Freedom Like You’ve Never Heard Before

liberty

21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

                                                                                                           – James 1:21-25

I found this in James earlier this week, and something caught my eye. At first it was the word perfect, but then I looked at liberty and all but forgot perfect. But first, why  don’t you go ahead and read the first two chapters of James so you have some context to what we’ll be talking about today.

The word in the original Greek text (Strongs G1657 – click on the word for a lexicon entry) is ἐλευθερία–or for those of you who don’t actually read Greek it transliterates to eleutheria – it translates to “liberty” all of the 11 times it is used in the New Testament. The image above is the entry in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon for this word, and I’ll tell you why liberty excites me so much.

The first and lengthier entry follows so:

a. liberty to do or to omit things having no relation to salvation (1 Cor 10:29); from the yoke of the Mosaic law, (Gal 2:4; 5:1,13; 1 Pet 2:16) from Jewish errors so blinding the mental vision that it does not discern the majesty of Christ, (2 Cor 3:17) freedom from the dominion of corrupt desires, so that we do by the free impulse of the soul what the will of God requires … i.e. the Christian religion, which furnishes that rule of right living by which the liberty just mentioned is attained, (Jas 1:25; 2:12) freedom from the restraints and miseries of earthly frailty … manifested in the glorious condition of the future life, (Rom 8:21)

The second, and much shorter entry is simply:

b. fancied liberty, i.e. license, the liberty to do as one pleases, (2 Pet 2:19)

Now let’s take this new concept of liberty back to the context and see what James was talking about. Take a look back at James 1:25 again:

25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

Perfect law of liberty. The reason this phrase piqued my interest at all in the first place is because until now I’d believed James to be quite traditional, and here we have a law, right in the middle of James’ letter clung to by traditional thinkers for his pro-works message, but it doesn’t sound very traditional! He appears to be saying that people who do whatever they want–even if they put aside every scripture unrelated to salvation–and simply follow their desires, are blessed.

Wait a minute. You might say. Who’s gonna keep them in line?

Well, let me introduce you to something–rather Someone–John the Beloved calls The Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend[a] it. – John 1:1-5

Verses 14-18 go on to declare:

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 John [the Baptist] bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’”

16 And[e] of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son,[f] who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

From this–not to mention the rest of the book of John–we know that Jesus is the Word become flesh and Jesus the logos–the very spoken word of God–declares the Father. So what does James say about this Word? Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (1:21) but it’s not enough to just hear. It’s not enough to sit through church every week–it’s not even the same! 

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. (1:22-24)

I can just hear the urgency–but be DOERs of Jesus, not just HEARERs; you’re just fooling yourself otherwise; you have no sense of your identity outside of Christ. And the method? Looking into the perfect law of liberty and continuing in it. The real question now is what is the perfect law of liberty and how do we do it? If I were to put what I’ve learned so far into a basic statement I would say that the law of liberty can be summed up as simply being true to our desire; does that sound like the life of a Jesus-doer? I believe it is, so much so that I would say it is the crux of living in the New Covenant.

Does it still seem like there’s a missing piece to the puzzle–like how we are going to keep people on the straight and narrow with a law that lets them do whatever they want? You’re right, but it’s not like that. If you still think there’s something missing, or that this law sounds like chaos, you may not have understood the gospel or what Christ did on the cross. Colossians 2 says this:

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. 11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins[c] of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (2:8-17)

The New Covenant’s life in Christ involves total transformation; you can’t enter into the law of liberty without being cut off from your old self and implanted, as James says, with Jesus’ spirit. Salvation is of utmost importance to liberty because salvation produces liberty. There would be no good desire in us unless Christ cut our sinful nature away. And with the Spirit of God in us, there is no longer need for that old covenant system of doing things, because as Galatians 5 declares, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. It should never be a bad thing for people full of the Spirit to do whatever they desire, because what they desire is what God desires. I believe we continue in the law of liberty, the new covenant law of love, by remaining true to His desire in us, and following His voice.

The perfect law of liberty, salvation and the new covenant–it’s all about freedom: freedom not to be used as a pretext to get away with doing wrong, but freedom to be who we were created to be. Scandalous freedom to do whatever we desire. Freedom to do what all true believers desire: the will of our Father.

Heed the Yeast

While scrolling through the Bible app on my phone during church today I came across a number of passages that blew me right out of the water (and I thought I knew it all, aready?). One passage in particular totally affirmed what I’ve been struggling with these months, which has been initially doubt. Not doubting God but doubting myself and the decisions and choices I’ve made in the last 6-8 months that have brought me here, out of the religiousBecause I have to be honest; I’ve been taking opposition, and while the feeling of knowing truth is so powerful, this stuff has been wearing on me.

Anyway, I was skimming through 2 Timothy 3 and verse 5 leaped off the page at me, so I just had to go back to the beginning of the chapter and find out what was going on here:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 

– 2 Timothy 3:1-5 [emphasis mine]

Did you catch that? Paul is warning Timothy (and all of us young men) about perilous times and perilous people: “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God …” this description sounds like it came right out of his list of the fruits of the flesh over in Galatians 5; this is heavy stuff.

But do you know what kind of people he’s talking about? It isn’t the world, it’s the religious! It is the religious. He says in verse five, “[they have] a form of godliness…” Is it a reputation? A name? A claim to a church pew? These people probably appear quite godly.

Just let that sink in a little. And what is the danger?

For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

– 2 Timothy 3:6-7

Making captives out of the gullible to lust, loading them down with sins, always chasing knowledge but never able to grasp the real substance of the knowledge of the truth. Doesn’t that sound like the religious? It sounds a lot like some of those I’ve seen and heard speaking from behind the pulpit. And I think these two verses are key, because this is what the religious is full of–church is full of this! Everyone looking for the next new piece of wisdom as though their salvation and their usefulness to the kingdom depends on how much they can learn. To the religious of his day Jesus said something to the affect of “You search the scriptures because you think knowing them will save you, but you miss completely that they’re all about me!” (John 5:39, my paraphrase). Always hearing, never understanding. Loading sin after sin onto their fellow captives, because what else can you do with a system based off works and sin-consciousness?

I think back on my recent encounters, some with peers, others with older, more respected leader figures; I’m thinking about how perfectly my experiences and the feelings I’ve gotten from some individuals fit Paul’s description perfectly. I’m thinking about the people who had reputations in my eyes as great leaders on solid foundations.

Having a form of godliness.

This sort creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins.

“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees,” Jesus warned his disciples (Matthew 16:6) The infectious beliefs of those who believe no righteousness exists out of your perfect observance of the Law, and those who believe there is no resurrection life. Righteousness at the cost of death and no resurrection hope. And you can hear an awful lot of teaching and preaching in church today about what you must do to meet the requirements for salvation, in various forms and flavors. Having a form of godliness.

“Perilous times and perilous men will come,” warns Paul, “But it’s okay; you’ll know them by their fruit. They appear godly, but they bring devastation. Turn away from them!”

Turn away from them.

Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

– 2 Timothy 3:8-9

Are you in a dead movement? Faith in the finished work of Jesus will always promote progress. Jannes and Jambres were among the people that left Egypt; Moses delivered them. A form of godliness. What more can I say? Paul gives us the answer to remain steadfast in a time when false Christians and the religious will encroach us with doubt:

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. [And here comes the one-two punch:] 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:10-17

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus! Amen! How do you keep from faltering in the face of those who would question, deride and shame you for the truth of the gospel? Continue in what you know, know who you learned it from, and be confident in the Scripture where your 100-percent-faith-based salvation is found! I’m not going to stop believing in the finished work of Christ, I know I learned this gospel straight from God, and I know that I’m not only on a solid scriptural foundation, but I’m on the foundation of Christ himself! And I’ll tell you something, not only have I found confidence in the gospel by Scripture, but I’ve been able to respond to the naysayers with the truth straight out of the book itself; what better feeling than to know that you know that your foundation is Christ the Solid Rock, and all other ground is sinking sand.

As I began with, this passage just totally blew me out of the water, affirmed my whole understanding and put such a peace-enabling reassurance over me–I know I’m on the right track, I don’t need to be intimidated or put off by anyone regardless of who they are or what their reputation or standing is, and the danger in the religious culture is real, and it’s alive and well.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:16-17

I’ll end off with this: I’ve thought for a long time that I had to be learned to be able to carry any authority in the Christian culture. Now I realize, Christianity shouldn’t even be defined in a culture. All the so-called Christian Culture is, I think, is modernized religion. So I don’t need to be educated to be completely equipped, I just need to allow the Word of God to be alive in me–that’s all you need in order to be able to stand up to religious bullies–I don’t need to be learned, I just need to be listening to the voice of Jesus in me.

Feeding On Christ

I just finished watching Joseph Prince’s web-cast for today and was it ever good! Actually it was exactly what I needed to hear and it was so refreshing to hear it. He spoke on the power and authority of the word of God; it was a glorious counteraction to the ideas creeping into the Body that would demote the Word of God to mere human words, subject to chop and change over time. But Pastor Prince also spoke about the refreshing, re-energizing power of the Word, the power in the Word that separates mere human soul from Spirit in-dwelling, and I think now about how worn, discouraged, sick and burned out I’ve been. How energy-devoid I’ve been. I’ve been barely scraping along. And I haven’t been feasting on the Word. Because Jesus was right when He said, (also quoting the Word I might add,) “Man does not live by bread alone.”

Sometimes I think the denomination I came from (and probably many others also) have been so concerned about eating the best bread and the most healthy diets that they’ve missed out on the Bread of Life in the Word. I’ve been starving myself on food.

This is a perfect opportunity to share a little graphic I saw in church a couple weeks back.

The Threefold Nature of Man

This illustration comes from a man named Clarence Larkin, and as an aside you might be interested to do some research on him. He compared what he referred to as the threefold nature of man to the tabernacle – I haven’t read much about it yet, but it sounds pretty cool, and I might just have a post for it later on.

Anyway, onwards! What do we have here? Well, we have a wealth of thoughts bouncing around my head all related to this illustration and all waiting to come out for you, but I’ll go slow and leave the less-relevant subjects for their own posts.

So we are three parts: body, soul, and spirit. Our spirit is where the Spirit of God presides. Larkin compares the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle to our spirit where God now presides. Our soul is our mind. This is the part that’s still got the sin problem, because Christ replaces our sinful spirit with His spirit of perfect righteousness, but our soul is a work in progress. This is our mind that we need to renew through the Word of God and in continual prayer. And the more we feed on Christ, the more He flows out to our soul. The body is of course that hunk of meat you’re packin’ around.

We have the life of Christ on the inside of us, in our spirit. But our physical bodies will never see that life unless we feed on Him. Our souls will never see that life unless we feed on him. The Holy Spirit’s regenerating work in us is an inside-out process; we receive His life, we feed our soul on His life, and our soul speaks life to our body.

So what do I mean by starving myself with food?

I’ve been neglecting to feed my soul on the Spirit of God.

This is how the New Covenant works. We believe, and God gives us His spirit. If I do something wrong, this changes little, because the Spirit of God is still in me – He will not repeal this gift, because Jesus paid for it; I believe in Jesus and what He did for me, and I believe in the Spirit of God at work in me. Now my response is not self-condemnation, instead my response is to feed even more on the Spirit of God. The nourishment that God offers me in this way revitalizes and strengthens my soul to do what He asks of me, and my soul commands my body to act.

And how do we receive this nourishment? In communion with God. In the Word. In prayer–in praying in the spirit. Yes, I pray in the spirit. I’ll get into that in another article.

But what if we allow our food to come from other sources? What if we feed on teachings contrary to the Bible, our own ideas, the latest romance novel, un- and anti-godly movies and music, pornography (and pornography is ingraining itself in all of these to become culturally approved)… these are the foods that speak to our soul and overpower the Still Voice in our spirit, when we give reign to them. This is when we step away from God’s understanding and rely again on our own understanding as we did when we were still lost.

And what if we are already immersed in such worldly voices? This has been my confession time and time again. Not a confession of “I have sinned, please redeem me,” no, for Jesus needed only to die once, but a confession of “Jesus, I have been listening to other voices; please speak into my life again, I give you the right to be my nourishment again.”

This is my prayer now, because I haven’t fed enough from Jesus. I haven’t drunk enough from Life-giving streams.

How about you? Is this your prayer as well? I’ll stand in agreement with you over this. “Jesus, I’ve been listening to other voices than Yours. I want to only listen to you from now on. Please speak into my life again, and teach me to live on Your words alone. I declare that You are my sole–and soul–provider.”

Amen. Amen.

And Jesus, thank-you!