Thursday, October 09, 2014


Responsible Christian Freedom: August 10 Sermon

About a month ago I was asked to preach on 1 Corinthians 10 at my church, Gospel Community Church.  Our pastor, Andrew, has been doing a series on 1 Corinthians called "Healthy Christian, Healthy Church."  The link above will take you to the audio for this sermon (while there you can search for the rest of the series if you'd like).  Below are my notes for the sermon.  I hope they are a blessing to you! 

Responsible Christian Freedom (or, With Great Freedom comes Great Responsibility)
1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

Intro: The culture of the USA loves the idea of "freedom."  We've even kind of made an idol out of the idea.  Technically speaking though, freedom is neither good nor evil, it really depends on what we do with it.  Using freedom responsibly is a good thing, while abusing freedom for selfish ends can be bad.  The book of 1 Corinthians has a few things to say about freedom.  Here is an overview of some of them:  Our passage today has some similarities with chapter 6 (same basic quote in v. 12 as found in this chapter) where Paul talks about lawsuits, freedom, and sexuality.  The overall idea of chapter 6 is to avoid joining the things of God with the things of the world.  Then chapter 7 speaks of a godly approach to marriage by discussing the freedom to marry or not to marry.  Chapter 8 covers Christian freedom in the context of meats sacrificed to idols (As Pastor Andrew stated: “With great freedom comes great responsibility”).  In chapter 9, Paul addresses the “rights” or “freedoms” of an apostle (here Paul also mentions his example of laying down his “rights” to serve others—Paul built relational bridges and minimized walls for the sake of the gospel).  The first part of chapter 10 then is a warning against spiritual complacency and compromise (Remember last week?  Complacency + Compromise = Consequences). Some quotes from Pastor Andrew on this section include the following:  1) “A healthy Christian is a cautious Christian”; 2) “Seemingly innocent decisions may have a devastating impact.” In the last part of chapter 10, Paul addresses the issue of how to live out our Christian freedom in a responsible manner. He returns to the idea of “With great freedom comes great responsibility" in this section.  

Coming off the heels of a discussion concerning the Lord’s Supper/Communion in contrast to the ritual eating of meat sacrificed to idols in the pagan temples, Paul uses the idea of “meat sacrificed to idols” to round out his discussion of Christian freedom. Just as eating in a pagan temple involves a “communion” or “agreement” with demons, so eating the Lord’s Supper (bread and wine) involves a “communion” or “agreement” with the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. In other words, there is a corporate and public aspect of faith as well as some communal implications of behavior in a public setting. Now, in the last section of ch. 10, Paul returns to the idea of being careful about how our behavior affects others. He does this in the context of a private meal or in the context of table fellowship at home.  (Read 1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1)

Turning to the “private” or “personal” relationships we all have, Paul outlines for us four principles of living out the idea that “With Great Freedom comes Great Responsibility.”

Principle 1 (10:23-24): Christian freedom has exceptionsChristian freedom cannot be selfish. Everything is permissible BUT: Paul seems to be quoting the Corinthians here. Some of the “mature” Christians had an idea that due to the freedom gained in Christ, they are pretty much allowed to do anything! Note that Paul is not disagreeing with them, but the exceptions he offers are important. Everything is NOT helpful, and everything does NOT build others up.  So in evaluating whether or not to engage in an activity or use an item, we should ask ourselves, “Will this create a lifetime of unity with God and His people? Is this the kind of thing that would be a good foundation to build on, or will this bring brokenness, disunity, disappointment, and disqualification from the race of faith?” We must live as though the good of others is more important than our own (cf. Phil 2; 2 Cor. 5). Jesus is a great example.  Becoming a poor Jewish boy, getting roughed up by Roman soldiers, and then hung on a cross was not what we would consider a pleasant experience!  But Jesus' life was not centered around making himself feel good (with meeting "his needs"), rather he suffered because he wanted to bring well-being to others. He did this by taking what we deserved for our sin and instead of judgment offering fellowship with God through his own sacrifice.

So, Paul reminds us that "With great freedom comes great responsibility!" We cannot expect to live the life of Christian freedom if we continue to live selfishly. When we place confidence in self, we are bound to fall. When we place confidence in Christ, we have a chance to stand and be free. Selfishness and arrogance lead to death, humility and service lead to life. Paul calls us to be free in seeking the good of the other person over our own selfishness

Principle 2 (10:25-27): Be relational, reach out to others with the same grace God has shown us. Accept others as they are, and let God make the change. In this section Paul essentially says that if you find yourself in a social setting with unbelievers, eat and enjoy whatever they put before you. No interrogation is needed, just eat what they offer and thank God for the good food. The principle is this: When dealing with unbelievers, don’t try to fix them. Don’t put up walls to the relationship, but build a relational bridge that allows the opportunity to tell them the gospel. Live the love of Christ and it will be easier to share it (cf. 2 Cor 5—love invigorates us—it gives life and the power to love others, it makes us representatives or ambassadors for God). 

Remember, "With great freedom comes great responsibility." We cannot expect to draw non-Christians to God if we don’t know any. We must be relational, we must serve them as Christ served us. Paul calls us to be free in seeking to share the grace of God with those who do not know him yet.

Principle 3 (10:28-30): We are free, but we must put others first. We are free, but we should NOT be selfish (see principle 1). Be careful that your liberty doesn’t become a trap or an offense.  Be discerning in your relationships with others. Remember, it may be permissible, but that doesn’t mean it is helpful or edifying. After telling the Corinthians that they can eat whatever an unbeliever places before them (“Everything is permissible”), Paul now offers an exception (“But not everything is helpful or builds up”).  The context here may refer to both believers and unbelievers, but the point is the same. Accept people as they are without interrogation. If they offer information, work with it and act with discretion (“A healthy Christian is a cautious Christian”). 

If someone invites you for a meal, don’t ask where the meat came from. If they tell you, “This meat is dedicated to a god other than Jesus,” then politely refuse to eat it. If they volunteer this information, then there is an issue. Be careful, don’t let your liberty become a trap or become an offense. Christian freedom requires us to make wise choices based on the situation in which we find ourselves or based on the needs of those around us.  As stated earlier, we must look out for the good of others.  Avoid living carelessly or flaunting your liberty (e.g., alcohol) without regards for how it may affect others. You can do the right thing and still cause hurt. Being “right” is not the issue, being “righteous” is. To be “righteous” means to act like Jesus. 

"With great freedom comes great responsibility!" If we are made free in Christ then we have much more to consider than our personal happiness, fulfillment, or freedom. Just because we have a right to do something that does not mean that we should do it. Sometimes the greatest freedom is expressed by not exercising it (cf. Phil 2:5-11). We are free to serve, but to serve requires us to put our personal “freedoms” or “expectations” aside so as to meet the needs of others. To lay down your life for a friend is a good thing, to be willing to do it for an enemy is a “God” thing (Ephesians 4). We are free, but we must put others first

Principle 4 (10:31-11:1): Live so that others can know God through you. That kind of freedom brings glory to God. 

What does it mean to do all things for God’s “glory”? “Glory” in the Bible has beauty and danger. God's glory can bless you, but it can also wreck your life.  “Glory” is honor. 

In creation, Adam and Eve were clothed with God’s glory (Psalm 2), but when they sinned they exchanged that glory for leaves and ultimately for animal skins (cf. Romans 1). Remember Moses and the burning bush, cleft of the rock, and his experience “glory”? The Jews (freshly rescued from Egypt) saw that glory on Mt. Sinai when God gave Moses the Law. It was frightening, weighty, overwhelming. They didn’t want to get too close. 

Oswald Chambers:  "We have a tendency to look for wonder in our experience, and we mistake heroic actions for real heroes.  It's one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us. . . . The true test of a saint's life is not success but faithfulness on the human level of life. We tend to set up success in Christian work as our purpose, but our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life 'hidden with Christ in God' in our everyday human conditions (Colossians 3:3). Our human relationships are the very conditions in which the ideal life of God should be exhibited. . . . Beware of posing as a profound person--God became a baby."

When Solomon built a temple for God, God's glory showed up and was so heavy that the people couldn’t even move to worship. They were overwhelmed. In Ezekiel, this “glory” of God is seen leaving the temple. In John’s Gospel, the “glory” of God is revealed in Jesus’ life but more specifically in his death and resurrection. John 12:22ff refers to an event when Gentiles came looking for Jesus. Jesus says, “Now is the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He then predicts his own death and resurrection and the fruit of those events. He also encourages his followers to participate in God’s glory by laying down their lives to be like him.  

Jesus’ humility is God’s greatest glory (Phil 2). If we want to glorify God in all we do, then we must learn to walk in humility as Christ walked in humility. If we intend to bring people to salvation, we cannot get them there by pride or arrogance. We will always be judged by others, so we ought to avoid unnecessary offenses that would cause them to judge us unfavorably.  The offense of the cross is enough, we shouldn’t compound it by having bad breath.  Col 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” 

“Become un-spectacular/give no offense/do not cause anyone to stumble” (v.32) The word picture is of someone trying to get a look at God, but they can’t see God because you keep stepping in front of their line of sight so that it is blocked by your presence.  Sometimes we need to get out of the way. The path of humility is the path of life. The love of Christ obligates us (and ought to compel us) to be humble servants to bring God’s life to others (2 Cor 5).  Paul says that his goal is to see people “saved,” or to see them brought into a proper relationship with God through Jesus. He further invites them to imitate his life as he imitates Jesus’ life. 

Can we say the same thing as Paul? Are we living so that others can know God through us? Would we want others to imitate us?  Again, Paul reminds us that in order to do this we must put the needs of others first, and there is no greater need than salvation. "With great freedom comes great responsibility!" We are free to live humbly. We are free to seek the salvation of others. Not only are we free, we are obligated to do so.
So, what do we do with these principles?  Recognize that people DO pay attention to your life and example. Whether or not you know it, they are watching you to see if you live what you believe. The stakes are high. People will believe what they see way before they will believe what we say. 

First then, make an effort this week to notice people. Notice the people who seem overwhelmed, angry, distant, sad, or those who look wounded. You can’t serve them if you can’t see them. Pay attention. Listen. Love. Serve. 

Second, work on serving others. Be considerate. Put others before yourself. Hold the door for someone.  Help someone unload their car. Let someone go ahead of you in line.  Be considerate of the person behind you in a line, or the person waiting for your parking space, or the person walking behind you. Treat those who wait on your table with respect, tip them well. Listen carefully to the person who is sharing their story. Weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice. Maybe there is an act of kindness you’ve been putting off. Just do it. Serve those who simply cannot pay you back! Be willing to be inconvenienced so that someone else can be served! 

Third, ask God to make you alert to the needs of others. Develop the habit of asking, “How might this decision or action have an impact on others?”

Fourth, be bold in living out and talking about your salvation. Don’t be shy. Your story of what God has done matters. God saved you, and he may use your story to bring life to someone else. Be bold! 
Christ has set us free to be his representatives, his ambassadors. Christ has set us free from the chains of sin. He has set us free to enjoy his life to the fullest.  He has set us free to represent Him in a sinful and lonely world.  We must make sure that we are using our freedom for good rather than evil.
"With great freedom comes great responsibility!" 

Live free, serve others, be imitators of Christ.  

Live your Christian freedom responsibly! 

Thanks for reading!  

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