"LIMITS TO LIBERTY"
Intro. All through my ministry people have come up to me seeking to know if a Christian can engage in certain activities and still be a Christian. Many times the issue is, "How much of the world can I have and still be saved." In this verse Paul speaks of the limitations of our liberty. It seems that we are always looking for the limits, to draw the line between what is right and wrong for me to do as a Christian. The issue is not what is right or wrong as Paul will point out in our text. You may prove that something is not wrong for you to do, there is no scripture that speaks specifically to that issue so nothing is wrong with doing it, but right and wrong is not the real issue as we shall see.
I. "ALL THINGS ARE LAWFUL UNTO ME."
A. Be careful that you do not take this beyond the context. Paul has just given a list of things that if a person is doing them he will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
1. Paul had just declared,
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
2. Thus when he said, "All things are lawful for me," he is not including this list of things.
3. He is not saying that I am free from the law and can break the 10 commandments if I please.
B. The only one who can say, "All things are lawful to me" is the person who has come to Jesus Christ and has purposed to live as to totally please Him. He lives by a higher standard than the law.
1. You talk about certain practices, sure I can do that, but I don't want to, or I won't.
2. In his letter to the Romans, Paul spoke of not eating meat as long as the world stood if it would offend a weaker brother.
II. LIMITATIONS TO THE LIBERTY. "ALL THINGS ARE LAWFUL" TOTAL LIBERTY, HOW DO THEN JUDGE ALL THINGS?
A. "All things are not expedient."
1. Paul said concerning himself, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
2. He exhorted others, "They that run in a race run all, but only one receives the prize, so run that you might obtain."
a. Run to win.
b. Give it all you've got.
3. I am in the race to win. I do not want to get incumbered with anything that would impede my progress toward the goal.
4. If you were in the hundred meter dash in the Olympics you would not line up in the blocks with a heavy pair of hiking boots and a backpack on. Why?
a. You know that they would impede your progress as you ran toward the tape.
b. I do not know of any rule of the olympics that would forbid the heavy boots. I suppose that you can wear any kind of shoes you want.
c. If you are wise, you do not want anything that would slow you down.
5. In Hebrews we are exhorted,
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
a. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, "You have not resisted unto blood in the fight against sin." You have not made a very strong effort to live a life free from sin.
b. He spoke of sin so easily besetting us.
c. We are not putting up that strong of a resistance.
d. We are often doing things that impede our progress toward our goal of being like Jesus.
B. "I will not be brought under the power of any."
1. When a person can say, "All things are lawful for me." I do not know of a greater declaration of liberty.
2. Writing to the Romans about eating meat or not, Paul said, "Happy is the man whose heart condemns him not in the things that he allows."
3. I have been asked, "Is it all right for me to have a beer with my pizza."
a. Is it possible to come "under the influence" by drinking beer? That is, can your judgment be impaired? Would you be apt to do things that you would not do if you were totally sober?
b. If I am under the influence of anything then I am no longer free.
c. I have exercised my liberty in such a way as to lose my liberty.
4. Can I smoke cigarettes and be a Christian?
a. Is it possible to become addicted to cigarettes? If I am addicted, then I am no longer free.
b. I love my liberty so much that I am constantly on guard lest I engage in some activity that brings me under its influence or power.
c. Someone has well said, "The price of liberty is constant diligence."
5. We are not looking at right or wrong, we are looking at things that rob me of my liberty.
6. Though it might be all right, I will not do it if it will rob me of my liberty.
C. "All things edify not." For this one we go to chapter 10:23 where he repeats all things are lawful but all things are not expedient, then he adds, "All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."
1. The word edify means to build up.
2. In the Christian sense it means to be built up in the image of Jesus Christ.
3. The goal of every true Christian is to be like Jesus.
4. It is God's eternal purpose for us that we be conformed into the image of His Son.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
5. This is wrought by the working of the Spirit in us.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord.
6. God is like a sculptor and is molding and shaping you. Jesus Christ is the model, and He is seeking to make you in the likeness of the model. Paul wrote in Ephesians,
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
a. Unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. I love that phrase.
b. You can do some things that may be allowable, but do they build you up in Jesus? Do they draw you closer to Him or push you away?
c. We have just opened the new semester of the Bible College and we had to make a rule about wearing pierced rings. No nose rings, tongue rings, eyebrow rings.
d. You ask, "Are wearing those rings a sin?" No, but they do not build you up in Christ. If you are preparing for the ministry, I can see where a tongue ring would not be expedient in trying to teach the word of God.
7. I explained to the kids that we only have to make rules because they have not yet come to that place of conformance to the image of Jesus.
a. Laws are only for the lawless.
b. If you are doing the right thing, laws never bother you.
III. HOW DO I MEASURE A CERTAIN ACTIVITY so AS TO KNOW WHETHER OR NOT I CAN PARTICIPATE IN IT?
A. Does it impede my being like Jesus. Would I be apt to find Jesus participating with me?
B. Could I be brought under it's power. Could it get such a hold on me that I cannot control myself? Could it enslave me?
C. Does it build me up in Jesus? Does it make me more like Him? Does it build up others? To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus, All I ask, to be like Him. All through life's journey from earth to glory, All I ask, to be like Him.
That person can say, All things are lawful for me.