Give me liberty!!

“Give me liberty, or give me death,” is this not one of the most popular phrases in all of American history? From an early age we embedded it within our very being as Americans. The very foundations for that which we believe as a country drives itself from the understanding that man has liberty, but from a Christian perspective what does liberty mean? Do we derive our understanding of Christian liberty from Scriptures or from America? Do we take time to think about Scripture and our biblical understand of who we are called to be? As Christians we do not derive our understandings of truth from our culture, but from the Word of God alone. This is all the more true when we deal with Christian liberty.

Christian liberty is one of the most beautiful aspects of our faith. And the reasons it is one of the most beautiful aspects is because in it we see that our faith is more than a set of rules. It is a faith built on a relationship with the Savior, lived out in community with other believers, all who come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different life experiences, and different salvific stories. Because we have these different backgrounds we see the faith lived out in slightly different ways, though all built on the solid foundation of Christ alone. In 1 Corinthians Paul deals with these very issues as he works through the difficulties going on within the church in Corinth.

In Corinth we have a church that greatly embraces their liberty in Christ. However, while embracing their Christian liberty they went to the extreme of no longer worshiping God by their actions, but rather satisfied their flesh at the detriment of their brothers and sisters. In chapters 8 -10 Paul puts together a lengthy discourse on what it means to live in Christian liberty. In the course of these three chapters we see that Christian liberty is advanced theology, it is more than embracing an idea that I can do whatever I want whenever I want because I’ve been forgiven by God, but rather it is an understanding that in Christ we have freedom to live out the gospel alone. The beauty of the gospel seen in our liberty is that we can lay it down. It is the fact that we are able to do these things and yet we willingly choose not to for the sake of our brothers and the cause of Christ.

In the text he begins by speaking of simple things as food sacrificed to idols, of course, for us today food sacrificed to idols is an anomaly. We don’t tend to see idols on every street corner. We don’t buy our meat from a butcher that cuts and sells his wares in honor of a god, but we do understand the principle that is at stake in these chapters. Paul is dealing with believers who were flaunting their liberties at the expense of their brothers and sisters.

This is been a charge labeled often at the young restless and reformed movement, a term derived 10 years ago in Christianity Today given to the young ministers being transformed by reformed theology. Most young reformers are products of that movement, and too many degrees we would call ourselves members of it. Unfortunately, for all the good that this movement brought back to our understanding of the grace of God, of our hope in him alone, our love of doctrine and theology, a deep abiding love for the church, and salvation…it also brought with it the un-needed baggage of antinomian Christian liberty.

Antinomian Christian liberty at its core is not reformed theology; rather it is a distortion of the truth.  This view of Christian liberty is very much in step with the error that Paul is fighting in Corinth. This view finds itself, though, right in step with the American idea I can do whatever I want and I will have grace before God, a grace that should be free from consequences. Rather than embracing the love of God and out of a love for what God has done in us and through us, seeking to honor and glorify Him with all aspects of our lives and seeking to love our brothers and sisters with grace and hope, this version of Christian liberty seeks only to serve itself. It sees the purpose of the cross not for worship of God but for worship of self. In many ways it embraces an infantile faith. This is especially true when we see those who are called out for their abuse of Scripture and their abuse of the brothers and sisters running right back to their “we have liberty in Christ.” This reveals that there is a misunderstanding of the Scriptures especially in the realm of Christian liberty.

In 1 Corinthians 10:23 Paul begins with the words “all things are lawful.” Maybe some of us have simply stopped there and missed the reality that not all things were helpful for our spiritual walk nor do they build up those around us. Paul wants to remind us that the purpose of our Christian liberty is to serve our brothers and sisters and to worship God. We are called in the text to lay down our liberty when we know it is for the good of our brothers and sisters, for those who struggle with sin, for those who struggle with doubt. We do not flaunt your liberties at the expense of others.

While the vast majority reading this blog may be Americans our liberty at its core as believers is not American. Our liberty at its core is Jesus Christ alone.

He models for us the truth of what it means to live in liberty; to live in liberty according to the gospel is to give up our lives for the good of others. We lay down our rights to serve and love the family of God and reach our neighbors. The call of Christian liberty is to truly love your neighbors and walk with them in the faith. It is to know and see their struggles and to knowingly and humbly lay down your rights to help grow and bless them. Remember our liberty on this earth is but for a lifetime, while our celebration of true liberty in Christ is eternal; a liberty that has set us free from sin and death.
With that in mind let us lay down our rights as we see the day coming when the Lord shall return. So if your brother or sister is struggling with alcohol addiction, with pornography or sexual sins, with anger, bitterness, gossip, do not lead them further into it through your “liberties,” but rather may you build them up through love and prayer. Pointing them and yourself back to the cross were our true hope is found. Where the Lord of the universe who had unlimited authority in liberty gave it all up for our sake and for our salvation.

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My Response to the “Reformed Pubcast’s” Comments on My Earlier Post

A few days ago I wrote a post about Why I left “The Reformed Pubcast” which in turn caused more of a response than I ever imagines.  I blog in a corner, and usually only a few people ever read my posts.  But, after this previous post I received heated responses from some of the current leaders and members of the Pubcast.  It prompted a member of the Pubcast to write his own response to my original post, which you can find here.  Also, close friends I still have in the Pubcast told me Les (Pubcast co-founder) found my post and put it on the group Facebook page, which caused a comment stir bringing over 250 comments that were by and large negative and or angry.  Please take what follows as my response to all the comments made to me here on my blog as well as comments I received via phone and email.

It would seem (to me) that such a negative response to my original post means that I may have pointed out something those in the Pubcast really do struggle with.  If beer or any alcohol were treated in the Pubcast as a side matter and not the central matter my post would not have received much attention at all.  But, again, because the response was so fierce and emotional for so many, it tells me that I’ve hit on something real.  I spoke of immaturity present in the Pubcast and some of you asked for examples.  Look at the comments posted on my blog alone and you’ll have no need to go any further for evidence.  Some of the comments made prove everything I stated true.

Someone commented and said, “How are we making alcohol a major focus of our lives? The Pub is not our life, it’s a place where we go to discuss…beer and theology. If you walk into a chess club, would you criticize them for spending so much time discussing and playing chess?”  Good thought indeed, but if the “chess club” claimed to be a Christian Chess Club and I (after spending 4 months in the club) saw or felt that a love for chess seemed to be more prominent and important than a love for Jesus, I would leave the group and encourage them to stop playing chess so much and focus more on Christ.  To me, the same principle applies to the Pub.  Beer is not a sin, drinking it in moderation is perfectly in line with living a godly, holy life.  But if beer, or any alcohol, becomes more of a central focus than Christ Himself, it becomes unhealthy and sinful.  That is when it crosses the line of moving from enjoyment of Christian liberty to abusing Christian liberty.

We can only enjoy the gifts God gave us if we see them as just that – gifts from God to be enjoyed in line with His opinion of how we should enjoy them.  We cannot use or enjoy His gifts in whatever manner we so desire.  Paul said in view of knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection ALL OTHER THINGS HAVE BECOME AS LOSS to him (Phil. 3:1-14).  Alcohol should be included in this group of things we count as loss or count as nothing compared to knowing Christ.  Jesus is better.  Who cares if we have alcohol or not.  If we do, lets enjoy it while knowing Christ is better.  If we can’t do that, let’s put it away and focus on Christ alone.  Again, the fierce response shows that for some of the members of the Pubcast, alcohol is not seen as “loss.”

Someone also said, “It’s like he walked into a Pub, and was upset that everyone was drinking beer…” and “…It’s like he walked into youth group, and was upset that there were so many teenagers.”  No, it didn’t surprise me members of the Pubcast drink at all, I was looking for a group that encouraged the proper use/enjoyment of our Christian liberty.  I assumed members of the club drank beer just as I would assume members of a youth group would be teenagers.  Here’s the rub: I think most members of the Pubcast don’t exercise a proper use of our liberty, but rather abuse it.  There is a difference.

Second, Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2).  Question: when Jesus turned the water into the finest wine ever made, did Jesus do that to make much of the wine?  No, Jesus did this to make much of Himself.  This is what I think Jesus was up to in this. the first of His miracles.

In this wedding, there were six large jars filled with water for purification rites in-line with the OT Law.  Jesus turns all that water to wine.  In the Old Testament both the prophet Hosea and the prophet Amos speak of days when the Messiah will come and bring an abundance of wine with Him.  Amos 9:13-14 says, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,”when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”

An abundance of wine was thought of in Jewish thinking as a gift of the age to come.  So when Jesus replaces the water with fine quality wine, do you see what He’s doing?  The jars of water were meant for Law-keeping and Jesus fills them with wine, a blessing of the age to come.  This shows us that the Old Testament Law is being fulfilled, and that with the coming of Jesus Christ comes a new age and a new rule.  Jesus is bringing the kingdom into existence on earth through His ministry.

So, Jesus didn’t perform this miracle to make much of alcohol or to justify the Church’s use of alcohol.  He didn’t perform any of His miracles to impress people or to show that the supernatural really did exist.  He did all of them to show that He is the One who is bringing the blessings of the age to come into this world.  Unlike the groom who failed to provide enough wine for his own wedding party, Jesus is the greater groom who provides abundantly for His own people.  When all other wines run out, His wine never will.  He is the fountain that never ends, as Psalm 36:8 says, “He lets us drink from the river of His delights…”

Third and lastly, to thanks 4 of you.

My very close friend 06dayz, Jerry Dobson, T.L. Arsenal, and Emmanuel.  The three of you have made comments on my blog and all four of you did so graciously and with maturity.  The rest of you did not.  Learn from these men how you should interact with those you disagree with.  These four men made statements I will be thinking about for a long time in and I am thankful for the time these men put into responding to me in a Biblical manner.  May we all be found to treat one another with the same grace we’ve been shown by God through Christ.

Why I Left ‘The Reformed Pubcast’ – Grow Up, Settle Down, Keep Reforming

 

The Reformed Pubcast consists of two guys who host a podcast on Reformed theology and beer.  I love Reformed theology and I like beer too.  The podcast begins with the two hosts discussing the beer they’re drinking while recording the podcast and then it moves onto theology afterwards.  The Reformed Pubcast grew in it’s scope very fast, gained a large audience, even making the top podcast list on iTunes, and has a Facebook group which is currently about 5,000 strong.

I used to listen to this podcast. I used to be in the Facebook group – I am no longer.

Why?  Let me explain.

Being reformed theologically puts one a very strange position as a pastor.  I pastor just outside of North Tampa Bay, Florida and it is NOT a reformed culture at all.  It is very charismatic, arminian, man-centered, and seeker sensitive.  Naturally I am one of the few reformed guys in my area and if I meet another pastor/theologian near me who is reformed I become very excited because there seems to be so few near me.  So as you can imagine when I first heard of this podcast from a close friend I became very excited.  I began listening to it weekly, and became a member of the Facebook group too.  From my vantage point it looked like I had found like-minded community, something pastors don’t always have.

But as I continued listening to the podcast and interacting with the Facebook group one thing became increasingly apparent to me.  It seemed that these guys really do love Christ, that they love theology, and that they love the historic reformed heritage – but two things kept popping into my mind that put me off a bit.

First, an over-emphasis on alcohol.  I know Les and Tanner (the hosts) begin the show with discussing beer, how it is made, good beer, bad beer, and overall beer 101 but it became to be a central topic on the show and in the Facebook group.  This bothered me, so I stopped listening to the podcast and only participated in the Facebook group.  Now, those of you who know me know that I am not against beer.  I like beer, I drink beer.  BUT I am very against Christians celebrating alcohol in any sense, the abuse of alcohol in drunkenness, the insane amount of money people spend to buy it, and the horrendous impact it has had on many lives.  The Pubcast’s emphasis on beer is too much for my liking.  I don’t think it takes the consequences of alcohol seriously, or the struggle certain people have with it.  It borders on sin, and has crossed the line at times by celebrating/flaunting our Christian liberty before God and others.

Second, immaturity.  This is really the main issue at stake for me.  After listening to a few of the podcasts I noticed that there was immature coarse joking in it and when you over-emphasize the use of alcohol while cracking jokes and acting like adolescent boy you’ve simply gone too far to be helpful to anyone in the long term.  In my opinion, and it’s just that, the Pubcast is full of people who fall into the category of “Young, Restless, and Reformed.”  This is the “New Calvinism” of my generation, of which I am a part of.  This group is largely reformed in soteriology, but not in practice.  What I mean by that is they resemble their heroes like Mark Driscoll: reformed in doctrine while entrenched in modern day hip culture.

I once was proud to call myself part of the YRR (Young, Restless, & Reformed) group and interestingly enough during the days I was proud to use and promote that label I also was very keen in flaunting my use of Christian liberty before both the Church and the World.  Of course I didn’t think I was doing this at the time (hindsight is always 20/20 right?) but that is exactly what I was doing.  I was in my mid 20’s, I thought we YRR’s were the cutting edge of Christianity, the right ones, who not only had right doctrine but trendy living and solid reformed rap as well.  Why couldn’t everyone else see that this was the way to live the Christian life?  Why couldn’t they see that this is the way to reach the lost, to show them that they could be cool AND have Jesus as well?  During this time in my life I slowly began to think that we YRR’s had arrived.  We hadn’t,

Please don’t hear me saying 100% of the Reformed Pubcast Members fall into this category, they don’t.  I was squarely in the YRR at one time in my life and I can now spot those who are in similar trajectories easier because of my mistakes.  Not all that I did during those days was bad, but what I couldn’t see then and what I can see clearly now is that I wasn’t really trying to reach the lost around me, or impact the world, or even show the Church and the World how to live the Christian life.  What I was doing was being very selfish and masking it like it was the godly thing to do.  That was sin, and I have repented for such non-sense.

Now back to the Pubcast.  The self absorption and flaunting of my Christian liberty I got caught up with during my mid-20’s is by and large what I see plaguing the members of the ‘Reformed Pubcast.’  For this reason I have left the group.  Why?  Because though I am solidly within the reformed camp, I am no longer young or restless.  Should the other members of the pub cast leave as well?  Sure maybe, that’s for each of them to decide.  What they should do is grow up from boys to men and that is the point of why I’m writing this.

The point of writing this post is that the reformed young people of today (who are represented in the Pubcast) need to be called out to not only reform their doctrine in line with Scripture, but reform their lives as well.  What does this look like?  Simple.  It looks like boys growing into men, and owning the call to sacrificially give up ourselves in Christ-like obedience to others.  When we come to the end of ourselves, we find the beginning of life in Christ.

I leave you with John MacArthur’s words of advice to the YRR crowd: “Grow up, settle down, keep reforming.”

Why Christians Need to Stop Citing “All Things Are Lawful”

Justin Taylor:

In his book, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Crossway, 2013), Denny Burk explains why it is contrary to Paul’s intended meaning for us to cite “all things are lawful” (1 Cor. 6:12) as if it is something he approves. In fact, the context makes clear that this is actually something he is refuting:

Almost every modern translations and a near consensus of commentators treat “all things are lawful” not as Paul’s words but as a slogan that Corinthian men used to justify their visits to prostitutes (cf. 1 Cor. 6:15). The NIV captures the correct interpretation: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12).

. . . [T]he Corinthians had twisted Paul’s law-free gospel into a justification for bad behavior. Thus the phrase “all things are lawful” is not an expression of Christian freedom from the apostle Paul but rather an expression of antinomianism from fornicators! Paul’s aim in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is to correct the Corinthians’ misunderstanding. One of the reasons for the Corinthian error was the fact that they viewed the physical body as inconsequential in God’s moral economy (see 1 Cor. 6:13b). Yet Paul refutes the Corinthians on this point and gives them an ultimate ethical norm with respect to their bodies: “You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). . . . Paul’s question is not “Is it lawful?” but “Does it glorify God with my body?”

This is not to say that every evangelical who uses this phrase has the wrong general idea. Christian freedom is a legitimate doctrine, rightly interpreted and applied. But I think it’s fairly clear that this is an example of a legitimate intention from the wrong text.

8 Questions to Clear the Muddy Waters of Christian Liberty

How often do each of you make really important decisions that you think live square in the middle of the ridiculously grey area of Christian liberty?  If you’re like me, these kinds of decisions cross your path daily, and how you answer them, and act according to your answer, matters a great deal to the aim and direction of not only your life, but the lives of those around you.  To aid you navigate the somewhat frustrating waters of Christian liberty, here are 8 questions you can ask to help clear the water.  Beware, once you ask these questions and receive an answer you’re seeking, pray for the integrity to obey your decision.

1) Am I persuaded that it is right?

2) Can I do it as unto the Lord?

3) Can I do it without being a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ?

4) Does it bring peace?

5) Does it edify my brother?

6) Is is profitable?

7) Does it enslave me?

8) Does it bring glory to God?

To read the explanation and passages standing behind these questions, go here.