Published May 21st, 2015 by Dirk Waren
Do you know what libertinism is? (Pronounced LIB-er-tee-niz-uhm.). Legalism and libertinism are two sides of the same coin, which is counterfeit Christianity. How do you distinguish the two sides? Whereas legalists put on airs of religiosity while hiding their sins, libertines claim to be Christians while openly walking in the flesh and encouraging others to do so also (by their example and what they teach). Both are corrupt and neither solves the sin problem.
Libertinism should not be confused with libertarianism. A libertarian* is a person who advocates liberty in thought or conduct, whereas a libertine is a person who is morally or sexually unrestrained and therefore given to immoral or improper conduct. Libertarianism doesn’t have the negative connotation of libertinism. This doesn’t mean, of course, that libertarians are all moral.
* Please don’t confuse libertarian here with Libertarian, a member of the Libertarian Party, the third largest political party in the USA.
Christianity and Freedom
In a sense, authentic Christianity is the truest form of libertarianism because Christianity’s all about liberty (please notice that I said “in a sense”). The Bible says that freedom is actually a quality of God’s very being:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17
The Scriptures also emphatically declare:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
And Jesus said:
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
You see, Christianity is all about freedom – freedom to know God, freedom from the flesh, and freedom from the yoke of religious law. Yet notice that the freedom Christianity offers is freedom from the flesh, not freedom to engage the flesh. This is why Paul stressed, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature”; and Peter emphasized, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil” (Galatians 5:13 & 1 Peter 2:16). In other words, believers shouldn’t pervert the freedom Christianity offers into a license to sin.
I’ve come across confessing Christians who say things like, “I’m totally free” or “I’m a freethinker” when what they really mean is, “I’m totally free and can indulge my sinful nature all I want.” This is libertinism. It’s a perversion of the doctrine of eternal security* and twists God’s grace into an excuse to sin.
* The doctrine of eternal security refers to the fact that believers are eternally secure in Christ as they continue in faith (John 10:27-30). This isn’t to suggest, however, that a believer is saved if they no longer have faith. After all, if it takes faith to be saved, how can an individual be saved if he or she no longer has faith? The very word “believer” means that the individual believes. See the teaching Once Saved Always Saved?
Notice what Jude said about people who adopt this mentality:
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Jude was addressing believers and told them that libertines had slipped into their midst. What these libertines advocated, in essence, was this: “We’re saved and have God’s grace and can therefore sin all we want without care of repentance. The Lord won’t reject us.” Although these people didn’t literally deny Jesus Christ, they denied him by using God’s grace as a license for immorality. What deception!
If you’re a believer and you’re struggling with a certain sin, the answer to your problem is to learn to walk in the spirit and be spirit-controlled rather than flesh-ruled. Paul said in Galatians 5:16 that if we live by the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature because, again, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This is why you need to learn how to put off the “old man” – the flesh – and put on the “new man” (Ephesians 4:22-24). This means living out of your spirit as led of the Holy Spirit. The result is that you’ll be spirit-controlled rather than flesh-ruled. The more you learn to do this the more freedom you’ll experience and the more fruit of the spirit you’ll produce (Galatians 5:19-23).
Libertinism perverts these wonderful truths and makes freedom out to be an excuse to live in sin. It actually subjects people to the bondage of the flesh, which means it’s not freedom at all, but rather bondage to the limitations and negative consequences of the flesh. Christianity, by contrast, sets people free from captivity to the sinful nature to soar in the spirit!
So, while it could be said that Christianity is the purest form of libertarianism, it’s totally against libertinism.
Libertinism, Lawlessness and Licentiousness
Libertinism is one-and-the-same as lawlessness and licentiousness (or ‘license’ for short); the terms are interchangeable.
As the word implies, ‘lawlessness’ is the disregard of divine law. It’s the attitude that says, “I don’t care what God says; I’m going to live however I want to and do whatever I want.” On the surface this sounds like freedom, but it’s really just bondage to the lower nature because the thing the person wants to do is of the flesh. It’s like a husband or wife saying, “I don’t care if God’s Word says adultery is wrong and I don’t care that I vowed to be faithful, I want to have an affair and I’m going to do it!” This is lawlessness – the disregard of divine law. Years ago I was at a friend’s house and his wife was on a weight-loss regimen. Although she was a confessing Christian, she declared, “When I lose 15-20 pounds I’m going to have an affair.” She said this in front of her husband and I wasn’t sure if she was kidding. It was definitely an uncomfortable moment. In the months to come she did exactly what she said!
Or take the popular topic of “gay marriage.” Homosexuals who want to redefine marriage to include people of the same sex are essentially waving their fists at their Creator in defiance. They don’t care that their sex organs don’t line up. I don’t mean to be crude, but the truth about sexuality is obvious. Just look at the sex organs: Tab ‘A’ fits into Slot ‘B.’ It’s really no more complicated than this. Those who rebel against this axiom are rebelling against their Creator and nature itself. They’re embracing a lie. It’s lawlessness. They may not be lawless in every area, very few people are, but they’re lawless in regards to sexuality.
In light of this self-evident truth, the whole concept of “gay churches” is an oxymoron. Those who want to practice homosexuality and also be a Christian are practicing lawlessness. Please notice I’m referring to those who practice homosexuality. It’s perfectly okay for a person who repents of homosexuality to be a Christian and function as a minister just as it’s okay for people who repent of other sins to be Christians and minister. Notice what the Bible says:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders (10) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
As you can see, Paul lists an assortment of fleshly activities and then tells the Corinthian believers: “And that is what some of you were.” It’s past tense because the believers were no longer practicing these sins as a lifestyle. I’m not saying that some of them didn’t stumble or fall now and then but they were willing to confess and repent when they did, which means God would forgive them and cleanse them (1 John 1:8-9). This is “keeping with repentance” (Matthew & Luke 3:8).
Notice that homosexuality is put on par with sins like adultery, thievery, greediness, drunkard-ness, slandering and swindling. This indicates two things: (1.) homosexuality is a sin, and (2.) believers are expected to repent of it just like any other fleshly behavior.
Discard Legalism & License in Favor of True Godliness
Many Christians understandably flee to libertinism because they had bad experiences with churches tainted by legalism. Flawed “holiness” teaching is often part of these bad experiences. They instinctively want to vomit out the legalism, but they make the mistake of running to libertinism for succor. But, again, just as legalism puts people in bondage to religious law and the resulting hypocrisy, so libertinism puts people in bondage to the flesh. Since legalism and lawlessness are two sides of the same coin, switching from one side to the other is not the answer because it’s still the same bad coin! Both are equally bad. The coin must be tossed out altogether in favor of a new coin, a priceless coin, which is genuine Christianity. What is “genuine Christianity”? It’s reconciliation with God through spiritual rebirth, putting off the flesh, and learning to live out of one’s spirit as led of the Holy Spirit, which requires a new way of thinking. This is what Christianity is in a nutshell. It includes cultivating and maintaining a relationship with the Living LORD. Developing a relationship with God is important because the best way to become “like” someone is to spend time with him or her. If you want to be “like God” the first step is to spend time with Him. After that, being godly comes naturally. It’ll come from within and not from without because it’s who you are in your spirit and you’ve decided to be spirit-ruled rather than flesh-ruled.
I’m not saying that it won’t take some discipline and perseverance on your part, but you’ll be working with the Lord as a team and not without him. True holiness is not following a list of rules by trying to force your flesh to comply, it’s discarding the way of the flesh altogether in favor of living out of your reborn spirit by the Holy Spirit.
An Example of Libertinism
Years ago I was part of a home-styled Bible study where the teacher taught on the corruption of legalism and how his experiences with it made him reject the concept of holiness all together. Although he only taught about once every three weeks, it soon became clear that he was advocating lawlessness.
The group was mostly males in their early twenties or thereabouts. One day the subject of alcohol came up and this teacher told these impressionable guys that he regularly drank “and not just the light stuff.” In other words, he regularly drank hard liquor. Now, I’m not one to believe that merely drinking a sip of alcohol is a sin,* but is this a good message to send to young Christian males? One of them later said he saw the teacher at some function a year or so earlier where he was passed out due to excessive drinking. Is this appropriate conduct for a pastor or any supposedly mature believer? Is it a good example? Of course not. The youth lost respect for him and understandably so.
* See, for example, Deuteronomy 14:26 and 1 Timothy 5:23. Such passages must be balanced out by other clear passages, like “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), as well as other passages that teach that we shouldn’t do anything that would make a fellow believer stumble in an area that’s weak for him/her (Romans 14:21 & 1 Corinthians 10:31-32). Still, it’s clear that merely drinking an alcoholic beverage isn’t by itself evil.
This pastor escaped the bondage of legalism only to fall into the error of licentiousness. His negative experiences with legalism caused him to reject the concept of holiness altogether. He threw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. It goes without saying that this is not the answer to legalism!
Years later he unsurprisingly joined a lawless sect.
A Biblical Example of Libertinism
Are there examples of so-called believers walking in lawlessness in the New Testament? Absolutely. Consider the church of Thyatira and what Jesus said to the believers of this fellowship:
“Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. (21) I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. (22) So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. (23) I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”
Jesus was clearly ticked off and rightly so. This woman, “Jezebel” (which is a symbolic name and not her real name), was functioning in the role of a prophet in the Thyatiran church and she misled some of the believers, whom Jesus referred to as his “servants.” The Lord mercifully gave her time to repent, meaning he corrected her in various ways, but she remained stubborn and unrepentant. As a result, Jesus was going to strike her and her followers with sickness unless they repented of her ways (verse 22). Verse 23 mentions “her children,” which is a reference to her followers who were mimicking her example. Jesus even said that he was going to strike them dead if they didn’t repent. What a far cry from “gentle Jesus meek and mild”!
The Thyatiran fellowship was a real church in Asia Minor in the late first century. The situation in this assembly provides a picture of what happens to people in leadership positions when they succumb to libertinism. They’ll spread their lawlessness by encouraging others to walk in their unclean practices, just like “Jezebel.” They’ll call it freedom when it’s really just bondage to the flesh.
What can Christians today get from this? Don’t be misled by libertines, even if they’re in a leadership position in the church and go by titles like “Pastor,” “Prophet” or “Apostle.” As this passage shows, the Lord will show mercy to those who fall into libertinism and give them time to repent, but if they stubbornly refuse they will face severe discipline just as “Jezebel” and her followers did in Thyatira. When God’s mercy is repeatedly spurned his judgment inevitably falls.
Five Facts about Libertines
Paul was referring to libertines when he made this statement:
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (19) Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
There are four facts about lawlessness that we can pull from this passage:
1. Libertines worship fleshly indulgence with no concern to repent
We see this in Paul’s statement, “their god is their stomach,” which means libertines make an idol of the appetites of their flesh. This is different than a believer who struggles with sin or those who stumble into one area of the flesh or another. The struggler hates the sin but is in bondage to some degree; he or she doesn’t want to commit the transgression but falls and repents again and again. Because such people humbly repent, God forgives them over and over. This is struggling with the flesh. Yet even mature Christians who are freed-up from life-dominating sins, like sexual immorality or substance abuse, are perfectly capable of missing it in less noticeable areas, like arrogance, gossip, envy, legalism and rivalry. This isn’t struggling but rather stumbling. The fact that even mature believers can miss it now and then explains why John the Baptist instructed his hearers to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew & Luke 3:8). If we want to be close to God and effective in his service we have to be diligent to keep our spiritual arteries clear of the build-up of unconfessed sin. Why? Because it’ll block the flow of God’s grace. Needless to say, be quick to repent whenever you feel even a tinge of conviction. This keeps your heart soft and unhardened.
The people Paul was talking about in this passage were neither struggling with the flesh nor stumbling. They made the appetites of their flesh an idol that they worshipped; in other words, they gave their hearts over to the flesh with no concern to repent. It’s the difference between struggling or stumbling and outright rebellion, the latter being tantamount to what the Bible calls falling away (Hebrews 6:4-9). This isn’t merely falling down, but falling away. Someone who stumbles can fall down if they’re not careful, but those who fall away have abandoned the road and have even set a whole new course! Such people are in danger of being cut off from salvation altogether if they choose to persist in their stubborn folly.*
*NOTE: See the aforementioned teaching Once Saved Always Saved?
Paul instructed that we shouldn’t even eat with someone who calls himself/herself a brother or sister in the Lord if they’re practicing sin with no concern to repent (1 Corinthians 5:9-11). And it doesn’t matter what the sin is. Paul listed six examples on this occasion – sexual immorality, greediness, idolatry, slander, drunkard-ness and swindling. If someone claims to be a Christian and is walking in these sins or others without concern to repent we are not to associate with them. This doesn’t mean we can’t greet them or minister to them as the Lord leads, but as far as close relations go – like just hanging out – we need to cease associations until they repent. This shows what a serious offense libertinism is.
A passage we looked at earlier, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, clearly shows that those who practice sin as a lifestyle with no concern to repent will not inherit the kingdom of God!
I want to stress, however, that this is not referring to those who struggle with sin or stumble into sin and repent. All believers miss it, even mature believers, but God expects us to humbly confess and he’ll forgive us – dismiss the charge – and cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). Praise God!
2. Libertines are proud of what they should be ashamed of
We see this in Paul’s statement, “their glory is in their shame.” Libertines will exalt a fleshly desire or behavior and make it an object of admiration or idolization, like alcoholism, drugs, pedophilia or homosexuality. They’ll start organizations, movements or pride marches for the sin of their choice.
3. Libertines are focused on the here and now and not eternity
We observe this in Paul’s statement, “Their mind is on earthly things.” Indulgence of their fleshly desire is of such eminent importance that they are blinded to the eternal repercussions of their licentiousness.
4. The destiny of unrepentant libertines is destruction
Paul made this clear when he said, “Their destiny is destruction.” He was talking about the “everlasting destruction” of the “second death” (2 Thessalonians 1:9 & Revelation 20:11-15). Jesus described it like so:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Why is everlasting destruction the penalty for unrepentant sin? Because “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Does this mean that any believer who dies with unrepentant sin will suffer everlasting destruction? No, but since they didn’t repent of the sin in question God couldn’t forgive it and therefore they’ll have to answer for it at the judgment seat of Christ:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.
2 Corinthians 5:10-11
The “judgment seat of Christ” is the judgment believers will face. We will all stand before the Lord and give an account of our lives and receive what is due us, whether good or bad. This indicates rewards and penalties. The “bad” cannot refer to penalties for sins that were repented of since the believer already confessed them and God forgave him or her. So it must refer to sins of which the believer failed to repent in which God must justly hold the individual accountable.
How much unrepentant sin would it take for a believer to lose their salvation? Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard in Luke 13:5-9 reveals God’s great patience and mercy in dealing with fruitless servants. It also shows that when his patient mercy ends his judgment begins.
The message we get from all of this should be loud and clear: DON’T BE A LIBERTINE! Always keep in repentance by honestly confessing sin when you miss it and God will forgive you. This keeps your heart soft and your spiritual arteries free of the clogging of unconfessed sin.
Libertines Have Allowed the Flesh to Master them
Notice what Peter taught about libertines:
For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. (19) They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves to depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. (20) If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. (21) It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (22) Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”
2 Peter 2:18-22
Libertines focus on the desires of the flesh above all else and thus they entice immature believers with their licentiousness. They promise freedom when they themselves are slaves to the flesh, which is absurd. You can’t give freedom if you don’t have it. The only thing libertines can give is what they have – bondage to the flesh.
The latter part of verse 19 is important: “for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”
I stopped over an old friend’s place recently; I hadn’t seen him in years. The whole time I was with him he chain-smoked cigarettes and drank beer after beer, admitting that he was an alcoholic. He also said he regularly smoked pot. I knew he struggled in these areas in the past, but I wasn’t sure of his current condition, although I suspected it wasn’t good. As a friend and a minister I wanted to help him if he was willing. I gave him a Christian book and we talked for a while, but any discussion about the Lord or the Bible was cursory at best. After about 40 minutes I was getting seriously smoked-out by his chain-smoking. When I dismissed myself he asked me to drive him to the store a mere two blocks away. I took him under the impression that I was doing a good deed and he came out with a 12-pack of beer! Do you see the problem here? I stopped by his apartment to share God’s love and freedom with him and he used me to take him on a beer run. My purpose is to deliver people from addictions and bondages, not enable them, but he was so consumed with this addiction that he couldn’t see this. All he cared about was getting his alcohol-fix. What bondage, what blindness, what utter folly!
This man was a confessing believer, but he was addicted to things that he should have dealt with 25 years earlier. This is where his fleshly bondages have taken him at close to 50 years of age – no job, no vehicle, no church and total dependency on the government for his basic needs. He only had one family member who was willing to associate with him. This is where his addictions have brought him. I say this with sadness, not Pharisaical arrogance, but he has no one to blame but himself. He had access to God, his Word, strong brothers and sisters in the Lord and excellent churches, but he forsook them all because he allowed the deceitful desires of his flesh to master him.
God told Cain, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7). The root of sin is the flesh – the sinful nature – the hideous beast within us all. God said we must master it, not allow it to master us, as was the case with this old friend of mine. The Bible refers to the desires of the sinful nature as deceitful (Ephesians 4:22). Why? Because the flesh promises satisfaction and happiness, but it doesn’t deliver. It can’t. It won’t. All it can give is bondage and the resulting emptiness. It’s deceitful.
I haven’t given up on this man. I’m still praying for him and ministering to him as the Lord directs. I’m hoping and believing that he’ll come to his senses and come out of this self-made pit of libertinism, like the prodigal son did. In fact, I’ve recently seen positive signs that he’ll do just that. Praise God!
Needless to say, don’t allow yourself to become mastered by the deceitful desires of your flesh. Your lower nature wants to have you but you must master it through Christ by counting it dead and participating in the divine nature, that is, walk in the spirit as led of the Holy Spirit.
I encourage believers to pray for the grace to walk free of sinful bondages as David did:
Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
Why did David pray like this? Because he knew that if he allowed a “willful sin” to master him and rule over him it would severely limit his life, even ruin it, as was the case with this friend of mine.
You’ll see people who allow a sin or bad habit to rule over them all the time. For instance, gossips who spread slander and wonder why no one with an ounce of character wants to spend time with them; pathological liars who can’t figure out why no one believes a word they say; the overweight glutton who can’t enjoy a walk in the park because he or she is too heavy and out of shape; the millions who define their very lives by their sexual lusts; etc.
It goes without saying, refuse to let the flesh rule over you. In the next chapter we’ll go into detail about how to walk free of the flesh and its deceitful desires. It is for freedom that Christ has set you free!
“Everything is Permissible for Me”
As already established, libertines have the mindset that they’re totally free in Christ and can therefore indulge the sinful nature anytime they feel like it. There were libertines in the church at Corinth who embraced this attitude so Paul brought up the topic twice in his first letter to this church. Let’s observe the first time:
“Everything is permissible for me” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” – but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12
Paul was quoting a popular phrase of some believers at the Corinth church: “Everything is permissible for me.” This is the attitude of libertines in a nutshell. “I can do anything I want” is what they believe. Paul wasn’t against freedom, of course, since he preached liberty to these very same believers when he said “the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Yet Paul adds some wise framework for freedom here. While people have the power of volition and can essentially do whatever they want if they decide to do it, Paul points out that “not everything is beneficial.” This is an obvious fact, of course, but he had to stress it because not everyone in Corinth realized it. Since following the deceitful desires of the sin nature is never beneficial, anything sinful is off-limits to the believer. Why? Because it’s not beneficial; it’s destructive. Say, for example, if a married man meets a pretty woman at work and entertains the idea of committing adultery with her, would this be beneficial to his life or destructive? Even if he’s not a believer, it’s a destructive course of action because it would hurt his wife and could harm his marriage, possibly even destroy it, not to mention the domino effect of hurting his children and losing the respect of the community. No sane person respects unfaithfulness, not even unbelievers.
Paul quotes the popular phase again in the second half of the verse and then adds “but I will not be mastered by anything.” Here Paul isn’t just talking about the corrupt desires of the flesh but rather anything neutral that has the capacity to master him and put him in bondage. Today, we see people mastered by many destructive addictions, like alcohol, drugs and various forms of sexual immorality. But millions are just as mastered by things that aren’t considered bad, like food, computer games, watching or playing sports, TV, forms of recreation and even church activities. Of course none of these things are bad in and of themselves, but they can become bad if a person is mastered by them, in which case they become idols. We don’t see many people in modern Western Civilization worshipping literal idols, but people can become so addicted to certain things that it becomes a form of idolatry because idolatry is the worship – the adoration – of something other than God. Christians are free, but we have to be careful to guard our hearts as the wellspring of life so that nothing takes us away from our devotion to the Lord (Proverbs 4:23).
Paul brought up the popular phrase again shortly later in his letter:
“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive. (24) Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24
Paul again points out the obvious: Everything is permissible because we have been blessed with freewill and therefore have the power of decision. We have the power to choose to act or not act on any impulse, whether good or bad; but Paul stresses, once again, that not everything is beneficial. This is a repeat denouncement of the deceitful desires of the flesh, which are never beneficial. Christians are free in the Lord but the appetites of the sinful nature are off-limits because they are destructive. If there’s any doubt Paul cleared it up with his statement to the Roman believers: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15).
He repeats the phrase again, “everything is permissible” and this time adds “but not everything is constructive.” This obviously refers to neutral things. The believer is free to do the neutral activity, but we have to ask ourselves if it’s constructive. He then adds that “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” For instance, if you’ve chosen to be a part of a certain church and are regularly late to the gatherings, is this constructive to the body of believers? Are you arriving late for your own good – to sleep in or whatever – or for the good of the fellowship? These are commons sense questions that we need to ask ourselves when it comes to the freedom we have in Christ.
Teachers and preachers can share these principles until they’re blue in the face but some believers will never “get it” because they lack wisdom, which is the ability to distinguish difference. Anyone who wants wisdom must seek it as if it were a treasure; and God will give it to him or her (James 1:5).
The bottom line is this: Believers have freedom in Christ but it’s not freedom to embrace the flesh, but rather freedom from the bondages of the flesh. We have true freedom in Christ, but we must be careful to not allow anything to master us, and we must use wisdom – common sense – in what we choose to do since not everything is constructive, for ourselves or others.
Paul said that “the letter kills” (2 Corinthians 3:6), which is a reference to the deadly effects of legalism, but in this article we observe that sin kills just as well. We shouldn’t be surprised since the Bible plainly declares that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Legalism and sinful license are two sides of the same bad coin. They both produce death. If anything, libertinism is worse. After all, what’s the bigger problem in society today, legalism or fleshly license?
Neither legalism nor lawlessness is the answer. The bad coin must be thrown out altogether in favor of something that works; something that sets us totally free.
The answer is… spirituality, which is the fruit of godliness, i.e. like-God-ness. This means learning to walk in the spirit and being spirit-controlled rather than flesh-ruled, as detailed in Ephesians 4:22-24.
For more information, see the articles Spiritual Growth is Like Climbing a Mountain and Spirituality—How to be Spirit-Controlled Rather than Flesh-Ruled or the video How to Walk FREE of the Flesh.
This teaching was edited from Dirk’s book Legalism Unmasked, available at a low-price here.
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