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In-Depth Biblical Content by Pastor Andy Davis

Don't Flaunt Your Freedoms, But Walk in Love (Romans Sermon 105 of 120)

Don't Flaunt Your Freedoms, But Walk in Love (Romans Sermon 105 of 120)

June 25, 2006 | Andrew Davis
Romans 14:13-15
Christian Freedom, Conscience

Introduction: The Problem of Balance

Some time ago when I was getting some evangelistic training, I heard about a man called "The Great Blondin. Charles Blondin, actually he was a Frenchman, that wasn't his original name. But he had a special talent, in that he was able to walk a tightrope across the Niagara Falls. Perhaps you've heard about this man. 1,100 feet long, 160 feet above the thundering Niagara Falls, this man could walk back and forth with the greatest of ease. But that wasn't enough for him. He shocked people in 1859, the first time he went, he shocked them and after having traveled back and forth he went to the middle and did a perfect somersault on the tight rope. And then after that he starts walking across with blind folds, pushed a wheelbarrow sat down and made an omelette and ate it, on the tightrope.

Now this was used as an illustration in evangelism, because he did say at one point, I have a wheel barrow here, and I'm able to push a man across on the tightrope. How many of you believe that I can push a man across on the tightrope. They all thought he could. You, sir, He'd single them out. Do you believe that I can push a man in this wheelbarrow across the tightrope. Yes sir, I do. Do you really believe with all your heart that I can do that? Yes, I do then get in.

It's a picture of commitment. You say you believe then get in, and it's a picture of our need to trust in Christ, a great illustration. But I was thinking about this man, he had an extraordinary sense of balance, something in his inner ear and his body, his agility, he knew what to do at every moment to maintain balance on that rope. And I know that there must have been some updrafts of air over 160 feet above the falls. There were winds, in the middle I'm sure it was sagging, some moving, didn't matter. This man had such an extraordinary balance, that nothing could throw him off. He died at age 75 of old age, in his bed, went back and forth dozens of times on this rope, never fell.

And I think as I come to Romans 14, I think it really is one of the most extraordinarily balanced chapters concerning the Christian life and the church you'll ever find in the Bible. There are significant themes, three of them in particular, that Paul is weaving together to help us understand our life together as Christians. To some degree, at a simple level, they look contradictory, they look like there's no way we really could fit them all together. Well, what are they?

Gospel Freedom

First, there's the issue of gospel freedom. The freedom we have to be children of God. The freedom we have to be sons and daughters of the living God and not slaves. The freedom we have from legalism, to not try to please God by following a bunch of dos and don'ts, a bunch of rules and regulations, but rather we're freed from that through the blood of Jesus Christ. Gospel freedom, is one theme.

Gospel Purity

We also have the issue of gospel purity, the great danger of sin, and the danger of sin is also woven through this chapter, and we're going to see it very strongly in today's message. There's a concern about sin and world-ness, the church needs to know how to help its members not be polluted by the world, to maintain our purity in this defiling world, the danger of sin, and therefore gospel purity is one of the themes.

Gospel Unity

And then the third is gospel unity, that we would be one body of Christ, that we would love each other even when somebody else isn't where we are in the Christian faith, that we would be patient with God's work in their lives, not cast them off. Not condemned them or judge them or disdain them in any way, but maintain unity while people are growing and learning about gospel purity and gospel freedom, that we would maintain unity. These three themes are woven together, with such remarkable balance as only God could have done through the Holy Spirit and through the Apostle Paul, gospel freedom, gospel purity and gospel unity.

I. Stop Passing Judgment

Now we've already looked at a number of verses, the whole section was read for you today, but we've already seen some things. First, we've seen the issue of passing judgment, that we must stop passing judgment in. Romans 14:1-12, Paul has been dealing with what we call debatable issues, gray areas, issues of Christian liberty. Again, we need to be very clear, we are not talking about overt sin, things that violates a law or a command of God, we're not talking about those things.

For in the Book of Revelation, the church at Thyatira is condemned for tolerating that woman Jezebel with her sin. So we don't just tolerate sin. That would be evil, but we're talking about grey areas, those debatable issues. Neither are we talking about false doctrine, we would never tolerate that, for the church at Ephesus is commended in Revelation 2, for being able to test false prophets, and find them false. So we're not dealing with those things, we are dealing with debatable issues, issues of religious liberty, the example that Paul gives first is the issue of food, ceremonially unclean food. One man is able to eat anything his faith is strong, he realized that all foods are clean, but another man is still somewhat in bondage to the old way of thinking and he's not free yet, ceremonial food. And the second example, which we talked about last time, is the issue of sacred days, perhaps at least the Jewish holidays and festivals, but at most, we were talking about the Sabbath, and letting no one judge you about what you do on a Sabbath day, etcetera.

Two-fold Problem in the Christian Body

Now, Paul highlighted a two-fold problem in the Christian body, those that are more mature tend to disdain those that are less mature, to think down on them, especially when they start to judge them back. And so there's a tendency to fracture in the body of Christ. To not stay together and work it out, to not let iron sharpen iron as they work through difficult issues but rather just give up and let the thing fracture and fall apart, just like the feet of clay... Iron and clay, that doesn't stick together in Daniel 2 in the statue that Nebuchadnezzar... It just doesn't stay together. Just fractures all the time. And we've seen that, sadly, in the history of the church. But instead, Paul says, "No, we've got to not pass judgment on one another and we need to not condemn one another or disdain one another. We need to stay together."

And so he's dealing with these issues of gospel freedom. Paul's goal there clearly is genuine unity for the sake of the gospel. And the foundational principle is that Christ is Lord over all, judgmentalism is thereby destroyed, because Christ alone as we'd talked about last time, has the right to judge us. He's the only one that does, he's the one that has the right to assess us. And so Paul says very plainly, "Who are you to judge someone else's servant?" We also saw the triumph of the grace of the gospel. The grace of the gospel is not just a starting grace, but it's a finishing grace. The grace is there not just to bring us initially to faith in Christ, but to sustain us through this dangerous world, to bring us all the way through to the end. "Who are you to judge someone else's servant?"

He says, "To his own master he stands or falls, and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." Such confidence in understanding grace. And so weak faith is destroyed, it's not a religion of fear that we're proclaiming here, and that's what legalism is, it's a religion of fear. But rather we have confidence. Legalism produces insecurity, but this servant will stand. If you look at the Christian life like a long list of legalistic dos and don'ts, you will, I guarantee be utterly miserable. Not only will you be miserable, but it will be your job and mission in life to make the people around you as miserable as you are. That's part of legalism, that's what happens. We can all be under that list of dos and don'ts. That is not Christianity, that is not what we're talking about here. But Jesus is Lord of all, and the fact that we will all, every one of us, stand before Him, someday, and give Him an account directly for every decision we've made. Now, that destroys license too, doesn't it? It destroys. "Oh, I can live whatever way I want. I don't have to be concerned about issues of morality or issues of sin." Well, that's not true. And so license is destroyed as well. We see the balance here, through a thorough meditation on the achievement of Christ at the cross. It frees us from legalism, and license, and it provides the ground for true Christian unity.

Direct Command Against Passing Judgment

Now, Paul gives a direct command here against passing judgment. Verse 12, it says, "So then each of us will give an account of himself to God," and then in Verse 13, "Let us therefore Stop passing judgment on one another." He directly forbids the passing of judgment. How quick we are to assess someone else. How quickly we are to pass judgment, we all tend to do it. I was in a prayer meeting some time ago and I noticed somebody who didn't have their head bowed and their eyes closed.

Now, where is that in the Bible about Heads bowed and eyes closed? Now my children, are going to say, "Now Dad, why do you train us then, can we do whatever I want?" "No." if you're looking around the room, you're probably not praying. Alright, that's a different issue, alright. But I found myself being tempted to judge somebody. It's in us all the time, and it isn't just one of us, it's all of us. We have that tendency to pass judgment, the command is given universally. The greatest danger we have with this judgmentalism, is that we will lose perspective about ourselves. We'll forget how much grace has been lavished on us already. We'll forget how much grace we still need in order to finish the journey. We will forget how the very accusation we make against someone could be made against us at another time.

And so in Matthew 7, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says, "Do not judge or you will be judged, for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged. And with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." And as Paul said earlier, in Romans 2:1, "You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else. For at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things." And so when you have a judgmental attitude, you're forgetting yourself, you're forgetting how much grace Christ shows to you every moment. The second greatest danger is that the Body of Christ will be rend asunder by a capping harsh judgmental spirit, it will become unpleasant to be around. You wouldn't want to be there, there's nothing inviting about it, there's nothing enticing, it's not pleasant, it's wretched, all you do is feel guilty all the time around people like that.

And so this is the issue Paul turns to, the danger of full exercise of Christian freedom. The deeper problem here is that Christians forget that we're brothers and sisters, that we're all members of one family, that we're saved by grace, by the grace of God and by the blood of Jesus Christ. We have got to stop thinking so individualistically. The call in this section of Romans, 14, is to think like a family member. Yes, you have certain freedoms, but is it wise for you to display your freedoms, to flaunt them openly? That's what he's dealing with here. And if we're judging one another unity is destroyed. If we're flaunting our freedoms and destroying our brother by our freedoms then unity is destroyed.

And therefore you see how Paul wants to maintain these three things together. Gospel freedom, that we're not under legalism anymore, we're freed from that by the blood of Christ and by grace. Gospel purity, we're not going to be polluted by the world, because we all have to give an account to God for every decision we make. And he says at the end, in Verse 23, "Everything that does not come from faith is sin." Sin is a great danger and so he's concerned about that. And then, sweet Christian unity, the unity we put on display as a great weapon in the hand of God for the destruction of Satan's kingdom, a unified healthy gospel preaching, gospel living church, that's his concern. Those are the themes.

II. Determine Not to Cause Your Brother to Stumble

Now, he says, we should decide or determine not to cause our brother to stumble. Look at Verse 13. Instead of judging. "Instead [of judging] make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." There's literally a play on words here in the Greek, it doesn't come across as well in English. He uses the word judge twice, he says, "Don't judge each other but judge yourself," and specifically it's a different sense of the word judge. It's make a decision or a determination in a matter. We're not to judge our brother to decide whether or not he's a Christian based on these disputable matters. We are to judge our own behavior, or rather to make a settled determination, a decision about our lifestyle. Similar use of the Greek verb in 1 Corinthians 2, which Eric read earlier. Paul there said, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." He made a settled determination, a decision in his mind, and that's what Paul's calling on you here. You're making a settled determination decision. I will not cause my brother or sister to stumble in any way. That's the decision he's calling on them to make. It's a determination here, in not to cause your brother to stumble.

What is a Stumbling Block?

Now what is a stumbling block? Well, a stumbling block is something that causes someone else to sin. The images of making progress, run a journey or walking or perhaps even running a race. When I was in high school, I ran cross-country, I was a cross-country runner and our course was the longest and most difficult in the league. And it finished with a very difficult section through some woods downhill in the woods and then a straight up hill up this muddy hill, it was sheer torture, because this is after 2.8 miles of running. And we had a long downhill stretch, where all the people stood aside and cheered and watched us as we suffered and struggled across the finish line. But in order to earn that, you had to go down into the woods and there was a particularly treacherous section, where you're running over some roots, exposed roots. We did it on purpose, because we trained on it every day, alright. But the opponents, had to come and it was a difficult section in the course. Now, as you're going down, you have to watch your footfall at every moment, because if you get your foot hooked under one of these exposed roots you're going down and it's going to hurt, that's a picture of a stumbling block, it's something that causes you to fall in your Christian life.

It's something that causes you to sin. The Greek word is related to scandal, like being scandalized. And Paul's great concern here is that a strong brother who has freedom and liberty in Christ to do many things, may actually be used by the devil to tempt his weaker brother, and lead him into sin. Jesus gives us a very strong teaching about the issue of things that lead us to sin, in Luke 17, He said to His disciples, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come. It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown in the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble."

Oh, how seriously does Jesus deal with sin. How deadly a force is it in the world. It's an infinite poison working through the body of the world, and He hates it and He will have it out, that's His whole work, is to destroy sin. And so He's very serious about this matter of stumbling blocks. It's a warning concerning the very freedoms that Paul has been talking about, the freedoms the Gospel freedoms. Now, the gospel comes and liberates us from all these Old Testament regulations. We can eat anything drink anything we can worship anywhere, any time. And even better, we're free from that whole way of living. Living in fear. Is God going to get me today. Have I broken some rule? Is this my final breath? Because I broke some law or some rule. My whole relationship to God based on how I'm doing on a list of dos and don'ts. That's the old way. And it's a way that never saved anyone.

Galatians 3, Paul talks about that, he says, "Clearly. No one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith. The law is not based on faith. On the contrary, the man who does these things will live by them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, cursed is everyone who's hanged on a tree." So we're redeemed from that whole way of coming at God. It never saved anyone anyway. And praise God for it. Aren't you glad to not be under a bunch of dos and don'ts. That you're adopted? Sons and daughters of God, that's a beautiful thing. But now there's a different issue. What about your weak brother, what about your weak sister? They don't understand fully gospel Liberty.

They don't understand the power of grace, they might be destroyed, they might in some way be led into sin, they might be crushed, they might be harmed, they might be defiled in some way by your open exercise of freedom. Be careful then, what's happening in their lives.

III. Paul’s Example: Eating “Unclean” Food

Paul's example here is eating unclean food, look at Verse 14-15. "As one who's in the Lord Jesus. I'm fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards as something as unclean, then for him, it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love, do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died." So here we come again to the issue of unclean foods, old covenant law designated some foods clean and some foods unclean. We talked about that earlier. Jesus, of course, declared all foods clean. Again, we mentioned that.

With the coming of the New Covenant, we're free to eat anything we choose any time we choose. Now, Paul himself has made an astonishing journey in this matter. Do you remember what Paul said about himself? He said I, I'm a Hebrew of Hebrews, circumcised on the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, I was a Pharisee of Pharisees. I was more zealous for the traditions of my fathers than all of my contemporaries. I was the expert legalistic Jew, that's what I was. But look what he says here in Romans, "As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself." Oh, don't ever think for a moment that doctrine doesn't change lifestyle, it does. He came to understand New Covenant doctrine, he came to understand the freedom of the gospel, and he was convinced he could eat pork if he wanted to.

He had that freedom, he was free as one who was in the Lord Jesus, he said, "I'm convinced that no food is unclean of itself. But there's a different issue. What will my brother think as he watches me eat this? And it's not just the matter of the Old Covenant food list, there's a different issue once you get out into the Gentile world, you know what it is? It's the issue of meat sacrificed to idols, not just the list of what kind of food or whatever, it could be perfectly clean meat, it's acceptable, it's on the good list, but you know it's been offered to a pagan deity. It's been offered to Zeus or to Apollo. Can I eat it? That's the issue. Now realize the whole pagan or temple worship system was thoroughly wicked and defiled. It was a very sensual sexual thing, that the people would go down there and they would glut themselves and feed all their fleshly drives. And when the gospel came, people repented, they turned away from those things, they turned away from that wickedness. They weren't going to be involved in that kind of lifestyle anymore, it was sinful and wicked. But then along came another question: Could the meat still be eaten? Can we still eat the meat even if we don't participate in the services? What about meat sold in a marketplace.

Now you know and so do I. It's been offered to some pagan deity. Come on, the butcher's not a Christian. All meat that's available has been offered to some deity somewhere, am I allowed to eat it, can I eat it? So he deals with this very openly in 1 Corinthians 8-11, in those four chapters. The basic principles are; first of all, idols themselves are nothing, they're just chunks of rock. There's nothing to it, and meat offered to them doesn't pick up a spiritual stamp that you carry with it wherever it goes, like some kind of bacterial infection, that's not the issue, there's no spiritual defilement of the meat. So we're free to eat anything we want if we're alone and no one is affected by our decision. But if you're sitting at a table with somebody, a non-Christian man you're trying to lead to Christ and he says, "Oh by the way, we just got this from the sacrifice to Apollo." Push it away, you can't eat it. He's put a flag in it, he's identified it now and it's not... The issue is not your conscience. Now it's his, he won't understand your actions. Or you could be with a Christian brother, he's come to faith in Christ, but he won't understand your freedom.

The concern now is, "What will other people think, by my freedoms?" The deeper issue here is the issue of conscience, the meat cannot be defiled, but the conscience can. Look what he says, in verse 14, "If anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean." If you regard the meat as defiled, then for you it is defiled. If your conscience is bothering you and you go ahead and eat, you're sinning. And if you keep on violating your conscience, you'll break it, and if you break your conscience, it won't be long before you're openly sinning in ways that everyone recognizes as sin. We're not dealing anymore at that point with grey area issues, you will have so hardened your heart and violated your conscience again and again that you're free for any sin, and that Satan's purpose. There is therefore a great danger in this matter of defilement. Isn't this amazing?

Now, we Christians are the ones here in this postmodern age that say, "One truth for everybody." There's no truth for this person then a different truth for that person. False is the idea that I worship God in my own way. No, we're against that. We say there's one truth for everybody, but here we come to an issue in which is not the case. One man can eat that piece of meat and have no problem, but someone else their consciences is weak, their conscience is defiled they can't do it. And if they do they are sinning, actually sinning greatly against God. It totally deals with your own situation, with the complexity of the human heart.

I was talking to my kids as we drove in about this. I said, "Suppose you're at a bank, not you of course, but one of you are at a bank, and you see a bag, a canvas bag, it's got the dollar sign and all that, and you've been really struggling to pay your bills. And look around, no one's noticing. And you reach down and pick up that canvas bag and run. Run, run, run, jump in the car drive. You think every siren is for you, you drive for two hours out in the country. Open up the bag and it's just a bunch of garbage, a Coke can, and some other things and all that. They don't even use those bags for money anymore. I asked them, I said, "Have you committed a crime?" They said, "No, you took out the garbage." "Have you committed a sin? Yeah, you stole." Because that's the significance to you. You violated your conscience. You did something wrong. And if you keep doing that, sooner or later you're going to sin in open clear ways. You violate your conscience, sooner or later you're going to do something that clearly violates scripture. The conscience is a very sensitive thing. And the Lord has first and foremost, set you over your own conscience, to listen to it. Jesus said, "If your right eye cause you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It's better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” The right eye, the right hand, are gifts from God. There are good things, but if they lead you to sin, get rid of them, that's Jesus' teaching. You must stand over your own conscience and listen to it and learn what it's telling you.

Now the conscience is only as good as your religious education that feeds it, but as you continue to feed yourself and nourish the scripture, the conscience is a very strong Guide to righteousness in Christ, if you violate your conscience, it's great danger for you in the Christian life. But Paul makes a staggering point here. You're not only responsible for your own conscience. You're responsible for your brother and sisters' conscience too. And if their conscience is troubled by something you're doing, then you're responsible. The weak brother may never really come into his gospel freedoms, he might spend his whole life not fully understanding the freedom you have. That's all right, he doesn't need to, he just needs to trust in Christ and believe in him. Alright. But you need to be very careful about your weak brother and his defiled conscience.

IV. Do Not Destroy Your Brother with Your Freedom

And therefore in verse 15, he says do not destroy your brother with your freedom. In verse 15 he writes, "If your brother is distressed, because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love, do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died."

Let me ask a very famous question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Have you heard that before? Now who said that? Well, that was Cain. You remember. A rather sassy statement frankly, to God. God said, "Where's your brother Abel?" "Ha! Is my day to watch him? Am I my brother's keeper?" The word literally in the Hebrew, means; Am I his shepherd, am I supposed to be shepherding today? "What have you done?" He said. Well, it seems in Christ, yes, the answer is yes. You are your brother and sister's shepherd. Our church's covenant says we're going to watch over one another in brotherly love. We're going to care what's happening in somebody else's life. We need to act in love, we need, literally to walk in love. And if we cause a brother pain or in some sense destroy him by what we're doing, Paul says we're not acting in love. He uses two very strong words, first, if your brother is distressed, in the NIV, grieved in the KJV, hurt or even injured in the RSV.

The same word is used in Ephesians 4:30, the Holy Spirit, it says, "Do not grieve the Spirit of God with which you were sealed for the day of redemption." Grief is a great pain, and if you're grieving your brother by the way you're acting, you're not acting in love. Temptation's like a flaming arrow. And if your brother's led into sin, because of your free exercise, you have wounded him greatly. Perhaps he's been struggling with some old pattern of sin, he barely has a handle on it. He's not yet learned how to live in Christian freedom from sin, He sees you confidently eating and drinking and living your open freedoms, he sees you doing that. And he's not ready for it but he delves in, and he wounds his conscience, he violates his conscience and he sins.

Now later in Romans 14, look at verse 23, Paul would give a very striking definition of sin, he says, "The man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating does not come from faith and everything that does not come from faith is sin." If your brother is not acting in faith he's sinning, even though he's doing exactly the same thing that you are. Paul also speaks here of destroying your brother. Now, this verse is caused some people, some theological difficulty. Do not by your eating "destroy your brother for whom Christ died." They say, "See, you can lose your salvation, here's Jesus dying for somebody who ends up getting destroyed." Well, let me tell you something, there are different things that can be destroyed than just a soul. I believe if Jesus died for the individual, God, the Righteous Judge, will not require a second time, another payment for those sins which were already paid for by the blood of Christ, that's unjust. So He's not going to go to hell if Christ died for Him, but there are other kinds of things that can be destroyed.

The man's peace could be destroyed, his joy could be destroyed, his conscience may be destroyed if he keeps it up, so also the man's witness and service to Christ may be destroyed. Do not destroy your brother just because you want to exercise your freedoms. All of that for food is it worth it? Therefore, Paul is calling on Christians voluntarily to restrict their freedoms, voluntarily to not do certain things that they ordinarily would have the freedom to do, for the sake of the gospel. Paul's goal ultimately is Christian unity and holiness. His desire is a healthy Christian Church, united in holiness. He is so zealous about holiness, he says that even if God is not offended by something that we put in our mouth, if we think He is and we do it anyway, then for us it is sin. Paul wants us therefore to care for each other, to look out for each other, to build a Christian community in love, in which we take each other's holiness and clear conscience seriously.

V. Do Not Spoil Your Freedoms by Flaunting Them

There's one final theme that Paul brings up here, issue. And that is: Don't let your Christian freedoms be spoiled by flaunting them. Look what he says in verse 16, "Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil." Here we have the power of words. In verse 13, he urged the stronger brother not to put a stumbling block in the brothers paths, but one of the ways a weaker brother might stumble would be to judge you and condemn you and attack you verbally for something. The Greek word here is blasphemia. They might blasphemed or slander you for having done that. And why? They're talking, their tongues are wagging. They're gossiping about your lifestyle in Christ. Sooner or later, it's going to come around, you'll hear about it. In James Chapter 3, it says, "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man, can tame the tongue, it is a restless evil full of deadly poison." And so tongues start to wag.

Christians are pretty good at it. "Oh, I just have a concern. I want to share a prayer requests. So and so... " They come to the pastor and say, "You know, there's just some things I've been seeing," and all this kind of stuff, the stuff you hear, it's really quite damaging in the body of Christ. But here Paul's concern is the freedom itself. God gave you a good thing. And if you flaunt it in front of somebody who's not ready to accept it, they're going to trash it verbally in front of you, and you'll lose the joy in it. You might actually then do it just to get them. Just to flaunt your freedom. You might just do it just to jab them, you're not doing it in love, you're not doing it by faith, for you now it's become a sin. You lost a good thing because you flaunted the freedom.

And so what ends up happening is, then we lose one of those three beautiful themes here, the freedom of the gospel. The world start to shrink and shrink and shrink, and pretty soon will end up where Martin Luther ended up, in a cold cell a stone cell in a monastery, unable to do anything for fear of being sent to hell. Sleeping on a cold stone floor without a blanket, thinking that if he suffered a lot on earth he wouldn't suffer in the afterlife. And the joy of food, the joy of friendship, the joy of laughter, the joy of the physical beauty of the world is gone. Robbed. Because you flaunted your freedom and then it got polluted by this kind of defiling blasphemy.

And so we see in this chapter, three great themes, we see the gospel freedom of grace. The fact that God has freed us to live as Christian brothers and sisters, freed us from legalism, dos and don'ts. Secondly, we see the concern of gospel purity, freedom from sin, and how much we ought to care about the issue of purity and holiness. And third, we see the issue of gospel unity, a loving Christian community. That's what Paul has in mind, these three themes. And we see balance. To some degree as a pastor you're walking a tightrope all the time. All the time on all kinds of tough controversial issues, we'll get to those in a minute. It's coming, as we walk across that tightrope we're trying to balance, trying to find a proper way to live our Christian lives.

VI. Application

What kind of applications can we take from this?

Walk in Love Toward Your Christian Brothers and Sisters

Well, first, let's walk in love toward our Christian brothers and sisters. Care about their sin problems. Care what they're struggling with. Care what their conscience is telling them. Don't say, "Hey look, you got your problems, I've got mine." And I think that happens best in close type discipleship relationships, where you're prayer partners, you know each other, and in families too. Carry each other's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. We're supposed to watch over one another in brotherly love. Does it matter to you if somebody else is led into sin? Paul says in 2 Corinthians, one of the great sufferings of His ministry, "Who is led into sin and I don't inwardly burn." You should care what's going on in the life of your brothers and sisters, and you should know what's going on in their lives, talk to each other, use your home fellowships for that, pray for each other, be real and share what's really going on.

Understand Your Christian Freedom

Secondly, understand your Christian freedom, you're adopted as a child of God, you're therefore not being scrutinized by some disapproving employer who might fire you at any moment kick you out of the family of God, for breaking a rule. Understand that's not the way we live our lives. Your relationship with God is not based on keeping a bunch of legalistic requirements. God has created a marvelous world full of good gifts, eating, drinking, music Colors, sounds, marriage, sex, children, friendships, these are good gifts of God. The devil wants to steal them from us and pollute them. Paul calls it a doctrine of demons to prohibit good gifts that God permits. It's a doctrine of demons, let's not live like that.

Understand the Danger of Worldliness

But thirdly, let's understand the danger of worldliness. Grace cannot be a cover up for evil. And may I tell you, I think the greater danger for this church and most American churches is not legalism. I don't know many of you who tempted to spend a night on a cold stone floor because you think it's pleasing to God. As a matter of fact, I don't know any of you like that. But I do know that we are constantly being bombarded by sensual appeals in our culture. The problem is more license isn't it? The problem is an alluring song pulling us in that direction of the two rocks we can crush our ship on, pulling towards sin, at all times. Grace cannot be a cover up for evil. Take seriously Jesus' warning about sin, if your right eye is causing you to sin then gouge it out and throw it away. And what would that be? Well, you tell me. If you sin and you know you violated your conscience, the Holy Spirit convicts you, trace it back to what led to that, and then circle that and say, what was I doing there? You'll probably find that it was an issue of Christian freedom. And wonder if you should have done that thing. Cause it led you into sin.

Don’t Flaunt Your Freedoms: Some Present-Day Applications

And then finally, don't flaunt your freedoms. Let's talk about some present day applications. Most of us do not struggle with the issue of meat sacrifice to idols. And if you struggle with that at all come and talk to me afterwards, if that's a problem for you, let me know. But I don't know anybody that's really wrestling with that one right now. But it's meant to be a test case for other issues that we will face. What kinds of things? Well, first, let's talk about alcohol. Don't flaunt your freedom about alcohol. It's not very likely in a Baptist church, but there's still among you who are convinced that drinking wine is not in itself a sin, be very careful how you carry on that freedom. I would say how you even talk about it, alright? You may be able to make your case biblically, but be very careful how you talk about it. I think it's very much a Romans 14 case.

Let me speak a tender word of counsel to our sisters in Christ. Can I urge you be very careful how you dress. We are not legalistic Muslims. I went to Pakistan and spent the summer and the women there wear burkas from top to bottom and you don't see them at all, nothing. I don't know how they do it in the heat. It was about 130 degrees, very unpleasant. Now we obviously would all agree that women wearing bikinis to church is inappropriate. So somewhere in the middle, right? Somewhere in the middle, there's proper ground, now popular styles today are always pushing the envelope, aren't they? Always pushing the envelope. My question to you is as you select your clothes, not just for Sunday but throughout the week. And as you buy them off the rack, etcetera, or get them out of a catalog. Ask yourself, "What is my motive here? What am I trying to do? And is it possible that this style could cause my brother to stumble?"

In the context of the eye and the hand, it's in the context of Jesus' teaching about adultery? If you look at a woman lustfully you've already committed adultery in your heart. Brothers it's your job to not look lustfully, that's your job. You're supposed to look away. I'm just asking the sisters to help us. It's very much in the line of Romans 14, in not causing a brother to stumble.

And then finally, don't flaunt your freedom about entertainment, movies, DVD spectator sports, there's all kinds of world computer games, all kind of world of freedoms out there. Don't flaunt your freedoms about these things. There could be some movies that you can watch and it doesn't cause you to stumble that might cause somebody else to stumble. And again, I'm not talking about those openly lustful things that I think, I don't know how it'd be possible to watch them without sinning. But there may be others that would Violate somebody's tender conscience. Be very careful. In general. Be careful how you live your Christian life. Think about others think about God, think about your own conscience. And love your brothers and sisters in Christ, enough to walk as a holy man or woman of God, close with me in Prayer.

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