James Beaubelle warns us that Protestant theologians have attempted to skew the logical and scriptural meaning of James 2:12-13, creating an artificial antithesis between mercy and law-keeping, asserting that "the law of liberty" does away with God's Law. Paradoxically, being freed from God's Law makes us abject bond-slaves to sin, while keeping His Laws liberates us from the bondage of sin. Consequently, God's Laws, bringing us to a family relationship to Christ, is equivalent to the law of liberty. When compared to nearly all of mankind's laws, which tend to enslave us in sin, God's Laws steer us away from pain and heartache, transforming us into siblings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When God's laws and statutes are written on our hearts, we are the most liberated beings, in harmony with His character. We thank our Father in Heaven for the godly teachers that He has provided for our instruction now.
John Reiss: In Part One, we learned about America's early struggle for independence and how the founders of the United States pledged their wealth, lives, and honor to bring it to pass. ...
John Reiss: Here in the United States, we are rapidly approaching our nation's Independence Day. It was two hundred and forty-one years ago, on July 2, 1776—not July 4 as many people believe ...
Richard Ritenbaugh, reminding us that Americans, whose country was founded on the principle of freedom, are fiercely protective of their rights, narcissistically claiming freedom means to do, go, say, or think whatever they want, often selfishly insisting on material acquisitions (fulfilling freedom from want) which are not rights at all. The common denominator in western culture seems to be self-determination and the freedom to determine one's destiny. God grants His called-out ones self-determination, free moral agency and true freedom under the protective blessing of His Law. Any freedom to choose must be accompanied by a set of standards against which choices are made. The people of the world do not have this freedom because they are held captive by their own lusts, the lures of this world, and the current ruler of this world, Satan. Goethe lamented that none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. If freedom is not anchored in God's Law, it is not freedom at all, but abject bondage to sin. True freedom only occurs when one has a relationship with God, the One who did all the heavy lifting in our liberation from sin. Truly converted people incrementally act more like God and less like men. If we sow spiritually, we will reap spiritually; if we sow carnally, we will reap carnally. License is not a synonym for liberty or freedom, but instead equates to bondage to lusts and the captivity to sin. The dark underbelly of freedom alerts us that freedom apart from God's Law and a relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ is bondage to sin and death.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: April 19, Tuesday of this week, marked the anniversary of three major events in American history. Not only is April 19 the day the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, but it was also ...
Austin Del Castillo, recalling a dream in which monk-like apparitions asked him, "Are you are free as you think?" reminds us that the only way to achieve true freedom is through affiliation with our great Father in heaven. The Pharisees who confronted Jesus were living in a fantasy land, believing that they had never been in bondage to anyone, forgetting that their forbears had lived 400 years serving the Pharaoh and their contemporaries were under bondage to the Romans as well as under abject bondage to sin, as is all of mankind. Sadly, independence, as practiced by many, is actually a form of enslavement to the carnal lusts and pulls of human nature. Our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, was no 'independent,' but was totally aligned with God the Father's purposes. Ideas of independence apart from God emanate from carnal human nature which is aligned to the rebellious mind of Satan. Being 'independent' is a false freedom which does not produce healthful fruits of repentance, but only gratifies carnal lust. Robinson's Richard Cory had unfathomable riches, but no relationship with God. The Ultimate Power in the universe wants us in His Kingdom; all we have to do is yield to God and allow Him to calibrate us.
Ryan McClure, focusing on the concept of recidivism (the tendency of a released ex-convict to return to a life of crime), reports that after three years from release, 2/3 returns to a life of crime, and, shockingly, after five years from being released ¾ return to criminal activity. Only ¼ of the prison population become functionally rehabilitated. In one sense, all of us are spiritual ex-cons, who have a penchant to return to our comfort zone after being redeemed by our Savior. As our ancient forbears longed for the comfort zone of Egypt, we feel drawn to our old sins like a dog returning to its vomit. We should instead look with disgust and abhorrence on our sins, preferring bondage to Christ rather than slavery to sin. As we become slaves to Christ, we become transformed into brothers, sisters, and fellow heirs of His Kingdom.
Martin Collins, reminding us that the Days of Unleavened Bread dramatize the difficulty of our perpetual lifelong struggle to extricate ourselves from the bondage of sin, points out that the despicable institution of human slavery has been perpetually with us, and is still practiced today around the world, whether we speak of sex slaves, sweat shops, or cultural caste systems. Consequently, there are 30 million people living in slavery around the world, with 14 million slaves living in India, and an estimated 60,000 slaves in the United States today. In theApostle Paul's time, 60 million slaves lived in the Roman Empire, with strict laws enforced in order to discourage revolt. Runaway slaves were branded with an "F-U-G" on their forehead, becoming the etymology of the word "fugitive." Although Paul was powerless to attack the system of slavery, he tried to neutralize its evil within the church, advocating that slave owners relinquish the owner-property relationship to a brother-brother relationship. Paul appealed to Philemon to develop this kind of relationship after his slave Onesimus ran away, stealing his money, running to Rome to assist Paul during his imprisonment. Paul wrote a humble, brotherly, diplomatic letter to his old friend Philemon, offering to pay a substitutionary debt for Onesimus if he would treat him as if he were Paul himself. Apparently, Philemon obliged, and the once lowly slave Onesimus evidently became a profitable bishop in his later life, paying back Paul's and Philemon's trust, demonstrating generosity and Christian hospitality. We learn from Onesimus that the Christian is not to run away from his past, but instead to rise above it, making overcoming more of a conquest than an escape. Like Paul's assumption of Onesimus' debt, Christ took our sins on His account and put His righteousness on our account. As an heir with Christ, our bondage is only temporary until we are resurrected as family members of the God Family.
We assess costs and values all the time in our daily lives: Is it better to buy used or new? Should we prefer traditional or contemporary? Paper or plastic? John Ritenbaugh employs the same process to God's love for us in giving His Son as the sacrifice for sin. What costs have been paid for our redemption?
John Ritenbaugh, distinguishing the terms freedom and liberty, suggests that Christian liberty is far more restrained than the word freedom would connote. Mainstream Christianity often obscures the major emphasis of God's purpose in our lives, focusing on a genie in a bottle endlessly showering miracles. God deliberately put His chosen people through testing, trails, and deprivation to see what they would do and how they would respond to His laws. Building character and conforming to Christ's image requires suffering, privations, testing, and trials, including the degradation of slavery. We are still suffering under the bondage of sin. Through God's grace, we are provided liberty with specified limits and boundaries. Grace is not the entire story, especially after we leave Egypt. We are to deny worldly lusts, putting out sin, having been obliged to live in godliness, preparing to live in good works. Consequently, grace places limits on our freedom, training us for our future life in the Kingdom of God. Our behavior must be clearly distinguishable from the non-believers in society. We cannot emulate our forebears, who although freed from Egypt, maintained their slave mentality, immersed in their worldly lusts, rebelling before they even commenced through the Red Sea, grumbling about their diet. We must desire the life-giving manna, the Bread of Life, namely the instruction provided through God's Word, producing good conduct and good life, keeping us from the bondage of sin. We need to be continually packing our minds with the Truth of God, fortifying our goal of attaining the Kingdom of God.
The Bible warns us that a great False Prophet will soon arise to sway mankind into idolatry. In addition, numerous passages speak of other false prophets and false teachers in the church and in the world. David Grabbe, in exposing the differences between false prophets and true ones, explains what we need to look out for as the end nears.
Two hundred and thirty years ago next Tuesday, thirteen American colonies defied the most powerful nation on earth and declared themselves "free and independent States. ...
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: This weekend, Americans will celebrate—with cookouts, picnics, parades, and fireworks—the 228th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence from England on July 4, 1776, the commonly accepted beginning of the United States. ...
David C. Grabbe: Imagine that you receive a personal summons from a mysterious benefactor. ...
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: This past Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that its agents will be given more latitude to conduct surveillance without providing reasonable proof of suspected wrongdoing. ...
Richard Ritenbaugh warns that being reared in a democratic nation sometimes complicates our relationship with God. The type of liberty we have in this form of government is different from our liberty granted by God, a condition of our slavery to righteousness. God's government is actually a sovereign, benevolent dictatorship. Our entrance into the Kingdom of God requires total submission ' to the spirit, letter, and intent of His law. The scriptures are replete with examples of the consequences of murmuring or rebellion- including exile and scattering. If someone rejects a servant of God, who speaks the truth,he also rejects God the Father and Jesus Christ. Both submission and rebellion are totally voluntary, but the consequences are different. God has both a good and a severe side.
The fourth commandment is the one that most people think is least important, but in reality it may be one of the most important! John Ritenbaugh explains the Sabbath commandment and its vital teaching.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately follows the Passover. In it we see how hard it is to overcome and rid our lives of sin.
John Ritenbaugh focuses on the deeply felt sense of obligation we feel knowing that a ransom has been paid to redeem us from the death penalty. While we have been justified through grace by faith, good works are the concrete and public reality of this faith. Because we have been bought with an awesome price, we have no right to pervert our lives, but are obligated to look upon our bodies as sacred holy vessels in His service. In John 15:16 Christ teaches that He has appointed us to bring forth fruit. Christ's special calling produces a sense of gratitude, loyalty, and intimate friendship in which we feel an abhorrence of letting Him down.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that physically emancipating people from slavery does not automatically unshackle their hearts or minds or preparing them for productive responsibility in a free society. Likewise, our emancipation from sin does not automatically remove our acquired spiritual shackles. We must gradually grow out of the slave mentality into liberty and freedom by committing our lives to the truth (John 8:30; Romans 8:6), replacing acquired insecurity and fear with faith and the love of God (I John 4:18). Like our forefather Abraham, we have to gradually or incrementally grow into a model of faithfulness. God's Spirit provides us the mechanism for transforming our enslaved, fearful, carnal minds to liberty (II Corinthians 3:17).
In this sermon devoted to the Night Much to be Observed, John Ritenbaugh asserts that far from being the "pipe dream" of Herbert W. Armstrong as some have disparagingly called it, this event is a commanded part of the beginning of the Days of Unleavened Bread, a time focusing on God's watchful oversight as He delivers us from bondage, continuing His oversight throughout our pilgrimage. Numbers 28:16-17 clearly reveals that the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occur on two different days. Exodus 12:40 clearly marks this event as a memorial of the covenant with Abraham 430 years prior- again emphasizing God's continuous watchful care.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that the two major purposes for the Sabbath are to (1) remind us that God is Creator and (2) to remind us that we were once in abject bondage and slavery to sin. Christ, in His role of Law magnifier (Isaiah 42:21) magnified the spiritual intent of the Sabbath as a time of blessing, deliverance, liberty, and redemption. From the beginning of His ministry Luke 4:16 to His death, Jesus used the Sabbath to set people free from physical and spiritual bondage. If we reject the Sabbath or keep it carelessly, we are begging to be put back in bondage to Satan and sin.
John Ritenbaugh stresses that in matters of submission, God wants us to think things through rather than merely comply through blind obedience. The bitter fruit of multiculturalism (without God's guidance) has demonstrated that unless someone is willing to submit, we have the makings of conflict and chaos. In order to have peace, order, and unity, both Israelite and Gentile have to subordinate their traditions, submitting to the traditions of Christ (Ephesians 2:19). Conflict between all cultural traditions will never end until they are all brought into submission to the traditions of Christ. We have to overcome our cultural mis-education and our desires to gratify the self. Liberty without guidelines will turn into chaos. We will be free only if we submit to the truth (John 8:32). All authority, even incompetent and stupid authority, ultimately derives from God's sanction (John 19:11).
Christian freedom has nothing to do with location but how we think. Like Israel on the edge of the Red Sea, we are too willing to turn back to our enslavement. Like Christ, carrying the instrument of our death (the cross), we also carry with us the instrument of our own death (our carnal minds). By imbibing on God's Word (maturing from milk to meat), we will incrementally displace our carnality, responding to God's shaping of our character to attain the Kingdom of God and membership in His Family.
In this Passover message, John Ritenbaugh observes that the world's religions are in abject bondage to falsehood because they do not observe the Passover. Freedom comes to God's called out ones incrementally from continuing on the way- the relationship between God and us. It is this relationship which is the most important thing Christ has died for. We need to be sobered at the awesomeness of the cost to set us free from sin- how far Christ was willing to be pushed. Immense have been the preparations for our ransom- involving billions of years (Hebrews 11:3, I Corinthians 10:11) and the death of our Savior. Because we have been purchased, we have an obligation to our Purchaser.
A major distinguishing characteristic of mankind is his free moral agency, presenting him with choices and the right to make decisions. We need free moral agency to be transformed into God's image. The volition to do right has to come from the core of our character or nature. Paradoxically, the way to maximum freedom is to yield to God's way of doing things. Unless one has the Spirit of God, he cannot exercise the necessary internal control to be subject to the government of God. Even though the church is not the government of God (John 18:36; I Corinthians 15:50), we need to respect the ministry as well as lay members, being subject to one another (I Corinthians 11:1). The operation of God's government absolutely depends upon each person governing himself, never going beyond the parameters of the authority God has given him.
John Ritenbaugh observes that the over-riding motivation for the individuals bringing to Jesus the woman caught in adultery was to trap Him, impaling Him on the horns of a dilemma. (Condemning the woman to death would have brought Him into conflict with Roman law; not condemning Her would have brought Him into conflict with the law of Moses.) Jesus, when He wrote in the dirt, perhaps listed instances in which the spirit of the law was violated in the thoughts or behaviors of the accusers, exposing the cruel, condemnatory attitude of the Pharisees. God's approach to authority is that it should be used to serve, and that the chief function of judging (from the stance of humility, mercy, and understanding) is to evaluate and to gently correct and reclaim rather than to condemn. Jesus, claiming to be the light of the world (drawing on a familiar temple ceremony involving candelabras), emphasizes His function as the Messiah, the embodiment of truth, giving form, shape, and substance to our lives, guiding us around or through life's difficulties. Believing that Jesus is God will motivate us to submit to Him in every aspect of our lives, providing an antidote to enslaving fears common to all of mankind, freeing us from the bondage of sin.
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