10/08/2004

TOTAL FREEDOM

Great comments made by all on my questions about freedom. Here is where I give my opinion on freedom, and you all (or many) will call me backslidden, and on my way to a great big fall.

Freedom isn’t what we have so often thought of it to be. It is not “living in a free country”, or being free to choose. Freedom has for me just one meaning. It means that regardless of whatever I do from this point on, I am righteous before God.

There are two natures at war within my body. My sin nature, and the Spirit. They are at war with each other constantly. When I walk by the flesh, every single thing I do is sin. When I walk by the Spirit, everything I do is righteous, I always do what pleases the Father.

Let me say this now, and build upon it. Sin isn’t about a thing we do. It’s a nature, an attitude. The deed is only the result of living out that nature. If in my sin nature I do anything, count on it to be sin, it can be no other way.

If I am in the Spirit, it cannot be sin, ever. Yet, here is where people get confused. “Wait a minute, Tom, you can’t just do whatever you want. You are still ACCOUNTABLE. “ Here is where I say, it is no longer about being accountable. It is only about what nature I am following. The lines have already been drawn. If I walk in my sin nature, I have already decided to sin, it’s just a matter of what, and when.

If, however, I find a way to live in the Spirit, I will never sin, and thus, can do what I desire. Here is how it works. The Spirit desires that which is of God’s will, which we know to be good and perfect. By the Spirit, I live within God’s will, perfectly. How is it possible for God to sin? Since it isn’t possible, whatever I do in the Spirit will never, ever be sin. Total freedom!

We have this freedom from our sin nature. We do not have this freedom IN our sin nature. Do you see the difference? But is it really that simple?

Yes, it is. Let me give an example. If I am in the Spirit when I see an elderly woman needing help with getting her groceries into her car, I am free to do so without fear of sin. Of course, you might say this is never sin, helping others. I would say you are mistaken if you believe that. Helping others can be sin, because remember, sin isn’t necessarily the action, but the attitude, the nature of the deed instead. While we were lost in our sin, even helping that elderly lady would have been sin. The physical reasons behind it are thus: I glorified myself, not God. I believed the idea came from my initiative, not God’s. That’s just the beginning, but isn’t that enough?

Anything that does not glorify God is a sin attitude, a deed being carried out in response to the sin nature. Even if it is a deed the world would call good, God would not call it so. This is the difference between perfect God, and vastly imperfect man.

How deeply are we entrenched in sin before we know Christ? So deeply, that Christ must choose us first. A man whose total nature is sin cannot choose good, he is not free to do so. And what more good can there be than to choose Jesus? Do you see the dilemma we face in our sin nature? He is called savior because when He throws out the lifeline, we aren’t even free to grab it. He must tie it around us, and drag us to shore. That is a hard thing to believe, but if you take just one look at what you do in your sin nature still, even after all this time in Christ, you must be able to see the truth of it.

Freedom means we can do good. Only in the Spirit can we do this good, and it is predestined that we will be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) If we walk by the flesh, there is no freedom, for the flesh can only do what the flesh desires, which is only and always sin.

I think much of the problem people find with the freedom I enjoy is the entrapment of comparison. We like to compare everything. We compare cars, houses, incomes, and oh yes, sins.

I spoke with a man tonight who was so worried that he wasn’t a good Christian because he had recurring sins in his life, that he was wondering about his salvation. This kind of confusion can only come from a gospel of works, because the gospel of grace is not at all anymore about what we do. It is only about what Jesus does. Since He has chosen to deposit the Spirit in us, we are free from Adam, that sinful nature that lives in us. The only thing lacking in us is faith to believe it.

This poor man was walking around beating himself, because he thought as a Christian, that was what he was supposed to be doing. Freedom is not about the ability to punish ourselves. He was comparing his walk with other’s walks, including mine. Imagine his surprise when I asked him if he thought I sinned less than he. He answered yes. He believed that I looked like someone who was obeying God almost fully. I waited just a moment, and then told him to throw that opinion of me away. I did not tell him if I was sinning more, because the fact is, it’s not about how much I sin anymore. There is no comparison.

All have sinned, and all fall short of the glory of God. That is what I call the physical reason we need a savior. Murderer, rapist, thief, and liar all alike, we all need Jesus. There is no comparison. We were all in the same condition. However, once set free by Jesus, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Again, no comparison. How can two who are equal be compared? Mustn’t there be differences in order to necessitate the need of comparison? We are all alike in our freedom, not one has more than another.

But, one has greater grasp of it than another. This is where faith comes in, and we know not to judge our own faith, when we understand that our faith is a gift to us from God. We can neither increase it ourselves, nor decrease it. This is so that no man may boast. Total freedom.

We are being conformed to the image of Christ. Nothing we do will stop, or slow down that process. This isn’t something left up to human will. If it were, God would not have told us it was predestined. Being conformed is God’s baby, not ours. Total freedom.

Now is when many would say, “living under that belief is going to cause you to fall. You don’t think you have to try to be good.” If in the flesh, all my effort is sin, why would I try to be good in my flesh? In the Spirit, I don’t have to try, all is righteousness, because all is according to what pleases God. All is according to the Spirit, not according to me. Total freedom.

Yes, there is this flesh that is being dealt with. Yes, I hate it when I sin. No, I do not want to sin. But I believe that God is conforming me to the image of Christ, and the more I believe that, the more I see it happen, despite my flesh. If you see me sin, and you will, you can rest that I know I am wrong even as I do it. Oh, we can deny that we don’t know what is right and what is wrong, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil makes liars of us all if we say that. We ate of it, because Adam ate of it. We know.

There is now only one thing left, SURRENDER. Know that if you are trying to be good, you are in the flesh, for in the Spirit, there is no such thing as trying, there is only perfection. This is a hard truth, every bit as hard as Jesus telling the Jews that the work of the Father was not theirs, but the Fathers, and He worked salvation, FOR them. This slap in the face to their efforts at obedience was both truthful, and painful. We all know that effort does not produce righteousness. Then we should more readily understand that neither does effort conform us to the image of Christ. Effort is flesh. Perfection is Spirit. Which will you believe in?

I do not have a license to sin. I have flesh that sins. I also have freedom not to sin. Before I knew Christ, I had no such possibility. What greater hope can there be, than to know Christ? So no matter what I do, the nature of the deed will show the nature I was walking in. Faith resolves the conflict between the two natures. For the one, the sin nature, there is only death, and it is occurring already. For the other, the Spirit, there is only perfection, and since that occurs through Jesus, it occurs already. Total freedom.

Please feel free to comment. This is not an exhaustive study on freedom, only my opinion. There may be flaws, and I am willing to listen to reason.

2 comments:

Beloved said...

In the process of being conformed to Christ... it's the freedom that I'm learning about.. how to walk in it. But honestly, sometimes in the middle of it all, I find myself doing "reality checks"... like I'm checking to see if I can recognize where the Spirit has been conforming me vs. where I see the flesh has been. It's like I still am keeping a tally sheet, as if it helps me to make sure I'm growing or being truly convicted of sins. Is this the enemy trying to decieve me, into occupying my gaze by being critical? Likely yes... as it is not in love, it's harsh and stifeling... where as if it was from the Spirit, it would be in love and life.

I KNOW, that that is not something I should do, or even need to do anymore.... because of the Spirit dwelling within me. I need a better way to turn off the tally board that the accuser thrusts into my view.

Tom Reindl said...

Monica,

"I need a better way to turn off the tally board that the accuser thrusts into my view."

There is only one way, Jesus Christ. What you just said to me? Tell it to Him. :)

I understand fully, Monica, what you are experiencing. Don't beat yourself up. I experience it, too, even though I know I am not the one who defines myself. I know it is God, and then....I know it is God....I know it is God. But, there is this flesh, and it truly does scream at me for attention. Never mind that it is dead. I still sometimes fall to its call. But imagine if I could see my body in a coffin, and it would scream at me to do something for it. In Christ, I know that the answer is, "Why would I ever do anything for somthing that is dead?"

I know "what" happens in the Spirit. I only know a few ways to get there, not much help in that area, I am afraid. Hope helps, thinking about the finish line as we are being carted across it by Christ, because we just happened to tire after the first step of a ten thousand mile marathon. I find hope in Christ carrying me. And that hope brings me into the Spirit. How do I know it's the Spirit? Because outward circumstances have no bearing on my outlook, or my actions. It's like wearing clothes that make me invisible to temptation. That's the best way I can describe it. Now, how do I get there more? Who has the answer?