SLAVERY IS NORMAL

In this country where freedom is cherished and exalted, it should bother us that so many of our people are still enslaved.
Slavery for us has become so common that we barely realize its devastating effects.
We must recognize the cause of slavery before we are ever able to end this horrendous practice.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Gal 5:1

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When we come to Christ, we are set free.

Instead of telling us what we are free from, Paul tells us what we are free for.

We have been freed so that we can experience what freedom is all about.

Many people are like the pharisees in their thinking about freedom.

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jn 8:33

This was their response when Jesus said you can know the truth and truth will set you free.

At the very moment they said that, they revealed their obstinancy, for they were under Roman rule, not Jewish. They were slaves to Rome.

In our country, where freedom is cherished, exalted and honored, there are still multitudes who are enslaved.

At one level, we can think of those who are enslaved by their addictions. That is a slavery from which it is difficult to extricate one’s self.

There are other forms of slavery though.

Do you remember Dolly Parton’s song “9 to 5”? There is a slavery often—but not always—enforced by our need to make a living.

Many feel enslaved by their job, because they are not doing what they love.

They are just doing.

However, none of this is what Paul was talking about.

He was talking about religious slavery.

And in our country of the land of the free, this type of slavery is all too common.

In fact, many see it as the normal way for Christians to live.

What is religious slavery? And what does the freedom to be free look like?

The churches of Galatia to whom Paul wrote were not made up of Jewish people like many of the other churches.

These people essentially had no religion other than the possibility of the pagan idolatry so often encountered in the Roman provinces.

As these folks responded to the gospel message and churches were established, things began to change.

Jews who had converted to Christianity had a hard time letting go of the way they had been trained to please God.

Rules and Regulations were all they knew about how to live a religious life.

Many of these Jewish converts apparently would go around to other churches and try to introduce their legalistic form of Christianity to any who would listen.

Paul, however, was vehemently opposed to any form of law-keeping for the Christian believer.

His rationale was that you were either justified by faith or you were justified by the law.

He went to great lengths in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians that the law could not bring us to justification before God.

Only faith could do that.

The fact of the matter is that the law produces sin. It is what drives us to sin.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Rom 3:20

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
Rom 7:8

Sin produces its own kind of slavery.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Rom 6:20

Since the law reveals and causes us to sin, we should be aware that any form of legalism is dangerous to the life of faith.

Legalism is the idea that we need to obey certain things in order to be pleasing to God.

We should be doing this and not doing that, and God will be pleased with us.

This is where it gets really sticky and tricky for the believer.

Doesn’t the Bible say that we should not lie, but speak the truth at all times?

Yes. Of course, it does.

Doesn’t the Bible say that we should not get drunk, but be sober-minded?

Yes. Of course, it does.

Well, aren’t these types of things rules and regulations that we should obey?

No, they are not.

I’m going to take a side road here for a moment, or as some of you say, a rabbit trail.

But, trust me, I will come back to this.

The Baptists have a doctrine that many have labeled “once saved, always saved.”

The teaching is called the eternal security of the believer.

Many people object to this teaching not so much from a biblical basis, but from a seemingly logical one.

License to Sin?

They say that this doctrine just gives people a license to sin.

Now, I have only been walking with the Lord for a few short years, but in those 50+ years I have yet to meet anyone—sinner or saint—who needed a so-called license to sin.

The thinking in that objection is that the law will keep people on the straight and narrow.

Really?

When was the last time you heard of someone saying, “I was about to steal that car, but then I remembered that the commandments say to not steal.”?

The law—any law—is only obeyed by law-abiding citizens, not criminals—or in our religious sense, sinners.

There is no law that will keep a sinner from sinning or a criminal from crime.

It is a mistake, then, to think that we need laws, rules and regulations to make sure that a Christian remains a Christian.

Laws, rules and regulations are necessary for a civilized society, or to run a group smoothly, but they are of no value to one’s eternal well-being.

You did not become a Christian by trying to obey God’s rules and regulations.

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
Gal 3:2

You became a Christian when the Lord opened your heart and mind to receive and believe the gospel.

That’s it. That’s all.

And Paul says that the way you began is the way you continue—by faith.

Anything else will set you up for trouble.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written,
“Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things
written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Gal 3:10

If you think that we need to rely on the law to keep ourselves or our loved ones saved, you will find yourself in all kinds of confusion and turmoil.

It is simply not possible to obey the law for righteousness.

We did not follow the law in order to be saved, to become a Christian; and we cannot follow the law in order to stay saved or to please God.

In fact, it is only faith that pleases God.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, …
Heb 11:6a

QUESTION—If all this is true, then why do we have all the things in the NT telling us what we should do and be?

Good question.

Allow me to use a weak analogy from the sports world.

Running a mile in less than 4 minutes was a goal many runners had.

It seemed to be an impossible goal.

But, Roger Bannister broke that barrier on May 6, 1954 with a time of 3:59.4.

His record lasted only 46 days as other runners were able to remove the mental barrier against a human running that fast.

In order to achieve this goal, there were benchmarks along the way.

How fast would the runner have to be at the quarter-mile mark?

No more than one minute.

How fast at the half-mile mark?

No more than two minutes.

Those were benchmarks by which they were able to measure how they were doing in pursuit of their goal.

All the things we are told in the NT about how to live, how to think, how to be, are just that.

They are benchmarks by which we can measure our progress towards becoming like Jesus.

Jesus is our standard.
He is our goal.

until we all attain to the unity of the faith
and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to mature manhood,
to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
Eph 4:13

It is only in Jesus that we find our true freedom.

It is only in Jesus that we are able to live for God.

It is only in Jesus that we are freed from any guilt for our sins.

and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Act 13:39

The law cannot bring freedom. It can only bring us into the bondage of slavery.

Many Christians still think that we are required to obey the law in some form.

There are those who believe we need to pay attention to Moses.

There are those who believe we should pay attention to all the things mentioned in the NT as standards for the Christian life.

They judge others by these standards, and if they see someone not obeying one of them, they question whether they are truly born again.

We are to be those who do not insist on any type of behavior as being necessary for the Christian life, because no specific behavior will either get you in or keep you out.

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Gal 2:16

So, when you stand before God and He asks you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”, your only response should be—JESUS.

For there is salvation in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven given among men
by which we must be saved.”
Act 4:12

MIXTURE = LAW + GRACE

People are being set free from bondages in many forms, the greatest of which is fear as was produced by their adherence to religious rules and regulations. Many are also being freed from anger and despair.

An understanding of the grace of God and His everlasting love for all His creation is gathering power around the world.

It is a beautiful thing to see.

People are being set free from bondages in many forms, the greatest of which is fear as was produced by their adherence to religious rules and regulations. Many are also being freed from anger and despair.

All these are being brought into the glorious freedom of being able to love as they are loved. Understanding and having the experience of being loved without conditions—without being dependent upon their good behavior being greater than their bad—is giving them permission to live as God originally intended.

However, as has been true since the time of Jesus with Judas,
there is danger lurking in the shadows.

Even as the apostle Paul wrote in more than one letter, a return to the legalism of law-keeping is at the door, ready to crash through the slightest opening and steal this wonderful freedom.

Many of our teachers in this current “grace movement” have sounded the alarm, and many followers have also picked up the call. Everyone wants the message to remain pure—without adulteration.

Any admixture to the pure grace teaching is seen as dangerous, because it truly is such.

As a result, though, there is also danger in the watchfulness.

There has been no clear definition of what is meant by “law.” For many, it has boiled down to the place that any suggestion of something that should be done is now labeled “law” and given the curse of anathema.

Let’s think this through for a few moments.

Is it law in opposition to grace when you tell your child, “Do not play in the street?” Does “pure grace” lean completely on the Holy Spirit to direct the child?

When the doctor says, “You should exercise more,” do you reject the advice because it came from an attitude of “law” as a requirement?

“Guard your heart…” (Pro. 4:23) is a straight out imperative. Do we ignore it because it is written as a command?

Yet in our “grace camp” there are those who seem to bristle at any phrase, statement, or even innuendo which appears as “law.” Requirements are out, they say. “I don’t HAVE to do anything.”

On the surface, that is absolutely correct. You do not HAVE to do anything. But, that is nothing new. You were never under any requirement. You may have chosen to obey whatever, but the choice was always and still is yours.

So, that is not the issue here.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest, or most important commandment, He quoted Deuteronomy and gave the two “love laws” of God and neighbor. However, we tend to either miss or gloss over the full quote from the fifth book of the Bible.

In Mark’s account, neither did Jesus miss the full quote. It begins with a command—“Hear, O Israel!”

Some have pointed out that there is no word for ‘obey’ in Hebrew. The word we translate as ‘obey’ is the word for ‘hear.’

This is what parents mean when they scold their child with “You’re not listening to me!” The child knows that they are ‘listening’ and can repeat every word you just said. What they are not doing is obeying.

This is where it gets a little sticky.

We don’t want to be told to do anything by anyone. That is the current mantra of many in the “grace movement.” However, it was in our DNA long before we came into grace. It is at the heart of any and all of our rebellion to anything in any form.

What are we to do? How do we respond? How do we avoid, then, any mixture of law in our message of grace and love?

There are no easy answers.

It may appear to be a conundrum, but we are not impaled on the horns of a dilemma if we will simply take time to think.

It has been fashionable for a few years to claim that the Decalogue as given by Moses was not “The Ten Suggestions.” In reality, though, they are—in a manner of speaking.

The so-called Ten Commandments are written in the indicative mood, which means they “indicate” something. They indicate how the believer acts.

Instead of reading “You may not,” read them as “You won’t.”

One who loves will not steal or tell lies or commit adultery. It doesn’t enter into their mind. They are not focused on what they should or shouldn’t do. It simply IS.

There are many in the grace camp who would do away with any part of the Bible that seems to indicate a ‘law of requirement.’ (Yes, there are some who have done away with the Bible altogether. This is not for them.)

James, the Lord’s brother, is credited with having written the letter that bears his name. His words are often put in contrast over against the words of the apostle Paul as if James is an outright legalist and should be ignored by any who are coming into grace.

(Did you notice the irony there? “…should be…”)

Is he a legalist?

Is it not possible that we read his words with a jaundiced eye?

When James writes, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only” do we ignore
Pro. 4:23 on the basis that James is a legalist and I have no requirement to be a doer?

Many will say, “I refuse to be brought under any form of law.”

Is that really where we want to stand?

When Paul was arguing against allowing the law, he was opposing legalism. He was against any exercise of effort on our part to be “right with God.”

In this we should stand firm.

Legalism is the law of requirement to make one righteous.

When Paul writes that we should “speak the truth in love,” (Eph. 4:15) is that not a command? Should we avoid that because it is written as a law? Or, should we not rather view it as it is—a principle.

We use the term “law of gravity” which means there is a principle of gravity which must be considered if we want to do certain things.

LOVE is just such a ‘law.’ It is a principle by which we operate. “Speaking the truth” is an indication of how love will look in that situation. “Being at peace with all” is an indication of what love looks like in the world.

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
(1Jo 3:18)
Is this a legalistic command which should be avoided?

If we have the correct words without the corresponding actions we are nothing but a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

The so-called commands of the New Testament are basically indicators of what love looks like. Use them as a benchmark to mark the level of your growth in love.

Let us get over our fear of mixture in the grace message, because fear has torment and is not a part of love.

Let us begin to hear with ears that are tuned to what is being said, not necessarily how it is being said. As humans, we are limited in our language—especially those of us who speak the English language with all its limitations of a multitude of definitions for a single word.

Yes.

We are love personified,
and
there is no fear in love.