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The Danger of Overconfidence, Part 1 A

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
August 8, 2022 4:00 am

The Danger of Overconfidence, Part 1 A

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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August 8, 2022 4:00 am

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It all boils down to the problem of overconfidence. When a Christian gets to the place where he's so confident of his maturity and so confident of his strength that he thinks he can handle anything, he's really in a very precarious position. You've probably noticed that there are plenty of topics that the Bible doesn't specifically address, like movies and social media and video games.

But that doesn't mean the Bible has nothing to say about how you engage in those things. Today on Grace to You, John MacArthur begins a series that will give you a biblical framework to help you make decisions and to avoid the subtle dangers in those gray areas. The study is titled The Pitfalls of Christian Liberty.

Now, John, many people may not know why this is such an important topic. They might not know exactly what Christian liberty means. There has long been confusion about the believer's freedom in Christ. And in fact, the misunderstanding goes all the way back to the first century church and Paul himself, who straightened them out.

And we can be grateful that he did. Yeah, because there is a popular viewpoint that's been around since, I suppose, going back to the New Testament era, and that's why Paul had to address it and it's still here, that because you're under grace, you're free to do anything and grace covers everything. You know, Paul gets irate at that point. Shall we sin that grace may abound? And he uses that phrase in Greek, may it never be.

Grace is never an excuse to free you up to sin. But this comes around all the time. I mean, I don't think it's ever died. It surges and then it kind of fades when it gets rebuffed.

Then it comes back again. And we were talking today, you and I, Phil, about a guy who should know better, who has now become an advocate for this, a well-trained pastor who's been seduced by this Christian liberty stuff. And it panders to the flesh. There's enough fallenness left, even in a believer, to be drawn toward the idea of abuse of liberty. So this is a really, really important study that we're going to do on the pitfalls of Christian liberty, meaning that you can take Christian liberty to the point where it becomes dangerous and damaging. At Salvation, believers are given spiritual life, and we are free from the consequences of sin. It doesn't mean we're free to sin.

We never want to let that freedom become an excuse for lasciviousness. That's what the New Testament says. So there are pitfalls to keep in mind, even when you exercise your freedom in Christ. And in this study from 1 Corinthians 10, we're going to see how the church in Corinth stumbled in their understanding of the liberty they had in Christ. Most importantly, we'll see how Paul educated and exhorted the Corinthians about the dangers of overconfidence, idolatry, selfishness, and temptation. The lesson from 1st Century Corinth is critical for you and your church today.

So very practical days ahead here on Grace To You. Stay with us and learn how to avoid the pitfalls of Christian liberty. That's right, and friend, if you are a Christian, often the loudest and clearest testimony to your faith in Christ is how you use your liberty.

So learn how to glorify the Lord with your freedom right now as John begins his series, The Pitfalls of Christian Liberty. One of the problems the church of Corinth was facing was the problem of how to determine what they should do in the areas of life and living that the Bible doesn't speak about. It says a lot of things are right in the Bible. It says a lot of things are wrong.

You should do this, you shouldn't do that. But it doesn't say anything about a whole lot of other things. And how does a Christian know whether or not he has the right to do certain things that are not mentioned in the Bible? We call them gray area between the black and the white of the bad and the good. And so from chapter 8 through the first verse of chapter 11, that whole section, Paul is discussing the answer to that question.

In chapter 8, Paul set out a principle, and the principle is this. In the gray area, you're free. That is, as a Christian, you have liberty. If it isn't wrong, you have the technical and the moral right to do it. But there are two things, basically, that should determine whether you do or not. Number one, even though it is technically right, how will it affect others? That's his point in chapter 9. Number two, even though it is right, morally or technically, how will it affect you if you do it?

So there are two considerations. When you're talking about something the Bible doesn't forbid, how will it affect others if you do it, and how will it affect you if you do it? In chapter 9, he dealt in great detail with how it would affect others, and he used an illustration of his own life. In chapter 10, he will deal in detail with how it will affect you, and he uses an illustration from the life of the nation Israel to show how misuse of liberty will affect you and bring you into temptation and into sin and ultimately disqualify you from service for Christ.

I want to entitle the section The Danger of Overconfidence, The Danger of Overconfidence. In the Corinthians case, they were saying, hey, we're saved, we're baptized, we're instructed, we're mature, we come behind and no gifts. We've seen many things in our spiritual lives. We're free. We can go about and do all these things and they're not going to have any effect on us. We're too far along to get trapped.

We're not concerned. But the weaker Christians in the Corinthian church were saying, but wait a minute, some of the things you feel free to do and not be tempted, I can't do. Like maybe he's just been saved out of some idolatrous worship. The more mature Corinthian goes to that particular thing and just eats the meal there with his friends and talks and has a little social time and ignores the idolatry going on around him. But the weaker Christian just saved, if he was to go, would find himself so attached to that former way of life from which he has just emerged that it becomes a stumbling block to him, that it becomes a hindrance. And he looks at that other mature Christian and says, how can you be a part of this? How can you have anything to do with this terrible idolatry? And this other fellow is saying, I ignore the idolatry, I just eat the food. But the weaker Christian can't separate the two. And so Paul has said in chapter 9, you've got to consider that man. And what you might be able to handle, he taking your example and attending might not be able to handle. And you might think that in our society today. You might see some form of entertainment of some kind of activity or indulgence that you can handle, but a weaker Christian just saved out of that seeing you doing it and then going ahead to do it thinking it's right would find himself terribly compromised and think less of you as a Christian and never understand how you could do it.

That's his point. How's it going to affect others? But now in chapter 10 his point is, how is it going to affect you?

You think you can handle it, but can you? Can you live on the thin edge of your liberty without falling? Look at verse 27 of chapter 9 and let's get a running start. I keep under my body and I bring it into subjection lest it by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. In other words, he says, you know, I could be a preacher and be active and be serving God. And if I don't discipline myself and bring my body into subjection, I could become disqualified in the misuse of my liberty. I could run my liberty out to where I'm flirting on the thin edge of liberty and I could fall into temptation and sin and be disqualified from serving Christ. And you know many people in Christian service who have been disqualified.

Many. In serving Jesus Christ and using their liberty and abusing their liberty, they render themselves useless and disqualified. So Paul in this passage is saying, you can't run your liberty out to all of its extremities without noting the danger of falling into sin yourself. That smug Corinthian who goes to the festival and says, I'm only going there for the food. After all, it's the only social contact I have.

It's what everybody else is doing. I meet my friends there. I ignore whatever worship of a false god or whatever orgy may be going on. I just ignore it. Paul says to that man, oh, do you really?

Are you able to flirt on the thin line there and really make it? Or would you not be better off to avoid all appearance of evil and not have to face the temptation that comes? It all boils down to the problem of overconfidence. When a Christian gets to the place where he's so confident of his maturity and so confident of his strength that he thinks he can handle anything, he's really in a very precarious position. Notice verse 12. That's the sum of the first 13 verses. This is the germ of it.

This is the heart of it. Verse 12. Wherefore, that means based on the 11 verses just preceding, on this basis let him that thinks he stand take heed, what?

Let's default. It's just when you think everything is fine that you're in bad shape. Now the Bible warns, and I want to back up a little bit from the text, and I want to show you something of what the Bible says about overconfidence. As Christians, you can be mature.

I can be mature and strong. But at the same time, I have to be careful what I do with my liberty because I too can be tempted and fall into sin and such sin as could disqualify me from service and you as well. The Bible says a lot about this because God is very concerned about it. And over and over in the Bible, God humbles the proud over and over again. In Proverbs 16, 18, pride goes before destruction and a proud spirit before a fall. In fact, in Proverbs 29, 23, it says a man's pride shall bring him low.

That's paradoxical, but it's true. Let me show you some illustrations of pride and how God dealt with it, some illustrations of overconfidence. Look at Esther chapter 6. Esther is a fascinating book.

Esther was a Jewish lady who was very beautiful. She was living in a Persian kingdom. The Persian king got very upset at his wife because she was drunk one night. King Ahasuerus or Xerxes, he was drunk and he says, bring me my wife.

And there was a party going on. He says, I want everybody to see how beautiful she is or something like that. So they sent for his wife. Vashti was her name and she says, nothing doing. I'm not coming in there.

He just wants to put me on display. He probably wanted possibly even to disrobe her in front of everybody. And she was right in the sense that she didn't come. So she says, no, I'm not coming. So the wise men in the land said, we're in trouble because your wife will not come. And he says, she is out as queen. She is deposed.

If we don't do that, then every woman in this kingdom won't come when her husband wants her because everybody does what the queen does. And so they deposed her. And he said, now I want to find me a queen. And he found one, Esther. She happened to be Jewish.

Well, that became a problem because there were some anti-Semitic people in the country, namely one man named Haman, who decided that he would plot to kill all the Jews. He even built a gallows at his house to use in hanging one particular Jew named Mordecai. And so Haman had this whole plot all worked out and Esther did become the queen. And the king heard about the plot and he was going to honor Mordecai the Jew.

And in chapter 6, it tells us in verse 4, and the king said, who is in the court? Haman was coming to the outer court of the king's house to speak to the king to hang Mordecai. Here comes Haman. We're going to hang Mordecai.

All the time the king's thinking of honoring Mordecai. But Haman wants to get rid of him. And the king's servant said to him, behold, Haman stands in the court. And the king said, tell him to come in.

And Haman came in. And the king said to him, what shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor? Haman, help me out.

I've got a problem. I want to honor this man. And I'd like to know, what do you think we should do to really just give this guy the red carpet? Now Haman thought in his heart, to whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself?

It must be me. He has in mind. And man, he really laid it on. Get him the royal apparel, you know, the whole bit. See, he thought it was going to be him. The noble princes and parade him through town on horseback and proclaim him. Boy, just really laid it on. God all done said, wonderful.

That's what I'll do with Mordecai. Well, to make a long story short, what happened in the end when the king heard about the plot is recorded in chapter 7 verse 10. Haman was going to kill Mordecai and Esther and everybody else who was Jewish. So they hanged Haman on his own gallows.

That's the danger of overconfidence. In Daniel chapter 4, another illustration that's very graphic is an illustration of the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. And Nebuchadnezzar felt himself to be invincible. It says, verse 28, all this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.

Here it comes. At the end of 12 months, he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. He's walking in the palace. The king spoke and said, is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty? Look what I've done. It's incredible how mighty I am. While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken, the kingdom is departed from thee.

You're a little overconfident. That's the end. And they shall drive thee from men, and they did, the Medes and the Persians. And thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make thee eat grass like an oxen. Seven times shall pass over thee until thou know that the most high ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever he will.

And the same hour was the thing fulfilled on Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from men, did eat grass like oxen. His body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hairs were grown like eagle's feathers and his nails like bird's claws.

Became a raving maniac, sleeping in the grass and eating it like an animal. Proud. Obadiah. Don't try to find it. Just listen.

I'll read it to you. Obadiah is a prophecy against Edom. Edom was a southern area, east and south of the nation of Israel, across the Dead Sea and to the south extent. And the great city in Edom was the city of Petra.

Petra was a city that was carved out of the cliffs in a canyon. And you can ride in there. I've been there a couple of times on horseback. You can ride right into Petra.

It's a fantastic experience. There's an area there where only one person can pass and so it's fortified incredibly. Just a single man, for all intents and purposes, can block the entrance and there is no other way in. And so Edom was very self-confident that they were invincible in verse 3. The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwelleth in the clefts of the rock. They all live in the caves.

They lived in the caves carved out of the rocks. And they were so proud that they were invincible. In their heart they said, Who shall bring me down to the ground? Though thou exalt thyself like the eagle and though thou set thy nest among the stars, from there will I bring thee down, saith the Lord.

And he did. That city of Petra was destroyed and to date, animals and birds occupy that place and that's all. Overconfidence. In Matthew chapter 26 we have a New Testament illustration that gets very personal of overconfidence. Matthew 26 30, And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives. This is just after the Lord had communion with the disciples the night before his death. And then said Jesus to them, Matthew 26 31, All ye shall be offended because of me this night. For it is written, I will smite the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. You're all going to be offended by what's going to happen and you're going to scatter. That's Zachariah's prophecy. But after I am raised up again, I will go before you into Galilee.

Peter answered and said to him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. I'm there, Lord. Everybody else may go.

I'm in. Count on me. Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you that this night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times. Overconfidence. You see, the Bible again and again and again and again and again hits that issue of overconfidence. When you think you stand, you are the closest to falling that you will ever be. It's like Aesop's fable. Same thing. The tortoise and the hare. And you all know who won the race. Now this is the message of 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verses 1 to 13.

Let's look at it now and consider what it says. The Corinthians, smug, proud, confident of their spiritual maturity, felt they could do whatever they wanted. They could eat meat off or do idols. They could attend idol feasts. They could go to the festivals and it wouldn't bother them at all. They didn't care about anybody else.

They didn't care about offending others and they felt they could handle it themselves. So Paul really hits the issue. In this whole section he says there's two things wrong with indulging your liberty to excess. One, it offends others.

Two, it's going to bring you to the brink of sin and wind up disqualifying you from service to Christ. There must be self-denial. There must be self-control and discipline as he says in verse 27, keeping that body in subjection.

Discipline and denial. Maybe of some things you have a right to do. Like an athlete who denies himself the things he has a right to because he trains to win a race. Paul says in verse 24, I'm in a race and I'm going to run to win the prize. And I know that if I'm going to do that I have to be temperate. That means I have to be self-control.

And I'm going to have to say no to some things that I have a right to in order to discipline myself to win the race. And what's the prize? The prize is to win people to Christ. The prize is to mature saints.

That's the prize that I'm after. And it takes self-discipline to reach that goal. And he's not talking about salvation. He's talking about service.

The Christian who's going to be effective in service is the one who's self-disciplined, who sets his liberties aside if need be so he doesn't offend a brother or another person who's even unsaved and so that he doesn't put himself on the brink of temptation. People say, well, I'm free, man. I can handle anything. I'm so mature. You know, once in a while a shady, immoral R movie doesn't bother me. I just pick out the philosophy of it.

I just study the human interest factors. I can handle it. Oh, I know those office parties are wild.

But I go because I have a 7-Up and sit in the corner and I can make it. I'm mature. I know it's kind of a mad celebration, but that's all right. Oh, yeah, I can have a few drinks with the boys. It doesn't bother me. I can handle it. A little exposure to that kind of thing kind of keeps you in touch. I'm mature. You've got to be where they are.

You can't win them. You know what Paul's saying here? He's saying, yeah, yeah, maybe those things fit. Maybe.

Maybe they fit into a category that you haven't thought about. Maybe what you are in your mind justifying as the right of your liberty is nothing but pandering your lust and thinking it's all right. You see, that was Israel's problem. Let's look at the illustration beginning in chapter 10. He says, here's a perfect illustration of a whole nation of people that all became castaways because they couldn't handle their liberty. And they took their liberty and put it right on the thin edge of sin and they fell into the pond, as it were. They couldn't stand on the precipice.

They fell. And he has three movements that we'll look at. And just briefly, the assets of liberty, the abuse of liberty, and then the application. And we won't get to all of it, but just the beginning. He shows how Israel experienced God's blessing, experienced God's privilege, and yet all perished. And all died in the wilderness, useless to God. They were all disqualified, the whole pilum, from service. It doesn't mean they all lost their salvation.

That's not the issue. It's service that he's talking about. The race he's running here is the race to win people to Christ, the race to mature the saints, the race to live a disciplined Christian life. They all lost their race and God just chucked them all and started with a new group and took a whole new generation into the promised land. Let's look beginning with the five verses that begin the chapter, the assets of liberty, we'll call it.

The assets of liberty. And he begins with the things that the Israelites enjoyed because they are a parallel to the Christian. Now notice verse 1. Moreover, that's just the Greek word gar. It's just a transitional word. It shows that this whole section is based on verse 27 on this idea of being disqualified. Your Bible may say castaway.

It means disqualified. But, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant. In other words, I don't want you to forget this.

This is a strong statement here. I want you to know this. Please do not forget this. Forget what? That all our fathers were under the cloud and all passed through the sea.

You say, what are you talking about? Well, what was this occasion in the life of Israel when they all passed through the sea and under the cloud? Listen, it was the Exodus, was it not? For over 400 years Israel had been in bondage in Egypt.

Now this is a fascinating section here so hang in there and you'll see some really fascinating things. Israel was in bondage for over 400 years in Egypt. They were not their own people. They did not have their own national identity. They were mish-mashed into a society. The society dominated them. The society called all the shots.

They had no identity. They were an abject kind of slavery and from that platform there was little or no hope that they would ever be a witness to the world. But finally God said, it's time for you to be established as a witnessing community and I'm going to set you free. And God did that. God parted the Red Sea and they walked through on dry land and God had his cloud and his cloud led them. What verse 1 is talking about is the liberation of Israel.

It was the cloud and the sea that symbolized Israel's freedom from bondage. That became the touchstone of the Jewish religion and it still is. When a Jew wants to go back to identify the fact that he is part of God's elect people then he goes back to the Exodus.

That's where God called Israel out and separated them from any other nation and gave them an identity independent of any other. So don't be ignorant that all our fathers and they are our fathers as Christians in the sense of faith. We are not the racial descent of Abraham but Galatians 3.29 says we're his seed by faith. So they are in a sense our spiritual forefathers who living by faith and living as God's people are related to us who live by faith and as God's people.

Although we are not Jewish racially. And so he says all of them came out, all of them were set free, all of them were protected by divine provision in the cloud and in the sea rolling back so that they might pass. What a fantastic, God freed his people. Their election, now notice people, this is important, their election out of Egypt was to be a national witness and that is precisely what he is referring to here.

Notice this. This is not a picture of the salvation of Israel. It isn't the fact that when everybody left they all got instantly saved.

If you get saved by walking through the Red Sea we better charter a flight. That is not how you get saved. You believe God and some of those Israelites were saved while they were in Egypt. They believed God even there, right? I believe Moses was truly a believer, a righteous man before he ever let them out and there were many others. Some of them were regenerated by faith in the wilderness. Later on some of them were regenerated by faith as it were in the promised land. So whether they were in Egypt or the wilderness or Canaan they were believing personally for righteousness sake.

It never was national. It wasn't all right everybody out of Egypt and into the kingdom. No, it wasn't a universal salvation act. It was calling out a witnessing community. It was taking a people who were subjugated and from a vantage point where they couldn't set a pattern for the world to see of what godliness is. It was calling them out and setting them up as an independent, self-identified, connected to God community that the world could look at and say that's what the people of the Lord are like. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for being with us. John's current study is looking at the pitfalls of Christian liberty. Now friend, as new technologies and social issues continue to pop up, knowing how to navigate the gray areas of life is only going to get more important. And so I encourage you to download this series and master these principles. The series is free at our website and you can download it when you contact us today. Every message in this current series titled Pitfalls of Christian Liberty is free in audio and transcript format.

Just go to our website at In fact, all of John's sermons and every series we broadcast on Grace to You is free at our website, including popular studies like The Fulfilled Family, The Believer's Armor, and If God's Will is So Important, Why Can't I Find It? Again, to start downloading those sermons, go to our website at

Or to purchase them on CD, you can call us at 800-55-GRACE. And when you get in touch, make sure to let us know how you're listening, whether it's on your local radio station or online or through the Grace to You app. Of course, we'd also love to hear how John MacArthur's verse-by-verse teaching has strengthened you. Perhaps you're better equipped to explain the truth of salvation to friends and neighbors after listening to biblical preaching like you heard today. If you have a story like that, email us at letters at or drop a letter to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to join us tomorrow for another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-14 13:55:29 / 2023-03-14 14:06:54 / 11

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