Legalism V Liberty

Posted: November 25, 2010 in Church, Jesus Christ, Social Trends
Tags: , , , , , , ,

There is perhaps no harder question than the one which has been posed.  We live in a world that by distinction is heading in a direction which we are not.  Therefore we live at odds with it.  Having said that we have a tendency to shun all things worldly. Yet we are in the world and we therefore have to interact with that world, both good and the bad.  On one side do we reject all things regarded as worldly or do we go to the other side and embrace all things worldly.  Either side has problems.  Both seem to bring misery and discontent.  As Christian our moral meter desire more than anything to be holy and righteous.  Yet Christianity does present a tremendous freedom, But we should not allow that freedom to be the basis for sin.  Sin is therefore the issue here.  At one time old time Pentecostalism regarded going to the cinema as wicked, yet these same people would have a TV set in their living rooms.  Quite often what was on the cinema was soon on the TV.  These days there is more wickedness on TV than there was ever on the cinema.  Do we or should we get rid of the TV or do we make sure we use the off button or change the channel button at the right time.  So where does the cut of line become?  Do I reject all TV shows because the actors as not Christians?  Do I reject a film because the actors, directors or even if the film does not show a Christian content.  What about the film King of Kings?  We have an actor who plays Jesus.  Now as I have grown I have come to dislike images of Jesus being projected as they are not my Jesus.  But say someone does.  Should I demand that the film be burned or should I accept that someone else might get something from it.  On some subjects there is no easy answer.  Christians have been debating this issue for longer than I have lived.  Every generation has debated it and settled it in their own hearts.

 We are told not to set any evil before my eyes and we all agree to that.  But what is evil.  Again the meter might say all things, and before you know it we are all hiding in caves waiting for Jesus to return.  But if we go the other way, we will find ourselves out with the boys drinking and getting drunk.  Neither side seems to make for comfortable debate.  Wisdom is called of her children.  Can one Christian enjoy something another does not?  I think the answer is yes.  I am reminded of the debate on the issue of Meat sold on the cheap in the market.  The meat was part of a sacrifice to a pagan god.  Whilst only a small part went for sacrificing, the majority went on the market stall.  Some Christians had a problem with this.  Today we don’t really see the whole relevance quite in the way they did then.  This was a BIG BIG issue in the church.  Paul’s approach was that it did not mean anything.  If your conscience is clear buy and eat.  If not don’t.  But it was dedicated to a god?  Gods are nothing says Paul.  If your conscience bothers you I will do nothing to trip you up and so I will not eat meat from that stall.  In some sense unless their is gross wickedness involved every Christian has to some extent the freedom of conscience to decide when to apply the switch off button.  Which is why this area can become quite emotive.

  Often I am reminded of this verse:

 Act 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

 The law tries to conform the outward man, but was unable to conform the inward man.  Grace works the opposite way.  By working in the inward man the outward man is conform to the image of Christ. The early church battled with the same issue.  It was more than circumcision on the table, but a vast array of dos and don’ts, Sabbath keeping, holy days, dress code,  and worship practices.  Most of which were a milestone around the Jewish necks.  All of this was done away with.  The focus was now on the love of God.  If we love God then we will want to do right.  So we will accomplish in the spirit of things which the law could not achieve.  So there will always be a debate between liberty and legalism.  For one person a program might be just that a story, it has actors playing a part.  But for others it might become an issue.    Both have the liberty and right to accept and reject.  When something is obviously wrong, and the content is sinful, sexual, malicious then we must avoid.  But sometimes even when something is not sinful does not mean its right either.  A commercial that continually tries to sell a product that is beneficial can be wrong because it tries to influence what you buy.  I don’t like being influenced.

 At the moment I am checking out the Koran.  Now I have the liberty to read it.  I also have the liberty to reject it.  The Koran is 100% bogus.  It is a mix bag of superstition, some references from scripture, and a whole lot of gibberish.  But some people might say don’t touch its demonic.  I would not argue with that view because there is a good chance it is.  Some people would say you can’t read it because it comes from the devil.  Again I agree.  But I still have the freedom in Christ to check it out.  I am neither threaten by it or persuaded by what it claims.  It makes for a good joke book in places.  But there would be some Christians that for them the Koran is a NO NO.  They are not mature enough to handle what it teaches or lack off.   So for them it would not be a good idea.

 I am Scottish by birth. In Scotland pubs were for drinking.  people went in and came out drunk.  That was my perception.  I had a granddad that was into drink.  So as a young Christian pubs were always a BIG NO NO.  Now I came down to England.  Someone invites me into a pub. I immediately throws my hands up and declare “NO WAY, its a den of iniquity”   But English pups are not actual pups in the same way as the Scottish pups.  You can still get the grotty ones.  Don’t go near them.  But most pups in England are actually restaurants.  Most are orientated around the family.  This was a culture shock for me.  I mean radical.  Families going to a pup unheard off.  The concept was in fact quite normal.  Many instances you would not be able to tell any difference from any other restaurant.  The only noticeable difference is that they have a licence bar.  As I don’t drink alcohol it does not affect me as such.  Now here is the issue.  From the point of grace, I had the liberty to visit for lunch.  But what happens if there was a disco at night.  The ladies walk in with virtually no clothes on.  Drink might be going down faster than is being bought. Now children are usually not allowed into these premises after a certain time.  What do I do then?  Wisdom tells you that I will not go into a place at that time.    I do not put myself into a situation where there might be temptation.  Nor will I place evil before my eyes which might be the case if I did go in.

  Here comes another wild idea.  What about drinking alcohol?  Phew this is getting harder.  I don’t drink alcohol; I simply don’t have desire for it.  Being brought up in a very traditional Pentecostal holiness church alcohol was always a no no.  Again it’s that Scottish perspective.   Does the Bible specifically say don’t drink alcohol.  The answer is NO.  But the Bible clearly says don’t get drunk.  In Biblical days the water would kill you quicker than alcohol.  No water treatment in those days.  Ok that was then what about today?  Well because the Bible warns but does not strictly forbid then the answer has to be on Biblical grounds.  Some people drink alcohol for no other reason than to get drunk.  They call that a good time, yeah along with the hang over and everything else that might go along.  But as a Christian you would not go out to deliberately get drunk. Again wisdom would say we have the liberty, but do not use that liberty to sin or bring offence to the name of Christ.  Now for some drinking was a problem.  Should those individuals feel obliged to go anywhere near a pup?  The answer is obviously NO, for it might pose a temptation just as the selling of the meat that was sacrificed to animals did.  Now there was a style of drink called alcopop’s which was geared at teenagers.  The drinks were flavoured and many teenagers got drunk on them not realising just how potent they were.  Wisdom would say No to these drinks because of the effect they caused. 

Wisdom is both practical and simple.  Like check things out before you taste.

  A good plum line

If I took Jesus out with me, would I be ashamed where I went or what I did?

If you did then it is a good indicator that you should not go.  Like do you get in the car if you have had too much to drink?  Now you have the right to get into your own car, but common sense says don’t drive.  There are many things that we have a right too, but common sense says we don’t have to.

 Question from Richard

 “with regards to the pubs being restaurants and not going there at the times when the visitors are coming in with hardly any clothes………….I would still say the general atmosphere of pubs is dingy, dark, and depending on where you go the waitress at a pub is usually dressed according to pub atmosphere (day or night), unless its a guy of course……..a pub would not be my first choice for a restaurant (not to mention the temptation to drink alcohol – or be around the smell of it, etc). “

 I would agree and if that was the case I would avoid them.  However from the ones I have seen.  They are family orientated; no smell of drink and the waitresses are well covered up.  However the issue is one of wisdom and making the right choices.  While we have the freedom does not always mean we should.  Which is why I contrasted the difference between the Scottish pubs and the English pubs.  Many Scottish pups are exactly as described.  I would flee them as if the devil was behind me.   I could extend this concept to restaurants, leisure centres, and just about most places.  They all have aspects which we might have issues with.  But what is the freedom to choose.  The point I am trying to make is making the right choices in situations.   I have seen Christians become so liberal that I had to wonder if they were ever Christians at all. In such cases it become an aspect that anything goes, and hell mend the person who tries to tell them..

 

 I have seen Christians get so wrapped up in legalism that they were so bound up and miserable that most people would run from that type of Gospel.  They have absolutely no grace whatsoever.  Its all law and they hound themselves desperately and everyone else around them.  The trouble is that they have become so hounded that they come to reject even what is right.  The devil has a curious trick he plays on Christians who are extremely feverant for God.  He pushes a Christian to become more and more devout until the Christian has moved himself over into a works orientated legalism. 

 

I once knew a person who did just that and now he lives with women as if he is her husband.  She is divorced and so they were able to marry, but they were persuaded that God did not approve of remarriage.  So he now lives with her.  Everyone now sees them as an item.  Despite the fact the Bible says to abstain from all appearance of evil.  I have no doubt that the neighbours see this Christian couple living together and know they are not married.  Again choices and making the right ones.

 

This has also been posted

 

The so called used to be minister says oh its only required of a minister to give up all their drinking…….but the laity do not have the same responsibilities

so is it any wonder these used to be ministers are seen in pubs, dance clubs, drinking buddies, etc…….. they are just using Christianity as a cover up to get good with God….who are they fooling? Certainly not God.

Another thing I kept being told is ‘did you get a woman yet’?  They think having a woman/wife is the solution to everything – its not!! – and its not the root, nor the source either………..
or while we were in the restaurant the false teacher would tell me so what do you think of the waitress? or someone should tell that girl over there she is quite hot……..

So would we say that this is liberty that is becoming license?   Would we say that in this instance liberty is giving way to licentiousness?  In fact I would go as far as to say they have joined the world.  So choices are important.  We are in the world but we are not of the world.  This raises another question

 

What we say is it important?

 

1 Cor 15: 33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

 

Math 12: 33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by [his] fruit.

 

Eph 4: 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

 

This is one area that the Bible has a lot to say.  Our lives should be an example both in our actions and in what we say.  What comes out of our mouth is but a hint at what lies within us. 

 

Testimony about a pastor who drinks

 

“sure enough one day (my birthday even) it was a long weekend and those in the fellowship went over to his house for regular bible study (out in the country on the lake) and we did that and then we went boating and drinking and got drunk and made real idiots of ourselves and his wife at first had refused to give him the boat keys, so he had to go and pry them from her and she said “your funeral” and came back to us and said lets go, they are not happy with us…….I knew this was wrong, but I was too drunk and my judgment was not right, nor was my control, so I went along with it………….

I told him at one point – you are the minister here (sort of leader) and you allowed us to get drunk and even put a stumbling block before us – this is very wrong – thank you for making me realize how easy it is to fall and how much it grieves the Holy Spirit for a Christian to do this. I won’t be getting drunk again, you could have gotten us killed on that boat (response: nah I was in full control, done this many times).

 

Liberty and legalism what is the choice?  The man had a right to board his own boat.  That was his liberty,  but Legally he was wrong to try and drive it .  How are we to decide?  The Bible makes it clear.  As a Drunk he is forbidden to hold the office of a minister.  If he had received genuine grace he would have never placed himself or others in the position he did.  Genuine grace should seek to make us wise in our discernment.  Open to the leading of his Holy Spirit. 

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Comments
  1. Mar 2: 23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.

    Now for the Jews the Sabbath has been enshrined in a lot of rituals. Now here we see Jesus walking with his disciples through a corn field and eating corn. A BIG NO NO in the Jewish calendar. When Christians get into legalism they will place a lot of rituals and commandments down upon their heads. Even things which the Bible does not mention and does not forbid. But legalistically people will do these things because they believe this will make them seem more spiritual. But worse still they will demand that others also follow their example. What happens when people do not follow this example? They will be castigated as unspiritual and possibly even demon possessed.

    Legalistic Christians can become so sensitive to any deviation on the part of others. Any minor disagreement by people means that the legalist will be immediately categorised others as being demon possessed. The voice of reason is rejected as the words of the enemy. People will be seen as being influenced to divert them from the road they are on. Because of this the legalist will delve even deeper into legalism. Friendships have been broken when a voice of moderation tries to speak up.

    Mark 2: 24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the Sabbath day that which is not lawful?

    Now the eating of the corn was indeed lawful.

    Mark 2: 25-26 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

    Jesus exposes their hypocrisy by relating a story of King David when he was fed by the bread which came from the temple. This bread was not supposed to be given away. But the priest had the liberty and he met the need in David. Furthermore as Jesus said. Sabbath was made for man which allowed him to rest. Man was not made to conform his life to a ritual. Now in legalism man is made to conform to a ritual that binds and controls him. He looses his freedom on an issue which the Bible does not in itself even forbid.

    Mark 2: 27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.

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