Freedom, Media, and Discernment

As Christians we are free (Gal.5:1). Freedom however, is not permission to do whatever we would like; to carry a license for sin (Rom 6:1). The idea of freedom as understood in the Bible is freedom from the bondage of sin and the availability to walk by the Spirit. The apostle Paul pictures this freedom as a death and resurrection. That is, we die to sin and its power and are raised to walk in newness of life (Rom.6:11). Therefore, as sons and daughters of God we are truly free!

Yet there is an uneasy paradox that leaps from the pages of scripture into our daily lives-although we are freed from sin we still struggle with it on a daily basis. How can Paul state on the one hand that we are freed from sin and its power while on the other hand maintain the fact that our fleshly desires are very real and we still struggle with them? It seems obvious that both realities exist in tension with each other. We are freed from sin in the sense that Christ has taken our sin upon himself and covered our transgressions upon the cross. Therefore, when we come into Christ we are truly freed from sin, alive in Christ. However, while in this present evil world, sin still shadows over us. We are still marred with selfish desires and tarnished with unholy habits. It is the Spirit then that has been given to us to lead, guide, and help us discern how we should live our lives. Since then we are free from sin we are able to live by the Spirit.

When it comes to living by the Spirit there are certainly obvious ethical areas in which the scriptures are clear and straightforward. For example, no one would question whether murder or sexual immorality is wrong. It is clear that areas such as these are clearly taught in the bible as sinful. But what about areas that are not as clear, those grey lifestyle decisions? How are we to know whether or not something the Bible doesn’t explicitly speak on is o.k. or not? It is in these situations we as spirit-led Christians are called to use spiritual discernment based on biblical principles.

Media is one example on how we can approach these types of issues. The Bible is silent on what type of movies and television shows we should and should not watch, for obvious reasons. We as 21st century believers must then apply biblical principles to such areas in order to help us discern what is beneficial and not beneficial. A sample text that may give insight on this particular topic is Philippians 4:8 which says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This passage and other similar passages can be used as lenses in which we discern whether a particular movie or television show is appropriate to watch. We may consider asking ourselves questions such as “is this movie pure? Or is it honorable? While the Bible doesn’t directly speak to specific issues such as what types of movies one should watch it does give us basic principles to help guide our decisions.

We are indeed free in Christ. However, we still struggle with sin. The Spirit therefore, is essential in living out the Christian life. Moreover, the scriptures have given us clear commands on issues that are non-debatable. Yet, there are areas in the Christian life that are not as black and white. When faced with such case by case matters we must heed biblical principles while seeking spiritual discernment. I believe if honestly approached we will pursue to “think upon such things.”

First Works and Rebaptism

I listened to a preacher today preach on Revelation 2:6. In his sermon he maintained that Jesus’ phrase “do the works you did at first” referred to one having to be baptized again. Apparently this church re-baptizes individuals numerous times. The logic is as follows: (1) Revelation 2:1-5 teaches that one can lose their salvation. This is what is meant by “lost your first love.” (2) Because one has fallen from grace they are commanded to do their first works again. This is taken to mean those things that one did when they first became saved; the “process of salvation.” (3) The process of salvation is as follows: believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. (4) Therefore, one needs to be re-baptized.

Here are some fallacies I see in this deduction: First, while I maintain that one can lose their salvation (Heb 6:4-6) this doesn’t seem to be the case for the church at Ephesus. In verse 5 Jesus says that if they do not repent then he will in fact “remove their lampstand.” While the church is in danger of losing their salvation they are not yet in the position. Secondly, to say that the “first works” refers to the plan of salvation is merely an implication read into the text. There is no contextual evidence to take this phrase in this way. Thirdly, to say that “first works” refers to the plan of salvation goes against the larger biblical teaching of salvation by grace apart from works (Eph 2:8-9). To say that “first works” refers to the plan of salvation is to imply that one is saved by “works.”

What seems to be intended by “first works” is faithful Christian conduct. That is, the church of Ephesus needs to repent of the unrighteous “works” and return to the righteous “works of God. In light of this I do not see Revelation 2:5 as a text favoring the practice of re-baptism.