Not a Bad Deal
Posted on March 29, 2019 by America's Keswick in Freedom Fighters
In many of my communications I have mentioned my legalistic roots and associations. I have spelled out to some degree how I feel I have matured spiritually since I retired while my legalistic friends would say I digressed. I no longer feel that God is pleased primarily with what I do not do, but rather, what I do. The new challenge is, do I do what I am supposed to do?
I no longer feel shackled by all of the “don’ts” in my life although I still refrain from certain practices when with certain friends who I suspect will be offended by them.
In high school, college, and my entire “professional” life in the ministry I lived in a glass house and people were always watching my every move and quite often throwing stones. It was (and is) impossible to live up to all of the expectations. While I understand that the standard of the laws of God are impossible, thus the need for salvation and grace, I always felt I was not able to even keep the laws of “the church.” Further, they changed depending on the people involved, the time and the place. The rules were not the same in Pennsylvania as in New York, in Michigan as in Maryland or in New England as in Florida.
But looking back, all of those rules were never a really bad deal. Think about it this way:
- I never had to be worried about any complications related to drunkenness (car accident, fights, etc.).
- I never had to worry about being caught carrying or using drugs.
- I never had to worry that my wife would find out about an affair. Or that some woman’s husband would come and beat out my brains.
- I never had to worry that my sin would eventually catch up with me, I would be exposed and bring shame on my family.
- I never had to worry that I would contract one of the physical problems usually associated with a worldly lifestyle (sexually transmitted disease, lung cancer, sclerosis of the liver, etc.).
- I never had to worry that the police would show up at my door some day and arrest me for thievery, disturbing the peace, molestation or any similar offense.
- The list could go on, but you get the point.
That’s not a bad deal at all!
I now quickly and emphatically add, I never was an angel and still haven’t sprouted my wings. As I have said before, if you knew everything about me (right up to this present day) you probably would never read these devotionals. The point is not how good I am, rather, how hindsight has put into focus that all of the past legalistic restrictions under which I lived really didn’t hurt me and actually probably helped me. They may have been overkill, but they also sheltered me.
And all of that causes me to wonder if there are too few restrictions on Christians today. Is it because I came from so many rules that they seem “normal” or is life without rules really freedom? What is freedom? Does it mean you can do whatever you choose at any time under any circumstances? Obviously not. One dictionary definition is this: the quality of the will of the life of the individual of not being totally constrained; able to choose between alternative activities in identical circumstances. Note the qualifiers in italics.
- In my day we couldn’t swim without wearing a tee shirt (men) and one-piece bathing suit (women). Today the flesh is in! The more, the better. And it’s not only bathing suits, it’s the daily wardrobe.
- In my day, we couldn’t even consider thinking about entering a movie theater (not even for a “Christian” movie). Today “R” movies are the norm for most people. Garbage in, garbage out.
- In my day, working and/or shopping on Sunday were verboten. Today Sunday is just another day.
- In my day, if you were not in church (morning and evening), Sunday School and youth group every Sunday and prayer meeting every Wednesday, look out for the lightening. Now those options are not even available in most churches. Skipping even the one service a week which is offered is no big deal these days-there is something more appealing or important.
- In my day, any music with a beat was sinful. (I know, all music has a beat, but you also know what I mean.) The devil was in all syncopation. Many instruments were unacceptable, especially the drums and the bass guitar! And on it goes. Then there is today where anything is acceptable, the louder and more rhythmic the better. And be certain to add lighting and smoke.
- Need I go on?
In Galatians 5:1,13-15 we read, “So Christ has made us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get all tied up again in the chains of slavery to Jewish laws and ceremonies… For, dear brothers, you have been given freedom: not freedom to do wrong, but freedom to love and serve each other. For the whole Law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love others as you love yourself.’ But if instead of showing love among yourselves you are always critical and catty, watch out! Beware of ruining each other.” (TLB)
If (Jewish and) current legalists take the law, a good thing, and add their own additional restrictions, are we today in current Christianity taking that same good law and reinterpreting it with our own exceptions according to our own desires? Is the old way bad and the new way good, just by definition? Should the church remain static, unchanging, old-fashioned? Absolutely not. Change is inevitable. Many churches are dying because they refuse to change. But how much and what change is necessary so that contemporary is not simply a mirror of the world with a cross displayed on the wall?
In this day, how do we interpret, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:16). Are some defined standards being “critical and catty”, “ruining each other”?
The laws of God are not a bad deal. Try living without them. If you don’t know where to start, how about the Ten Suggestions? (Oops, that was Commandments.) Can you imagine what life would be without civil laws? It’s called anarchy. Are we on the verge of spiritual anarchy? Is what we like, what pleases us, more important than what pleases God?
I simply ask the questions. You fill in the blanks. Think about it, don’t just read it and forget it.
Written by Rev. Neil Fitchthorn Rev. Neil Fichthorn is a seasoned conference and camping servant having served at Gull Lake Bible Conference, Sandy Cove Ministries as President, and an interim Executive Director at Pinebrook Bible Conference. He also served in church music for decades as a choir director and arranger. He has been Bill Welte’s mentor and friend for over 45 years.
Daily Quote: “Finally, let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion.” – Daniel Webster
This Week’s Verse to Memorize: And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. – Revelation 21:3