What does Christian liberty mean?


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EXAMINING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, I want to take you to an article written recently by Sinclair Ferguson entitled “Four Principles for the Exercise of Christian Liberty.”

— Christian liberty must never be flaunted.
— Christian liberty does not mean that you welcome fellow Christians only when you have sorted out their views.
— Christian liberty ought never be used in such a way that you become a stumbling block to another Christian.
— Christian liberty requires grasping the principle that will produce this true Biblical balance. We ought to not please ourselves, for even Christ did not please Himself.

DR. REEDER: Tom, as you think about Christian liberty — and I’m very grateful to Sinclair Ferguson for producing this — it is an issue that needs to be thought through. Christian liberty is a doctrine that says no to legalism, and that is the traditions of men and the notion that law-keeping is what saves us, that law-keeping keeps us safe or that law-keeping positions us so that God can save us.

The fact is, Christian liberty says that we’re saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. However, that does not mean that Christian liberty gives us an insensitivity to sin; on the contrary, it gives us the right motivation to deal with sin. We deal with sin because of its sinfulness. We deal with sin because of its destructiveness and we want to kill it in our life and we want to see it being eradicated all around us because we love our neighbor.

ALL CREATED THINGS ARE AMORAL, IT’S HOW WE USE THEM THAT LEADS TO SIN

But how is it that I am to live my Christian liberty? Paul says that all things are lawful. Now, clearly, he is not speaking to anything against the law that the law forbids as lawful and, by definition, would not be lawful, but things are lawful — things are amoral.

A tobacco plant is not evil, a grape is not evil from which you make an alcoholic beverage, a meal is not evil in and of itself. Food is not evil and drink is not evil. Therefore, all things are lawful but then he says not the use of all things is lawful. We can use things unlawfully when we begin to fall into self-absorption and self-promotion with things and when we begin to make an idol of the things, even those things that are good and blessed.

For instance, it is good to enjoy food, it is good to enjoy a meal, it is good to enjoy a drink because, by doing so, we enjoy the one who has provided it. However, if we take those good things and we put them in place of the Lord and they become the focus of our life, now they’ve become idols in our lives.

NOT ALL THINGS ARE BENEFICIAL TO ALL PEOPLE

Therefore, while all things are lawful, not all things are beneficial, not all things are edifying, not all things are good. Some things are destructive in our life if they become idolatry and some things can be destructive in other people’s lives if we don’t thoughtfully love those people around us. That’s why Paul says, “If food or drink makes my brother stumble” — and he was referring to eating those things that had been sacrificed to idols. His point is that there is no such thing as an idol and, you sacrifice that animal to an idol, it’s okay for me to eat the steak because there’s no idol and all of that was a fabrication anyway but, if people stumble because I eat that which had been sacrificed to an idol, I just won’t eat the meat because the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking. I’m willing to give that up for the sake of others.

That’s why, when they sent out the decree from the first general assembly of the church in Acts 15, they said, “There are Jews everywhere you’re going so it might be a good idea, for the sake of evangelism, not to eat things that are in violation of the ceremonial law. By doing so, it may cut off your opportunity to communicate but, by not doing so, you may be able to minister to them.”

The apostle Paul, when he has someone like Timothy who needs to be circumcised and he sees why because he’s got a parent who’s Jewish. Titus, his parents are Jewish, so he will not let them touch him for circumcision — there is no reason to claim it. Even though he knows circumcision is fulfilled and done away with, in that generational change, where all of that’s being worked out, he can argue for a proper understanding of circumcision fulfilled in Christ.

SOME THINGS CAN LEAD TO SIN DUE TO OUR OWN TEMPERAMENT

Therefore, we’re constantly dealing with it so here’s the things that I consider and I’ll just build on what Sinclair Ferguson has said. There may be something that’s lawful for me to do, but it’s not helpful for me to do.

There are some things in my life — I’ve mentioned this before — such as I am an intense person with an addictive and obsessing personality and alcohol is something that I enjoyed to an extraordinary sinful capacity prior to my conversion. Therefore, when I was converted, I just decided, because of my problems with the third and the fourth drink, I wasn’t going to have the second drink and the best way for me not to have the second drink is not to have the first drink so, if I’m out with people, you’ll see a club soda with a lime in my hand.

SELF-KNOWLEDGE IS KEY

Therefore, I don’t have to make a big deal out of it, but I don’t have to participate and one of my reasons is there are just certain things I need to flee — cut off right hands and pluck out right eyes. There are certain things that I know in my life I can’t handle so I am at liberty — Christian liberty — not to participate. Christian liberty doesn’t demand my participation in everything; it says I have the power to participate to the glory of God. I also have the power to say no for the glory of God so I can eat and drink to the glory of God, but there may be some things I decide not to eat and drink so that I can maintain my course to live for the glory of God.

TOM LAMPRECHT: It’s interesting to see on Facebook and other social media how evangelical Christians will post a picture of a beer they’re consuming at some bar, in a sense, flaunting Christian liberty.

DR. REEDER: My problem is not so much that they had the beer, but there was no thought to the people — the weaker brother — who may be having a problem with that. I not only have the liberty to give up things for my own personal progress in the Gospel, as well as the liberty to use things for the glory of God, but I also have the liberty to set things aside that would cause my brother to stumble.

ABSTAINING FROM FOOD AND DRINK CAN BE DONE FOR OTHERS’ SAKE, TOO

There have been many things in my life I have the freedom to do, I have the right to do and I have the liberty to do but I also have the liberty not to do because I know my brother would stumble and it’s more important to me to minister to my brother. Not having to defend what I’ve done — I’ve already given that up — but I can strengthen my brother so he’s no longer a weaker brother, by not first making him stumble.

That’s why Paul says, “If meat causes my brother to stumble, well, I’ll never eat meat again. I don’t need to eat meat.” The apostle Paul was more concerned about the brother than his right and, therefore, his Christian liberty became something he gave up for the edification of a weaker brother.

Maybe they’ll say to you, “Hey, why do you drink that beer? I thought you were a Christian.” Then you can explain to them, “Well, it’s not eating or drinking that makes you a Christian and a Christian can drink in moderation.” For me, that’s gotten me off. I want to talk with people about their relationship with the Lord Who delivers them from their sin.

I don’t want the whole discussion to be, “Come to Jesus so that you can do this, or that or the other,” but I want them to know to come to Jesus because of the relationship they can have with Jesus, Who cleanses you from your sin, who empowers you to walk in and for Jesus Christ. And, to get sidetracked, “If you come to Jesus, you can do this,” instead, let’s talk about, when you come to Jesus, what He will do in you.

TEMPERANCE AND MODERATION ARE HALLMARKS OF CHRISTIAN LIFE

The Christian life is one that is noted for temperance and moderation in all things. Now, there are some things I may want to abstain from for personal edification, for the sake of evangelism, or for the sake of not causing my weaker brother to stumble and I’m at liberty to do that. I’m also at liberty to have periods of feasting in my life and so I can embrace the feasting in my life as well as the fasting in my life.

However, the rule of my life in Christian liberty is not to be noted for anything other than Jesus. I want to be known as a person of moderation, a person of temperance, and that is the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That tells you, where the Spirit of God is, there is not the reputation of excess or the reputation of abstention, although there may be a time to feast and a time to abstain. The reputation is, “There is a man of moderation. The only thing that consumes him is Jesus.”

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

44 mins ago

Birmingham’s new Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema is ready for its premiere

The new, permanent home of Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival will open its doors this weekend, just in time for this year’s event.

Chloe Cook, executive director of the Sidewalk Film Festival, said the 11,500 square-foot facility is not complete, but is far enough along to be used as a festival venue this weekend.

“After the festival we will go dark for a week,” Cook said. “Then we will have a soft opening Labor Day weekend before our grand opening September 13-15. We’re very excited.”

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Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema a dream come true from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The cinema, located in the basement of the Pizitz building on 2nd Avenue North, features two 89-seat theaters and an education room for special events. Outside of the festival week, it will function very much like a typical movie theater, operating seven days a week on a year-round basis, screening the latest independent feature films on one of two screens.

“We’re excited to have something slightly larger than a jewel-box movie theater, but not a huge multiplex-type facility where we can carefully curate the programming for our community,” Cook said. “When I took the job in 2009 I did not imagine this would come to fruition. I really think a lot of redevelopment in the north side of downtown Birmingham has happened around our annual festival and it continued happening to the point that we felt like the timing was right to pursue this project and fill that cultural void.”

Cook said the $4.9 million facility would not have happened without the generous support of a variety of contributors.

“We have been so fortunate to receive generous support from our corporate community, including Alabama Power (Foundation)Regions BankBlue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, as well as our foundation community,” Cook said. “We’ve seen support from the Hugh Kaul Foundation, The Stephens Foundation, The Daniel Foundation, but we’ve also seen a lot of individuals who are not people who could start a foundation but they can send in a check for $250 or $25. That’s been really rewarding.”

To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema, visit MakeMovieMagic.com. To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Festival, visit SidewalkFest.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

SchoolFest sets the stage for Alabama children

The following is the latest installment of the Alabama Power Foundation’s annual report, highlighting the people and groups spreading good across Alabama with the foundation’s support.

 

Plato said art imitates life. Oscar Wilde said it was the other way around. It’s an argument that continues. However, one art form brings us face to face with the connection between art and life, perhaps better than any other: theater. It’s here people act out stories, hoping their audience forgets for a moment that it’s all make-believe. Were it not for the SchoolFest program of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), many Alabama children might never be exposed to the magic of theater.

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Every year, 40,000 students attend SchoolFest in Montgomery. From the professional actors to the costume and set design, the productions are the same as those presented to other ASF audiences. Thanks to grants from the Alabama Power Foundation and others, ticket prices are discounted and many schools attend for free, exposing students from all walks of life to art.

For some, it’s an experience they’ll never forget. For others, like Emily Prim, it’s life-changing. Prim is assistant wardrobe supervisor at ASF. She remembers distinctly when the “theater bug” bit her. “I was in seventh grade at St. James School in Montgomery. We had a field trip to SchoolFest, where we saw ‘James and the Giant Peach.’ I remember it so well, because there was a Ferris wheel on stage that was the peach, and I thought that was so cool. I was sorta thinking about theater, because of shows we had done in school and stuff, but when I came to see ‘James’ here, it made me start thinking that this is something I could do after I graduate,” Prim said.

Prim’s experience is what ASF is all about. Executive Director Todd Schmidt put it this way: “It’s really a bedrock of our mission at ASF, which is to create communities through transformative theatrical experiences. It’s a lot of kids’ first introduction to theater. It’s important to do that, especially in this time of continued cuts in arts funding.”

Shakespeare Festival’s SchoolFest puts the arts at center stage for Alabama students from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Just in the past year, students have seen productions of “The Sound of Music,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Our Town,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.” The latter featured 24 students from Montgomery Public Schools in the cast. Schmidt chooses shows that are appropriate for audiences of all ages. SchoolFest builds many of these productions around school curricula.

“We put our programming out to schools, and then they select what they think is relevant to what they’re doing and what they want their kids to be exposed to,” Schmidt said.

What started decades ago as productions appropriate for students has continued to expand. In addition to SchoolFest, ASF offers educational programs. There are theater classes for adults and children, and summer theater camps for students. ASF has hosted a series of conversations that are tied – at least in part – to the shows. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell spoke alongside a cast member from “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.”

“These are not about our productions, but they focus on themes of the productions,” Schmidt said. “There’s one coming up that talks about women dealing with glass ceilings, working in fields normally dominated by men, which ties somewhat into the production of ‘Steel Magnolias’ and a new production, ‘Into the Breeches.’”

Lonny Harrison, director of theater at St. James School in Montgomery, has been bringing students to see productions at ASF for 21 years. “We have some students who, up to the point they’ve hit SchoolFest, have never seen a live production outside of a school play. This definitely helps get them more into the arts.

It seems like kids respond differently to every show, but whether it’s something that’s the most amazing thing to them, or something that makes them think more critically, it at least makes them think about it. When we left ‘Romeo and Juliet’ the other day, kids were saying, ‘Let’s do some Shakespeare!’ I had to tell them, ‘Small steps.’”

Harrison has a long history with SchoolFest. He saw stage productions at ASF when he was in school. His experience echoes that of many Alabamians. Were you to poll the state, you’d likely be amazed at the number of people of all ages who’ve shared the marvel of live performance in a theater at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

In Alabama, it’s a generational thing. When it comes to the art imitating life vs. life imitating art question, perhaps Shakespeare got it right when, in the second act of “As You Like It,” the character Jaques said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”

The parts being played by the men and women of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival are a rich and vital service to the people of our state. These are the people who transform our children, who show them a new and lively way to understand stories, and life – its comedies and tragedies. These are the “players” who expand the minds of our young people, and show them a world that lives within their own ability to imagine.

For more information on the Alabama Power Foundation and its annual report, visit here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Aderholt’s advice for Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate candidates: ‘Make it very clear that they’re supportive of the president’

Although it is still the early going of the 2020 U.S. Senate Republican primary election campaign, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has some advice for the handful of candidates seeking the GOP nod.

When asked what he saw as important to him and his constituents in Alabama’s fourth congressional district, he said it was support for President Donald Trump.

In the 2016 presidential election, Trump dominated Aderholt’s district by winning more than 80% of the vote and was the only district in the country to break the 80% threshold.

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“They’ve clearly got to make sure that they make it very clear that they’re supportive of the president,” Aderholt said. “I mean, this president has as much support of any since I have been in office. I have never seen a president that has the support this president has. He has, everywhere I go, people are very optimistic that they are very positive about what he is doing. And they’re optimistic about the future. So I would first of all — they need to let their constituents, future constituents that are voters, know that they’re someone who would stand with the president.”

“As someone who is in another branch of government, we always want to make sure we don’t do just exactly like the executive or the president wants to do regardless of who it is,” he continued. “The Founding Fathers wanted the different branches to be a watchdog on each other. But, as I have seen from this president, the things that he is doing is consistent with what the voters want and what has been good for America. I’m fully supportive of this president. I think they need to communicate they’re supporting the president. I think that is probably the biggest thing right now. Alabama is a very pro-life state, and I think they need to communicate that, which again is consistent with the president’s message.”

Aderholt also suggested the Senate candidates should be supportive of Trump’s efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.

“I am also getting the feedback that the Mexican-Canadian trade agreement that the president is trying to negotiate — to redo NAFTA, people are very supportive of that,” Aderholt added. “But again, the president has been very supportive of these issues. What the president is doing, I’m very supportive of. I don’t see any issue as far as supporting what the president’s issue is.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

5 hours ago

Georgia-based Colonial sues contractor over Alabama spill

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co. has sued an Alabama contractor over a spill that threatened gasoline supplies along the East Coast three years ago.

The pipeline operator contends faulty work by the Birmingham-based Ceco Pipeline Services caused a crack that spilled at least 250,000 gallons of gasoline in rural Shelby County in September 2016.

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The spill shut down a major pipeline for weeks, tightening gasoline supplies along the Eastern Seaboard.

The pipeline carries fuel from Houston to metropolitan New York.

With headquarters near Atlanta in Alpharetta, Colonial Pipeline filed the federal lawsuit Friday seeking an unspecified amount of money.

Ceco Pipeline Services has not filed a response in court, and general manager Luke Hotze declined comment Monday, citing the lawsuit.

Hired to replace coatings that protect the pipeline’s exterior, the contractor failed to adequately replace dirt around the pipeline after maintenance work, the suit said.

The failure left a void beneath the pipe, which bent as it sagged.

The bend caused cracks that led to the breach, according to the suit.

The failure cost Colonial Pipeline lost income, plus money spent on repairs and cleanup, the lawsuit said without specifying an amount.

The lawsuit said Colonial Pipeline transports an average of 100 million gallons (378 million liters) of refined petroleum products daily through a system that includes more than 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) of pipeline.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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‘School choice’ also means ‘tax choice’ in Alabama

It’s back-to-school season and for some parents, this is a happy time.

But for those whose children are stuck in underperforming schools, or schools where they are bullied or are in danger, this is a heartbreaking time, especially if they cannot afford to move or go to private school.

“There was fighting every day. People wanted to shoot me, kill me, and everything,” said Calvin Coleman in a speech about his experiences at his Mobile public high school.

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Did you know that you, or your company, can help students like Calvin by donating a portion of what you already owe in state income taxes to a program that funds scholarships for low-income families in Alabama?

“When my son Carlos was in the fifth grade, he was constantly bullied and I wanted to desperately put him into a private school,” wrote Nyenya Webster of Montgomery in Alabama Daily News. Every day was a struggle, she added. “I was at a loss as to what to do to help my son.”

Then Webster learned about the tax-credit scholarship program created in 2013 by the Alabama Accountability Act that serves roughly 4,000 low-income, mostly minority Alabama students.

She applied, and Carlos received a scholarship to attend Success Unlimited Academy in Montgomery.

“Success Unlimited has been a lifesaver for my son,” Webster wrote. “He … is now considering college. My son never talked about going to college before Success.”

For those who want to help other Alabama families break the cycle of poverty through education, it’s a no-brainer.

“For a donor, it doesn’t cost them anything,” said Warren Callaway, executive director of Scholarships For Kids, one of the scholarship granting organizations funded by the program.

That’s because a tax credit is different from a charitable contribution. When you make a charitable contribution to a non-profit organization, you deduct a portion of that on your income tax. However, a tax credit allows you to take a dollar for dollar reduction in your state income tax.

“Basically, donors are redirecting some of their state income tax liability to a [scholarship granting organization],” Callaway said. “So, if you give $100 to us, you can reduce your state income tax by $100.”

Who benefits from the donation?

“The average household income for these students is under $30,000 so these are families that would have no other way of choosing the school that is best for their child,” said Ryan Cantrell, director of state strategy and political affairs for the American Federation for Children, during an interview of the 1819 podcast.

Higher-income families have always had school choice, Cantrell said, but “it’s the low-income families who get stuck with no options in under-performing schools or schools that don’t work for their child.”

There are $30 million in tax credits available and, so far, only about a third have been claimed, according to the Department of Revenue’s My Alabama Taxes website.

Here’s how you can reserve your tax credit before the December 31, 2019, deadline:

Step 1: Estimate how much income tax you or your business will owe Alabama next year by checking how much you paid last year. Individuals and corporations can donate up to 50 percent of their tax bill, and while individuals are limited to $50,000, corporations are unlimited.

Step 2: Visit the My Alabama Taxes website and follow instructions for reserving an Alabama Accountability Act tax credit.

Step 3: Send a check to one of the seven scholarship granting organizations in Alabama within 30 days.

Step 4: When you do your taxes next year, fill out an Alabama Department of Revenue Schedule AATC form to reduce your income tax bill by the amount you donated.

For more help, individuals may call the Alabama Department of Revenue at 334-353-0602 or 334-353-9770, and corporations may call 334-242-1200.

You’re already going to have to write a check for your state income taxes. Why not control where some of that money goes, especially when it has the power to change lives?

“It was a relief that nobody would understand,” said mother-of-five Alleane West in an Alabama Opportunity Scholarship video about the program’s impact on her family. “You know, you’re a single mom with boys trying to not make them a statistic.”

Watch:

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Connect with her at rachel@alabamapolicy.org or on Instagram @RachelBlackmonBryars.