There are many sayings that we quote to justify doing what we want. Like the one that states, “It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission!” Another statement would be “I did it just because I can!” Now, I realize that these two statements are slightly different. The first one, is a disregard for rules and/or authority structures. The second could be just the exercise of freedom in an area. Yet the Bible reminds us to consider the impact of the use of our freedom before exercising it.
Grace is a wonderful gift to the follower of Jesus Christ. It was procured as Paul reminds Pastor Titus, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5) Some of the practical implications are that our sins are forgiven past, present and future. They are covered through Christ’s substitionary death, taking our place. Grace is a wonderful gift for many reasons. Yet, it is easy for the follower of Jesus to become sloppy in how they live.
I grew up in a family with parents who were involved in the local politics. Let me say that their children were aware of the family connections and the “privileges” for those politically involved. This could work for us but it also can cut the other way, when working for a boss, or in a situation facing a political adversary. The point here is that our parents tried to coach us in being responsible adults and not take advantage of these “connections.” Yet, there were times that the temptation was too great. What happened is that we got comfortable with the blessing of our parents sacrificial service for the good of our local community. Let’s just say that some us of did not live up to those expectations at times.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 reminds us to be responsible with the blessings, especially grace, as members of God’s family. He writes, ““All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) What Paul is saying is, “Don’t do it just because you can!” This is a huge struggle in our world today. There are many things that are allowable but are really not helpful in a person’s life.
I frequently have conversations with followers that get into trouble with sin. I will ask them, after patiently listening to their situation, “So how has you time with Jesus been going?” Now I am asking them if they have been personally investing in their spiritual development. Due to their situation I can anticipate the answer. It is usually something like, “Well, not so good.” Let me use this to illustrate our need to be discerning.
God’s grace in our lives allows us the freedom to pursue Him. Yet all too often we get sloppy and then are facing the consequences of our poor priorities. Paul’s admonition for discernment speaks into all areas of our lives. It could be in the people that we hang out with. People that are not pursuing God will more than likely pull us away. It could be in the social consumption of alcohol, which is not a sin, but it can lead to getting buzzed, which is a sin. This often leads to behaviors and consequences that one regrets later. It could be in the media that we consume that slowly erodes our convictions. Paul reminds us that these kinds of exercises of freedom can subject us to influences or situations that at the least “are not helpful.” Or they could lead to our being “dominated” by them.
God’s grace in our lives is an incredible blessing but it is also comes with the responsibility of using it in a Godly way. “Don’t do it just because you can!”
-Pastor Joe Parkinson