21 Jul 2019
Christians are called to liberty in Christ. We do not need to obey the law in order to earn salvation. Jesus has paid it all! But we are not to abuse our liberty as an opportunity to indulge our flesh. Instead, we are to use our liberty for charity towards others. This sermon explores how our liberty in eating, drinking, dressing and working, for example, can be expressions of charity. See how your loving sacrifices for others will help advance the gospel!
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Today, if you have your Bibles, please turn with me again to Matthew chapter 17. And we are going to look at verses 24 to 27 in particular. This is a passage that reveals an encounter between Jesus, Peter and some tax collectors. Let me begin with this simple imagined story.
Suppose with me, a man who is holding an ancient coin some years ago. He's bored, probably! Just walking along the shores or walking beside the lake and so he decided to flip his coin up into the air. The lake is just right here, the waters are just right here, but he decides to challenge himself a little. He flips the coin and he flips the coin and he flips the coin and oop, it fell and slid into the waters.
Imagine the coin with me, falling into the waters and soon sinking out of sight. No one can see it but as it began to sink, it caught a ray of sunlight, reflected and shimmered in the waters, thereby catching the attention of a fish nearby. The fish saw that shimmer, thinking it must be some delicious morsel of food. It swam forward, open its mouth, hoping to gulp that coin, managed to do so.
Then the fish swam on its own way further off. And now he sees another delicious looking morsel of food, it's a worm that is wriggling. And so again it swam forward, swallow that worm, but now it's caught because there's a hook that is now stuck in its mouth. It tries to wriggle itself free with all its might but before it knew it, a man pulled up the line and caught that fish, reached into the mouth and pulled out a coin. A shekel to be precise.
That's probably the story, we might hear more of, if we have the opportunity, if Jesus were to say it to us. But that's the story surrounding verse[s] 24 to 27 in Matthew chapter 17. It's a story of how Jesus told Peter to go, cast a line, fish and the very first fish you catch there will be a coin prepared for you. How did that take place? What is it all about?
Well, verse 24, “When they …”, that is Jesus “…And His disciples came to Capernaum, the town that Jesus frequented, the collectors of the two drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” Now, in the Bible, we read of many people coming to Jesus and asking Jesus and His disciples questions.
Probably the one that stuck to my mind is that of the Scribes and Pharisees coming to Jesus and say, “Don't you keep the Sabbath?” They wanted to ask those questions to find fault with Jesus, to find a reason to discredit Him. I'm not sure if these guys come with the same motive, but here's the question, “Doesn't your teacher, Peter, pay His taxes?”
This is a story about tax collection, it's written only by Matthew. You know that there are four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and only Matthew writes this story for us. He's a tax collector, maybe that is of special interest to him. So, these tax collectors asked this very pointed question. And you might think that this tax collection is for the Roman Empire because you always hear how the people of Rome ruled over Israel and exact taxes from them.
But these two drachma tax is not given to Caesar. These two drachma tax is not given to Rome. These two drachma tax is a specific taxation for Jewish people to give to the Jewish Temple. It's the temple tax, you can read of it in Exodus, chapter 30:11-16. So, this is not given to Caesar, it's given to the temple, to the Jewish Temple. And this is a tax of two drachma.
You say, “How much is two drachma?” One drachma is the average salary of a common worker. So, a two drachma tax, is two days-worth of wages. And it is a flat taxation in that if you're poor, you give two drachma, if you're rich, you also give two drachma. Doesn't matter rich or poor, everyone gives the same. And this temple tax is given for the maintenance of the temple.
So, when asked this question, what did Peter answer? Actually, the Bible just gives us a very short answer. Nothing detailed at all because the next thing we read is Peter said, “Yes, of course, My master would pay the tax.” [Matthew 17:25] We do not know how or why Peter said what he said but we do know that after Peter said, “Yes.” When he got home, Jesus wanted to teach him more about the payment of tax.
So, “When he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first.” [Matthew 17:25] Peter didn't speak first. Jesus spoke first, almost seizing the initiative to teach Peter more truths, more principles with regards to this situation. He said to Peter, “What do you think, Simon?” You know, Jesus loves to use questions. Preachers we like to preach, Jesus likes to ask questions. Make you think, you know! And so, He's making Peter think. “Peter, what do you think? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax, from their sons or from others?” [Matthew 17:25]
This is a great question, which you don't have to be a Christian to understand. You, you do not need to be a Jew to understand. The question is simply this, “In a monarchy, not in democracy but in a monarchy where there's a king; a ruler, who has absolute power, when he collects taxes, who does he collect taxes from? From his own children or from the common people?”
Ah, this one I say, “No need Jew to answer lah!” I ask you, “If there's a king ruling in a monarchy, he collects taxes, does he collect from his sons or does he collect from the common people?” He collects from the? Common people. Does he collect from his sons? Does he a collect from his sons? No need to.
If you watch, okay you may not know, the kings of those days. You, you watch Chinese shows, right? Chinese king, right, “皇上驾到” [huáng shàng jià dào, the king has arrived in Mandarin], have you ever seen the emperor collect tax from his sons? No! In fact, he collects taxes from the common people to feed his sons.
So, the logic is very clear, Jesus is asking， “Kings collect taxes from who? Sons or common people?” Peter, like you, said, “He collects from others, from the common people. He doesn't collect from the sons.” [Matthew 17:26] And Jesus said, “Then, the sons are free.”
The implication here is, if the king collects taxes only from the common people and not from the son, then God expects taxes from the common people, but not from His Son. And Jesus is implying - He Himself is the very Son of God and therefore He does not need to pay the temple tax. You see the logic? That's his point!
So, Peter had to understand that Jesus need not give the two drachma tax because He's claiming and He is indeed the very Son of God. And we could have stopped here and sermon's over, you can go home, this is a super short story. But then God wants you to stay back a bit more and so we go to the last verse in this story.
Verse 27, which flips the whole situation around, Jesus is saying, “The sons are free, I don't have to pay but however, Peter, go, give it to them for me and for yourself. I don't have to pay but I still want you to go and pay.” [Matthew 17:27] “Huh, We have no money, leh!” “Well, it's okay, go to the sea, cast a hook. You are a fisherman, you're good at this. Go fish! And the very first fish, I already programmed AI …” I don't know what lah. “… I already programmed the fish will come, the fish that just swallowed that man's coin, that shekel, you will find that fish and you'll pull out that shekel.”
How much is a shekel? A shekel is worth four drachma. So, imagine a drachma as a quarter and this shekel will be a dollar and it is just nice for the taxes for both Peter and Jesus. “Why? Jesus if you're free, if You are the Son of God and the temple is your father's, why would you need to pay the tax?” The reason – “In order not to give offense to them.” [Matthew 17:27]
I'm suggesting to you what Jesus is teaching here is this, in effect He’s saying, “I am free not to pay the temple tax, but I will still do it for the people’s sake, for their sake that they will not be offended.” I'm sharing with you that from this text, Jesus is teaching us - He's free, He's the Son of God. He need not pay the tax. He's teaching us His liberty, His freedom, His position that says, “He does not need to do this.”
But at the very same time, this is a text that tells me about His charity, His love for their sake. He says, “Let me just do it! I don't have to do it, but in order for them not to be stumbled or to be confused or to be disturbed or to be offended, I will do it, even though I don't have to do it.”
So, Jesus is living His life as an example for you and for me to understand that whilst, we are called to liberty in many things, we have freedom in many things, we are to use our liberty to bless others; to serve others; to benefit others, so that they will not be stumbled. So, I think the point in this text is - it is Christ-like for God's people, for Christians to use our liberty for charity. That is the big statement!
Today's sermon is so simple, you just need to memorize, not memorize lah, understand these few words. It is Christ-like to use our liberty for charity. Now, how does that work? Give me five minutes, I'll get to that in a while. But let me deal a bit with the technical parts before we go to the examples, alright!
I want to emphasize to you as Christians, if you're here with us, you believe Jesus, you've repented of your sins, you are a follower of Jesus Christ, the Bible does tell you that as a Christian you have liberty, you've freedom. That's what Galatians 5:1 tells us, “For freedom, Christ has made or set us free.” Free! Free! Christians, you are free! Free from what?
Do you know that every major … and in fact, I won't even use the word, ‘major’, every religion in this world, apart from the Gospel, every religion is about a certain kind of bondage; burden; yoke or entanglement. Every religion! Wow! That's a very strong statement. But you think about it, it is true, because every religion operates on the basis of merit.
Every religion operates on the basis of earning your station or your position with God. Every religion is about doing good, helping people, don't commit too many errors, so that you score enough points. So that, maybe if you're good enough, your God may like you, may accept you and may save you.
But that’s not Christianity! Christianity is not about you being good enough for God. Christianity is about Christ dying to set undeserving sinners free. Free from having to earn this righteousness with God! Freed from having to prove ourselves worthy of God! Christianity is God knowing we are absolutely unworthy and yet still choosing to give Jesus to die and to save you from your sins. That is mind blowing freedom!
Every religion is to do, do, do, do, do, do, do. Try to do this, try to deserve this, make yourself better. Christianity is not do, do, do, do, do. Christianity is done, done, done, done, because on the cross, Christ said, “It is finished!” Wow! For God made Christ, who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, in Christ. Wow! Christ took on our sins, all our sins and He gave us all His righteousness.
And therefore Christ has set you free, and if you're free because of God's grace, His unbelievable amazing love, “Stand firm, therefore and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery, to this burden of slavery.” [Galatians 5:1] Of having to obey in order to earn righteousness with God, this legalism, this works-based religion. You're free! You’re free! You’re free! Don't go back there!
I was just chatting with someone last week from another church and, and the couple was saying, “Well, they left the church because after some time, they began to teach legalism.” Wow, that's scary! That you have to attend this thing, go for that, be doing this, giving this, so that you may be good enough for God. And they realize that's not Christianity! Christianity is not about earning my way to God. Christianity is about Jesus giving eternal life to us.
So, stand firm! Don't go back! Don't go back to legalism! “For you were called to freedom, brothers.” And so Christians, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, do you know something? You are free! Let me say this, “You don't have to obey the 10 Commandments to get favour from God. Jesus had already done that! He had lived a perfect life, and then, He gave His perfect life to give you that righteousness you could never earn.” So, stand in that freedom!
“Now, pastor, you are teaching us not to obey the 10 commandments ah?” No, I'm not saying that because not only are we to understand our liberty, we are to understand that our liberty must be used for charity. So, I have liberty, I have freedom but that does not mean then, I do whatever I like to indulge my flesh.
Look at what Paul says, “You were called to freedom, brothers…” [Galatians 5:13] You don't have to earn your salvation anymore, “… However, do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” Don't use it as an excuse for you to indulge in your fleshly passions and lusts, “…rather through love serve one another.” So, use your liberty for charity!
And what is loving one another? It really means that if you love one another, you fulfil the law. You will not cheat; you will not steal; you will not commit adultery; you will not kill if you love one another. You fulfil the law. Now, you don't do that to earn salvation, as I've said that like 20 times. But you do that because you love God and you want to please Him, you want to honour Him.
So, I hope that gives you the kind of a technical basis, theological basis for this statement. We, as Christians should follow Jesus. We are a people free from the bondage of trying to earn salvation with obedience. We have liberty but we are to use our liberty to love others for charity. Now, this is where it becomes simpler. How does that play out in real life, in everyday life? I give you a few situations for you to consider.
The first thing, how I can use my liberty in Christ for charity, very immediate example that the Bible furnishes us with is in the realm of eating. Christians, you can eat with an understanding of liberty and you can eat with an understanding of charity. You say, “How do you, how do you, what does that mean?”
Now, let me just say this, “As Christians, we have great liberty in what we eat. Agree?” You know Muslims, fellow Singaporean Muslims, they can't eat pork. Buddhist, they generally don't eat beef. Christians, you don't eat? You don’t eat people, huh, huh, huh, huh, that's a good one! That's a good one!
But actually if the person has already died, you didn't kill him, already died and maybe can eat lah! I don't know, alright! Good one! Christians, you can don't eat, you can eat, you can't eat? Blood. Okay, maybe, Acts 15. You can't eat? Nothing! Everything - give thanks and eat. Wah! So shiok! If I eat beef, if I eat pork, I won't go hell, you know, I am saved by the grace in Jesus Christ, so Christians have liberty in what you eat.
However, I must also consider how I eat will impact how others think. When I was younger, I was staying in my parents’ place. My parents, sometimes will have steam chicken, “bak cham gai” and “sioh bak” [roasted pork] Wah! Somehow bring a lot back, you know. I eat, I eat, “gasak” [gobble up in Malay], don’t ask, very nice.
After a while, I became a Christian, I became a follower of Jesus, I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. My parents know about it, my helper knows about it. Then, I see ‘bak cham gai”, I see “sioh bak”, I want to dig in and eat, then my helper say, ‘jit ey bai guay eh, le bay sai jiak”, meaning, this one has been offered to other gods in worship, you cannot eat.
I look at her, ah, I was saying, “Why you tell me? Why you tell me? If you didn't tell me and I didn't know is worship, used for worship, I would have eaten it. Nothing wrong will happen to me, I won't go to hell. It will be fine. Now, you tell me, hi yah! I can’t eat!”
You know, why I can't eat? Not because I really cannot eat but I won't eat it because I don't want you to be stumbled. I don't want you to be disturbed. I don't want you to be offended. I don't want you to be confused. I don't want you to think that the God I worship is the same as the god you worship. So for your sake, I have to say, “No”, to my “bak cham gai”.
But that's absolutely what it means, you see in first Corinthians 8:13, Paul has been saying, “Actually, it's fine for you to eat food offered to idols, really, if no one is around. Eating this food doesn't make you unclean.” “However, if this food that you eat, makes your brother stumble, tripped up; offended; disturbed unnecessarily, then I would never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
This is in 1st Corinthians, is also in Romans. “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” [Romans 14:21] So, I have great liberty in what I can eat but for the sake of love for others, sometimes I say, “No.” You get that! Jesus, need not pay the temple tax, but for the sake of others He says, “Go! Give the tax!” So example number one, easy. Food.
Example number two, also easy, but very controversial, I still will stick my neck out a little here. Second example of how liberty and charity might be called into practice is that of taking alcohol. Wah! This one, harsh! “Whoa pastor! Alcohol”.
It is such a sensitive subject because there are many views with regards to alcohol. Different people have different views with regards to Christian and alcohol. Alcohol, not alcoholism ah. Alcoholism cannot lah, that one sure. Let's be clear. Let's be very clear. Drunkenness is out.
You … the Bible, God does not want His people to be drunk and therefore he doesn't want his people to drink to be drunk. He doesn't want his people to be addicted to alcohol, that's for sure. But with regards to alcohol per se, can you drink a little bit of alcohol? Can you have “Yomeishu”? Can you have Tiramisu? That is where some Christians may differ. Can I have my “醉鸡” [zuì jī, drunken chicken in Mandarin] and my drunken prawn? Would it be sin if I take them？ This is where it differs.
A story is told of a pastor who absolutely hates alcohol. He forbids his people to drink alcohol, that's how he teaches. So, he says, “If anyone of you has beer at home, pour it down the river. If anyone of you has whiskey, pour it down the river. If anyone of you has wine, pour it down the river.” That's his closing statements in his sermon.
After that, the worship leader came up, to lead in the final song and the worship leader said, “Let's all arise and sing our last song, “Shall We Gather at the River”. So, different people have different understanding with regards to alcohol. And I'm not kidding you, it is true. You just Google and you see this Wikipedia, not even a Christian website, alright.
Wikipedia says, “Christian views on alcohol are varied in many different kinds of thinking.” In fact, I, I was preaching in a church like 10 over years ago and they have never ever asked me back because I think they know what I have said or shared about alcohol. And it like ah, stuns them; disturbs them.
So let me just ask you, how many of you think that a Christian can take alcohol? Not to the point of drunkenness, of course? Can take, how many of you say …? All you “jiu gui” [drunker in Hokkien dialect]. Huh, huh, huh, huh, huh, how many of you think, you cannot take alcohol? It becomes awkward. I want to say, I want to understand, it is quite alright for you to have differing positions in this.
But I want to say also to be fair, there are some scriptural verses that you might, you may need to consider. Now, I'm not showing you verses on drunkenness because it is as clear as daylight. But when it comes to alcohol per se, itself, is it wrong?
Look at these verses. Psalm 104:14-15 says, “Wine to gladden the heart of man.” Ah! That's a bad thing! Not necessarily because you look at this, “God causes the grass to grow for the livestock, plants for man to cultivate that he may bring forth food from the earth, wine to gladden the heart, bread to strengthen the man's heart.”
Now, I don't think anyone of you would say, “Food and bread are bad stuff.” You wouldn't, right? They are good stuff! Wine is right in the middle of it. Appropriate use of wine is not exactly forbidden in Scripture. Again, I give you Ecclesiastes 9:7, “Go eat your bread with joy…” Eating bread with joy is not a bad thing. Likewise, “… drinking your wine with a merry heart…” is not a bad thing.
Drinking to be drunk is a bad thing! Drinking till you're addicted to it is a bad thing! But drinking wine by itself is not a bad thing. And then again you see in 1st Timothy 5:23, Paul, the apostle said to Timothy, his protégé, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach.” Is it wrong? No! Clearly, not according to Paul.
How about Jesus? Well, Jesus turned water to wine, his first miracle in a wedding of Cana. And then most … maybe forcefully you read this verse, “The Son of Man …” referring to Jesus Himself, “… came eating and drinking.” You say, “Drink water lah, pastor.” But it cannot be water if they accused Him of saying, “Look at him a glutton and a drunkard.” [Matthew 11:18-19]
Now, there are people I feel, who say quite unfairly, “That the wine in those days, no alcohol one or very, very, very diluted, won't get drunk one! Like grape juice.” Actually, you drink grape juice, you drink 10 gallons, will you get drunk? Won't get drunk! Wine is wine, if it could make someone drunk, it could be accused of being used to be drunk. Then I think, it will be fair to say that wine was legitimately used as a common day beverage that even Jesus did take of, but He did not get drunk, neither did He want to get drunk. I think that's the key.
So, I think I just want to bring some balance there. Nevertheless, we must understand not everyone accepts this easily, right? So, if you know of people who are very uncomfortable; disturbed; offended; stumbled, if you invite him to your house and you keep opening whiskey, “lai, kwee jiu lah!” [let’s open a bottle of wine in Hokkien dialect]. He, he, after that he cannot sleep, you know.
After that he says “Wah! This guy … wah!” If you know someone like that, then whilst you have the liberty to drink, the Bible doesn't forbid, you have to factor in the principle of charity. So, it is Christ like to use our liberty for charity. I say this 10,000 times you should remember it at the end of the day.
Another area that I think we can consider balancing liberty and charity is that of smoking. How many of you think Christians cannot smoke? 20 hands. 800 of you say, “Can ah?” Ok, how many of you say, “Christians can smoke?” Wah! “真的有啊!” [zhēn de yǒu ā, really, there are? in Mandarin] 20 hands also. So, what about the rest, can or cannot smoke? Can or not? Are you clear or not? Maybe, I go your house, I find some Marlboro there. Can you smoke? Ah? Cannot. Can ah?
Now to be clear, the Bible doesn't give a command that says, “Thou shall not smoke, Marlboro.” I, I, I've read the Bible a few times through, I've not seen a verse like that. Instead, I find a verse that may tell me, people say, justify smoking. I show you, okay? “And the smoke of the incense, with the…” [Revelation 8:4] Actually, the Bible has smoke ah, but different smoke, different smoke.
Now, the Bible does not explicitly forbid smoking. Therefore, they have been Christians in time past who smoked. The most famous person who smoked as a Christian ah, the most famous person who smoked? Charles Spurgeon. Wah, everybody “tekan”[abuse in Malay] him ah. But, but yah, he's well known for smoking.
So, Spurgeon smoked and this is his justification. When people say, “Why you smoke?” You know how, okay, if I ask you, “Why you … why you shouldn't smoke?” You will say, “Because of bad for health.” But then you eat “char kway teow” or not?” Hah, you eat char kway teow or not? Why eat “char kway teow”? “char kway teow” bad for health, you know or not? You drink Coke or not? What I mean if you use that reasoning, there's no end. Everyday can only eat, eat hamster food already.
But if you say, “You can't smoke because of health reasons.” That may be true, but it's not absolute lah, alright. Not absolute! So Spurgeon, he said, “If anybody can show me in the Bible, “Thou shall not smoke”, I'm ready to keep it but I haven't found it yet.”” I tell you from this I know he's very cheeky. In fact, he goes on to say, “I find 10 commandments and it is as much as I can do to keep them and I've no desire to make them 11 or 12.”
He's suggesting to people that they are very legalistic to add commandments. Cheeky fella! Huh, huh, Spurgeon. Well, so there are people who say, “We should not smoke because health reasons.” That's valid, actually, it's a factor to consider. Not absolute, but it's still something to consider. Addiction, that's another factor to consider.
Someone asked, “Aren't you addicted? to Spurgeon. He says, “No, I'm not addicted.” Then, when do you say someone is addicted? Spurgeon replied, “When you smoked two at the same time.” He is very cheeky, alright! Okay, great preacher, but funny answers he gave.
So, health is a reason, addiction is a reason to consider and I also suggest to you charity is another reason. The implications, the message, the, the testimony might, might be very affected because of this. Now, I'm not saying, “This is absolute.” But this is something to bear in mind and we should always think of how we should love others and not cause others to stumble.
So, we have looked at eating, drinking, smoking. The fourth one I want to talk about is dressing. How about that! Woo! Does the Bible talk about dressing? What does the Bible say about dressing? Modestly, alright. Good. So, the Bible does talk about modesty, “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control and so on.” [1 Timothy 2:9]
God does not, however, limit you with your style, right? God never says, “You must always wear blue or black or white.” God didn't say that, “You can only wear skirt, or cannot wear jeans.” Actually, the Bible doesn't talk about these things, but it gives you the principle of modesty. But nevertheless, people may have different standards for modesty, so it can become quite controversial.
Some seven years ago, I read on Straits times, in February, that one Catholic Church, this is Straits Times, not my, my writing ah! One Catholic Church says, “Dressing like this is not okay.” So they, the church, the Catholic Church began to be disturbed by the way their parishioners, their churchgoers have been dressing. You say, “What's the issue?”
“Parishioners dressing have got to a point where people were wearing tube tops, with shorts barely covering their bottoms.” So, the Catholic Church gave a kind of a rule and the rule or the code allows women to wear skirts or dresses that end 2.5 to 5 cm above the knees. Wah, this one quite, quite difficult to measure. I'm not sure how they do it. I know badminton when you serve, cannot serve too high, they have a ruler there.
This one, I don't know, as you enter the church, someone may hold there and say, “Too high. Too low.” A bit hard lah! And 2.5 to 5 is quite tight a margin. So, with such a regulation laid down obviously there may be some retaliation or kind of a recoil. And so the young people said, “We are taught that God loves us no matter what we are. So, why should the church discriminate against our attire?” It’s very hard!
Therefore, in this church, we don't use a ruler. Pastor Paul, myself we stand there not to use a ruler to measure. And neither I think are we ever going to set some rules and rigid laws like this because we understand that the heart of the matter is a matter of the? Heart of the matter is a matter of the…? Heart.
We can set all these rules - 2.5, 5, 10 cm, or your skirt must cover your ankle. I don’t know, like “bak chang” [Chinese dumpling in Hokkien dialect] come in also can. We can, we can set those rules but I'm pretty sure after service, you go to toilet “chiong” [dash in Hokkien dialect] open and you, wah! I don't know what already. What's the point!
Well, I hope, however, that encouragement to Christians is not some rules outside but encouragement to Christians is to realize, indeed you have liberty to dress the way you want. You are not going to hell for dressing 3 cm, 4 cm, 5 cm above the knee or whatever. But as followers of Jesus, you don't abuse your liberty but you use your liberty for charity.
So, dress in a way that is loving, that is considerate to others, that will not stumble people, that will not stumble the brothers, that will not cause people to be disturbed or to be confused. I think that's how the Christian life should be motivated. Not because your pastor tell you these rules, but because you love Jesus. And because you know the love of Jesus and you want to love therefore, your brethren. Liberty and charity.
Another area I can think about to apply is during Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year, what issues do you think can surface that would need liberty and charity? Gabriel, your favourite ah? Chinese New Year, people like to get together and be like “Chow Yuen Fatt” [the main actor in a popular Hong Kong TV gambling drama]. You like to be the king of gamblers? You like? Wah! “chua dai di” [also known as Big Two], “black jack” ah, “poker”, don't know what lah!
Now, let me ask you, can Christians gamble? Wah, this forces me to have charity ah. Can Christians gamble? Ah, what he say? Sorry? Only if you win. Now, to be exact, the Bible never says, “Thou shalt not gamble.” It's not there in the Bible. It really is not. Now, there's some bad associations with gambling for sure, like Jesus when He was about to be crucified, they cast lots to … to decide on his cloak.
So, some people say, “They are uncomfortable.” But there are also objective principles like addiction. Gambling can be addictive, but actually it's the same as your LAN gaming. So, it can be addictive. It can also be the principle of greed, so even if you win, it is not okay - covetousness. Those are bad stewardship. Those are principles that should sway someone away from being Chow Yuen Fatt.
But another principle of course, I like you to consider is that all of charity – love. Because can you imagine what you be like, if you are someone who is doing this. Or maybe easier for you, can you imagine that every Sunday, Pastor Paul, myself instead of standing there, we go to the room beside, “开台啊!” [kāi tái ā, let’s gamble! In Mandarin].
Pastor Paul and me, drink lah, smoke lah. We play “chua dai di” lah! Aiyoh, come lah, wait lah, I do all that. “What's wrong? Nothing wrong what! Bible, never say cannot what!” Can or not? Ah? After a while, this church become zero because nobody would dare come. It's not forbidden, but wow that really stumbles me. That really is hard to swallow.
What kind of … so if you imagine that to be true for your pastor, imagine that to be true for yourself. How would your friends, your brothers and sisters in Christ be affected by what you do. You may have liberty but you have to steward it for charity.
So, that may influence the jobs you take up. Some people asked, “Can I work in MBS?” I say, “Depends on what you work, lah!” If you work as a croupier, then maybe a bit hard lah! “Wah, I’m very good at dealing cards, you know, pastor. Since young, I've deal very fast. I want to work there.” “You have liberty, John, but remember charity hor!” And that's what you have to struggle with.
“Can I work in a pub?” “Can I be there to serve drinks?” Well, think about liberty versus charity. It is at the end of the day, Christ like to use our liberty for charity. “Can I go karaoke?” “Can I go to KTV lounge?” “Can I do this?” “Can I do that?” “Can I eat this?” “Can I buy that?” “Can I go to this place?” You know, there will be 1001 decisions you have to make. And the Bible does give you huge scope for liberty, but the underlying motivation should be - I should steward all that in a loving way towards those around me.
That is so powerful because apostle Paul himself lived with this principle. This is what he said to the church at Corinth, “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” [1 Corinthians 9:11-12] Paul is saying, “We are here to teach you the Bible, we are sowing spiritual things, we are giving you spiritual good, would it be unreasonable for you to support us materially, so that we may eat and live and continue to teach?
Is it too much?” Obvious answer – No, it is not too much! Nevertheless, while he has the right, while he has the liberty, he says, “We have not made use of this right. We have not exercised this liberty but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ.”
So Paul says, “Just because there may be some of you, who will think that we are preaching for money, just in case some of you will be stumbled; disturbed; confused, if we should receive from you when we teach you, we decide not to have any of such obstacle at all. We decide to waive our liberty, waive our rights, so that the Gospel may have free course in your life.”
“For though I am free from all …”, liberty, “… I've made myself a servant to all”, charity, “… that I might win more of them.” [1 Corinthians 9:19] It's all for the sake of the Gospel. “To the weak, therefore I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people that, by all means I might save some.” [1 Corinthians 9:22-23]
His goal is not to enjoy his liberty, his goal is to use his liberty for the furtherance of the Gospel. He is so Gospel-centred! He’s about the kingdom! It's about souls! It's about the glory of Jesus, not about what he wants. “I do it all for the sake of the Gospel that I may share with them in its blessings.”
Perhaps, it's this passage that inspired Martin Luther to say this, “A Christian man is a most free lord of all …” no more bonded or under the slavery of legalism, “… subject to none but the Christian man is the most dutiful servant of or subject to all.” Because of love, because he knows God's love and he loves people and so he serves people.
So, this is so similar to what Paul said, “For though I'm free from all, I've made myself a servant to all that I might win more of them.” [1 Corinthians 9:19] It is Christ-like to use our liberty for charity. Now, let me say this, “You will have to sacrifice something, when we believe this and when we actually live this out, you have to sacrifice something.”
You sacrifice your “bak cham gai”, you sacrifice your “sioh bak”. Some of you really delight in a glass of wine, you may have to sacrifice that. Some of you really are good at working at a croupier, as a croupier but you may have to sacrifice that. There will be sacrifice but that's what love is.
Love is about sacrifice, but almost as if just to assure us and comfort us that your sacrifice will never make you a loser, you ultimately will, will not be a loser for it. The story in this passage tells us that God is the One who provides that sacrifice. God is the One who brings that shekel, that fish to Peter and though he had to pay, ultimately it was provided for.
So in your life, I hope that frees you to really live in such a way that you can be a servant to all because at the end of the day, it will be worth your while. It is Jesus who provides, the grace and all that you need to live a loving life for those around you. So, I hope Gospel Light will be a church that cherishes, love to one another. It is so important that Jesus enshrines it in a lesson right here. May we know the love of God for us in Jesus Christ and may that fill your heart that you may live for others in love.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together. The Christian message is primarily about love, it is not so much rules and regulations. The rules and regulations, given in the Bible are meant to show us our need for God's love. Rules don't save you. Regulations don't save you. Love of Jesus Christ saves you.
And so I want to say to all my friends and guests who are here, “Perhaps for the first time, the message of the Bible is this - God loves you.” While you are yet a sinner, Christ died for you. And Christ died to save you from your sins and to free you from the bondage and slavery, of performance, of trying to earn your salvation because you can't. And I say to you, “This is the love of God that while you are yet a sinner, Christ died for you.”
The Bible commands men everywhere to repent and to believe in Jesus. To repent means you acknowledge your sin, you acknowledge you are guilty before a most Holy God, who will judge you for your sin. And you repent in a sense that you despair of your own self-righteous works. The Bible also says, “Not only do you repent, but you need to believe in Jesus.” To believe that Jesus is the Son of God, to believe that He is the Christ, He's the chosen One whom God has sent to save all men from his sins.
And therefore, the Bible says, “If you repent and believe in Jesus, you will have eternal life. You will be forgiven, you will be saved. You will be reconciled not because you are good all because God is good.” So, if you're here today and you do not know Jesus, can I encourage you this morning to repent of your sin and to believe in Jesus because He is the only Way, the only truth, the only life, no one comes to the Father but by Him. Come to God, humbled at the cross, acknowledging only Jesus saves.
And then I say to my brothers and sisters, “It is a very simple message, but it does call you today to live a life that is intentional in showing love to those around.” Use your liberty for charity, let the love of Jesus encourage you to be a servant for all. Whether you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. How you dress, where you go, what you buy, what you consume for entertainment, how you work, where you work, let all your decisions factor in love for others.
May your life, may this church, may our homes bring glory to God in all that we do because of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us. So Father, thank You for this morning, we can study the Bible and reflect upon these applications. I pray that we will not just be hearers but be doers too. Be pleased today even to work in hearts, to bring men and women to salvation, regardless of who we are, we all need Jesus. So dear Lord, bring them into Your Kingdom, please, cause them to repent and to believe. Thank you and pray all this Jesus’ name. Amen!
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