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TEXT: I Corinthians 10:31

SUBJECT: Gospel Changes #26: Spare Time

Last year we began a Sunday afternoon study called, The Gospel Changes Everything. It's key verse is Romans 1:16-

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

By 'the Gospel' Paul doesn't mean a set of rules, not even the rules that are in the Bible. The Gospel is 'good news', the announcement of what God has done in Christ to save the world.

By 'save' he means more than 'keep people out of hell and get them into heaven when they die'. The Gospel does both of these things-and we cannot be too thankful that it does-but it does more than save us when we die; it also saves us before we die. In other words, the Gospel frees us to live for God in this world. We won't do this perfectly, of course, but we will do it.

.Insofar as we live by the Gospel. But there's the rub. Most Christians do not live by the Gospel, they live by the Law, and all the Law does for them is make them feel like failures. The Law is powerless to effect real and lasting change! Not because there is something wrong with the Law itself, but because there is something wrong with us. We are sinners, and sinners only get right with God-and stay right with Him-by way of the Gospel.

The Gospel changes everything. And nothing else changes anything. If the Gospel really changes everything, it changes the time we spend at work and with the family, at church, with our friends, and in the neighborhood. This accounts for most of our waking hours. But there's one slot we haven't explored yet, but we will today, God willing.

The Gospel changes our spare time.

THE MEANING

I put some thought into defining 'spare time', and then I remembered the wise words of Dr. David Benedict-

Never explain words that everyone understands.

If you do that-he warned-you will only muddy the issue, and make clearly understood words unclear. He's right.

You know what I mean by 'spare time'. I mean-not vacations-but the time you spend watching TV, listening to music, reading a novel, doing a crossword puzzle, tinkering with the car, sitting at a coffee shop, surfing the net, and the other things you do when you're not at work, in bed, washing the dishes or mowing the lawn.

Not everyone has the same amount of spare time, but we've all got some, from a few minutes a week to several hours a day. Not even the busiest person is always busy. No one was less idle than our Lord Jesus Christ, but even He said to the disciples-

Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.

Unwind. Do something other than preach the Gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons, and all the other important things that were filling their days and night.

WHAT THE GOSPEL DOES NOT DO WITH YOUR SPARE TIME.

How does the Gospel change your spare time? Before we get to that, let me say what it doesn't do: The Gospel does not eliminate your spare time by filling it with religious activities!

I will never be a 'successful' pastor, in part, because I could never schedule twenty-eight things to do at church every week. I didn't make up the number; I saw it on a church bulletin a few weeks ago. The church had twenty-eight activities a week! From a ladies' Bible study Monday morning, to a men's fellowship Tuesday night, to Wednesday afternoon missions committee, to Recovery groups, Thursdays at noon; to choir practice Friday night; and of course an endless variety of things for the kids!

This is what Christians want! Because they confuse religious activities with growing in grace. They're not the same thing, and in my studied opinion, the smorgasbord of church activities retard the sanctification of its members.

In the second place, the Gospel does not make you feel guilty about going to the movies once in a while or reading a magazine when you could be doing something more 'productive'.

This is the Law at work, and often man-made laws. Did Jesus come to whip us into non-stop motion? Did He come to make us feel guiltier than we already do? He didn't. It was the Pharisee who did this, weighing God's people down with crushing burdens of obligation and our failures to meet them. Jesus came to free us from the Pharisee and his hateful religion!

Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lonely at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

At this point, I have to criticize a man I very much admire, Dr. John Piper. In his book, Don't Waste Your Life, he lambastes a middle-aged couple for retiring early to sail their yacht and collect seashells. On the Day of Judgment, he imagines them standing before Jesus saying-

Look, Lord, see my shells.

Piper adds, That is a tragedy.

Instead of sailing their yacht, they ought to be reading the Bible or praying or working a soup kitchen or cutting through the jungle of Papua, New Guinea, to preach the Gospel to unreached peoples.

Piper calls this, passion, but there's another word for it too: legalism. Unless he knows this couple's calling, he has no right to say they're wasting their lives.

The Gospel, therefore, does not eliminate our spare time or make us feel guilty when we relax and enjoy innocent pleasures in moderation.

WHAT THE GOSPEL DOES

So, how does the Gospel change our spare time? What will it do for you next Tuesday night after work when you feel like kicking back, opening a cold one, and turning on the TV?

For one thing, the Gospel allows you to enjoy your free time without feeling guilty. You don't have to win God's favor by doing religious things every minute of the day! You have God's favor-and not because you're 'busier than thou', but because Jesus died for us.

Can we overdo it with our spare time? Sure we can; for some laziness is a perennial temptation, and we ought to watch and pray against it. But vegging out in front of a brain dead movie once in a while is not wasting your time; it's resting, and just Seven Days into history God showed He was for that.

The Gospel says you can get off the treadmill! Serve the Lord? Of course. Pour your whole heart into it? Yes. But you're also free to goof off now-and-then, Ecclesiastes 9:7-

Go, eat your bread with joy,

And drink your wine with a merry

Heart;

For the Lord has already accepted your

Works.

In the second place, the Gospel keeps you from idolizing your spare time. If some people fear free time, other people live for it. They neglect known duties because they're too fond of their hobbies; they resent anyone who intrudes on their playtime-even God. In its place, spare time is a good thing. But when it gets out its place, it becomes an idol, and idols do not love their disciples; they enslave them. The Gospel prevents this by giving us something better than the best hobby, and that is a God who loves us and gave Himself for us. The Gospel enables us to love our spare time, but God more.

Finally, the Gospel sanctifies our spare time. What does the Gospel do for us? It makes us a kingdom of priests. As such, we're qualified to offer sacrifices to God, and they're sacrifices He accepts; to Him they become-

A sweet-smelling savor.

What are the sacrifices we offer Him? Not bulls and goats, doves and pigeons, but our lives, and what part of our lives? Every part-

Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

This means, when done in the freedom of the Gospel, even the silly things you do in your spare time are spiritual sacrifices.

CLOSING PRAISE AND COUNSEL

We cannot be too thankful to God for His Gospel and for its everyday application. If the Gospel 'converted us' and then left us to the Law, we would be the unhappiest people in the world. If you don't believe me, look at people who live that way, always under pressure to perform, never doing enough, always ashamed of themselves, and dying to point out the faults of others who don't measure up either.

We do measure up because we're in Christ, and He measures up-

You are my beloved Son

In whom I am well pleased.

We cannot be too mindful of the Gospel, for only it will free us from the futility and bondage of life under the Law. Every one of my known faults could be addressed if only I would consistently apply the Gospel to them. Laziness, cowardice, overeating, a loose tongue, a wandering eye, self-consciousness, inhospitality, pride, contempt for others, the Law cannot fix any of these things! But the Gospel can. And everything else too.

The Gospel is a panacea-it is the one cure for every disease. But it only cures us when we believe it-and not just believe it to stay out of hell-but believe it when we're tempted on earth.

The Gospel changes everything, including our spare time. God make it so, for Christ's sake. Amen.

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