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Liberty and Love
by David A. DePra
If I walked into your house and saw a hundred dollar bill on your dining room table, as a Christian, why wouldn’t I steal it? If my answer is that I was afraid of getting caught, that would be sad. This might be the response of someone walking in license. But if I answered that the reason I didn’t steal the money was merely because God’s law said, "Thou shall not steal, " it would not be much better of an answer. That is the answer of a legalist. The point is, altering our conduct to conform to a list of rules – even the very commandments of God – does nothing to change US. I can be a hardened thief, and yet not steal today, simply because there is a law which I am presently obeying.
Anytime I obey God ONLY BECAUSE there is a law which dictates my obedience, there is a "rewards / punishment" motivation somewhere. I am either trying to earn a reward, or avoid a punishment. This is not faith – even if it is smart.
God wants us to obey for a better reason: Righteousness and love. True liberty in Christ means that I am free to obey God – from a pure motive – because my relationship with God carries me no other way. I LOVE him, and I LOVE others.
If I refused to steal the money in question, it should be because I am not a thief. That is not my identity. I should not WANT to steal – because it is wrong to steal. Because it is not LOVE to steal. This is much different from all of those other motives.
What we see here is that if my relationship with God is a love relationship, I am going to obey God. I am going to keep His law. But not because the law said, "You shall not steal." No. Because love doesn’t steal. Love will lead us in a mode of conduct which is the fulfillment OF God’s law. Note that if I do not steal because of my love and reverence for God and man, that I HAVE KEPT the commandment.
Now someone is bound to ask: Why not just not steal to keep the commandment? What’s the difference?
There is NO difference in the outward. The money is still on the table, and not in my pocket. But again, God wants obedience which is the product of the new creation in Christ, living out a love relationship. He wants us to do right because it is right. He wants us to shun wrong because it is wrong. This is, after all, want righteousness IS.
God wants us to obey Him. Such a statement is so self-evident that it should not have to be made. But what God really wants is LOVE. This is stated many times in the Bible:
He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (I John 5:2-3)
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Gal. 5:13-14)
Understand what God is saying: He is saying LOVE OBEYS GOD. He is saying LOVE keeps the commandments, because keeping the commandments is love in action. In short, LOVE results in conduct, actions, and obedience which is in full harmony with the Word of God and the commandments of God.
Now this exposes "liberal religion" for what it is. Liberal religion states, "This is the love of God, that everyone do as they please – and no one say otherwise." According to the word of God, that is the OPPOSITE of love. The Bible tells us HOW love is manifested: "This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments."
Liberal religion – including some liberal expressions of so-called Christianity – is NOT LOVE. It is of the devil. And the fruits show it.
The Love of God
Legalism is not obedience out of love. It is obedience out of fear – fear of losing a reward, or of being punished. It is obedience for fear of not maintaining myself before the Lord. Once you introduce the motive of reward or punishment into obedience, it is not love. For "love does not seek it’s own." (I Cor. 13)
But license is not love either. License is a self-serving, self-indulgence, with the name of Jesus Christ pasted on it. It is an abomination in the sight of God.
The Bible states clearly that we love God because He first loved us, and we have received that love from Him. And it likewise reveals the obvious: That when you love God, obedience is the natural outcome. There is no other outcome possible. In fact, if any one does not love God – and then his brother – he is NOT OF GOD.
We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loves God love his brother also. (I John 4:19-21)The bottom line is this: Love does RIGHT by the one loved. Love does right by God by surrendering to Him, and then by obeying Him. Love does right by a brother by obeying God with regard to Him.
Thus, we see that love isn’t so much a gushy emotion. It is a motive, intent, and a commitment. And then it is obedience TO GOD on behalf of the person loved.
Perhaps the agape love of God could be described this way:
The agape love of God is my unconditional commitment to God’s highest regarding the one loved – through intent and actions – regardless of personal cost to them or to myself.
Notice how GOD HIMSELF is the center of that definition. It is HIS WILL that gets done. Not my will for another person, and not their will. HIS will. I do what is best in the eyes of God for them even if they don’t like it.
Once we understand what love is, it dashes to pieces any notion of license. License is not love. It is disobedience based in deception.
Christian liberty is the freedom to do right because it is right. It is the freedom to walk in love – free of all the threats of punishment that used to run our lives. But of course, if you think about this, none of it is possible unless we are new creations. Unless we have a righteousness within that is real. No human being can "do right because it is right" or obey God because it is love to obey. We don’t have anything in us of that kind of material. That is why we need a new birth.
When all is said and done, our relationship with God is a LOVE relationship. That is to become our motivation for obeying Him. True freedom comes when I realize how much I am loved.
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