“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom.” Galatians 5:13-14 – The Message Bible
Lately I have been thinking a lot about the misuse of our freedom in Christ and how some Christians will use the "not under the law" verse to justify something that we want to do, that may technically be legal, permissible (allowable and lawful) for us; but may not be spiritually appropriate or helpful (good for us to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). (1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23-24)
So often times the Christian will say as a means of justification for something that they want to do, that may not be the best thing for them or others around them, “We are free. We are not under the law we are under grace”, instead of truly praying and seeking God about whether it is HIS WILL for them to do whatever it is that they are contemplating, even if it is technically legal.
"[Many things] are not specifically condemned by the Scriptures, and thus we must apply other criteria. For example, would these matters cause us to sin, or harm our bodies, or cause a brother to stumble, or tempt us to fall into a pattern we could not control? Clearly if those things occurred, then it would be wrong for us to do them. If not, then we have the liberty to enjoy these activities" - Curtis C. Thomas
I love how The Message Bible translates 1 Corinthians 6:12,
“If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I'd be a slave to my whims.”
Our freedom in Christ is not a means of justification for us to do whatever it is we think we want to do, especially those things that are just us trying to fit into to our culture or us wanting to fulfill a selfish or even sinful desire. We are called to live in freedom, but our freedom is meant to serve God by living in the Spirit and by serving one another in love, not for us to live without restraint. (Romans 7:6, Galatians 5:13-14)
It is dangerous to claim freedom in Christ as a means of indulging the flesh. Some claim, "I'm free. I'm free" only to find that their 'freedom' has led them into shame, regret, isolation, and bondage because their freedom was not freedom at all. It was a false sense of liberty that led to a lack of self-control, self-discipline, and discernment. Some have been so deceived in their 'freedom' that they justify old behavior, thoughts, attitudes, and self-expression causing themselves to slip back into their old ways of living. Some have even allowed themselves to become so 'free' that they've harden their hearts and will not allow themselves to receive loving correction and exhortation accusing the concerned brother or sister in Christ of being judgemental or legalistic. (1 Peter 1:14, Ephesians 5:21-24, Proverbs 3:11-12, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Proverbs 27:5) I like what Sam Storm has to say about this:
"The Christian is not free to do what the Bible forbids. Christian freedom does not entail the right to fornicate or to steal or to lie or to persist in an unforgiving attitude or to do anything else the Scriptures explicitly prohibit. And a person who lovingly points this out to you is not a legalist for having done so!" - Sam Storms
For the record let us get it right, Christians are free from the law but not lawless. Often time people will quote Romans 6:14 saying, “We are not under law but under grace”, well we really need to know what that whole verse says in order to really understand what Paul meant. Here is Romans 6:14 out of the NLT Bible:
“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”
Paul is showing us that since we have died with Christ we are not under that old way of being right with God, which was by trying to do what the law tells us to do without the power to do it. That way, made us slaves to sin. It was SIN that took advantage of God’s good commands and deceived us. The problem has never been with God’s law. The problem is sin in us that incites us to do what the law prohibits. The law is spiritual and good. (Romans 7:12, 14) However,
“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.”-Romans 8:3-4
Because we have received Jesus Christ as Lord we now live under the freedom of God’s grace that empowers us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to serve and obey God and love and serve our neighbors and also to walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4) Christ’s liberty is truly about loving service to God and man. I read a quote that said,
“Love’s slaves are the true freemen.”
Living under the freedom of God’s grace does not mean that we do not have to follow God’s commands or are free to live a life without self-discipline. (John 14:15) It means that now sin is not our master anymore and that we are now able to please God by living by the Spirit’s power, by faith, not by trying to obey the Law of Moses.
“Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” – Romans 3:31
I read another quote by A.T. Pierson which says:
“True Freedom is found only in obedience to proper restraint. A river finds liberty to flow, only between banks: without these it would only spread out into a slimy, stagnant pool. Planets, uncontrolled by law, would only bring wreck to themselves and to the universe. The same law which fences us in, fences others out; the restraints which regulate our liberty also insure and protect it. It is not control, but the right kind of control, and a cheerful obedience which make the free man.”
My goal with this post is to encourage those who like to pull the "not under the law" card as a means of justification for their actions to "Stop It". I would encourage you to first really pray and seek God in His Word as to whether or not He truly wants for you to do whatever it is you're thinking or planning to do in your 'freedom', even if it’s technically legal. Allow God to help you check your heart and motives. Be sure you are not slipping into your old ways. Be sure it is the Holy Spirit leading you and not your flesh. Also may we all beware of the deceiving spirit that would have us think that our freedom in Christ is a license to sin, or to live to satisfy our own desires and whims. Let us follow the instructions given to us in Romans 12:2, let God transform us into a new people by changing the way we think. Then we will learn to know God’s will for us and we can do what He would have us to do in every situation.
I pray that through the verses shared throughout this post we all see that we are free in Christ, given power to live a life of righteousness, love, and service to God and others. May our lives bring Him glory and may we hear our Master say one day,
“Well done good and faithful servant”