Liberty depends on the Spirit of the Lord

2 Corinthians 3:17 “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Quick question: what do you think of when you think of “liberty”? Most of us think of being free from the unsolicited and unwelcomed use of force against us by others. Take a look at the following short video. It outlines the concepts of liberty in an easy-to-understand way…

Notice that many of the concepts of liberty as outlined in this video are also outlined in Scripture…

1. “You shall have no other gods before me.

2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

6. “You shall not murder.

7. “You shall not commit adultery.

8. “You shall not steal.

9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” — Exodus 20:3-17

Notice how the second half of the 10 Commandments deals exclusively with respecting the rights of others (as outlined in the video). The violation of these rights is a direct assault on liberty. Notice, too, how the key to respecting the second half of the 10 Commandments is contained in the first half. A proper relationship with God will foster a proper relationship with our fellow man. You might say, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

See how that works?

Jesus even condensed these 10 commandments into 2 for us…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and Prophets.” — Matthew 22:37-40

We live in a world where liberty is assaulted daily. Governments and criminals (but I repeat myself) murder, steal and enslave constantly. What is the answer? The Gospel. It is only through the proclamation of the Gospel that men are set free from their sin and enabled by the Holy Spirit to love God and, in turn, love others. Remember…

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

A biblical response to terror

Recently a group of ISIS terrorists beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. The worldly response is to retaliate. The political response is to “wipe them off the face of the map.” The burning desire of the flesh is to seek vengeance.

But, in this video, we see the response of another Coptic Christian from Egypt. Two of his brothers were among the men who were beheaded by ISIS. In a video interview he demonstrates the biblical response…

Right and Wrong by C.S. Lewis

The “Perfect” Christmas Gift (a repost)

Note: This was originally posted on December 10, 2012

ThidRabbiThe Old Testament Law set an impossibly high standard. There is no aspect of life that is untouched by God’s Law, keeping it would be a monumental task. Then Jesus came…

… and made it more difficult.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus makes the impossibly high standard even more impossible (if that’s even possible). The Law forbid murder, yet Jesus said anyone who is even angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. The Law forbid adultery, yet Jesus said anyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery in his heart. The Law outlined righteous behavior, yet Jesus pointed out that to keep the Law out of obligation is to fail. True righteousness comes from within, and sinful man has only one nature — sinful.

You’d think Jesus would cut everyone some slack. Mankind was already having a tough enough time just trying to keep the letter of the law, but keeping the spirit of it, too? Come on! And yet, rather than cut any slack, Jesus insisted the standard was set.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:17-20

You need to understand that the scribes and Pharisees were basically full-time law keepers. It was pretty much their job. And Jesus is telling everyone that the standard for entering the kingdom of heaven is to do better than the scribes and Pharisees — a tall order, indeed.

Then, Jesus takes it up yet another notch…

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” — Matthew 5:48

The standard has officially reached the level of “absurd.” No one is perfect like God. And, if Jesus is correct when he says this is the standard for entering heaven (and he is), then the question becomes…

Who can ever enter heaven?

The answer is in Christmas.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” — Galatians 4:4-5

Notice Paul mentions that Christ was born “under the law.” This is crucial. You see, we all failed in keeping the law. We didn’t even come close to keeping the impossibly high standard God set before us. None of us rate entry into the kingdom of heaven. So why does it matter that Christ was born “under the law”?

So he could keep it. Notice again what Jesus said in Matthew 5…

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” — Matthew 5:17

He came to fulfill the law — to perfectly keep every, single aspect of it. He is perfect like the heavenly Father. He not only rates entry into the kingdom of heaven, he is the King.

So, why should we care? Well, remember how Jesus said “…unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”? Guess what. Our righteousness CAN exceed theirs because Christ transfers HIS righteousness to our account. It’s called “imputed righteousness.”

When Jesus Christ was crucified he not only took upon himself the sins of his people, he also gave to them his righteousness. He bore God’s wrath for our transgressions against God’s law and gave to us his perfect fulfillment of the law. He stood before God as guilty so that we might stand before God justified.

“For our sake he [God the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” — 2 Corinthians 5:21

Christ’s righteousness is the perfect Christmas gift.

The Message Goes On

The World’s Last Night by C.S. Lewis

Government oversight of God’s Kingdom?

First-century Christians were persecuted by Rome as “enemies of the state” — a charge that would have been overlooked if those Christians had just been willing to share the loyalty they had for Christ with Caesar. Rome didn’t mind if you worshipped God, as long as you paid proper respect (i.e. worship) to Caesar, too.

Empire10To their credit, many of those early Christians would have rather died than share one ounce of the adoration, to which only God is entitled, with another. We know this because many of them did exactly that — they died at the hands of a secular government that demanded of them a thing they just could not give…

…their absolute loyalty.

It is a situation that has survived to this very day — Fast forward to the 20th century.

World War I put a fresh emphasis on the loyalty one “owed” to his or her nation state. That loyalty was absolute. You must answer your “nation’s call.” And, if answering that call costs you your life, well, that’s only appropriate — you owe it.

Later, with the rise of more and more totalitarian governments like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Communist China, we see this demand on loyalty increase. And, just like their spiritual forefathers in the Roman Empire, Christians found themselves in a difficult position.

Communist governments closely monitored religion. Sermons were subject to state approval and censorship. Only state-sanctioned churches were allowed. You could participate in your chosen religion only as long as it did not interfere with your first priority — absolute loyalty to the state.

You see, everything was viewed only in light of its value to the state — including people. Christians were particularly dangerous, because they recognized something — someone — as greater than the state. Since that kind of attitude was intolerable, these Christians had to be dealt with. Those who refused government oversight found themselves in prison. Many were tortured. Many died. Just like in Rome.

This should come as no surprise, really. The 20th century theologian and writer, Francis Schaeffer, outlined this quite well…

“We must realize that the Reformation worldview leads in the direction of government freedom. But the humanist worldview with inevitable certainty leads in the direction of statism. This is so because humanists, having no god, must put something at the center, and it is inevitably society, government, or the state.”

Fast forward to the present.

china_church_stifled_1148038826_855986In China Christians are subject to the same kind of scrutiny as the Christians who lived in communist countries in Eastern Europe. There are state-approved churches. Other churches are outlawed because they have no government oversight. Everyone is expected to owe their loyalty first to the state — to Caesar.

At this point, American Christians frequently will say, “I’m so glad that isn’t true here.” Or “I’m glad we live in a free country where that sort of thing couldn’t happen.”

Really?

Please consider…

There are those who will look at evidence like this and say it’s not big deal. After all, we don’t have a state-approved church. We don’t have federal government officials attending services in order to scrutinize the content like they do in China.

No, we don’t. But, in China the Christians are actively resisting the encroachment of the state into the church. In America many of our churches freely and enthusiastically embrace statism in their services — openly glorifying another.

Dave Black, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has cautioned against this kind of thing before…

“Our God is a color blind God. Our God is a dollar blind God. Our God is a status blind God. Our God is a nation blind God. To say or to imply that America is somehow a “holy nation” is, in my humble estimation, blasphemous. The household of God (to which I belong by God’s grace) is the only holy nation on earth. It includes in its membership all Christians of all ages, all nationalities, all levels of social strata, all levels of intelligence. The lesson is clear. From the moment of my conversion to Christ, and from the moment of your conversion to Christ, we have been in fellowship with every other Christian in the world, be they American or Ethiopian or Chinese or Iraqi or Iranian. The Bible tells us “we are all one in Christ Jesus” — and that includes our guest speaker this morning who came to us from southern India.

It is here, on the national level, that we are called upon to demonstrate to a lost world the reality of our fellowship. We are bound together by a unity that goes far beyond mere geography or nationality let alone hobby or personal interest or political affiliation or denomination. Only when we learn to see ourselves as this kind of a holy nation, only when we learn to treasure that kind of fellowship, only when we experience this kind of trans-national love, will we fulfill our vocation as saints.

Beware of the sin of nationalism, my friends. A Christian is a citizen of a heavenly commonwealth because he or she belongs to the holy nation of the people of God. This, and this alone, is the only Christian nation. Other nations may contain Christians, and they may be influenced to one degree or another by Christian principles, but there will never be a Christian nation except the people redeemed by the blood of Christ.”

I pray that God will grant the church in America the ability to recognize the sinfulness of nationalism and the courage to resist it. We are, indeed, citizens of a heavenly commonwealth — one that is NOT subject to the scrutiny of any earthly government.

Let’s act like it.

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