Joyful Noise

We are moving toward our celebration of Independence for our nation, and as I think about freedom, it occurs to me that as the people of God, our position in Christ is the only place where we really have freedom. Even there, we must be careful to keep our freedom free of harmful things.

You can’t be too legalistic – we are all sinners and we have all fallen short of the glory of God; therefore, we are not perfect, we are living under grace, so be gracious. If you really believe that you are better than the next person, the only person being deceived is yourself. I am not just and neither are you. Only in Christ have we been judged not guilty. We are the same as every other person who comes before God’s bench. If God looks at us and sees that we have given our life to Jesus and in faith asked Him to be our Lord and Savior, then God declares us not guilty based on what Jesus has done and not what we have done. On our own, we don’t stand a chance.

We cannot be too free – we cannot be guilty of living loosely and abusing our freedom when it is really just an expression of our desire to sin. Don’t use your freedom to serve yourself – use your freedom to serve one another through love. If your freedom is being used to harm another, then it is not really your freedom that is being expressed – it is your sinful fleshly desire that is being expressed.

When we are in control – that is when the flesh is in control, we see the obvious signs marked by immorality, impurity, promiscuity, loving anything more than we love God, putting more trust in evil things than in God, hating fighting, jealousy, fits of anger, selfishness that will take from others so that you can have more or have it all, being at odds with others, fostering an us versus them mentality to get your way and any number of other behaviors that place your personal happiness above the needs of everyone else.

How can we possibly live in this tension of not being legalistic and not being too lax? The secret is to allow God’s Holy Spirit living in us to have control. Paul tells us in His letter to the Galatians that we are to walk by the Spirit and we will not carry out the desire of the flesh. You do that by letting the Spirit express His way in you by loving, being joyful – not satisfied, but really content, peaceful, patient with others and willing to wait for God to show you what to do, expressing kindness through your behavior, being genuinely good – not having an ulterior motive for your behavior, faithful, gentle, and willing to exercise restraint in your attitude and behavior. Don’t think more of yourself than you should. Don’t bully others and don’t envy others.

Life is hard – so relax – you are not in charge – ever. I recently heard an actor named Chris Pratt mention some of the rules he tries to live by. First, he said that one should take care of one’s soul – it was designed to be in relationship with God and to give Him glory, so handle it with care. Use your strength to protect others and use your mind to influence others. Strength and intelligence are weapons and we should never use them to take advantage of those who are weaker than us. Since life is hard, work hard – be willing to earn what it is you need. Serve others – you will feel better when you do. Love God and love others the way you love yourself.

I would recommend prayer – pray so that you will know what to do – and then do it. Prayer really works, and sometimes the answer involves us taking action. The bottom line is that if you see a need, pray, and so far as you are able, do something. Remember that we are not perfect, but we do have grace and that grace was paid for with the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Lord – don’t forget it.

Finally – express your thankfulness and tell God how great He is – not because someone asked you to, but because your heart is filled with love and gratitude for all that God has done for us. You are free to worship God – He deserves it.

Karl Mangurm