Summary: We can have unity without uniformity. And just because you CAN do something in your Christian liberty doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone?
In Divisions Over Debatables we looked at gray areas of the Christian life. The discussion was about how we are to treat other Christians who see things differently than we do. We are a diverse bunch, each with our own convictions. We aren’t trying to make cookie cutter Christians. [clones] But it is my desire that in spite of our differences, we love and support each other, encourage and lift up one another.
v. 13 YOU are not the Holy Spirit. [conviction Gestapo]
Imagine two people standing here. One is born again, sincere, dedicated, loving Jesus. The other is lost, has no concern for God, has never been exposed to the Bible, and lives for himself a worldly lifestyle.
When you look at each, what is the primary difference? Behavior? Looks? Their talk? All these things SHOULD be different, but that’s not the primary difference. The main difference is the way they think.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your [wardrobe? vocabulary? hairstyle? music?] mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Our entire thought process should be diametrically opposed to that of the world. A radical change happened on the inside and it should work its way out.
ill.--When lost, we believed that we are to get all we can, can all we get, and then sit on the can. Now we are taught that it is better to give than to receive. "Don’t get mad, get even" is different than "Turn the other cheek." The world says, don’t let anyone take advantage of you, but Jesus said to go the second mile [Roman soldier illustration] for the sake of winning them to Christ.
The ultimate indignity/insult one can suffer in our society today is to be considered somebody’s stepping stone. Somebody uses you in some way to springboard their step up the ladder.
And yet for the Christian, it’s a privilege if we can be used to advance a brother to the next level in their growth in grace.
Don’t miss this: Jesus has given us marvelous freedom and liberty in His new covenant. "Where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty." "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." The old covenant, the law, is far behind us. Aren’t you glad we don’t have to live under the encumbrances of those dietary restrictions, for instance?
"God has given us all things richly to enjoy." What freedom! But listen, we are PERMITTED to enjoy that freedom, not COMMANDED to enjoy it. In fact, the greater our spiritual maturity, the less important our ’rights’ should be to us. More important to us than the exercising of our freedoms should be the consideration of how doing so might affect the lives of other believers around us.
Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
This passage is talking about debatables, gray areas. Not talking about things that are clearly forbidden or commanded in the Word.
Today’s issues include modest dress, styles of music, places you go, things you say, how you look, how you do your hair, whether you pierce or engrave your body, etc.
Paul had to deal with similar issues in his day: Eating meat offered to idols. And the sabbath day debate.
v. 2 meat
v. 5a sabbath
Paul already knew he had freedom in Christ to eat the meat, no matter where it had been. But he also decided there was something more important than his right to meat.
Paul didn’t say, "I’m free in Christ, so I don’t care what anybody thinks."
v. 13 He said, "My life is to be a help, not a hindrance...a stepping stone, not a stumbling block."
With that in mind, consider 3 principles:
1. Things are neutral.
2. Christianity is internal.
3. Christian liberty is influential.
v. 14 ’thing’
Objects are not moral or immoral, but what you do with those objects...and what they do to you.
Meat is not sinful, it is amoral.
Here’s some other things people label as sinful today:
Pool tables--because of their association with the pool hall, and what goes on in there. But it is just marble and wood. It is not sinful. It is what you do with that table, or what it does to you that can be sinful...but not necessarily. If a man wants to abstain from it, that is his right, but it would be wrong for him to assert that it is therefore wrong for everyone else.
Deck of cards--unless they have nude pictures on them, they are not sinful things. But because of their association with gambling, many preach against them. But they are just pieces of paper, and you can have fun with them, without selling your house and heading to Vegas.