Michael Youssef - Healthy Living in a Sick World - Part 14
Dr. Michael Youssef: Hello, my friends. You know, I am honored and privileged this morning to introduce to you my son, Jonathan Youssef. You've heard him before, he loves the Lord, he's a great preacher of the Word of God. And you're going to hear a message that is going to challenge you. You will be blessed by Jonathan's message, so I hope you'll listen carefully and you listen prayerfully. God bless.
Jonathan Youssef: And so, we conclude this section of sacrifices to idols today, not a phrase I ever expected to say in my life. And if you're visiting with us and you're trying to wonder how to get out the exits, just hang tight, this will all come clear in a moment. Now, I'm sure for those of you who have been following this series, you've been up all night wondering, "What will happen? Can I go to Okay Cafe and eat that meat if it may or may not have been sacrificed to an idol? Can I go to Houston's and not offend someone with my order? Can I have my friends over for a barbecue later this week"?
Well, I understand that this was an issue for the Corinthian church, so much so that the Corinthians write to Paul to say, "What do we do about this sacrifice to idols and eating meats in the temple"? And I know that for us, those things can feel so far removed. But listen to me, at the heart of the issue is, how do we relate to God and how do we relate to others? And in particular those outside the church when it comes to these various issues. And so, Paul starts, or rather he finishes what we were looking at last week as it relates to idolatry, where he tells the Corinthians, "Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall".
Now, the Corinthians have been saved body and soul. And they have been called out to be God's people in a very dark place. We've heard about what Corinth was like. And what do they do? They fight over leadership, they doubt Paul's apostleship, they treat the Lord's Supper as an opportunity to think only of self. And they disqualify themselves from witnessing to the Corinthian community. I was wondering, what would the slogan be for the Corinthian church? "Come and join the Corinthian church. We fight with each other, we're stuck in sexual sin, we cannot agree on who our leader is, we will make you feel shame for eating meat, or we will make you feel stupid for not eating meat. Come on in, sign up. Operators are standing by".
Paul says, "Learn the lesson from the Israelites. Do not repeat their mistakes. Don't be a generation that dies in the desert. Don't be a generation that is disqualified from witnessing effectively, for these things were written down for you and your benefit". And so, Paul says in verse 14, "Therefore, therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry". Don't assume that because you take the Lord's Supper or because you have been baptized that that saves you. Don't assume that because you take the Lord's Supper, that you are now immune from idolatry. Don't assume that because you take the Lord's Supper, that you can now live however you like, especially when you know it's wrong, and be totally entangled in sin.
For the purpose of eating the bread and drinking the cup is to share in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, to be identified in him, and to fellowship as one body. As he talks about, it's one body together, one bread. And so, if we view communion or baptism as this sort of get out of jail free card, where we fail to see the purpose of the Lord's Supper in the uniting of the body of believers and putting our identity into Christ, then we make ourselves vulnerable to sin. Maybe you don't think anything of communion. Maybe to you, it's just sort of a rote process. You stand in line, and you take your wafer, and you dip it in the wine, and you eat it. And you go, and you sit down, you think about lunch. I really hope that that's not the case. Or maybe you leave early and you miss out on that whole opportunity because you've overscheduled yourself.
Because you see, what happens is that you miss out on the blessing that is taking place, which is that as our world gets darker and darker outside, and I really don't think I have to explain that to you, but as the world gets darker and darker outside, we have this great privilege of looking around and seeing people who are also saying, "My hope is in Christ. My faith is in Christ. He will build me up, he will supply my needs. He paid it all, he bears my sin, he lifts me up. He gives me a life and a family who loves him and me no matter what baggage I may carry, no matter what my struggle is, no matter what I've said or done in the past. And I am not crazy, and I am not alone".
And we get to encourage each other in that, pushing each other back to Christ, back to Christ, reminding each other to go back to Christ, that his love is sufficient, that his grace is sufficient, that we cannot outrun the love and grace of Christ. And we don't do it in judging one another, but in partaking of his body and his blood, which was and is and will always be the way of salvation. What a blessing that we get to do this this morning together as we partake of these elements and be reminded of what Christ has done on our behalf in our putting our identity in him. And we get to do that with brothers and sisters who are also doing that.
That again, we're not alone, but we are together, unified as a body of Christ together in Christ. Reminding each other of that salvation, reminding each other of that grace that has been poured out for us. What a blessing. And in verses 23 to chapter 11, verse 1, Paul summarizes what he's been saying really since chapter 8 in this little section. What do we do when we're navigating those grey areas of life, when it's not clear cut black and white? And Paul in this section doesn't address the issue on the basis of what an individual should or shouldn't do, but rather he focuses the issue on what is best for the neighbor and what will bring glory to God.
So, he writes, "'All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up". And we've heard this before in chapter 6, when Paul tells the Corinthians to flee sexual idolatry, sexual immorality. Now, this could've been something that Paul said, this all things are lawful, this could've been a phrase that Paul has given and it was being abused by the Corinthians. I'm not sure, it may have just been popular in the culture at the time. But you see, there's a group of Corinthians that take that phrase and they make it their banner. Some of them wanted to wave that banner of libertinism. And as long as they were baptized, as long as they took the Lord's Supper, then all things were lawful. And it is an abuse of a good thing.
Paul was saying, "You have been given liberty in Christ. You can eat meat that was sacrificed to an idol because an idol is nothing," verse 19. "You can do the things that you have the freedom in Christ to do. Yes, but don't abuse this freedom. Do not become a slave to freedom," which sounds like an oxymoron, right? How can you be a slave to freedom? I'm going to give you an example. A group of friends of mine a while back were going out together, there are Christians and non-Christians in this group, and one of the non-Christian friends had struggled with alcoholism in his past. And so, when we're ordering drinks and meal and that sort of thing, pretty much everyone was refraining from ordering alcohol for the sake of this particular person.
But one of the Christian friends knew that he had the freedom to order alcohol, and so he did. But not only did he just do that, he wanted to rub his freedom in Christ license in everybody's face. What does that do for his testimony? How does that help the non-Christian who's struggling with something? He looks at the Christian and thinks, "Do you even care? What do you think of me"? Then in verse 25, Paul says, "Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience, for the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof".
This is to the person who is not that example I just gave, where you had sort of the libertine rub your license in their face. No, this is to the person who uses legalism as a weapon. They do not understand the liberty that they have in Christ, and therefore put people under the yoke of legalism and bind people's consciences. That's why Paul quotes Psalm 24, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof". It's all his. The meat they were eating, the things they were drinking, it's all been given from the Lord. And we have people like that in churches today too, don't we? There are those who run with liberty into unhelpful, non-building up things, and use their liberty as license. And there are those who bind themselves and others in legalism.
So, what does Paul say to counter all of this? There has to be an out, right? Verse 24, "Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor". The legalist sought their own good and ignored the way their approach bound the conscience of their neighbor. The libertine one sought their own good and ignored the way their approach scandalized the conscience of their neighbor. And the word to both is stop seeking your own good. Seek the good of your neighbor. Now, that's probably not a popular message in churches, is it? Stop seeking your own good. Seek the good of your neighbor, thereby giving glory to God.
Remember the Lord's Supper example that we looked at earlier. You come to the table with believers who have different struggles, and different doubts, and different fears. Do not think only of yourself. That's why in chapter 11, Paul says of the Lord's Supper, of the communion, "Anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks judgment on himself". The body, meaning look around you, consider the body of Christ that is here with us, the brothers and sisters that he has intentionally put you in communion with. So, what is your approach to God and neighbor? And neighbor being those who have not yet put their trust in Christ.
How do we respond to the outside world? What do we think brings glory to God? Some of us think the way we bring glory to God is by rejecting completely wholesale the outside world. What does this look like? We spend our time with our Christian friends, and we spend our time at church, and we spend our time at Bible study. And if a work colleague invites us to an event or a party or something, we turn them down because we view the world through this lens. We are called to be set apart. Yes, we are holy. And so, we need to stay separate and other and not interact with the non-Christian world. Well, what is the result of that? The result of that is that you have no one to share with.
You have the message of life and hope and salvation, and you have no one to give it to. We have removed our voice and our witness from those around us. Paul says, "If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go," I've used the ESV in this example, but, "If an unbeliever invites you to dinner and you're disposed to go," or you desire to go, first one, "Go". Go. Two, "Eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience". Go, be with them. Don't worry about what food is put before you. If you're 21 years and older and you don't struggle with alcoholism and nobody in this group seems to struggle with alcoholism, be free, it's okay.
Now, don't drink to excess, we know what the Scripture says about that, but be free. Don't tell these people they're all going to go to hell 'cause they're drinking alcohol. That is not helpful. And all the teetotalers giggle. Listen, do not lose your opportunity to share Christ with your neighbor, which will be good for them to hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it glorifies God. On the other end of the spectrum is the person who desires to go to their neighbor no matter the cost. They just want to identify with the non-Christian community. There's so much of a desire to identify with your neighbor that you lose your saltiness, you lose your light.
You identify at the expense of the gospel, and you don't look separate and other as we have been called to be. And so, you have no message to bring your neighbor. Paul says, "But if someone says to you, 'This has been offered in sacrifice,' then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience. I do not mean your conscience, but I am talking about his conscience". This person is more concerned with their own liberty than the good of their neighbor. Do not put your liberty at the forefront of your decision making. Rather, consider what will glorify God.
What is for my neighbor's good? I don't want to sound like I'm preaching do this and do that, don't do that, don't mishear me, that's not what's happening here. The root of this is what is your motivation? Is this questioning our motives? And then it's saying you need to be discerning, to have a discerning spirit. And I can't answer all these nitty gritty questions for you in the grey areas. You have to be sitting under the authority of the Word of God and seeking what Christ has for you, and then you'll come to clarity in how to respond to your neighbor. And you will know what glorifies God.
Now, for the sake of completing the illustration, some of us live a dualistic, compartmental life, where we act one way with our Christian friends and on Sunday, and then the rests of the week and outside of church, we act a completely different way. What does this do? This gives you no audience and no message. You become a hypocrite because you cannot be in two worlds. Here's what the balanced life looks like, the final graphic. Paul says, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ".
We don't hide from opportunities and have an us versus them mentality. Instead, we have a mentality that says we have been saved. We have been transformed. We have been recipients of grace. We now have freedom in Christ, but I will not be a prisoner to the freedom because I have a Lord who gave up his freedoms for his enemies, for me. And I will not be self-centered and I will not be self-focused because I imitate Christ, who gave up his rights. Paul gave up his rights because Christ gave up his rights, so I give up my rights so that more and more and more and more may hear and may know. I don't look to the interest of self, but to the interest of others, that they may be saved.
Not so that I can pat myself on the back and say, "Look at how loving I was. Look at all the things I gave up for people". But I do it because of what Christ did for me. He left perfect unity with the Father and took on flesh, and he shared the good news with anyone who would listen and even those who wouldn't. He forfeited what was rightfully his to accomplish his Father's will. He gave his life up for people who were at enmity with him so that they might be saved. He made a way possible where there was no other way. And he has given new hearts, and new understanding, and a hope, and a future, and a community of fellow believers who seek to encourage and urge one another on to run the race, remembering that there are many who do not yet know the truth.
After the resurrection and after the disciples had seen Christ in the upper room, they go out fishing. And Jesus meets them on the beach after they've been out all night fishing and probably wondering what's going to happen next. "Is this real? What's going to happen for us? Where do we fit in with this"? And Jesus pulls Peter aside, Peter who had denied Christ three times. And three times, he asked Peter, "Peter, do you love me? Peter, do you love me? Peter, do you love me"? And three times Peter says, "Yes Lord, yes Lord. You know that I love you". Jesus says, "If you love me, feed my sheep". Why? Is it because Jesus forgot he had to leave and there were sheep that needed to be fed? And somebody needed to go and get the mail? He'd forgotten about the mail, someone needed to take the garbage out? No.
See, Jesus's sheep are his people. He's showing Peter, "Peter, if you love me, then love my people. A new commandment I give you, love one another as I have loved you". It's new because Christ's love was different than any other person who had come before him. It gave more, it accomplished more. And if our identity is in him, then we can love with that love. Not from ourselves trying to gin this love up out of our own flesh, but it's a love because we know he first loved us, and we know the grace that he's given us, and we know the forgiveness that he's offered to us.
And so, we're not like Jonah, who hardens his heart and doesn't want the good news to go to the people. But we're like the Samaritan woman, who's forced to go out in the heat of the day and draw her water. And when Jesus tells her, "I can offer you living water. I am the Messiah that's come," she goes right back to the people who have cast her out of society and brings them the good news. Out of his love, not out of her love. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God, for that is what you were created for. Glorify God and enjoy him forever.