A Journal for Bible Teachers

True Liberty, True Grace

True Liberty, True Grace

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh. (Galatians 5:13) Liberty is dangerous. In fact, it can even destroy us! The human race is simply unable to handle unlimited freedom. When our first parents transgressed in Eden, God had no option but to quickly impose limits upon them because of a fallen nature. Without restraints, a sinful nature would run wild and all of us would become hopelessly degenerate (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Therefore, God pronounced: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake” (Genesis 3:17b).

Limitations imposed upon us by the curse are actually for our benefit, though often this truth is not appreciated. God-given restraints are the mercy of God to keep us on course. Yet, when a “thorn” in our life has served its purpose, God will remove it. When God sees that we are mature enough to manage freedom, He will deliver us from our prison-like circumstances. But if release is granted prematurely, liberty could be used, as Paul warns, “for an occasion to the flesh.”

Therefore, God chooses not to free us immediately from all our difficult circumstances. He knows we are unable to handle total freedom all at once. He only promises to drive out our enemies and problems “little by little” (Exodus 23:30; Deuteronomy 7:22). The God of all wisdom places over us “tutors and governors” until the appointed time (Galatians 4:1-2). These are the people and circumstances in our lives that teach, restrain, and hedge us in for a while. Therefore hard work, having to be accountable to others, being “locked” into marriage, being tied down to a job, and having our wills crossed are all situations that are good for us. Confinements are not bondages, as Satan insists. Rather, they are safeguards for us and are working Christian character in us. Thus, when these restrictions are cast off, people fall into the real bondages.

Satan’s whole desire is to control and bring us into bondage. To accomplish this, he undermines the checks that God places upon man. Whatever leads to freedom, Satan calls bondage, and whatever leads to bondage, he calls freedom. Satan promotes independent and defiant attitudes like this: “Don’t fence me in…do not put any restrictions on me…It’s my life and I will do what I want.”

Noah's Ark. Design to protect.

I have learned that spiritual prisons are the mercy of God and can literally be our salvation. Noah’s ark, for example, was a prison. The people in the ark could not go anywhere for a year, and it was very unpleasant; yet that prison was their salvation. Sometimes God draws us into awkward circumstances to save and deliver us. When I was a young man, the Lord passed me through a long “tunnel experience” in my person life. I was confused, depressed, and physically impaired for several years, but all of these became unspeakable treasures to me. Tunnels are very dark and lonely, but they have several tremendous advantages. A tunnel is the shortest way through a “mountain” in our life. Also, we cannot go off course when we are in a tunnel. God always has light at the end of our tunnel and gives us an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11).

In Scripture, captivity represents confinement. It is exile into strange and difficult circumstances. For Israel, it meant going to Babylon in chains of bondage in order to be purged from vanity and idolatry. Yet God promised them a return to their homeland and to normalcy. He sent them into captivity “for their good,” to “give them a heart to know him” (Jeremiah 24:5-7; cf. Job 42:10). This is the whole purpose of captivity. Captivity is an experience; it is a necessary ingredient for being conformed to the image of the Son of God. In Jeremiah’s time, the prophet commanded them to submit to captivity (Jeremiah 27:12-14). In captivity we are freed from the shackles that vex our souls.

Repeatedly, we have seen young adults fall into the snare of fornication because they insist on having their freedom and living away from home. While resenting house rules and resisting authority, they have fallen into the real bondages- moral sin, abortion, guilt, regret, bitterness, debt, drugs, and alcohol. God’s laws bring life! They are not legalism or bondage. His commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:30), but guideposts that keep us from falling into many sorrows. Freedom is a state of being free in spirit, mind, and soul.

True freedom is when sin does not have dominion over us, and vices, habits, and Satan is not ruling our lives. Freedom is having a good conscience. It is abounding with love, joy, peace, and all of the fruits of the Spirit. We can be marvelously free though confined with difficult circumstances, and we can be enslaved and controlled by Satan though roaming about with no restraints. God is doing everything He can to keep us out of the real bondages. Do not choose the counterfeit liberty.

For What Will We Use Our Freedom?

“Let my son go, that he may serve me” Exodus 4:23.
Many of us have heart cries and desires, some for which we have petitioned God for years. I would like to ask you a question: If God were to give you your request right now, would it help or hinder your walk with Him? If God gave you your miracle today, would it draw you closer to Him or would it take you away from him? Are you ready for your desired miracle or would that miracle destroy you by causing you to go your own way? Let us consider the following illustrations:

God delivers His people from Bondages
Moses said to Pharaoh, “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve ME” (Exodus 4:22-23). For what purpose does God deliver His people from bondages? The answer is very clear from this passage in Exodus. He sets His people free so that they may be able to serve and glorify HIim! Unfortunately, when God gives men and women their miracle of deliverance, they often serve themselves instead of serving Him. This is precisely what Israel did after God delivered them from Egyptian bondage. Israel did not serve the Lord but themselves. They used their freedom to go their own way.

Material Blessing in Africa
If God restores health to you, for what will you use your healthy body? Will it be used for fornication or adultery? If God blesses you financially, will it draw you closer to Him or will prosperity make you lose you dependency upon God? (Jeremiah 22:21). Several years ago, an elder in an African church prayed for a new red pickup truck. When he got his new truck, he did not show up for the Sunday service or the midweek service. He was too busy driving people to and from town. They never saw him again. His life was absorbed with driving his truck and making money. Material blessing caused him to forget God (Deuteronomy 6:11,12). This is a temptation not only in Africa, but everywhere in the world. Not everyone can handle financial blessing.

The Healing of Ten Lepers
Luke 17:11-19 is the amazing account of the healing of ten lepers. The Lord healed all ten but only one returned to give glory to the Lord. All ten of these lepers were delighted to be healed yet only one used his healthy body to glorify the Lord. Nine of these men went their own way to use their miracle for their own interests (Phillippians 2:21). Remember, we are set free to serve Him.

Miracle Healing in France
When Dr. Brian J. Bailey was in France many years ago, he and his wife witnessed and performed many miracles of healing. Their church was located near a notable hospital that treated terminally ill patients. When doctors had no hope for patients, they referred them to the church across the street that advertised: “Jesus Saves, Jesus Heals.” As a last resort, terminally ill patients came to church, and God miraculously healed many of them. Yet the interesting thing is this: most of them never returned to church or lived for God after their miracle of healing. Perhaps God is waiting for a deeper commitment from you before He heals you!

King David’s High Position
The Lord cut off all of King David’s enemies and elevated him to a position of greatness in the earth, according to 2 Samuel 7:9. Normally we would think-what a blissful state to have no more problems or enemies! But, in reality, this is a time of great danger! After the Lord had cut off all of David’s enemies, he soon grew lax and fell into sin with Bath-sheba (2 Samuel 11-12). For this very reason, God is slow to remove all of our troubles. This is also the reason God left a thorn in Paul’s life, for otherwise he would have been “exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Samson’s Supernatural Strength

Samson, destroying the temple before his death.

For what will we use our liberty? What will we do when we receive our release from bondage? Samson used his freedom for an occasion to the flesh. What Samson would not learn in freedom, he had to learn in bondage (Judges 16:19-31). Our Lord taught that if our eye caused us to offend, it would be better to lose that eye in order to be spared from hell fire. Samson had to lose both of his eyes to bring him to his senses, but it saved him from eternal loss (cf. Matthew 5:28,29; 18:9). When a nation sins grievously against the Lord, He gives them over to bondage, slavery, and the oppression of other nations (Psalm 107:10-14). He does so for three reasons: first to punish them; second, to restrain them; and third, to bring them to repentance (Psalm 90:3). God imposes a yoke on individuals and on whole nations to restrain them and redeem them. When a nation or people gains their independence or throws off their yoke prematurely, an evil nature runs rampant and liberty is not used to serve God but self. Always observe whether “freedom” and “independence” has helped hindered the spiritual condition of a person or a nation.

Therefore, we should thank God for our circumstances and irritations and trust Him to bring us out of our confinements when he knows it will bless and not destroy us. Let us ask God to prepare us for our miracle so that when it comes, we will be ready for it and it will be used for His glory! Remember, a beautiful pearl is formed by years of prolonged irritation, not speedy deliverance.

Stay Where God Places You

If I could choose one single reason why believers miss the mark of God’s high calling for their lives it would be this: They are not willing to stay where God places them. Many are called to do great things for God, but few are chosen because they fail the training period (Hebrews 12:5-8). We are chosen in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10). When God prepares His sons and daughters for their special task in life, the preparation is often very rigorous and the time it requires is longer than expected. The Master-trainer “scourges every son whom he receives.” While we are in God’s corral, the Holy Spirit is making many necessary adjustments in our personal lives. During these times of discipline and delay, many become discouraged and leap over the fence. At first people feel “free” and so relieved from those confining circumstances, but by evading the training corral, they disqualify themselves from many of God’s promises, jeopardizing their chances of being conformed to the image of the Son of God.

Isaiah 52:12 is a warning to every child of God: “Ye shall not go out with haste, neither by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your (rear guard)” We cannot allow ourselves to leave a place or situation in exasperation and anger as so many others do. To leave in that condition is to leave without victory. It is to leave without God going before you, and then it is we who are directing our lives and not longer God. To a certain extent, this very thing happened in the life of a good man named Barnabas. (Acts 15:36-40).

Stay Together in the Marriage Covenant

Marriage is a covenant.

I am now coming to the heart of my message, which is the abuse of liberty in the area of marriage. All over the world today, the marriage bond is being broken in hopes of finding a more suitable spouse and a happier life. But this is a deception as old as mankind. This course of action, although it appears to bring freedom and release from strife, leads to worse entanglements and bondages.

The latest statistics in America declare, to the Lord’s embarrassment, that the divorce rate in his church is higher than it is in the world. By this example, the Church testifies to a skeptical world that Christ’ grace is not sufficient for her needs, and that He is not the answer for man’s problems. The Church has become the tail and not the head. She follows the world instead of being an example unto it.

Christ’s Teaching on Divorce

Matthew 19:1-12, Mark 10:1-12, Luke 16:18
Just several weeks before he went to the cross, Jesus taught on one of the most controversial subjects of all-the subject of divorce. This is recorded by Matthew and Mark. Luke did not record the discourse, but inserted one verse from Christ’s teaching on the permanence of marriage (Luke 16:18).

Matthew and Mark recorded the same sermon, but each writer omitted certain aspects of the teaching because it did not apply to their respective listeners. Mark, writing to Romans, did not include the “exception clause” (Matthew 19:9) because the exception clause applied only to the Jewish world. It does not apply to us either. Matthew, writing to the Jewish world, did not include the teaching that women are commanded not to put away their husbands (Mark 10:12) because in Jewish society, women could not divorce their husbands anyway. Therefore, Matthew left out this part.

Jesus was bringing in a new covenant, a covenant that offered us the possibility of having a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Yet, this new heart can only be obtained if we are willing to go through the necessary processes. The greatest problem even in blood-washed believers is hardness of heart. This is the whole reason why relationships fail. The heart becomes hard in moments when it is hurt and because of pride. How easily the heart closes just from a misinterpreted word, look, or gesture. Therefore, Jesus goes straight to the root of divorce. He was not going to deal with side issues or be distracted with the rationalizations of men. He was going to cut through all of this when he was asked, “Why did Moses allow divorce?” he told them that Moses allowed divorce “for the hardness of your hearts, but from the beginning (starting with Adam and Eve) it was not so” (Matthew 19:7,8). Christ’s reference to Moses is in Deuteronomy 24:1-2, but He clarifies that this permission to divorce was indeed a judgment. “Hardness of heart” in the old and new covenants alike never brought God’s blessing, but a frown. Concession to divorce in the Old Testament surely was God’s disfavor in the response to hardened hearts. But under the new covenant divorce is outlawed.

The Scriptures never suggest that divorce is because of a lack of communication. The Scriptures teach us that divorce is because of a hardened heart, a heart that cannot and will not forgive. The Scriptures do not teach us that argument and contention are because of a low self-image or a poor childhood. Certainly, these are factors that cannot be ignored, but the Scriptures tell us what the real problem is “Only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13;10; 19:13). It always takes two for an argument, but it also includes a lot of pride that has ever evaded the cross. Arguments and contention are the exact opposite of a meek person who accepts circumstances without anger. Thus, we can see that the real causes of division and divorce are spiritual. Are we in violation of Ephesians 4:2,3?

May I suggest that blindness is another major reason for relationships not growing (Matthew 7:1-5). When Isaiah saw the Lord he also saw himself in God’s light, and he did not like what he saw. To his utter astonishment, Isaiah discovered that he was a man of unclean lips. Suddenly, he realized that his tongue had afflicted others. (Isaiah 6:1-7). There are times when we have to feel very bad about ourselves before we can feel good about ourselves. Isaiah did not preach, as the world does today, that we need to feel good about ourselves. Instead, he cried, “Woe is me for I am undone.” Certainly the human soul needs a wholesome sense of self-worth, but first we may need to face some offensive things in our hearts before we are made whole. “Wilt thou be made whole?” Light is healing! Let us face that same Light that brought scrutiny, then healing, to Isaiah, Job, and Paul on the Damascus road.

Before I go any further, I want to say something very positive about this subject: God desires every one of his children to be fruitful and productive, irrespective of their marital status or past. When Jesus said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit,” he included everyone. Only the unrepentant are excluded. To illustrate this point we should consider the woman at the well who had been married five times (John 4:16-18). When she came to Christ and found the satisfaction that human love could never offer, she ended up bringing the whole city to the Lord Jesus Christ. This woman is a perfect example of the fruitfulness God has for everyone who is truly repentant. Fruitfulness, however, does not mean that we need to be behind a pulpit.

Today the divorce rate in the Church is getting higher than the divorce rate in the world. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, it is the spirit of the age. We are living in an adulterous generation. Morals are falling and standards are being relaxed everywhere because the Lawless One is coming-the Man of Sin. The Church has been infiltrated by the world and has succumbed to its trends. Also, there is an element of ignorance. Many ministers are not sure or have had second thoughts about the permanence of marriage, especially because of the generally lax standard of many prominent church leaders.

Often, ministers have not known what to do with the many varied marital situations in their churches. I believe it is always in order to treat each situation with kindness and tenderness. Yet, we must face this issue of marriage and divorce squarely. It is our obligation to understand the consequences of breaking the marriage covenant. When we face a situation of someone wanting to remarry, before we give our blessing, should first consider how this could affect the heart of a believer. Below I want to suggest several ways divorce and remarriage may affect one’s spiritual life:

The Affects of Divorce & Remarrying

  • It brings guilt.
  • Guilt diminishes faith, and therefore, the anointing.
  • It injures the struggling marriages of the onlookers.
  • It encourages others to break up, especially if that second marriage appears to be blessed.
  • It can limit one’s service for Christ; one cannot hold certain spiritual positions in the church.
  • It brings complications such as alimony; an extra sets of in-laws; the possibility of incest.
  • It affects the children. By example it says: “If it does not work, end it, and try another.”
  • It causes a loss of discernment and a spirit of rationalization when this is justified or defended.
  • It is a broken covenant and vow which God cannot bless. He can only bless a repentant spirit.
  • It is against the testimony of Jesus (Luke 16:17-18; Revelation 19:10) and the true spirit of prophecy.
  • It brings defilement and additional battles with lust (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Romans 7:1-3).

The issue of divorce and remarriage is much more than a doctrinal issue that is mentioned several times in Scripture; it strikes at the very heart of Christianity. The ultimate goal of the new covenant is a heart that is freed of all hardness and conflict. It is to fulfill the two great commandments of loving God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40), and this takes a lot of hard work and much grace. It is by this standard that all men know that we are Christ’s disciples-if we love one for another (John 13; 35). This “love for one another” applies most of all to the marriage relationship. Divorce, therefore, is not sympathetic to the Christian message.

Divorce is a heart that has been overcome with offenses; it is a heart that has failed to receive grace to help in time of need (cf. Hebrews 4:16; 1:15). Divorce is a denial of the message of forgiveness, and forbearance. It is against the message of true love which suffers long, bears all things and endures all things. And divorce contradicts the message of Christ and His Church-the ultimate symbol of our union with Him.

The Need For True Grace

Staying together and asking God for grace to settle the issues of our hearts is the right way, it is God’s way, and it is the way of the overcomer. Satan is offering a counterfeit freedom to our generation, but it is a snare that leads to greater bondage and regret. Unfortunately, not every one is willing to receive grace because it costs something-the cost of humbling ourselves. New grace is granted only to the humble; (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5,6; Proverbs 3:34).

We need to take another look at the “offended brother” of Proverbs 18:19. This is the wounded man or woman who is harder to be won than a city, whose contentions are as strong as the bars of a castle. What is at the bottom of all the anger, argument, and hardness? Certainly, there has been an injury, but the response is wrong-the heart has been hardened, grace has been rejected, and there is a strong sense that “I have every right to be offended.”

What if the Captain of our Salvation had thought that! We would all be lost in our sins forever. The whole theme of Christianity is forgiveness; it is facing injustices with divine assistance, which is called grace. Grace is a substance! It is something God pours into us when we are under pressure (Hebrews 4:16). It is offered to us when we are in times of need. Yet if we choose to, we may close our hearts to grace; but then we become infected with bitterness (Hebrews 12:15). Grace is much more than “undeserved favor.” It is divine enablement. Let’s consider what real grace is.

Grace is:

  • A substance God deposits in us, if we are willing, when we are in times of need (Hebrews 4:16).
  • His grace is sufficient. It meets and exceeds all the pressures or injuries we have (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • To harden the heart is to cut off the flow of grace, and bitterness results (Hebrews 12:15; 3:8,15).
  • Grace is given only to the humble and the sincere (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5,6, Proverbs 3:34; Ephesians 6:24).
  • Grace is ability and power to carry a heavy load (1 Corinthians 15:10).
  • Grace establishes our hearts and emotions (Hebrews 13:9).
  • An impartation of new grace is the only thing that changes us (1 Timothy 1:13,14; 1 Corinthians 15:10).
  • It requires “abundance of grace” to reign in life (Romans 5:17). Some receive more than others.
  • Grace can be received in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1.) Demas received grace, then turned back (2 Timothy 4:10).
  • Grace is given “for obedience” (Romans 1:5). We cannot do God’s will in our own strength.
  • Grace is not a license to sin. It teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11,12).
  • There are counterfeits for grace. Some preachers turn God’s grace into lasciviousness (Jude 1:4).
  • Grace can literally be seen (Acts 11:23), because its evidence is so obvious. Grace is the power to change us, use us, and keep us. We are kept by God’s power.

Paul admonishes everyone of us to “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). During His many trials and temptations on earth, Christ obtained grace (divine enablement) from His heavenly Father until He was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Being a man, Christ fully comprehends every area of human temptation and beckons us today to come boldly to the throne of grace to find help in our time of need. The greater the need, the greater is the grace available. Today, if your battle is fierce, there is an enormous amount of grace offered to you that will not only equal but exceed the pressures you are up against. Let us not close our hearts to grace!

Conclusion

God only accepts our sacrifice and service if we are in the place He has chosen (Deuteronomy 12:13, 14). He is not satisfied with our lives or service if we are somewhere else. This is because we are not accomplishing His purposes. Also, in that place or situation there are specially tailored circumstances designed for our perfecting. To refuse those circumstance is to reject the ingredients that are necessary to shape us into the image of Christ.

A call is not only an invitation, it is also a summon. It is a command to appear before the Judge to give an account of our lives. He will ask us what we have done with our time, talents, substance, and how we have treated others. If we are going to fulfill our life’s work here one earth, we must stay on God’s path for our lives. This involves staying where God plants us until His work is accomplished in our hearts.

What is your house built upon? According to the Master teacher, every person is building a house. That house is our life, our life’s works, our marriage, and ministry. The Lord promises that our house will be tested by the storms of life and the winds of adversity (Matthew 7:24-28) Everyone who hears His Words and obeys them is like a wise man who builds his house upon a rock. But everyone who hears His Words and does not obey them is like a foolish man who builds his house upon the sand. Obedience will determine whether our life is a success or failure.

Liberty is dangerous, it can destroy us. God has placed limits upon us to keep us on course. If we stay in the confines of His will, we will be safe. But if we insist on freedom that we are not ready for, or if we cross the boundary lines of His Word, we will surely have bondage and heartache. Do not despise your circumstances, your pastor, parents, or spouse, and do not despise delays. God is in control of all these matters. Our Heavenly Father will cause every problem and irritation in life to work for our good (cf. Genesis 50:20) when we please Him (Deuteronomy 23:5). He will make all things beautiful in His time.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9





About the Author

Dr. Paul G. Caram is an author and international lecturer on the subject of Christian growth. The powerful truths presented in his seminars have transformed hearts and helped many to find fresh direction and new meaning in their lives. Dr. Paul Caram offers many valuable keys that help the believer gain freedom from the bondages of habits and personal struggles. He shows the believer how to find peace in his own heart first, which leads to unity with others.

A graduate of Elim Bible Institute in New York in 1969, and thirty years as a pastor and teacher, Dr. Paul Caram is the vice-chancellor of Zion Ministerial Institute in Waverly, New York, and vice president of Zion Ministerial Institute’s International Correspondence Course program. His books are in over 50 nations of the world in several languages. Dr. Paul Caram and his wife Betsy have pastored Zion Christian Assembly in Ulysses, Pa (United States). for eighteen years.

Dr. Paul Caram received a Diploma of Ministerial Training (Dip. Min.) from Elim Bible Institute. He also has received a Doctorate of Religion (Ph. D.) from Vision Christian Bible College.

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