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Thursday, April 18, 2013 | Comments (3)

by John MacArthur

It’s easy to forget that there are always people watching how we live. They might be your children, siblings, coworkers, friends, or neighbors—it might even be total strangers who regularly see how you behave. Regardless of who sees, very little of our lives takes place in total privacy.

So as we consider some key principles from God’s Word that help us determine how to behave in the gray areas of life—the issues and activities about which Scripture does not directly speak—we need to remember that our behavior also has repercussions for others, as well.

Regarding the eating of food offered to idols—which was a pivotal gray area in the early church—Paul wrote, “Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:8-9).

In exercising our Christian liberty, we must be sensitive to weaker believers who might have more sensitive consciences. We need to prayerfully consider the question: Will this activity benefit others or cause them to stumble?

How you conduct yourself in life’s gray areas isn’t just a question of your spiritual maturity. The quality of the example you set for other, less-mature believers ought to inform your decisions. It really comes down to esteem. What matters more to you, exercising your freedoms or encouraging the spiritual growth of other believers? And when you esteem them as more important than yourself, putting their spiritual interests above your own freedom, you are following the example of Christ (Philippians 2:1-5).

This is the principle of love. As Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” If you know that your choice—even something you consider to be well “in bounds” and approved by God—will cause another Christian to stumble and sin, love that brother or sister enough to restrict your own freedom and abstain.

That selfless attitude is not very popular in our self-absorbed society, but it is biblical. In fact, to cause a fellow Christian to violate his or her conscience is ultimately to sin against the Lord. For “by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore,” Paul said, “if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:12-13).

When it comes to the exercise of our freedoms, we need to be less concerned with enjoying our Christian liberty to the fullest extent, and more focused on how our behavior in the gray areas can build up and encourage the spiritual growth of others.

Have you had opportunities to sacrifice your freedom for the sake of other believers? Afterward did you really miss the item or activity you sacrificed, or was the benefit to the other believer far greater than the pleasure you might have enjoyed?

Or has another believer abstained from an activity for your benefit? How did their sacrifice encourage your spiritual growth?

(Adapted from Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong.)


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#1  Posted by Sunny Shell  |  Friday, April 19, 2013at 9:26 AM

This is such a vital message to the church. Even as Christians, we've become so consumed with a holier than thou attitude (much like the Pharisees of Jesus' time) that we rarely consider how our behaviors, what we condone or don't, affects others around us.

I'm very much exhorted by this post to continually seek the face of God Almighty and prayerfully consider the needs of others, before and better yet, without considering how it might benefit or hurt me.

Thank you for your wise and gracious words of exhortation.

#2  Posted by Cherie C  |  Saturday, April 20, 2013at 6:37 AM

What is wrong with a holy attitude. We are called to be holy.

Self denial is our reasonable service, especially to a brother or sister in Christ Jesus.

These days when you self deny for someone and they find out about it, you are accused of being holier than thou and it is sad. They say that because your sacrifice makes them feel bad, as conviction from the Holy Spirit should. But they do not want to humble themselves and admit that and so the accusation. If someone puts you first, instead of accusing them of being "holier than thou", consider that they may be acting upon what the Bible says, and not out to make one feel bad.

The Bible says it is better to give than receive (another misused scripture by heretics), but it is both a blessing to the giver to give as it is to the recipient to receive. Store up your treasures in Heaven is my motto.

Try to keep your sacrifice secret, and God the Father will bless you in the open as He does with your prayers. And if someone accuses you of being "holier than thou" pray for them because pride goeth before a fall.

And if someone puts you first, Praise and Thank God, and be kind to the one delivering the blessing to you.

love to all my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,

Cherie c.

#3  Posted by Christian Guerrero  |  Sunday, April 21, 2013at 3:11 PM

I also want to add what RC Sproul said about freedoms and liberties. Such freedoms can include: sports, video games, dancing, drinking wine, movies, tv, music, fishing, etc. Although the bible does not forbid these things, the absence of these things in someone's life does not prove the genuiness of their salvation. Many unsaved people don't play video games, or don't watch sports or never drink alcohol. The genuiness of our salvation is demonstrated in our obedience to the clear commands of scripture (what God actually commands to do and what He forbids). Like Paul said, "The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." - Romans 14:17-19. Are we being obedient to what God actually commands or forbids, or have we made up our own rules of what we should do or shouldn't do?