July 4, 2017
THE GEORGIA CAPITOL DEVOTIONAL - 4 July 2017
Almost instinctively among Americans, we desire whatever we crave, so long as no one is hurt in the process. Freedom is one of the most sacred ideals among Americans. The first ten amendments to the Constitution (the Bill of Rights) affirm the priceless freedoms that all Americans enjoy. The Declaration of Independence is the most cherished symbol of liberty in the United States, and it enshrines our freedoms as including the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Americans love to sing our freedoms in the “land of the noble free,” and often celebrate to “let freedom ring.” Freedom is our summum bonum (Lat. “the highest good”).
Americans greatly esteem freedom, and that cherishing of personal liberty often continues when one becomes a Christian, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Often the ideal for freedom continues into one’s newfound faith in Christ Jesus. Even believers sometime think we should follow the Lord Jesus in any manner we deem appropriate, so long as harm comes to no one.
In his lecture “On Christian Freedom,” Martin Luther asserted two propositions. The first proposition was with regard to spiritual liberty: “a Christian . . . is the most free lord of all, and subject to none.” The second proposition was with regard to servitude: “a Christian . . . is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one” (Martin Luther, First Principles of the Reformation, eds. Henry Wace and C. A. Buchheim [London: John Murray, 1883] 104). First Corinthians 9:19 and Romans 13:8 affirm these two propositions as true.
First Corinthians 9:19 – For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.
Romans 13:8 – Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
“Now love is by its own nature dutiful and obedient to the beloved object. Thus even Christ, though Lord of all things, was yet made of a woman; made under the law; at once free and a servant; at once in the form of God and in the form of a servant” [ibid. 104-05]. In one sense, a Christian is “subject to none,” that is, no one (other than God) can exercise compulsion or jurisdiction with regard to matters of faith. Every believer is a servant of God and accountable to Him.
First Corinthians 9:19-23 are crucial to understand as God intended. The eternal truth of God’s Word – which Christians proclaim – always remains the same, and never changes for anyone’s sake. However, while the message of Scripture is upheld steadfastly in all matters, one can willingly endure inconveniences that are self-imposed for the sake of making the truth of the Bible known to all. Whatever is necessary and is biblically legitimate should be done for the sake of reaching all sorts of people with the message of God’s Word. The effort to proclaim God’s absolute demands, which bind one’s actions and thoughts, often requires flexibility, in addition to forgoing one’s rights.
Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice . . . do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is. . . .
The pursuit of holiness necessitates internally imposed burdens (responsibilities). Christians must never do what is required solely because someone else demands it; rather, the believer learns to serve God as a self-imposed compulsion to please the Lord. Fidelity to the Lord does not develop from exhortation as much as it does from loving Christ, and benefitting from his saving and sanctifying work.
True holiness includes control over our physical bodies and appetites. If we are to pursue holiness we must recognize that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that we are to glorify God with them. . . .
As we set ourselves to the task in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, we will see Him at work in us. We will fail many times, but as we persevere, we will be able to say with Paul, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13) [Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1978) 110, 116].
The motivation of the believer in Christ Jesus ought to be focused upon the goal of obtaining God’s imperishable wreath (9:25). Not as those who are “beating the air” in the pursuit of those things that are perishable, the Christian adopts those goals that result in eternal glory and rewards (cf. Rom 2:7; 2 Tim 2:10; 4:8; 1 Pet 5:4). The spiritual life is comparable to that of an athlete who “competes according to the rules” (2 Tim 2:5; cf. 1 Cor 9:27).
1 Corinthians 9:24, 27 – . . . Run in such a way that you may win . . . I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that . . . I myself will not be disqualified.
Tragedy occurs when our lives are not based upon God-given goals, and thus what seems to be so important now perishes in light of eternity. By contrast, the pursuit of holiness necessitates “self-control in all things” (9:25) and results in imperishable rewards for doing what God has commanded, as He revealed in the Holy Bible.
P.S. Reminder: due to the Fourth of July being on the first Tuesday (and only for the month of July), the Capitol Commission Bible Study will be held on the third Tuesday: 18 July 2017.
Your Capitol Missionary-Pastor,
Ron J. Bigalke, Ph.D.
Capitol Commission Georgia
Capitol Commission is prepared to encourage and enable local churches to participate in reaching our capitol communities for Christ (1 Tim 2:1-4). We only need to hear from you, if you have not already contacted us. We also seek to enlist individuals, businesses, and churches to become strategic partners with us in this ministry (2 Cor 8:3-6). Our success as a ministry is based upon God blessing all facets of the ministry, which certainly includes partners in this ministry. We earnestly desire to engage those who desire to participate in the ministry by offering their time and talents (Matt 25:20). If you have not already done so, join us and experience the joy of bringing hope, light, transformation, and truth to those who constitute our capitol communities.