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FREE TO HELP, NOT FREE TO HINDER
Intro: There is a verse in the New Testament that is a blessing to believers. It is Galatians 5:1 and it says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Basically, this verse tells us that we are free from the bondage of the Law. As believers, we are not to allow ourselves to be forced to live under a set of rules devised by other men. This is a clear condemnation of legalism. Now, that is a good thing! It means that when we came to faith in Christ, we were set free, John 8:36. No one has the right to impose his or her rules upon our lives. We are free to live for God as the Spirit of the Lord leads us. In other words, there is no place for legalism in the church of Jesus Christ. In Jesus we have perfect and absolute liberty. Liberty is defined as, “a. The condition of being free from restriction or control. b. The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing.
There are those who hear that and think that they have the right to live as they please. And, they are right, within reason. Here is what Paul said about the matter, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any., 1 Cor. 6:12. Simply stated, Paul says that he can do anything he wants to do, but he is to avoid those things that have the potential to control his life. This would refer to things like alcohol, drugs, and sexual addictions. In another passage he says this, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not., 1 Cor. 10:23. Again, Paul makes the statement that he can do anything he wants to do, but that he is to avoid those things that do not “edify. This word means “to build up or to promote growth in Christ.” Paul’s idea is that we do have liberty and we can do anything we want to do, but that liberty is to be brought under the power of Jesus Christ. While we are free to live for the Lord, without the restrictions of the Law or of manmade rules and regulations, we are only free to do those things that build others up, or that do not take away our liberty.
This is the message Paul is trying to convey in these verses. He wants us to know that we are free, but that we have a duty to our fellow believer. As we live our lives, we are always have our brothers and sisters in our hearts. We are to remember that we are either a stumblingblock or a steppingstone to those around us. Which depends on how we live our lives before others. Again, in Galatians 5, Paul makes the following statement, For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself., Galatians 5:13-14.
So, we can see that we are free in Jesus. Thank God that neither the Law, nor any rules made by men, have any authority over us this evening. Praise God, we ought to rejoice in that liberty! However, at the same time, we must never forget that while we are free, our freedom is conditioned by how it impacts those around us. With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to these verses this evening and talk for a while about this thought, “Free To Help, But Not To Hinder.
I. OUR CHRISTIAN LIBERTY INTERPRETED
A. v. 14 Some Things Are Perfectly Neutral The controversy that was raging in the Roman Church was whether or not it was right for a child of God to eat meat which had been sacrificed the idols. One group said it was wrong, while other group felt that it was okay. In order to help clarify this, Paul tells them that nothing is in and of itself unclean. A chunk of meat is perfectly neutral. It has neither the power to do good or to do evil. It is nothing more than an inanimate object. It cannot lie. It cannot kill or steal. It is neutral. This same truth applies to all material things. Take a dollar bill for instance. The Bible tells us that “For the love of money is the root of all evil... 1 Tim. 6:10. That doesn’t make money evil; it is the attitude of the heart regarding money that can be good or evil. The money itself is absolutely neutral. So it is with everything we come into contact with in the course of life. Nothing material is evil in and of itself; it is what we do with that thing that has the potential to make it evil. Jesus said this, “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.”, Mark 7:15. Do you understand the idea here? Nothing in the material world is unclean.
(Note: Of course, I am not referring to things like pornography and alcohol. These are clearly forbidden by the Scriptures and have no place in any person’s life. It is the heart behind its use that makes it clean or unclean.)
B. v. 17 Some Things Are Plainly Spiritual Paul tells us that Christianity is not a list of dos and donts. Some people have the idea that when they get saved, they have to start them a list of what they can do and what they cant do. But, if you will compare your list of don’ts with that of a Muslim, or a Mormon, or perhaps even an atheist, you might find that they are living cleaner than you are. Christianity is not about what you are doing are what you are not doing. Christianity is about a living, vital relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Christianity is an internal matter! It is about “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. It is a spiritual matter! Certainly, there are negatives. The Bible is clear that there are some things that are off limits to the child of God. However, we need to understand that the don’ts of Christianity are there for our protection. What I have discovered over the years is that when you spend you time doing the do’s of the Bible, you won’t have the time, nor the desire to do the don’ts.
(Note: When Jesus is really ion the throne of a person’s life, that person will want to exhibit righteousness. You won’t need to put a bunch of rules in place to keep him in line. If he is saved, he will want to please the Lord and honor other believers!)
(Note: It is the over-emphasis of the don’ts that have turned so many people off to the things of God. When we impose a list of rules on people that God Himself never intended for them, to keep, we have left the Bible and entered the realm of legalism.)
When will we ever learn that instead of judging people by our measuring stick, and condemning them when they don’t measure up, we should be exalting the glories of a vital, living relationship with the Lord Jesus? There is just too much good to talk about for us to always be so negative.
(Note: One of the reasons many people are not Christians is because of Christians. We have allowed ourselves to become so negative and defeated that we are not good advertisement for the Lord Jesus Christ, Phil. 1:27. Many are constantly complaining about and longing after those things that they cannot do. Instead of “salt and light we have become tasteless and dim. When I see what most Christians have, I don’t want it either! Where are the believers who have a joyful heart? Where are the believers who go to church because they love Jesus? Where are those believers who are excited about their relationship with Christ? We should ask ourselves this question: “If a lost man watched my life for a week, would he want the relationship with Jesus that I have? God help us to regain the spiritual emphasis that is the hallmark of Christianity!)
C. v. 14, 22 Some Things Are Patently Individual The idea here is that we are to settle matters of right and wrong with the Lord, Phil. 2:12. He will teach us what we can and cannot do! However, just because He tells me that it is all right for me to do this or that, I am not to flaunt that liberty in the face of a weaker brother. It may be perfectly right for me to do certain things, but if they hinder my brother, I am not to do them again, 1 Cor. 8:13!
(Note: Some would say, “Well, if the Lord says that it is all right for me to do something, then I am going to do as I please. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. That is not the language of love! True love and true spirituality says, “I know I can do that and it will not affect my relationship or fellowship with God. However, if my brother sees me do that, it would offend him and cause him problems in his walk with the lord. Therefore, because I love God and I love my brother, I will not do that thing!” That is maturity, and that is Christlike love!)
(Note: The task for us to is to keep everything in its proper perspective. Remember this: nothing is evil by itself. It’s goodness or evilness depends upon the motive behind its use. Christianity is not about rules; it is about an inner relationship with Jesus that manifests itself in outward righteousness and joy of life. And, just because I have the liberty to do certain things, that does not give me the right to do them. In everything I do, I must think of my brother!)
II. OUR CHRISTIAN LIBERTY ILLUSTRATED
A. v. 13,15 We Are To Show Compassion To Our Brother Paul says that when we exercise our liberty in Christ and it offends our brother, we have ceased to walk in love. In fact, we have ceased to live for the Lord. Remember what Jesus said in John 13:35? He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. The problem with most believers is that we are completely self-centered! Our overriding thought is, “Does this please me? Do I want to do this?” The sad fact is, that is definitely not a display of Christian love! We need to come to the place where we care about what we do affecting someone else! Before we do anything, we need to ask ourselves, “Will this hurt my brother? Will someone take this the wrong way and be offended? Will this disturb my brother’s walk with the Lord? I must be very careful that I do not place a stumblingblock in my weaker brother’s path!
B. v. 19 We Are To Make A Contribution To Our Brother When we are considering doing something that we know is all right for us, we must ask ourselves two questions. 1.) Will this action cause peace or division in the church? Will this promote harmony or will it cause a problem. 2.) Will my brother in Christ grow by seeing me do this, or will his growth in the Lord be stunted by my actions? We must be very careful that we do not allow our liberty to hinder the church as a whole, or the individual members in particular.
(Note: For example, I do not think a church should have a dress code. We should not have a list of rules posted somewhere that tells what a person can and cannot wear to church. However, each individual should consider the testimony of the church when they dress to come here. They should ask themselves, “Is my choice of clothing appropriate for the House of God? What do the clothes I wear say about the standards and testimony of my church? Is it possible that I might offend another brother or sister by wearing this to church? That is how it has to be handled!) The same could be said about music, or where you eat, or what you watch on TV. You are free in Jesus, but you are free to help and not hinder you brothers in Christ!
C. v. 21 We Are To Walk In Consideration Of Our Brother The whole point of this verse is that there are times when we must limit our liberty so that we do not hinder a fellow believer in their walk with the Lord. There are things that I know would not be wrong for me to do. However, there are people watching my life. Therefore, I don’t do those things, by choice, so that I don’t offend that weaker brother or sister. If I hinder them and cause them to sin, I have not been Christlike, but I have been very selfish!
(Note: One of the greatest preachers the world has ever known was Charles Spurgeon. He preached to thousands in the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England in the 19th century. For most of his life, Spurgeon was tobacco user. He smoked a pipe. I think if he were alive to day and knew what we know about the effects of tobacco, he would not have smoked, but in that day he did. One day, Spurgeon was walking through London, when he passed a tobacco store that was advertising a certain brand of tobacco. The advertisement said, “The brand that Spurgeon smokes. When he saw that he was convicted and became aware for the first time that his liberty might prove a hindrance to some other brother. And, from that day forward, he never smoked again!)
(Note: Every believer in this room, but especially every preacher, every deacon, every Sunday school teacher, every choir member, every leader in every position of this church has a God ordained responsibility to be very careful about how you live your life! People are watching and will be influenced by what you do! Your children are watching and will be influenced by what you do! I pray that every new believer, every young Christian, every young man and young woman who makes up this church will see the godly example set by the best members of this church and not be influenced by the terrible example of those who just skate around the edges of this thing!)
III. OUR CHRISTIAN LIBERTY INVESTIGATED
A. v. 16, 18 We Are Investigated Daily By The Eyes Of Men Paul merely wants us to remember that the world is watching! Every day, the world watches us live. They see whether or not we are consistent in our walk. And, they judge Jesus by what they see us do! All he is saying is that we need to be real! We should never be the reason for anyone to speak evil of the church, Christianity or the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, this is just what happens, Rom. 2:24; 2 Pet. 2. We need to live the kind of life that can stand the test of scrutiny. If your co-workers and friends were to be asked to come to this pulpit and tell us what kind of person you really are, would they be able to say, “They are real! Or, would they have to say, “If they are a Christian, the woods are full of them! Men are watching and what they see from you determines what they think of Jesus!
B. v. 18. 22-23 We Are Investigated Divinely By The Eyes Of The Master Not only are other men watching, but the Lord is watching as well. There is coming a day when each of us will stand before the Lord an give an account of our lives as His children, Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10. In anticipation of that day, we are to avoid anything that even has the hint of wrong about it, 1 Thes. 5:22. If there is a doubt in your mind, no matter how slight, that something may not be right, then you shouldn’t do it! The key to understanding all of this is found in verse 23. Paul tells us that we should do what we do with assurance of heart. If there is a doubt, leave it out! He says that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” This means that regardless of what you do in life, if you cannot do it with faith in your heart that it is right in the sight of God, it is a sin to you! The Chrisitan life is not about seeing who can get closest to the edge without falling off into sin. It is about living every moment for the glory of God, 1 Cor. 10:31!
(Ill. King and new chariot driver. The king was interviewing men to be his chariot drivers. And so he said to them, "I want you to take this chariot and I want you to go around this winding mountain road, there are cliffs on the side of it, and I want you to see how close you can get to the precipice in the chariot and still make it on the road."
And so, one man came down and he said, "Aw, I got within two feet of the edge of that thing and I still made it." And the king said, "No, thank you, you're not my chariot driver." Then another man came and he said, "Oh, I want you to know I got within three feet of the precipice." And he said, "No, thank you, I don't want you to be my chariot driver." Another man came and he said, "I got an inch and a half from the precipice of the road." And he
said, "You're not my chariot driver."
And then a man came and he said, "Aw, I didn't even try to get close to the edge. If I'm going to be the chariot driver for the king, I want to stay as far away from the danger point as I can." That man got the job!)
(Note: We talk of “Doing it in good faith, or Giving it good faith. The idea being, if our motive is right, then it makes whatever we do or give right as well. This is fine to a point! However, when you do something about which there is a doubt in your mind then it is no longer in “good faith.” If you do it with doubt, it is a sin! If I give $5.00 to a homeless man to buy him some food, then I have given it good faith. If he walks straight to the liquor store, that is his problem. However, if I se him take the money I have given him and go buy liquor with it, I have not sinned the first time. But, if I give money to that same man tomorrow, knowing what he is going to do with it, I am just as guilty as he is, 1 Tim. 5:22. I cannot give it in good faith, if I know it will be used for evil. This applies to every area of our experience as believers. There is very fine line between acting in faith and turning a blind eye to evil. If you can live your life with a clean conscience toward God and toward your fellow believers, you are a blessed individual!)
(Note: There may be those who think this is a rigid way to live life. Always looking around trying to please the other brother. Well, verse 22 puts it into perspective I think. It reminds us that the happiest people are those who can live their lives without felling condemnation n their hearts; either from the Lord, or from causing their brother to stumble. If you really want to be happy, learn to put others first in your daily walk!)
Conc: It would be nice if all of life were scripted for us, if there were no questionable areas, if there were no weak brothers to accommodate. Such is not the case! As we go through this life, there will be many situations when we will be called upon to make a decision about right and wrong. What we decide in those moments reveals the truth of the condition of our hearts. When we have come to the place where the Lord Jesus and the needs of others come before our own wishes and desires, we have begun the process of maturing in the Lord. God help us to get there! With His help we can and will.
Excerpted from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition Copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products N.V., further reproduction and distribution restricted in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.