“Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the east coast be supplanted by (or accompanied by – my comment) the Statue of Responsibility on the west coast.” (Victor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning ) I’m not sure about Frankl’s relationship with Jesus Christ but his quote has some Scriptural merit as seen in Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." As Christians we have been set free from the power of Satanic bondage to sin (John 16:11; Hebrews 2:14-15) and thus free to obey the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now the question of life is, “What am I going to do with my freedom?” Biblical freedom is the power to do God’s will as seen in His Word and taught and inspired by His Spirit. It is not freedom to do what I want. God’s power to do His will is found in our obedience to His will even as Jesus as the Son of Man found the power to go to the cross when He said to God, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) We have the freedom to choose to do what we want but we don’t have the freedom to choose the consequences of our choices. As Christians, Jesus Christ the Righteous Judge will ultimately test the quality of our choices and actions and either give us rewards or take away rewards based on our works on that Day at the judgement seat. (See 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). That’s why Paul said to work out your salvation (not work for it) with “fear and trembling” (see above) as our choices of obedience or disobedience in this brief life will have consequences for our capacity to glorify God for all eternity.
*The account of Cain and Abel in Genesis four is a classic example of the bad choices of the “natural” man as seen in Cain and the right choices of the “spiritual” man as seen in Abel and the godly remnant after him. Abel offered his best blood sacrifice to God and Cain only offered “some of his fruits” which displeased the Lord. Then in envy and anger Cain murdered Abel and God banished him from His presence and punished him to be a “restless wanderer” and a frustrated farmer. But unrepentant Cain was determined to make life work in his own strength and “built a city” and named it after his son Enoch (means “dedicate”) to meet the need we all have for community and perpetuity. So a godless community develops (vv. 18-22) and though God allowed it, it is quickly blighted with the sins of polygamy, violence, retaliation and murder (vv. 23-24). In contrast to Cain, God raised up others like Abel through Seth and his son Enosh. Interestingly, Enosh means “mortal, feeble, weak” and it’s with that sense of inadequacy and brevity of life that “men began to call upon the name of the Lord.” (v. 26)
I shared some thoughts on this with the men at our Chili’s fellowship that tie in with a series I’m teaching on eternal rewards. When, like Abel, Seth and Enosh, we too seek to honor and glorify God, we quickly realize how weak and inadequate we are in our natural strength and goodness to do so. We, like Paul, who as a Christian said, “In my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22, i.e., Paul delighted to do God’s will and glorify Him) also said in the same breath, “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:14; 24) Now “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature (natural man) but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4) When we as Christians seek to glorify God and realize how weak and inadequate we are to do it we will begin “to call upon the name of the Lord.” “Call upon” has two meanings here; both to cry out to God for help and to proclaim the name of the Lord in praise and testimony. We see this in Psalm 50:14-15: "Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me." As we choose to serve and glorify God and cry out to Him for His power to do it, He will enable us and then we give Him all the glory. “Prayer humbles man and exalts God as it shows our insufficiency and God’s sufficiency.” (John Piper – Desiring God)
In addition to realizing our weakness to glorify God, we must also realize the brevity of life and get about doing it. Enosh’s realization of his mortality is a constant theme in Scripture: "Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." (James 4:13-17) As one article I read put it: “Please call me back later God and I’ll serve You then.” You may have heard the question “If you knew you only had a year or six months to live what would you do differently? But unless we actually have to deal with that it doesn’t seem to motivate us to change. Yet the truth is we all have only one “life” to live for Christ and God, through Scripture, is continually exhorting us not to squander our lives on things that have no eternal value for us or others and thus suffer loss of rewards and blessings for all eternity. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men” (to obey God). (2 Corinthians 5:9-11) Yet, heaven and eternity seem so far off and we don’t see God instantly zapping us or others for our sins so we wrongly think we’re getting by with it. "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong." (Ecclesiastes 8:11) Yet Solomon concluded his book with these sobering words: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
As we choose to glorify God by stewarding all He has given us in time, talents, treasures and truth to share with all those He brings into our lives, and in our weakness cry out to Him to empower us to honor Him in little acts of kindness and faithful obedience in great trials, and then proclaim His name in thanksgiving, praise and testimony to others as He delivers us and blesses us, we will be following the example of our Lord Jesus Himself and know the joy of the Lord both now and for all eternity- and especially in eternity. The joy of telling others about Him now and hearing His “well done” on that Day. "This we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete." (1 John 1:1-4) "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" (Matthew 25:21) O God, quicken to life every power within me that I may lay hold on eternal things. Open my eyes that I may see; give me acute spiritual perception; enable me to taste (experience) You and know that You are good. Make heaven more real to me than any earthly thing has ever been. In Jesus’ Name. Amen (A.W. Tozer)
Until He Comes,
Len and Kristen
P.S. Come Get away To Callaway for our Annual Men’s Conference: This Year’s Theme: Being Conformed to the Image of Christ – April 25-27 Call 404-842-0707 for details.
*See Dr. Larry Crabb’s book, Connecting for sinful strategies we can develop to try to meet legitimate needs apart from God.