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.

Guest: Physicians are no longer on the front lines of this pandemic — You are

State Health Officer is a difficult role to fill, especially this year. While partisanship and conspiracies continue to divide us, it is the job of the State Health Officer to make decisions for the good of all people throughout Alabama. This is exactly what Dr. Scott Harris has done for Alabamians during (and before) the COVID-19 pandemic.

After reading a recent article about Dr. Harris, I was appalled but not surprised by the fact that he has received death threats over mask mandates and other preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Governor Kay Ivey enacted the first mask mandate on July 16, 2020, at the recommendation of Dr. Harris and others. After the initial mandate, Alabama’s case average and death rates quickly fell. Neighboring states without mask mandates – including Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee – all continued to rise above Alabama’s average.

As President of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, I would like to proudly declare my support of Dr. Harris and Governor Ivey in regard to the mask ordinance, social distancing guidelines, and other measures to protect the citizens of Alabama. Science and data have shown us time and time again that these guidelines work. That being said, why are there still Alabamians who push against these life-saving initiatives?

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While appealing to a sense of personal responsibility should be effective enough, it has proved not to be. What happens when personal responsibility is not enough, and people are endangering others? Mask mandates. Social distancing guidelines. Occupancy limitations.

Physicians and other health care providers have worked tirelessly to serve our patients, even at the cost of our own health and safety. What if I told you that we are no longer on the front lines of this pandemic, but you are? You have the power and capability to stop the spread of the Coronavirus that has taken over 3,450 lives in Alabama and 1.39 million lives worldwide. All you have to do to potentially save a life is to wear a mask in public, socially distance and wash your hands. These simple actions not only save lives, but can also help our physicians and hospital systems not get overwhelmed with patients. You can help keep your family and our families safe at the same time.

As we head into this holiday season, we can’t require people to keep themselves safe, but we are asking them to keep other people safe. Many people could be infected and transmit the disease to others without even knowing they are sick. I just hope that we can recontextualize the mask mandate and see it as a simple act of kindness to protect those around you. It seems like the least we can do for our families, friends, loved-ones, physicians, nurses, and communities as a whole.

John S. Meigs, Jr., MD is the president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama

5 hours ago

Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear retiring; Kim Boswell appointed as successor

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that Lynn Beshear will retire as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) effective December 16.

Beshear was appointed by Ivey to this position in July 2017, shortly after the governor took office.

Yellowhammer News earlier this year named Beshear a 2020 Woman of Impact.

“When Lynn was appointed, I knew that she would approach her role always thinking of what is best for the people of Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement.

“She has created a collaborative team approach within the Alabama Department of Mental Health to solve intricate problems regarding delivery of services for mental illness, substance abuse disorder and intellectual disability. I am truly grateful for her service to our state and wish her best in her next chapter,” she continued.

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While leading ADMH, Beshear has spearheaded several initiatives to increase access of services for Alabamians with mental illness, while navigating complexities of delivery by the department and community providers.

“It is been an honor to serve as the Commissioner of the department,” Beshear commented. “I am stepping into the next chapter of my life proud of the accomplishments of the department and am incredibly honored to have worked with such dedicated individuals who are committed to improving the lives of others. I profoundly thank Governor Ivey for her trust in me these last three years and have no doubt the department will continue to change the lives of the people of Alabama for the better.”

Ivey’s office in a release outlined that under Beshear’s leadership, ADMH launched Stepping Up Alabama, which uses the national model to reduce the numbers of jailed individuals with mental illness. Alabama is the only state to expand the goal to include ER’s and substance use disorder. It is anticipated that a case management component of Stepping Up will be in place in all 67 counties by the end of the Fiscal Year 2022.

Additionally, three mental health crisis centers were recently announced as crisis diversion centers, with the goal of individuals receiving “the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”

Expansion of school-based mental health, hiring a housing coordinator for individuals’ stabilization plan, and expansion of early childhood services and autism services are examples of ADMH’s expansion of services during Beshear’s tenure.

The governor on Monday also announced she is appointing Kim Boswell to be the new ADMH commissioner effective December 16.

Boswell reportedly has more than 36 years of experience working with individuals with mental illness, substance abuse disorders and developmental disabilities.

She currently serves as chief of staff for Beshear and has been both associate commissioner for Administration as well as director of Human Resources for the department. During her career, Boswell has worked as a planner to improve human service delivery systems, a Program Evaluator, a School to Work Transition Coordinator, and has also served as the State Office Administrator for the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.

“I’m pleased to announce Kim Boswell as Commissioner for the Alabama Department of Mental Health,” Ivey stated. “She has spent the entirety of her professional career devoted to helping struggling individuals and I appreciate her willingness to serve in this new capacity. Her background as a mental health provider as well as administrator makes her uniquely qualified.”

The governor’s office noted that Kim Boswell is of no relation to ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

Report: Democratic-aligned group tried to register dead Alabama woman to vote in Georgia

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Monday said his office is investigating four different voter registration groups for potential wrongdoing ahead of the state’s crucial January 5 U.S. Senate runoffs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Raffensperger, a Republican, held a press conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta to outline these investigations.

The theme of the alleged actions by all four groups under investigation pertains to attempting to register people who do not currently reside in Georgia to vote in the Peach State’s runoffs.

One of the groups was founded by Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who lost the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018; she has still not conceded that election. Her group allegedly solicited individuals residing in New York City to register to vote in Georgia.

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Another group, Vote Forward, is alleged to have attempted to register a dead Alabama woman to vote in the upcoming runoff.

Vote Forward is a 501(c)(4) aligned with Democratic groups and left-leaning causes.

The group’s other prominent Alabama tie?

On Vote Forward’s website, the organization cites its voter registration and turnout efforts in the Yellowhammer State as being effective in helping U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) win his 2017 special election bid.

In fact, the website says, “The project began as an experiment conducted by Scott Forman in Alabama in 2017. Encouraged by the success of that test, Scott and a small group of friends and fellow Opower alumni built this platform…”

On Monday, Raffensperger stressed that Vote Forward and the three other named groups “have a responsibility to not encourage illegal voting.”

“If they do so, they will be held responsible,” he added.

The outcome of Georgia’s runoffs is of paramount importance for Alabama, as U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) will lose the chairmanship of the powerful Committee on Appropriations if Republicans do not win these two races.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has launched a nationwide Georgia Battleground Fund leadership team to aid fundraising in their effort to hold the Senate majority. Led by Karl Rove as national finance chairman, this also includes state chairs and a distinguished team of national and honorary co-chairs.

Katie Boyd Britt — current president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama and former chief of staff to Shelby — is the Alabama state chair for this effort.

“America’s fate rests on the outcome of these Georgia races,” stated Rove. “Democrats have not been shy about what they’ll do if Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi run Congress, so it’s imperative every freedom loving American go all in for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler so they’re victorious. I’m honored to work with so many great Republican leaders from all 50 states and D.C. to ensure these two Senators have the resources to protect the last line of defense against the Democrats’ left-wing agenda.”

RELATED: Republican organizer leading team of volunteers to aid Senate races in Georgia

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

Alabama sets state record for COVID-19 hospitalizations

Alabama recorded its largest yet number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Monday as the state’s coronavirus statistics continue to reach alarming levels.

There were 1,717 individuals in the hospital with COVID in Alabama on Monday, eclipsing the previous record of 1,613 set on August 6.

UAB Hospital, the state’s biggest and most prominent medical facility, is currently treating 125 coronavirus patients, a new high for the facility.

“125 patients means 125 patients receiving in-hospital, bed-specific care. These are patients who are either very sick, unable to get better, or potentially unable to survive without medical attention and care,” UAB explained about their hospitalized patients in a press release.

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Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)
(UAB/Contributed)

UAB’s numbers include any patient admitted to the hospital with a diagnosed case of COVID-19.

The hospital’s numbers appear to indicate a worrying spike in the Birmingham metropolitan area. UAB was treating just 79 coronavirus patients on Thursday.

Overall, Alabama’s count of new coronavirus cases remains about as high as it has ever been. On average, 1,733 new cases have been added each day over the last week.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)

Yellowhammer News is using statewide coronavirus numbers from BamaTracker in this piece. BamaTracker is a website that collects and displays coronavirus data published by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Additionally, Yellowhammer is counting new cases as those confirmed by a chemical test performed in a laboratory. When adding results from rapid tests and other methods classified by ADPH as “probable” positives, Alabama’s seven-day average rises to 2,206.

Past trends in coronavirus data show that a spike in hospitalizations follows a spike in new cases by 2-3 weeks. A corresponding increase in deaths follows the increase in hospitalizations by around one month.

All but three of Alabama’s 67 counties reported a new COVID-19 case on Monday, indicating continued widespread transmission across the state.

Of all COVID-19 tests administered in Alabama over the last 14 days, 26.1% came back positive, the highest rate the state has suffered during the pandemic.

In recent days, for every eight tests administered, one was positive, per BamaTracker’s calculations.

Approximately 13 coronavirus deaths were reported in Alabama each day over the last week. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,246, with another 332 listed as “probable” but not yet confirmed by ADPH.

Doctors continue to recommend wearing face masks, staying at least six feet apart from others, and washing hands frequently as the best ways to slow the spread of the virus.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

6 hours ago

Alabama’s state Christmas tree to be delivered on Tuesday

Alabama’s official Christmas tree will be delivered to the State Capitol on Tuesday, the governor’s office said.

This year’s tree, donated by Robbins Taylor, Sr., is an Eastern Red Cedar arriving from Letohatchee in Lowndes County.

The tree stands about 35 feet tall and will be displayed on the front steps of the State Capitol building in Montgomery.

Following its delivery, the tree will be decorated throughout the week with lights and other adornments before the traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which is scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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