Thursday, December 29, 2011

Freedom in Maturity

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

We have heard it said many times that we attain victory “in Christ.” We have also heard it said that as Christians we must be fruitful. To understand these concepts we must first come to acknowledge that there are two ingredients of faith that determine the victory and fruitfulness of a Christian. The first ingredient is maturity. In this discussion Paul wrote, “We are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ… to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, 15). It is a true statement that God desires fruit from the Christian. The maturity of a Christian is measured only by the standard set by Christ Himself. This maturity entails the idea of his integrity. He is to only speak the truth, motivated by a pure heart and God has given us everything we need to grow to a level of maturity in Christ (2 Peter 1:3). But we must also keep in mind that Satan is opposed to us becoming mature and he will do anything to keep us from realizing who what we have in Christ.

The second ingredient of the successful Christian life is our freedom. In his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). This verse was written to assure us that God wants us free, but also warns us that we can lose our freedom in Christ by returning to any other method of salvation, including the Law. Before we were baptized into Christ, we were slaves to sin. But because of Christ’s work on the cross, sin’s power over us has been broken. Satan no longer has any right of ownership or authority over us. He is now a defeated foe. But we must not be deceived. Even though he is a defeated foe, he is still committed to keeping us from realizing that he is conquered. He knows he can block our effectiveness as a Christian if he can deceive us into believing that we are still slaves to our past, subject to sin, prone to failure, and controlled by our habits. As long as he can confuse us with dark lies, we won’t be able to see that the chains that once held us captive are now completely broken.

We are free in Christ, but if the devil can deceive us into believing that we are not, we will not enjoy the freedom that, in reality, is our inheritance. Once a person understands the concept of being free in full, it is amazing how quickly he or she matures. The church is designed to administer to our desire to mature (Ephesians 4:11-13). We should eagerly attend every opportunity to be around those who have been set free so we can learn more about the freedom in Christ. We have been given the opportunity to live with, learn from and love one another to strengthen our maturing process. Let us embrace the opportunity to rejoice by being faithful to the call of separation that has set us free and set us apart from the world still chained to the defeat of Satan and his schemes.

In His Grace,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free in Grace

“I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide your commandments from me” (Psalm 119:19).

Has it sunk in how helpless we truly are without God? David realized how important God’s commandments were to his life. He knew he was a stranger to the world but not to God. Like David, we are also helpless when it comes to our spiritual walk without God’s grace: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). When we are living in sin our relationship with God is null and void: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). Separation from God is referred to in the Bible as death. In God’s sight we are not alive to Him if we are still living in sin.

God’s grace was delivered to us through His Son, not as a license to sin, but a way of teaching us to be free from sin. It doesn’t seem logical that God would show us the damage done by sin and then send His Son to die so we can continue in sin. Although grace is sometimes erroneously viewed in this manner, it is a false interpretation of divine grace. God’s grace is not totally summed up in forgiveness: “[I]nstructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). God’s grace is “unmerited favor” and it is bestowed on us even though we are not deserving (Romans 6:23). But grace is not God’s approval of sin or even His tolerance of sin. It reveals God’s hate for sinful ways and His love to lead us out of sin.

To fully appreciate God’s grace you must truly love God, but not as the world loves, rather as God loves: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus teaches us that if we continually love God we will continually be obedient to His love and grace. He doesn’t have to teach us how to be right with God, but He does. If we want to be God’s children we must stay in the boundaries of His grace: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Peter 1:14-15). Loving God means to walk in the path His grace has provided.

Many mistakenly believe that the goal of Christianity is forgiveness. But the goal of a true disciple of Christ is holiness which can only come to us when we die to self and allow God to shape our lives into holiness through His grace: “[A]nd have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10). We are being molded from the inside out into His image and His grace is leading us to the appointed goal, to be like Christ.

Don’t let the world confuse you about the doctrine of grace. It is God’s gift to give and He has shown us that it comes with divine guidelines. Many think that God’s grace gives us liberty to sin, but God’s word denies that theory: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). Living in sin’s power cannot glorify God. He can only be glorified when the power of His grace is received and put to use, guiding us in truth and teaching us how to be free from the power of sin. Be made free through grace.

In His grace,