I became a Christian in 1973 during what is commonly referred to as the “Jesus Movement.” Many of the people who were saved through faith in Christ during that time came out of the “hippie” movement.
Whether or not they were actually hippies, many people back then had the attitude of “we are free to do our own thing.” For many of them that kind of thinking carried over into their Christian walk, and affected other Christians.
One of the foundational truths of biblical Christianity is that we are saved by God’s grace. We are totally forgiven of sin, and we are given the gift of eternal life because we have put our faith in the Person of Christ and His perfect finished work on the cross, as revealed in the resurrection.
We are set free from sin only by the Person and work of Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can add or need to add to what Christ has done for us to receive these glorious gifts of forgiveness and eternal life.
But that act of setting us free is often greatly misunderstood.
Many Christians have been falsely taught that since they are “set free” they can live their life any way they want. They rationalize since they are free they’re no longer under God’s law. This thinking greatly impacts the choices they make. The problem is, nothing could be further from the truth.
It is true that we have been set free from the condemnation of sin, and set free from the consequence of separation from God because of sin. But the Bible is equally clear that although we are no longer slaves to sin, we are now slaves to righteousness. This thought of being a slave is one many Christians don’t like, but Romans 6:18 makes it extremely clear: We are to obey the Lord Jesus.
In Luke 6:46 Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me Lord and do not do what I say?” Christian, are you allowed to lie or to steal? Are you allowed by Christ to commit adultery or murder? The New Testament makes it clear that you’re not allowed to do any of those things. In fact Ephesians 6:1-2 not only commands children to obey their parents, but the command ties it to the 5th commandment of honoring your parents.
What this and many New Testament passages say is that although we have been set free from the bondage to serve sin, we are released from that to serve God as slaves of righteousness. In other words, God commands us to obey Him in ways that glorify Him and leads to righteousness in our lives.
The bottom line for the Christian is that they are not free to live anyway they want. They are not free to quit gathering with other saints in worship, as has become the habit of some. (Hebrews 10:25) They are not free to ignore or break the laws of the land just because they don’t like them, unless of course those laws would force you to sin.
The clear truth is that we are obligated to obey God in any and every situation, regardless of the cost or inconvenience to us. Romans 8:12 makes it clear that we are under obligation to God to live according to His ways, and not according to our fleshly or self-driven desires.
Sadly, many Christians like to refer to what I am writing about as “legalism.” Again, nothing could be further from the truth. We are obligated to live as God calls us to live, not so we can be saved, but because we are saved. Matthew 5:16 “commands” you to let your light shine for Christ. You can choose to disobey God, but you do not have the right to disobey.
Why do I share this with you? Because as I mentioned, many Christians have been taught or have come to believe that they can live as they choose now that they are saved. This is a lie from the darkness. As children of God we are expected to obey God’s laws in order to honor God and point others toward Christ.
Understand you have been set free, set free to honor and obey the Lord. In fact the Bible makes it clear that prior to Christ, you could not obey Him, but now, because of your new nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit, you are able to do what God desires you to do.
Jesus said that apart from Him you can do nothing. We are told to follow and imitate Jesus. John 5:19 and 12:49-50 make it abundantly clear that Jesus only and always did what the Father wanted Him to do and to say, and we are to live our lives in the same way.
Again, there are those who want you to think that I am a legalist, but I am not; I strive to be an obedient follower of Christ. As a child of God you are set free to obey Christ, but you are never free to disobey Him. The idea that you can live like you want as a Christian is from the world, not from God’s word.
To trust God and to obey God is the only way a Christian should live. Reject the selfish individualism of the world, and embrace the selflessness of obeying Christ so that others may see your Godly life, and glorify your Father in heaven.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.