CHRISTIAN FREEDOM - Prof. Benne Holwerda

From his book “Until The Day Dawn” the eleventh sermon of the late Prof, B. Holwerda,
Translated by Dave Van Amerongen

Singing: Psalm 81. : 2, Psalm 84:4
Reading: Luke 5: 27 - 39. Text Luke 5: 33-39.
Singing: Psalm 21: 1, 2, 4, 6, Psalm 119: 66, Psalm 84: 6.

Prof. B. Holwerda Sermon Index

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ:

There are many problems in the world. They have always, existed but today they require our special attention. One of the things, which we often hear, is “Christianity and culture “, But I believe it would be better if they would speak about the problem of Christian Freedom. In most cases an answer must be given on the question: “As Christians how far may we enjoy the things the world presents to us in recreation, pleasure, art and entertainment? The question heard many times is always, “ How far are we as Christians called to abstain?”

Questions are raised: What movies are we allowed to watch, what kind of sporting events are we allowed to attend, how and where are we allowed to spent our holidays? And there are many more, but you can fill in the blanks. Of course, these questions have existed for years, and there has always been a certain tension between a conservative generation, which saw nothing but dangers and therefore proclaimed a strong abstaining. On the other hand a younger generation which thirsted for freedom, wanting to enjoy life, and therefore desired to see the reigns slackened. No doubt, the distance between the two has become greater the last few years. Continually the complaint is heard that nowadays everything is allowed, and it is indeed a fact that in Christian circles a visible shifting is taking place.

Certain kind of movies, sports and shows, are for many a thing that speaks for itself. The difference between Christian and worldly relaxation and enjoyment, are in many ways much less then it used to be. It is this somber outlook on this factor of amusement, which makes many rather afraid. They ask themselves, “are we on the right track concerning our Christian life style?” Many say,” we apply ourselves more and more to the world; you can hardly tell the difference anymore.” However, others are enthusiastic; they find Christianity has refrained from all these pleasures for much too long. In times past they say, we have been living in narrow-mindedness, and we were afraid.

A Christian may not be afraid in this world, and when he has a whole series of abstentions to comply with in order to keep standing and to overcome many temptations, then there certainly is something wrong with his religion. He must be able to attack the world, and win the world for Christ. Woe, to such a one who hides himself, and being afraid tries to avoid the world. Above all, in doing so, what is left of Christian freedom? The tragic thing is, that we are so uncertain about these things and often we do not approach these questions with the Scriptures in hand, and thus we easily and skillfully avoid these conversations. Quite often arguments come up afterwards which prove that the heart has already made a choice, and is trying to justify its choice. It’s not what people say and choose, but what the Bible has to say is what counts. That does not mean that we shall receive a prepared answer on all concrete questions. Neither that in one sermon all aspects concerning these questions can be fully illustrated from the Scriptures. On the other hand: all these questions that face us today are, or have been discussed in other ways as well. The Gospel speaks about these things with authority. Our text deals with “fasting “.

The Pharisees and also the disciples of John were very strict in maintaining this orthodox custom. However, Christ Jesus did not maintain this established custom. On a day of fasting He sat at a dinner with a great number of publicans and sinners including a man who had a very bad reputation. That man was Levi the publican. For the Scribes and Pharisees this was scandalous. Was it not a sinful group of people He had joined? And further: was He allowed to violate the day of fasting?

Well, we do not have days of fasting anymore, but you understand immediately that the whole question of abstaining and freedom was in dispute here. In order to give an answer to the question concerning the days of fasting - Christ Jesus has placed the whole question of abstaining in the light of the Gospel of His Kingdom. I preach to you: The question of abstaining in the Kingdom of God. Christ has:

1.Rejected the obligation for abstaining on account of the coming of His Kingdom.

2.Proclaimed the necessity of abstaining on account of the seriousness of His Kingdom.

3.Recommended the voluntary abstaining for the sake of entering His Kingdom.

1. As Matthew and Mark before him, Luke deals with the question of fasting as it is found in the story of the calling of Levi the publican. This is how it happened: On His way, Jesus passed the office of Levi who was busy with his practice. He was a tax collector, a practice that was despised by the people because with this, he supported the Roman oppression - and even as his colleagues - he added a little extra to the already heavy taxes, which had to be paid. Nobody greeted the man anymore; at least no one who loved their own honor, and all of them said, ”Levi is a traitor, and besides a bloodsucker as well”. But Christ Jesus, passing this man’s office where he was doing his shameful work: simply said to him: follow me.

As I said, the man was still at work; he did not show the least regret - there was no sign of repentance, but in the midst of his sinful existence there suddenly came the call to follow Jesus. Levi promptly left his office behind - his good job -he left the papers at his desk - and said ‘fare well’ to his office, for good. Then a dinner followed. It was truly: What belongs together - gets together. When you looked around - a decent person could not be found. Who was it that sat at this dinner? Levi’s colleagues – people, like himself, who knew the tricks in order to suppress and deceive their own people. Further there were the sinners, the lazy, the rebels - people who visited the houses of ill repute. Now you can understand why the Pharisees were upset. It was really a gathering of the wicked and Jesus and His disciples were taking part! That the Pharisees were indignant is understandable. They said, “He claims to be the Messiah, but He eats and drinks with publicans and sinners”. What a quick decay, He brings His disciples into the company of immorality and wicked practices.

Was it any wonder that they were worried and said, ”this is how He will lead Israel to destruction. Then Jesus spoke His first words, ”it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. He did not say; we have a good group of people here, and you are not allowed to say anything wrong about them. No, Jesus said straight out, “it is not good here, these publicans and sinners are sick, but no less than you. I have come here as a Doctor to cure and to restore them. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

What was the meaning of Jesus coming, what was He seeking in this circle? Did he want to celebrate with these unscrupulous racketeers, with this bunch of wicked people? He came to restore them, and to set them free. His presence at this festivity was no approval of their immoral life, but a condemnation of it. Not a condemnation in the style of the Pharisees: cold and proud. Not a self-righteous attitude: we will have no part with those kinds of people and with those things. Now here was a judgment that restored and brought to repentance! Jesus did not come to bless sin, but to redeem from sin in the way of repentance. There were many rumors and much talk, and the Pharisees were not alone in their criticism, because the disciples of John supported them.

You know from the Scriptures: there was always a deep rift between the Pharisees and the disciples of John, because the Pharisees had refused to come to the baptism of John. In their opinion, they did not need forgiveness, which was only good for the multitude because they did not know the law. People who were not very strict with the law came to John, rough soldiers, swindlers and suspicious creatures. The disciples of John however, did not condemn the fact that Jesus had made contact with Levi and his friends. They had learned differently from their master who also called publicans and sinners to his baptism. Instead this last word of Jesus, ”I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”, caused opposition in them, just as it had in the Pharisees.

Did He call to repentance? How then could He have dinner with them on the day of fasting? Days of fasting were not really prescribed in the law - only for the odd occasion, like the Great Day of Atonement, but still a custom of fasting had developed in Israel. A good Pharisee fasted twice a week, on Monday and Thursday. This is also what the disciples of John did. John had instructed them to do this. John had been in the desert and ate grasshoppers and wild honey and He led a life of poverty and of great soberness. He lived outside of all culture and joy and was this not fitting for him, the great preacher of penitence? He had also taught his disciples to abstain. For he came with a somber message from the Lord saying, “God had already laid the axe at the root of the trees; Who’s winnowing fork is in His hand, and who was at the point of burning the chaff with unquenchable fire”. That was the basis of John’s preaching: Judgment day draws near and who then would desire to eat, drink and be merry? In like manner the Pharisees fasted, because God wanted to see His people on their knees. There was sin, and judgment was coming what more could a person do than pray, and show his repentance, live soberly and abstained from all pleasure? This was also the way in which the disciples of John fasted because they had preserved the words of their master, “improve yourselves and repent”. Should this repentance not move a person to much prayer, and should this not show in their fasting as well? And now Jesus said at this dinner, “I call to repentance”, but what about His own lifestyle? What should be an answer to His words? Do they become very cheap? Reality proves that His lifestyle is not one of fasting and that His disciples are included in this too.

The Pharisees shake their heads: what a company, sinners and tax collectors! and with this last remark, the disciples of John fully agree. Indeed, what an alarming lack of disposition! Their master would have acted much different in such a circle of people. He would have said, “repent - away with all these dishes and these bottles of wine, away with music and merriment! He, who is serious about sin and judgment, can have no pleasure in such a cheerful festivity, and if Jesus wants to make a call for repentance, let Him prove that He is serious about it. Let Him call for fasting in this place of feasting. When the thunder of judgment is already heard in the distance, who gives himself to this playful spirit? There is a deep reproach in their question because they think that Christ is not serious. They ask, “why do the Pharisees and we fast, why do we humble ourselves in prayer while Jesus and His disciples eat and drink as if nothing is wrong? When sin is taken seriously, and there is fear for judgment, then repentance will come to light and at the same time there comes an end to all silliness, also to this foul spirit, which is present at this dinner with Levi and his friends. This is how the Pharisees and the disciples of John argued. Well, beloved, Christ did not deny this, but He had to say a little more: Can you make the Guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? He speaks to them in terms, which they all understand.

In like manner the Lord has made known the coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament. The Kingdom of heaven, that means, that the Lord will have communion with His people and that the great wedding feast has started. On that day the places of festivity are opened, Christ is going to call His Church to the great Supper.
You want to speak of sin and judgment? Christ says, “So do I, but today you must add something to this: The Kingdom of God has come and the Bridegroom is here, and He is coming to celebrate with His bride”.

Was sin present there at that dinner with Levi and his friends? Oh yes! But there was first of all restoration and redemption. There was the force of grace, which consumes and overcomes sin into all eternity!

And how did Christ see this festive dinner, as a cordial invitation from the side of Levi? Did He seek relief, an escape after a busy day? Did He say, “ I take time to have some fun, some food, a glass of wine, a good dinner, merriment and lots of laughter, something, which a person has a right to have? Did He enter this hall to receive? Oh no, He was at work here. He came to give Himself! Right away He pulled Levi, this defective publican out of the perplexity of his existence, and placed him in the kingdom of His forgiveness. That had to be celebrated! Others also came, sinners and Levi’s colleagues, but Christ was there, the great Bridegroom, and in Him the kingdom of grace appeared in the midst of their foolish and sinful life.

That Kingdom meant that all these sick people were called to the Wedding Feast. What did Levi want with this dinner? He probably wanted to pay tribute to Jesus and His disciples. What these others had in mind is hard to say, but most likely they came to have a good dinner and a good time, but that was not the question here. The question was, “what was Christ doing in their midst, and do the dishes then have to be taken away, and the wine put back in the cellar?” That was not important either, for Christ said, “Here is your Redeemer! Come to the Wedding - Come without price and without money!”

Did He not take Levi out of his sinful existence, and did He not take all the others out of their misery, taking them off the street, and picking them out of the gutter, in order to place them in the circle of His grace?
No, this was no relaxation or amusement for Christ. This would oppose the style of His work and life because this is His work!

He desired to sit at the Table of the Wedding of the Lamb, with Levi and his friends, and He continues to draw all His children to this Table. In the future the Lord shall sit down with harlots and publicans at His Table. He shall take them there. Levi and his friends were already on their way, for Christ said, “Tonight I make of this dinner a prelude of, and a way toward, my great Wedding Feast”. That started already at that evening, because of the power of grace - the Kingdom of God was there. The powers of the world to come revealed themselves there. ”In Me”, Christ says, “ the paradise of God came back; My Father is going to say again, you shall freely eat of all the trees of My garden, and He shall let the new wine be poured in the glasses. I have gained Levi, and I also lay my hand on all his friends, and on all those whom My Father shall give me”.

In this we see, that the seriousness of sin brings with it, abstaining, but the power of forgiveness means the end of all abstaining. In Christ, God opens paradise again, when He starts this feast with His redeeming power as an introduction to the Joy that shall be experienced in the New Jerusalem. Therefore Christ says, ”how then can they try to force My guests, the children of the Bridegroom to abstain and to fast, while the Bridegroom is in their midst?”

Who had arranged this dinner and its program, and invited the guests?
The Pharisees and also the disciples of John say, “Levi”. But Christ says, “Here is the Bridegroom, with the power of His redemption. I claim the dinner of Levi as My own, and proclaim my program for this feast! I do not only invite, but I draw all the guests with me! I claim the wine and all the other ingredients because I say, This day is salvation come to this house, and now he is also a son of Abraham.

This day salvation has come to all his guests, which had been bound by Satan for so many years. Was it not necessary that they should be delivered on this day of fasting? Do you want to reproach Me? Do you want to say to my disciples: You must abstain? Haven’t you seen then, that redemption has come in the life of those who are lost in sin and misery? This is not an idle rejoicing in the tent of the wicked, but a celebration of the fact, that God’s heavenly home shall be opened wide for all those who repent and believe. I have brought the Kingdom of God in this house, and I made a wedding feast of Levi’s dinner. Creation is back again in all its beauty, and paradise is returning.

When My Father, who has sent Me for this purpose into the world says, “You shall freely eat and drink”, do you then want to fast? Sin makes it necessary to call for fasting, but grace overcomes sin and fasting also, because grace opens the festive halls of God.

Christ opens these halls by His power, toward the eternal joy which is to come, and which is a direct extension of the joy, which God’s children May have here on earth. That is Christian freedom! I believe, even as Christ shows us the way - so we must approach all these “cultural questions”

For many families there is confusion about these things, and many members of the Church are worried about the course of Christian living. Even as the disciples of John were concerned about Christ’s life style, so many are afraid that in our circles there is a casual attitude toward the seriousness of sin and the threat of the approaching judgement is forgotten. They are afraid, that a light-hearted and trifling spirit is at work in order to conquer the hearts of our young people. I take part in this anxiety completely.

Now the question is, how must we approach this situation? Take for instance the movies because all other things are really the same, and of course, then we speak only about the good movies. Some demand a complete abstaining, and they say, ”in doing this, you support that whole industry”. Somebody else adds, “we must fight this whole trivial spirit to the roots, or else we will very easily move from the one thing to the other”. This is how the disciples of John and also the Pharisees spoke.
I do not say, that we should not respect their seriousness, because Christ did also respect this. The answer, which Christ Himself gave, is conclusive. He said, “the guests of the bridegroom cannot fast, while the Bridegroom is with them”. The Kingdom of God makes all things permissible and lawful, and does not require from any of God’s children abstaining. A concert, a glass of wine, a nice movie, a cozy evening; nowhere has Christ commanded compulsory abstaining! Are we at liberty for everything now? 0h no, this is only the beginning! Christ did not say that the members of His Church are allowed to do everything, but He spoke of the guests of the bridegroom, which do not have to fast. So this is now the question: Is Church-membership not the same as being a guest of the bridegroom?

Beloved, these two should be the same, but in reality they are often not the same. For instance: Ask the young people, “Why are you Reformed?” They often say, “That is logical, is it not? My father and mother are reformed. Often there is not the assurance of faith, whereby the answer should be, “I am a child of the Kingdom of Christ”. Whether you are truly Reformed, or purely passive and say, “I can’t help it, father and mother are Reformed”, or, that you say, “I am of Christ” makes a big difference. By His grace He has placed me in His Kingdom. Therefore, it is for many a difficult question, what exactly is allowed and what isn’t. However, that should not be a difficult question at all - for everything is allowed In the Kingdom of Christ Jesus. The difficult question is not: what is allowed but who is allowed.

Everything is allowed for the guests of the bridegroom and for them only! Everything is allowed, but only there where the Kingdom of God has become a living reality by faith. Everything is allowed, but only by faith in the forgiveness of sins. If not - nothing is allowed. You know what the difficulty is? Many, who are dealing with Christian freedom, do not truly believe. Their natural heart aches for all kinds of nice things and their hearts have already chosen many worldly things and pleasures.
After all this, they desire a verse from the Bible, which calms their conscience and which would permit them to go ahead with all their nice desires. Then they are all ears when the minister touches on these things in his sermon, will he say then, “go ahead it is all right?”

Now they think they have a weapon against their parents, who have forbidden certain things. To those I say, “What do you believe of the forgiveness of sins?” Christian freedom is only applicable in the Kingdom of Christ! I do not even want to talk about these things with those who do not have a living faith. I have nothing to say to them, except this, “You must believe and repent and put on your wedding garments”.
Covenant children are allowed everything. For them it is possible to go from the concert hall into eternal joy knowing that there they shall continue what they started here in this life on earth.

They do not lower their eyes when a brother or sister would see them enter a place of pleasure, and they are not ashamed before their God either.

With them there is no interruption between dinner and a glass of wine here on earth, and the wine which Christ shall give us to drink in the New Jerusalem. For Christ ate and drank, and before His Father and before men He was not ashamed. At that dinner He could say, “Father, Levi is sitting over there and I have drawn him in with my power, and I draw also all the others in out of their miserable existence, into the paradise of eternal joy”.

When you go to a place of amusement, can you also say, “Father, there sits that man whom I took along to Church last Sunday?” And before you go anywhere, do you first wrestle for the salvation of others that will gather with you? That is Christian freedom - rejoicing with the people for whose salvation you have wrestled. The brother or sister whose contribution for church, mission and school is only a ridiculous sum in comparison with what they spend for their own pleasures, must never dare to speak about Christian freedom.

Those who find the day tough, don’t like their job, and only think about some sort of pleasure or diversion and are not rejoicing in the fact that every day they may work with Christ in His Kingdom. Those who do not understand the beauty of serving God every day, - let them keep their mouth shut! They should not look for a text in the Bible to cover their sinful life, and they should not desire a sermon, which says, that all things are allowed. A guest of the bridegroom is only he or she who has been drawn by Christ, and who is busy with the things of God’s Kingdom to gain the neighbor for Christ.

2. However, we are not finished yet, and this is the second point in our text. Christ has also proclaimed compulsory abstaining because of the seriousness of His Kingdom. For He says, “the time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and in those days they will fast”.

See, that is Christ! Whole-heartedly He took part of the dinner with Levi and his friends. That was not a trifling play and a light skipping over the seriousness of the matter. 0h no, He was glad, but at the same time perfectly serious. Nothing slipped from His attention, and He withheld nothing from His disciples. No human being has ever lived, and has been delighted with such great joy as Jesus was at that time. He laughed and also defended the laughing of His disciples against all criticism. He ate and drank with joy, and His disciples do the same. Did not the messianic day of supremacy arrive? At the same time, Christ thinks about His cross. He organized a feast and gladness, but He did not disguise Himself thus arousing hate.

Soon the flames of hate leaped very high, and the Bridegroom was taken away. Then His disciples did fast. Is it a problem for them whether they were allowed to eat? No, but it was impossible for them. They could not eat. The hostility against Christ was so terrible, that it took away their appetite. So why did they love Jesus? Was it because of the good times they had with Him?

0h no, it was because of Jesus Himself and the coming of His Kingdom. Outside of
Him, nothing interested them on earth, and when He was taken away, and the cross
was raised there was no desire to eat with them. The enmity brought forced
abstaining, and beloved, I hope you do not forget this when Christian Freedom is spoken about.

I have told you, compulsory abstaining does not exist in the Kingdom of Christ.
When you are in Christ everything is yours. That does not mean - having
this freedom - that we can enjoy life always and everywhere! It does not mean, that we are free in all circumstances, free from the concrete situation in which Christ’s Kingdom exists. Yes, the man for whom Christian freedom means that he can go ahead, that there are no limits, and that he can take what ever he can get. Christ and His Kingdom are not the goal of his life, he simply cannot do without those things and he only thinks about his own pleasure. He enjoys life only in name as a Christian, but in reality he is separated and outside of Christ. The more unhappy and irregular things take place in the world, the more such a person seeks for entertainment he enjoys and he says, “let us eat and drink and be merry”.

The Kingdom of God and the hostility against Christ does not bother him, because his heart is not with Christ. Those who are truly guests of the bridegroom shall never separate the joy from the time in which they live, because the Kingdom of God is the center of their life. In this they rejoice, and this joy shall diminish in accordance with the hostility against Christ.

This craving for relaxation and this great desire for entertainment of today is sin. It has simply nothing to do with Christian freedom. Don’t you see that the hate against God’s Anointed is growing? That the rulers of this earth say, “let us break His bonds asunder, and throw his yoke from us?” Do the actions of the nations of the world not bother you, and the apostasy in some churches? All those who seek their worldly pleasures even as before, and do not feel a lump in their throat – do not have the slightest idea of Christian freedom. Possibly in a mad gesture they throw the newspaper over the table, and utter some ugly words about the weakness of the government. However when they drink their annoyance away at a party or a bar- because everything is allowed - then they are worse then all those others they have cursed. Christian freedom is not that Christ allows me to do everything, but it is, outside of Him I can do nothing. In accordance with the rejection of His Gospel, and when His right is despised in all matters of life, my joy decreases. Let us never forget the same Christ, Who was sitting at this dinner beside His “laughing” disciples - was hanging on the cross some time later. Then His disciples went into the world and were rejected by many, until they too, were crucified for the sake of the Gospel.

All times are not the same for the Church! I do not say, that going to a movie or sports event, or going to a concert is sin in itself. However, I do say, it is a weak sign when in our circles there is an increasing desire for all these things, and just at a time when the Church, and all those who desire to live by God’s Holy Word are attacked in an alarming manner. When we in this situation, should try to get as much as possible out of life, then we separate all culture from the Kingdom of God. The Christian freedom shall then be revealed in this, that we become more and more sober-minded because we have a lump in our throat, and it becomes very difficult for us to eat.

I say to those for whom relaxation and enjoyment is number one in their life, “what are you going to do when the real enemy comes down on you?” You must not say, “please quit with all these dull and gloomy things. Christ did not forget His cross at that dinner, therefore you should not forget yours either. Go ahead, seek your entertainment because of your freedom in Christ, but then have the courage to bear your cross at the same time! Do not forget: he, who cannot live without sinful pleasures, shall certainly capitulate in times of oppression, then also he shall try to preserve his life.

When you truly live a joyful life in Christ today - then it means you are willing and prepared to sacrifice all these things for Christ’s sake. I do not say, that you must make yourselves nervous, neither that we may not tremble, but I do say, “do not try to force this seriousness from your mind”.

I have said before, I only want to speak about pleasures in the framework of God’s Kingdom. Now I also add, I can only speak about these things in connection with the factual situation of the Church. We cannot speak about Christian Freedom as a matter that stands all by itself, separated from the world situation, and also from the struggle within the Church. We must be willing and able to see all these things together, otherwise we see nothing at all.

You feel free to go to a place of pleasure, because you say yes to Christ. Will you also say yes, when He calls you to suffer affliction and persecution for His namesake? He who receives and accepts from Him, the joy of freedom shall also resolutely say No to the festivities of life when necessary. Christian freedom? It also means: Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, His Kingdom is forever.
Now in conclusion, the parable of Christ: He says, “no one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one”. If he does, he will have torn the new garment and the patch from the new will not match the old. No one pours new wine in old wineskins. If he does the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.

What did Christ mean by this? Well, He saw a great danger.
With all their fasting the disciples of John, and also the Pharisees led a very sober and dreary life. They were fascinated by the freedom, which Jesus allowed His disciples. What did Jesus say to them? Did He say, “be wise and do away with your days of fasting because your life is very dull?” 0h no, He said just the opposite. “Keep on fasting!” Their life is indeed lacking the full enjoyment - their lifestyle is like an old coat, somewhat worn and bare, and here and there a rip, but still it is a coat.

Now the great danger is that they are trying to change their lifestyle with a little bit of the gospel, with a little “ New Cloth “of Christian freedom. The danger exists that they shall also try to catch this new wine in old leather bags. They like to preserve their old life style, and only for a moment accept this new evangelic freedom. And Christ says, “Don’t ever do that! If you do that, you will be confronted with many misfortunes. A new piece of cloth on your old coat makes matters worse!”

Your faith is not yet what it should be, but there is something else! The Pharisees are serious about the law and the disciples of John tremble because of the judgment. When they take over this Christian freedom and only take a piece or fragment of the gospel, (not the full gospel), then the only result will be, that their respect for the law diminishes. Their realization of sin, and their fear for judgment shall go down in the dissolution of their liberated joy. Then the old style, which they have, will disappear, but they will receive nothing in its place. The new fermenting wine of freedom will burst the old bags, and so everything will be lost. The danger exists that they, allured by the freedom of Jesus disciples, shall do away with their days of fasting. That means to say, that they shall neglect the seriousness of sin, and laugh away their fear for judgment, instead of letting sin and judgment be taken away by the forgiveness of Christ. With all their freedom, they may enjoy life but they will be further away from the Kingdom of heaven then they were ever before.

The new wine of Christian freedom is much too strong to be preserved in the old “bag” of Phariseism. If they try it anyway, the “bag” will burst, and they will loose what they had. The new wine will be lost along with their new religion. Therefore Christ says, “before you are able to accept my complete gospel never do away with fasting and never accept only a small piece of Christian freedom, but accept the complete “Coat of the Kingdom of heaven”.

You say, “I am not ready yet, I cannot decide yet. I only know so little about it? The transition is such a big step and I cannot make such a leap from the old to the new in such a short time”.

Jesus says, “That does not matter, I do not force you, I do not force anything. No one, who has tasted the old wine, desires at once the new wine, because he says the old is better”. Christ knows that they can only gradually make the transfer from the old to the new. He gives them time to get acquainted and used to His Gospel. Christ does not despise what they have at the moment. There is a lack of understanding, which can only be taken away by His Gospel. Today they only have part of God’s Word; as yet they do not understand the riches of the New Testament. For the time being they may keep their old customs and keep listening to the Gospel. As yet they are not ready to put on the new “Coat” – but let them never stretch out their hand toward that little “piece of cloth” of freedom.

Please, keep on walking around in your old Coat, although it is somewhat worn out and old-fashioned, but never commit the thoughtless act of sewing a new piece of cloth on it. Are you not ready to accept the new leather “ bags “, that is the complete New-Testament life style?

Well, you still have been given time to get used to it.
If you are not ready, do not try to grab the new “wine”, and do what ever you like. You will loose everything if you do, and gamble away your entering in the Kingdom of God. Then you have locked yourself out for good. Therefore, beloved, never play with Christian freedom!

It is a clean and beautiful possession, but realize that it is also a dangerous possession! Especially when you isolate it. There is fermentation in it. This new wine is still fermenting and makes the old bags burst! You can never take this grace all by itself. You can only receive this grace in connection with the complete evangelical Coat. I like to emphasize this because the young people especially listen eagerly when we deal with these things. They are waiting for an answer: is it allowed, or is it not allowed? They often have their heads filled with the beautiful things life offers them.

Be careful, because Christian freedom by itself is deadly! It will destroy you, if it is not accepted and practiced in accordance with the Word of God. Do you talk about worldly pleasures and Christian freedom at the same time? The first question is, do you know the whole Catechism, and do you believe all these articles with your whole heart?

Christian freedom by itself is a power of destruction and death! True Christian freedom can only exist by faith and the coming together of many things: Covenant, Baptism, Cross and Church, Promise and Demand.

When you do not accept these things simultaneously, you better not give yourself to“freedom”. You may say what you like about the old generation, that they are old fashioned and narrow-minded, and a little afraid and so on. They have laid unnecessary abstaining on themselves, and much more.

In this connection the Apostle Paul speaks also of “weakness” in the faith. The old generation does have faith, and yet they are well dressed, and they do drink wine, and they do continue on their way!

He or she, who without conscientious motives and without faith reaches for this freedom, will soon not know anymore about sin and the law, of judgment and grace. Such a one sews a new piece on his or her coat, but in a while they shall stand in rags, and have nothing left for coverage. Therefore Christ says, “Be careful, do not by grabbing untimely and over-hastily for your freedom, prevent your entrance into the Kingdom of God. Abstain, until you know and believe the whole Gospel.
If not, you may enjoy life and you will laugh away sin and judgment, but you shall also laugh away grace, and you will get lost!

Do you want the joy of life in freedom? Then I ask you, “Do you have the whole Gospel in your heart and in your mouth?”

The freedom in Christ is a glorious thing, because it is a prelude of the heavenly wedding that is coming. On the other hand, freedom isolated from the Gospel of Christ, is a power of hell, an instrument of condemnation!

Therefore, let all your pleasures and joy, but also your freedom be submitted to Christ and His Word, for the sake of entering into the Kingdom of God. That My brother ,my sister, young people, That is what Christian freedom is all about.


Prof. B. Holwerda Sermon Index