Legalism Vs. Freedom & Love (Part One of Two)
Well, praise Jesus today, everyone. It's a blessing to be part of the body of Christ and to be in the Lord's love to be following Him. Because He first loved us and He gave His life for us, that we could be part of His new covenant. What I wanted to speak about today is having love in our hearts to follow the Lord out of love and out of diligence rather than out of obligation and legalism.
There are some Christians that follow God out of legalism, and some Christians actually want legalism in their life because it puts certain boundaries, they feel in their life that if they stay behind those boundaries then they will somehow achieve salvation. In other words, they go to church, they read the bible, and they apply certain rules and principles to their life because they feel like if they keep those principles and they attend that church, it gives them the structure that they need in their life. And within the confines of that religious principle or those religious principles, then they will be giving their diligence to God. So you have some Christians that religiously choose to not eat meat? They religiously do not drink alcohol. They religiously go to church every Sunday. They religiously read their bible once a day for an hour. They religiously pray for one hour in solitude. And they have these rituals and these rights that they believe that they have to do to please God. Now, there are other people that any sort of legalism seems to put this boundary on us that we want to push against, like a rebellion. And some things God does put in our life to keep us in check, to keep us in His love and there are people that see all of the things that God does put as a limit just as a limitation to us achieving the most we can as a man, and that is what Satan told Adam and Eve, he was telling them that God had limited them, that he did not want them to know the difference between good and evil, that they shouldn't eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and if they didn't want to be limited then they would eat of that fruit and become like God. And, of course, they fell into this trap. And they ate the fruit. But as we know, they did not come like God, they just fell into sin. Not only were they tempted, but they fell out of the garden of Eden. They received a punishment for doing what was wrong.
So we need to be able to divide rightfully. The difference between what is staying in God's love and what is just religious principles, what are just those things that religion says we have to do. I want to give a few examples. I’ve been around people of different religions, and I mean, I’m sure you have too. But I noticed they're very religious about food, about their dress, about their church and especially about alcohol related things. An example of this would be pork. There are some religions, including Christians and Jews, who believe you cannot eat any pig meat. And they will take that to the extreme to say that any part of the pig that could have been involved in some kind of food you can't eat. So there are some religious groups that say you can't even eat candies because skittles and some other candies had a part of pig feet in them, and so they believe that it's sinning to eat candies like skittles or it's a sin to eat any kind of thing that was related to pork. Now, Jesus never said that you are not falling into sin by eating pork or candy or any other kind of food. Now, obviously, if there's a health reason there, skittles are not a healthy choice and eating pork all the time is not a healthy choice. But eating pork itself or having skittles is not sin itself. There are also things that religious men and women do to try to achieve perfection before their god or merit eternal life, such as not drinking alcohol, abstaining from sexual things. For example, there are some religions that don't even allow you to have, say, mouthwash, because there's alcohol in mouthwash. And even though you're not drinking that alcohol, the alcohol is going into your body, in your mouth, and they believe that to be a sin to have mouthwash, to be cleaning your mouth out, which is ridiculous. There are some people that refrain from drinking beer or from wine or hard liquor for purity reasons. And this would be good because we are called as Christians to have self-control. However, Alcohol itself is not a sin. There are a lot of foods that have alcohol in it, and if you're trying to be religious, you would have to avoid all of those kinds of foods. Actually, almost every single soft drink, every kind of soda to some extent has alcohol in it due to the fermentation. And guys, I’m not saying it's healthy to be drinking soda or anything like that, but I’m just saying, if you're trying to religiously avoid something due to alcohol, there's more than just wine and beer and hard liquor that you would have to avoid. Even, for example, vanilla, which is put in cookies and cereal and many other things have alcohol in it. Vanilla extract, for example, has 35% alcohol content that's like seventy proof vodka. So we have things like that in our everyday life that are food, but if we're trying to be religious like the religious crowd that thinks that they're earning their way to heaven by abstaining from alcohol and never looking at a woman. Then you would have to abstain from all of that stuff.
So where is the line? Where is the line between truly keeping ourselves pure and then falling into dead religion or falling into legalism? Because there's some people that will say you can't eat these foods, there's no amount of alcohol that should ever touch you, even including soft drinks and mouthwash and whatever else may have alcohol in it, and you should never even your wife look at her in a way that is sexual. There are people that think that you should never get married, that you should become a monk because they believe that just sexuality itself is impure before God. Jesus Christ loves us, and He demonstrated to His disciples and to all people, what it means to have love and what it means to have self-control. And if we follow His steps, then we will learn to love as Jesus Christ loved. And we won't be following these rules of dead religion. We won't be becoming religious.
Now, let's talk for a minute just about sexuality. God created sexuality. He created male and female. But He also created us to have self-control to overcome lust, to overcome adultery and fornication, pornography, all of those things that are sexual perversions. But sexuality in a holy marriage between a husband and a wife is to be cherished. We shouldn't be refraining from one another or calling sex dirty or impure or putting ourselves into the regulations of men in marriage saying that you can only have sex in one particular way. A lot of people become very legalistic even in marriage about their sexuality, which should be just between the husband and the wife, not the husband and the wife and some other guy somewhere in the church. So because many people have become religious about their own sexuality in their own marriage, they have started to fall into a bunch of other sins. Their marriages become broken because they are refraining from giving themselves fully to their husband or fully to their wife. And now they feel very restricted and even rebellious in their marriage because they have put these false religious restrictions on their marriage. That they can only have sex maybe one time a month, that they have to do it in such, in such and such a way. And it makes for a lot of problems in the marriage and instead of the husband and the wife making the rules for themselves out of love, now they're letting other people in the church make rules for their marriage bed, which is absolutely wicked. God put it between a husband and a wife to have each other, that they would become one flesh and one spirit.
So I would want to encourage you if you are married and if you truly are right before God, don't let other people be making religious rules for your marriage bed. But bring everything before the Lord and make sure that your marriage bed is undefiled. That you're not falling into fantasies, that you're not thinking about other men or other women, but that truly you have the love of Jesus in your marriage.
Legalism Vs. Freedom & Love (Part Two of Two)
Okay, secondly, let's talk about alcohol. Alcohol comes down to self-control. We know Jesus' first miracle turning the water into wine. There is no evidence guys that the wine was non-alcoholic as many Christians say. There is no evidence that the wine that Jesus would drink or that the other disciples would drink, was non-alcoholic. There are some Christians that like to say it was just grape juice, but we have no evidence for that. So the fact that Jesus in His first miracle, turned water into wine and they would use it mixing wine with their drinking water to help purify the water, says in itself that God is not against alcohol, but what God is against is a lack of self-control against getting drunk against drunkenness. And so it comes down to the intent of someone's heart. Are we as Christians and as disciples using alcohol to get drunk and to lose self-control to give us an alter-ego? Or are we using alcohol in cooking and are we using it in foods and in such a way where it is made pure? Because alcohol itself is certainly not sin, but to get drunk is sin. So in regards to alcohol, it is not a sin to use mouthwash that has alcohol in it. It is not a sin to drink some kind of drink that has an amount of alcohol in it if you're not getting drunk. If you enjoy wine with your meal, there's nothing condemnable about that. No one's going to hell for drinking red wine. But people do go to hell for rejecting the Holy Spirit with a lack of self-control. So that is the difference, guys, between being in the love of Jesus Christ, having the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your life, versus just trying to be religious, trying to be religious, you're trying to put yourselves between these laws of religion. And you think that if you just keep these laws of religion, you're going to merit everlasting life by keeping yourself in between those ds and those don’ts. But true love and a relationship with Jesus says if I stay with Him and if the fruit of the Holy Spirit is in my life, if I abide with Him, then I have my freedoms in Christ that I will not abuse because I will use them for the glory of God. And the Lord shows us the difference between what our freedoms are in Him versus what abuse is and what perversions of His spiritual gifts and the talents and abilities and the resources He gives us, He shows us the difference between that.
Now, in regards to clothing, there are some people who are very religious about clothing. Some people on the internet have told me that it is very sinful to wear a wedding ring. They say that jewellery in itself is absolutely sinful, and they think that people are going to hell because they're wearing an earring or because they have a wedding ring on or they have a necklace or they're wearing some form of jewellery. That is ridiculous, guys. No one is going to hell for wearing a bracelet or a necklace or wearing earrings or anything like that. However, if you're trying to make yourself appear more sensual, if you are trying to bring attention to yourself in a way that's ungodly, then you're falling into vanity, which is against the Holy Spirit. And a lot of people are very immodest. They're wearing immodest clothes, which is a reflection of their heart. And they are exposing themselves, which is a reflection of their heart. And so we have to dress, obviously, in modesty. And if our heart is right before God, we will know the difference between wearing jewellery for the sake of righteousness versus wearing it to attract the opposite sex in a way that is impure. I wear a wedding band most of the time, guys, because it signifies that I am married and loyal to my wife. If I were going around without my wedding band on, that could signify that I don't want other people to know that I’m married, which I am blessed to be married, and I am glad that I am married, and I am contently married. So for a man to be wearing his wedding band proudly, or whatever word you want to use for that, joyfully, without any embarrassment of being married, then that is a Godly thing and that is a righteous thing. But if a man goes around being embarrassed to be married and he's taking off his wedding band because he wants to be flirtatious at work, that is an indication of sin. So all of this comes back to love and back to a relationship with our Lord. It doesn't come back to keeping religious principles.
So we need to get away from thinking that we can earn our salvation by just dos and don’ts. If some people think if I just don't wear any jewellery, if I just make sure that I’m wearing a lot of clothes, as long as I’m modest and not wearing jewellery, as long as I’m eating plain food, then I’m going to heaven. And that is just simply not true. It always comes down to our heart condition before God. And how we're doing with Jesus Christ. Do we hear His voice? Are we following His commandments? Do we have His love in our heart? Or are we just becoming religious, thinking that if we keep all these legalistic principles in our life, then we will be saved? So anyways, I want to pray for the body of Christ, for those of you who do want to hear the Lord's voice and who want to live according to His love and not to religion and regulations heaped up by men to burden you.
So, ‘Lord Jesus, I pray for the body of Christ, for brothers and sisters in the Lord who want to truly be led by you and not led into confusion and distraction. I pray that we can dress in purity, that we could keep ourselves unstained from the world, that we could be holy and pure before you, but not distracted by the religious crowd, by people who are trying to bring us down by telling us we have to do all these things that you have not commanded us to do. I pray we don't get distracted by the world or worldly Christians or dead religion, but that we would truly have your love in us, Lord Jesus, and that we would abide in you and hear your voice and carry out your commandments in our life. Give us the courage to overcome and let us continue to stand fast in our faith with you and walk the straight and narrow path with you, Lord. We pray in your name, Lord Jesus. Amen.”