Summary: Freedom from the Law

Projectionist: show NicodemusHD.mp4

We are so glad you are here, whether in the house or on line for part two in our series entitled “Excess Baggage.” Just so we are clear, in this case we are talking about excess baggage in the sense of carrying extra stuff—stuff you don’t need. When we travel, it’s those items we think we’ll need, but end up never using. For our discussion, in the spiritual area, excess baggage refers to all the extra stuff we tend to unnecessarily add to our faith.

One of my favorite movies is the movie about the thirteenth century Scottish freedom fighter, William Wallace, entitled “Braveheart.” One of the most compelling scenes comes near the end of the film, where Wallace is being tortured in an attempt to get him to recant and swear allegiance to King Edward and the British Crown. The motivation for this act on his part will be a quick death rather than the lingering suffering he is enduring. You can see Wallace struggling to gain the strength to speak. His torturers leaning in close to hear what he is going to say, and King Edward listening to the proceedings from his own death bed. But, instead of recanting, Wallace musters the energy to scream “Freedom!” before his enemies can strike the final death blow to silence him.

Whether we realize it or not, centuries of Christian tradition has brought with it excess baggage—bondage really--that has made the Christian life unnecessarily difficult for Christians and needlessly unappealing to those who are watching us. We need to hear the cry once again of “Freedom” and be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to obtain it. The truth is, there are always more baggage-laden believers than there are freedom-loving believers; always more Christians who are going to be convinced that there are rules and regulations to which “good Christians” must somehow adhere. The term we use for such people is legalist.” The definition of a legalist is “one who adheres to a strict, literal or excessive conformity to a law or to a religious moral code of conduct.”

The problem is not a new problem. It existed in the first church and it exists in the church today. Last week we looked at this issue as it was addressed in 50 AD by the early church (recorded in Acts 15). In this case we saw two different groups, one a group of false believers called Judaizers who wanted to make people Jewish before they could become Christians, and a second group of true believers who had grown up in the Jewish legal traditions who wanted those who became Christians to submit to Jewish laws as a form of obedience. This group of believers was formerly Pharisees, and they were trying to introduce their pharisaical ways into the practice of the early church.

The argument of these Pharisaical believers was you could accept Christ as your Savior, but you couldn’t be a true follower of Christ unless you submitted yourself to the Law of Moses. You could be Christian by following Christ, but to be an obedient Christian you had to follow the Law of Moses as well. It only makes sense. It was God’s law and therefore it must still be binding upon us!

If you read Acts 15 you will discover that the early church leaders, led by James, the brother of Jesus Peter, Paul and the remaining Apostles (once the twelve disciples) totally rejected that view. What they believed, and what I believe, is that the Old Testament is foundational and important but not incumbent (that is not binding, not compulsory, not mandatory, not an obligation we must keep.) upon believers today! In other words, you don’t have to keep any part of the Old Testament Law today. That was a Law meant only for Israel. In the Old Testament we see God using the kingdoms of man to establish a new kingdom. In fact, the writer of the book of Hebrews puts it this way, “The old rule is now set aside, because it was weak and useless. The law of Moses could not make anything perfect. But now a better hope has been given to us, and with this hope we can come near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18–19, NCV).

When we church people were given our first Bible it contained both the Old and New Testaments. Most of us were taught that it is all God’s Word (and I believe that is true), but the problem was we weren’t taught how to properly use it or understand it. Enter the teaching of “the sect of the Pharisees,” meticulous law keepers then and meticulous law keepers today. The Pharisees who came to faith in Jesus because of the resurrection, came from a long history of following the Mosaic Laws (and then some as they added their own interpretations to it) and they had a real hard time letting go of habits that had been seared into their consciences through centuries of traditions. They had the same problem many of us still have today it was good enough then, it should be good enough now!

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