"SOMEONE IS WATCHING YOU"
First Corinthians 8.9-13
1. This evening we continue our long series of messages on Christian liberty. Please turn to First Corinthians 8.
2. Liberty is really what Paul has been teaching the Corinthians about in First Corinthians chapters seven and eight, and he will stay on this general topic all the way through chapter eleven and verse one.
3. To refresh your memory, liberty is the freedom, in Christ, to do right . . . in marriage and the legitimate meeting of sexual needs, chapter seven, and in the eating of various kinds of food, chapter eight.
4. Now, I want you to understand that some people completely miss the mark on this issue of Christian liberty, completely misunderstand the responsibilities and the realities that accompany liberty. When that happens Christian liberty becomes license.
5. But what is license? Websterís New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines license as excessive, undisciplined freedom, constituting an abuse of liberty.
6. But whatís wrong with excessive liberty? Whatís the harm? My friends, when the liberty to exercise free speech and have a free press becomes excessive, such things as pornography, profanity and prostitution appear. Unless liberty had degenerated into excessive and undisciplined license, these things would long ago have been outlawed. Amen?
7. You understand why it is not good for liberty to degenerate into license? When liberty has degenerated into license then one personís so-called liberty infringes on another personís legitimate liberty.
8. Now, there are two things in oneís life that guard liberty from becoming license; love and truth. Love and truth, you see, will restrain liberty to prevent it from becoming excessive and undisciplined, will guard it from becoming abusive.
9. Love, both love for God and love for your fellow man, provides the proper motive for the correct use of liberty. You love God and shudder at the thought of sinning against Him. And He gives you a love for others that compels you to do right and not do wrong against your fellow man.
10. But you know, love isnít enough. You will remember that Paul dealt with both loving and knowing God in First Corinthians 8.2-3. And we see from that passage that the addition of truth is just as vital as is love.
11. So, if love provides the motive for proper behavior and the right exercise of liberty, then we must understand that truth provides the right methods for the right exercise of liberty. You see, wanting to do right isnít enough. We must also be taught how to do right.
12. An example: A child loves the little kitten. She wants to pick the tiny thing up and hold it and love it. But her love, unrestrained and undirected by truth, may result in the little kitty being strangled upside down.
13. That child must be taught truth to accompany her love. And this is what Paul continues to do in our text for today.
14. You will remember that the specific issue at hand was whether or not it was okay to eat meat originally offered to idols in a pagan temple, but which was resold, presumably, in the marketplace as food.
15. In verses 1-8 of our chapter, Paul settles several questions:
#1 Pagan ritual does not affect food. It is safe, both physically and spiritually, to eat food that has been offered to idols.
#2 There are, however, Christians who have a problem with this liberty. They are sincerely offended by those who eat meat offered to idols and are of the opinion that it is wrong.
#3 Whether you eat the meat or not does not commend you to God. A Christian who thinks he climbs the spirituality hierarchy of heaven by his personal standards of separation is mistaken.
16. Folks, these conclusions are based on reality. Godís love for you and me and our filial relationship to Him is unaffected by our behavior, so donít start getting uppity Ďcause you act "better" than a less informed or a less mature or a less spiritual believer.
17. This evening we finish our study of Paulís discourse on hog jowls by realizing that Christian liberty can harm the cause of Christ, if it is misused. Or to put it another way: "Who cares what I do, as long as it doesnít hurt anyone?" only sounds intelligent. In reality itís the comment most often made by fools and those who love only themselves.
18. With these things understood, letís stand and read our text together, First Corinthians 8.9-13: "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idolís 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. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."
19. Do you want to get along with other Church members who have different opinions about liberty and personal conduct? Do you want to learn some things that might help you to use your Christian liberty wisely? Then join me in analyzing three observations Paul makes on the use of liberty which shows how misused liberty can harm the cause of Christ.
1A. FIRST, OBSERVE THE PERTINENT PRINCIPLE THAT COMES INTO PLAY HERE (8.9)
"But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak." You might have noticed, as we read, that there seems to be two aspects to this principle of liberty that Paul presents to his readers.
1B. First, There Is The Aspect Of Caution
1C. Why do I say caution? Because Paul has advised us to "take heed" of the effects of our behavior on other people.
2C. You see, although it might be a popular concept in our society to disregard the effects that our behavior might have on the lives of others, it is also a wicked concept.
3C. It was Cain who asked, "Am I my brotherís keeper?" And when someone behaves as though the answer to Cainís question is "No," or when they disregard the effect their life has on others, they are manifesting the spirit of Cain.
4C. We need to understand that everyone is a leader and an example to someone. Therefore, take heed. Take precautions to make sure that your example to others is not a harmful one.
2B. Next, There Is The Aspect Of Power
1C. If you have a Bible with marginal references and notes, you may have indication that power is synonymous with liberty, in this verse. And that is so, since liberty is power.
2C. Liberty is the power to set a good example. Itís the power to demonstrate responsible Christian living.
3C. But liberty can be abused. It can lead weaker Christians into sins of omission and sins of commission.
4C. For example: By not doing what could be done, you may deny a new Christian the good example he really needs to start his Christian life off properly. I thank God that I had the example of a friend who sought the conversion of others after I trusted Christ.
5C. Another example would be doing something that might appear to be wrong to a baby Christian, just as Paul mentions in this context. Trying to feed bacon to a newly converted orthodox Jewish person, or eating pork in front of someone who has just come to Christ from the Muslim faith, would fit into this category. Do such a thing and you misuse your liberty.
6C. The principle, you see, is undergirded by love. Because you love your baby brothers in Christ, you want to set the example for them that will help them, not trip them up or confuse them.
7C. Thatís the pertinent principle.
2A. NEXT, OBSERVE WHAT I CALL THE PERISH POTENTIAL (8.10-12)
1B. The Display Is Seen In Verse 10
"For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idolís temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols?"
1C. My Christian friend, you are on display. And everything you will ever do or say will be seen or heard by someone.
2C. So, you go ahead and do something that you know is right, knowing that a brother with a weak conscience will think itís wrong. Or, you go ahead and talk about that stuff that singes the ears of a baby Christian.
3C. You know what? Even though the Christian with a weak conscience thinks what you are doing is wrong, he will still go ahead and do what you do. And even though he thinks your speech is improper, he will still begin to speak as you speak.
4C. And why will he do that which he thinks is wrong? You did it. "But he should have his eyes on Christ and not man." Wonderful sentiment. True. Just as my Sarah ought to worship the unseen God in spirit and in truth. But she sees her daddy.
5C. We are on display, Christians. That creates responsibility.
2B. The Damage Is Seen In Verse 11
"And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?"
1C. See what knowledge without love accomplishes?
2C. You know itís okay to eat that meat. Your brother in Christ doesnít, but eats anyway.
3C. Or, you go out to eat and you see that Mahi Mahi is on the menu. And the menu tells you that your favorite fish is dipped in a beer batter and then deep fried. Now, you know that the deep frying cooks off any trace of alcohol, but your newly saved friend canít get past the fact that the food is prepared with beer. But, since you ordered it he orders it.
4C. Know what you have just done? You have just caused your brother in Christ, for whom Jesus died, to perish.
5C. This doesnít mean he will die or go to Hell, but he will suffer guilt. He will be discouraged. Hey, he may even stop serving Christ as a result of his remorse and feelings of inadequacy.
6C. And all of this because you didnít think or didnít care how your actions might affect another believer.
7C. Matthew 18.1-6: "At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
8C. Ask yourself, "I wonder how many little Christians I have offended with my Ďliberty,í a dropping of my personal standards, my license?"
9C. Have you ever wondered how a casual recline by the pool affects your kids or your neighbors, who think you ought to be attending Bible study on Wednesday? Or how about a family get together, when some are aware that the rest of the Church you belong to attends services at this same time every Sunday night?
10C. What damage we do when we exhibit behavior that others will follow, creating a sense of guilt and failure in their heart.
3B. The Declaration Is In Verse 12
"But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ."
1C. Think about the implications of this passage. When we fail to account for others and this happens, we sin against them. And when we sin against them we sin against Christ.
2C. What a price the thoughtless believer pays for knowledge without love. Amen?
3C. And think about this: If I do something that is not sin when I am alone, or in the presence of a mature Christian, that same act may be sinful in the presence of a believer with a weak conscience. Think about it.
4C. Folks, we need realize that liberty is not complete freedom. With liberty, you see, goes a heavy burden of responsibility for the consequences of our actions in the lives of other people.
3A. OKAY. WEíVE OBSERVED THE PERTINENT PRINCIPLE, THEN THE PERISH POTENTIAL. NOW WE OBSERVE THE PROPER PRACTICE (8.13)
"Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."
Beloved, let us realize that we are not for us. Our lives and our liberties are given to us for the benefit of others, not for the benefit of self.
1B. The Result . . . Potentially
"if meat make my brother to offend"
1C. Paul anticipates the effects of misused liberty. He isnít some starry eyed idealist. Paul knew the facts of life.
2C. He knew, by revelation, that some of the things that you and I do can be perceived as sinful by weak Christians.
3C. We need to acknowledge that possibility ourselves.
2B. Next, We Have The Response Leading To Proper Practice
"I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."
1C. Accommodate the weaker brother. Be a servant to the one who is not as well informed, who is not as mature, as you are.
2C. And, my friends, I am of the opinion that the strength of your personal commitment to Christ will, in part, be seen in the strength of your commitment to respond properly to the brother with a weak conscience.
3B. And The Reason Behind Proper Practice?
1C. The motive is really love. The truth of proper practice is balanced by Christian charity.
2C. The result? You will do what you are able to meet their need. And part of that involves helping them to not violate their own conscience . . . committing sin in the process.
1. You know, now, that your Christian liberty can mess things up for other Christians. So, here are two thoughts to pass on to you before we dismiss for the evening:
#1 Be sure to thank and continually praise God for the liberty He has given you to do right. Amen?
#2 Be sure your liberty doesnít mess things up for others
2. What examples might I put forth beyond the obvious ones related to food, that Iíve mentioned? How about your appearance? How about your attire, the clothes you wear?
3. I know that itís difficult for you who come directly to Church from work. I understand that and I want you to come on ahead to Church. But what about you who have the opportunity to change your clothes?
4. I think you guys should put on a pair of slacks if you own them. And you ladies ought to put on a skirt or a dress if you own one. And if you donít have such clothes, let me know and Iíll buy you a couple of pair.
5. But there are people who believe you should dress differently for Church than for eating pizza, that you should dress differently for Church than for running to Wal-Mart. And they are right.
6. Letís be careful how we use our liberty, remembering that liberty is the freedom to do right, and that we should never mess someone else up with our liberty. Amen?