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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Tips On Tightrope Walking - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - Tips On Tightrope Walking - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - Tips On Tightrope Walking - Part 2
TOPICS: Grace-Powered Living

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". In the Old Testament God established a strict code of conduct, one that was frankly impossible to follow. Gratefully, because of what Christ accomplished on the cross we are no longer bound by those laws, but that doesn't give us permission to do whatever we want. Today, I'm going to describe our freedoms and our limitations in Christ. My message is titled "Tips on Tightrope Walking" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

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"? Well, 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". No, the right response is not to say I don't care what you think. The right response is not to say, well I'm just gonna help you grow up right now by using my liberty. You know what the right response is? The third response? Thank you so much for tellin' me that. I think I'll order the chicken instead. That's what Paul is saying. You're voluntarily limiting your liberty for the sake of other people. Paul says quit judging people in the church who either have liberty or don't have liberty. Instead, judge yourself with this goal in mind, not to be a stumbling block. He's saying make this determination that you're not going to make another Christian stumble and violate his conscience and hurt his relationship with God.

Now, that's the exhortation. Notice the explanation beginning in verse 14. Paul gives us three principles that undergird that command not to judge others but to judge yourself. First principle, gray areas are gray. Gray areas are gray. Look at verse 14. "I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean". When I say gray areas are gray, all I'm saying is the things we're talking about there is no absolute right or wrong about it. That's why we call them gray. They're not black and white.

This week I was on Jack Van Impe's television program, and they asked me a question. They deal with current headlines, and one of the headlines they were dealing with was about a well-known Bible college. I would know you would know the name immediately if I said it, and the news story was that this well-known Bible college had made the decision to lift their prohibition against alcohol and tobacco use for their faculty and staff. And in the release it says, "After months and months of exhaustive study, we have determined that abstinence from alcohol and tobacco cannot be found anywhere in Scripture".

Well, you know what? I could have saved them months and months of exhaustive study. If they would have just called me, I could have told them there's nothing in the Bible that says absolutely positively you cannot allow alcohol or tobacco to touch your lips. We all agree on that. There's nothing in the Bible that says that, but there's another principle we have to consider as well. Paul says in verse 15, "For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died". It's not just a question of whether the Bible prohibits this or not; it's a question of how does this behavior affect me, how does it affect other people as well.

You know, you may think, "Well, pastor, you sure talking about alcohol a lot". There are a lot of doubtful things. We can talk about dancing, about going to the movies. We can talk about the length of hair. We can talk about whether or not to wear tattoos. I mean, there's all kind of doubtful things you talk about. The reason I mention alcohol is, first of all, it's one of the issues Paul was talking about. Romans 14:21, meat or wine. But it's also a debate frankly that is raging in many churches right now and in many Christian organizations, and I think there's a principle we need to understand here. Look, I can share with you the reasons I don't drink alcohol. It's not because I think I'm going to hell if I do. The reason I have made the decision to drink; well, one reason is because I really like my job and would like to keep it. And so that's... no, that's not the reason. Three reasons I don't drink.

Number one, because of the scriptural warnings against the dangers of alcohol. You might want to jot this down. Proverbs 23, verses 31 to 33, one of the many passages in Scripture, "Do not look on wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind will utter perverse things". That's the danger of alcohol. Anytime you allow a substance to control or diminish your judgment, you're putting yourself in a very, very dicey situation. I mean, look at the statistics about date rape, domestic violence, traffic fatalities.

You would be astounded at how many of those things are connected to alcohol. There's something about alcohol that impairs our judgment. Alcohol loosens our inhibitions. I don't know about you. I don't need my inhibitions loosened any. I need to keep my sound mind in judgment, and alcohol is a deterrent to doing that. So, again, while the Bible doesn't expressly say you cannot drink, it has warnings and warnings about the dangers of alcohol. A second reason I don't drink is I have to consider the possibility of alcoholism. I mean, the fact is one in seven people in the world today have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism.

Did you know that? There is a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism. We have it in my extended family. I imagine you do as well. There's a genetic predisposition to that. You say, "Well, one in seven, that's not that big of a deal". Just imagine you go out to DFW airport. You're about to get on a plane. The gate agent says, "Now, before you board today, we need to tell you there's a one in seven chance this plane is going to crash". How many of you would get on that flight? Well, one in seven, pretty good odds. Nobody in his right mind would do that. Why would any person in his right mind take the chance that he could become an alcoholic?

And then number three, I need to consider my example to other people, especially my children. Just because God has given you the freedom to drink, what impact does that have on your children or your grandchildren who may not be able to handle alcohol, who may be those one in seven? Do you really want their blood on your hands? You know, I do not understand these Christian leaders, these pastors who stand up in their pulpits and flaunt their liberty in Christ. They talk about how they're free to drink alcohol. They talk about going out with their wives to get margaritas on Friday evenings, and they flaunt that liberty. What is wrong with those people? Don't they understand there are people listening to them who may not be able to handle alcohol like they do, that they may lead people to alcoholism and even to death?

They think, these pastors and leaders they think... I think they've deluded themselves into thinking they're doing their congregation a great service by emphasizing their liberty in Christ, but instead they are destroying the sheep that God has called them to protect. We need to keep our freedom to ourself if we're free. If you've got the freedom to do this, if you've got the freedom to do this, great. Keep your freedom to yourself. Don't flaunt it and cause another Christian to stumble. If you don't have the freedom to do those things, keep that to yourself. Make that your personal conviction. Share it with your children if you want to, but don't try to impose your restrictions on other people. That's what Paul is saying. Gray areas are gray. Again, the principle in verse 15, "For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy your food with him for whom Christ died".

Principle number two, God is more concerned with internals than externals. Now, that's another principle at work here we need to understand. God is more concerned with internals than externals. Look at verses 16 to 18. "Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, it's about righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men".

Look, if God's given you the freedom to eat and to drink, great. If not, that's great too. But remember, that's not what Christianity is about. You know, as Christians we want to focus on the externals, don't we? It's about doing this and not doing this. If you ask the average non-Christian today his definition of a Christian; well, it's somebody who doesn't do this, this, this, and this, and this. No, that's not what the kingdom of God is. The kingdom of God is about love and joy and a right relationship with God. Our behavior flows out of that. We need to hear over and over again Christianity really isn't about the externals. It's about our relationship with God.

You know, it's so funny here in the Dallas-Fort metroplex in the 21st century I still have people stop me and they say, "Pastor, we love your church. We would love to be a member of your church, but we could never become a member". And I say, "Well, why is that"? And they look down and kind of shuffle their feet. They say, "Well, we like to dance". And I say, "That's okay. Come on. We have plenty of people in our church who dance, not very well but they dance. Come on". But isn't that a shame that there are people who are actually not only staying out of the church but staying out of the kingdom of God because they think Christianity's about the externals? We need to remind ourselves and others it's about the internals.

And number three, an important principle here, my love limits my liberty. My love for others limits my liberty. Look at verses 19 and 20. "So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food," or Sabbath keeping, or drinking, or movies, or tattoos. That's what he's talking about. Don't tear down the work of God for the sake of the gray areas. "All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense". Will you underline this phrase in verse 19, building up? Did you know God is in the building business?

That's what he's saying here. First of all, God is building up individual Christians into mature disciples. That's God's purpose in salvation, to save people and make them more like Christ. So in every Christian he's doing a construction project, making people more like Christ. But not only is he building up individual Christians, God is also building a holy temple unto himself. Ephesians 4:12 and 1 Peter 2:5. That is he's putting individual Christians together into an organism called the local church to be his representative. What Paul is saying is whatever you do, Christian, don't you tear down what God is building up. Don't you tear down that individual Christian who God is growing up into a mature disciple. And whatever you do, don't tear up the church that God is building to be a witness for him.

I read about a church in California that was having a Christmas pageant for its children. The week before the pageant, they had rehearsals every night for the kids. The parents would come and drop off their kids for the rehearsal. One night they came in, a group of parents, and saw there wasn't a Christmas tree or Christmas decoration so they put up a Christmas tree and put up the ornaments. Another group of parents were offended by that. They thought the church shouldn't be a place for Christmas trees.

So after the rehearsal, they took down the decorations. The next night, the first group of parents saw what had happened. They put the decorations back up. After the rehearsal, the other group took it back down. After a couple of days of this a confrontation ensued, a fistfight broke out, lawsuits were actually filed and all the events were covered extensively in the local newspaper, all because of Christians who couldn't get along with one another of whether there was freedom to put up a tree or not to put up a tree. What Paul is saying here is don't let external issues tear down an individual Christian or tear down the church for which Christ died and gave himself.

That's why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:13, "Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I'll never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble". By the way, will you notice verse 20 works both ways? Yes, if I've got liberty to do something, I'm to limit my liberty to others. I'm not to tear down the church. If I don't have liberty, I'm not to tear down the church either by imposing my convictions on other people as well. What's the application to this? Remember, the subject is how do you keep your balance between your own freedom in Christ and your obligation to others. Two principles for keeping your balance real quickly.

Number one, the rule of conscience. To figure out if you're really liberated to do something, remember ask yourself do you have any doubts at all. Look at verses 22 to 23. "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin". Make sure you don't have any doubts before you do this thing. A man was getting dressed one morning and he yelled to his wife in the other room, "Honey, do you think the shirt I wore last night is too dirty to wear today"? She said immediately, "Yes, it is". He said, "Well, how do you know? You're not even looking at it". She yelled back from the other room, "I don't have to look at it. I know you. And if you think it's too dirty to wear, it's too dirty to wear".

Now, that's what Paul is saying here. If you have any doubts that some activity is wrong or questionable, then it's too questionable to engage in. The rule of conscience. Secondly, the rule of concern. I have to balance out my liberty with my concern, my responsibility toward others. Look at verse 21. "It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles". Verse 23, "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin". Listen to me this morning. As a Christian we have great liberty in Christ, but our liberty ends when it negatively impacts another believer.

In the 1930s when American oil companies began to travel to Saudi Arabia to develop the rich Arabian fields, they found themselves suddenly in the midst of a strange culture, the Islamic culture. They weren't sure exactly how to conduct themselves. So a group from a particular oil company went to the king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz, and asked for permission to have churches in their camp there for the oil company. The king said, "Well, let me think about it". A few weeks later, other officials from the oil company came and asked the king if they could be permitted to have alcohol in their camps. Alcohol, of course, was against the Islamic tradition. The king said, "Well, wait a minute. You came earlier asking for churches.

Now you're asking for alcohol. Which do you want? If you had to choose between one or the other, which would you choose"? The company officials said, "Well, let us get back to you on that". They went back and for several weeks had a debate within their company which would it be, churches or alcohol. Finally, they came back to the king and said, "We've talked about it. We want the alcohol". The king said, "If you had said churches I would have given you both, but since you said alcohol I'll give you neither".

The king in a strange way understood a very important truth for Christians; and that is if our heart is right with God, then we can be trusted to make the right choices. Yes, we have liberty in Christ. Liberty is important. Liberty is a part of growing up, isn't it? It's like taking the training wheels off of a bicycle. It's risky. Sometimes we fall with our liberty, but it's necessary for us to grow up. But the real test of whether we're strong in Christ if we've really grown up is our willingness to voluntarily limit our liberty for the well-being of others. That's the message of Romans chapter 14.
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