Saturday, November 20, 2010

Free In Christ Jesus

The Believer’s Freedom in Christ!
(Freed from Sin, Self, Satan and Society)
The Believer’s Walk in the Lord!

By Peter Feddema

Recently a question arose, with a correspondent of mine, concerning the many references in Scripture to sin. How are we to harmonize our freedom in Christ with the fact of our imperfections, as we live our life, day by day?
Over the years of studying the Scriptures, I am deeply grateful for having been given to see the truth, that we should distinguish the things that differ (Phil.1:10, margin).

To me, there is a vast difference between the Circumcision Scriptures, and the Pauline Epistles! Or, I should say, there is a universe of difference between the two evangels, mentioned in the letter to the Galatians (Gal.2:7-9).

Similarly, there is a great difference between pardon (forgiveness) and justification. It was only a short while ago that I wrote the following, in reply to a similar inquiry as this one. Here are some of the things I said then, in that response:

In a nutshell, we, as the chosen ones of God, from before the disruption of the world (Eph. 1:4a), or even long before that (2Tim.1:9), have always been holy and flawless in His sight (Eph.1:4b), in Christ.

Expressing it from our present-day human perspective, we, by the perfect work of Christ, have been set free from four, very important, 'S' word realities; namely, we are set free from sin, self, Satan and society.

These do not have any jurisdiction over us, anymore, and cannot diminish our perfect relationship with God, in Christ Jesus, because the glory of our relationship with God is in accord with the riches of His grace, which He lavishes on us, freely, in Christ.

Here are the Scriptural references in support of our freedom:

A. Free from sin as per Romans 6:5-7,18; 8:1-3; Galatians 3:13.

B. Free from self as per Galatians 2:20.

C. Free from the jurisdiction and authority of Satan as per Colossians 1:13.

D. Free from society (the world) as per Galatians 6:14.

These scriptural truths should enable us to revel in the fact that we have a genuine freedom in Christ. It is specifically stated that we have been set free for the sake of enjoying that freedom (Gal.5:1,13). It is to be appreciated that we have been set free from all these four, very potent negatives, in order that we may enjoy the transcendent fullness and richness of our FREEDOM in Christ, even now.

This harmonizes perfectly with our being set free from death, into life (Col. 3:1), during this present evil eon, but which freedom will reach its climax, for us, at our union with Christ at His return (1Thes.4:18; Col.3:4), and universally for all, at the consummation of the eons, when God becomes ALL in all (1Cor.15:28).

Many of us have difficulty accepting, unreservedly, our status of perfection in Christ, because we do not experience perfection, as yet, in our service, in the Lord. Oh, how the flesh likes to go by experiences and human feelings, rather than by the declarations of God’s word.

( For a fuller treatment on that concept, be sure to see, " Complete in Christ, Yet Laboring in the Lord" by Wilhelm Prolingheuer, Parts 1 and 2 )

However, all this does not mean that sin, self, Satan and society are not, anymore, some kind of a reality in our daily life; that would be tantamount to kidding ourselves that we are not anymore sensitive to the reality of our daily weather! But these negatives do not have any jurisdiction over us and God does not reckon them against us (Rom.4:23-25).

Since I was asked specifically about our problem with sin, I shall, primarily, direct my comments to the question concerning it.

My correspondent quoted a believer, as writing to him:

"We have to remember that we are declared innocent. Our sins are not counted against us. In effect, we do not sin other than in our OWN perception. If we claim to sin, then we call God a liar. He has not PARDONED us. There is a difference between a pardon (which implies guilt) - and a declaration of innocence. When you are declared innocent, it means you are not accountable for what you do. You are JUSTIFIED (declared free of blame; absolved)! Let us not contradict God and claim sin for ourselves. Let us not worry about sin in our lives. Let us banish the sin consciousness and start seeing ourselves as God sees us. THEN you will be free. You need to get it out of your vocabulary brother "

In my opinion, this brother is correct in some respects, but not in all. I do not agree that we only sin (miss the mark) "in our OWN perception." If that were so; why, then, would Paul get so upset with the Galatians (Gal.1:6-9; 3:1-3)?

Why would he have been inspired to write what we read in 1Corinthians 5:11-13, and in 2Thessalonians 3:6?

We still have, and ought to have, a keen awareness of what is right or wrong; is it not, in order that we may direct our steps sensibly, in harmony with Scripture?

It is factual that, in Christ, we are justified; but that does not give us license to do what we know to be sin, Right? (Rom.6:1-2).

The person quoted above, said, "Let us not worry about sin in our lives. Let us banish the sin consciousness and start seeing ourselves as God sees us. THEN you will be free. You need to get it out of your vocabulary brother "

While it is true, that we do not have to worry about sin separating us from God (Rom.8:31-39), it is to be clearly understood that our freedom from sin does not consist of simply forgetting about sin and not thinking about it, but in the realization of what we are in Christ, on the basis of His perfect sacrifice! A proper degree of knowing what constitutes sin will help us avoid blundering into sinful practices, and to be meaningfully engaged in the struggle between the spirit and the flesh (Gal.5:17).

How else, can we heed the admonition of Ephesians 5:15,16, as follows?

"Be observing accurately, then, brethren, how you are walking, not as unwise, but as wise,
16 reclaiming the era, for the days are wicked." (Eph.5:15-16)
Indeed, I would say that we have not been reduced to innocent, immature babies, not knowing what is at large, even though we are not under the jurisdiction of any of the four S-entities, mentioned earlier.

As already briefly referred to, some very instructive information is given us in Galatians 5:17, which reads as follows:

"For the flesh is lusting against the spirit, yet the spirit against the flesh. Now these are opposing one another, lest you should be doing whatever you may want."(Gal.5:17)
Many are well aware of the struggle between the spirit and our flesh; but it is very noteworthy to read again, the last part of verse 17: "Now these are opposing one another, lest you should be doing whatever you may want."

This is most amazing, if we are willing to consider it. God has, for the time being, arranged it so that we cannot be perfectly "sinless," nor be completely "indulging in sin!"

It is by GOD'S DESIGN that we are not having, as yet, the full measure of His Spirit, but only an earnest {a portion} (2Cor.1:22; 5:5; Eph.1:14).

That is why we cannot, spiritually, do what we would wish to do, namely; be perfect in our walk .

It is also true that the spirit of God within us, will not allow our flesh to do what it would want to do, namely; live it up to its full gratification.

But let me say it again; our inability to walk perfectly, should not frustrate us; because, at all times , we are complete in Christ (Col.2:10).

This completeness, properly perceived and appreciated, will be the most potent, motivating power to have us rejoice, constantly, as we labor in the Lord (Phil.4:4), and it will enable us to richly enjoy the peace of God, as well. (Phil.4:7).

Being yet subject to all kinds of human weaknesses and short comings ( sin = missing the mark ), and groaning to be delivered from the body of this death and humiliation, (Rom.7:24; 8:23; Phil.3:21), we, nevertheless, may revel in the glorious truth of Romans 8:31 to 39, and in our perfect standing with God, namely, fully justified and reconciled.

1Corinthians 15:56,57 gives us further insight into a detail of our spiritual reality, which we experience everyday. Here is that passage:

"Now the sting of Death is sin, yet the power of sin is the law. 57 Now thanks be to God, Who is giving us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1Corinthians 15:56,57)
Yes, indeed, thanks be to God that, for us, believers, there is no more sting of death (sin) to paralyze us in our love, faith and expectation. As verse 56 refers to law, we revel in the truth of not, anymore, being under law, but under grace (Rom.6:14,15). We do not have to fear condemnation (Rom.4:25; 6:2-7; 8:1, 31-39; 1 Cor.15:17), because, in Christ, we are justified.

How transcendently wonderful it is for us to know, that, whether we live or die, we have the full assurance of being beyond the sting of death (the negative consequences of sin, in our relationship with God). All this, does not make it necessary that we have to deny the reality that we are still in our body of sin (Rom.6:6), in our body of death (Rom.7:24, 8:23) and in our body of humiliation (Phil.3:21). But again, it is of the greatest importance that we see our present condition as being in Christ, for that is how God sees us. The fact that we are still in this present "body of flesh" is to be viewed as a momentary necessity, while God is still busy with us as the Great Potter, molding and shaping us for His glory and purpose!

In no way do we have to be uptight about things, but with the Spirit of God giving us love and power and sanity (2Tim.1:7), we should live "the reality of our salvation" most earnestly and carefully (Phil. 2:12), not indulging in sin (Rom. 6:1-2), even though it is true, that where sin abounds, grace super-abounds (Rom.5;20).

In my opinion, we do not have to pretend anything, but we may be very realistic about the things God has revealed to us concerning what it means, for us, to be IN CHRIST and to be serving Him, IN THE LORD. "In Christ" refers to our perfect standing with God, but "in the Lord" refers to our conduct and our service, while still here on earth, as members of the "body of Christ."

We should not go to the Circumcision Scriptures (awesome as they are) to obtain spiritual light and insight, to live by, during this time of God's Administration of Grace (Eph.3:2,9).

Although it is true that doing so will not rob us of our standing with God in Christ Jesus; it will rob us of the enjoyment, appreciation and realization of God's unlimited and undiluted grace, the same as it did the Galatians (Gal.5:4)!

The Galatians did not actually fall out of grace, and did not actually lose the benefits of Christ, but such would be so, if their erroneous belief was true, and such it was in their consciousness! A true and proper awareness of the grace in which believers stand (Rom.5:2) is ever so energizing for a Godly walk, in the Lord!

It is to be appreciated that neither we, nor the Galatians, for that matter, had anything to do with being placed "in Christ."

The flip-side is also true; that nothing we might do or not do, or experience, is able to remove us from being "in Christ" (Rom.8:1, 31-39).

However, with respect to our daily walk, "falling out of grace" means falling out of the awareness; the enjoyment; and the practical value; of realizing our constant blessings of transcendent richness in Christ, and thatthose riches, in particular, enable us; rejuvenate us; motivate us; and invigorate us; so that sin, self, Satan and society can no longer blind us with respect to our status and our service.

Let us stand, very firmly, in the freedom where with Christ has made us free (Gal.5:1,13). Let us fully acknowledge, and be aware of the fact that we have been given abundant life and spaciousness to live this new life, to enjoy our status of being a NEW CREATION in Christ (2Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15).

THESE facts will not become dimmed by accepting the Scriptural entreaties to live worthily of the calling given us, and to fight the good fight of faith, and to be imitators of God, and to recognize what is our logical and reasonable divine service (Rom.12:1-2), to which we have been called.

It is for the sake of the best service that we wish to render, that we still have to be aware of self, sin, Satan and society, lest we, like little babes, are taken in by those enemies of God.

The love of God, that has been made real within us through God's spirit (Rom. 5:5; 2Tim. 1:7) is not given us for nothing, but is ever so essential for us, in order that we may have the necessary power, love and sanity, to live and cope, meaningfully, in this world of insanity and death!

As a sort of afterthought (since I was coming to the end of this article), I would like all to consider what is said to us in Eph. 4:30, which reads as follows:

"And do not be causing sorrow to the holy spirit of God by which you are sealed for the day of deliverance." (Eph. 4:30)
The context of Ephesians 4:30 shows us that, if we are not careful and conscientious, we may have all kinds of actions and attitudes which Scripture tells us would cause sorrow to God's holy spirit.

It is my personal opinion, that, this sorrowing of God's holy spirit will be experienced by us, who have been given God's holy spirit (Rom.5:5). In other words, it is a built-in arrangement by God, that we will not be very happy, when living carelessly and ignoring the Scriptures that tell us about the reality that we can still "miss the mark" (sin), though it will not separate us from God. It will, however, cause us a certain amount of loss. In this life we lose happiness, and when we appear before the Dais of God and of Christ we may miss out on a measure of applause and reward (Rom. 14:10; 1Cor.4:5; 2 Cor.5:10).

Let me stress, again, that we should never allow the reality of our imperfection -- as long as we are here -- to overshadow, to any degree, the transcendent riches we have in Christ!

It is very important to let that which is infinitely greater, be the greatest in our life, and in our thinking, and in our awareness!

In fact, it is precisely, what we ARE in Christ that will enable us to function, effectively and happily, in the Lord! Ever so sadly, a great number of believers are like the man who has billions of dollars in his bank account, but does not know it and, consequently, lives like a very unhappy, insecure and depressed pauper! What a pity!

That is analogous to having the cart before the horse! No wonder the cart is not going anywhere. Horses were not created to push carts!

But being realistic, scripturally, let us happily and positively, face the facts of our present earthly life, and let us, by the light of God's word, live unto God, and not unto sin, (Rom.6:13,19; Col.3:5), which is still present, but is not able to diminish what we are in Christ.

However, it can, and it will , diminish our useful service unto God. That in itself, should motivate us to walk, very circumspectly, with a great degree of positive carefulness.

Yet, lest we become too preoccupied with the negativeness of our imperfect walk, let us remember that our circumstances, and our present, earthly conditions, are also, in addition to God's word and spirit, instruments in His hands, whereby He is educating us!

Let us consider it a great privilege to have fallen into the hands of God, because He operates all for our good (Rom.8:28).

Let us not ignore the fact that God has equipped us with marvelous faculties of heart, mind and soul, and is enabling us to learn all that He wills we should learn (1Tim.2:4b).

This means that we should not shun involvement, where we are called upon to be involved, as is made abundantly clear in Paul's epistles of which I have quoted and have referred to, above!

Let the perfection we have in Christ (Col.2:10), greatly motivate us to rejoice in rendering meanigful service in the Lord (Phil.4:4-7).
Peter Feddema

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