As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, just exactly what are we free to do? There are things that are very obvious in the Scripture, clear commands, clearly things that God forbids us to do, spelled out in no uncertain terms. There are also not only negative commands, but positive commands, things we are to do and they’re very clear to us as well.
But there’s a whole world of things that are not talked about in the Bible and that always poses the issue of how do I make a decision, how do I make a choice about what I will do regarding something that’s not in the Scripture? Things like, well the Bible talks about these things in this category, food, drink, alcoholic beverages, recreation, sports, television, music, movies, Sunday activity, poker, other kinds of games, smoking, smoking dope, hair styles, clothing styles and it goes on and on and on.
Now I know there are some things in the Bible about these kinds of issues, in fact I heard a preacher many years ago who preached on the fact that women should never have their hair piled up on their head because the Scripture says, “Top not come down,” that’s in a verse that says, “Let those on a housetop not come down,” it’s an adaptation of that verse, having to do with the coming of the Lord.
You can twist the Scripture around, a little bit, and some of you can’t still figure out what I’m saying, but it will dawn on you later. There are those kinds of issues and we all ask those questions. We really do ask those kinds of questions and we generally ask them every day. And the easy thing to do, and this has kind of been the history of what we could call fundamentalism, you know, no fun, too much damn and not enough mental. So we understand the history of fundamentalism. They want to make a rule about everything and so they’ll make all the rules for you.
I went to a college like that where we didn’t have to decide anything about anything because everything had already been decided and a rule had been made. There were rules about what time we got up, what time we went to bed, what hours we studied, who we could talk to, how far we could walk in terms of feet with a girl beside us before we had to separate. There were rules for everything and it simplified life on a superficial level but compounded it hopelessly on an internal level.
How are we to make decisions about things that are not clearly indicated to us in Scripture? How do we develop criteria to make those kinds of decisions in a way that honors God and a way that benefits us, in a way that causes the growth of the body of Christ and in a way that makes the gospel believable and attractive to the unconverted?
So let me give you a little list, all right? I’m going to give you a couple of handfuls of things if we have enough time and hopefully I’ll get through them even if I have to kind of whack them up a little bit.
Number one...number one, we ask a question, Will it be spiritually beneficial? Will it be spiritually profitable? We’re not looking for those kinds of things that we can get away with minimum damage. We’re not looking for high risk Christian living. We’re not looking for how close can we get to the edge and still not get burned? And there are a lot of people who think that it’s their freedom to live on the edge and try to avoid the disaster. That’s never the question. The question that starts our thinking is, Will it be spiritually beneficial? What can I do that is going to have a positive spiritual impact on me?
Look at 1 Corinthians chapter 6...1 Corinthians chapter 6 and verse 12, and I’m just going to be picking out some scriptures as we go. You can write them down and study them for yourselves later.
In verse 12 Paul says this, “All things are lawful to me...” and obviously we have to qualify that. All things that are not unlawful are lawful. Paul is just saying, “I enjoy a great measure of freedom, things which Scripture does not specifically forbid. All things that are lawful are lawful for me. All things that are not forbidden are lawful for me. But, not all things are profitable.
I’m not looking to invest my life in the things that don’t return a spiritual dividend. If it doesn’t promise to give me some positive spiritual benefit, then why would I engage in it? Literally, the verb there, translated profitable, is sumphero, it means to bring together, pulling everything together for one’s advantage. Will it assist in direct fashion my spiritual development? Does it cultivate godliness? All things are lawful if they’re not forbidden by God, but the world is filled with things that promise absolutely no real spiritual advantage.
You could ask a question about, for example, sleeping. That’s not forbidden in the Bible. But sleeping too much is not to your spiritual advantage...obviously. So let’s call this the principle of expedience, okay? The principle of expedience....I’m going to ask the question, Is this expedient for my spiritual development? If I go there, if I do that, if I view that, if I experience that, if I engage myself in that activity or that relationship, does it have immediate and long-term spiritual benefit.
Say it a second way, here’s the second point. We’ll call the first one expedient, that is it is profitable for me spiritually. The second one, will it contribute to my spiritual development? Will it build me up? If the first one is expedience, this is edification.
Turn over to 1 Corinthians chapter 10 and here the Apostle Paul, speaking along the same lines in very similar words, says in verse 23, 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful,” again. He’s talking about freedoms. He’s talking about things that are not forbidden. “But not all things are profitable,” that’s exactly what he said in 6 as we just read, verse 12, but then he adds this, “All things are lawful but not all things edify.” And here’s oikodomeo, to build a house, to build a foundation to put up the structure. In 2 Corinthians 12:19 Paul said, “We do all things, dearly beloved, for your edification.” First Corinthians 14 tells us in verse 26, “Let all things be done for edification.” So you’re not only asking the question, Does this activity promise in the present moment my spiritual advantage? But long term, does this cause progress in my spiritual development? Am I going to grow?
If you would just go back to the end of chapter 9 in 1 Corinthians, you have a little illustration of this taken from the athletic world. Paul says in verse 24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run?” Everybody in the race runs. “But only one receives the prize. Run in such a way that you may win and everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.” So if you’re going to win, you’re going to have to be better than everybody else, being better than everybody else is basically being in better condition, better shape, better training for the event than everybody else. That’s going to back itself up in self-discipline and self-control.
Then they do it, he says, with a view toward a perishable crown, we an imperishable. “Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim, my box in such a way as not beating the air, I buffet my body...” that’s buffet, not buffet, same spelling, different idea, “I buffet my body and make it my slave lest possibly after I preach to others I myself may be disqualified.” He’s talking about self-control, he’s talking about self-denial, anything that is going to strengthen him up to be more successful and more efficient in the race. To buffet, by the way, is a very interesting word, hupopiazo, it means to strike somebody in the face, to blacken their eye. I beat my body. I subdue it. I don’t feed its lusts and its desires. I do the very opposite.
So I’m always asking the question, will this event in itself be to my spiritual benefit and secondly, will it continue to move me on the path of upward spiritual development? Let’s call that principle then edification.
There’s a third principle following along the line of the athletic metaphor, as we sort of link these together. Go to the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, Hebrews chapter 12, a very familiar chapter, the great cloud of witnesses from chapter 11 who demonstrate to us the viability and blessing of the life of faith. But here in chapter 12 verse 1, we come across a third principle. Will it slow me down in the race? This is another way to view anything I choose to do.
First of all, will it advance me spiritually? That’s a positive. Will it continue to progress in the path of edification? That’s a positive. Here’s a negative approach to it. Will it slow me down in the race? If I do this, will it slow me down?
Let me show you the language. “Therefore we have so great a cloud of witnesses who have testified...as we saw in chapter 11 to the life of faith, and its benefits. Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
The race is agon, by the way, agon a race is a kind of agony. I ran track in high school and college and there’s no sport that I’ve ever participated in my life that is as agonizing as running. And there’s such a minimal reward for running, that’s why I don’t understand jogging. At least if you’re in an actual race, you could have a chance to win. Nobody ever wins when you’re jogging. It’s like playing basketball with no hoops.
But the word agon is a grueling kind of word. It has to do with demanding the most intense, self-control, self-disciplined, determination, perseverance and it takes endurance. You notice there that in verse 1 it also talks about endurance, hupomone, steady determination. It means to remain under. What that means is to stay under the pressure, to stay under the pain, to stay under the agony of the event until you run it to the end. We need to run with endurance.
This brings up a very important point and it’s a sad thing to think about, but I’ve lived long enough to see a lot of people who run fairly fast at the front, but they somehow collapse in the middle of the race and they don’t endure to the end. You know, look at my dad who died two years ago next June, ninety-one years old, still teaching the Bible in his ninetieth year. And I think the thing that’s so wonderful among many things about my dad was that he ran all the way to the very end. He ran the race to the very end. He was still reading when he was ninety years old, preparing to teach the Word of God. That’s an amazing kind of endurance.
I’m often reminded of an event that I was in when I was in my university days. I was in a relay in the Orange County Invitationals. Our college was there, we were in the finals. We had a four-man, four-by four hundred relay and I ran second man, first man gets the lead, second man loses it, you have two to make it up. I was basically a baseball player converted into a sprinter. Our first guy ran a great leg, gave me the baton, I ran the best leg of my life, came in leading, which was exciting, handed it to Ted, the third man. Put the baton in his hand, perfect pass in the lane, and we got absolute blur for four, so we’re in a spot to win the whole thing.
Ted goes around the turn. Gets to the opposite side of the track, half way down the straightaway. Stops. Walks off and sits on the grass. It was done, He was over. I was in shock. I ran over to him and I said, “What happened?” By the way, I saw him not too many months ago and I had this really bad feeling, that’s like 40 years ago, 50, it’s weird. I ran over and I said, “Ted, what happened?”
He said, “I don’t know, I just didn’t feel like running.”
Oh, I wanted to irrigate him with my track shoes, you know? Something wonderful about endurance.
Now how you going to be able to run a race with endurance? How you going to be able to run the race in such a way you don’t collapse, that you don’t embarrass the Lord, that you don’t bring shame upon yourself, you don’t dishonor the church in the name of Christ with some great failure? How do you run with endurance?
Two things you have to deal with. You have to lay aside two things: every encumbrance and the sin. Now listen, because those two words are there, encumbrance and sin, we understand that they don’t mean the same thing. So sin we understand clearly. We know what sin is. But what is encumbrance if it’s not sin? It’s anything that slows you down. It’s anything that weights you down. It might be the Internet. It might be Game Boy, or one of those other Xbox, I don’t even know what I’m talking about, but that’s.... If it’s not physical, I don’t understand it. If it’s digital, I don’t get it.
What is an encumbrance? Onikos in Greek, onikos, bulk, that’s what it means. It’s bulk. It’s not sin, it’s like a well-trained sprinter getting in the blocks with ankle weights and an overcoat on. Why would you do that? It’s not wrong, it’s not disallowed, it’s just unnecessary bulk. It slows you down, weighs you down, takes away your attention, sucks your energy, dampens your enthusiasm for the things of God.
I wrote a Blog a couple of weeks ago about a popular pastor who every time I hear him preach demonstrates his knowledge of South Park, like he knows all the episodes of that very base and Christ-dishonoring kind of program and can rattle off the lyrics of all kinds of contemporary songs. And I wonder to myself, “Isn’t this like at best if not sinful, isn’t this in trying to identify with the culture, isn’t this really like running the race with the weights still on your ankle and a full overcoat on? Do you really need that bulk? Do you need to carry around that stuff in your mind to have it occupy the space that could belong to the things that are really precious and life transforming?”
For the Jews, it was the Old Testament ceremonial law. They needed to learn to dump that bulk. It was a process. But they needed to get past it. Anything that slows you down, anything that retards you, restrains you, anything that sucks your energy needlessly, that makes no contribution to the race. Let’s call this the principle of excess. So we have a principle of expedience and edification and excess.
Let me give you a fourth one. Go back to 1 Corinthians 6 again...1 Corinthians 6 again, and here’s another very helpful insight and the same verse, actually, 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me but not all things are profitable.” We already talked about that. But look at this one, “All things are lawful for me but I will not be mastered by anything.”
So here’s the question, will it bring me into bondage? Does this thing develop such an appetite that it becomes habit forming, it takes over? How ridiculous is it for a man by God’s design, the king of the earth, God’s pinnacle of creation to become a slave to a computer or a slave to a game, or a slave to a hobby, or a slave to a television set, or a slave to anything, drink, drugs, smoking, stuffing weeds in your face and setting them on fire makes no sense to me and then blowing smoke through your nose? For what purpose? You can become addicted to anything. We’re creatures designed for habits. We are habitual sinners before we are saved and it’s hard to become a habitual, righteous person even after the Spirit has done His mighty work and continues to do it because we’re creatures of habit and those habits are deeply ingrained. But we’re made for habits, we’re made when we’re saved for good habits. It’s what Ephesians 2:10's talking about that we have been literally remade unto good works and we need to make sure we give our maximum effort to creating the kind of habits that are good. Some people are addicted, literally, to music. Some people are addicted to certain styles of music, clothes, following the latest fashions, addicted to shopping. Well you know, there are all kinds of these things and we’re not talking about those things that are immoral kinds of addictions, we’re just talking about the things that get into your life and take over your life so when you make decisions about what you do, those decisions are influenced by the need to fulfill this controlling desire.
It doesn’t take long usually though for somebody who has habits that are draining, even though they’re in themselves not sin, to follow over into sinful habits. Let’s call that the principle of enslavement...the principle of enslavement. I don’t want to do anything that has the power to take over.
You know, in my own personal life through the years, they’re just...it’s constantly in the back of my mind not to do what I’m free to do for the sheer purpose of establishing the fact that I am still in control of what I do. There are times when I want to do something, I just don’t do it because I want to say to myself, it’s not wrong to do it but I just want to make sure I’m still able to turn it down. It might be a steak, it might be a hot-fudge sundae, something real simple like that. There are other times when I’m compelled and I enjoy that. But I don’t ever want to get myself into a pattern where I’ve lost the control because I think that spills over into how you live your life on a spiritual level as well.
Number five in my list, and a very important principle, kind of turns a little bit of a corner here. This is a question you have to ask...will it really be a coverup of my sin? Will it really be a coverup of my sin?
What do you mean by that? Turn to 1 Peter 2:16. You hear people say all the time say, “Well I’m free in Christ. We don’t have any rules against that. That’s not wrong to do that. I’m free to do that.” Listen to what Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:16, “Act as free men,” he says, and you are, you’ve been made free in Christ, “Act as free men and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil.”
I’m free to go to the movies. I’m free to do that. I’m free to do that, nothing in the Bible against that. Art is a wonderful thing and this is reality and this is the way the world is and I need to be informed on that and I’m selective.
Really? Is that why you’re going? Are you going as an art appreciator? Or is this freedom that you are espousing really a cloak for your evil desire? And when you go there, what is it that you’re looking for? What is it that you’re waiting for in the film? Are you turning liberty into license, as Galatians 5:13 says? Let’s call this the principle of equivocation. It’s where you say one thing but you really have another thing in mind and you’ve used your freedom as a lie, your freedom as a false cover to engage in a sinful activity.
Number six, will it train me to ignore my conscience? Will it train me to ignore my conscience? Now we could spend a whole week talking about the conscience, a very important thing, and maybe some day we’ll do that. But turn to Romans 14 for a moment, just want to kind of give you the big picture today. When you...when you understand the role of conscience, you benefit greatly from it. Let me just give it to you real quick, okay?
We have the Law of God written in our hearts from birth, Romans 2. “Even those who do not have the written Law, have the Law of God written in their hearts,” okay? There’s a moral ought. There’s a substantial, foundational sense of what is right and what is wrong built into the human mind. It’s part of being human to know right from wrong. In fact, in the Old Testament when the prophet Jonah at the end of the prophecy refers to the city of Nineveh, he says that there are about 120 thousand who don’t know their right hand from their left hand and that is a description of children that parallels one in the Mosaic writing that says they do not know right from wrong. They are below the age where they understand right from wrong. We’re talking about pagan people who don’t yet know what’s right or wrong because they’re just little infants, little children. The assumption then is that they will grow to know what is right and wrong. It’s part of being a mature human to have that moral sense.
Now that moral sense then becomes conditioned by your culture, it becomes conditioned by your religion. For example, these...these terrorists over, for example, in Irak who blow up...they blew up another, I don’t know, 75 people this morning and maimed another hundred and they do it every single day. They do this because they’re under the moral compulsion of a conscience that tells them they need to do this because this is what their religious law demands. So you could see that whatever concept of right and wrong they were born with in the fabric of being human has been massively altered by the religious culture that they have been raised in.
And that is the same thing in America. Ours is a different religious culture and what we have today is a population of people who have had any sense of right and wrong mitigated so that we laugh at homosexuality, we laugh at sexual perversion, we have lost the pristine reality of our moral understanding that comes from God even to an unbeliever and is really a foundation for further conviction and conversion at a later time.
Now, that’s the moral law. It can be misinformed and it is misinformed in our culture so that people’s consciences are then misinformed and can’t convict people of what they should and should not do. Let me explain what I mean by that. You also are given by God a mechanism called conscience. Conscience is not a moral law. Conscience is not a set of rules. It is not right and wrong. It is simply a mechanism triggered by your moral law.
If you’re a Muslim, it triggers your conscience and your conscience moves your emotion and your emotion moves your will and you act. Conscience is a skylight. It’s not the light, it’s the skylight that lets the light of whatever moral law or ethical law you subscribe to in. That’s why you can see homosexuals so passionate, so zealous to defend their cause that they are literally over the top angry, hostile about their demands. Their consciences function in response to a corrupted set of convictions.
Conscience is only a mechanism. The parallel to it is pain. Pain is a divine mechanism given to you by God, it is a good thing because pain is the mechanism that tells you there’s something wrong with your body. The pain is not what’s wrong, it’s the mechanism that’s triggered when something is wrong. Stop doing that, you’re hurting yourself. Get help, something’s wrong. That’s a gift from God. No pain, you die...you die. That’s what leprosy is. Leprosy is a disease of the nerves. You can’t feel anything so you rub your fingers off, you rub your nose off, you rub your ears off, you rub your face off, you rub your feet off. It doesn’t eat you, it’s just insensitivity and you don’t know how much pressure to apply and you rub off your extremities. So that’s what conscience does. It’s like pain. It simply reacts to a set of convictions.
Now, that leads me to say this. You want to have the right set of convictions and you have that. You also want to make sure you don’t train your conscience to ignore those convictions. The Bible talks about having your conscience seared, that means covered with scar tissue so you can’t feel anything. The middle of my back, I lost the entire middle of my back being thrown out of a car when I was a college freshman, sliding about 125 yards down a highway. I’ve never had any feeling there at all, it’s just scar tissue. It’s desensitized. You don’t want to do that to your conscience because you want to feel.
It was Charles Wesley who wrote a hymn on the conscience. I think it’s the only one that’s ever been written, nobody ever sings it. But he wanted the conscience to feel every single impulse of the righteous law of God that was in his mind. And you never want to train your conscience to violate that. You can destroy yourself by having the wrong set of moral convictions. You can also destroy yourself by training your conscience to ignore those convictions.
Now with that in mind, go to Romans 14. And this passage...well, we’ll just start at the beginning. “Now accept the one who is weak in faith but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinion,” here we’ve got an issue where somebody comes to Christ out of a Gentile world. This guy has some convictions, some feelings about his past life that control his freedoms. It could be true of a Jew as well. If a Jew, an orthodox Jew, came to Christ, you couldn’t feed him a ham sandwich the next day. Couldn’t do it, couldn’t violate his kosher law because if he lived that way his whole life even though he’s come to Christ, his conscience is still going to prick him and convict him about those things that are part of the fabric of his life. And if you were a Gentile and you grew up with idolatry and all that was connected to idolatry, there would be certain things about idolatry when you came to Christ that you would reject wholesale, like meat offered to idols and if you tried to feed a new believer meat offered to idols and say, “Ah, don’t worry about it, you’re free to eat this meat,” he would gag on it, he would choke on it because his conscience would strike him because he remembers the orgies and the horrors and the blasphemies of that kind of life and wants nothing to do with it.
So there are a lot of scenarios where conscience hasn’t yet had time to respond to a new set of laws that are being developed in the heart through the ministry of the Spirit and the Word. So there are some people who are still weak in faith, don’t understand their freedoms. They don’t think they can eat all things. They...maybe they eat only vegetables cause they don’t want to eat meat offered to idols. Maybe they’re Jewish, they don’t want to eat anything that’s unclean. Verse 3, “Let not him who eats regard with contempt whom who doesn’t eat.” You can’t look down on these people. “Come on, get with your freedoms, guys.” “Let him not who does not eat judge him who eats for God has accepted him.” Why are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; stand he will for the Lord’s able to make him stand. One man regards one day above another.” If you always were in a Jewish environment, you believe the Sabbath was the right day, you’re going to believe the Sabbath is still in a critical day of worship to the Lord because that’s the conviction system that’s embedded in you. Your conscience is going to react to that.
On the other hand, if you came out of a Gentile environment, you’re not going to have any particular concern about the Sabbath day. So it’s going to differ. One man regards the day above another, another regards every day the same, let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day observes it for the Lord. He who eats does it for the Lord. He who gives thanks to God, he who eats not for the Lord he doesn’t eat and give thanks to God. We’re not living to ourselves, we’re not dying to ourselves. If we live, we live for the Lord. If we die...so forth. It’s all because somebody is trying to honor the Lord. So you just don’t ever want to do anything that violates your conscience.
And I think that’s important to remember in a community even like this. You’ve got many of you who have come from backgrounds where there were certain things that you felt were wrong. You were raised in a family to think those things were wrong. If you go against what your conscience tells you, you...even though you have the freedom to do it..you will begin to train your conscience, train yourself, I should say, to ignore your conscience. That’s not helpful. You don’t want to train yourself to ignore your conscience.
Go to verse 22. “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.” Don’t train yourself to ignore your convictions because in time you’ll grow, in time you’ll understand, in time you’ll enjoy some liberation from those things and your conscience will affirm you rather than convict you. Your conscience will excuse you, in the words of Paul, rather than accuse you.
But the rest of us who may be a little further along, we affirm that you ought not to do anything that violates your conscience. Sometimes somebody is with a group of people, they’re going to go do something and they say, “I don’t feel I should do that. I have convictions about that. I don’t feel comfortable doing that.” Then you want to honor that person completely. There’s a perfect illustration of a weaker brother whose conscience you do not want to defile, because not only will it bring conviction, it will bring a loss of joy, it will bring a burden of guilt and it will push them back the wrong direction. The Lord is in charge of each of us. The faith which we have is the faith which we have. “Happy...verse 22...is he who doesn’t condemn himself in what he approves.” You don’t want to...you don’t want to get to the point where you are, in the name of freedom, and under some kind of pressure doing what you feel is not right. Because if you doubt, you’re going to be condemned if you eat because you’re not eating from faith, whatever is not from faith is sin to you. Don’t train yourself to ignore your conscience. Be patient, whatever your conscience convicts you about, wonderful. That’s who you are before the Lord. Have as your own convictions before God and over time God will grow you to enjoy your freedoms.
I call that the principle of encroachment. You’re encroaching, in a sense, on sacred territory, the territory of conviction and conscience. Okay?
Number seven, number seven...will it help others by its example? Will it help others by its example? First Corinthians chapter 8, we’ll just do this one quickly, verse 9, 1 Corinthians 8:9, “Take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” The end of verse 13, “I will never eat meat again in the context of meat offered to idols, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.”
Is it wrong to eat meat offered to idols? No, Paul just said it’s not wrong to eat meat offered to idols. An idol is nothing, an idol is nothing, it doesn’t matter. You can eat meat offered to an idol, it’s not an issue. But for some people it is an issue. They were saved out of idolatry and they can’t have the freedom to eat that meat that was offered to those blasphemous idols to which they were once associated in such sinful ways. And they’re just not free to eat that meat. Well then if you’re with them, don’t eat it. Do not use your freedom in any other way than to set a virtuous and godly example for others. So you limit your freedom.
Tom Pennington said that in a little Q&A, he said, “You know you’re spiritually mature when you’re free not to use your freedoms.” Why? Because you’re concerned about setting an example for someone who if they followed those freedoms would stumble into sin. When people ask me about that, I say, “Well there’s thing I don’t do. There are things I could do, I don’t do them. And the reason I don’t do them is because if I do them, I would then become the person who sort of granted defacto permission to everybody else to do that and they might not be able to handle that and it might cause them to sin. That’s the reason I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, for example. First of all, I don’t need to drink them. I can drink water just as well, and diet Pepsi, if I have a choice. Or I can drink juice, or anything, I don’t need it. I’m not living in the Middle Ages, I’m not living in biblical times. I’m not living in a time when all there was was the fruit juices that fermented in a hot environment and had to be diluted with water to protect against drunkenness. I don’t need to do that.
And is it wrong to do that? No, it’s not wrong to do that. And that’s not the point in and of itself, it’s wrong to be drunk, it’s wrong to lose your control and to lose your senses, but I choose not to do that because as sure as I would do that, that would be enough for anybody to say, “Well, John MacArthur does that, it must be fine. Let’s have at it.” And pretty soon, somebody’s drunk. Is that my fault? Not really, but I just don’t want to be the excuse that causes somebody to stumble into sin.
Paul talks about this constantly in his writings, which we looked at a minute ago in Romans 14 and 15. Maybe just one quick reference, Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” If you’re strong, you bear the weaknesses of those who are weak, you don’t just please yourself. “Let us each please his neighbor for his good to His edification.” So you just want to do whatever is going to be to the benefit of others who are watching your life. You don’t want to cause him to stumble and there’s more in 2...in 1 Corinthians 8, you don’t want to cause him to grieve, be devastated. You don’t want to pull down the work of God in their life. So that’s the principle of example.
All right, number eight. Will it lead others to Christ? Will it lead others to Christ? That’s an evangelistic issue, just quickly, Romans 14:16, “Do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil, for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. He who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.” That’s the operative statement, “approved by men.”
When you live the kind of life that never abuses freedom, you give the best opportunity for men to make a positive commendation on your life. If you’re calling yourself a Christian, declaring you’re a Christian, and living on the edge of freedom, and the message may be a little bit harder to communicate because the model and the example of your life is so close to what people are all engaged in. I think it’s the restrictions of our spiritual lives that show people in a visual way the distinctiveness of the work of Christ in our hearts. And if our lives are going to be approved, dokimos, if they’re going to be tested by the people who watch us and approved after such examination, then we have to live lives that are far from the edge. We’ve got to pull back into the zone where we are manifestly different than our culture.
Two more and I’ll just mention them because time is gone. Will it be consistent with Christ’s likeness? The principle I just gave is the principle of evangelism, if you’re writing them down, the principle of evangelism. Number nine, will it be consistent with Christ’s likeness? First John 2:6, you can look it up, 1 John 2:6, “If we say that we’re in Christ, that we abide in Him, we ought to walk as He walks.” So you ask that big question, what would Jesus do? Right? What would Jesus do? Would Jesus do this? Can’t pass that test.
And a final test. Will it glorify God? By the way, the what would Jesus do is emulation, if you’re looking for an “E”, emulation. And the last one, will it glorify God? “Whatever you do whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God,” the principle of exaltation.
All right, expedience, will it be profitable? Edification, will it build me up? Excess, will it slow me down? Enslavement, will it bring me into bondage? Excuse, will it be a cover for my sin? Encroachment, will it train my conscience in the wrong direction? Example, will it set a helpful pattern? Evangelism, will it lead others to Christ? Emulation, will it be like Christ? Exaltation, will it glorify God?
I call this the Ease of decision making. Let’s pray.
Father, what a great morning, fellowship and worship and just wonderful to be together and consider Your Word and how rich it is. May we apply it to Your glory in Christ’s name. Amen. Have a great day.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, just exactly what are we free to do? There are things that are very obvious in the Scripture, clear commands, clearly things that God forbids us to do, spelled out in no uncertain terms. There are also not only negative commands, but positive commands, things we are to do and they’re very clear to us as well.