isn’t edifying?

First, the wrong way. For a lot of conservative Christians and churches, the easiest thing to do with freedoms that have undesirable consequences is to deny and confiscate those freedoms, take them away from people, and outlaw them. Dating, credit cards, television, internet, beer, caffeine, meat, sugar, salt, and women engaged in a professional career outside the home, are just a handful of the countless prohibitions that some Christians  legislate over God’s people.

The fact that some liberties can be misused and thereby end up hurting others and ourselves isn’t a valid argument against the abandonment or confiscation of those liberties.

Consider the example of wine. We’re all familiar with alcohol’s tragic and deadly effects. Christ could have come right out and outlawed it. But He didn’t. What He does instead is He limits a Christian’s intake of the stuff (1 Timothy 5:23). Yes, God prohibits drunkenness. But He didn’t prohibit the drink itself.

Just so you know, I don’t drink alcoholic beverages. I can’t stand the taste of alcohol. I’m not advising or encouraging people to drink the stuff. I’m just honest enough to recognize the fact that Christ didn’t outlaw it, therefore, I see no Scriptural precedent to outlaw it myself.

Eating meats is another example. This was a big, divisive issue in the early church. It was causing all sorts of problems among the brethren. So did the Lord forbid the eating of meats? Did He tell His people to become veggans? No. He told them it was alright to eat meat as long as they didn’t do it in the presence of those who thought it was wrong (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8-10).

 THE BIBLICAL RESPONSE TO A FREEDOM THAT’S CAUSING PROBLEMS IS NOT TO CONFISCATE OR OUTLAW THAT FREEDOM. Rather, the biblical response  is a command for us to put limits or curbs on that freedom so that the freedom doesn’t lead to problems down the road.

Freedom isn’t the problem. It’s the misuse of freedom that’s the problem and this misuse begins in the heart. It’s called intemperance, not crucifying the flesh, not resisting temptation, and a whole lot of other things.

What do we do with a freedom that’s having an adverse effect on us and others as well? We put restraints on that freedom. This brings me to a fifth popular misconception that many people have about freedom.

5. WHEN YOU PUT RESTRAINTS ON FREEDOM IT’S NO LONGER FREEDOM. Many Christians wrongly believe that freedom must be left free and not subject to controls or restraints. They believe that the moment you put limits on freedom you’re putting yourself and others under legalism or law.

But this is simply not the case–not in the spiritual realm and certainly not in the natural realm.

In the natural realm, we’re free to own and drive a car. But our country puts all kinds of restrictions and laws on that freedom: we can’t drive without a driver’s license, we’ve got to have insurance, we’ve got to register our vehicles every year and pay taxes on them, our driver’s license must be renewed every four to six years and we’ve got to pass the eye test or else wear eyeglasses if we want to drive; we can’t drive unless we’re at least fifteen years old, all drivers who are sixteen years old and younger can drive only if there’s an adult in the car, and if student drivers get caught driving drunk, under the influence, are out past curfew, or get bad grades, their licenses will be taken away from them for a period of time; we’ve got to buckle up in both the front and back seats; infants and toddlers up to the age of five have to be in car seats, we can’t place these car seats on the front seat of cars with airbags, and children under the age of twelve aren’t allowed to seat in the front seat of cars with airbags; there are laws as to how fast we can drive, which lane of the road we must drive on, and when we can pass a slow moving vehicle. In some states, you can’t drive a car unless it passes an emissions test. You see, we’ve got all these restrictions and laws placed on driving. Yet we acknowledge the fact that we’re free to drive in this country.

In much the same way, the Lord puts restrictions on our liberties. Here’s a few.

  • We’re not to indulge in our liberties in the sight of those who are unenlightened to the truth and who would therefore stumble or take offense at our liberties, Romans 14:14, 20-21, 1 Corinthians 8:9, 10:25-29, 32. I wrote about this in my previous blog post.
  • We’re not to give place to the Devil or flesh and use our freedoms as an occasion to sin, Romans 13:13-14, Ephesians 4:27.
  • We’re limited to just a little bit of wine, not a lot, and certainly not so much of it that we become drunk, develop a drinking problem, and become alcoholics or drunkard, Ephesians 5:18,1 Timothy 3:2-3,8, 5:23, Titus 2:3.

We’re not supposed to be enslaved to our freedoms. If we ever come to a point where we’re compelled or addicted to do something that we’re free to do, then at that point we’ve become slaves to our so-called freedom and we’re no longer free.

Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 6:12, All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any (literally, I will not be ruled by any one thing, I will not become a slave to anything that I’m free do to).

You see, THE REASON WHY THE LORD PUTS RESTRAINTS ON OUR FREEDOM IS BECAUSE UNRESTRAINED FREEDOM CAN RESULT IN SIN AND SLAVERY. When our freedoms lead us to sin and slavery we’re no longer free. We’re slaves. And in order to avoid this entrapment of liberty and sin there has to be restraints put on liberty. In other words, THE FREEDOM TO DO SOMETHING ALSO MEANS THE FREEDOM NOT TO DO IT. For us to truly remain free we must apply discipline, control, or restraints on our freedoms. Freedom unrestrained leads to slavery. But FREEDOM RESTRAINED KEEPS US FREE.

We’re supposed to practice temperance, Galatians 5:23. What is temperance? It is self-control.

Now self-control is two things. First, it is control. It’s putting limits, restraints, regulations, rules, or laws on yourself so that while you’re free to do something, the freedom isn’t absolute and unrestrained. YOU PUT LIMITS ON THAT FREEDOM IN ORDER TO SAFEGUARD THAT FREEDOM AND NOT USE IT TO BECOME A SLAVE TO SIN, THE DEVIL, AND THE FLESH ONCE AGAIN.

In the example of wine, you limit your intake of wine, you don’t let yourself get drunk, and you don’t drink wine in the sight of  weak Christians.

You see, brethren, THE FACT THAT GOD WANTS US TO BE TEMPERATE IN ALL THINGS, INCLUDING OUR FREEDOMS, IS PROOF POSITIVE THAT THERE’S NOTHING WRONG, LEGALISTIC, OR UNCHRISTIAN WITH PUTTING RESTRAINTS OR CONTROLS ON OUR FREEDOMS. Freedom, dear friends, demands restraints.

Self-control, as I said, is two things. In the second place, it  is strictly personal or voluntary: it’s something you put on yourself, something that you freely choose to do for yourself (1 Corinthians 6:12, 8:13). No one forces you to put restraints on your freedom. No one puts those restraints on your freedom for you. You do it by yourself and on your own because this is something God  wants you to do (1 Corinthians 9:25-27, 2 Peter 1:5-6). You do it willingly because you see the value of putting curbs or restraints on yourself and your freedom.

Some people wrongly interpret not doing something that we’re free to do as a confiscation or abolishment of freedom. They view it as legalism. But that, brethren, is not the case. The restraints that we put on our freedoms are not laws against freedom. They’re not a denial or confiscation of freedom. We’re not outlawing our freedoms, nor are we taking those freedoms away. In no way do I advocate legalism.

THE RULES OR LAWS THAT WE PUT ON OUR FREEDOMS ARE NOT MEANT TO ABOLISH OUR FREEDOMS: THEY’RE MEANT TO ENSURE OUR CONTINUING FREEDOM. WE GOVERN OUR USE OR EXERCISE OF FREEDOM TO MAKE SURE WE DON’T BECOME ENSLAVED TO SIN ONCE AGAIN. 

Self-control is what keeps us from becoming enslaved to sin. Brethren, what kind of restraints or laws do you have on your freedom? What sort of guidelines or limits do you observe when engaging in your freedoms? Can you name them? Can you write them down so that you know what they are? Do you have any at all?

Coming Up On My Next Blog Post, Part 8. This final installment of freedom looks at the sensitive, if not controversial, issue of other people applying restraints to our liberties. Is that legal? Stay tuned for this exciting, eye-popping finale.

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