Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Grace (page 1 of 3)

When Divorce Is Good and Holy… Christians Are Confused

Someone recently forwarded me an article called ‘When Divorce is Good and Holy‘ and asked for my thoughts. I don’t typically respond to other people’s posts publicly but when I read this one, I felt a strong sense of urgency within my own heart to reply. When it comes to issues like marriage, which are so close to the heart of God, we need to think very carefully.

The premise of the article is simple: If Jesus upholds divorce as a legitimate option then we ought to view it as good and holy, when carried out according to his teaching. Therefore, we ought to stop criticizing those who want a divorce (for legitimate reasons like pornography use, etc.), and we must stop compelling them to stay in the marriage as if it is the only thing that would please God. In fact, the author goes one step further: He even asserts that when divorce is upheld as the good and holy option that it is, divorce rates and pornography use will decline.

I take several issues with that line of thinking. A few of them are outlined below.

1. The Law Never, Never, Never Empowers Righteousness

Hard temporal consequences for our sin can slow and stop our pursuits of sin. Perhaps evangelical divorce rates would actually decline.

This teaching is essentially functioning according to a law & sanction system. If you break the law, you will suffer the consequences. The thought is that potential enforcement of the law will bring change.

Now, the law teaches righteousness inasmuch as it shows us God’s hatred for sin and love for what is just. But the law is powerless to bring about holiness. In fact, the power of sin is the law (1 Cor 15.56) and it brings death.

Does the law have an effect in slowing the progress of sin? Yes, it certainly can (though it can have the opposite effect too, cf. Rom 7.7-11). But are we only looking for changed behaviour or changed hearts? If we are seeking changed hearts, is law sufficient?

What good did the threat of law-enforcement do Israel? Certainly, she didn’t immediately become like the nations around her. But eventually, she did. The progress of sin was slowed, but the hearts of the people were unchanged. And that’s simply not good enough.

It is only through free grace, welcome, reconciliation, and forgiveness, that hearts are won and changed. Grace gives life; the law kills. If the end goal is the changed heart of the sinning spouse, rather than simply behaviour change, shouldn’t we aim for grace?

If bad spouses are going to become good spouses we don’t need the law hung over our heads so much grace held in front of our eyes.

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The Greatness of the God Who Withholds to Bless

The gods of the world display their greatness by blessing their people with the treasures of the world when they are properly obeyed. If the gods are treated just right, they dispense their blessings in the form of earthly wealth and comfort.

Only the God of the Bible is big enough, glorious enough, good enough, and full enough of deep enough love to display the depths of his wisdom and the power of his goodness by withholding the world’s treasures and comforts from his people. In love he withholds. In love he disciplines. In love he shows us through loss, through trial, through rejection — through a cross — that he alone is the true treasure worth possessing.

And his grace is not for those who have worshiped him rightly, nor for those who have blessed him by obedience. His grace is for the weak; his mercy for the rebel.

Among all the gods of the world, with all their wares, our God stands alone — he stands above. He offers himself: a treasure greater, more beautiful, more exquisite than anything we have ever tasted or seen.
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I’m A Slow Learner

im_a_slow_learnerI’m slowly learning that my heart is too easily affected by all the wrong things, yet it remains stubbornly hard precisely where I need it to be soft.

I’m slowly learning that after 32 years, I still don’t know myself nearly as well as I should.

I’m slowly learning that I don’t have nearly the platform with people that I once thought I did; an authoritative voice is earned over the long haul.

I’m slowly learning that the louder I speak on peripheral issues, the quieter my voice becomes when calling people to the centre.

I’m slowly learning that I’m not nearly the husband, dad, friend, pastor, or Christian that I thought I would be by now.

I’m slowly learning that what I want my life & ministry to be characterized by when I’m 74 needs to be what characterizes my life & ministry now.

I’m slowly learning that it is possible to idolize good things like unity and peace; and also that joy quickly turns to rage when those idols are toppled.

I’m slowly learning that very few people in the wold are called to be ‘the voice in the wilderness.’ Probably far fewer than evangelicalism — myself included — currently recognizes.

I’m slowly learning that praying for something doesn’t mean that I’m actually believing God can and will act.
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Matt Chandler on God’s Lavish Grace in Forgiveness

I’m so thankful that Tim Challies pointed us to this video today. This truth is too precious to not soak in, marvel at, and be changed by.

Listen and be blessed.

680 News and Theology of Law

One news headline caught my attention today. This is what it said:

Junction neighbourhood bully gets more jail time for harassment

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The headline caught my attention not because it’s the biggest news story of the day, but because I have friends and family who live and work in this area, so it was a matter of concern for me. The story is relatively mundane (hey, it’s life in the Junction!), but one line in particular startled me.

When speaking of the ‘neighbourhood bully’ who has been forced by the courts to move, one man offered this profound theological insight:

“The law can’t force a person to love thy neighbour,” John Ritchie said. “But the law can stop the conduct and this behaviour.”

Wow! Unless this man is a pastor, theologian, or mature believer, I think he probably spoke better than he knew. This is biblical truth.

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Seeking and Speaking Grace

Recovering a Pauline Practice

One of the things we try to build into the rhythm of church life at Grace Fellowship Church is something called ‘Identifying Evidences of Grace.’ By that we mean the practice of deliberately seeking proof of God’s grace at work in those around us and then speaking it to each other.

A practice like this is helpful for so many reasons. But like all things, a practice like this can quickly become rote. It’s easy to forget why we do it, or think we do it just because it’s a good habit, or tradition or something. Some people have even objected at times that this discipline might be forced and unnatural, or drawing too much attention to the person, or even mere flattery, which is never healthy.

Recently, however, I’ve been reading through Paul’s epistles and I’ve been reminded again and again that this practice of identifying evidences of grace is actually something that is biblical. It is something worth defining by the word itself.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed about evidences of grace in Paul’s letters so far:

1. Gifts and Character, Not Personality

Biblical evidences of grace are not, ‘Your smile is so pretty!’ or ‘I love the décor of your home!’ Rather, it is clearly pointing out how believing the gospel has changed someone’s speech, or deepened their knowledge, or enabled them to receive powerful spiritual gifts (1 Cor 1.4-8).

2. Grounded in Truth, Not Flattery

In 1 Thessalonians 2.5, Paul writes, ‘We never came to you with words of flattery.’ What’s so significant about that is that he had just identified evidences of God’s grace in their church (1 Thess 1.2-10). This means that when we’re speaking about God’s grace acting upon and in another person, we’re doing it to build up God, not butter up people.
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Eight Years of God’s Goodness

Today Stacey and I are celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary. It is a great day for me to reflect on God’s goodness and kindness to us as a couple and as a family over these past several years.

In God’s Mercy I Got a Wife

I have frequently quoted Don Carson’s distinction between mercy and grace: ‘Grace is a loving response when love is undeserved, and mercy is a loving response prompted by the misery and helplessness of the one on whom the love is to be showered. Grace answers the undeserving; mercy answers the miserable’ (from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Confrontation with the World, 24-25).

God clearly gave me a wife in mercy. I was miserable, pitiable, and helpless. I was eating A&W far too often to survive past the age of 30 till she came along. I was so reclusive that I probably would have made a better mortician (and I had thought about it!) than a pastor, but now our house is a happening place. Her strengths clearly complement my weaknesses.

God, in his mercy gave me not just any wife, but my wife in particular.

By God’s Grace I Still Have a Wife

Since our wedding day I have shown myself again and again to be undeserving of Stacey’s kindness and favour. And that’s not just humble-talk. I mean honestly and truly, I have sinned against her in horrible acts and words of selfishness that I had never envisioned saying to my wife (or to anyone!). But time and again she has embodied God’s grace and forgiven me.

Some time ago, when I was younger, I heard from someone that it would be foolish to marry a girl / guy whose parents are divorced. History repeats, as the logic goes. Well, happily, Stacey and I both ignored that advice and married each other. God’s grace overcomes such foolish human notions. The fact that we, as children from divorced families, can live together faithfully and happily is a testimony to God’s grace.

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