Swimming Upstream

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At the close of an important speech to Congress on January 6, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt shared his vision for the kind of world he wanted to see after the war was over. He envisioned four basic freedoms to be enjoyed by all people: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These definitely seem to be legitimate freedoms, who would not want them?

But there’s another kind of freedom that seems to capture the heart’s cry of many in our world today. Ravi Zacharias, in his book Can Man Live Without God, said, “Through technology the whole world has now become the media’s parish, talk-show hosts the prophets, actors and musicians the priests, and any script will do for the Scriptures as long as moral constraints are removed.”

That last phrase is the key, “any script will do for the Scriptures as long as moral constraints are removed.” To be sure, Christianity is not just another form of moralism. Christianity is first and foremost a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. However, Christianity has always taught, or at least it should have, the inherent danger in casting off moral restraint.

When the moral restraints are removed anything goes and society will find itself on a rapid descent into the abyss of chaos and confusion. The concept of one man and one woman entering into a binding, lifelong commitment to each other through marriage, is seen as one option among many. And not necessarily the best option. For some, marriage becomes an outdated and boring option in a sea of others which are more exciting, more contemporary, more in keeping with the times.

The early church were very careful not to place unnecessary burdens on Gentiles who had converted to the new “Jewish sect” which would later become known as Christianity. Certain Pharisees began to teach that these new Gentiles believers should be circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order to be true Christians. A church conference ensued and a decision was made. A letter was written explaining the church’s decision, the last part of which states (in Acts 15:28-29):
(28) For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us (the council of apostles and elders), to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
(29) that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, and from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”

The council’s decree included some concessions to Jewish believers (“from blood, and from things strangled) but the kicker is that last “burden” where it says “from sexual immorality.” The early church decreed that believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should abstain from sexual immorality (a bit of a catch all term and basically means any kind of sexual activity outside the bonds of matrimony).

It is incumbent upon Christians to swim against the tide of moral depravity evident in the world around us. Sometimes the current is strong and there are many obstacles in the water. Sometimes we just get tired of swimming upstream. It would be so much easier to “float with the flow.” It may be helpful to remember that in the river of life there is a waterfall and once we fall over it there’s no coming back. There’s no rescue from the bottom of the falls. We must be rescued while we’re still in the river.

The way of rescue hasn’t changed. It’s still as easy as calling upon the name of Jesus Christ and asking Him to save you. If you come to Him and ask Him to be your Lord and Saviour then He’ll help you swim against the tide until you safely reach heaven’s shores.

Abuse of Liberty

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As a Christian I take comfort in the fact that I’m called to freedom. As a Canadian I’m thankful that I live in a free country. Freedom is a wonderful thing that we dare not take for granted. But according to Galatians 5:13 freedom can be abused. In that verse Paul tells the Galatians, and us, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

It seems to me that we North Americans are in great danger of doing what Paul expressly told us not to do. We are using our freedom as a chance to indulge our sinful nature. It’s happening all around us. Freedom can lead in one of two directions summarized by two four letter words.

We can either use freedom to love, or we can use our freedom to indulge our lust. Take an honest look at our society today. Which four letter word are we really focussing on. Is our society dominated by love? Or is it dominated by lust? Love is all about giving. Lust is all about taking. Sometimes the line of demarcation between the two becomes blurred, especially when it comes to romantic entanglements.

Whatever happened to the concept of saving sex for marriage? Most people no longer see the necessity of making a life-long commitment before “making love”. Instead, they just wait until their partner is sufficiently intoxicated and then its game on. Or they just wait until they can be alone somewhere, in the back seat of a car, or their parents basement or whatever the case may be. And the girls are just as bad as the boys, perhaps worse.

And who says you have to be entangled with a member of the opposite sex? We’re free aren’t we? We can be entangled with anybody. Men entangled with men. Women entangled with women. Who cares right? I’m a free moral agent in the universe. I can make my own choice to live however I want. True, but what about Paul’s warning here in Galatians? Are we truly walking in love? Or are we really just abusing our freedom and hence each other in the process? The fact is, when we abuse our freedom we really just end up abusing ourselves.

But the cry of this generation is summed up in three words, “don’t judge me.” It’s understandable. People who are not living right hate being judged. Who can blame them? But like it or not God is going to judge us all. Nobody should be overly concerned about my judgement, but they should certainly be concerned about the judgement of God.

Even if you’ve never heard Hebrews 13:4 you’re still going to be judged by it, just as I will be judged by it. The verse goes like this: “Marriage is honourable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

Fornication refers to all types of sex outside marriage. The Greek root of this word is “pornea” from which we get the word “pornography.” Need I say more. Of course, adultery refers to any type of illicit sexual activity involving married people. To make matters worse, there’s also such a thing as mental/emotional adultery which Jesus talked about in the sermon on the mount. (see Matthew 5:28)

These are not my words, I dare not take credit for them. They are God’s words, written for all people. We dare not ignore them. Like it or not God is going to judge our abuse of freedom.

People today want instant gratification but instant gratification is not what they really need. What people really need is genuine love. Deep down people crave this true love. Love is the only thing that really satisfies the soul. Love is why God sent His Son Jesus down from heaven to die on the cross for the sins of the world. God’s love brings forgiveness and cleansing and healing to our souls and bodies. We need God’s love. Without it we will grasp after anything or anybody to fill the void in our hearts and lives. Without it we’ll just go on using our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.

And when we do make the choice to live for God we find that God meets our needs and even our desires. As Psalm 37:4 says:
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Jesus died for our freedom. The question is how will we respond to what He has done for us?

There’s a story that has been told from Civil War days before America’s slaves were freed, about a northerner who went to a slave auction and purchased a young slave girl. As they walked away from the auction, the man turned to the girl and told her, “You’re free.”
With amazement she responded, “You mean, I’m free to do whatever I want?”
“Yes,” he said.
“And to say whatever I want to say?”
“Yes, anything.”
“And to be whatever I want to be?”
“Yep.”
“And even go wherever I want to go?”
“Yes,” he answered with a smile. “You’re free to go wherever you’d like.”
She looked at him intently and replied, “Then I will go with you.”