Date: April 16, 2023
Speaker: Guest: Tony Hunt
Series: People Of Faith
Well, some of you recognize me and I recognize some of you. I was a youth pastor here for 11 years from 2000 to 2011. I feel like this is very much a part. I’m part of the dirt here. What I mean is that when they voted to buy this property, that was also the same meaning they voted to hire me as youth pastor. So I kind of came along with this property. So I feel a little bit of an attachment. Something that many of you may not know, when we were building this facility and coming into it in 2005, we had the youth come in one night prepared ahead of time. Who has the Lord put on your heart that doesn’t know Jesus, that you want to commit to praying for regularly, and they came that night, we’re praying for them. Then we wrote their names on the floor in the youth area, because the carpet was going to go in that following week. So I’ve written names in that room that I know of least one that still needs Jesus. But we wrote a lot of names down there. That was, you know, we’re committing to the Lord and saying, Lord, we hope that you reach these people for you. So I have a lot of attachment to what God has done at West Shore here. I’ve been at Lancaster Evangelical Free Church as lead pastor there now for it’ll be 12 years this summer. That’s become very much home. But this is where I would say, God grew me up in a lot of ways, as a leader. So I’m forever grateful to this church. I want to also say that it is a gift to give to your pastor, a sabbatical, I took one in 2018. God used it to really give me fresh vision and fresh fire for the future of LEFC. I’m confident that Trent is going to benefit greatly by the gift you’ve given him, being able to get away like that, and be able to restore and refresh. I had the privilege of golfing with Trent about three weeks ago in California. We decided to do lunch there. But we were both at a conference together we knew and we worked ahead of time to take our clubs, and so we went golfing together. He still invited me to come after that. So we had a great time together. I know that he was looking forward to this season of time, but to prepare you for what the weeks are ahead for West Shore Trent has asked several different pastors that are friends of his or friends of West Shore, to speak during this time. What he asked us to do was to speak on a particular character, a person that’s found in Scripture. So for the next few weeks, while Trent is away, you will hear from people that will speak to the life of Joseph, Daniel, Abraham, Isaac, Jonah, Peter, the Samaritan woman, and Rahab.
Today, we’re gonna look at the Apostle Paul. So I’m going to ask you to turn your Bibles to first Corinthians chapter nine. We will also be in first Corinthians chapter 10. After that, but to lay a little bit of groundwork before we’re in the text, I would just want to give the journey of Paul, if you will, we initially know him as saw in Scripture. Fact, his name comes up for the very first time when Steven was killed, because he was a follower of Jesus. That happens and the book of Acts and we know that Paul, or Saul at that time, presided over that death. By his story, even getting to that moment is something that you have to appreciate. All gives his credentials in Philippians chapter three, and it says that he was born into a home that was very committed to raising their children to being very good Hebrews. So he was circumcised on the eighth day, he was brought up in all the education that young Jewish boys should have. So he had that experience, and not a lot of the Jewish people had and so by, he could claim it is that from a youngest age, he was raised right. He was a Jews Jew. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, which was one of the Royal tribes as King Saul was part of that lineage. That’s probably where he got his name saw. So he knew his lineage. Then he was able to get into the school, the Pharisees, now that wasn’t a given. That is something that of privilege, you would be given the opportunity to become a Pharisee. But he wasn’t just any Pharisee. They were all given opportunities to be in different schools. His mentor where he did his internship was Gamaliel, and Gamaliel was the foremost teacher of the Pharisees so he could say, I even studied directly under Gamaliel. That would have given him incredible respect. But he was also seen as a rising star. It wasn’t just that he had all the His education and all these experiences from his childhood that would say, He is worthy of respect. They saw that he had zeal, he was known as being very zealous and a rising star leader, that if you have a hard task, give it to him.
So this new movement called The Way, which was the term given to the church, those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, that He is the Son of God, and He is the Redeemer and and lamb of God. So this Way, was starting to grow significantly. So what did they do, they were like, we got to put this, this this movement down, because we’re losing our influence. So they put Saul to the task. We see him actually bringing the first martyr Steven into the public square. As part of giving authority to it, those who were stoning Stephen had to show that they were given permission to do so. That permission was from Saul. That’s why they laid their coats at his feet. So Saul was that kind of guy, where it’s like, if you need something done, he’s your guy. So when they heard that the movement had begun to take strong root and Damascus, they sent Saul to put it out. There was a fire burning, let’s let me put out that fire. So he goes, and while he is in route, God transforms him. Jesus meets him on that very road. He is blinded by the brilliance of Jesus’s light. He goes into Damascus, a leader of the Way and Ananias disciples him but even then he was warned by guys like, listen, I know Saul is coming. You knew he was coming, but he was coming to put away this movement and to persecute you, but I want you to receive him as a brother. That was a very confusing message. So the church was aware that saw was coming. They knew that he had already put people to death and and arrested many. So they were probably extra cautious, with Saul’s arrival. Saul comes into town, but nobody hears from them. Where is this? Zelis? Paul saw as they know him? Where is he? Why isn’t he speaking? What’s he doing? Then after days, Saul finally shows up. He begins to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was confusing to the church because they had been preparing for his arrival, to be afraid of him to be fearful of him because he would persecute them. Now he comes out at a hiding out of nowhere and begins to preach. Could this be a trap, a trick to infiltrate their innermost circle, because they weren’t doing so well that the way the church was growing and exploding, so maybe this is their new strategy. So in the same text, where saw now Paul gives his credentials about all the things he had, that he could boast about, he makes this comment says whatever were gains to me, I now consider a loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, even goes on to say that to know Jesus puts makes everything else garbage. He would rather know Jesus and everything else is just garbage. How did Saul becomes Paul, go from being zealous against Jesus, to being so on fire for Jesus that He would say, everything else that I’ve ever experienced under Gamaliel in my family, and even just getting all the accolades from the community? How is it that he could now say, I consider all of that garbage? For the sake of knowing Jesus, something had changed.
We know that in First Corinthians nine, he begins to preach a message. There’s consistency in the message of Paul, he talks about a freedom. This freedom is freedom in Christ. But the freedom is from the law. I want to speak to that for a moment because I think we have to understand the law is good, God gave the Law to reveal the character of man and the character of God. The Law tells you that which is moral, and that which is holy, but the law also reveals then fire we’re not holy, and we’re not so immoral. But the law could never do what Jesus did. The law shows our guilt, it reveals our guilt, but it does not save us. We’re still stuck in our sins due to the law. It just reminds us that you are not God and that you are unholy.
But Paul’s message was, if you can under Jesus, you’re going to discover freedom from the law. Then you get to live out the life that the law points to that is moral and beautiful, but you now do so with the pleasure of God, and with the power of God through His Holy Spirit. He speaks to this freedom often. But with this freedom, there is a strange response to it, that Paul gives. That’s where I want us to begin in verse 19, of chapter nine. Because this message from Paul is what we need to receive today to understand his life and his message. So verse 19, of chapter nine at First Corinthians, though I am free, Paul speaking, though I am free, and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews, I become like a Jew to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law. To those and though myself, I’m not under the law, so as to when those under the law and to those not having that law, I became like one not having the law, though I am not free from God’s law, but I’m under Christ’s law. So as to when those not having the law, to the weak, I become weak. I become all things to all people. So they by all possible means I might save some, I do all of this for the sake of the gospel, the good news of Jesus, that I may share then and its blessings. All right, so we have here that the message of Paul is freedom. But in this case, he says, I have freedom to do everything, but I belong to no one. But I’m going to actually make myself than a slave, which would be actually the opposite. Slaves have no freedom. So he says, I am free and belong to no one, but I am going to make my self a slave to everyone. Why? So that by all possible means he might win people to Jesus. So for him, this freedom and Christ’s message that he preaches, he’s willing to surrender that freedom for the sake of winning others. Now, in this text, you’re going to see freedom mentioned, but then freedom given up Jesus’s message when he was speaking to this movement that’s going to happen beyond himself, he says, Now, when people come to me, they’re going to discover this, that the whom the Son sets free is free indeed, while you’re still teaching the Bible around here, that’s good. Either the Son sets free is free indeed in this text, when he talks about his freedom, he says, I have received freedom in Christ, the sun has given me that freedom, but I’m going to give it up for the sake of others, to win them to that very gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. In this text, Paul speaks five times to the term winning. Now I’ve been in sports most of my life, either as player or as coach. I like to win sports are way more fun when you win. This case, when you see this, he is talking about winning, not for the sake of a personal attainment, but winning on behalf of somebody else. Could you imagine an athlete giving all themselves over to a particular sport so that they can help somebody else when I’m going to be the worst athlete possible so somebody else can be first? It’s kind of undoing it, right? It’s kind of an upside down mentality, that winning actually means somebody else crosses the line first. But that’s the spirit that Paul speaking to is that he wants to see as many as possible when, but he does. So under some interesting context. He says, okay, so I have freedom. I belong to no one other than Jesus, but I’m gonna give up that freedom so that I can win the Jew. He says, I am willing to give up some of my freedoms, that when I’m interacting with Jewish people, I might have freedom because of Christ, but in this moment, to be able to reach them. I’m willing to do some things to lose some of my freedoms for the sake of helping them come to Jesus. Then to not just the everyday Jew, even to the most legalistic of Jews, those who are like he was Pharisees, who is the highest standard if it was said, you’re supposed to fast seven days they would fast like 10. If they were supposed to not eat certain foods, they would add list to that to add more foods to that list because they wanted to show that that not only were they righteous, they were super righteous. Paul says, here’s like, well, not only would I be willing to give up some my freedoms to reach the everyday Jew, but I’m willing to give up some freedoms to reach the most legalistic of Jews. Then he goes on. How about the Gentiles who don’t have the law, who have weren’t given the law of Moses, who have a totally different set and paradigm of how to live, and what is moral and what is immoral. He goes in, like, you know what, I will do what is ever possible to give up my freedom, as long as I am honoring God with what I’m doing, and I’m not violating His law, I will go into the lawless and minister to them. You see it all the time with Jesus, who did he hang out with tax collectors and Senators, senators were the Gentiles, he would sit at the table Gentiles. That would have been seen as forbidden by the Pharisees, because you’re sitting with unclean people. All saying, I’m willing to sit at a table with the lawless and forsake my standing maybe elsewhere, so that I can reach the lawless at my table. Then he goes on to say, and to the week, I’ll do whatever I can to help the week, know Jesus more. I that means I have to forego some of the strength that I have. Some of the freedoms I have, that comes with being a stronger brother, I’m willing to become weak for the sake of helping somebody who’s weak in their faith, or has no faith. So you’re starting to capture the heart of Paul. So he was this zealous, very gifted man, who was known as being a game changer for the Pharisees, and now is on the side of the church. He has been given a liberation of which he now knows all the things that I’ve been doing for the strictest and I now don’t have to do. But I’m gonna choose to go back into some of it, so that I can reach those who are still stuck in it. Or even do what I would have never considered doing hanging out with the unclean for the sake of reaching the unclean. Doing all things possible, as he says, to win people for Jesus, chapter 10, verse 23, and again, that just a page over likely in your Bibles, but some of these freedom choices are difficult. It’s not so simple to just give up freedoms for the sake of somebody else’s benefit. There are tough and difficult choices that have to be made. He identifies them as he speak into the church in Corinth, because he’s telling them, I have given up my freedom, so I can serve you. Now I’m going to challenge you to give up your freedom so that you can win others. So how does he do this? Verse 23. Paul, speaking again, to this group, he says, I have the right to do anything you say. But not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything. But not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of many. Go to verse 31. So whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews Greeks, or the Church of God, even as I try to please everyone and every way for not seeking my own good, but the good of many. Why? So that they may be saved. There it is, again. So the whole context of what he’s saying here about freedom, you have the right to do anything, but it’s not always beneficial, or constructive. The glory must always go to God. Then you’re trying to do everything you can, for by all possible means to win others for Jesus. So it continues to be his theme. We have freedom in Jesus, but there are costs that can be made for the sake of others discovering that freedom. So now he flips the chart or the page back towards his audience. So let me do that to you. If Paul says I’m willing to give up my freedom, so that when I’m with a Jew, I do what I can with that Jew to reach that Jew, when I’m with somebody who’s not Jewish, I do what I can to reach that person who is not Jewish, and so on. Now, he’s saying, Here’s where it gets real. As I look at you, in your freedom, if you know Jesus in your freedom, you might be able to do certain things. But are you willing to ask yourself I have the freedom to do this, but is it going to be beneficial for somebody else to come to Jesus?
You see, there are people in our lives our sphere of influence. It’s that you might be the only person who knows Jesus and knows the freedom that comes in Christ. If by the way you live, and you live and indulge in your freedoms, but you don’t consider how it either benefits or harms the other person, you haven’t really captured the heart of the gospel. Because what did Jesus do? He had the right to do anything, right? He’s the Son of God, He is the firstborn of all of heaven and earth. He had the right to do anything, but what did he do? He gave up everything. So that he could build a church, and when others for him right, now Paul is following his lead. He looks to the church and says, Okay, you’ve been given freedom in Christ, and we are grateful for that freedom in Christ. But are you willing to give up that freedom so that it benefits the journey of somebody else coming to Jesus? That’s the first question. Second question. Then he says, You have the right to do anything, if you’ve been given to Christ, and you know, the freedom that comes in Christ, you have the freedom to do anything, but have you ever considered that whether your freedom is going to be constructive or destructive in somebody’s journey towards Christ? All doesn’t stop there. He goes on in verse 31, it’s like, okay, can you say that even in your freedom, that whatever you do eat, drink, or whatever you gather with other people, that no matter what you do, who’s gonna get the glory? Was the you? Or is it God? Then lastly, he looks at the church in court and says, You have freedom to do anything. But are you thinking in terms of whatever it takes to win somebody for Jesus, versus hindering them by your freedom? So how does this look? What is he talking about? Bring it to 21st century language, right? So in Scripture, we’re given the freedom to drink. We are in Scripture, it’s given that, but we’re given tons of caution about it. Fact, we’re even told we’re not to get to the point where we’re drinking where it has influence over us. So there’s all those boundaries. So there’s freedom to drink. But there are there not times, where we might need to consider is my freedom to drink, going to be a hindrance, or harmful, destructive? So in the light to somebody that maybe you’re ministering to in that moment? Are you willing to give up your freedom at a sensitivity to somebody that maybe that might be harmful, and not beneficial, that might be destructive and not constructive? And by you choosing? Like, you know what, I don’t care, I have freedom in this. Guess who just got the glory? You, not God? The final question your like, you basically flipped your knows that you really don’t care whether your actions and freedoms move somebody towards Jesus. This can also apply to where we eat. Again, I have complete freedom, I do not struggle with eating at places that have bars in it. I can go there because it taverns often have the best wings. Just do. So I want to go eat there because I like wings. So but there might be times where I might have to give up my freedom to go to a tavern because of somebody I’m with, or ministering to. Where that would be the worst place to take them. Or to spend time with someone because it might not be constructive or beneficial to them. In fact, it might be destructive and harmful. The same can go for going to movies, or what you watch at home with a gathering of people. And speaking of gatherings, could there be some points where you’re going to certain gatherings might been maybe not the wisest thing to do for the sake of somebody else. I can go into a gathering where the intent of that gathering, quite frankly, isn’t honoring to God whatsoever. But I can go into that gathering and be an influencer versus being influenced because I’m in a position of strength. Now I would have to operate with wisdom and care and prepare my heart but I can go on there. But that may not be the case for somebody I’m witnessing to that needs Jesus and maybe maybe my presence that that might actually harm a situation that I’m speaking the gospel into. Am I willing to give up my freedom from a position of strength for the sake of a weaker person? Now does Paul actually practice what he preaches? Was he willing to be all things to help you people so that he might win some.
Let me give you an example with the story of Timothy. We know that he’s written a couple of letters to Timothy. Timothy was a young leader in the church. He was a great servant along with Paul. We know in the book of Acts, that there was a particular group of very legalistic Jewish people that Paul was getting invited to go into and speak to is a great opportunity. These would be some of his former former compatriots, where, where they were Pharisees together, strictness to the law, and he was going to invite you to go in and speak to this new freedom. He felt like the best assistant to come along with him was Timothy. But there was a problem, Timothy, who had a mother that was Jewish, his father was Greek. So usually whoever the father was, would establish the set of rules for the home. Since his father was Greek, that likely, meant that Timothy was not circumcised. Now, in the Jewish church, if it wasn’t for that, there was there was probably no way to tell whether somebody was circumcised or uncircumcised or not checking at the door. So you’ve got a situation where it’s like, but his father is Greek, so that it was easy to presume that he was not circumcised. So now there’s a dilemma. The person that was best to assist Paul with this group was Timothy. But Timothy would never have been allowed in the room or allowed to speak. So therefore, he would be made irrelevant for the situation and less, unless Timothy was willing to give up his freedom. So he said, Timothy, would you be willing to be circumcised for the sake of being able to minister to this group of people because I need you. Now, Timothy was already aware that Paul had been speaking and many times to the church, that to put circumcision on the Gentiles was not necessary for the gospel. So Timothy had a choice. I know in Christ that I have freedom to stay as he is, and to stay as I am. But if I want to minister with Paul to this group, I need to be willing to give up my freedom. So he did. Now in a different context, Titus Galatians, chapter two Titus, another assistant to Paul, and his particular church that Titus was serving in all believers, they began to point at Titus and say, you know, he shouldn’t really be the leader of our church, because in Thomas’s case, he’s fully Greek. I mean, there was no Jewish mother. So, without a doubt, they knew that he was uncircumcised, and they’re like, he should not really be the leader of our church, and being an uncircumcised Gentile. This case, in verses one to five of Galatians, two, Paul ferociously defends Titus for not needing it, because he’s speaking to a group of believers that are trying to steal the freedom within the church. It’s a totally different issue. They want to enslave somebody within the church, and the church is meant to liberate and give freedom. So this was not a case where the gospel was a risk. This was where the Gospels effective giving freedom was at risk. So Paul definitive So basically, what you can learn from this is it was it really stunk to be Timothy but it was great to be Titus.
So does this ever play out today for us? I will give you an example from my life, graduated from college, I had the opportunity to be able to be an apprentice at a Southern Baptist Church in Southeast Missouri. Great Church started there, got my first weekend. It was towards the end of that first week that the pastor came into my office and said, I we got a problem. I said, What’s that? He said, Well, it’s been a while we’ve never had a second person on the staff. I was the first ever person but I was just tired for three months. He says, our bylaws require that anybody on staff be a member, and you’re not a member. And we’ve already had you working this week. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to provide a special opportunity for you to become a member on Sunday, and that solves the problem. So here’s a bunch of reading, to do everything you can to get caught up so that you can make the declaration affirm your standing and we’ll vote you and as member and I’m like, great. So then I read the paperwork, and then there’s somewhere down, you know, again, all good stuff. Then we get down to this part where it says because in Southern Baptist churches like free churches, they can have their own unique rules. So there’s the Southern Baptist rules, but then there’s that Church’s unique rules. In this case, this particular church said you could not become a member of of that church unless you were baptized in a Southern Baptist Church by an ordained Southern Baptist minister. So Baptist preacher Baptist water. I failed on both counts because I was baptized in the middle of nowhere Kansas, and a church that was Wesleyan with Wesleyan water. So I was in trouble. So I went to the pastor’s office, I said, I think we got it. We got a problem here. He said, and when I told him, I said, he goes, were you baptized? By immersion? Yes. By you know, in the name of the Father, Son, the Holy Spirit. Yes. I just like when you were truly a child guy, yes. God has been working in my life ever since. He’s like, Well, it all means the same. But he went back to the deacons. It’s like, well, we can’t change the bylaws. We can’t do it that quicker requires months in advance. So then the decision was really up to me. Do I stay and submit to a second baptism, water baptism? Or do I go because of principle of why? Like, listen, my first baptism was real. It meant a lot to me. So I called a mentor up, said, I’m gonna, I’m in a little bit of a pickle, what do I do? He just said, Well, do you want to be Timothy? What do you mean? So well, Timothy had freedom to do whatever he wanted to, but he had a choice. If I’m going to work with that group of people, am I willing to be circumcised to do it? So I made a decision to be baptized over and that church gave me full freedom as to what to say. So I said, while standing there next to the Baptist preacher in the Baptist water, and I tell the church I said, I was baptized at age 10. By immersion, I gave a profession of faith. That faith has been real, that that baptism meant a lot to me. Today, I’m being baptized again, is a second opportunity to proclaim who Jesus is, and to make my commitment to you as a body as a church, that I am committed to you and serving you. I was baptized a second time. I gave them my freedom. I could have walked away have having the high ground. We all agree Baptists, water and Baptist preacher doesn’t make baptism legitimate. Nor is Free Church water and Free Church Pastor making your baptisms, legitimate. But it gave opportunity to preach the gospel. Paul said this was the ultimate statement that he could possibly give. He says, You know, I would give up my own salvation. If a man’s salvation for the Jews. It’s Romans, chapter nine, verse three. He was that committed, that transformed, that zealous? He said, You know, I don’t think it’s supposed to just be me. We weren’t given freedom just so that we could keep freedom for ourselves. We were given freedom so that we could pay the freedom forward. So what I learned from Paul is that freedom in Christ is a precious gift, where life with God is not hindered by that laws limitations. But the gospel also gives us the opportunity to willfully give up that freedom for the sake of others, because it was in the very death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, that that model was given that Jesus gave up His position of authority, and submitted himself as being a criminal on a cross. Just so that you and I could win. Like Jesus, Paul gave up everything for the sake of winning others.
So then my question becomes to you, as Jesus changed your life, have you been given freedom in Christ? And are you willing to give up some of that freedom that others may actually be able to know who Jesus is? See, that’s where the rubber meets the road. If Jesus emptied himself for the sake of all of his rights, so that we could win. Then it’s he says, now it’s your turn. I give you the full freedom, not just so that you can indulge in it. But so they that freedom gives you the freedom to be a Jew, to the Jews, to the one without the law, without the law to the weak to be a weak brother, that you’re willing to say you know what, for whatever I can do, I’m willing for the sake of winning someone for Jesus. I’m willing to give up my freedom. Let’s pray
Jesus, I, I certainly didn’t nothing to earn the work that you did on the cross for me and I I have been given a freedom and a liberation that has changed my life. And I know that as I’m saying that there are others in the room that resonate with those statements. But I also know that you didn’t just give me my freedom just so that I could be free. You gave me that freedom so that I am free to then give it back up for the sake of winning others. And so, Lord, would You stir in our hearts? Would you bring to mind people that we are placed among family, friends, co workers, neighbors, that maybe we need to give up some of our freedoms for the sake of their souls? So that they can know Jesus? So do your work now. And Jesus, we thank you for your work, and your model of life. Amen.