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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - The Other Side of Freedom - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - The Other Side of Freedom - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - The Other Side of Freedom - Part 2
TOPICS: Straight Answers to Tough Questions, Freedom

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. If someone were to offer you a million dollars right now or $10 million in a decade, which would you choose? It would be very hard to resist that immediate payout, wouldn't it? But in many ways, the discipline to wait for something better is what the Christian life is all about. Today, we'll look at a time when the apostle Paul turned down earthly rewards in order to achieve a greater purpose. My message is titled "The Other Side of Freedom" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Have you ever heard that verse before, "Don't muzzle the ox while he's threshing"? It's one of Paul's favorites. He used it in 1 Timothy 5:18 when he talks about paying the pastor, the minister. He said, "Don't muzzle the ox while he's threshing". What is all that about? Well, the Egyptians had this custom that the Jews took for themselves, of taking these oxen to help them in the process of threshing wheat, and this is what they would do. They would take an oxen, and they would tie a big stone to the oxen, and the ox would drag this stone around the threshing floor, and then they would throw out the wheat on the floor, the grain on the floor, and when this rock would go over it, it would crush the grain, separating the husk from the seed. And that's how they did the threshing process.

So this ox is walking around. It is carrying this heavy stone. It's in the process, separating the seed from the husk, and Moses and Paul said, now, in that process, you wouldn't think of putting a muzzle on the ox while he is working so hard. The oxen ought to be free to eat what they're producing. That's what he's talking about. He goes on to say, look at this, "God is not concerned about oxen, is he"? That's not saying God doesn't care about animals. God loves animals. The point is the reason God's word says this is not for the sake of oxen. It's for the sake of us. Look at verse 10. "Or is he speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops".

Now, every one of you listening to this message who has any role at all in supervising other employees needs to memorize and understand this verse. I want you to underline the word hope. If you have people that work under you, they need to have hope. What do they need to have hope in? They need to have the hope that they can better themselves, that they can earn more money than they're earning right now, if they work diligently. Nobody ever needs to feel like he is stuck in a position, he is stuck at a certain salary level. He needs to know that if he works hard, he is going to be able to share in the profits of that organization.

In a church I served one time, we were having our annual personnel meeting, and we're reviewing all the salaries of the staff, and it seems like I don't care what church it is, what personnel committee it is, there's always this one so-called expert on the committee who somehow works with personnel and so forth, and he thinks he's the expert, so this particular guy spoke up. He said, "Now, pastor, before we look at these salaries, I want to propose that we appoint a subcommittee, and this subcommittee needs to do some study, and they need to come up with salary ranges for each position, and there needs to be a cap for each position on our church staff, that once you reach this cap, you get no more money".

I said, "Well, okay, that's fine, but before we do that, we need to do something else". He said, "What's that"? I said, "Well, we first of all need to set an attendance cap for our church. We need to say once we reach this level of attendance in our church, we're not going to allow anybody else to come into our church. We're going to turn them away at the front door. And not only that, we need to set some baptism caps. We need to say once we baptize this many people, we're not going to let people come down the aisle to be baptized any longer, because we've reached our quota for the year. And not only that, we need to set a budget cap. We need to say once we receive this much money, we're not going to allow people to give any more money.

In fact, we're going to turn it back to them, if they try to give it. And then once we set those caps, let's set a salary cap for the staff". I never heard about salary caps once again, the whole time I was in that church. The idea is ridiculous. The idea is, if you work hard, if any company, any church exceeds and succeeds in what it's doing, the people who work in that organization ought to share in it. You say, "Well, that may be true of the business world, but surely that's not true of the church world". Look at what Paul said in verse 11. He said, "If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you"?

Isn't that a pretty clear principle? Those who spend their life in the ministry ought to reap material gain for that. It's not that that's their motive for serving, but a wise church is one that compensates its staff well, and this church does that. Look at verse 12. Here's another proof, another reason that Paul deserved to be paid. Another example, the example of other ministers. "If others share the rite over you, do we not more"? In other words, others are being paid. Why should we not be paid? "By the priesthood itself," verse 13. That illustrates this principle. "Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple"?

The Levitical priest had a right to share in what was being offered, the sacrifices that were made. And then the climax is verse seven. "The Lord himself taught this principle". Look at verse 14, "So also the Lord directed those who proclaimed the gospel to get their living from the gospel". That was Jesus' idea. Those who dedicate themselves to preaching the gospel ought to be paid for preaching the gospel. You know, I know it's easy sometimes for laymen to think to themselves and maybe say to other people, "Boy, if those preachers, if that pastor, if that executive pastor, if that minister of music, boy, if they had a real job, they would know what it's really like out in the real world". And sometimes, quite frankly, such a charge is deserved.

Some of the laziest people I know are people who are in ministry, and that is a well-deserved charge sometimes, but never forget, this is Christ's principle. The gospel ministry is a real job, and God's plan is that those who spend their life preaching and teaching the gospel message ought to be able to be supported by preaching and teaching the gospel. Now, Paul spends these first 14 chapters talking about the fact that he has the right to be paid. Why does he spend so much time doing that? Here's the pivot verse in verse 15. He talks about sacrificing that right. Look at verse 15. "But I have used none of these things, and I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case, for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one". Paul said, "I have refused my right to be paid".

Now, let me say Paul was paid for the ministry. He was supported by the churches at Thessalonica, the churches at Berea, the church at Philippi, but when it came to the Corinthians, he gave up his right to be supported by them, for a specific reason, and that is some of his audience, some of the Jews and gentiles in Corinth had seen the abuses of the priest. They were cynical about religion to begin with, and Paul said, "You know what? In order to gain a hearing with these people, I'm going to refuse to take the salary that I deserve". And Paul said, "Let me understand. Let me make something clear. The reason I'm telling you this is not that you can go around and say, 'poor Paul, we need to pay you'. That's not why I'm doing this".

That would be like my going to the personnel committee, and saying, "You know, personnel committee we don't have any food in our house. Our cars are broken down. Amy's walking around barefooted, but we don't want a raise. No, no, no, no. We don't want a raise". I mean, you'd see right through that. Paul said, "Listen, don't think I'm saying this in order to get money out of you. I want you to know that I have sacrificed my right to be paid for a specific reason". Look at verse 16 and 17. "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion, for woe to me if I do not preach the gospel, for I do this voluntarily".

Every true minister of the gospel preaches not for money. He does it because he is called by God. He does it because he would be miserable doing anything else. He is under compulsion. He is under orders to preach. That's why Paul preached. He was willing to sacrifice his monetary reward in order to gain a larger audience among the Corinthians. But notice in verses 18 to 23, Paul experienced a spiritual reward. He said, "What then is my reward, that when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. Here's the reason I'm willing to give up my right to pay, so that I can fulfill God's calling in my life".

By the way, I know there are a lot of people who listen to these messages via CD and radio and so forth. Let me say to those of you who are leaders in other churches listening to this message. Don't go to your pastor and say, "You know, I just listened to a message by Dr. Jeffress on why you ought to not be paid as our minister, and I think you need to give up that right to be paid". Listen, you cannot sacrifice somebody else's freedom, okay? You can't sacrifice somebody else's freedom. You can only give up your freedom, so don't use this as an excuse, those listening to this message, for not paying your staff at whatever church you serve in. Paul said, "This is a personal choice I made". Look at verse 19. "For though I am free for all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I may win more".

Listen, Paul was consumed by this one purpose in life, to win as many people to Christ as possible, and Paul said, "I'll do whatever I have to do to achieve that objective. If when I'm talking to Jews, keeping some of their old laws, some of their dietary regulations, if that will keep from offending them, I'll go ahead and keep the laws. Not that I'm trying to save myself by good works. I don't want to needlessly offend the Jews, so I'm going to put myself under those regulations for their benefit. However, when I'm with a gentile, I'll eat and drink like the gentiles eat and drink in order to gain a hearing from them. When I'm with a weaker Christian, I'll do whatever I have to do, I'll adapt my teaching, so I don't offend them. If I'm ministering to people who are offended by a minister being paid, I'll give up my right to be paid. I will be all things to all men in order that I might win some".

This is verse 23, the climax. "I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I might become a fellow partaker of it. I'll do anything it takes to win people to faith in Christ". And you know, when it comes down to it, that's the bottom line issue when it comes to sacrificing your freedom. You know why so many Christians have problems giving up their right to drink, or their right to do this, or their right to do that? Because they think life is all about them. They think life is about their happiness, their fulfillment, their peace of mind, their prosperity. As long as you think life is about you, you're going to have a very difficult time with this concept of sacrificing freedom for a greater purpose.

Remember that saying, it's not about me, it's not about here, it's not about now. If you're a Christian, you've been called to a greater purpose than me, myself, and I. You've been called as a Christian to join with God in his plan to redeem the world for himself, and Paul took that job seriously. He said, "I'll do whatever is necessary in order that I might win some". Now, Paul was not completely without motive in doing what he did. He was willing to give up monetary reward because he was anticipating a greater reward in eternity. Paul liked the idea of being compensated for what he did, but the compensation he was most interested in were the eternal rewards he would receive in heaven one day for his sacrifice here, and you see that beginning in verse 25.

Look at 1 Corinthians 9, verse 25. Paul said, "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things". Remember the Greek games were played in an Olympic-size stadium outside the city of Corinth, and so he uses this image of the Greek games. He says, "Everybody who's in competition exercises self control in all things". Let's say there's a runner. He's getting ready to compete in a meet one day, and you know, he's got the freedom, if he wants to, to stay out all night and get drunk, or right before the race, before game time, he can go to the pizza hut buffet and stuff his mouth with pizza. He's got the right to do that but it wouldn't make a lot of sense to do that, would it? I mean, why would you spend time training and exercising, preparing and practicing, and exercising that freedom to eat or drink or do whatever you wanted to?

Yeah, you've got the right to do it, but why would you do it? You've got your eye on the prize. You're working for something greater than immediate fulfillment. That's what he's saying here. "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things, but they do it to receive a perishable wreath, we an imperishable".

Think about what sacrifice athletes go to in order to win something that is transitory. They exercise themselves. They limit their freedom. They put themselves through all kind of pain, all just to receive a transitory award. I heard John macArthur say one time that when he was in college, he was a track star, and he won, set a number of records in his school in track competition, and in the locker room, they had posted the awards he had received, the record time he had accomplished, and he was very proud of that board in the locker room. He said a couple of years after he graduated, he went back to the school, and he went in and noticed in that locker room that there were some other people who were ahead of him now. They had broken his records. He was further down the board. He said he went back a couple years after that to the locker room, and somebody had misplaced the board. It wasn't even up. He said a few years after that, he wanted to go back to his college, but his college had completely gone bankrupt and folded completely. Nobody even remembered his awards.

You know, that's what happens when you work for transitory awards. Paul says they're perishable. He said, "We've got a greater purpose, though. We are working for that reward that is imperishable, that is reserved in heaven for us, will never fade away". And look at verse 27. He says "Because I'm anticipating that eternal reward from God," he says, "I discipline my body. I make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified". That word discipline literally in the Greek means to beat black and blue.

"That's what I do to my body. I beat it black and blue. That is, I make sure that my appetites, my habits are under my control. I say no to these natural desires. I limit the very real freedom I have in Christ. Why? Because I'm working toward an eternal reward. I don't want to disqualify myself from that reward that is reserved for me in heaven one day".

Paul anticipated eternal rewards. What's the application of this passage for us today? Again, this message is not about me. It's not about alcohol. It's not even about paying the preacher, okay? This message is about sacrificing my freedom for a greater purpose. Let's apply that in a couple of ways. Men, maybe you've been out working all day long. Ladies, you've been out in the workplace, working all day long. You come home and you just want some alone time. You need to decompress. You're tired. You're worn out from the struggle. Are you willing to give up the very real right you have to some rest and relaxation, so that you can go spend a few moments with your children before they go to bed, reading them the Word of God, praying with them? Are you willing to sacrifice your freedom for a greater purpose?

Wives, maybe you're married to a non-Christian. Your home is a living hell. You may have legitimate reasons for separation, even for divorce. I'm not denying that. The Bible says there are some situations that you are free to leave that marriage, but are you willing to sacrifice that freedom to leave the marriage in order to be a witness to your unbelieving mate? Maybe you're in a church and you don't agree with everything that's going on in the church. You don't like the music. You don't like the temperature. You don't like the way the pastor wears his hair. You don't like something in the church.

As a church member, you have every right to voice your feelings. Nobody's denying that, but are you willing to give up that right for a greater cause, to preserve harmony in the body of Christ and allow the church to accomplish its mission? That's what Paul was talking about here. Are we willing to sacrifice our freedom in Christ for a greater purpose? That's a requirement for being a disciple of Christ. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 16, verse 24. He said, "If any man desires to come after me, he must first of all deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow after me". That is the requirement for every disciple.
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