The Illusion of Freedom
No one on this Earth is ever truly free. By seeking or achieving liberation from one form of dominion, one automatically finds himself under the thumb of another.
"...for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved (2Peter 2: 19 NASB)."
Even the John 8:32 truth that sets you free from many things that burden you, there are accompanying limitations and requirements of discipleship that one must submit to if he or she is going to live the type of life that brings glory to God.
As one advances in discipleship, one will find himself turning down more Earthly activities that no longer fits who he or she is in his or her relationship with the Lord.
"So Jesus was saying to those (born again) Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue (study and apply) in My word, THEN you are truly disciples of Mine; and (THEN) you will know the truth, and (THEN) the truth will make you free (John 8: 31, 32 NASB parentheses mine).”
The more one studies and applies the Word of God, the less "free" he or she will be to do his or her OWN thing.
The one who thinks he is a free spirit, and not dependent on, or under the control of anything (Rev. 3: 17) or anyone else has been deceived.
Without being provided with the opportunity to receive one's next breath of air, his residency on Earth is in jeopardy. As long as one is here on Earth, he or she either complies with the various forms of authority or suffers the consequences.
In the spiritual realm, the human soul free to make choices, but is not free from having to make choices, nor free of the consequences of any negative choices made.
When presented with an opportunity to hear or to read the unadulterated Gospel Message, one makes a choice to either listen or to read it or not to do so. As of that moment, after having listened to it or having reading it, one either believes it and is saved, or disbelieves it and remains spiritually dead. If one chooses to leave this world in the capacity of an unbeliever, he or she has set the stage for never-ending incarceration in what the Bible calls the lake of fire when the Rev. 20: 13, 15 event takes place.
The same principle applies to the intake and application of accurate Bible Doctrine by born again believers. God does not command a born again believer to continue to grow in His knowledge (2Peter 3: 18) and then not provide him or her with the means to do so, IF (Jer.. 29: 13) he or she truly desires to do so.
Providing born again believes with the ongoing opportunity to grow in the knowledge of God is the "inside" work that the Church that God designed was commissioned (Matt. 28: 19) to do through Biblically-qualified pastor-teachers.
"Go therefore and make disciples (students of the Word of God)...(Matt.28: 19 NASB parentheses mine)."
In the technologically advanced times in which we are living, one can "gather together (Heb. 10: 25)" with such local assemblies or ministries remotely as well as by attending face to face.
Many Internet ministries (e.g. batmq.net) are open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, without ANY cost or obligation, providing the opportunity for millions of people who have Internet access the opportunity to be born again and or to identify and advance in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship.
One's "church," Bible, and pastor-teacher can be as close and accessible as his cell phone or mobile device.
It is more important that one continues to grow in God's knowledge and grace than by what means one gathers together with a local assembly or ministry.
Upon being presented with accurate Bible Doctrine, one is given the opportunity to reinforce his or her existing doctrinal convictions and or to make the necessary adjustments as he or she moves forward along the road to spiritual maturity.
Receiving accurate teaching from a Biblically-qualified pastor-teacher is a major part of the individual plan that God has in mind for Church Age believers. Christians are all completely, permanently, and equally saved, but are at all different levels of spiritual maturity.
The level of spiritually maturity one is presently experiencing, determines the pastor teacher(s) that any given individual believers needs in order to keep moving forward. God does not call born again be!fevers to be a part of a denomination or religious organization. God calls born again believers to become an active member (1Cor. 12.) in the Church that He designed.
The Church that He designed consists of all born again be!fevers. At this time, most of the Church is already in Heaven , among other things,waiting for the Rapture to take place when the entire Church will be reunited and prepared to move forward in the plan of God. Only few generations of the Church are here on Earth at a time, doing the work (Matt. 28; 19, 20) that God gave it to do.
One of the challenges that a pastor-reacher faces as he attempts to feed to the souls of a traditional local assembly is the diversity of those who gather together.
The average attention span of an adult gives the pastor-teacher about 20 - 25 minutes for each session (sermon/homily). After that, if not before, the congregation may be still in the less, but their minds are focused on something else.
Any given congregation consists of individuals who are at all different levels of spiritual maturity. There are likely some who are spiritually dead, having never been born again, who are inherently hostile to Biblical principles. There is a small minority that may have out grown what any given local assembly has to offer. Most of the typical congregation falls somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
Newly born again believers are in spiritual kindergarten, whose spiritual knowledge base consists only of the Gospel Message. There are many spiritually immature believers that can not yet take in and digest more advanced doctrine (See Hebrews 5: 12- 14). Backsliding believers have no genuine desire to embrace discipleship, and are only there to comply with parental, familial, and social pressure, to fulfill some perceived religious obligation, or to qualify for some services (weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies) that the local assemblies provide for those who are in good standing. Good standing being determined by one's record of financial support.
The attention span for advancing disciples will be greater, but the appetite of an advancing disciple will not be satisfied with spiritual baby food .
Such things are why many "Christians" get little or nothing (edifying) out of "going to church," or otherwise connecting with a pastor teacher. IF one's week!y focus of attention on the teaching of the Word of God is limited to one hour on a,Sunday morning, that leaves the devil with 167 hours a week in which to launch his counter-attack. This is why there is a need to meditate on the Word of God day and night.
Upon making one's 2Cor. 13: 5 self-examinations, one of the questions one must ask and answer is what doctrine is it that I now know, have better understanding of, or have an increased willingness to apply, that I did not have let's say six months ago. If the honest answer is nothing, then either one has reached a level of spiritual maturity equal to that of Jesus Christ, or one has stopped growing.
Stunted spiritual growth is either the result of a local pulpit (traditional or remote) not doing its job by providing the spiritual food that the diverse congregation needs to receive, or because one has stopped eating the spiritual food of the Word of God that the pulpit is providing.
To have the freedom to invest one's time in the things of God required to reach and to maintain a higher level of spiritual maturity, there must be room made and maintained for such things on one's list of daily priorities.
Many "Christians" seem to find the daily time to do just about everything else, but no significant time for the things of God.
It is the choices that we make that determines who or what will have greater influence and control over us. Anyone who thinks he or she can spend time in the devil's playground and not have it influence his or her thoughts and actions is a fool. Biblically speaking, a fool is the one who says there is no God (Psalms 14: 1). This, I believe, includes those who live as if there will be no accountability.
The promised freedom from the sovereignty of God comes from the mouth of the devil who prowls around seeking someone to destroy. The devil can do nothing to relieve a born again believer of his or her salvation, but can do much to dissuade one from glorifying God in the course of his or her post salvation spiritual life.
Advancing disciples are not free to sin, but to serve.
. . .
There is only ONE requirement (John 3: 16) to be saved, but there are HUNDREDS of commands and principles of Scripture to be learned (2Pet. 3: 18) and applied (James 1: 22) if one is to identify and to execute the post (after) salvation spiritual life of discipleship.
This may seem overwhelming, but the truth is one will automatically find himself in compliance with God's hundreds of commands and principles by following just two!
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22: 36 - 40 NASB).”
Unless one is insane (unable to distinguish right from wrong), we know in our heart of hearts when we have done something that violates the Word of God. We may not know the technical term for it, but we know it's wrong. What we do is to rationalize it away, or justify it in order to silence our conscience. May God have mercy on soul who has silenced his or her conscience. Such a soul is not free, but has been enslaved to sin, and in God's timing will reap the seeds he or she has sown.
God never intended for us to execute the post salvation spiritual life by way of the limitations of our fallen humanity. We are to do so with the enabling power that He supplies (John 15: 5).
If one loves God with all his or her heart, he or she will obey Him, and the delegated forms of authority He has established.
If you love other people, you won't do anything that would hurt them or their interests.
As much as most of us try to keep one foot in the camp of God and the other foot in the devil's world, there is no neutrality in the spiritual realm. Everything we think, do, or say promotes one side or the other in the unseen battle in the spiritual realm.
There is no such thing as being half-freed from a prison cell. Either you are in or out. In the spiritual realm, there are many prison cells that have no walls, bars, windows, or doors, but are just as dreaded as any death row that Man can design.
All of the benefits (if any) that our independence brings to us during our relatively brief stay here on Earth are left behind when we depart. Whatever SHOULD have had no place in our life here on Earth WILL have no place in our experience in Heaven.
For many Christians, Eternity will be a virtually new experience, finally getting to really know God, with a new set of priorities embracing activities that he or she didn't have a burning desire or the time for, while here on Earth.
Knowing OF God, and experiencing God in a personal, one on one relationship, are two VERY different things. The devil and demons knows OF God (James 2: 19).
Learning the Bible results in what one knows about the THINGS of God. Experiencing the things of God on a personal level is a part of getting to know HIM.
One is instantaneously and permanently (Romans 8: 1) saved by believing in the Gospel Message encapsulated in such verses as John 3: 16, 18. But as in the case of any intimate relationship, getting to know God and experiencing an INTIMATE personal relationship with Him while here on Earth takes DAILY time, dedication, sacrifice, and commitment.
Sad to say, but many Christians experience an estranged (lack of intimacy) relationship with God, as a result of having abandoned (what should have been) their first love (Rev. 2: 4).
For Christians who spiritually mature and become advancing disciples during their time on Earth, Eternity will be a c-o-n-t-i-n-u-a-t-i-o-n of an INTIMATE personal relationship that was established here on Earth. But instead of it being a walk tempered with persecution (2Tim. 3:12) and adversity, as it had been here on Earth, it will be one under the great (Matt. 5: 12) canopy with 1Cor. 3: 14,15 rewards and Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 privileges reserved for just them.
When we choose to live for the here and now without serious regard for eternity, the devil has us right where he wants us to be, doing our own thing rather than what God has in mind.
The devil can do nothing about the salvation that a born again believer has already received (Romans 8: 1), but can do much to dissuade a born again believer from producing divine good (Matt. 13: 8), symbolized by the silver, gold, and precious stones in 1Cor. 3: 12.
Much of what most "Christians" produce is only human good, symbolized as wood, hay, and straw in 1Cor.3:12. Atheists and unbelievers can produce great deeds of human good.
Human good can have great value here on Earth. It is produced by Christians and unbelievers alike every day, but has no basis for the type of reward spoken of in 1Cor. 3: 14.
Promoting human good as equivalent to divine good is one of the schemes of the devil. Divine good results in the salvation or edification of the soul.
The production of human good is among the scenarios that set the stage for the production of divine good as we live, work, android play with others.
How much divine good will you have in your cart when YOU check out?
We are free to choose a life with or without God at the helm. We are free to live a life that produces a little or a lot of human good. We are free to choose a life that produces a little or a lot of divine good. But what we are NOT free from are the consequences of the negative choices we make.
Many teenagers and young adults, in their desire to be free from parental observation and control, will learn soon enough of the some of the consequences of exercising their own free will. What one does while out from under parental observation and control can put one in a position that is beyond the parents ability to fix if things do not go as planned.
Sometimes, going contrary to the plan or expectations that our family had in mind for us IS a part of the plan that God has in mind for us (Luke 14: 26). Just make sure from whom or what you are being led, and to what end.
Being raised in an Orthodox Jewish tradition, I doubt if Joseph and Mary envisioned the child Jesus growing up to go toe to toe with the Scribes and Pharisees.
I wonder what the reactions of Martin Luther's family and friends were when he, being an ordained Roman Catholic priest, came to reject many of the teachings and practices that had evolved within the Roman Church of his day.
Other times, failing to adhere to the guidance and teachings of godly parents is nothing but a manifestation of the sin of rebellion (Romans 13: 2).
Many rebelling teens and young adults will the hard way that the government, employers, landlords, financial institutions, and "friends" are not as supportive or forgiving as what their parents had been.
Everyone will help you for a price, or when THEY have something to gain.
If they have it to give, Godly parents will give without seeking reimbursement. The best of what godly parents can give cannot be bought with money. There is a danger in giving too much to soon. Freedom and logistical support can become a curse if the recipient is not mature enough to handle or appreciate logistical support.
The heart of a rebel would rather go without than to concede the error of his/her way.
Some of the choices made during periods of rebellion can haunt the rebel for the rest of our lives. Forgiveness is always available from God and godly people, but some of the consequences may be with us for the rest of our lives here on Earth.
Human beings, by nature, don't like to be told what to do. We come into this world with a fallen nature that is self-centered and inherently hostile (Romans 8: 7) towards God and the things of God. Authority, divine and delegated, is a thing of God.
"For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (Romans 13: 1 NASB).
At times to our own hurt, human beings by nature, want to be free to do what WE want to do (or not do), how, and when we want to do it. While under the influence of our fallen nature, we consider anyone or anything that helps us get what we want to be our friend, and anyone or anything that holds us back to be our adversary.
Our feigned or forced compliance is not from the heart, out of fear of punishment, fear of losing something, or just the opposite in order to gain something by appearing to be going along with the program.
Should one not receive or any longer receive what he or she anticipated, his or her true colors will become evident.
Some sooner than others, learn the necessity of compliance with authority. Others never learn.
Failing to do so sets the stage for a lifetime of divine (Heb. 12: 6) and or divinely delegated (Romans 13) discipline.
End of Part One