It is for freedom that we have been set free by Christ (Galatians 5:1).
In 1 Timothy 4, Paul teaches that some believers have added rules to the Christian walk, their idea of what it means to be good. They’re suggesting (1) that holiness means not getting married so you can devote yourself to Christ and (2) that some foods should be avoided, in order to be in right relationship with God. I don’t know about you, but this sounds really familiar.
So often, we enslave ourselves to rules and regulations that aren’t of God. We can know that they aren’t of God because they don’t agree with what we find in His Word.
- For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).
- …at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace (Romans 11:5-6, ESV).
- When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7, ESV).
In individuals, adding rules to God’s Word is legalism—creating hurdles that stand between us and God and saying that, in order to be in right standing with Him, we must do this or that.
In the Body of Christ, leaders who teach that we must do works to earn God’s mercy are guilty of heresy. Entire churches are founded on heresies that preach that you must work to receive forgiveness, that you won’t be found acceptable (and might lose your salvation) if you don’t abide by certain rules or if you don’t do specific acts or behaviors that they have deemed good.
This can be confusing:
On the one hand, God calls us to holy living (1 Peter 1:15).
On the other hand, we fail at holy living every day. But there’s a blessing in it: Failure keeps us humble when we know that all that we have been given from God is a free gift. Failure should keep us grateful and also make us kind to others who fail.
So, if God has given us freedom and created good things for us to enjoy, what should be our response?
- Love. Any acts of obedience are not meant to add to our holiness scorecard. We are called to love God and love others — this is the whole law summed up in two commands (Matthew 22:34-40). And as a refresher, we can visit 1 Corinthians 13 to read about God’s standard for the law of love.
- Gratitude. Let’s spend our time feeling grateful for all of God’s gifts and spend our words saying, “Thank you.” Gratitude is good for you!
The Creator’s act of giving and the believer’s act of receiving (and enjoying) the gifts of creation are both part of a conscious communication process meant to strengthen the bond between Father and child.
Is your marriage a mess? Remember it is God’s gift to you; so if you love Him, God is in it and He is making it holy and good and you can be grateful. Is your heart a mess? Remember you have been created by God for good and He calls you a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is at work to redeem you and make you new and you can be grateful.
God is at work, making His creation good, and He is making it good for you! Remember that faith is believing in what you can’t (yet) see (Hebrews 11:1). God makes good things for us to enjoy and He makes them holy. Our job is not to question and complain, but to thank.
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