Free To Be All Things To All Men
Free To Be All Things to All Men!
Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 3rd March, 2019
I want to share a few scriptures with you this morning that are quite challenging. They make me feel uncomfortable. And if I’m going to feel uncomfortable – then so are you!
And the reason is, these scriptures create a tension in how we as Christians should be living our lives in relation to the world that we are part of.
It’s one thing to be comfortable together in church life – to know what we believe – to uphold the values of the Word of God – to even be friendly and open to new people who choose to join us… we love all of that…
But I want to read something that Paul said which turns our attention away from ourselves and our safe little community of believers. And it turns us away from our nice, self contained, insulated life.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”
And if that’s not challenging enough, he goes on in:
1 Corinthians 10:32-33, “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
All I can hear through these words is a cry from Paul’s heart – that whatever it takes, short of compromising his own faith, integrity and love of God – he is willing to position himself alongside the religious, the broken, the lawless, the weak… anyone… with the hope that he might at least win some. He might at least save some.
He himself is free. All of you sitting here this morning who know and love Jesus Christ as your Saviour… you are also free. You’re free to live with love, joy, hope, knowing that this life is so temporary, and eternal life is a gift that you’ve already stepped in to.
We could just keep celebrating that freedom together as a church – sharing the love with one another – supporting one another in the household of God. We’re all good! And the bible exhorts us to make sure we care for one another in our own community of faith.
But Paul is showing us God’s heart for all those who are captive to a world and a culture that ultimately holds no hope.
We are free – but many aren’t. Some might think they are free – but when you scratch the surface, it’s a different story.
My message is really about how we live in, and respond to, a culture that we are part of every day… a culture that is increasingly reacting out of hurt, brokenness, pain, emptiness, fear… How many people do you know who are suffering from depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, a broken marriage, rebellious children, technology addicted… pornography addicted…
This is the “normal” world that we live in. But we have been called to be different – we’re not normal – Praise God for that!
We’ve been called as church to be a light on a hill, a lamp that shines bright. It doesn’t shine brightly for itself – it shines for the sake of others.
The reason Paul says he’s willing to serve others and to come alongside them is that he could possibly win some – save some!
Save them from what?
I never want to limit or contain the extent of God’s grace toward anyone. I hope that we’ll be overwhelmingly surprised when we enter heaven, to see the extent of God’s Grace towards men and women.
For those who love and live for Jesus, it says in:
1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
But for those who turn away from God’s salvation and remain unrepentant, it says:
Romans 2:5, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God”
So whatever your theology is of hell… there’s a clear choice everyone has here of either facing the wrath of God or not! That’s pretty clear! I’m not a fan of wrath, that’s for sure.
And that’s what was driving Paul. He could hardly bear the thought that some would face the wrath of God. So he became all things to all men that at least some would be saved.
Have we lost that same driving passion for the lost? Have we forgotten that some people, many people, are going to face the wrath of God? Do we care about that? Is there an urgency within us to reach them – to at least try and bring an influence for good and for God? Because we should be.
Jesus Himself says that narrow is the road that leads to life. The path to destruction is wide – it’s broad – and many take that path.
So here’s the tension for us. How do we do help people find the path to life? How do we come alongside the lawless, the weak, the hurting… and remain solid and strong in God ourselves?
How do we enter their world – their culture – without compromising our faith – but also not to even be seen as though we in any way are falling short…
Jesus did it. He met with sinners – He ate with them – He talked to them. He didn’t seem to have a problem stepping into cultures that were opposed to all that He stood for.
In fact, He had the ability to carry light into dark places. He could bring truth into places and lives full of deception. He had words of life to speak, when all around him were threats of death.
Here’s the thing! We can use our Christian freedom to actually serve others, walk with them in their troubles, support them, encourage them, reveal Christ to them by loving them, and shine some light into their lives.
Galatians 5:13-14, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
Our neighbour isn’t just our Christian friend. Our neighbour is anyone that comes across our path. Our neighbour is all those that God calls us to reach out to.
When I was reading about culture and how as Christians we are supposed to live in the world but not be of it – I came across this simple little analogy about a dolphin.
The culture that surrounds us is like an ocean full of currents, rips and tides. The prevailing culture is pulling people in all different directions all at once. Culture says come this way – this is what love really means! Culture says, this is what the value of life is – this is the worth of an unborn child.
Culture says, this is what success is – this is how much money you should have, what kind of house you should live in, what brings you fulfilment and satisfaction. If you just have this thing, your life will be so much better.
And many people are like jelly fish. They simply go with the tide. They swing this way, then that, forever heeding the call of the current trend. They are captive to the prevailing culture and the loudest voices.
But we are meant to be like a porpoise. We live in the culture of the world – but we have the ability to dart and dive and weave our way in amongst all the tides and currents of the ocean. We are not controlled by the tides. We ride the waves when it benefits us, we swim against the rips without a problem when it doesn’t.
Whereas everyone else might be going with the latest fad or trend – we have our eyes always on the goal of influencing others for Christ and drawing them toward heaven.
The only way we will really transform our culture, is one life at a time.
Romans 12:2, (Passion). “Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think…”
This is not just a word for believers – but a call to the unsaved as well.
1 Peter 2:11-12, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
We are pilgrims! We’re travelling through. We don’t belong here. We belong in another realm. But we have to learn how to navigate our lives in such a way that we reveal Christ to as many as possible – and that happens through our good works, our servant heart, our non-judgemental attitudes. It happens through our love for the lost. It’s has to be God’s love for people – to the extent that we would become whatever is necessary to even win and save a few.
In many ways we look just like everyone one else. And so we should. We have to live and be as relevant as we can be. We dress like most others, we drive cars like most others, we go to the same cafes, we work in the same work places… we can do all that without any compromise at all.
We’d reach no one if we walked around in sackcloth and ashes, or dressed like someone out of the first century. There are some that do.
How standing on a street corner with a microphone telling everyone they are going to hell would draw anyone to Christ is a mystery to me.
We have to be real people living in a real world – but loving and serving others because we desperately want them to glorify God! We want them to see that there is a way to walk through the really tough times – there is a strength that carries us through tragedy and disaster.
As I’m writing this, I’m just thinking about the way some people, even other Christians, describe us Pentecostals as “happy clappers.” I’m far from being offended by that – it’s not a bad description. Mostly we are very happy for our salvation – and clapping is just one way of expressing that. But we are far more than that!
We need to be real with those who need strength and courage as they face the reality that life isn’t always happy. We need to live our own lives in a way that demonstrates something much deeper and enduring than happiness.
In fact, we are ultimately called to be Holy.
1 Peter 1:15-16, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
To be Holy, as we all know, is to be set apart. Set apart from what? Set apart from the “normal” life that I described before – the life dictated by self centred living. Set apart to represent Jesus – to live for Him.
It’s having pure motives. Not getting entangled in gossip, judgements, self righteous attitudes… but praying for wisdom, compassion, discernment, words of knowledge, and using those and other gifts of the Spirit to break through people’s preconceived religious concepts.
We are called to build bridges, not burn them. Give grace to others just as Jesus Christ has extended grace to us.
All the while, standing firm on the Rock of our salvation. All the while, keeping the Word of God as our foundation. The Word is always powerful, always alive, always relevant, no matter what culture we find ourselves in.
2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
I like the way the Passion Translation expresses it:
2 Timothy 4:2 (Passion), “proclaim the Word of God and stand upon it no matter what! Rise to the occasion and preach when it is convenient and when it is not. Preach in the full expression of the Holy Spirit —with wisdom and patience as you instruct and teach the people.”
Where we find ourselves right now, is in a culture that not only legalises but celebrates sin, and increasingly we see a stark opposition to the word of God. So you’d have to say, as far as our culture in concerned, the bible is pretty much out of season. But we are to proclaim it and stand on it no matter what.
The vital key, as this scripture says, to our influence and success, is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We need His wisdom and patience.
After all, of ourselves, we couldn’t save a flea. We can’t win someone or save someone. But we partner with the Holy Spirit in everything.
Earlier on in this letter to Timothy, Paul says, difficult times will come. And over the past two thousand years, difficult times have come and gone. Seasons have come and gone.
But this is our season. We have been born for such a time as this. And the Word of God is life in this season as much as it has been in any other.
We need to have the word so planted in our heart that we live it. That we influence our culture by it. That we stand rock solid in our faith and in the Word, in times of challenge and trial. Not in a disconnected way, but in a real way.
You know, there’s one section of scripture we should probably speak over ourselves every single day.
And I want to finish with this. I’ve brought Romans 12 to you a number of times before. Be convicted by it. Be inspired by it. This is a summary of how to live a Christian life that is real and has the incredible power to bring transformation to our world.
The heading in the NKJV is “Behave Like A Christian.”
Romans 12:9-21, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”
Don’t say you love someone, then stab them in the back with a critical word to another. In fact, hate evil words. Hate words of witchcraft. Witchcraft is not just some spooky spell spoken over a caldron. Witchcraft can be gossip and words that pull down and bring division. Instead, cling to goodness. Cling to healing. Cling to faith and hope. Cling to words that build up and strengthen.
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”
When we are serving others and laying our lives down for them, we are serving the Lord. When we do it for the least, the broken, the unlovely… we are actually doing it to Jesus. What a privilege.
Hospitality – it’s a powerful way to connect and express the heart of God.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Here it is again. We started off this morning talking about becoming all things to all men – becoming as weak to those who are weak… I see it as being humble, having godly compassion, meeting people right where they are at.
“Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.”
Oh, we can be so right in our own opinion. It’s called self-righteousness. And it stinks.
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”
We’ve all been hard done by. We’ve all been offended. How many times in my 24 years in ministry could I have either reacted with an outburst of vengeance, or simply walked away in disgust. But I didn’t, because Christ never walked away from me – He has never taken vengeance against me for some of the stupid things I’ve done or said.
If you want to stay strong til the end, take a hit or two, and let God Himself deal with vengeance if He so chooses.
“Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
That last sentence just about sums up this entire message.
Overcome evil by doing good! Even to our enemies – those who might hate us or not understand us.
That is culture transforming. Let the Holy Spirit do the convicting. Let him change people’s hearts. We just do good! We just serve others. We just love.
Even loving one another in the body of Christ is a sign to our generation that we are the disciples of Christ. But let’s go way beyond that and extend ourselves to the world we live in.
These things I’m talking about this morning are the most powerful forms of evangelism – in my humble opinion.
We are free! Free to love! Free to express Christ! Free to allow the Holy Spirit to use us to transform our world. Free to roll up our selves and serve humanity.
I started out saying these scriptures make me feel uncomfortable. And that’s because they challenge me and convict me. But when I really understand what they are saying – I think they actually set me free.
And who knows? We might win some to Christ. Some might actually be saved!