Liberty or License?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, June 6, 2014 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

One of the amazing things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it is not about rules and regulations. It is about a relationship with God. When we talk about what Jesus did for us on the cross we often get the picture of freedom. While we are in sin, it is like we are in a prison cell awaiting execution, though Satan makes it very comfortable while we wait. Then Jesus comes and takes our punishment that we rightfully deserve and sets us free. We are free from the penalty of sin, and we are free from the law. And we have liberty to live.

With the liberty, everything is permissible, but at the same time, not everything edifies. I have heard many people say, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” And where I see this the most lately is on Facebook by people who are want to push for legalizing drugs like marijuana. Let me be very upfront and honest here. This is not about liberty, but about license. They are not looking at freedom in Christ to do without sin, but they are looking at justifying serving their own desires. I want to make very clear that liberty does not mean you are able to do whatever you want, whenever you want. God gives us a structure that is not meant to restrain us from doing what we want, but to enable us to do exceedingly more than we could without that structure. If one wishes to sail the oceans, he must first confine himself within the structure of a ship, because swimming on your own will not get you far.

Many people will use Paul’s statement in Romans 5:20-21 to justify one’s own sin. They will say that because where sin abounds, grace abounds even more, so let’s sin all we want so we can get more grace. It does not work that way. Paul knew exactly where this line of thought goes and addressed in the next verses. We are to be dead to sin. We are not to be inclined to lean that direction any further.

Now, can we truly be living in liberty if all we are doing is looking for loopholes, for license, to continue sinning? That is actually worse than just living as a sinner with no regard for God’s laws. Jesus told the church of Laodicea to be warm or cold, but not lukewarm. He wants us to be all in or all out. There, he can work with us. If we claim to follow Christ but are just using the Bible to justify ourselves, we have it all wrong. I’m talking to myself on this one too. How often do I sin, and I find a verse in Scripture that does not explicitly shut the door on it, and then just think “I’m a Christian and God’s got it covered”? I’ve thought that way. Not good.

So how do we find balance in all this? How do we tell when liberty to do anything becomes a license to sin? What clues do we have? Here are three.

1) Is it good for you? Don’t think, “Is there anything wrong with it?” That is asking for license. Ask, “Is there anything good I can gain from it?” Some people have personal convictions against seeing certain movies or playing certain games. And that’s okay. That is between them and God. But I can see some value in seeing some of the R-rated movies or reading some of the popular secular books, so you can more easily engage the culture. But in doing so, are you seeking to know how to engage the culture or are you using that as a guise to justify pleasing your sinful self? Remember, no condemnation here. Just think about it.

2) Is it good for others? Jesus warns us not to lead anyone to stumble. Paul tells us that in all we do, do it for the glory of God but at the same time, don’t do anything that would be a stumbling block for others. If it is fine for you to drink an occasional beer, then drink. There is no condemnation in Christ. But if you are hosting someone or are a guest with someone and that someone does not drink for personal reasons, then for their sake, do not drink in their presence.

3) Do not be ruled by it. Sin has a powerful hook that leads to addictions very quickly. We have liberty to drink, watch movies, get on the Internet, play games, and do all kinds of things. But can you live without them? And if you step away from them, how long it is until your brain starts to wonder what is going on while you are away? I can talk about drinking and gaming easily enough, but let me ask you who are often on Facebook (that includes me) or those who text. Can you power down your devices, go into the woods where there is no signal, and not wonder what is going on in the outside world? Think on it.

Liberty or license? I can dig a lot deeper on this, but I am running out of space. There is no condemnation for those who are under Christ. That is liberty. But that liberty is not intended to give us license to sin. Hebrews 10:26-27 tells us that after we are saved and we continue to sin, there will be no more sacrifice and to expect judgment. This is not time to mess around. We need to get serious. If we want to keep sinning after we are saved, I would put into question if we are actually a Christian in Name Only. The liberty Christ gives us is freedom from sin, not freedom to sin. Do not confuse them.