From Bondage to Freedom
The previous point ties in with God’s will for us to go from bondage to freedom, for 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “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.” The apostle Paul first calls to our attention something we must hold in balance: “All things are lawful, but not everything is beneficial.” The rigid restrictions of the old covenant are no longer binding to those who have been called unto liberty in Christ. The “all things” here is not speaking of sin, for the child of God has been “made free from sin,” (Romans 6:18) not free to sin (Romans 6:1-2). But there are many things in life that are not clearly spelled out as right or wrong in the Word. And so as you mature in the Lord you will find there are a lot of things that will be lawful for you to do, but yet not be beneficial or profitable to other saints around you—doing those things will not build up the body of Christ.
But we need to consider ourselves as well as others, for Paul goes on to say, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” There are things that we can lawfully do, but we need to be alert and aware of their power. Be aware of the power of, say… coffee. It’s possible to be ruled by coffee—you’ve got to have your one, two, four a day, whatever—and be brought under its power to where we just have to have it. Paul says, “I’m not going to brought under the power of it.” A brother told me one time he went to his coffee first in the morning instead of the Word, and the Lord pricked his heart—so that morning he poured out a drink offering unto the Lord.
The Lord would have us grow up from the bondage to habits and hobbies—that we may have good habits and edifying hobbies. God wants us to remain free from the power of those things. Now about fourteen of them come to mind real quick, but I don’t want to list them all out here and have a debate about which habits are okay, and which hobbies are not okay. They are good conversations to have in the right context, usually with just a few people, making sure to include more mature brothers and sisters who have gone through these. It’s easy to go to the left or the right: either, “It doesn’t matter,” or, “It must be sin, because when I do it I feel like sinning.” There’s a mature way to go about these things, and the Lord would have us be delivered from bondage.
He also wants us be delivered from the bondage of being shaken when others do something we feel pricked about. Being shaken demonstrates immaturity. When I was a young Christian, I swore off having or doing all kinds of stuff. Certain things were just not allowed in my home, certain things we just didn’t do. But when I learned that some older, more mature brothers would do these particular things, I found myself moved—“Oh, Brother So-and-so, this older brother, is doing these things. Does he even know God?”
“For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:10-12)
My wife and I like yogurt. There’s a brand of really yummy yogurt, but it’s called “Greek Gods Yogurt.” Now why would they put “Greek Gods” on the yogurt? It’s just a silly sales pitch thing. I know that Zeus is not inhabiting that yogurt, but I don’t want to support that expression. I’m just not going to buy their stuff. But there’s been a couple times when someone has served it, and I ate it up without troubling my conscience. It was just yogurt, and I knew there was nothing pagan in it.
Now that’s probably an exaggerated example of what might become an issue—few people around us are worshipping Greek and Roman gods. But there are other things more relevant in our culture, of about which a zealous young brother or sister will say, “I can’t do that. I’m cutting it out of my life because it was an idol.” Then after they cut it off, perhaps they see an older, more mature Christian who’s doing it, and they could be moved from their faith.
As an example, let us take a hobby that’s not very edifying, but could be pretty fun in and of itself. I’ll pick surfing, which I’ve done. Surfing becomes an idol to so many people. It becomes the main thing they think about. It’s what they devote their time and money to. So perhaps a person like that gets saved, and he decides, “I’m going to take my surfboard and my wax and my wetsuit and everything and put it all on the fire as an offering to the Lord. I’m done with that stuff. No more idolatry.” And then he finds out that an older brother, walking with God for twenty years, is out at the beach with a bodyboard, surfing with his son. The older brother is just enjoying some sweet fellowship in the waves, but the younger brother could be moved from his faith. If we’re in the shoes of that older brother, we need to be sensitive to how we could cause others to stumble. But on the other hand, as the younger brother grows, he might get to the point where he can surf again with a clear conscience. Or he might continue to say, “I’m not going to be brought under the power of any. And I’m not going to cause these younger ones to sin. So I’m just going to keep it at bay. It is lawful for me to do, but I’m going to purpose to rarely do it.”
The Spirit of God needs to lead us in these things. And that’s maturity, being able to hear and heed the Spirit of God.
“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:27) I’m going to keep alert and watchful about what I’m doing and how it affects me. Maturity says, “I can do without it. And I’m not shaken if someone else does it. As the Lord allows me, I’ll do it. But I’m going to careful about my other brothers and sisters, how they perceive this thing, thought not from the fear of man.” Both pride and the fear of man will corrupt the conscience. Pride says, “I have a strong conscience, so I can do anything. The others are simply too weak so they can’t.” Fear says, “I feel at liberty to do this, but I don’t want that brother to think I’m carnal.” Take heed lest your conscience become twisted by pride or the fear of man. We’ve got to trust God with each other, and walk in the Spirit.