“Jesus was called a drunken and a glutton in the Bible.”
“Jesus ate and drank with prostitutes and tax collectors, we should do the same.”
“We have Christian freedom and the Bible says to be all things to all men in order to save some.”
“Jesus met people where they were at and he met their felt needs, we must do the same.”
If you’ve been in church or around pew-sitters for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard the above quotes and you’ve probably heard them alot. All the quotes listed are incorrect, distortions, and addressed in a recent blog entry on the Grace to You blog at Beer, Bohemianism, and True Christian Freedom.
John MacArthur identifies a common thread in Christian circles that “mixing booze with ministry is touted as a necessary means of penetrating western youth culture” and what used to be vices are now deemed as “redeemed” and badges of Christian freedom including “tobacco, tattoos, gambling, mixed martial arts, profane language, and lots of explicit talk about sex.”
Jesus was referred to by His enemies as “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19) but He was none of those implied things nor did He seek such a reputation.
He was a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” in the sense that He came to “seek and save the lost” and bring repentant sinners out of the mire of their sin onto the rock of salvation. He never once adopted or encouraged their lifestyle nor met them where they were at or their felt needs. He never embraced their values or inserted expletives from their speech in order to win admiration or gain acceptance. He confronted their sin and rebuked them as boldly as He preached against the sins of the Pharisees (Matthew 18:7-9).
The difference between the tax collector and the Pharisee was that the “sinner” could clearly see their standing before God and confess their own need for a divine change of heart. The Pharisee and the prideful person that thought they were “good” did not (and still does not) see their need for divine forgiveness for their sins.
Paul did say that he became “all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) But this Christian freedom Paul is detailing is about the Christian submitting his own liberties for the unbeliever, not an indulging into the world. Paul goes on in chapter 10 to show that “not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23) and when “you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Paul did not go out drinking with the guys to tout his freedom and gain acceptance. He did not even use clever wisdom and fancy rhetoric when speaking to the Corinthians which would have gained him full authority and approval. Why? “So that the cross of Christ would not be made void.” (1 Corinthians 1:17)
True Christian freedom is not about boasting and offending through the use of taboos. True liberty means we are at peace with God and not under the law’s condemnation (Romans 5:1, 8:1). It also means we are not under the restrictions of ceremonial law’s detailed throughout the Old Testament (Colossians 2:16-17).
True Christian freedom is becoming sanctified through God’s Word which includes growing in maturity and holiness through obedience. Not to see others as sinful or to commit yourself to man-made rules and legalistic standards, but continue to see that any goodness in ourselves is from God alone and to ultimately demonstrate how God has given us a new heart with new desires. To show how God’s grace has converted us from dead to alive, slaves of sin to slaves of righteousness, from blind to being able to see, from children of wrath to children of God.
True Christian freedom is fundamentally to validate to the whole world God’s gracious act of redemption and to give God all the glory.
“Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:7-10