“FOR THE GLORY OF GOD”
(A Series on I Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 9/6/98 a.m. I Corinthians 10:23-33
PROPOSITION: The freedom that a believer has in Christ with regards to matters of conscience is on condition that he/she is seeking the good of others, is held in tension with the conscience of others, and has the glory of God as its object.
- “I AM my own man....my own woman!”
- “I AM a self-made man or woman!”
- “I PLEASE no one but myself!”
- “I DID it my way!”
- “I DON’T have to answer to anyone!”
- THESE are all lies.
- THE whole culture that we are a part of is full of lies....is actually based on lies.
- IN reality you are not your own.....never have been, never will be.
- IF you are not a follower of Christ, Satan owns you.
* Jesus said in John 8:34,
“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
* Jesus told Paul, in Acts 26:18 that unbelievers are under...
“...the power of Satan.”
* In 2 Timothy 2:26 Paul says that Satan has,
“...taken (unbelievers) captive to do his will.”
- SO, you can sing Frank Sinatra’s song all you like and party till the sun comes up....you are not doing it YOUR way. You are doing it SATAN’S way....and the end of that captivity is eternal death.
- BUT, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, do you know who you belong to?
- WELL, the first and most obvious answer is God.
* Not only is He your creator and the author of ALL life.
* But He also bought you back from slavery to sin, flesh and the devil...through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
* I Corinthians 6:19-20 says,
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”
* And the end result of belonging to Christ is forgiveness of sins, newness of life, and eternal life in God’s presence.
- BUT as a Christian there is someone else that you belong to. Do you know who that is?
* You belong to other members of the body of Christ.
* The ownership that others have of you is via our mutual connection to Christ, but it is no less real.
* Romans 12:5 says,
“...in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
- EVERYTHING you do has immediate and sometimes far-reaching consequences on those who are walking in your tracks....and because of what Christ has done for you, you owe it to those people to live a life worthy of the calling and worthy to be followed.
- YOU are not your own.
* The things you hold as values in life have far-reaching consequences.
• Your values effect me immensely, because they govern your life and choices which impact me immediately.
* The words that come out of your mouth have eternal consequences.
• They either edify, build up those who are listening.
• Or they tear down and inflame bitterness, discord or unbelief.
* Your conduct towards members of the opposite sex has huge ramifications.
• It matters to your spouse.
• It matters to your children.
• It matters to your grandchildren...even if they have not been born yet.
• It matters to your co-workers.
• It matters to your fellow-Christians.
* What you do with your time and energy has huge impact on the family of God and the purposes of the kingdom.
• When God only gets the dregs of your time that drags the rest of us down spiritually, because we are no stronger than the common denominator of our combined spiritual strength.
* How you spend your money is of great significance to me and the rest of God’s family.
• It determines where your heart goes...and that impacts me as a fellow-member of the family of God immediately.
• It effects the financial load that rests on the body of Christ for the ministries of this fellowship.
• God has determined the mission for this church that is based on our combined spiritual gifts being invested here, our time, our energy and our tithes and offerings.....and when one believer witholds his or her best we come up short on God’s purposes for the Northwest.
- THE believers in Corinth were telling Paul that they could do anything they wanted with their lives and that it didn’t matter.
- SO, in I Corinthians 10:23, he comes back to a subject that he has touched on before in this epistle...but it is important enough to re-visit.
- AND in the remaining 11 verses of the chapter Paul shares three principles with the church regarding the conditions of their freedom in Christ as new believers.
- YES, they are free from the bondage of sin.
- YES, they are free from slavery to Satan.
- YES, they are free from the guilt of their past.
- YES, they are free from the whip of the law.
- AND the wonder and exhilaration of their new-found freedom must have been incredible compared to the slavery of their past.
- BUT this freedom could not be carried out of context.
- AND the context was that the believers in Corinth belonged now to God....they were slaves now to righteousness....and belonged to each other in Christ.
ii. free, BUT with a condition
- THEY had caught Paul’s teaching on being free from the myriad of rules and regulations of the Jewish religion but needed the balance of this passage.
- AND the first principle that Paul teaches the believers of Corinth is.....that they are free, but with a condition.
- “EVERYTHING is permissible” was their new slogan....which is why it is in quotation marks in verse 23.
- LET’S start reading I Corinthians 10: 23,
“‘Everything is permissible’-- but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’-- but not everything is constructive. (24) Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (I Corinthians 10:23-24)
- THE condition and context of our Christian liberty is the good of others.
- THE good of others is a higher standard.
- OUR human nature is to seek what is good for me, first and foremost.
- PAUL says, no, we are to be more concerned with what is good for your spouse, your children, your friends, your work associates....all the people who are taking their cues off of you.
- WHAT is beneficial for those people?
- WHAT is constructive for those people?
- THAT is the context of the Christian life.
- YOU are not an island.
- YOU are not your own boss.
- IF we could all stop being so selfish with our lives we would catch a vision of what the kingdom of God is all about.
- IN Matthew 19:19, Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as intensely as we love ourselves.
- IN Romans 12:10, Paul writes,
“Honor one another above yourselves.”
- IN Philippians 2:3-4, Paul writes,
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
- IN I Peter 4:10, the apostle writes,
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.”
- YES, we are free in Christ, but there is more to think of than what pleases me.
- THERE are a host of other people to think of in all of our choices and decisions....some of whom may not even have been born yet.
- (THINKING the other day about encounters I have had in recent months with people who knew my father....who knew my uncles who ministered to the Indian people in South Africa.
* These people have come up to me in India and said, are you J.F. Rowlands’ relative?
* A young Indian girl now attending Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, came up to Vanessa and said....are you related to the Rowlands’ in South Africa?
* An evangelist from the Church of God called my house on Thursday....now in his late sixties....who had worked with my Dad in South Africa, and told me how much he loved my father.)
- THE choices that my two uncles made to serve God with all their hearts. The choices that my father made to serve God faithfully and at great personal cost sometimes....LIVE ON TODAY and still are touching lives and they have been gone for years now.
- YOU and I can’t afford to live just for our own good.
- I WANT to say it again. There are a host of other people to think of in all of our choices and decisions....some of whom may not even have been born yet.
iii. free, BUT LIVING in tension
- THE second principle that Paul teaches the believers of Corinth is....that their freedom will always have to be held in tension with the needs of others, but not under the control of nit-picking members of the family of God either.
- LOOK with me, starting at verse 25,
“Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, (26) for, ‘The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.’”
- WHEN you are operating in your private life there is no need to go overboard questioning every little thing, depriving yourself of things that the Lord has given you to enjoy.
- SO, in your private life you can enjoy the freedom that you have in Christ.
- THEN in verse 27 Paul includes a less private and more social setting,
“If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.”
- DON’T go overboard in this setting either. You risk embarrassing your hosts and spoiling an opportunity to share the Gospel if you offend them.
- SO, in your public life you can enjoy the freedom that you have in Christ.
- VERSE 28,
“But if anyone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake-- (29) the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours.”
- IF someone brings up the sensitivity of an issue in that social setting, then for the sake of the weaker brother who brought it up (or the unbeliever trying to trap you in your freedom), decline the food respectfully.
- BUT then in the last part of verse 29, Paul brings some balance to the subject.....if we find our freedom being stolen by some narrow-minded believer with the ministry of accusation.
- PAUL writes,
“For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? (30) If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?” (I Corinthians 10:25-30)
- SO, here is the tension: one the one hand a commitment to the good of others over my own that is the context for my freedom in Christ. On the other hand some resistance against those who would make a living out of spying on my freedom in Christ.
- THIS is a tension that will require a measure of discernment and discretion on the part of true believers.
iv. free, BUT with a GOAL
- THE last principle that Paul teaches the believers of Corinth on this subject is.....that they are free, but there is a goal that must always be kept in full view.
- TURN with me to verse 31,
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (32) Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God--(33) even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
- THE goal of my life in Christ is not myself, or my freedoms, but the glory of God....and people being saved.
- ARE you living your life, making your choices, in such a way that Jesus is being praised on account of you?
- IN 2 Corinthians 4, Paul is talking about the wonder of the Gospel in earthen vessels like you and me and in verse 15 says,
“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”
- IN John 13:32, God is glorified through Jesus’ suffering and obedience to the cross.
- IN John 21:19 Jesus predicted that Peter’s death would bring glory to the Father.
- ROMANS 15:6 says that with the unity of our heart and mouth we glorify God.
- IN 2 Thessalonians 1:12, Paul writes about victorious living bringing glory to God,
“We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- IN I Peter 2:12 you will find the same theme,
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
- WHY is all of this so important?
- BECAUSE someone is following you.
- IN fact, some scholars believe that the first verse of I Corinthians 11, actually fits better with the themes of the last eleven verses of chapter 10 that we have been studying this morning.
- PAUL writes,
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1)
- THE reason for you to govern your life by what is good for those around you.....is because someone is following your example.
- THE reason that you have to live with the tension of the concerns of weaker fellow-believers....and the controlling spirit of nit-picking fellow-believers....is because someone is following your example.
- THE reason that in all of this we are preeminently concerned with the glory of God....is that someone is following our example.
- AND we belong to THEM....in Christ. We are not our own.
- PAUL says to Timothy, in 1 Timothy 4:12,
“Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”
- SOMEONE’S following your tracks.
- IT may not even be anyone alive right now.
- BUT you have a responsibility on your shoulders for them.....and it has to do with how you choose to live.
- AND the end result will either be glory to God or shame brought on His Name.
- WHICH will it be?