[forthright] Free in Christ

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sat, 04 Mar 2006 22:06:42 -0300
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross


COLUMN: Field Notes

Free in Christ
by Michael E. Brooks

"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later
times some will fall away form the faith,
paying attention to deceitful spirits and
doctrines of demons, ... men who forbid
marriage and advocate abstaining from foods
which God has created to be gratefully shared
in by those who believe and know the truth.
For everything created by God is good, and
nothing is to be rejected if it is received
with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means
of the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:1,
2-5).

A Bangladeshi Christian family is planning a
memorial gathering for their father, who died
a little over one year ago. As the gentlemen
was a long-time, prominent member of his
community, several hundred people are
expected, including those of Christian,
Hindu, and Muslim faiths. In order to deal
with the complications caused by different
food customs of the various religions, meals
will be served on two separate days, one
featuring beef, the other pork. Only those
whose faith permits a particular meat will
attend on the day it is served. 

For those of us who have lived all our lives
in a culture influenced for centuries by the
teachings of Jesus Christ, it is sometimes
difficult to appreciate just how
revolutionary those teachings were when first
given. And we may forget how revolutionary
they still are when introduced into cultures
based on other philosophical or religious
principles. We may also fail to realize how
liberating an influence Christianity has had
on the world.

Much of the world is preoccupied with strict,
careful examination of all their food and
many other aspects of daily life, in order to
ensure they do not violate detailed
regulations and thus be defiled, offending
God and their neighbors.

What a contrast it is to boldly say,
"everything created by God is good."
Christians can eat without minute
examination, without undue worry. "Nothing is
to be rejected.” It is no wonder that the
Holy Spirit calls Christianity, "the perfect
law of liberty" (James 1:25). Christianity's
precepts do not burden believers, but rather
set them free to do what is good and right (1
John 5:3).

Conversely, however, Christian liberty is not
license to do whatever one wants. Liberty is
exercised within the parameters of God's
truth and spirit. "There is therefore now no
condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,
who do not walk according to the flesh, but
according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:1). "This
is the message we have heard from him and
announce to you, that God is light, and in
him there is no darkness at all. If we say
that we have fellowship with him and yet walk
in the darkness, we lie and do not practice
the truth" (1 John 1:5-6). "What shall we say
then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace
may increase? May it never be! How shall we
who died to sin still live in it" (Romans
6:1-2)?

These and many other clear New Testament
passages teach that there are limits to
Christian behavior. But observing those
limits is not a burdensome, imprisoning
process. Christians are free to do that which
is right and good, and they do it because it
is their nature to live so. They are
transformed from the carnal, sinful nature of
the old man, to a new creature, "created in
righteousness and true holiness”, made new by
a change of mind / heart (Ephesians 4:23-24;
Romans 12:2).

One finds himself doing what he desires to
do, but also discovers that what is desires
to do is that which is right and good, in
keeping with the will of God. This is true
freedom.

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