Christians have freedom like no other people group in this world. We have the freedom to abound and to be brought low, to live luxuriously and poorly, to be filled and to hunger (Philippians 4:11–12).
Not every Christian worldwide shares the opportunities to live luxuriously, be filled, nor abound in successes. But we share in freedom of conscience.
We are no longer slaves to sin. We are all free to love and serve God – a freedom no economic, governmental, nor terroristic organization can imprison (Romans 6:15–23).
Our freedom encourages us to seek first the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus commands us to enjoy this freedom. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we do not always seek first the kingdom of God. We usually seek first our bank accounts and calendars before making decisions.
I think it’s easier for us to see these sins when they are positive or gainful decisions. But I think we are shortsighted on sinful decisions to deny ourselves good gifts without first seeking the kingdom of God.
Guilt and Shame Motivators
Choosing to suffer out of guilt and shame – rather than a devotion to godliness – make us presumptuous about our holiness. We think we are making a “righteous” decision to deny ourselves something good.
But if we are not making our decision in faith we are still falling short of God’s glory. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b). Using guilt and shame as our motivators for suffering is unrighteous.
It is just as important for us to seek God in what we decide not to do or have, as it is deciding what to do or have.
Enjoy Accepting and Rejecting
Our ultimate enjoyment of all gifts are rooted in recognizing and understanding who gives all gifts. As we are led by the Spirit – relying on scripture – we are equipped to accept or deny good things.
This is why we should take more seriously Jesus’ command to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), as well as James’ command to not be presumptuous about tomorrow (James 6:13–16).
Living below our means, denying ourselves pleasures for the sake of depending on God, and giving more to others are good spiritual disciplines. We would do well to indulge in these kind of freedoms more frequently.
However, because we are free, we can also accept and enjoy good things. We should not feel guilty about enjoying a well-built home, good food, vacations, or new electronics. If we are afforded those opportunities – and our decisions are proceeding from faith to have them– we give thanks to God for his gifts. His gifts should make us more humble.
Likewise, we should not feel proud about choosing to own an older home, only eating Ramen Noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or choosing to take consecutive summer “staycations”.
Our decisions to refrain from certain things for the sake of holiness should also make us more humble. Our dependence on God grows as we understand that only he can sustain us in our choices to abstain.
Submit Your Decision
Whatever choices we are trying to decide on are always best submitted to God. This submission is not a suppression of freedom, but an invite for more freedom. Submitting our ideas, plans, purchases, and requests to God is an amazing grace we have as his children.
We can be sure that he will not give us anything bad for us. And he will not withhold any good gift from us either (Matthew 7:11). Everything given to us we receive with open hands in thankfulness to God. Similarly, we can suffer well by obeying and entrusting every decision to refrain from earthly goods to our Heavenly Father. By God’s grace we can avoid sinfully suffering.