Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Tips On Tightrope Walking - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Tips On Tightrope Walking - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Tips On Tightrope Walking - Part 1
TOPICS: Grace-Powered Living

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. While the Bible prohibits certain behaviors, the Bible is silent on many others. So, in those tricky situations, how do we make a balanced decision? Today, we're going to build on what we learned last time. Romans chapter 14 teaches us how to carefully measure our steps. My message is titled, "Tips on Tightrope Walking" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

You know, there are a lot of things to give thanks to God for, aren't there? One of the things we can thank him for is that, hopefully, he's given us more sense (good sense) than the guy we're gonna look at on the screen for just a moment. You may remember him. On November the 2nd, 2014, record-breaking daredevil Nik Wallenda completed what he called his most challenging feat to date, a tightrope walk between two skyscrapers, 600 feet above downtown Chicago, and he did so on one of the walks while he was blindfolded. Crowds below cheered on the seventh-generation aerialist who wore a microphone during his untethered walk.

You might remember the walk consisted of two parts: one starting from Marina City's West Tower about 588 feet high, across the Chicago River to the Leo Burnett Building. He did so in just under seven minutes, finishing 671 feet above the street. Now, if that wasn't enough, Nik Wallenda then returned to the West Tower. He crossed to the East Tower blindfolded, and he did it in one minute and twenty seconds. You know, in Romans chapter 14 and 15, Paul explains that every Christian is walking a tightrope, whether you realize it or not. We're walking a tightrope between two twin towers of truth. Look at the illustration behind me. One of those towers of truth is the truth of our liberty in Christ.

If you're a Christian, you are absolutely free in Christ, not to engage in those things the Bible prohibits, but you're free to do those things the Bible doesn't prohibit. There is great freedom in Christ. But there's another equal tower of truth, and that is our obligation to other Christians. And so, we're always navigating those two truths: our freedom and our obligation. How do you balance yourself when you're walking that tightrope? Well, what did Nick Wallenda do? He had a balancing bar, didn't he? That was the only way to keep his balance on the wire with that balancing bar. The same way if we're going to successfully navigate the Christian life, we have our own balancing bar.

One end of the bar is labeled liberty. Yes, we've got great freedom as Christians. But the other end of the balancing bar has to do with our responsibility to other Christians. And as Chuck Swindoll says, if we ever tip too far in one direction or the other direction, we lose our balance and fall off the wire. How do we keep our balance, especially when we're talkin' about the gray areas of the Christian life? Well, if you have your Bibles today, turn to Romans chapter 14. Romans chapter 14, as we look at what I call some tips for tightrope walking. Romans chapter 14.

Now, you remember last time we looked at the first twelve verses, so let's remind ourselves what the subject Paul is talking about here, he's actually talkin' about what we many times call the gray areas of the Christian life, those issues of behavior that aren't expressly talked about in scripture. We're not talkin' about black and white issues. The Bible very clearly has things to say about premarital sex, about adultery, about drunkenness, about lying, about stealing, we're not talking about those areas. We're talking about the gray areas, those things the Bible doesn't necessarily prohibit. In Paul's day, the issue he was talking about at the church at Rome had to do with, first of all, diet. Is it okay to eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol? What about drinking wine? Those were the dietary issues goin' on in the church at Rome.

And we talked about why that was an issue last time. There was also a controversy about observing certain days. Are Christians obligated to keep the restrictions from the Old Testament about the Sabbath? What about the Jewish festivals, do we have to keep those things? That was the debate that was goin' on in the church at Rome. Paul was addressing two different groups within the church at Rome. First of all, he talked about those who were strong in Christ. That is, they had the maturity to realize that Christianity is not a list of do's and don'ts. There's certain freedom in the Christian area when it comes to these gray areas. But then also, he was addressing those who are weak in the faith that were in the church, newer Christians, less mature Christians. To them, the Pastor wasn't doing his job if he didn't give the congregation a long list of thou shalt's and thou shalt nots.

You know, a lot of Christians are not comfortable unless they have a list of what to do and what not to do. Well, Paul actually has a word for both groups, those who are strong in faith and those who are weak in faith, in Romans chapter 14. Let's look first of all at the command. The exhortation. In verse 13, "Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this... not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way". Well, you notice here the two commands Paul gives in this verse. First of all, he says stop judging other people in the church.

Again, not about black and white issues; about the gray issues. Quit judging each other. If God has given you a freedom to do these things, quit judging those who don't feel like they have that freedom. If God hadn't given you freedom to do certain things in the gray areas of life, quit judging those in the church to whom God has given that freedom. Do you remember last time I closed the message by giving you three questions you oughta ask yourself before you engage in any doubtful behavior. Three questions: number one, do I have any doubts about this activity? Is there any question in my mind whether I oughta do that? Secondly, can I thank God for this activity? If I indulge in this or do that, can I honestly say oh thank you, God, for bringing that into my life? And the third question is, will I be embarrassed one day at the judgment seat of Christ for having done this?

When God evaluates my life as a Christian, and he's going to do that, 2 Corinthians 5:10 says that when God evaluates my life as a Christian, am I going to be ashamed that this activity is a part of my life's record? You know, what's funny is after I've given those questions before, I had people who'd come up with me and say, "Oh, thank you, that is so helpful, because I don't see how so-and-so can do what he does and feel good about it. I don't see how he can do that and thank God for it. I can't see how he does that and isn't gonna be ashamed of himself at the judgment seat of Christ".

The purpose of that list is not to judge other people's behavior. It's to judge your own behavior. That's what he's saying here. Quit judging others. Instead (and here's the second command) start judging yourself. Start judging yourself. He says in verse 13, "but rather determine this", circle that word "determine," it's the word that means judge, if you're gonna judge anything, judge yourself, and that is not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way. Don't be a stumbling block to other Christians.

Now, what does the word "stumbling block" mean? What is Paul talking about? Somebody has well said the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. I mean, if you wanna know what one passage means, look at another passage. If you're trying to figure out what the meaning of a word or phrase is, look and see how it's used other times in scripture. It's the same thing with this term "stumbling block". Paul uses that term in 1 Corinthians 8, so hold your place here and turn over in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 8 and let's see what Paul means by "don't be a stumbling block".

Now, you remember the situation at Corinth was also whether or not to eat meat that had been offered to an idol. In this polytheistic culture where there were many gods worshipped, people would offer meat to gain the god's favor, and remember, they would put that slab of meat on the altar and they would fire it up and a third of it would be consumed, a third of it would be left over and given to the priest who had made the sacrifice, and then another third was actually sold in the meat market that was attached to the temple, and would actually be served in a restaurant that was a part of the temple as well. So that's the background. Should Christians eat meat that has been offered to an idol or not? Those who were stronger in the faith said, what's the big deal?

There's no such thing as an idol. But newer Christians who had come out of idol worship were offended by that. They said, how could you do such a thing? And when they were tempted to do so, they were being tempted to eat that meat that reminded them of their old way of life in many ways would call them back into their old way of life. That's the subject. Now, look at verse 1 of 1 Corinthians 8: "Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge, but knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies". What is this knowledge we all have Paul says? It's the knowledge that there's no such thing as an idol. We all agree on that. But look at verse 7: "However, not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now", that is until the moment of their conversion, "when they eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; their conscience being weak is defiled".

See, not every Christian had the knowledge that there was no such thing as an idol. You say wait a minute, how could they be saved if they didn't know that? Well, the fact is when they became a Christian out of idol worship, they came to the belief that there is only one right God, but they didn't understand yet that there was only one real God as well. By becoming a Christian, they were saying we're choosing to worship this God instead of all the other gods. But they still believed in the other gods. They just believed Jehovah was the right God. It was only later that they would come to understand there's only one real God as well. And so, for them as a new convert, to eat meat that had been offered to an idol... well, that was acknowledging that other idol.

That was acknowledging his pull and hold over his life, and when they ate that meat, it reminded them of their old way of living. It was a temptation for them to revert back into their pagan belief system. Paul says in verse 8, "But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat". You know what he's saying here? He's saying what you eat or what you drink, what you don't eat, what you don't drink doesn't make you holier or less holy before God. Nothing you eat, nothing you drink makes you holy or unholy. There's nothing in that meat, there's nothing in that drink that is inherently sinful or not sinful. Some people are still tryin' to get over the time that I put a can of Crews beer on the pulpit in the old sanctuary years ago. They're still shaking over that.

Why did you do that? I was making a very simple point: there is nothing in that can that is sinful or not sinful. Nothing in food or drink that is inherently sinful. It's what we do with it. It's how we use it that is either sinful or unsinful. That's what he's saying here. Nothing about food or drink is sinful, but remember Christian, you're on a tightrope. We've got freedom, but we also have a responsibility, an obligation, to other Christians as well. That's why he says in verse 9, "But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak". What does he mean, a stumbling block to the weak? Who are the weak? You've heard that term before, the weaker brother in Christ. Be careful so as not to offend, to be a stumbling block to the weaker brother. Who is the weaker brother?

Lemme tell you who the weaker brother in the church is not. The weaker brother Paul is talking about here is not the person who doesn't drink, dance, chew, or go with girls who do. He's not the person who has these convictions, I'll never do that! And neither should you. That person's not a weaker brother. He's got strong convictions about this, about what he should do, and he has strong convictions about what you should do as well. That's not a weaker brother. That's what we call the legalist. You know, when he talks about the weaker brother here, he's talking about the person new in the faith or immature in the faith, who has a conviction that he shouldn't do this or that, but then he sees you do it, and he rethinks his position. He said, well if so-and-so does that, maybe it's okay for me to do it.

And as a result, he goes against what his conscience is telling him to do, and what does verse 11 say? "For through your knowledge the one who is weak is ruined the brother for whose sake Christ has died". In Paul's day when that weaker Christian, even though he didn't think he oughta eat that mean, he sees you eating it, he eats it, violates his conscience, may lead him back into his old way of living. That's what it means to be a stumbling block to somebody who is weaker in the faith. Why have you ruined him? You've caused him to violate his conscience. I touched on this for a moment last time. Let me remind you what a conscience is. I think John McArthur defines it best when he says, "Conscience is God's doorkeeper to keep us out of the places we could be hurt".

As we mature, our conscience allows us to go more places and to do more things because we have better judgment. You know, when my girls were growing up, they were three years old; I wouldn't think, Amy wouldn't think of allowing them to walk down the street by themselves to a neighbor's house. That would be irresponsible. When they were 10, we wouldn't throw them the car keys and say "Hey, would you go to Tom Thumb and get a gallon of milk for us"? They didn't have the freedom to do that, but as they got older, they had more and more freedom. It was like taking the training wheels off the bicycle. The older you get, the more freedom you have. But conscience is like that set of training wheels. It keeps us from doing things that God knows would be harmful to us.

You know, in 1 Timothy 1:19, Paul says one of the two essentials for the Christian life, number one is faith, but equally important number two is a clear conscience. We should never violate our conscience. And when you cause another Christian to sin, you're causing him to violate his conscience. 1 Timothy 4:2 talks about a conscience that has been seared as though with a branding iron. You know, if you take your finger and you put it into a fire, what happens? You destroy the nerve endings in your finger where you can't feel anything any longer. And when a Christian, when you violate your conscience, it's like putting your finger into a fire. It's like destroying the nerve endings of your conscience. You can't feel anything if you do that long enough.

Unbelievers are not the only people who can sear their conscience. Believers can as well. You can so violate what God tells you to do over and over again that you no longer hear him speak to you. And that's why it is terrible to violate your conscience. Two reasons you're not supposed to violate your conscience: first of all, God may have given you an extra sensitive conscience about a particular area. He may have said no to you about a certain activity, but he says okay to other people, simply to protect you.

After last week's message, a man came to talk to me and he said, you know Pastor, I know I have the freedom to drink if I want to. I know I can have a glass of wine with my dinner and I'm not going to hell. But I've chosen not to do that. First of all, my grandparents were alcoholics. My brother was an alcoholic and died of alcoholism. Even though I've got the freedom to do it, I know God is telling me not to do it. It may be okay for others; it's not okay for me. And that's one reason we shouldn't violate our conscience. God is using that to lead you directly into what you should do and shouldn't do. Secondly, when you violate your conscience, you're damaging that very sensitive warning device that God has given you.

Few days ago, we had this annoying beeping sound going on in our house. And it kept going beep-beep-beep and I realized, well it was the fire alarm was low on its battery juice and the battery needed to be replaced. The only problem was we didn't have a battery in the house to put in there, and I was tired of listening to it, so I got the ladder out, climbed up to the top, undid the fire alarm, and guess what - the beeping stopped! Success! Hallelujah! However, by disconnecting that fire alarm, I was also placing myself and my family at risk. We could no longer hear the sound. We could no longer be protected from the fire.

In the very same way, when you repeatedly violate your conscience it's like you're turning off the fire alarm where you can no longer hear the voice of God. To violate your conscience is wrong, but listen to what Paul is saying. To cause another Christian to violate his conscience is equally wrong. You say, how does this work in the real world? Look at 1 Corinthians 8:10. This is the example Paul gives: "For if somebody sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple", that is in the restaurant attached to the temple, "they see you dining there, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols"?

Now, here's the example. Let's imagine you're living in Corinth, and you decide you and your mate wanna go out for a nice steak dinner, so you go to Del Frisco's there in Corinth, that happens to be attached to the temple. And they serve that wonderful meat that has been offered to idols, and so you're sitting down to dinner, and you recognize your waitress; in fact, you remember instantly where you saw her before. She's a new member of your church. In fact, the week before, she had just stood up in the service and given her testimony of salvation. She had been a worshipper of the idol Diana, the false goddess. But God had miraculously saved her, and she left that lifestyle and now came to faith in Christ. And she was honest in her testimony that she still struggled. She was still tempted to go back into her old way of debauchery, but praise God, every day he was keeping her faithful to him.

That's your waitress. And there you are sitting with a 10-ounce sirloin steak that had been offered to an idol previously. You're sitting there and that waitress comes over, recognizing you as a member of her church. She leans over and whispers, "I just thought you would wanna know that meat has been offered to an idol, and I know you wouldn't wanna eat it". Now the question is, what do you do? What do you do in that situation? You know, you've got one of three choices. What you could do is say, would you mind your own business? That's none of your concern, don't try to tie your legalism around me. That's one possible response. But you're not that hard-hearted.

So maybe you say to yourself, you know what, part of our job is to help Christians mature in their faith. And so, I'm gonna help this young woman mature in her faith, and I'm gonna eat this meat to show her there is nothing wrong with eating meat that has been offered to an idol. There's no such thing as an idol. That's, by the way, what Paul is saying here in verse 10. He says, suppose somebody sees you dining in an idol's temple. Will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened? If there were quotation marks in the Greek language, he woulda put that in quotation marks. Strengthened? He's being sarcastic.

Wouldn't that Christian be strengthened to see you eat? Isn't that a part of the growing up process? There're a lot of Christians today who rationalize a misuse of their liberty by saying, well I'm just helping Christians mature. I'm just helping them grow up, to realize they've got great freedom in Christ! No, what they're doin' is just trying to serve themselves. What happens, aren't you strengthening another Christian? Look at verse 11... no: "For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ has died".
Are you Human?:*