Sunday, August 11, 2013

Freedom, Freedom, Freedom!

Galatians 2:2
  • I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running in vain.

Paul went to Jerusalem in response to a revelation given to him by the Lord, just as the Holy Spirit often told his followers what to do in regards to the plan of the expansion of the kingdom of God.

For example, we read in Acts 13:2-4
  • While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 
  • Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Paul needed to come to Jerusalem because he needed to have a formal agreement from the Jerusalem church that his gospel be recognised by the central church in Jerusalem so that anyone, especially, Jewish believers, who come to Antioch which was a Gentile city where Paul preached his gospel, would not cause trouble and havoc on the Gentile believers who held to the faith in Jesus that led to salvation in God, rather than legalism such as circumcision which was no requirement for salvation.

Acts 15:1, 2

  • But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 
  • And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.

Paul must have had a headache dealing with these false brothers, "who slipped in to spy out the freedom that Paul and all the other true believers had in Christ Jesus, so that the false brothers might bring the true believers into slavery." (Galatians 2:4)

Even now, in this day and age, many denominations and churches have their own traditions and laws which sometimes become so prominent that they practically become required in a believer and unless you have this specific practice, or belief, they would seriously doubt your salvation in the Lord.

For example, "you need to be baptised to be saved." Well, the sinner who was hung on the cross with Jesus had no works, and no baptism. That sinner only had faith in Jesus. The sinner was at the complete mercy of the Lord Jesus who graciously accepted him and told him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)

It doesn't mean baptism is unimportant, we certainly get baptised as a demonstration of our faith in him. However, the baptism is the after-effect of our faith in Jesus, and not the other way around.

And there are many other rules, regulations and laws that bring us into slavery and restrict our freedom in Christ.

1 Timothy 4:1-5
  • Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 
  • For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

In Roman Catholic church, you don't have the freedom to get married as a priest.

Some denominations (some presbyterians) require believers to do their quiet time every morning.

Some denominations (Seventh-day Adventist) require their members to keep the Sabbath.
  • Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 
  • These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16, 17)

Some denominations (mainly Pentecostal and Charismatic) require their believers to speak in tongues.
  • "All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?" (1 Corinthians 12:30)

Some denominations require their church members to pay tithes.
  • Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

We can give more than tithe or less than tithe, but what's more important is that we don't do it out of reluctance or compulsion as a duty. God loves a cheerful giver who gives out of his joy, generosity and thankfulness to God who provided for him and blessed him.

I'm not saying that some of the things above are necessarily bad, we can choose to not get married, or get a proper rest on Sunday, or speak in tongues, or pay tithes, but if these things become an obligation and duty (rather than a willing choice, and not something imposed upon by an organisation or church body), or requirement for salvation, the truth of the gospel is seriously perverted. 

"For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)

Jesus freed us from the law, so that we would be free to serve Him freely rather than from the standpoint of legalism, duty and guilt.

We can serve him as a recipient of His grace. We serve out of love rather than legalism and duty. We serve out of our love for neighbours out of our love filled in Jesus for them, rather than guilt compelling us to action.

We are legalism-free, duty-free and guilt-free people of God who serve Him and our neighbours with love through faith in Jesus.

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