10 months ago

What does Christian liberty mean?


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

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.

24 mins ago

Ex-Auburn assistant basketball coach Chuck Person pleads guilty

Former Auburn University assistant coach and 13-year NBA veteran Chuck Person pleaded guilty Tuesday to a bribery conspiracy charge in the widespread college basketball bribery scandal, ensuring that none of the four coaches charged in the probe will go to trial.

Person, 54, of Auburn, Alabama, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court, averting a June trial.

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He and his lawyer declined to speak afterward and made a quick exit from the courthouse.

Prosecutors said Person accepted $91,500 in bribes to steer players with NBA potential to a Pittsburgh-based financial adviser.

As part of the plea, he agreed to forfeit that amount.

Person said he committed his crime in late 2016 and early 2017.

The plea deal has a recommended sentencing guideline range of two to 2½ years in prison, though the sentence will be left up to Judge Loretta A. Preska.

The sentencing is scheduled for July 9.

In a release, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Person “abused his position as a coach and mentor to student-athletes in exchange for personal gain.”

“In taking tens of thousands of dollars in cash bribes, Person not only placed personal financial gain above his obligations to his employer and the student-athletes he coached, but he broke the law,” he said.

Person’s plea falls in line with those recently entered by three other former assistant coaches at major college basketball schools.

Tony Bland, a former Southern California assistant coach; ex-Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson; and former Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans are awaiting sentencing.

Their prison terms are likely to be measured in months rather than years.

Person, former associate head coach at Auburn, was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 1986 and played for five NBA teams over 13 seasons.

In court papers, prosecutors said Person arranged multiple meetings between the financial adviser and Auburn players or their family members.

Prosecutors said he failed to tell families and players that he was being bribed to recommend the financial adviser.

In one recorded conversation, the prosecutor said, Person warned an Auburn player to keep his relationship with the financial adviser a secret.

According to prosecutors, Person said: “Don’t say nothing to anybody. … Don’t share with your sisters, don’t share with any of the teammates, that’s very important cause this is a violation … of rules, but this is how the NBA players get it done, they get early relationships, and they form partnerships.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

Marsh bill to repeal Common Core approved by Senate committee

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill to eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama was given a unanimous favorable recommendation by the Senate’s Education Policy Committee on Wednesday.

The bill, SB 119, is now set to be debated and considered on the Senate floor Thursday.

Marsh spoke about this bill during Yellowhammer Multimedia’s “News Shaper” event in Montgomery Tuesday evening after he filed the bill earlier that day.

He acknowledged that he has been a proponent of letting the state school board set education curriculum and standards policy in the past and even stopped an effort to repeal Common Core a few years ago. However, in Marsh’s view, Common Core has been given a chance now and it is time for the legislature to step in.

“It’s not working. I think we have to have some radical change with education policy in this state. And y’all know me, I’ve pushed a lot of things –  public charter schools, the Accountability Act. We’ve got to address this issue and it’s critical for this state,” Marsh said.

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He said eliminating Common Core would “clear the field” so the state could then move forward to better education outcomes.

Alabama would come up with its own high standards, premised on local control, under Marsh’s proposal.

He said his bill is cosponsored by all 27 of his Republican Senate colleagues and he expects SB 119 to pass the chamber and then receive similarly strong support in the House.

“I am committed to moving to a different standard that’s right for Alabama and moves us forward,” Marsh emphasized.

He also advised that there is a high level of politics involved in education decisions in the state but that sound policy must come first.

“[T]he education community, who I’ve asked to get this fixed, who have not addressed this, quite honestly I don’t think has put us in shape to move forward to address the problem at present. But I’m going to do all I can to see that it happens,” Marsh added.

Democrats on the Senate Education Policy Committee spoke in favor of keeping Common Core on Wednesday.

A career public school teacher from Lee County spoke in favor of eliminating Common Core at the hearing, while representatives from the state school superintendents association and the school boards association had concerns about the implementation of new standards.

Marsh said his bill will be amended before final passage to allow another national standard to be used if found to be best for Alabama, as the current language in his bill would ban any national standard from being adopted by the state school board.

Update, 11:35 a.m.:

State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) released a statement in support of Marsh’s bill.

“I strongly support Senator Marsh’s bill,” Givhan said. “The Common Core standards just haven’t worked for Alabama’s students, and the proof is evident in the data. In 2017, Alabama’s 8th grade math scores ranked 49th among the 50 states, and math scores for 4th grade students were 45th in the nation, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Common Core’s curriculum standards and guidelines have been in place for nine years, and they have failed Alabama’s students. It’s clear we need to look at alternative educational methods, with an emphasis on returning as much control as possible back to the local school districts.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Marsh, McCutcheon talk lottery, ethics clarifications at Yellowhammer ‘News Shaper’ event

MONTGOMERY — Speaking Tuesday evening at Yellowhammer Multimedia’s first “News Shaper” event of 2019, Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) provided their insight on some of the hot-button topics expected to be debated during the legislature’s ongoing regular session.

Yellowhammer owner and editor Tim Howe, who moderated the discussion, outlined uncertainty in the state’s ethics laws brought on by recent court and ethics commission decisions. Howe then asked the two leaders how they think the legislature can provide certainty and codified clarification moving forward, especially when it comes to defining a “principal.”

“There is no doubt that there’s a lot of uncertainty in the ethics legislation,” Marsh said. “The [Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission] was set up to look over this, but in addition to that, both the Senate and the House – in the Senate you have Greg Albritton and in the House [you have] Mike Jones – working throughout the entire break on how we address this.”

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“And remember,” Marsh continued, “it’s not about 140 legislators, there are 50,000 people in the state of Alabama affected by the ethics law. I’m going to make a plea to my colleagues, some of whom are in this room tonight: If it’s going to be fixed, we’ve got to fix it.”

He emphasized, “[I]t’s not going to get any easier. You’ve got to face the issues. You’ve got to address it and realize this is about much [more] than the legislature. So, I’m hopeful.

Marsh also noted that the uncertainty in the ethics law has “affected economic development.”

“There’s a section there where the economic developers are having problems keeping the [confidentiality] in the process of recruiting industries. We’ve got to address this,” he advised. “And I’m hopeful that we will address it this year.”

Marsh added, “I know that both Senator Albritton and Representative Jones have been in conversation with the attorney general and the ethics commission, as well. So we’re going down a path to try and get everybody on the same page. But we have got to -trust me, ladies and gentleman – we have best fix this. It’s got to be done.”

Howe then asked Marsh to articulate why certainty in the ethics law for economic development professionals is important not just for them, but for the entire state and each of its residents.

“[I]t’s important for the state, because we’re competing with all of the other states,” Marsh said.

He used the example of a piece of legislation passed out of committee that very day largely dealing with Polaris vehicles built in north Alabama and explained that the site selection process requires confidentiality, with most economic development recruitment projects being given code names.

“Because we’re competing against other states. And if we’re not able to keep that degree of secrecy at that stage of the game, we’re at a disadvantage to our neighbors,” Marsh explained.

He concluded, “So this is something that we have got to address. But I’m going to say this: that’s [only] a piece of it. And there’s going to be an attempt by the business community and economic developers to pass the piece. But I think it’s [incumbent] upon us to pass the big picture, solve all the problems, because you want as many people with you, supporting you, to make the changes. Every time you carve off a little piece, you lose some support. So, as I said, I want to help everybody, but I’m committed to the big picture.”

Lottery

Howe later asked the speaker if the time has come for a lottery proposal to pass the legislature and reach a referendum of the people.

“I think so,” McCutcheon responded. “I think it’s been coming for several years. I know that the districts, House districts, that are [bordering other states], most of those districts have seen a significant shift over the last seven or eight years because they see Alabamians driving across the state line to buy lottery tickets.”

He continued, “And people are starting to talk about it, and they’re starting to make it part of their discussion around the dinner table. … At the end of the day, there’s a good push from the people.”

McCutcheon did emphasize what he viewed as key to a successful lottery discussion.

“If we’re going to put this to a vote of the people, and I think it has a good chance of passing, we need to make sure that people understand what they’re voting on,” he outlined. “That’s very, very important. We don’t want to cloud the issue with the definition of a ‘lottery’ and try to sneak something in the back door. Let’s make sure the people understand in their minds what a lottery is and we define it in such a way that they know what they’re voting on.”

“Then, I think the next big debate will be, ‘Where’s the money [lottery revenue] going to go?’ And that will be something that we’ll have to contend with,” McCutcheon concluded.

This came the same day that Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) filed a lottery proposal that was soon after called not “clean” by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who said McClendon’s legislation would legalize slot machines in a select few places in the state.

Watch the entire discussion:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

After 133 launches, Alabama built rockets boast 100% mission success

Thank you to the United Launch Alliance team and the entire workforce surrounding another successful launch.  Alabama’s Decatur based facility brings the utmost precision, passion and purpose to one of the most technically complex, critical American needs: affordable, reliable access to space.

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3 hours ago

Bipartisan bill to regulate vaping set for House committee hearing

MONTGOMERY — Alabama is currently one of only three states to not regulate vaping, but that could soon change.

HB 41, sponsored by Republican Rep. Shane Stringer and Democrat Rep. Barbara Drummond, both of Mobile County, is on the House Judiciary Committee’s agenda for Wednesday afternoon.

The bill would regulate the sale, use and advertisement of vaping – or “alternative nicotine products” – in the state.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, both Drummond and Stringer emphasized that their bill is intended to protect the health and wellbeing of Alabama minors.

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“The motivation is simple,” Drummond emphasized. “We are trying to safeguard the teens in the state of Alabama.”

She outlined, “Vape shops, as it stands right now, are not regulated at all… And the bill came about because our drug education council locally brought it to our attention, but [Stringer and I] have both seen ourselves, as well as throughout the whole state, the rise of vape shops. They’re popping up everywhere in the state of Alabama.”

While it is too early to tell what vaping is directly doing to users’ health, Stringer and Drummond emphasized there is an objective gateway effect from vaping use and to smoking traditional cigarettes.

“Right now, there is no data that says what is the [direct] effect that these products are having on our young people. What we are seeing, and this is a national trend, is that you’re seeing smoking not going down, but increasing, among young people,” Drummond explained.

Stringer, a career law enforcement officer with stints as chief of multiple local police departments, said educators from every corner of Mobile County have voiced their concerns with the lack of state oversight on vape products and retailers “saying this is an epidemic and a problem what we need to address.”

“The products haven’t been out long enough to know the problems we could face in five, ten, 15 years from now,” he said. “It’s pretty similar to when smoking came out. There was basically no risk at that time, according to everyone. Now, look at all the data that we have to go with smoking… this is a new product we’re learning every day about.”

Stringer said statistics they were shown from the drug education council show an approximately 34 percent increase in children under 19-years-old that tried smoking after vaping.

“In Alabama, we don’t want to wake up one day and see the effects, negative effects on our kids,” Drummond added. “Right now, we’re trying to be responsible legislators to make sure that we look out for the welfare of our children.”

The two lawmakers also stressed that not only do vape shop operators have no restrictions on them, but the state has no way to even keep track of them currently.

Their bill would make it illegal to sell or give vape products to anyone under 19-years-old. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would regulate retail sales of the products, just as they do tobacco products. Retailers would have to obtain an annual permit, which includes an application fee of $300. Retailers would also have to comply with relevant FDA regulations and post signage warning of the dangers of nicotine usage.

Using vape products in certain places, including schools and child care facilities, would be prohibited.

‘This is something that is nonpartisan, it’s not anything that is about Republican or Democrat. This is something about our young people,” Drummond said. “Because if you look at the amount of nicotine that is showing up in these products, when they first hit the market, the nicotine levels were very low – like five percent. Now, it’s gone up to about ten percent. They’ve got other chemicals in there, like formaldehyde. What is the effect of that upon the brains of our kids? So, this is more of a public wellbeing bill for us.”

Stringer advised that he foresees widespread support in the legislature for the bill.

“Everyone agrees that there has to be some checks and balances [oversight] in place,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn