Exploring liberty, license, God’s will and our choices
Everyone loves the idea of being free, and in America we especially are reminded of the privilege of liberty at this time of year. Unfortunately I think many of us do not really understand what freedom and liberty are, and even more so what they are not. In reality, true liberty by very definition has limitations - several limitations. Liberty is NOT license. Because we live in a time were possibilities seem limitless, we don’t like that kind of talk. Who are you to tell me that there is a limit on my freedom? Well, it turns out the exact same struggle with defining liberty and license happened way back in biblical times. What IS liberty? What IS license? Am I really supposed to not only know the difference but live the difference?
While liberty has several definitions, the one that best fits our conversation is “the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges.” This gives us a sense of the kind of freedom that is a result of an environment with clear rules and guidelines, as it gives a wide birth of choice within them. The New Testament describes this type of freedom as appropriate and desirable for Christians. It is also part of the freedoms granted in the Constitution of the United States of America.
License also has several definitions. The ones we are looking to for our comparison are as follows: “Freedom that allows or is used with irresponsibility" and "disregard for standards of personal conduct.” Here the difference between liberty and license begins to become apparent. License goes beyond liberty and pushes the envelope on what is acceptable. It places the individual in the center of the determining process as to what is appropriate and what is not. The New Testament also frequently mentions this type of approach but is not considered at all in a positive light. On the contrary, it is called "licentiousness" and is often translated "sensuality" – not what would be considered godly thinking or behavior.
So, what’s the big deal? For a Christian getting this right is the difference between being able to live a life that is truly “Christlike” versus living a life that is “me like” with a conscience-soothing honorable mention being given to Christ. Knowing how to live within the boundaries of Christian liberty is success. Living according to license that feigns Christian liberty is failure. This is serious stuff.
On top of this there is the gnawing question - if God knows all, that means He knows my mind. If He knows my mind then do I ever really have freedom of choice? Check out our July 2nd, 2018 podcast, “Do We Really Have Freedom of Choice?” to get some answers. We walk through several examples of Christian liberty, talk about Christian danger zones and suggest several scriptural principles necessary to live in the always safe zone of scripture-based freedom. We also reason through how our freedom of choice works within the context of God’s omnipotence.
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