This is a continuation of our series on Christian Liberty. If you have not read Part 1, please do so first.
II. The Questions for Direction
The New Testament does not just deal in “dos and don’ts.” Instead, it deals with principles and attitudes. This saying explains this well: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It is not merely about telling you what to think, but it is about teaching you how to think through the liberty. Use these test questions as the parameters for exercising Christian Liberty.
1. Does It Cultivate Holiness?
“ but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’” (1 Pet 1:15).
The reference to “all behavior” includes the practice of Christian freedom. We too misuse our liberties for our own selfish reasons instead using them as a means of living holy lives. Is your liberty making you more holy? Are you defined by your liberty or by your godly character and your holiness?
2. Does It Discourage Worldliness?
John shows a distinction between us and the world (1 John 2:15-17). Though we are in the world and we are to minister to those who are in the world; we are not supposed to be like them. Sometimes the exercise of our “liberties” makes us look more like the unbelieving world than it does Christ. Liberties can be abused and even cause us to have the same mindset as unbelievers. Ask yourself if it makes your behavior looks more like the Christ and not like the society.
Does your entertainment choices and hobbies are all displaying a good testimony to the world? “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).
3. Does It Stumble Your Brother?
In Corinth, knowledgeable brothers knew that meat sacrificed to idols was nothing, so they partook of it because they themselves knew there was only one true God (1 Cor 8:1-13). However, their reckless exercise of this liberty was ruining the spiritual health of weaker believers who had struggled with this sin in the past. Paul tells the knowledgeable believers to be more sensitive to the exercise of their liberty, because the liberty can turn into a sin against Christ if leads others to stumble into sin.
Think of your brothers when you exercise your liberty. You may have exercise your specific Christian liberty, but you need to be considerate about how it may potentially harm the brothers and sisters around you.
4. Does It Weigh You Down?
There are things in our lives that weigh us down, and they prevent us from running our race, the Christian life, as we should. (Hebrews 12:1). Now, these things are not inherently sinful (and I believe liberties are in this category), but holding firmly to them might be weighing us down more than helping us in our endeavors to live for Christ.
What in your life is causing you to stumble and fall? What is preventing you from fulfilling your Christian responsibilities? Why is it so easy to exercise our liberties and Christian freedom, but it is torture to come to serve others in ministry? Why do we make time for eating out and movies but not make time for discipleship and accountability?
Don’t let your flesh take control of how you exercise your liberties. Run in such a way as to win, and you will do this by exercising self-control over the distractions of the liberty (1 Cor 9:24-27).
5. Does It Bring You Benefit?
Corinth thought “everything is permissible” for them, which led to their promiscuity and licentious living (1 Cor 6:12). Paul affirms there’s freedom, but he does not affirm that it is always beneficial. You may have every right to practice it, but it may not be profitable for you to practice.
First, check to see if you are enslaved by your liberty. Paul in one sense is saying that letting your Christian freedom control you is not freedom at all. Liberty becomes slavery when you desire to practice it above everything else. Like a child who will not give up his toy, we get very protective over our Christian liberties.
Second, check to see if it edifies your brother (1 Cor 10-23-24). Liberty is not beneficial when others are not being loved through it. Christian freedom was not meant solely for your own personal benefit. It was meant to be exercised for the benefit of others.
6. Does It Glorify God?
This is the ultimate filter for the practice of Christian freedom. Gordon Fee says, “Hence ‘freedom’ does not mean that one does whatever one wishes with no regard for others; nor do the limits on freedom suggested here mean that another’s conscience dictates conduct. To the contrary, everything is for God’s glory and for the sake of the Gospel, that is, for the good of all, which from Paul’s point of view means that they might be saved.”
All things must be done to His glory (1 Cor 10:31-33; Col 1:16). This is the filter for your smoking, drinking, tattoos, music, movies and games. If it cannot be done to the glory of God, then it must not be done at all. This is why I don’t believe there are any neutral or non-moral actions. There cannot be liberties that are morally “indifferent.” Every action of the believer is an issue of morality, because all actions are done with respect to the character and glory of our God.
Become protective over the glory of God and not your preferences or your rights. Exercise liberty to the glory of His Name.
Here is the video of the sermon: