Faithlife Sermons

March 11, 2018 Morning Service

Philipians - Lessons in Living!  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:12
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FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF MANCHESTER because of it. I personally feel there are many advantages. And I admire people, such as some PHILIPPIANS 4:8-9 Christian businesspeople or politicians who do not LESSONS FOR LIVING drink as their personal conviction, even though it creates tension in situations when it is socially CHOOSE THE expected. ETTER HINGS But what happens to this conviction when you go to B T France, and see the leading deacon of an evangelical PASTOR DAVID SAYLOR MAR. 11, 2018 Protestant church going around a large ring of children Phil. 4:8-9 at a Sunday school picnic mixing a little wine with their In our series in Philippians that I entitled, “Lessons cups of water? Why he did it was to prevent their in Living” we come to another very practical and getting sick on the water in a rural area, but the main important one today. point is his attitude toward alcohol. Or what happens when you read about great The verses we read are a statement of one of God’s Christians (C.S. Lewis or Martin Luther), that you rules for “doubtful things.” They introduce us to the admire as giants in the faith – and find that they had problems of regulating our conduct in areas of life no problem sitting at a pub discussing theology with a where the Bible is not entirely explicit. Should a brew and a cigar? Christian drink alcohol or not? Can he/she enter The standard was and still is quite different in politics? To what extent can a believer adopt the various parts of the world, even among people who standards of the times and society they live in, whether believe all that the most conservative Christians they be lifestyle or dress or whatever – when that thing believe about the Gospel. is not a clearly defined sin or virtue? Such examples, about “gray areas” or “doubtful Varying Standards things” - not about areas where the Scripture is clear For example, former missionary Elisabeth Elliot (this is a vice/virtue), but where there are concerns, yet wrote on these issues in a book called The Liberty of no simple answers – should drive us to find the Obedience. She always had the idea from her strong important principles of Scripture for guidance. That’s Christian upbringing, that there was a certain type of what we are going to do today. clothing that was right and wrong for a Christian to What are they? I’m going to give you three wear. principles that will help any Christian in 99 percent of Then she went to Ecuador as a missionary and situations. They are found throughout Scripture, but found herself in the midst of a tropical people who only can be summarized in three important verses: Romans wore clothes when it was cold….and it was never cold 6:14; 1 Corinthians 6:12 (also 10:23); and here in there! What did her standards have to do with them? Philippians 4:8. Should she re-dress new converts to fit her idea of They tell us: Christian modesty, or should their standards prevail? She said the problem became even more complex • that we are to live the same way as we have been when in time she realized that, although the women in saved - by grace; the tribe wore almost no clothing, they nevertheless • that we are to think first, of others; had standards. They had proper ways to walk, to sit, • and that we are to pursue the better or highest things. and stand that their culture thought modest. So the entire problem forced her to ask herself if there is I. NOT LAW, BUT GRACE anything inherently Christian or non-Christian in the The first principle, then, is that we are not under way we dress in America (or Ecuador)? law; we are under grace. The text is (p.1120) Another area with uncertain answers is alcohol. The Romans 6:14 “For sin will have no dominion over Bible has much to say about the sin of drunkenness, you, since you are not under law but under grace.” but should a Christian drink any alcohol at all? This verse teaches that whatever the answer may be to I must tell you up front that I do not drink any the problem of doubtful practices, it is not legalism. In alcohol, so if I have bias, it’s in that direction I this context, legalism means that the answer will never suppose. That decision is something I am totally be found by consensus of any group of Christians to comfortable with and I do not feel at all deprived declare whether or not movies, cigarettes, alcohol, war, or whatever it may be, is proper or wrong. physically. (Alcoholism) THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL 2. Second, because through him it may hurt other Historically, this problem was fought to a decisive Christians. conclusion in the first generation of the church. The first reason is given in (p1134) 1 Corinthians Because of the wide dispersion of Jews through the 6:12 (ESV)12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not Roman world in the centuries before Christ, there was all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” hardly a congregation of believers during the first but I will not be dominated by anything.” Paul knew Christian century that did not consist of a mixture of that God had not set him free from sin and the law in Jews and Gentiles, even in the most gentile cities of the order for him to become captive to mere things. empire, like Philippi. The guiding principle here is whether you as a Because of their background, the Jewish Christians Christian are using things or whether things are using got the idea that the gentile believers should submit to you. When they use you, they become a idol…. the ceremonial laws of Israel, and the result was a Take food for an example. Nothing can be as tremendous battle, in which for a time the apostle Paul obviously good and necessary for a person as food; it is fought almost single-handedly against them. For a time necessary for bodily strength as well as mental health. even Peter was carried away with the error. But Paul But it is possible for a person to become so addicted to resisted him (Gal. 2:11–14) and later defended the case overeating that the good end is thwarted and the for gentile (and Jewish) liberty before the other person’s health is endangered. Hence, certain eating apostles in Jerusalem. habits should be avoided (v. 13). Read more in Acts 15, but the result was in the early A second example is sex (vv. 13–20). This too is church the battle against legalism was won for pure good: it is a gift of God. Within the bonds of marriage grace, as Rom. 6:14 says. it is a force for strength in the home as well as an expression of close union. But it too can be destructive. It is also true, however, that the same passage in It can control the person instead of the person Romans that speaks against legalism also speaks controlling it, and in this form, sex can destroy the very against another wrong approach to the problem. This values it was created to maintain. error is the error of license - the teaching that because we are not under law but under grace Christians can The Bible teaches that the Christian must never use therefore do whatever they please. things—food, sex, drugs, alcohol, cars, homes, stocks, or whatever it may be—in such a way that he or she The very next verse says, Romans 6:15 What then? actually falls under their power. In some of these cases, Are we to sin because we are not under law but under such as the case of habit-forming drugs, I would say grace? By no means! that 1 Corinthians 6:12 is an unequivocable warning to He adds, Romans 6:22 But now that you have been avoid them. set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the Later on, in 1 Corinthians, Paul gives a second fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal reason why something may not be expedient: the life. freedom of one believer may hurt the spiritual growth Paul’s argument is that life by grace actually leads of another. Here in 1 Cor. 10:23 Paul says, to holiness and, hence, we should not fear to abolish “ ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is legalism as an answer to the problems of Christian beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not conduct. (But if that’s your excuse to do whatever you everything is constructive”. The verses that follow like …, you missed it.) show that he is thinking of the nurture and growth of fellow Christians. 1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one II. ALL THINGS ARE NOT BENEFICIAL seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. The second principle for determining God’s will in I do not believe this verse means you have to take doubtful matters is that although all things are lawful your standards of conduct entirely from what other for the Christian—because he is not under law but Christians say or think. If you do that, you are either under grace—all things are not expedient or beneficial. going to become hypocritical, schizophrenic, or go That is true for two reasons: crazy! 1. First, because the thing itself may gain a harmful In the 70’s. Ethel Barrett, became a popular and control over him or have a harmful effect on him sought after person regarding her Bible teaching Page 2 of 4 among children. She tells of her early experiences with conduct in doubtful areas is (p1166) Philippians 4:8 matters of dress as she first began to travel about the Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is country. honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, She came from California, and her standards of whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there dress were formed by the climate and style of is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, California. Her clothes were modest, yet bright; she think about these things. wore makeup and large hats. When she went East she The word “think”, means to “occupy one’s mind, soon met some for whom her standards of dress were focus on, lean into”. According to this verse the unspiritual. They said, “Why does she look like that? Christian is to decide between doubtful things by That is no way for a Christian to dress.” focusing on and choosing the BETTER THINGS. Being less experienced then, she took it to heart. That is Lesson for Living NO. 5. She changed her clothes and stopped wearing makeup. It was not long, however, before some new remarks You will need to work out this on your own for the got back to her: “Why does she have to look so drab most part, knowing that God’s Word tells us that just and unpleasant? She would have a much more because something is lawful it may not be beneficial, effective and spiritual ministry if she would brighten AND God wants us to be discerning in our lives and herself up a bit.” under grace, choose the better things - for our benefit At this point you want to throw up your hands and and for His glory. AND we need to do that each day quit. She didn’t. But she learned through experience of our lives. These 3 principles will guide us. that you cannot take all of your standards of conduct But in our remaining time, I want make a point from from other Christians. Phil. 4:8 is there, but may not be readily apparent. No, the verse (and principle) does not mean that you POINT: This “choosing” also includes the better are to allow the prejudices and viewpoints of others to things in our world, even those that are not dictate your pattern of behavior. explicitly Christian. Yet the verse does mean something. It says there are For in this verse lies in the fact (not always noticed) situations in which we must avoid certain things, even that the virtues mentioned here are not like the other if they are right in themselves, lest they be detrimental great lists of Christian virtues - lists that include love, to others. joy, peace, patience, and so on. These are assumed too, Let me give you an example. Suppose you have of course. And very important. been witnessing to a young man who has been having But, on the whole, this list is taken from Greek a hard time overcoming sexual sins or alcohol. He has ethics and from the writings of the Greek philosophers. become a Christian, but the lure of the flesh is still with In using them Paul is actually INCLUDING the best him. virtues of the Philippian cultural situation. This verse means that you had better not take him He is saying that, in the area of “doubtful things,” into certain situations where the temptation runs high, although the pursuit of the best things by Christians for he may be harmed by your freedom. will always necessarily mean the pursuit of: fellowship In the same way, it would be a detriment to serve with God, the will of God, all means to advance the alcohol to anyone for whom it may be a problem; and Gospel, and all the Christian virtues - it also means for that person’s sake, we would certainly avoid it also. choosing the best values the world has to offer. The Think about this. Paul the same apostle who had things that are acknowledged to be honorable by the defended the cause of Christian liberty so powerfully best people everywhere are also worthy to be before the Jerusalem apostles, also wrote 1 cultivated by Christians. Whether it’s in a tribe in Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother Ecuador or in America. stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother Consequently, Christians can/should love all that is stumble. true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, Here is the J-O-Y principle in action. Some things, wherever they find it. namely other people’s needs, esp. spiritual ones, have Christians should rejoice in the best of art and good a higher priority than our freedoms. literature. III. CHOOSE THE BETTER THINGS They can thrill to great music. They can appreciate The third and final principle that helps to direct our beautiful architecture, or a finely crafted guitar or Page 3 of 4 piece of pottery. We should do it. You should do it. Christians can thank God for giving us the ability, even in our fallen state, to create things of beauty. And with redeemed, spiritual eyes we can discern the image of God behind them and give Him thanks. CONCLUSION Moreover, as you use these principles for determining God’s will in doubtful things, you can also take confidence from the promise of God’s presence that accompanies it. Philippians 4:9 (ESV)9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. When, under grace, we pursue the highest things in life, wherever found, then the God of peace will be with us. And we shall have the confidence that he will bless and guide us as we seek to please him. GOSPEL If you are here today and you wonder what Christianity is all about – there’s a good chance that what you’ve heard about it is wrong. That it’s about following the rules and rituals and commandments in the hopes that we can please a holy, judging God. If we don’t, were out. If we do, we’re in. But the Bible says that Christians are not made right with God by our actions, by keeping the rituals and commands. But we are made right by the GRACE of God alone. Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Even one sin is enough to separate us from God forever, that’s why God sent Jesus, His Son – to atone for our sins, to die for your sins in your place. The BAD NEWS is you can’t be good enough but the GOOD NEWS is God knows that, and loved us enough to send His Son to be your covering, your Savior. And you are saved THROUGH FAITH in Jesus Christ. It’s a gift. That’s grace. If you will repent in your heart, admitting your sin and turn to Jesus Christ in faith, he WILL save you. 1 1 I am indebted to the following for much of the teaching Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker in this message: James Montgomery Boice, Philippians: An Books, 2000), 244–249. Page 4 of 4
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