One of my favorite doctrines of Reformed theology is the doctrine of Christian liberty. This is the idea that in light of the immense salvation that we have in Jesus Christ, every single one of our sins, of our overreach, of our failures as followers of him, as those who have been united with Christ, every one of those sins has been swallowed up. It means that we ourselves get to live in a spirit of great liberty and freedom in the light of Jesus Christ. It is a remarkable aspect of the Christian life.Jeremiah says, “Do not think that just because you have the temple that the Lord will not discipline.”
Yet, I do believe that it can be and has been abused. Look over the course of the life of the church, or really over the course of all of redemptive history. There is this really interesting story in Jeremiah, and he is going to the temple of the Lord, and the Babylonian army is coming across the country-side. And the people—should be the priests—are in the temple of the Lord, and we know that they are completely corrupt, according to Jeremiah. Yet, they are sitting in the temple because they say, “We have the temple, Lord.”
In other words they have nothing to fear from Babylon. They have nothing to fear from God’s judgment or discipline because they say, “We have the temple. God will not do anything to us.” Jeremiah comes and he says, “Do not think that just because you have the temple that the Lord will not discipline, that he will not chastise, and that he will not punish the unbelievers.” In the midst of his people, he says, “Just as the Lord took his presence out of Shiloh, so he can take it out of this temple.”
We need to remember that, as well, we have the wondrous, wondrous gift of the cross of Jesus Christ. Yet, if the first thing we think of when we meditate on the grace of Christ is how that means we can commit all the sins that are forgiven on the cross, Jesus, James, and Paul would say, “You need to go back and question the authenticity of your faith.”The Christ who came and took his place on the cross now indwells us and he calls us to a life like his.
If that is your first response, that “Because of Christian liberty I can disobey God, because of grace I can sin so that grace will abound more,” remember Paul says, “May it never be.” It is a bad idea. That is not the application of the grace of Jesus Christ in the Christian life.
As we are invigorated by Christian liberty, as we enjoy it and enjoy this world around us without fear of condemnation, we should also remember that the Christ who came and took his place on the cross now indwells us in his Spirit and he calls us to a life like his. He did not say pick up your cross and follow me for no reason.
As we enjoy Christian liberty, we should remember that the greatest gift of Christian liberty is the gift to follow Christ.