When our daughters were babies, my wife and I pretty much told them everything that they needed to do or not do. We told them when to eat, what to eat, what to wear, what they couldn’t touch and what they couldn’t do. Now that they are older we are giving them more responsibilities. Making some decisions on their own is a part of their new responsibilities. There are still boundaries of things they can do and can’t do but in those boundaries there are any number of decisions they get to make. Our desire is that they will take what they know about our likes and dislikes and add that to what they have learned and make right decisions.
Something similar happens to us in the Christian life. When we are first saved we are like spiritual babies. As such, we need to be told what things we are supposed to do and what things we aren’t supposed to do. But as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ there comes a time when grow beyond being told everything to do or not do and learn to make right choices on our own. This is a part of Christian maturity and it’s also a part of living out our liberty in Christ.
Yesterday we saw that every decision in life is not determined by a decisive thou shalt or, thou shalt not. Since this is the case, we have to learn how to make decisions in the absence of a clear command of Scripture. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. If you believe the Bible is true you accept that certain things are always wrong and there are some things that are always right. Everything else falls into the area of Christian Liberty.
(wrong) | — LIBERTY — | (right)
How can we know for sure what we should do when there is not a literal command in the Bible? If the Bible does not command us to do something, and it there is no, “Thou shalt not…” it is a matter of Christian liberty. Here are some principles that can guide is in exercising our Christian liberty. I’ve put these principles in question form to make them more personal for us.
Would I do this if Jesus was physically with me?
When we start to discuss this issue the most common thing we are told to ask ourselves is “What would Jesus do?” That makes good sense and has some Biblical backing. “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6 (NLT) The idea of following Jesus example is clearly a Biblical principle.
But answering that question sometimes is a challenge. Just what would Jesus do in many of the situations we face today? We know that Jesus is our perfect example. However because of the differences between Jesus and us, it is often hard to know for sure WWJD? We can be sure that He wouldn’t do the things God said not to do, and He would do the things God said to do, but what about those other things? What about the questionable things that fall into the area of Christian liberty?
The truth is we can’t always know for sure what Jesus would do. That is why I think a better question is “If Jesus were physically with me would I do this?” The Bible clearly tells us that once we are saved Jesus is always with us (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5). Since we know that spiritually Jesus is always with us, we should live like He is always physically with us.
When you are trying to decide if you should take part in a certain activity ask yourself if you would do that if Jesus was physically standing next to you. Would you watch that show, listen to that song, read that book, look at that website, or take part in that activity? If you don’t think you would do it if Jesus was physically with you, perhaps you shouldn’t do it at all.
Will this hinder my relationship with Jesus?
One of the hard lessons to learn about exercising our liberty is that just because I can do something doesn’t mean that I should. Just because we are allowed to do something doesn’t mean this thing is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23). There may well be things that are acceptable for us to do in our Christian liberty but actually harm our relationship with Jesus. Will this exercise of my Christian liberty hinder my relationship with Jesus?
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV)
A weight in this context means anything that hinders or slows you down in your relationship with Jesus, but is not necessarily a sin. That is what makes this so hard to do. Doing this takes a great deal of maturity and a huge desire to live for Jesus. Really what you are doing is checking your life to see if there is anything that is hindering you in your relationship Jesus, and then letting it go whether it is sinful or not.
What are some weights that you need to release? Honestly I cannot tell you what things may hinder your relationship with Jesus. One of the reasons I can’t tell you what things might hurt your relationship with Jesus is that what hurts your relationship with Jesus, be a weight to you, might not hurt my relationship with Jesus. This means I can’t exactly look at what someone else is doing and determine it’s okay. I have to look within myself to see if this exercise of Christian liberty hurts MY relationship with Jesus. It could be any number of things. But we must ask ourselves if doing this activity would hurt our relationship with Jesus.
Will doing this keep me from coming to Church?
Will it prevent me from being active in serving Jesus?
Will it take away from my Bible study?
Will it prevent me from spending time in prayer?
Will it cause me to neglect my family?
These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself to see if something is hurting/will hurt your relationship with Jesus. Whatever your weight is you need to let it go. The longer you carry a weight the heavier it gets and the more it slows you down. The time will surely come to where we either determine to lighten our load so we can run the race (continue our in relationship with Jesus), or we decide to keep our load and quit the race. We will not indefinitely run the race while carrying weights.
Are there ways you are exercising your Christian liberty that you wouldn’t do if Jesus was physically with you? Are there ways you are exercising your Christian liberty that is hurting your relationship with Jesus? If so, what do you need to do?
We’ll look at more questions tomorrow.