ONE BAD DECISION: LIVING WITHOUT RESTRAINTS

INTRODUCTION

In the course of a twenty-four hour period we make gobs of decisions. Some of these we make with a serious amount of forethought and prayer. But, if you’re like me, we make many of our decisions spontaneously with little or no thought as to the consequences or impact our decisions will have—not only for ourselves, but also for the many others whose lives are intertwined with ours.

Have you ever thought much about how a single decision can change your life forever? Sometimes a single decision will change us for the better. And sometimes a single decision will change us for the worse.

In these blog posts I’d like to look at the singular decision that some people in the Bible made that changed their lives forever…for the worse. By looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word it’ll give us reason to stop and think about both the long-term and short-term ramifications of the decisions we make. Lots of forethought and prayer, I’m convinced, will save us from the pain and regret of a hastily-made decision for the worse.

LIVING WITHOUT RESTRAINTS

I’m a minister and, for as long as I can remember, from the start, really; I’ve depended on God to give me my sermons and lesson plans. It’s been such a gratifying way of ministering because God’s people get a fresh word of encouragement and instruction from the Lord. Just as importantly for me, relying on God to tell me what He wants to say to His people has been good for my prayer life and walk with God. It keeps me constantly in His presence, waiting, listening, and writing down the words that minister life, encouragement, and hope to God’s people.

I can count on one hand the number of visions and dreams that I’ve had from the Lord. God’s never spoken audibly to me. And I’ve never been transported in spirit to Heaven to see the Lord and the unspeakable splendors of God’s very own City of Splendor.

God speaks to my spirit through His still, small, inaudible voice. The words and thoughts gently flow to my mind, much as if I was getting a mental letter from the Lord. When the Lord speaks to me I am renewed and revived in spirit. His presence and anointing are so precious and real, so heart felt, that I am truly gratified and humbled that God would even bother to speak to me and through me. When you multiply this single divine encounter over and over again, week by week through forty-plus years of ministry, I feel so richly blest and privileged to be the object of God’s love and the steward of a fresh word from the Lord.

As richly as I’ve been blest, I can’t imagine what it would be like to get visions of the Lord on a regular basis. I can’t put into words the unimaginable experience of actually getting to see the Lord face-to-face, or hear Him speak audibly to me. I look at the great men of faith in the Bible who had regular visits with the Lord—men like Moses, the prophets and apostles, and Paul—and I can’t help but imagine how privileged and blest they must have felt to be actually speaking face-to-face with God.

Put yourself in their shoes. If the Lord appeared to you in a vision or dream and you actually got to hear Him speak to you, how would you feel? Better yet, what if the Lord actually appeared to you in person? Or brought you in the spirit to His Heavenly City. Would you ever forget your personal encounter with the Lord? How would this single moment of epiphany or theophany affect you for the rest of your life? Would it make you a life-long, loyal believer living with the realization that one of these days you’ll be living in God’s presence forever? Or would you eventually lose your vision and excitement for eternity and become distracted, rather preoccupied, with yourself?

Solomon was a young man. He recently ascended the throne of Israel and was now King in place of his father King David (1 Kings 1).

Like his father before him, Solomon had a real heart for God. You might say he was on fire for the Lord. 1 Kings 3:3 describes his zeal and love for the Lord: Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. The high places don’t mean that Solomon offered sacrifices to false gods. It simply means that, instead of offering sacrifices wherever the Tabernacle happened to be, people built altars on mountains or hills and offered their sacrifices to God there. So Solomon was definitely, totally consumed with God.

Verse 4 goes on to tell us the awesome extent of Solomon’s offerings: And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that alter. How Solomon loved the Lord! Can any of us see ourself in Solomon? On fire for the Lord?

God decided He was gonna pay Solomon a visit. He appeared to him in a dream and invited Solomon to ask anything for himself. Wow! I can think of a thousand things I’d like to ask God for. But do you know what Solomon asked for? Wisdom to be a good King.

I see nothing but humility and sincerity in Solomon’s prayer: O Lord my God, You’ve made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. {8} And here I am in the midst of Your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! {9} Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern Your people well and know the difference between right and wrong (1 Kings 3:7-9).

God was soooo pleased with Solomon’s request that He not only gave him wisdom, but long life, fame, national peace, and wealth to boot (1 Kings 3:10-13). No other ruler in history has been singularly and spectacularly blest as Solomon!

With the nation at peace and many of Israel’s enemies paying Solomon tribute, Solomon’s wealth increased enormously. With his wealth he built himself a grandiose palace. He also built an exquisite Temple for the Lord.

Upon the Temple’s completion, he offered his thousands of offerings to God and asked God to continually watch over His people and bless them (1 Kings 8).

God, once again, was moved. And He appeared to Solomon a second time (1 Kings 9). Here’s the gist of what He told Solomon. He said, Solomon, if you remain faithful to Me you will always have a descendant ruling on the throne and I will watch over Israel. And this Temple that you’ve built for Me will always house My presence. However, if you turn your back on Me and serve other gods, I will destroy both this land and this Temple and Israel will no more be feared or respected among the nations.

Can you possibly imagine just how blest Solomon was to have been gifted twice with God’s appearance and to have all worldly might, fame, and riches? Do you think it’s possible for a man so singularly and spectacularly gifted to forget the Lord and turn his back on God? If you didn’t know the story you’d think it was impossible for a person who’s seen the Lord and talked to Him to eventually turn his back on God. But happen it did.

For all his love and zeal for the Lord, Solomon had one major problem. He loved women. All sorts of women from all sorts of nations. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And all these women turned his heart away from the Lord. In his love for his wives, he built shrines for their false gods. And, sadder yet, most astoundingly of all, he worshipped these false gods too (1 Kings 11).

Solomon obviously didn’t have any self-control. He didn’t practice self-restraint in his romantic and sexual life. He didn’t obey a clear command of the Lord: The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, ‘You must not marry them (foreigners), because they will turn your hearts to their gods.’ Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway (1 Kings 11:2). This last sentence haunts me. It evinces Solomon’s intent to do as he pleased despite the Lord’s command. Like Solomon and a lot of you, I’ve insisted on having my way in spite of whatever God has to say about it.

GOD’S COMMANDS ARE FOR A VERY GOOD REASON. THEY’RE FOR OUR GOOD. AND WHEN WE INSIST ON DISOBEYING GOD WE’LL END UP PAYING DEARLY FOR OUR DISOBEDIENCE.

Solomon did. The whole nation did. To this day, Israel is a mess. Because there was no godly king reigning on the throne.

Let me turn a corner here and speak about the sad condition that we’re in today. I’ll speak for myself. But maybe I speak for you too. We hear very little about the cross today. I’m talking about crucifying and denying self. Saying No to self. Not doing what self wants to do. We just don’t hear a whole lot of sermons about putting self to death. About obeying God no matter what. About not sinning or not disobeying God.

We pretty much live in a time when we do whatever we want to do. We do whatever we think or feel is right in our own eyes. A lot of Christians no longer regard the Bible as a Divine, Authoritative rule of law and life. Astonishingly, many Christians-so-called don’t regard Jesus as God. To them He was human, sinful, and imperfect as ourselves. The God that we grew up believing in no longer exists. He isn’t who we were taught He was. He’s all sorts of gods. He is who we want him, and make him, to be. We disobey God freely and regularly. And we have a thousand and one reasons and excuses why we’re right and the Bible’s wrong.

I’ll say it just so that you’ll hear it. IF WE DON’T PUT CURBS AND LIMITS ON OURSELVES WE’RE HEADED BLINDLY TO HELL. You can think whatever you want to think about me. But the words aren’t mine. Not really. They’re my adaptation of what Paul said in his Epistle: If you live according to the flesh you will die (Romans 8:13).

Solomon had a sin problem that he wouldn’t deal with. He didn’t practice self-restraint. He didn’t put his cross to use. He didn’t stick close to God. He lived flagrantly in disregard and disobedience to God’s command.

Solomon was a pretty smart fella. God gave him more smarts than any one man to date has had, Jesus excepted. But in choosing to live to satisfy his fleshly indulgences he made a pretty dumb mistake. NOT CRUCIFYING OURSELF, YOU SEE, HAS A DUMBING EFFECT ON US:  it makes us spiritually dumber to our unbeknownst.

Instead of loving God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, Solomon gave his heart and his love to someone else. He lived to satisfy himself and his flesh. Does he remind any of us of ourself? Do we live as Solomon?

Friends, if you don’t put your cross to good use and die out to self, then, like Solomon, you’re making your worst decision ever. You may not believe me. You may think me wrong to your dying day. But rest assured, you’ll know the truth when you meet up with God. EVERYBODY MEETS GOD FACE-TO-FACE AT LEAST ONCE (Hebrews 9:27, Revelation 20:11-12). I pray your meeting doesn’t make you an obedient-believer-too-late.

Friends, let’s learn from Solomon. Let’s not duplicate his mistake. Let’s return penitently to our Lord for He is ever ready and willing to forgive us. Let God dictate how we live our life. And at the top of our To-do list, let’s find the cross that we’ve lost and get back on it. That’s where we Christians belong. That’s where we can be found. May God bless you richly and empower you to live obediently for Him.

CHRISTIAN LIBERTY PART 8

CLARIFYING SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FREEDOM

PART VI

Earlier, I asked the question, What do we do with a freedom that isn’t edifying? What do we do with a freedom that has an adverse effect on us and others as well? In the first of a two-fold response, I pointed out the Biblical prescription for us to voluntarily put restraints on our freedom. You can read all about it in the 6th and 7th installment of this blog on Christian Liberty.

When we put the whole of Scripture together here is a second thing we see. While the Lord expects us to voluntarily place limits or restraints on our freedom, there may come a time when restraints may be placed upon us by the church, that is, the church’s pastors and leaders. This is necessary (a) in order to safeguard the well-being and unity of the whole church. And it’s also necessary (b) in order to preserve the church’s witness of Christ in the world.

We read about this in Acts 15. There were so many Gentiles getting saved that the early Church, which was predominantly converted Jews, was confronted with the question of whether or not these Gentiles were required to keep the Jewish, Old Testament law in order to be saved (verse 1). Evidently, some of the converted Jews in the early Church were still keeping the law and using the law as a means of salvation. They felt that if they had to keep the law to be saved, then the Gentile believers should also have to keep it if they wanted to be saved.

The controversy was so serious and divisive that the believers involved in this conflict appealed to the Lord’s apostles in Jerusalem for a clarification and resolution of this matter (verse 2). A council was held and many of the people present were given an opportunity to voice their opinion.

Finally, when everyone had their say, James, our Lord’s brother who was the recognized leader of the church in Jerusalem, gave his judgment on the matter: And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.  (20)  Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood.  (21)  For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations (Acts 15:19-21, NLT).

Evidently, after James voiced his judgment on the matter, the rest of the church’s leaders discussed the merits of what James had decided. They prayed about it and sought God’s guidance. And God, in turn, through the Holy Spirit let the leaders know what His will was in the controversy (Acts 15:28). When everything was said and done, all the leaders agreed that James’ decision was the right one (Acts 15:25). In other words, James’ decision was not the dictatorial edict of one man, but rather, a binding proclamation that all of the church’s leaders were in agreement about. Most importantly, the judgment was God’s will.

The church then wrote a letter that was sent to, and read in, the churches in Asia Minor and Syria. It read, For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements:  (29)  You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell (Acts 15:28-29, NLT).

Now when James issued his judgment, he declared that the Gentiles were not required to keep the Law in order to be saved (verse 19). But because there were Jews in every city who diligently observed Moses’ Law, and even converted Jews who continued to attend synagogue services in addition to church; then James chose what he felt were the most important things that the Gentiles not do in order not to offend the Jews (verses 20 and 29).

Why didn’t James want the Gentiles to offend the Jews? Because the church was trying to reach out to the Jews. The apostles realized that the church’s ministry to the Jews would be greatly hampered and hindered—the Jews would not be won to Christ—if  Christ’s followers were guilty of doing things that were truly abominable in the sight of the Jews.

Now of the many things that James could have chosen to lay upon the Gentiles, he chose only four: the Gentiles must not eat foods offered to idols, not commit fornication, not eat blood, and not eat meats that had been strangled. [When an animal was strangled the blood remained in it and the Jews were prohibited from eating blood, Leviticus 17:10-14].

Note that these four prohibitions were from the Law. But James already said that the Gentiles weren’t required to keep the Law to be saved. That’s right. They didn’t have to keep the Law to be saved.

But as a matter of courtesy or consideration for the Jews and Jewish believers who lived among them, the Gentiles weren’t allowed to do these four specific things. James, you see, wasn’t trying to put the Gentiles under legalism or the law: he was simply setting forth the guidelines, limits, or restraints that were necessary to keep the Gentiles from offending the Jews. In other words, while the Gentiles didn’t have to keep the Law to be saved, they still had to keep these four prohibitions of the Law as a safeguard to keep the Jews from stumbling or taking offense. The Gentile believers were indeed free. But free not to sin (fornicate) and certainly not free to offend the Jews (eating blood, food offered to idols, and strangled meat).

Furthermore, by issuing a judgment that would be binding upon the other churches, James sought to bring peace and unity to a church that had been greatly divided on this issue.

So what’s the point in all this? The point is, while we must willingly and voluntary impose restraints on our freedoms, there is nevertheless a place for the church, through its leaders, to put restraints on us; and even prohibit or forbid us from doing some things that are, like the early church, divisive to the church and offensive to those whom the church is trying to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Naturally, this right and prerogative of the church to put restraints on freedom can be abused by carnally-minded, power-hungry, controlling, legalistic pastors and ministers. That is regrettable. God’s people ought to stand fast on their God-given liberty and not allow themselves to be brought under bondage to the whims and fancies of men, regardless of their calling or office in the church.

But, having said that, the misuse of restraints by carnally-minded ministers does not negate the right and prerogative of the church to put restraints on freedom if it is deemed proper and necessary by the will of God for the edification of the entire church and for the success of its ministry in the community or world.

CONCLUDING GUIDELINES

In bringing our study on freedom to a close, here are some general guidelines that I’d like for you to prayerfully consider and observe for your sake and the sake of others.

  • Don’t legislate your liberties over others and compel them to do something that their conscience won’t allow them to do.
  • Don’t exercise your liberties in the presence of the weak or the unenlightened. When legalists are involved, stand fast on your liberty and don’t let their religious laws bring you into bondage.
  • If you’re weak in an area of the flesh and are temptible or liable to give in to temptation and sin, then temporarily forego your liberty. IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE LIBERTY, THEN TAKE THAT LIBERTY AWAY FOR THE TIME BEING. For example, if you consider yourself free to drink alcohol, then quit drinking it altogether if temperance isn’t working and you find yourself becoming a drunkard or an alcoholic. If you consider yourself free to watch TV, then turn it off, or get rid of the TV altogether, if you lack self-control and find yourself  addicted to watching programs that aren’t any good for you.  Set your liberty aside until you’re crucified and dead to the temptation. If it takes several months or years, so be it. Join the club. Many of us have had to work hard and long to be free and stay free. Remember, liberty doesn’t force or compel you to do something that you’re free to do. Not everything permissible is profitable! Liberty is the power to not do things that you’re free to do. Concentrate on dealing with the problems that liberties have caused in your life. If you don’t deal with your problems, the Lord will deal with you about them and that’s never a pleasant or an enjoyable experience. Resume your liberty only when you’re in full control of your decisions and actions. May God bless you and help you to be free and to stay free.

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.

CHRISTIAN LIBERTY PART 6

CLARIFYING SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FREEDOM

PART IV

In my last post I wrote that there are two times when it would be sinful and wrong for you to do what you’re free to do. I dealt with the first one. Now comes the second.

B) IT’S WRONG FOR YOU TO USE YOUR FREEDOM IN WAYS THAT ISN’T EDIFYING YOU.  Just as your exercise of freedom can have an adverse effect on others, so in like manner, your freedom can have an adverse effect on you.

Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 10:23, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable; all things are lawful for me, but not all things are edifying, constructive, or good. 

In other words, NOT EVERYTHING THAT’S LAWFUL OR LEGAL IS EDIFYING OR GOOD. NOT EVERYTHING THAT’S PERMISSIBLE IS PROFITABLE.  We may not want to admit it, so I’ll admit it and say it for all of us. Some freedoms have an adverse effect upon us.

Believe it or not, not everybody watches television or movies. Let me go on record here and say that I laud those who have no interest in what Hollywood dishes out. I don’t like the self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and pride that many of these Hollywood abstainers exhibit. But, in the main, I know they’re on to something. It is this simple fact and reality of life, namely, what you watch can affect you the wrong way. Of course, the opposite is likewise true. I’ve been incredibly inspired and encouraged by some of the movies I’ve watched. But since we’re talking about the things that are not profitable or edifying, let me blog about the adverse effects that television programs and movies have on some, if not many, people.

You watch a program that has a lot of cussing and profanity. At first, it offends you because Christians aren’t supposed to talk that way (Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 3:8, 4:6). But the storyline and the humor mesmerizes you, so you continue watching the filth. Before long, you find yourself watching more and more of the same. In time, you get to a point where the profanity no longer bothers you. It’s an acceptable form of speech. And, before you know it, you find yourself cussing. Hollywood’s changed you and soiled a portion of the  righteous garment that you’re supposed to be wearing as a Christian.

No, it’s not Hollywood’s fault. It’s yours. You watched. And kept on watching. And you allowed yourself to be changed and soiled by the freedom you indulged in. You just proved what Paul said. You may be free to do a lot of things, but not everything that you’re free to do is good for you. It doesn’t help or benefit you. It doesn’t make you a better witness, a better Christian, a better person.

We can talk about programs and movies laced with fornication, adultery, sex, and skin. There again, you know that fornication and adultery are forbidden and sinful. But the storyline’s compelling, so you end up watching the whole movie. Then you watch another. Then another. And, before you even realize what’s happened to you, fornication doesn’t bother you anymore. Everybody’s doing it. It’s the new reality. It’s the world in which we live today. What other people do is none of your business. Or anyone else’s business. You dabble in fornication yourself. You like it. I mean, who doesn’t like sex? Who doesn’t enjoy it? We all do. In time, you justify and defend what you once was convinced was sinful and wrong. You’ve taken a stance against God on this point. You’re at odds with His “rigid, puritanical” prohibitions concerning love and sex. You’ve undergone a transformation. What you watch has changed you. You’ve proven God and the Bible right. Not everything that you’re free to do is good for you.

I can talk about a lot of other freedoms that haven’t had a good influence or effect on many of God’s people. I can talk about contemporary music, alcohol, nicotine, credit cards, fads, fashions, and more. I’m not on a crusade to ban, outlaw, or deprive any of God’s people of their freedoms. I’m not a legalist. All I’m saying is what God, the Scriptures, and human experience all testify, namely, while we may be free to do some things, or all things; nevertheless, not everything that we’re free to do is good for us.

Why is that? Because WE LACK THE NECESSARY MATURITY, DISCIPLINE, RESTRAINT, OR SELF-CONTROL THAT’S INCUMBENT WITH EVERY FREEDOM THAT WE HAVE.

Remember what I blogged in my third installment in this series on Christian Liberty. There is no such thing as total, absolute freedom. Every freedom has its limits, restrictions, rules, or laws. For example, we’re free to drive a car and own guns. But, as you well know, there are so many rules and laws that limit or govern these freedoms.

In the spiritual realm, some people don’t like the use of words like rules, laws, or do’s and dont’s because we live in an age of grace, not law. So instead of using these freedom-limiting words, let me say that God has tempered or balanced our freedom with His will. His will is the Bible in its entirety.

One of the limiters that God’s placed on our freedom is self-control. It’s one of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23 (KJV temperance). Self-control is the power and ability to restrain oneself. To be temperate. Moderate. Self-control doesn’t rob you of the freedom to do something, assuming, of course, that sin isn’t involved. We’re talking about legitimate freedoms, not sins. Self-control doesn’t rob you, deprive you, or prevent you from doing the things you’re free to do. It simply tells you that if you’re going to do something that’s legitimate or permissible, then you’ll better do it in moderation. You’d better be able to stop when you’re going too far and the freedom’s becoming unhealthy, unedifying, and unbeneficial for you.

Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 6:12, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved or controlled by anything. Paul was free. But he had something that was greater than freedom and it was this thing that kept him free, namely, self-control. Paul wouldn’t let anything, any freedom, control him and adversely affect him.

Why is that? Because he knew that unrestricted, unrestrained freedom can lead you back into slavery and sin. Freedom without controls can make you a slave to sin.

SELF-CONTROL IS WHAT KEEPS THIS FROM HAPPENING: IT’S WHAT KEEPS YOUR FREEDOM FROM MAKING YOU A SLAVE OF SIN. Paul knew when to engage in a freedom and when not to. We’ve got to learn this for ourselves.

In summary, what I’ve been trying to say in this post is,  just because we’re free to do some things doesn’t automatically mean we should do them. Why not? Because not everything that we’re free to do is edifying us. Not everything has an edifying effect on us.  Some freedoms have an adverse effect on us. And we’ve got to have enough sense, and power or strength, to personally and voluntarily abstain and refrain from the freedoms that don’t do us any good. It’s called self-control…for the sake of edifying ourself. 

When Paul says all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved or controlled by anything; he’s telling us in no uncertain terms that edification is everything. It’s greater than freedom. Whatever we do, or don’t do, has got to edify us.

Brethren, there’s something greater, something more important, than freedom. It’s called edification. EDIFICATION TRUMPS FREEDOM. And self-control is the vehicle, the power, the limiter, that enables us to be edified without being adversely affected by our freedoms.

Coming Up On My Next Blog Post in this series, Part 7. Another misconception about freedom that many of us have. This one deals with restraint. If you lack it or hate it, this next one’s for you. So don’t go playing hooky on me. I’ll be looking for you. And so will God.