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You can define something by what it’s not.

You can define something by what it’s not.

MARCH 16, 2021

/ Programs / Key Life / You can define something by what it’s not.

Steve Brown:
You can define something by what it’s not. Let’s talk about it on this edition of Key Life.

Matthew Porter:
That was author and seminary professor Steve Brown, and this is Key Life. We’re all about radical grace, because of what Jesus has done, God’s not mad at you. Keep listening and that message will set you free to live a life of joy and surprising faithfulness.

Steve Brown:
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible, open it to the fifth chapter of the book of Galatians, which we are now studying. And we’re looking at verses 13 of that fifth chapter through the end of the chapter. I’m not going to take the time to read it again. I did that yesterday, but I’m going to be referring to it as we go along, because these are not my thoughts. I don’t even like some of them, frankly, but when God says it, I believe it, man. I’m going to anchor on it, and stand there and no other place. You know, and I mentioned it yesterday, one of the best ways to understand something, is to see what that thing isn’t. In other words, to eliminate the possibilities, until a definitive and positive statement can be made. That was the purpose, you remember, if you ever played it and you’re old enough, 20 questions. You’ll remember that when you started playing 20 questions, you were given a positive statement about something. It was either an animal or vegetable or mineral, as I remember. With that basic information, you then begin to ask a series of questions up to 20, and from the negative or positive responses to your questions, you will learn more and more about a thing until it became clear. Is it this, is it that, does it smell funny, is it tall, is, is short, is it big, is it fat, is it skinny, is it, and then eventually, if you’re going to win the game, you found out what it was. Sometimes, by eliminating possibilities, you get a definitive and positive statement. For instance, I like the epic fantasy and literature. I consider the master of epic fantasy, Tolkien. Sometimes a friend of mine, who recommends books to me, said to me and gave me a fantasy book. You will like it, but it’s not Tolkien. I knew exactly what he meant. I mean, I didn’t have to ask any more questions, cause I knew what it wasn’t. Well, it’s the same way with freedom. It’s a word used over, well it’s over used, in our culture. We talk about freedom, all kinds of wrong ideas come to mind. And so, I thought letting Paul be our guide, that we would examine some of the things that freedom isn’t. Freedom is just another Kris Kristofferson. Just another name for nothing left to do. Is that freedom? Frank Sinatra, I did it my way, Is that freedom? A friend of mine said, to be once, that he had found freedom in his drug induced states, he would go there often. And when I was high, I was free. Is that really freedom? Almost every week, I hear someone saying, I want to be free from my wife or my husband. Is that freedom? Well the Bible says that freedom is none of the above and not a lot of other things. And by the way of negatives, what we’re going to do this week and maybe into next week is we’re going to look at what freedom isn’t. And then after we do that, and don’t think that I ignored the gifts of the spirit or the fruit of the spirit, that’s a part of this text. We’re going to spend a significant portion of time looking at the fruit of the spirit. And some on what isn’t the fruit of the spirit, but for now, and for the next few days, we’re going to talk about what freedom isn’t. And Paul is going to be our guide, so listen up. First, Biblical freedom is not license, Galatians 5:13.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.

Or license, now when the apostle Paul uses the word flesh, he doesn’t mean that there’s something bad about the flesh on your bones. Just so you know, the Gnostics said that it was one and that was one of the early Christian heresies, and it’s still around. They said that the flesh is dirty. Sex is dirty. Anything having to do with your body is dirty. And, therefore when they talked about Jesus dying on the Cross, they said he didn’t really die on the Cross. His spirit, the good part of him fled before the Cross happened. Guys, that is insane. And it’s from the book pit of hell and it smells like smoke, but the apostle Paul uses the word flesh, he means those human tendencies that are passed on from generation to generation, that are all filed under fallen nature. For instance, hate is one of those. You remember in South Pacific, one of the scenes as a young officer who sings a song, he had fallen in love with a Polynesian girl, and because of prejudice, he couldn’t pursue the relationship, and he sings this beautiful song. I could, I won’t, but I could sing it to you. I like the song. You’ve got to be taught to hate dear friend, you don’t have to be taught to hate. Hate’s the most natural thing in the world. And it’s the default position of human flesh, for instance, selfishness is one of those, being self-centered is the most natural thing in the world. You can see it in an infant. They’re cute. They’re cuddly. They’re they’re just wonderful, but they’re selfish. I mean, the only thing an infant cares about is getting what he or she wants and getting it right now. And if you don’t give it to me right now, I’m going to scream and cry and kick. What you’re looking at, even if it’s cute and I love babies, especially my grandchildren. And my children. I loved it when they were babies, but, but I’m not going to be so shallow as to say they, they are born Godly, trailing clouds of glory, as Wordsworth put it in a spurious way. No, they don’t. I mean, that’s a bowl of selfishness and selfishness is natural. And that’s what Paul is talking, for instance, the desire to use people as sexual objects, is a natural thing. It’s not pretty, in fact, it’s awful, it’s demeaning and it’s abusive, but it’s natural for instance, envy is one of those things. And the envy is something that comes naturally, and you see it in your neighbor. And I might say you see it in your mirror. So when Paul says that Biblical freedom doesn’t become an excuse for the flesh, he doesn’t mean the flesh that hangs on your bones. He’s talking about those things, and the Greek word in this text, translated in the English is, don’t give opportunity, is an interesting word. It’s etymology is military and its use for the place where military obligations and operations are launched, as it were. It is a base of operations. So what’s Paul saying, you’re free. You’re really free. And in that freedom, do not use as a base of operations, a tendency toward evil. Let me illustrate what Paul means. I have a friend, who’s a Judo expert. That means, through a lot of hard work, he has become proficient in the art of wiping other people out. Now with that freedom, he has a choice. He can become a hit man for the mafia, or he can teach people to defend themselves. Paul would say to my friend, look, you’re free, but don’t use that freedom as a base of operations for the mafia. Use it in a positive way. If you’re a lawyer, you have the freedom that only few I have. You can use your knowledge to violate the law or to uphold the law. If you have a glib tongue and I do, you can use it to hurt people or to praise God in worship. And that’s what Paul is saying here. He’s not saying you’ll lose your salvation. And he never says that, if you do it wrong, if you do use it as an opportunity for the flesh, but he says, this is the way it really is, when it comes from the Spirit of God. Okay? You think about that. Amen.

Matthew Porter:
Thank you Steve. Steve Brown there, teaching us about defining something by what it’s not. Today, we touched on the idea that Biblical freedom is not license. More from Galatians 5 about freedom tomorrow. Sure. Hope you will join us again then. Well, we do talk about freedom a lot here at Key Life, and for good reason, it’s amazing, yet at the same time, it can be challenging to understand. I mean, how can we be truly free in Christ, especially if we’re feeling constrained by the expectations of others. The answer is a gift that God has offered us. The gift of obedience. Steve has written about this in a booklet called appropriately enough, The Gift of Obedience. Get your copy, while supplies last, by calling 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also email [email protected] and ask for that booklet. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to

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Just ask for the booklet called The Gift of Obedience. Finally, would you please give to support the work of Key Life? You can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope, or if you prefer just text Key Life to 28950 on your smartphone. Key life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.

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