Summary: Restraint can be the best demonstration of strength.

Being a bit of a history buff as well as a student of Scripture I have noticed a vast difference between the Church of even sixty years ago and today. I have heard sermons from many men who were considered great in their day and even revered now in some circles. They were certainly more hell and damnation types. We frown on that now with grace and love being the prominent themes and the sermons more like motivational speeches than exegetical calls to holiness or service. Now, I thoroughly believe in grace and love as I am in much need of both but there needs to be a balance.

There is also a difference between the commitment and priorities of Christians. I recall a story from the biography of George Mueller. A couple visiting London went to his church and in the process became convicted of their need for rebirth and were saved. They were not going to be in town long and so there was not a lot of discipleship given much like Paul's short stay in Thessaloniki. A year later they returned and told George all that they had done and what they had changed in their lives. At the end they asked him what else could they give up for Christ.

That is a far different attitude from today. Many Christians scan the Word to see what they can still get away with or explain away rather than what may need to go from their lives. Keith Green has lyrics where Christ is chastising the Church corporate saying, “You thrive on milk and reject my meat.” That song is entitled, “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice”. He is dead and the song is old but it still has a lot to say to us.

1 Cor 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. KJV

Many use this passage to advocate an anything goes Christianity. First, we must take it in its context. Paul is trying to help two opposite cultures merge into the New Covenant Church. The Jews who know only the Law and were having trouble grasping that Grace had done away with the Law since it was fulfilled in Christ and the Gentiles who had no clue and were accustomed to having drunken orgies in their worship had trouble changing to a new and purer worship of God. They could not understand why bringing a ham to a Church supper should be a big deal with the brethren of Jewish background. The Jews could not understand why the Gentiles could not practice the rituals and holy days that the Jews have always practiced.

This was not saying that immorality or other sin was now legal. Just 1 John 1:9 it and rock and roll. It's all good. No, those things did not change. What changed are the ceremonial, sacrificial and dietary laws that were all a part of the tutelage to bring us to Christ. And even though a ham sandwich was now lawful it was not necessarily expedient or profitable to eat one. There would be times when it would be better to forgo the exercise of your freedom.

Rom 14:22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. KJV

Romans 14 and 15 are often taught from the perspective of proving that anything goes especially in “gray areas”. Weaker brothers need to grow up as a title of an article some time back in a very large Christian magazine proclaimed. You have your rights and you are free in Christ so go for it and live in grace seems to be the prevailing attitude. Yet, as verse 22 says there are times when you need to exercise your faith or freedom in private. You can be condemned in what you allow not what you disallow.

Since I became a Christian in 1975 I have heard numerous debates over various issues and anyone who wanted to not do something that someone else wanted to do was called a Legalist or worse. The scarlet L, be it Liberal or Legalist was something to be avoided. The true definition of a Legalist is really someone trying to add anything to the Gospel or Christ plus ___ saves you or keeps you saved. It is something other than being saved by faith alone. Initially, it was the Law or Old Covenant and today it has branched into many varieties of the same principle. It has nothing to do with standards unless those standards are cited as salvation issues.

Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. KJV

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