Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Christian Freedom part III

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?  These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. – Colossians 2:20-23

Christian Freedom has been abused and misused since the beginning of the Gospels.  We are free, but what does that mean?  We’re going to continue to explore what our freedom in Christ really means.

As Christians we do not have to submit ourselves to the law like the Jews did.  We do not need to follow the strict dietary laws that the Jews did.  We do not have to submit to the festivals the Sabbath day like the Jews did.  We do not have to live like hermits to be saved. There is no need to worship angels or follow a messenger.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the laws.

When we accept Christ, we die with Him and are made new.  We are no longer of this world and therefore do not have to submit to the rule of law.  C.H. Spurgeon commented that it would be proper to translate the elemental spiritual forces of this world as, the rule-ridden world.  We are free from the Mosaic Law and philosophical rules.

If we are free from the law, then why would we want to return?  There are so many rules, don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t read this, don’t watch that.  Here’s an example of what it means to follow the rules to the letter.  The Jewish Sabbath begins at sunset Friday night.  In order to protect the Sabbath, they calculate when the sunset will be, and for them the Sabbath begins 15 minutes before sunset.  They put a hedge around the rule of the Sabbath to protect them from breaking the rule.

Here’s another example, Exodus 23:19 says, “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”  To protect this rule, the Jewish people will not eat a dairy product with a meat.  A Jewish person adhering to this law will not eat a cheeseburger because it mixes dairy with meat.  In Israel, there are burger joints with a dividing line through the restaurant.  Why the need for the dividing line?  On one side of the restaurant, they will serve ice cream and other treats.  On the other side, they will serve hamburgers.  If a patron is eating an ice cream cone, they are not to cross the line to greet a friend eating a burger.

For Christians, these laws are absolutely worthless.  Christianity must not be defined by what we don’t do!

Putting a hedge around the rules are merely human commands and teachings.  This is what is at the heart of the matter.  The Pharisees knew the rules; they also knew how to break the rules without really breaking them.  They followed the rules with their actions, but never with their hearts.  All the things that the Pharisees did looked good on the outside, but on the inside they were as good as whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27).

Not only do people impose worthless rules on themselves and live in Spartan conditions to show off their spirituality, some also practice mortification of the flesh.  They beat their body with whips, they wear really itchy clothing, and some have even swept floors with their tongue all to practice their spirituality.  But that is entirely worthless and senseless.  There’s no need for Christians to go to that extreme length.

Rules like not eating cheeseburgers (and especially not my favorite, the bacon cheeseburger), extreme self denial, and self mortification are dead and gone, they have perished.  These rules will not help us to restrain ourselves from indulging in sin and they won’t help us get closer to God.

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