When we gather together like this, we are gathering as the people of liberty. But two other l’s are constantly beckoning—those of legalism and license. Having the history we do, we have little trouble rejecting legalism, but in our emphasis on Christian liberty, we often—especially among our young people—veer into license. When this starts to happen, often the people who see it clearly won’t say anything because what we are guarding against around here is legalism. And if you give an admonition that is anywhere to the right of a licentious fellow, he will tag you as a legalist. But this is not a safe way of proceeding, because if you give an admonition anywhere to the left of a legalist, he will think you a libertine. Why are we putting the two errors in charge?
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Do not allow your freedom to be spoken of as evil. Do not allow yourself to be entangled again in a yoke of slavery. And that liberty is not defined by personal indulgence, but rather by the beauty of holiness.
Some Christian liberty issues are perennials. Smoking, drinking, dancing, that kind of thing. And so let me take an example and approach it this way. Is cigarette smoking a sin? The Bible nowhere says so. And I, as a minister of the Word, follow that Word closely, and cannot say that it is a sin either. But there is another question, closely related to the first. Is cigarette smoking a sin for you? Well, yes, because you’re a young idiot abusing your Christian liberty. Do I admit of exceptions? Sure, but not in your case. How do I distinguish? As D.L. Moody once said, if you throw a rock into a pack of stray dogs, the one that yelps is the one that got hit.
The principle is simple. This is a great wide world, and there are exceptions to what I am saying. Of course there are. But the odds are strong that you are just not one of them.