WALK IN CHRIST'S WONDERFUL LIBERTY!
Looking for the Perfect Church?!
Don't waste your time looking for that perfect church. If you find it, don't ruin it by joining. Rather, look for wise, biblical, creative, contemporary ways to deal with problems, and learn to Walk in Christ's Wonderful Liberty!
EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE you meet someone who is looking for that perfect church - a church without problems that manages to appeal to everyone. A pastor friend used to tell such people, "Don't look for it because you're not going to find it. If you do find it, don't join because you'll ruin it!"
Churches are made up of people and (in case you hadn't noticed) people have problems. Church people have problems. New Testament church people had problems.
And - even though the Lord loves His Church very much and gave himself "to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" - His Church hasn't reached perfection yet. It still has problems.
But something tells me you already knew that. So, like most of us, you're probably not looking for a church without problems - where you and I would feel out of place. But most of us would like to be part of a church that has the courage and the good sense to deal with its problems in a wise, biblical, creative, contemporary way.
Problems in the Galatian Church
A classic example of church problems is found in Paul's letter to the Galatians. The Galatian believers had been saved by the grace of God in Christ and freed from slavery to sin. However, they later became enslaved to a methodology of ministry that has come to be known as legalism. Paul was shocked at this and wrote:
A short time ago God called you to follow Him. He called you by his grace that came through Christ. But now I am amazed at you! You are already turning away and believing something different from the Good News. (Gal. 1:6,7)
What was happening?
False teachers were requiring believers to observe Jewish laws and traditions. Those believers had accepted salvation by faith, but the legalizers took advantage of Paul's absence to enslave the believers again.
With what purposes?
Though some thought the judaizers to be sincere, Paul concluded that their purposes were:
To pervert the Gospel of Christ. (1:7)
To alienate you from us so that you will be zealous for them. (4:17)
To force you to be circumcised. (6:12)
To avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. (6:12)
What were the results of that?
Confusion. The believers didn't know what to think or where to turn for help.
Conflict. Some struggled for freedom while others submitted to circumcision and Jewish law. Pre-conversion battles were reignited.
Conformity to rules rather than consecration to Jesus. True consecration only occurs when a free choice is made between real options.
Confidence in performance rather than faith in Christ. Christ plus tradition usually emphasizes tradition over Christ.
Condemnation. Scripture says it clearly: "If you try to be made right with God through the law, then your life with Christ is over - you have left God's grace" (Gal. 5:4).
Why did this happen?
Inadequate teaching. Although Paul had won the Galatians to Christ, he was forced to leave them before they were fully established in their faith (Acts 13, 14).
Obligation mentality. Their minds were preconditioned by Judaism to a sense of duty rather than privilege and grace. When you practice your faith "because you have to" you may feel there is virtue in choosing the harder path rather than the clear one.
Manipulation. The legalizers were skilled at manipulating the tender consciences of new believers, who felt guilt at the slightest deviation from their rules. A case can be built on a wrong premise, and an untrained mind will succumb to its arguments.
Satanic attack. "The accuser of the brethren" tried then and tries now to make Christians focus on performance rather than on trust in Christ. He accuses us of evil we haven't done, excuses us for evil we have done, and confuses us about both. He tries to convince us that we're not doing well, that we never will do well, and that we might as well give up.
What was Paul's Challenge?
Paul had to deal with these kinds of problems in many of the New Testament churches. It was no easy task. So to stay on course and avoid arbitrary judgments, Paul stuck to solid principles to guide him. Principles like:
Peace. "Let us… do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Rom. 14:19).
Personal Conviction. "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" (Rom. 14:5).
Tolerance. "Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment in disputable matters" (Rom. 14:1).
Concern for people. "It is better not to do anything that will cause your brother to fall" (Rom 14:21).
Biblical foundation. "Do not go beyond what is written" (1 Cor. 4:6).
God's glory. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).
Three words we need to understand
Liberty. Freedom from the penalty and power of sin. Ability to respond to God and do His will. Guidance by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, without excessive care about human tradition or pressure.
Legalism. Strict, often too strict, adherence to the letter of the law, many times without regard for the spirit of it. Trying to please God and govern the church by imposing laws.
Licentiousness. Disregard for rules and standards, lack of moral restraint, obeying the flesh rather than the Spirit.
Paul reminded the Galatians that they had been saved by grace through faith - not obedience to the law. And they should continue to live by faith. In Chapter five, He showed them God's way of liberty and the two parallel ways of legalism and licentiousness.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1).
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13).
He urged them to walk in liberty.
What about you and me? Are we walking in liberty, legalism, or licentiousness? How are we dealing with differences of opinion and confusing issues that often confront us?
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