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Robert Jeffress - Ties That Bind


Robert Jeffress - Ties That Bind
TOPICS: Straight Answers to Tough Questions, Freedom

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Someone once said that true freedom is not the power to do what we want, but the power to do what we ought. Sounds like the opposite of our typical American ideal, don't you think? Well, today we're going to look at a serious warning from Paul. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul cautions us against abusing our freedom in Christ. My message is titled "Ties That Bind" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Those of you who have children and grandchildren probably have witnessed this phenomenon before. You tell your small child or grandchild that they're free to have as much fun as they want to in the house, but the one thing they're not to do is to touch that special bowl sitting on the coffee table. "Whatever you do," you say, "Don't touch that bowl". Now, the child is free to roam anywhere and everywhere in the house, but where are they drawn like a magnet to? Right toward that bowl, and if you watch them, they'll circle around the bowl, they'll look at it and then they get closer and closer, and they reach their hand out a little ways and then pull it back, and then inevitably, they reach and reach and reach until they touch the bowl. And then comes the slap and the tears, and everything else that goes along with it.

Have you ever wondered why that is? It's because freedom inevitably leads us toward the edge of sin and eventually over the edge and into sin. You see that in a number of different ways. If you're driving along the tollway, the freeway, you see the speed limit, it doesn't matter what it is, 55, 65, 70. What is our natural tendency? We want to get as close as we possibly can to that limit, or we want to go as far over the limit as we can without incurring the wrath of a state trooper, don't we? And we could go any one of a number of different speeds, but we want to go as close to the limit as possible. Freedom has a way of leading us to the edge of sin.

I remember when I was a youth minister, one of the questions most frequently asked of me by teenagers was this. You know, how far can we go with our boyfriend or girlfriend? You know, when we're necking, how far can we go without it being sin? I don't think I ever once had anybody ask, how little can we do and get away with it? It's always how much can we do without going into immorality? You know, that tendency to use our freedom to move toward the edge of sin is nothing new. In fact, we inherited it from the fall. Remember in the Garden of Eden, God said to Adam and Eve, "You can eat of any tree you want to in the garden, there's just one tree you're not to touch, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil". Where were they drawn? Not to all of the trees they could have enjoyed, but to that one forbidden tree.

You know, as Christians, you and I have been delivered from the burdensome requirements of the law. We are free, and yet in the passage we're going to look at tonight, Paul says do not allow your freedom to cause you to pursue sin. Instead, your freedom ought to be used to pursue Godliness, and that's the theme of 1 Corinthians chapter 10, using our freedom to pursue Godliness and not sin. If you have your Bibles, turn now to 1 Corinthians chapter 10. Remember, chapters eight, nine and 10 of 1 Corinthians actually form a unit, and Paul is answering the question, is it okay for Christians to eat meat that has been sacrificed to an idol? And of course, Paul's theme is, yes, we may have the freedom in Christ to do that, but if it causes our brother to stumble, we need to restrict our freedom in order to benefit other believers. And we really have to use this whole unit, look at it as an entire section.

Remember I said in chapter eight, we have the exhortation. I said write that word exhortation over chapter eight. Limit your freedom for the sake of others. And then in chapter nine, he gives an illustration of where he did that personally. Paul said, "Here's a freedom I limited for the sake of the gospel. I had the right to be paid by you Corinthians for my service to you, but I gave up that right for a greater cause, the spread of the gospel". And then when we get to chapter 10, you can write the word application over chapter 10. Paul's going to take this truth about limiting our freedom of Christ and apply it to some very specific situations that the Corinthians were facing. But before he gets to the application that actually begins in verse 14, Paul gives a warning that we looked at in verses one to 13 last week.

When Paul started addressing the so-called mature Christians in Corinth, the Christians who said, "Ah, we can eat meat offered to idols. There's nothing wrong with it. We don't care what anybody else thinks". He saw a dangerous attitude in them, an attitude of complacency. They thought they would be exempt from falling into sin like other people were. And remember the key verse in verse 12. He said, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall". He said, Corinthians, if you think you're exempt from falling into sin, remember what happened to the Israelites. They had experienced God's supernatural deliverance, his supernatural provision in the wilderness, his supernatural revelation of God's law, and yet even though they were God's people, their complacency caused them to fall into sin and experience God's judgment.

And Paul said don't make the same mistake. He would say to the members of First Baptist Church Dallas, yes, you have experienced Christ's salvation. Through the years, you have sat under great teaching. You have seen God's miraculous hand at work in this church and in your personal lives. But don't think those things exempt you from falling into sin. Any one of us at any moment could fall into sin and experience the judgment of God in our lives. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall". And now when we get to verse 14 of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is going to apply this idea of limiting your freedom in Christ for the sake of another to three very specific situations.

For example, situation number one, he's going to talk about this possibility. Let's say you're in the marketplace where meat that has been sacrificed to idols is on sale. Is it okay to purchase that meat? As we'll see next week in verse 25, he says, yes, you can go ahead and purchase it, as long as it doesn't hurt the conscience of another person. And then he says in verse 27, what about this situation? Let's say that you're having dinner at someone's house, maybe it's a home of a non-Christian, and the non-Christian's about to serve this big slab of roast beef to you, and as they're getting ready to serve the meat to you, they say, "Oh, by the way, this is special meat. It's meat that has been sacrificed to an idol".

Is it okay to eat that meat in an unbeliever's home? And Paul's going to say in verse 27, yes, it's fine to eat it, as long as it doesn't cause another person to stumble. Well, these Corinthians were saying, okay, it's okay to purchase meat that has been offered to an idol, secondly, it's okay to eat meat that's been purchased or that has been sacrificed to an idol. Well, if those freedoms belong to us, why don't we go one step further? Is it okay, Paul, for us to go to the temple of Venus, to an idol temple, and actually participate in the worship of an idol? After all, if there's no such thing as an idol and we're free to do that, why can't we go up there and have some fun in that temple where idols are worshiped and engage in the worship of idols? Is that permissible for a Christian? See what happens?

These Corinthians wanted to use their freedom to get closer and closer and closer to the edge of sin, and when they asked that third question, Paul said, "Absolutely not". To worship idols, to in any way be engaged in the worship of idols is absolute sin, and that's where we pick up in verse 14. Look at what he says. Paul writes, "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry". Corinthians, instead of seeing how close to the edge of idolatry you can get without falling into it, run as far and as fast as you can in the other direction. You know, I was looking in the Bible this week, the number of times that the word flee is used.

Let me give you just some of the references where the word flee, to run quickly from is used. 1 Corinthians 6:18. We are to flee immorality. Paul said, "Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body". Have you ever heard people say, "Oh, there's no difference in sexual sin than any other kind of sin. All sin is the same". No, it's not. Now, in God's eyes, any sin is enough to incur his judgment. Any sin is enough to be separated from God, but all sin is not the same. There are different sins that have different effects on us, and Paul said sexual immorality is different than any other sin. Every other sin is outside the body. The immoral, sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Flee immorality. Or listen to this, 1 Timothy 6, verse 11. "But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness". Or in 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul said again to Timothy, "Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness".

You know what we do? Instead of fleeing and running away from sin, we want to see how long we can linger around the edges of it without getting burned, and we always end up getting burned. You know, one of the best examples of what it means to flee from sin rather than use our freedom to run towards sin is the Old Testament story of Joseph. Remember Genesis chapter 39, Joseph had been made by the providence of God the steward over Potiphar's household. Potiphar was in charge of the military under Pharaoh, and he had put Joseph in charge, being the steward over all of his domestic affairs. And remember, Mrs. Potiphar had a thing for Joseph. She was always coming on to him, trying to get him involved in sexual immorality, and at one point he said, "No. How could I do this great thing and sin against God"?

Joseph, even though he was far away from home, he had that God is here mentality in his life. He always realized that God was watching and evaluating every one of his actions, so he knew that even though he was far away from home and he knew that nobody who had known him before would ever know that he was involved with Mrs. Potiphar, he knew that God would know it, and he said, "No. How can I do this thing and sin against God"? Just because you say no to temptation once, don't think you'll never experience it again, because the next verse says, day after day, she came to Joseph, and one day, remember, she was alone with him in the house, and she grabbed him by the shoulder and she said, "Lie with me". He didn't linger at all. In fact, the Bible says he ran so quickly in the other direction that Mrs. Potiphar was left holding a piece of his garment in her hand.

See, Joseph understood that his freedom might allow him to stay there. Oh, he could stay there, if he wanted to, but he was too wise for that. He knew that his freedom should be used not to pursue sin, but to pursue righteousness. That's what a wise person does. And that's exactly what Paul is saying to the Corinthians. He said flee from tempting situations, flee from idolatry. You cannot mix the worship of Christ and the worship of idols. He illustrates that truth in two very specific ways. First of all, by the Lord's table. He says the Lord's table illustrates how you can't mix idolatry and Christianity. You say, "Well, how does that work"? Look at verses 15 to 17. He says, "I speak as to wise men: you judge what I say. Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body: for we all partake of one bread".

Let me explain what he's saying here. He's saying when we worship together at the Lord's table, we're not just worshiping any and every God. We're worshiping one God and his son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This particularly struck me this week when I was preparing next week's sermon about hell and about this heretical book that rob bell has written, called "Love wins". He actually says in the book that the Eucharist, the Lord's table is actually for people of all religions who come together. Some people actually are followers of other religions with other Gods, but they don't realize that they're really worshiping Christ. They call him by another God. But the Lord's table is the picture of people of all religions coming together.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul says just the opposite. He said when we come to the Lord's table, we're not just worshiping any God, we're worshiping the one God who manifested himself in Jesus Christ. We are remembering his body, his blood that was shed for us. You can't mix idolatry with true faith in Christ. He said here's another example of the Israelite feast in verse 18. "Look at the nation Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar"? When these Israelites shared in the feast, they were not participating in sacrifices and feasts to Molech or to Baal or to Asherah. They were worshiping a specific God, the only true God. You cannot mix idolatry and Christianity.

Now, Paul is saying that participating in idol feast is the very same thing as worshiping an idol, and so the Corinthians wonder, well, Paul, how is that? If there is no such thing as an idol, what does it matter if we go up to the temple of Venus and participate in this idol worship? If idols aren't real, what difference does it make? Paul answers that question by, first of all, telling us the truth about idols. Look at verse 19. "What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything or the idol is anything"? He's saying, is there anything real about an idol? Of course not. There's nothing real about an idol. Jot down Psalm 115, verses four to eight that demonstrates how impotent that idols really are.

Look at Psalm 15, verses four to eight, 115. "Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man's hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak: they have eyes, but they cannot see: they have ears, but they cannot hear: they have noses, but they cannot smell: they have hands, but they cannot feel: they have feet, but they cannot walk: they cannot make a sound with their throat. Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them". The truth about idols, there's nothing real about them at all. But don't miss this second thing Paul says in verses 20 and 22. He's going to tell us the truth about demons.

Look at verse 20. "No, but I say that the things which the gentile sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God: I do not want you to become sharers in demons". We've looked at the truth about demons on Sunday mornings. Demons are fallen angels that Satan uses to accomplish his purpose, and what Paul is saying is there is nothing real about idols, but behind every idol, behind every false religion is a demonic presence, a demonic power, and there is something very, very real about demons. In fact, demons can actually take, now get this, they can take lifeless, inanimate objects like idols and give them supernatural powers. Did you know that? Satan, demons have the power to give inanimate objects the ability to perform supernatural works.

Think about Pharaoh's magicians, for example. They had the ability to work magic. We ought to test every experience, every truth by not whether or not it's miraculous, but whether it aligns with the Word of God. That is the test by whether something is of God or of Satan. But the fact is, Satan has the ability to perform miracles. Now, if you find that difficult to believe, turn over in your Bible, hold your place here, and turn over to the Book of Revelation. Revelation chapter 13. In the final years of earth's history, the tribulation, the false prophet, remember, he is antichrist's lieutenant, is going to be given power to give life to a lifeless representation of the antichrist.

Look at Revelation 13, verses 13 to 15. Talking about the false prophet, John says, "He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth and the presence of men". He'll have the ability to call down fire from heaven. "And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image, an idol of the beast, who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. And it was given to him," that is the false prophet, "To give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed".

You say, why would God allow a false prophet to have such miraculous power in order to deceive people? The New Testament says over and over again, when you reject the truth of God, God will send a deluding lie to you so that you cannot believe the truth. That is the punishment for rejecting the truth of God. That's what's going to happen in the final day. Demons will use lifeless idols to deceive people. So we shouldn't be surprised that demons use something as seemingly harmless as an idol, as a false religion, to accomplish their purpose. Listen to Psalm 106, verses 34 to 37. "They do not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and they learned their practices, and served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons".

Now, when the Israelites and the Canaanites sacrificed children, did they think they were sacrificing them to demons? Of course not. They thought they were sacrificing them to Gods, to deities, but they weren't. Behind those false religions were demons that were being used to deceive people. You know, we'd get this idea in our inclusive culture that, well, you know, everybody, regardless of their religion, they're following after the same God, and they just call him different names, but it's all the same God. No, it's not. Allah is not God. Allah is not another name for God. Buddha is not God.

The Bible says there is one God. We get this idea that these people are just sincere followers of the truth. They're just trying to find God in their way. It's harmless, these other religions. No, these religions, every one of them is demonically inspired to lead people away from the true God. I cannot believe the churches I'm reading about right now that are actually renting out their church facilities to the Muslims, to the Buddhists, to the seventh day adventist, to other groups, renting out their churches to meet in, as if they are some harmless group coming into their church. When you rent out your church and invite other religions to come in, you're opening your church up to demons. That's all that is. Every other religion is demonically inspired.

That's what the Bible says. Look at verses 21 to 22. "For you cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than he, are we"? There is a very real spiritual force going on between the forces of darkness and the forces of light, and it's important that we understand you cannot mix truth and error. Freedoms, if we're not careful, can become idols in our life that wrap their tentacles around us and choke out our love for God. Paul's message tonight to all of us is to celebrate your freedom in Christ, but use that freedom to run from sin, not pursue sin. Use your freedom in Christ instead to pursue righteousness. Therefore, my beloved, flee idolatry.
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