Romans 14:15 (NIV) 15If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.
We’re aware that fellow believers can still be distressed. And the cause of each other’s distress can be each other. To be such a cause equates to being unloving in our actions. The mandate is clear: our freedom in Jesus ought to not cause anyone to be distressed or destroyed. Our souls are way more precious than any food, drink, or anything this world has to offer.
Our Lord Jesus has set us free, and whoever He sets free is truly free. It is for freedom itself that He set us free; that speaks of the great value of freedom. But there’s something of greater worth than that: souls. God loves each of us tremendously, that explains the rationality of our precious Lord Jesus willingly leaving the glories of heaven to seek and to save the lost by sacrificing His life as a ransom payment for us.
We as His children understand His indescribable love—not totally—but enough to know that it’s great beyond measure. Having this set in our hearts and minds, we’re willing to sacrifice our freedom to protect others, especially our spiritual family. Sure, everything is permissible for us, but we understand that not everything is beneficial. Sure, we’re free to do anything, but we’re aware that there are things that can be destructive instead of constructive; there are things that can get us enslaved or addicted, there are things that can cause others to stumble, and there are things that just plainly don’t glorify God. Having the heart of God for His children, we willingly submit our liberty to love if a choice has to be made.
Romans 5:17 (KJV) 17For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
We look at Adam with mercy despite the fact that he ushered sin and death into the world by one wrong and sinful choice that brought devastating consequences. I personally admit, I most probably would not have done any better. This is a truth I can’t disregard, nor escape, although escaping it is farthest from my mind. I humbly admit my obvious imperfections. With that, I humbly and even more greatly praise our God for the abundance of His grace.
As in many occasions, a quick clarification is necessary. Praising the immeasurable greatness of His grace isn’t an endorsement of irresponsible and sinful Christian living. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds” is a true statement we as believers are immensely grateful for, but we don’t ever take those words as a rallying cheer for believers to increase sinning. That’s a very awful, unscriptural, and ungodly understanding of a very sacred truth.
God has so generously and freely gifted us with His abundant grace and righteousness. These same wonderful gifts empower us to “reign in life.” We live triumphantly over sin and death—all courtesy of our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s our heavenly Father’s pleasure to see us living victoriously, to see us living freely from the shackles of sin, to see us living above its rule and authority. He is our victorious Father; He lives in us through His Spirit, He has never lost once to the power of sin and Satan, and He never will; He wants us to enjoy the same. When we glean the victories His weapons of righteousness open up for us, it brings great joy to His heart, and we live well before others, blessing God and His creation all at the same time.
Romans 3:24 (KJV) 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
We all have hope of forgiveness, cleansing, and salvation—this despite the truth that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard of holiness. It’s a universally acceptable cliché: “No one’s perfect.” We don’t take that truth for granted, and it’s important to see its more serious side. We make mistakes; that’s part of our imperfection; not all mistakes are sinful. But we’ve all sinned, and we walk away from God when we sin—we separate ourselves from Him—knowingly or not. That’s a consequence that can lead to a terrifying eternal condition. We don’t underestimate the unimaginable horrors of such existence.
Hope—that’s what we find in our precious Lord Jesus—hope that has become a reality for those of us who have placed our full dependence on Him for our salvation, us who have surrendered to His Lordship. How blessed we are really for having our offenses not counted against us, for having our sins forgiven. Happiness—or even joy, can’t describe what we feel in our hearts. Imagine having the Son of God paying the ransom price for our freedom.
We can stop imagining. This isn’t a wishful thinking either. It’s more real than many people think. We’ve sinned; we still do, but to be counted just as if we’ve never even sinned is a blessing beyond measure. Don’t get me wrong; the Bible never teaches a time when God ever stopped being just; He won’t ever because He can’t not be Himself. Being just is His nature. He can justify us freely despite our sins because our precious Lord Jesus paid for all of them. Yes, our sins didn’t go unpunished. We may have gotten “off-the-hook,” but only through the loving-kindness, mercy, and grace of Him who took the punishment (even death) in our place.
1 Chronicles 29:18 (KJV) 18 O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:
Can our sovereign and loving God work in our hearts—people’s hearts—without violating our free will? I guess He can. We may not fully understand how He does it, but He can. Otherwise, there’s no point praying for Him to make His people want to obey Him. We’ve seen clear examples and explicit passages in the Scriptures showing this. God changed the heart of Saul (1 Sam. 10:9); He prophesied about giving His people a new heart (Jer. 24:7); He directs the king’s heart like rivers of water (Prov. 21:1); David prayed for God to give him a clean heart (Ps. 51:10).
Yes He can, and Yes He does work in people’s hearts. This is not however a removal of free will, or cancelling of our responsibility. In fact, we see clearly in the Scriptures how Saul turned away from God, how Solomon turned his heart towards the gods of his wives, how one king after another chose to rebel against God, and how His Old Covenant people repeatedly disobeyed God. We as His people weren’t made robots when we placed our full dependence on Him to save us and surrendered our lives to Him.
We were made new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), but we still obviously have a choice whether we obey or disobey Him, whether we abide in Him or not, whether we live faithfully or not, whether we deny Him or not. God won’t fail; if He says He’ll give us new hearts, He will. In fact, for believers, He already has. What we do with our God-given new hearts is up to us. As for me, and I pray my entire household, we will worship and serve Him faithfully—wholeheartedly.
Galatians 4:5 (KJV) 5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
What a blessing! What a change! I don’t know if many of us understand the gravity or importance of this truth. We were slaves; now were children. We were under the law, but our Lord Jesus, in His perfect timing, came, and bought our freedom. We’re not just pretend children; we are adopted—real children. It’s true, not a lot of people realize or admit that we were slaves—slaves to the law, to sin, to the enemy’s whims.
It’s not easy for some to admit any kind of bondage; it’s either embarrassing or discouraging. But it’s okay; those still in bondage can be free; those of us in Jesus are now free. And the great thing about it is that we’re not just freed slaves; we are now God’s children. Some may ask: “Aren’t we all God’s children?” Yes and no. Yes, we’re all God’s children in the sense that God is the Father of creation. We’re all children by virtue of creation. And no, we’re not all God’s children in the sense that only those who place their absolute dependence on Jesus as their Savior, and surrender their lives to Him as Lord are God’s spiritual children.
We as His spiritual children are totally and humbly grateful for this wonderful honor and privilege. Oh, to be able to praise God and worship Him in His greatness, majesty, and splendor, and then to address Him as “Dad,”—how comforting; how inspiring; how encouraging.
Acts 12:7 (KJV) 7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
Peter, a believer, an apostle of Jesus Christ was imprisoned. Unlike his co-apostle James who just got murdered, he was supernaturally and miraculously delivered through the agency of an angel. The foreboding atmosphere was suddenly saturated with light. The chains that limited his movements fell off his hands without keys, without the use of force.
Persecution is real; enemies of the faith are real. There are people who desire to do us harm and there are times when they get to inch their way in and accomplish some of their injurious intentions. Deadly threats are real, but so is God, so are angels, so are miracles. It doesn’t matter how hopeless our situations may seem; we may feel like we’re stuck and we’re done; it may seem like those who treat us as their enemies may be winning, but our God sees every detail of our lives—more detailed than our perception and understanding of things.
While God exists, while He’s alive, we always have hope. Good News: God is real; God exists; God is alive, and He’s alive forevermore. This means we have undying hope. He can get us out of our hardest predicament. Just because it’s beyond our power and control doesn’t mean it’s beyond any power and control. God isn’t absent from the scene of our lives. One word from God and our situations turn around. One command and He can have an angel intercept any work of any enemy. Nothing scares us.
Luke 4:18 (KJV) 18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised
The precious Holy Spirit was present in the life of our Lord Jesus. He was the personification of God’s anointing that breaks heavy yokes. This anointing can be seen as one who delivers the much needed answer to our deepest spiritual needs; some may see Him extending His help even in the areas of our physical or material needs as well. Any way we look at it, a clear basic understanding about the Holy Spirit and His ministry gives us increased appreciation for Him.
Others point out that every miracle our Lord Jesus performed was through the power of the Holy Spirit. Somehow, that’s the only reasonable way that He can truly give us a fair example as to how to live victoriously as believers. If Jesus fully depended on the power of the Holy Spirit for His holy and victorious life, then we can do the same. There are of course others who point to the divinity of our Lord Jesus as the power behind some of His miracles.
Either way, the truth is that the Holy Spirit is very much involved in the life of our Lord, and now, in us. His anointing is still upon us. So we lovingly, boldly, and powerfully declare the Good News; there is hope of salvation for all no matter how spiritually bankrupt people are. God’s Spirit can deliver those who have long been held by the cruel power of sin and death. Those who are blinded by lies and deception can now have their “veils” removed. Those who are left battered and bruised by their destructive, addictive, controlling attitudes, choices and influences can be set free.
The Holy Spirit worked in the life of our Lord in full force. We don’t have a lower quality copy; we have the very same Holy Spirit working in our lives. Jesus told us we’ll do greater things than He did; we understand how that’s possible. Broken lives still abound, but we have God’s love and God’s power in us. Through His Spirit in us, He’s still touching the world.