To the mind of the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest indicators of maturity in the faith was how a Christian exercised his liberty, especially in these gray matters. You want to know the heart of someone?
You want to know the depth of their character? Watch how they treat these issues of grace. Watch and see if they ever limit their liberty. Watch if they ever restrict their rights and then, more importantly, ask them why. Why have you chosen to do that or not do that?
And you will see into their heart. In Romans 14, the Apostle Paul confronts certain factions that had risen in the church at Rome. Some people considered meat that had been offered to idols to be unclean. Others didn't. Also, some regarded the Sabbath to be a holy day, while others didn't. So, who was right in these situations? Which group honored God more? In this message, Stephen shows you that it wasn't the side that made the best argument that was right. It was the side that gave the most grace.
You're going to learn how to navigate your Christian liberty in this message called, Wearing Sea on Your Sleeve. I have learned that Roman artisans, during the days of Paul, were skilled in working with precious metals. They developed the ability to stamp coins with figures of emperors and thrones, ornamental designs of vines and fruit and animals.
Along with this artistic work came the development of special tools used to create these metallic works of art. One special tool for stamping the coins was known by a Greek word that sort of migrated in and through several languages, Old French and finally in the English. A word for that special tool used to make a stamp on the coin was a tool called character, a character. Over time that word actually came to stand for both the tool and the mark left by the tool on the face of a coin.
A coin would have character. Medieval courts adapted the tool and used a character to literally brand lawbreakers so that they would be immediately recognizable by their crimes. The letter M could be branded into the cheek of a murderer. The letter T would be branded into the shoulder or arm or hand of a thief. Anyone branded with such a symbol would be literally marked for life.
All you would have to do is glance at their character, and you would know a little bit at least about their past. By the 16th century, the word character was disassociated from the tool of a metalworker, the brand of some letter on someone's body, and it came to refer to simply the sum total of that person's attributes or qualities or nature or personality. Though harder to spot immediately without the help of some mark, a person's character, that word came to represent who they were. The stamp of their disposition, the quality of their nature.
It's interesting to me that we have several expressions, even in our language beyond that, that reveal the visible quality of the hidden reputation or personality of a person's character. We talk about a person who has a chip on their what? Shoulder, an invisible block of wood, and that person just sort of walks through life daring somebody to knock it off, provoke them. We also talk about a person wearing their heart on where? Their sleeve. It's a reference to wearing your emotions right here, as it were, so everyone can see how you feel. That person wears their heart on their sleeve. That phrase actually originated in the 1800s as young men wrote the name of their sweetheart on a piece of paper and then pinned it on their shirt sleeve and then wore it during the week of Valentine's.
So everywhere they went with that slip of paper pinned on their shirt sleeve, they openly revealed the name of the girl who, as it were, had captured their heart. Isn't that sweet? Isn't that romantic? I think it's a lot more significant than roses or expensive restaurants, don't you?
We need some guys to volunteer to let us know how it worked next year. I think it's fascinating that while a person's character is no longer visible by means of a brand, the affection of our hearts is no longer pinned on our shirt sleeve. Both our character and heart are exposed just as clearly through our actions and our reactions, our attitudes and our responses.
You don't have to write a letter on your cheek or pin something on your shirt sleeve to let someone see the stamp of your character or the state of your heart. More than anything else, those things are revealed by how we use our freedom in Christ, the things we choose to do or not do when there aren't any rules, what we choose to wear when there isn't a dress code, what we choose to watch when ratings no longer slow us down, the things that we value and dream about when there's no earthly record or revelation. To the mind of the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest indicators of maturity in the faith was how a Christian exercised his liberty, especially in these gray matters. You want to know the heart of someone?
You want to know the depth of their character? Watch how they treat these issues of grace. Watch and see if they ever limit their liberty. Watch if they ever restrict their rights and then more importantly ask them why.
Why have you chosen to do that or not do that? And you will see into their heart. Paul has begun chapter 14 by talking about these areas of gray and he began, as you remember, by sort of opening the barn door. It's as if he let all the animals out. You remember the shocking news that he would tell this Jewish audience and Gentile audience? There are no longer any special days above another. You can worship God on the Sabbath. You can just as well worship him on Tuesday.
The festivals, the ceremonies, the dietary restrictions and all of that just sort of swept away in this new era of grace and it must have been stunning and shocking to his audience. You are free now. You are free in Christ. You can imagine what that would mean.
Hear this. You are now free in Christ which at its very core means you are now free not to do whatever you want. You are now free to do whatever he wants. That's a world of difference in the way you view life.
And what does he want? How do you live in this open pasture land of grace and liberty? Well, in the latter part of chapter 14 and into chapter 15, Paul is giving principles whereby we construct brand new fences, brand new boundaries based on the convictions of our heart and a lot of other things as it relates to Christian liberty.
And last Lord's Day we uncovered the first one. The first boundary was the principle of protection. He may remember in verses 13 to 15, Paul is saying, protect your younger brother or sister in the faith. Don't cause an obstacle to be in their way or a stumbling block.
They're just learning how to walk. Don't let the debris of your liberty clutter their path and trip them up. Balance your life with liberty on one hand but love for your brother on the other hand. Now the second principle Paul delivers to help us know how to use our liberty without abusing our liberty would be what I would call the principle of reputation.
Let's pick our study back up where we left off with verse 16. Therefore, do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil. Now this good thing here is a reference to an act of Christian liberty.
For you it is fine to do. It's an act of liberty in this era of grace. However, he says, don't do it if it can be used as a reason to diminish your reputation as a holy child of God. The key phrase is translated spoken of as evil. That's actually just one Greek word, blaspheme, which gives us what word in English?
Blaspheme, transliterated to mean this. Now typically we think of this word as speaking irreverently of God. Paul is using it as a boundary for your testimony so that no one could speak irreverently of you.
No one could cast a shadow on your character. It's as if he's saying we need to remember we're wearing, as it were, the letter C on our shirt sleeve, which stands for Christian or Christ. And as people see that and know that, how we live and how we walk and what we choose to do, don't let it deflect negatively irreverently on our stand in Christ, our reputation. Paul is writing in effect, don't let your liberty create an opportunity for libel. Don't allow your spiritual freedom to create an opening for the slandering of your testimony in Christ.
So as you think through what you do and don't do, so often I fear we don't think enough of our reputation and what it means. You might think it'd be over the top to hear of some things that believers do to guard their reputation. Maybe you think it's sort of a little too far to learn as I did, as I read his autobiography, that Billy Graham would never be in an elevator alone if another woman was on the elevator. Just that brief 10, 12, 15 seconds, so careful of any potential slander to his name and reputation.
You think that's over the top or do you, as I do, just sort of admire his care and concern? I want you to know that I and all our pastors on staff do not ride in a car alone with a female staff member. That isn't in any way an indictment on the character of the women on our staff.
They love the Lord. It has everything to do with the principle of reputation. Do we have the liberty to do that? Absolutely. But the issue of gray areas is not so much what we think and know, but what someone else could think and reason. Whether or not you're on a church staff, be careful in the work setting. It's a setting for you that by its very nature of close quarters and interdependence can easily turn friendship into affection, comradeship into feelings, and a path to great ruin. You might say, oh, come on, Stephen.
I had somebody a couple of weeks ago tell me you don't live in the real world. It's only lunch with a married man or a married woman. Besides, we're talking about the latest project at work. Ladies and gentlemen, there can be a very thin line between a business appointment and a date. The development of a friendship beyond what it should be, be alert, not only for your own reputation's sake and what would be whispered perhaps by others in the office at the water cooler, but the damage to your testimony as a Christian and beyond all of that and above that the safety of your own marital fidelity and your own family and your own life. Solomon wrote that a clean name, a good name, that is a good stamp, a clean stamp of character is to be chosen above gold or silver. Favor with men above wealth.
Proverbs 21 verse 1. How much time do you spend earning gold and silver? And how do you feel about it? Do you guard it?
Well, certainly you do. You want to know that it's secure in some account, right? You may be so concerned that you buy a little insurance or maybe you've protected your credit card accounts against identity theft.
I doubt anybody in here has ever gone to work with slips of paper and you've passed out your PIN number to people you work with. Here, feel free. You use that at your discretion. It's guarded. You're careful with your gold. Solomon is saying, guard your name like you guard your gold. Watch out for it. Be careful. Don't put it this way. Don't let something you have the liberty to do, to cast a shadow on your good name. It's more valuable than your gold.
Let me give you some practical guidelines along this principle of reputation. Paul writes don't let your liberty open the door to slander. I think he's warning us or causing us to think of at least two or three things.
Let me give them to you. Number one, I think he's asking us to accept the potential of being watched. Being watched.
You're wearing a C on your sleeve. If people know it, they're going to watch. And more than likely, the people you work with will hold you to a higher standard than any church would, don't they? Whether it's a younger adult in the faith or a child, it would probably surprise you to know how carefully you are watched. Isn't that the warning of Paul to Timothy where Paul wrote Timothy in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity?
Show yourself an example to those who believe. In other words, that's a nice way of saying you're being watched, Timothy. And so in everything, whatever you say, your conduct, your love, your faith, purity, be an example. Accept the potential of being watched.
Along that same line would be a second guideline. And it would be this, admit the power of being an influence. Admit the power of being an influencer. You could say it this way. The truth is you're not only being watched, you might even be copied. Are you ready for that? Now let me touch on something controversial.
You've been waiting for me to do that, haven't you? Could this be why Paul told Timothy, drink a little wine for your stomach's sake? 1 Timothy 5 23. That's a favorite verse of people I know.
Just ask them about it and they'll more than likely quote that verse of Scripture. You know, Paul said, drink a little wine. The trouble is they put a period there, drink a little wine and say, there you have it.
Paul's still talking. Drink a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent asthenia, your frequent ailment. You've got stomach problems, Timothy.
So drink some wine to clear it up. Paul was telling Timothy, who evidently was drinking straight water, which was not a wise thing to do in the first century, water was basically contaminated. Now let me get even more practical on this one issue that continually comes up when I'm asked about liberty. I want you to know that because of this power of influence, which we accept and admit to, we here at this fellowship require the teachers and leaders and deacons and elders, those we call influencers, limit their liberty as it relates to alcoholic beverages. We accept this principle that puts a boundary on our liberty.
We accept the potential of not only being watched but copied, not only being copied but our actions exaggerated by people younger in the faith. We don't want a teacher of fifth grade boys to be seen by one of those Sunday school fifth graders as the teacher leaves the grocery store with a cart loaded down with beer and wine. That fifth grade teacher could correctly argue, it is my liberty, it is my right.
The trouble is his liberty becomes a loaded gun. That fifth grader who's going to be offered drink after school one day behind the school in the bushes might now be tempted to say, you know, I think I will because my teacher does or my daddy does or my pastor does and take it further than you ever wanted it to go. What's interesting to me, ladies and gentlemen, is our secular society now sees the grand danger of this one thing that's killing more people on the roads than anything else. The University of Buffalo in a Time magazine article dated November 2004 did some research and revealed that the younger their subjects were when they had their first sip, the more likely they were to abuse it as adults.
In fact, they were able to quantify the risk, try to follow this here, for every year earlier that an adolescent took his first sip, the chances of becoming a problem drinker increased 12 percent. I have had people tell me, Stephen, this is an issue of liberty and furthermore it's legal too. And I would say you're right. It's an issue of liberty and it is a gray area and it is legal and even more so now you have to think through this one particular issue like every other one.
This just happens to be a very good example. It's something you need to address. But ladies and gentlemen, let me challenge your thinking and then we'll move on that if all you ever think about is whether or not it's part of your liberty and whether or not it's legal, then what are you going to do when America legalizes another very dangerous substance, and it will in the future, and that's marijuana? Will you show your children how to smoke it in moderation or will you tell them to stay away from it? I want you to know that as for me and our influencers here in this church, we will by word and example encourage your children to stay entirely away. Accept the potential of being watched and what that means for you as a believer. Admit the power of being an influencer and what that means for you as a believer.
Third, acknowledge the priority of being a testimony. Look at verse 17. He says, For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking. What he means is that the kingdom of God is not represented by people who eat kosher meat or don't eat kosher meat. It isn't composed automatically of people who refuse to drink wine offered to idols or those who do. That isn't how you get into the kingdom of heaven.
You don't get in by virtue of diet. He says the kingdom of heaven is represented by what? Three words, righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. These three words are certainly loaded theological truths, and we've dealt with each of the words in our previous studies. What Paul is talking about here, though, is a practical issue. He says your life as you live out the truth of Christianity is you wear that C on your sleeve. Is your life marked by righteousness, peace and joy?
Have you ever asked the question about how people might view you as it relates to those three things? See, that's what Paul is talking about here. It isn't necessarily the theological truth of these three words, but the practical truth that he has in mind. He isn't talking about salvation. He's talking about service. In other words, evaluate your testimony before others.
Can it be characterized by these words? Let's just ask the three questions. Is what you are doing with your Christian liberty marked by righteousness or maybe shadiness or questionableness or even impurity? Paul wrote to the Philippian church to be continually filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God, Philippians 1-11. Does your walk with Christ create peace or battles, war? Romans chapter 12 dealt at length with how to get along with one another in humility. Third, does your lifestyle promote joy or gloom? In a most practical way, Paul has earlier referred to the believer's joy in the Holy Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 1 verse 6. And the fruit of the Spirit, among other things, one which is joy, Galatians 5-22, is your life marked by joy.
We forget that we're wearing a C on our sleeves. People who see us know who we belong to and what we represent. So verse 18 says when you live like this, the latter part of this verse, he says two things are going to happen. One, you're going to be agreeable in the eyes of God and number two, you're going to be an authentic believer in the eyes of man. He says in this way you serve Christ and you will be acceptable, that is literally pleasing to God, agreeable to God. It's not talking about salvation. It's talking about a life of pleasure to God and approved by men. That seems like an impossibility.
Now, wait a second. That's a contradiction. How can you live a life that's pleasing to God and also approved by man? I thought Jesus said we're going to be hated by men. But didn't he say in Luke chapter 6, blessed are you when men hate you. Blessed are you when men ostracize you and cast insults at you and spurn your name as evil. Woe to you when all men speak well of you. Didn't Peter write in 1 Peter 4.14, if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed. The spirit of glory and of God rests on you. So aren't we supposed to walk around hoping people hate us and revile us? We say, yeah, we're living for God. They hate me.
Well, there's a balance here. Paul is evidently talking about that. How do you live for Christ? Be pleasing to God and approved by men. For starters, even the most pagan unbeliever you work around is going to secretly respect the fact that you're an honest man or a woman. They may not tell you. They may not ask for your autograph. But they're going to respect you. The average unbeliever will appreciate the fact that you keep your word, you pull your load. They're going to watch how you respond to your authority on the job. And they'll respect you for being a person of grace. Now the word Paul used to speak of approval before men is loaded and insightful in and of itself.
It's the word translated in my text, approved. You need to understand that in the days of Paul, there was no such thing as paper money. All of the transactions, in fact, even up to the Middle Ages were done in gold and silver or base metal coins. There were no standard coin presses. Have you ever seen ancient coins? They look different.
They're different sizes and shapes. In order to make coins, the metal would be heated until liquid form poured into molds where it would be allowed to cool. And after cooling, it was stamped by a character. In addition to that, the irregular edges of the rough coins were trimmed away. This wasn't an exact science, of course. The metal was soft.
It wasn't mixed with alloy. And so people frequently shaved away at the edges of their coins and then collected enough to melt it down and make another coin. In fact, by the time of the Apostle Paul, this was so widespread that the city of Athens had passed 80 laws just trying to curb this one form of dishonesty. Over a period of time, the coin would be so whittled down that the merchants would reject them as lacking their full weight or value. Those coins would be called ad-dacamas, disapproved. And the merchants who were upright and honest would neither receive those coins nor would they slip them back into your change.
So you'd take them away. Those merchants were called dacamas, authentic, genuine. Their money was referred to as dacamas. It's the real thing, the real weight, the real value. That's the word Paul uses here in verse 18. You will be considered by mankind as dacamas.
You will be at full value. What they see as genuine and authentic, upright. You don't cut corners.
You don't shave away at the edges. In light of this context, Paul would be challenging us all as you decide what you will do and what you don't do. Don't overlook the principle of protection. Don't overlook the principle of reputation.
With that in mind, some of the gray areas of life might just take care of themselves. As you wear the letter C on your sleeve, be upright, be honest with a stamp of God's character on your heart and life. And then wear that C on your sleeve without reservation, without hesitation, with joy and a sense of boldness, telling the world whose heart you belong to and, more importantly, telling them of the living Lord who belongs to you.
That was a powerful reminder today to boldly embrace your reputation as a follower of Jesus Christ. Here at Wisdom International, we want to help you with that in any way we can. All of the messages from our Bible teacher, Stephen Davey, are available to download from our website.
That, of course, includes today's message entitled, Wearing C on Your Sleeve. We also post each of the lessons from Stephen's second daily program called, The Wisdom Journey. You'll find us online at wisdomonline.org. While you're there, please use the form to send us a note. We'd love to hear from you. You can also send us a card or letter in the mail if you prefer to communicate that way. Our address is Wisdom International, P. O.
Box 37297, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27627. I'm Scott Wiley, and for Stephen and the Wisdom staff, I thank you for joining us. Join us again next time. We'll see you next time. We'll see you next time.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-28 00:36:40 / 2023-11-28 00:46:42 / 10