"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth." 1 Timothy 4:1–3
Based on chapter one of 1 Timothy, these teachers went beyond merely teaching these personal and cultural preferences. They went on to seemingly argue that by keeping these laws you maintained a right relationship with God. In other words, Christ was sufficient to get you into a right relationship with God, but after that, you had to keep the law in order to maintain a right relationship with God. As a result, some within the congregation are falling away from true faith and committing themselves to false teachings. The spiritual influence of these teachers is wooing them away from God. The teachers in Ephesus were teaching that Jesus saved you, but now it was necessary to follow these rules to maintain your salvation and be super-spiritual.
Are there certain activities we are called to avoid? Absolutely.
Are there certain pleasures we are called to be exempt from? Yes.
Are there certain actions that are sinful for the believer? You bet.
Are there certain times where you personally may be led by God to restrict your freedoms and not partake in good things? Certainly.
However, Paul’s point is that we do not preach a gospel that says it’s free to get in, but you have to work to stay there.
The gospel is the good news that Jesus died to forgive me from all sin – past, present, and future. The gospel frees us from the requirements of the law so that we can live for Jesus, not in order to earn salvation, but from a heart that is appreciative of the salvation provided.
With that in mind, here are three things to remember as we seek to live in gospel freedom.
Don’t let someone else speak for Jesus. Examine what others tell you about Jesus against the Bible.
We must not impose our personal convictions on everyone. There are times when God may call you personally to give up some things. Maybe God does call you to a life of singleness or to fast for a season or to give up a type of food forever. So long as you are not doing it to “earn” salvation, but to “honor” Jesus in accordance to how he is leading you, no problem. But, my friends, all to often we place burdens on people and imposes our personal convictions on everyone else as if everyone has to do these things to be obedient.
I’ve seen it so many times. Church can’t have drums. You can’t wear hats in church. You have to wear your Sunday best for Jesus. You can’t dance, etc. Now, if these things are causing problems for someone else, the Bible tells us out of a love for that other person, we should let it go. What I am talking about is a tendency of the church to impose extra-biblical requirements on others and then check marking that those who meet these rules are “godly.”
We must practice “gospel-of-grace living.”
We must live as if Christ and his work are real. The battle has already been one. I’ve been redeemed. I live as a person freed from sin, guilt, and shame. I have a new order, a new direction, a new Savior, a new hope, and a new future. My works are not sufficient, but Christ’s work is. I now seek to live in a way that serves as a pillar, exalting the glorious truth of the gospel that Jesus comes to save sinners just like me. I seek then to honor Christ because of what he has already purchased for me. This doesn’t mean that Christ doesn’t have expectations for his people. He certainly does, but fulfilling these expectations does not secure salvation; it merely show a submissive and appreciative spirit that has trusted in Christ.
My friends, let us be a church that savors, promotes, and clings to grace. If we understand the judgment we deserved, the judgment Jesus bore, and the grace he offers, we will want to live a life that honors such sacrifice. Jesus doesn’t offer a list of demands for acceptance, but extends grace that transforms. Don’t live to earn, that’s a false gospel. Live to honor out of a heart that has been flooded by grace.