Freedom

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 1:1

We were made for freedom. God's every interaction with us is on the basis of freedom. He doesn't force us to do anything. He would like a relationship with us, but He does not force Himself upon us. We are free to choose Him, and free to reject Him. We are free. The hallmark of any mature relationship is the freedom to choose that relationship. Whether discussing marriage, friendship, work relationships, business relationships, or our relationship with God, choice makes the relationship work.

Why is it then that we choose the relationships that we do? The mature, healthy individual chooses relationships on the basis of mutual benefit. God wants us to choose to have a relationship with him on that basis as well. He gets something out of it, we get something out of it.

So what do we get out of it? One of the more obvious answers is eternal life, but I don't think the mature individual chooses God on that tenet alone. We still have a life to live here, our entire existence can't be focused just on eternity. Do we get anything out of having a relationship with God now?

It is a common misconception among Christians and non-Christians alike that God for some reason doesn't want us to enjoy life. Many believe that God's desire for our lives is that we become holy and that somehow, enjoying our lives is inconsistent with the idea of holiness. Furthermore, many believe that God takes pleasure in our sacrifices, rather than pleasure in our joy. But Jesus Himself said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10:10

I believe that God would much rather see us full of joy than full of sorrow. Wealthy rather than poor; God prefers success over failure. Psalm 35:17 says, "Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant." A God who loves His children is a God who wants to see them experience good all their lives. It is God's heart to bless, not bring harm. Our choices often bring us harm, that is not God's heart, He would rather see us learn how to make good choices, and as a result be blessed

God wants us to choose a relationship with Him because it is the beginning of an awesome life! Not necessarily a life of church attendance and ministry work, but a life fully lived, in whatever form that takes for you.

11 comments:

Rick Campbell said...

"The mature, healthy individual chooses relationships on the basis of mutual benefit. God wants us to choose to have a relationship with him on that basis as well." This implies that I come to Jesus to get the "abundant life" which you define as good relationships, financial success, building a home, etc. How does this fit in scripturally with the apostles' lives, especially Paul's "miserable life", and Christ's challenge to the rich young ruler to give up the good life to follow him? Also, why should I involve myself with the unsaved (the hookers and the tax collectors) if they have numerous problems and will be of no benefit to me?

Mike Snapp said...

By saying mutual benefit, I'm not suggesting a life of ease, comfort, and relaxation. Was Paul not better off having chosen to follow Christ? Sure, he faced very challenging circumstances, but many would say that they feel the most satisfaction in life when they are serving others. Paul knew that he was doing something very important for God, that he was part of something great. This is a benefit. Even if I pay a price in terms of lifestyle - I'm willing to for the sake of the benefit to my soul and for the pleasure of seeing lives changed around me. Belonging and calling are in fact benefits. I don't think they end there though. Christ teaches us how to live. This affects every aspect of life - and benefits us greatly as well. We are better off having chosen to follow Christ - in this life and the next.

Anonymous said...

So then how was Paul's life of suffering and sacrifice (including constant ministry, church planting and attendance) attractive to the unsaved, carnal mind with a worldly focus. Consider Paul's "choice"/conversion as well, since he already had the "abundant life" which you refer to as the means God uses to attract unbelievers. Even Christ called us to "take up our cross". I do understand that you are expanding your definition of "benefit" but that expansion appears to be a contradiction of the general theme of your "prosperity" position.

Mike Snapp said...

Hey Rick - I didn't realize who you were. Sorry for taking so long to reply.

I think you're adding too much meaning to my general phrase "we enter relationships on the basis of mutual benefit." I don't advocate a "prosperity" gospel necessarily. I do believe God wants our lives to be as good as they can be, but circumstances and calling may have a significant impact on our quality of life.

Regardless of how tough life might become as a result of our calling, we are still better off having chosen to follow Christ. When I say benefit, I'm saying that I am better off with God than without him (eternal life, wisdom, fellowship). He is better off with me than without me (he enjoys my devotion and fellowship as well). We both gain from this relationship. Why else would we bother?

Rick Campbell said...

Thanks for your reply. How do I interpret your "not necessarily" advocating a "prosperity gospel"? Jesus promised us persecution and hatred. He also seems to see suffering as a major spring board of evangelism (see I Peter). The proof of our identity also depends on our love for Christians (Jn. 13:34-35) and would seem to imply that which Heb.10:24-25 commands - church attendance and involvement.

Rick Campbell said...

Jeremiah was "bothered" - feeling seduced and raped by God as expressed in Jer. 20:7ff. He wanted not to even mention God's name again because his life had been nothing but misery. Why did he continue? "But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones: I was weary of holding it back, And I could not."
Once God changes your heart, "you can't unsee truth". See Acts 13:48 for one scripture as to why we "bother" to begin with.

Mike Snapp said...

I honestly can't tell if you are missing my point completely or seeing something beyond what I see that I just don't understand. I'm not advocating anykind of gospel - I don't know what a "prosperity gospel" is so I'm not advocating it. Maybe what I'm saying sounds like a "prosperity gospel" that you've heard articulated elsewhere. I'm not suggesting that God promises us prosperity, I'm suggesting that we have relationships that benefit us. Every person you've mentioned would say there were benefits to knowing God, even Jeremiah. If there is no good reason to have a relationship with God, then I won't bother. We make decisions and choose causes that often cost us dearly, but we pursue that cause because of the gain (the hope) that awaits. If no good thing will come from my relationship with God, then I won't pursue it. But I know that good things will come. For me, there is eternal life, there is the blessing that comes from seeing the lives of other's changed for good, there is the hope that I experience each day as I walk with God and learn to turn my heart and my will over to His leadership, and the blessings that come as I learn by His example to have real relationships with other people. From God I learn how to live. These are all huge benefits and I'm grateful to God for each of them. Abundant life is about having a heart full of faith, hope and love - and a trust that God is right there with me in the midst of challenge. I'm fully aware of the fact that he doesn't take away the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are still opposed and fighting a real fight. That fight will cost us, but God stands with us. But just as you desire good for your children, God desires good for His. Persecution and hatred are "circumstances." Abundant life is not about circumstances. Life is something that happens within. The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). But don't we all focus sometimes on our circumstances and forget the promise? Jeremiah was no different than we are. Have you never said to God, "This sucks God, and its pissing me off." ? I sure have. I have a relationship with God, we talk, He knows when I'm pissed off. But every time, I come around, the Word burns within me and the Holy Spirit helps me to see my error and at the same time see God's wisdom - so I repent. So did Jeremiah, he was sick of what he was going through, but the truth of the Word helped him get over it and press on. So I'm not sure if we are understanding each other. I agree with everything you've said I think. Anyway, thanks for writing.

Rick Campbell said...

"Abundant life is not about circumstances. Life is something that happens within." You appear to have moved away from your previous definition of the abundant life of external success. Our statements/ practice stem from our theology. Many of the article's statements appear to flow from what I would call "man-centered theology"
= man's freedom/choices are preeminent. With this being so, it becomes our "rational" practice to make Christianity palatable to unbelievers so that they will "choose" God. This results in the move away from the "foolishness of preaching" and into the current seeker-sensitive, man-pleasing, not-too-demanding, church is optional mentality that currently cripples the church. That's why I referred to Paul's "choice" (blinded and slammed to the ground), Jeremiah's "choosing" to remain (couldn't rid himself of the burning w/in), and the church in Acts 13:48 (ordained to belief). God's plan is preeminent, not man's freedom of choice. He is not at the mercy of our will. That's why I love that line from a recent country song "...and if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans". Thanks for stimulating a fellow-sinner.

Mike Snapp said...

Hi Rick, I think we're having the classic debate about choice vs soverignty of God. I've had the debate a thousand times and I just can't get past several issues. I really don't want to try to debate it with you, you'd probably be able to recite Calvinism and related scriptures for hours. I can't. I'm not a theologian. I just know this, I lose all hope for the goodness of God when I start to think the way calvinists do. There is just too much within me that testifies to the fact that I have to choose God. I've got two natures - a short sighted, pleasure seaking, instant gratification oriented self, and a spirit led, long-term good, other's oriented self. Daily I have to choose to act in accord with the good and not the bad. I have never been forced by God to be one way or the other. He asks me to choose the good. I realize there are a lot of scriptures that you can look to in order to make a case for no choice, but I see each one of them differently than you do. I don't know why people tend to see things so differently, but they do. These perspectives are etched in stone it seems. I've heard all the arguments and I've never seen someone go from one way of looking at it to the other. I know that you will see my perspective as something that leads to the "seeker-sensitive, man-pleasing, not-too-demanding, church is optional mentality" but it certainly hasn't for me and even if it does, its not my job or your job to force anyone to agree. We become all things to all people so that some might be saved. If God forced Paul and Jeremiah to agree with Him, why make them go preach? Why not just make everyone agree with Him? What is the point of any command, any wisdom, any preaching, any work on our part at all if God simply chooses who will believe and makes it so. I believe it is my job to win people to Christianity by loving them - not promising them prosperity and nice toys (as I think you view my perspective). Its the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Rom 2:4) and the love of Christ that compels us (2 Cor 5:14). We become like Christ by loving the unloveable, just as we were unloveable when He chose to love us (1 John 4:10-11). Even this discussion is pointless outside of the paradigm of choice - if we do not choose our devotion and hence our action, then how can I even choose to have this conversation. I just can't see any of it. I think God wants us to choose Him because He is excellent. We are led to Him by our desire for His excellence, beauty, grace, and mercy. Maybe Paul was forced, but I wasn't. The more I learned about how wonderful God was, the more I wanted to know about Him. And as that happened I wanted to help others who were hurting find the same thing. I'm choosing to reach out to them - I don't have to. But I do it because God values it, and knowing Him makes me value it as well. So I don't know if we can agree on this one. I'm grateful for your heart and your desire to think, and grow, and learn (even though that doesn't make sense to me if it isn't a choice), and I welcome a continued discussion, but I just hope we don't have to debate calvinism - nothing fruitful ever comes from it.

Mike Snapp said...

You know Rick, I can't stop thinking about my answer. I don't want to come across the way I did. I am not an expert on this and I don't want to sound dogmatic. I am open to learning from others. It's just that I've had this discussion before and it always "hurts" me. I come away frustrated in my inability to see what the other person sees and in their inability to see what I see. Maybe God will help me to understand this issue. This is one of those issues that it always seems to me divides Christians and I am bothered by that. So I apologize if I come across harshly in my answer. I do want to grow and learn and am willing to listen.

Rick Campbell said...

No offense taken here. I did not approach it directly because I know it's a difficult issue. I struggled with it,was angry at God for a month, thought God unfair (as Paul said I would in Rom 9), yet could not refute it scripturally. My pastor didn't debate it, he just sneakily gave me books to read. So you can now say you know someone who has crossed over to the dark side - I know many. You have some misconceptions of Calvinists. Why preach? It is God's means of calling out His people and my privilege and joy to participate in the gospel. I am a tool but am not able or responsible for saving anyone. God doesn't really force anyone to be saved either - he simply replaces their god-hating heart of stone with a heart of flesh (a new nature) and they are then able and will, choose God. Prior to that change "There is none who seek after God" (Rom 3:11). Calvinism/Sovereignty also does not eliminate day to day choices. All that I do matters because even the small things can bring glory to God (1 Cor 10:31).
Nor does it kill hope - it provides confidence knowing that God is in control of all things. I can pray for God to save others and he actually can because He is not at the mercy of their will!
I too have seen a lot of fruitless arguments around the subject - when the arguments are based upon feelings, experience, and opinion and not the scriptures. So if I may be bold in response - do you see things differently because you have thought through the scriptures (as you said there are many contrary to your position) or because of your experience to which you referred?