Love Limits Liberty (1 Corinthians Sermon 28)
May 12, 2019 | Andrew Davis
Christian Freedom, Brotherly Love
No Man Left Behind
I'd like to ask you turn, in your Bibles, to 1 Corinthians 8. We continue to make our way through this incredible epistle. And look for a second time at this chapter, 1 Corinthians 8. All the branches of the American military hold to a certain doctrine in which they are committed to never leave a wounded fellow soldier on the battlefield to fall into enemy hands. It's called "No man left behind." For the American military tradition, this dates back to before there even was a United States, during the so-called French and Indian war, 1756-1763.
A group of American soldiers, named Rogers' Rangers, fought for the British against the French and their Native American allies. Rogers' Rangers used a combination of frontier techniques and Indian tactics to defeat their enemies in the wilderness. They were expert trackers, they were highly skilled marksmen with the long rifle, but they also held to an unswerving commitment to one another to leave no comrade behind on the battlefield, so they would risk the safety of the entire unit to rescue a fellow wounded soldier.
Now, many people may question the wisdom of that kind of doctrine, risking a larger group of healthy soldiers to rescue one fallen soldier, but the effect on unit loyalty and cohesiveness and pride and morale cannot be measured. Those are intangibles. After all, the soldiers could easily reckon, "It might be me that would be next to fall on the battlefield, and to know that my brothers in arms have my back, will sacrifice for me, gives us a unity and a cohesiveness to the fighting unit." It's not every man for himself then. Everyone's bonded together as a band of brothers.
Now in a healthy local church, in this healthy local church, this concept is written into our church covenant, with the statement, "We will watch over one another in brotherly love." We are committed to getting everyone to heaven. We're committed to care about what's going on in each other's lives. We are, all of us, continually assaulted by the ancient triple enemy of every Christian: The world, the flesh, and the devil. We're all at war continually. We're in danger continually. And we may be often wounded by the flaming arrows of the evil one. Two great categories of flaming arrows from Satan: Temptation and accusation. And so these things wound us. And isn't it wonderful to know that our brothers and sisters love us and care about us, and are committed in a covenant with us to watch over our souls in brotherly love, not just the elders, but everyone.
The elders are uniquely set apart for this shepherding ministry, but we should do this for all members of our church, for all brothers and sisters in Christ, because we believe that Jesus left heaven to save, eternally save, everyone that the Father gave Him before the foundation of the world. As Jesus said in John 6:39-40, "This is the will of him who sent me, that of all that the Father has given me I shall lose none, but raise them up at the last day, for my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
So for us Christians, this becomes our commitment as well. We want to see the final salvation of everyone that was entrusted from the Father to the Son. The Book of Hebrews, in Hebrews 3:12-13, makes this very plain as well. There it says, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." So we talked about those verses many times. They are behind, I think, the statement in our church covenant, "We will watch over one another in brotherly love." "See to it, church, that not one of you is developing a sinful, unbelieving heart that is in the process of turning away from the living God." Shepherd one another, ask questions about one another, get involved in each other's lives, pray for each other, know each other, because the danger is there for all of us, that we may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness, so we're going to care for each other.
Debatable Issues in the Life of the Church
Now as we come for a second week to 1 Corinthians 8, we're coming to consider the obligation that each of us has toward our fellow Christians, to live in a loving way toward them horizontally, to care what's going on in their lives, and specifically here in this chapter, to limit our liberties, to limit our personal choices to only those things that will build up our brothers and sisters. For three chapters, Paul is going to be addressing this topic, meat sacrifice to idols, and he's going to look at different aspects of it so it's not all just one thing.
Many people struggle with the relevancy of this ancient book, the Scriptures. How is the Scripture, written so many centuries ago, is still relevant to our 21st century digital age? I would say few chapters have challenged my skills as an expositor as this one, specifically in the area of application. How are you folks doing with meat sacrifice to idols? Has it been a good week for you?
I think I've done pretty well with that topic. The meat that I ate came from Harris Teeter, I think, or maybe Food Lion. It was wrapped up in cellophane. I'm not quite sure what the butcher was thinking while he was cutting it, but it didn't worry me too much. I just ate it. So you see the problem, the challenge, of taking this text which, not just the Apostle Paul, I don't think he had any full comprehension of the scope of what he wrote, what it would have in 20-plus centuries. How could he? He was just under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was writing these words, Holy Spirit guarding him from error. But it was the Spirit's intention to give this word to us, and it's my job to do the best I can to apply it to our lives.
And so, as I've sought to do that, I've thought about the issue that we began talking about last time: The idea of debatable issues, controversial topics in the Christian life. And so, freedoms that you have, that it's okay for you to partake, and that meets the criteria of this chapter. We're not talking about immoral, wicked things, no. We're talking about things that the Lord would grant to you to have the freedom to do, but which another brother or sister, if they watch you exercise that liberty, will be harmed spiritually. To try to think about think about things like that in our modern world, and I'll continue to think about it after this sermon's over. But you need to think about it too. For me, I've gone a step beyond that to say, "What responsibility do we have to brothers and sisters in Christ?" And I think, very much in the spirit of this chapter, "What sacrifices should I make for the spiritual health of my brothers and sisters?" I think that's home base of applying this chapter, and that's what we're going to do.
Now, Christians have always struggled with debatable issues. I listed out a whole bunch of them last week, which, as you noticed, I didn't solve any of them. None of them. Alcohol, movies you can watch, music, interacting with popular culture, all of those kinds of controversial issues in which Christians have tend to divided, some feeling more freedom than others, etcetera. Those have always been there. And some might say, "Listen, you know what we need? We need some really skillful theologian pastor types to give us a list of the debatable issues and then, connected with each of them, a set of limitations and dos and don'ts." I hope you're like, "No, no, don't, don't." But let's run with this for a while. Imagine we would do it. We would have all kinds of problems. First of all, imagine being in the room of that group of Christian leaders. Could you ever find a group of people that could come together and hammer out a list of what the debatable topics were, and what should be permitted, what would be forbidden, etcetera? They'd be arguing about it till Jesus returned. Secondly, even if they were able to hammer out such a list, all that would happen as a result would be a new form of Legalism, of Pharisaism, of being crushed by a new set of laws that are not given in the Scriptures.
Again, we're not talking about immoral things here, we're talking about freedoms, things that some Christians think they have the freedom, others aren't so sure. But then, that list would be the basis of righteousness in that community, and some would feel very prideful that they're keeping the list, and others would feel crushed by it and think they never could live up to it. Thirdly, and worst of all, it would miss the freedom that the Lord intended to give us in the Spirit age, the age not under law, but under grace. "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and don't submit again to a yoke of slavery." That's in the Book of Galatians. And that's what it would be.
Christ has set us free. But the question that Paul's asking here is, "Given He's set you free, what are you going to do with your freedom?" That's what's in front of us here. And the principle that we've seen already last week and we're going to continue to study is love limits liberty. Your liberties are limited by your love horizontally for your brothers and sisters in Christ.
I. The Doctrine and Freedom of the “Strong”
So, as we look in for the second time, we're looking at the topic of the weak and the strong. The weak and the strong. We have that kind of language. In this chapter, all we have is the weak, we don't have the strong named, but they're assumed. If there are weak, then there must be strong, or the category doesn't mean anything. But again and again, five times in the text, he talks about weak or weakness. Like in verse 7, he speaks about those whose conscience is weak. Verse 9, "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak." Verse 10, "If anyone with a weak conscience... " Verse 11, "So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge." And Verse 12, "When you sin against your brother in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ." So, five times he mentions this idea of weakness. So, there must be, therefore, some that are strong by this same measurement.
Paul openly talks about the strong in Romans. In Romans 15:1 he says, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves." That's very much in the spirit of the doctrine that he's giving here. So there's the strong and the weak. So the stronger brothers and sisters, it seems, are those that have understood and absorbed Paul's doctrines on these controversial issues. They get it, they understand the doctrines that he's laid out on idols, and on meat, and on paganism, and all that. They understand and that's uploaded, they get it. And now, they are living accordingly in a life of freedom, based on those truths. That's what the... Those who are the strong ones. The weak ones are those that have not gotten it, they've not accepted it. So that's the weak and the strong.
Corinthian Context: Paganism and Polytheism
Now, again, let's take a step back and look at the Corinthian context. Their context was paganism, polytheism, the idea of more gods and goddesses than could be counted, each of them with different responsibilities. Ares, the god of war; Aphrodite, the goddess of love; Athena, the goddess of wisdom; Zeus, the thunder god. All of these had different responsibilities and different personality quirks and all that, the gods and goddesses.
And each of these gods and goddesses would be worshipped at a temple or a shrine, often with animal sacrifice. And so, the meat would be divided, some of it would be burned up to the god or goddess, some of it would be taken by the priest, he wouldn't need it for the most part, he'd sell it at the marketplace, already having been offered to the god or goddess, but some of the meat would be brought home, also already having been offered to the god or goddess. Now, the Apostle Paul came and brought the Gospel into this paganism, into this polytheism, into this darkness.
Paul’s Preaching to the Pagans
And this is what it says in Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas reading the prophecy in Isaiah 49, where God says to his own Son. "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you [Jesus] a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." Paul and Barnabas said, "This is what the Lord has commanded us." Not that Paul and Barnabas were to be the light to the Gentiles, but they were to proclaim Christ as the light shining in a dark place. And so, in the course of time, the Lord brought Paul and Silas on the second missionary journey, Paul's second missionary journey, over to the Greek peninsula, down to Athens, and Paul came to Athens and he saw this paganism, this polytheism with shrines and idols everywhere, and his heart was ripped apart by it. Deeply compassionate for those who are walking in darkness, the people walking in darkness, he wanted them to see a great light, and that light is Christ.
And so he's deeply distressed. Acts 17:16, "While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols." and so he began to reason in the marketplace, and in the synagogues, he begins preaching the gospel. In due time, he's invited to come to Mars Hill, the Areopagus, and to come and proclaim the truth that's laid out for us here in 1 Corinthians 8. The truth's that there is one God and only one God.
This is what he says there in Athens, "Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very religious; for as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription 'to an unknown god.' Now, what you worship as something unknown, I am now going to proclaim to you. God, who made heaven and earth is Lord of heaven and earth, and he does not live in houses built by human hands, and he is not served by human hands as if he himself needed anything, for he himself gives all people life and breath and everything else."
That's the message that he preached. And they got the message, they understood. He was there in Greece for a long time, preaching, and people heard his message, and so in the course of time, even his enemies were able to recite his doctrine. Like in Ephesus, where there was a riot, he said, "Paul says that man made gods or no gods at all." They got it, and that was the doctrine.
Now, if you look at our chapter here, at verses 4-6, he recites this doctrine. These are the doctrinal truths that the strong knew, they had absorbed. Look at it in verse 4 and following, "We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world, and that there is no God but one, for even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or earth, as indeed, there are many gods and many lords, yet for us, there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came, and for whom we live, and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came, and through whom we live."
Now, we unfolded all that last week. I'm not going to walk through that, but that's the doctrine. That's what the strong accepted, that's what they believed, that there is one God and only one God, who made heaven and earth and every human being on the face of the earth, and he made them for a relationship with him, and that the idols are nothing, they're just material, they're just artistry by human hands and they have no spiritual significance. The Jews have known that for centuries.
Don't you love that section in Isaiah 44:15-17 where Isaiah parodies the idol maker? Remember how he selects a piece of hard wood, cuts it in half. Remember that whole story? It's cartoonish, and he says that half of the wood he uses to make an idol, and he shapes it and crafts it according to the imaginations of his own mind, and the other half he uses to cook his dinner. With half of it, he says, "Oh look, I see the fire. I'm warm and I get to eat," and the other half, he bows down and says, "Save me, you are my god." It's laughable, if it weren't actually the truth in the hearts of pagans that they were doing this kind of thing. The Jews have known this. And so, Paul came to preach the truth: That there is one God, and you cannot make any representation, out of your own skill, your own imagination, that will capture God. He cannot be captured that way. And therefore, the Jews were forbidden to even try to make idols. They never could.
And that there is one Lord Jesus Christ, and God sent his son Jesus Christ into the world as the Savior of the world, that's the doctrine, and the strong know this. And concerning meat, meat is just meat, that's all it ever will be. The meat cannot catch a spiritual virus, so there's no spirituality to the meat. And so Paul says, in Romans 14:14, "As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in and of itself."
What is the "Strong" One?
So that's what the strong know. And they are free, therefore, they're set free by these doctrines to eat meat whenever they want. The problem was, as we saw last week, that knowledge was making them arrogant, it was making them boastful, prideful. So Paul says, "Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know." In other words, if you're just captivated by how much you know, you haven't been humbled by God the way you need to be, and so your knowledge is supposed to flow out horizontally and bless other people. That's what he says.
II. The Danger to the “Weak”
Alright, that's the strong. What about the weak who are they and what is their danger? Look at Verse 7, he says, "But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled."
A Profile of a Corinthian Convert
So you can picture an individual who had only recently been converted out of paganism. You can Imagine someone who is living there in Corinth, let's say a man who a year or so ago was converted out of paganism, or two years ago, and so he's a relatively new Christian. The pagan religion was part of his earliest memory as a human being is what he was born into, going to the temple, seeing the pagan priests offering their sacrifices in their pagan way, sacrifices to Apollo or to Artemis or Zeus or Aphrodite. They were used to this. This was part of their life, part of his life and he remembered there would be special sacred days for each of the Gods or goddesses. He remembers that calendar it's just part of his world.
And then as he got older, as he grew up, he was indoctrinated into the darker side of temple worship with temple prostitution, and he violated his conscience and he darkened his soul with sexual immorality, and with meat sacrifice to idols it was all woven together and his heart was dark, his mind was in the gutter that's how he lived. Until one day, he heard the gospel. The apostle Paul preached the gospel, he preached of a God who is pure and holy, and who's above the circle of the Earth. He is light, and in Him there's no darkness at all, and He's not served by these dark things and we have violated His laws. We have sinned against Him and we cannot save ourselves, we cannot cleanse ourselves, we can't free our guilty consciences. God knew that. So He sent His son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life and who died a substitutionary atoning death. He died in our place so that this high holy God would be reconciled to us, and we to Him.
And so, this individual heard this, and finally there was hope for him, his heart was set free. And he was finally cleansed from all that darkness and that corruption. He became a new creation. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation. The old is gone. The new has come." And so he felt clean, and he walked by the temple grounds from time to time to get to the marketplace, or to visit a family member, and he would thank God for delivering him out of that darkness, but he probably walked quickly to get past it as fast as he could.
But in the course of time a member of his church took him straight to the meat market and bought some meat from the vendor and sat there maybe at a booth right there on the temple grounds and ate it, just having lunch, and he the whole time is like, "What are we doing here? I thought I was never going to go here again."
The older Christian seems to be having no problem at all just enjoying the meat. But this fragile new convert is getting ripped up inside by his conscience. It's accusing him, "You're doing wrong, you're doing wrong. We shouldn't be here. Why are we here? Don't you know that this meat... This meat was offered to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Don't you know what they did when the animal was being sacrificed, and offered?" He looks up to the older Christian, says, "I shouldn't be here. I don't want to eat this meat. Is this okay? What we're doing, is this alright?"
The older Christian looks at him quizzically and just laughs, laughs in his face, "Didn't you listen to Paul about all this? We talked about this about five months ago. It's fine. Eat up." The man is not convinced it's okay. He's tormented inside but he goes ahead and eats. He finishes the meal. And as he lays in bed that night his mind is tortured, his conscience is accusing him, he doesn't know what to do, he's confused. And he's thinking about the older brother's confidence, he's like, "Well, maybe I'm just overreacting, maybe there's just something wrong with me." Later that same week this man is walking by the temple area, and smells the meat cooking and he's alone this time, and he likes meat just like anybody and he goes over and sits at the same table, but this time he's alone but his conscience is screaming at him, "What are you doing?"
And while he's sitting there, a temple prostitute that he knew personally, walks by, looks at him, gives him a smile. And he receives a heart wound, at that point. What happens next? Well, I don't know. But could it be that he might be more susceptible, than ever before, to turning his back on his new faith in Christ and going back into the old life that he just recently got rescued from? And so this is the danger for a weaker brother.
Look at verse 7. "Not everyone knows this, some people are still so accustomed to idols that then when they eat such food, they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled."
Do Not Every Violate Your Conscience
So just a simple lesson, just transferable concept right here. Don't ever violate your conscience. Ever. I mean, it's possible to have a weak conscience, in other words, it's that conscience which is pressing you to do the right and avoid the wrong, is linked to some wrong truth system, and later it will grow up and be more mature, but wherever it's linked, don't ever violate your conscience.
Paul said very plainly, "Because there is a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked, I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Acts 24:16. So if your conscience is accusing you and you do it anyway, you are sinning. Paul says that very plainly in Romans 14:23. He says, "The person who has doubts is condemned if he eats because his eating is not from faith, and whatever does not come from faith is sin." However you apply 1 Corinthians 8, whatever area of freedom, if you can't do what you're doing with a clear conscience, as an act of worship to God, then don't do it.
Now, eventually, in the course of growing in the Lord, the new converts hopefully will internalize the doctrine about idols and meat and will be just as free as the most mature believers, that's where they're heading. 1 Timothy 4, Paul is adamant that everything God creates is good and nothing is to be refused, as long as it's taken with thanksgiving. And he would add, from Romans 14, with faith. So that's where we're heading, but in the meantime, if you haven't gotten there yet, don't violate your conscience. That's what he's saying.
The Danger of Destroying a Week Brother
And look at the extreme language that he's using here. Verse 7, "Since their conscience is weak, it is defiled." Verse nine, "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom," speaking to the strong ones, "the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak." Again, Verse 10 and 11, "For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you, who have this knowledge, eating in idols' temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what's been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge." These are strong words, "defiled", "stumbling block", "destroyed."
Now, don't imagine this means he's sent to hell, he's lost his salvation. But we can begin thinking of what has been destroyed. His sense of peace is destroyed, his clear conscience is destroyed, his daily walk with Christ is destroyed, his fruitfulness is destroyed, his lifestyle is destroyed. He is confused, he is destroyed by your knowledge, that's what he's saying. He also used the language of wounded, look at Verse 12, "When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ." And then finally, in Verse 13, "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again," Because I don't want to cause my brother to fall into sin.
So, the weak brother's led by the flaunting of the freedoms of the strong brother to violate and defile his conscience, to lead him back to the very place where he'd only recently committed his most disgusting sins, the sins that Paul says in Romans, "What benefit did you receive at that time from those things of which you are now ashamed?" He's leading him back to that place where he did those things of which he is now ashamed.
III. The Central Lesson: Love Limits Liberty
Alright, so the central lesson in all of this, as we've said, is love limits liberty. Verse 9, "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom, your liberty, does not become a stumbling block to the weak." And so in order to do this, you have to see the value of your Christian brother and sister. Look at their value. Verse 11, Paul speaks of this weak brother, "For whom Christ died." Christ shed His blood for him or her. Value.
And then he intensifies this. Verse 12, "When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ." You can almost hear Jesus speaking to Saul on the road to Damascus, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" In this case, He's speaking to the Church. "Why are you wounding my people by your flaunting of your freedoms?" Is your freedom, your right to do whatever you want in this area, is it worth your brother or sister? That's the question you have to ask. How much is meat worth to you?
He zeroes in on meat. Verse 8, "Food does not bring us near to God." There are many of us that need to hear that comprehensively in a lot of ways, I understand that. I have heard some people say, "We don't have idols." I remember hearing of an Indian Christian, a Christian from India, who came and was hearing an American Christian talk about all the idol worship in India. He's like, "Well, you have your own idols." "Like what?" "Alright. Your sporting venues and your restaurants." It's amazing the density per square footage of restaurants, and is it possible that we make an idol of food?
And he's saying, "Look, food does not bring you closer to God. You're not any better off if you eat the meat and you're not worse off if you abstain," is what he's saying. Is meat. Such a big deal to you? Are you willing to do all this damage to your brother just so you can satisfy your tastes, the things you like to do? You can live without it. That's what he's saying. So he makes this resolution. Verse 13, "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again." It's a very strong statement in the Greek. From now until the end of the age, I will not eat meat, so that I will not cause him to fall.
Now, he's going to couch the terms a little differently in Chapter 10. If he looks around and the coast is clear, he's going to eat meat. But if he thinks there's a chance there's someone in the room that's going to get wounded by what he is doing, he's not going to do it. So, he says also in Romans 14:1921, "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine, or to do anything that will cause your brother to fall."
Alright, so that's the text. Let's look at applications. And I'm open for business and applications on 1 Corinthians 8. I'll be thinking about this, I think, for the next year. This is a special problem for me as a preacher. How do we apply this?
Let's go back to where we started. No man left behind, or we will watch over one another in brotherly love. Home base for here, for this is, "What sacrifices are you willing to make for the benefit, the health, the spiritual health, of your brothers and sisters?"
That's the idea. Remember how Cain murdered his brother and then when God asked him, "Where is your brother Abel?" he said, "I don't know, am I my brother's keeper?" We know that we in the Christian Church must answer, "Yes, we are our brothers' and sisters' shepherds," we are to watch over one another. And we're not to be like the priest in the Levite, in the parable of the good Samaritan, just saying, "I don't know, I don't really care. I'm just walking by on the other side of the road. I don't really know what's going on in his or her life." We can't do that with each other. So the idea here is that we're going to love each other.
Now, years ago, I gave you a definition of love, that I continue to benefit from, and I'll give it to you again. What is love? Love is a heart attraction that results in cheerful sacrificial action. I think it's a good definition. If any part of that isn't there then it isn't love. So, there's a heart that's drawn toward the brother or sister. I care about this person, I'm attracted to them in that way. They are my brother. They are my sister. My heart's drawn out so it's from the heart and as a result of that, I'm willing to sacrifice some things. If you never sacrifice, it's not a love relationship. God demonstrates his love for us.
In that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He who did not spare His own Son, that's the measure of his love. But we also learn that God loves a cheerful giver, so it's got to be cheerful sacrifice. Not, "All right, I won't eat meat." It's your fault. "If you would just get with the program here we could all just enjoy the barbecue." That's not the approach. Paul is not reluctant here. He wants to help his brothers and sisters. He's going to teach them. Believe me, he's going to teach them but that night he's not going to eat. He's cheerful, willing to do whatever it takes.
So, the sacrifice here then would be your liberty, your freedom to do what you think you can do. So eating meat. He mentions drinking wine. Apparently statistics showing the alcohol consumption in the US is going up higher and higher. Younger generations are indulging in alcohol. I was reading an article in the Boston Globe yesterday about how even non-Christians, just regular people are like, "Why does there have to be alcohol everywhere we go? At my yoga class, there is alcohol. At my job, it's part of the recruiting... We have an open keg policy at work." I'm like, "Huh. I'm not sure how much work is getting done later in the afternoon."
But it's attractive. I think this may be a prime area to apply 1 Corinthians 8. Some people realizing their problems have come out of that lifestyle and can never go back in it again, and other brothers and sisters need to respect that and be aware of the effect their freedom is having on their, on that person's soul. Anyway, if you're not willing to make sacrifices it isn't really love. So that's the negative issue.
I want to go to a higher level and say, what are you willing to do to pour into your brothers and sisters? So here it's beyond 1 Corinthians 8, but it's in the spirit of it. Are you willing to make sacrifices to help with the discipleship of other brothers and sisters? Are you willing, men to meet with other men, women to meet with other women, to pair up, to have accountability partners. To read books together, to sacrifice the liberty of your time and your energy and perhaps even your money so you can disciple each other; men with men and women with women. Are you willing to make those sacrifices so that each other can grow?
We will talk another time about what kinds of similar sacrifices we should make for evangelism. This is all in-house stuff. First Corinthians 8. 1 Corinthians 9. He's saying, "Look, when it comes to winning the lost. I'll become all things to all people, I'm willing to eat whatever the pagans eat to win a pagan, and I'm willing to eat whatever the Jews, the unconverted Jews eat to win the Jews. I'll do whatever it takes to win the lot." But that's in the next chapter. Here within... In this context, what sacrifices are you willing to do to build up the body of Christ? Hospitality could be a very vital ministry. You think about that.
I just want to say thank you. As we finish a year, another year of home fellowships, we're almost done. How thankful I am to host families. You have sacrificed your liberties, you've sacrificed your freedom, some of your money, so that you can host these home fellowship. Without that the ministry cannot happen. It's the second most important ministry of the week, and you folks do it. But we can expand our hospitality, can't we? We can do more. You could imagine people that would just cook enough food to invite a first time visitor to our church, home for a home-cooked meal every week, that's just their ministry. And they would just sacrifice an easy Sunday afternoon to serve in that way. There are just so many things that we could do, sacrifices we could make to build each other up in the faith.
Christ did it for us. He did it for us. He could have said, "It's your problem." It's your problem. And then effectively saying to us, "Go to hell." But instead he did not choose to please Himself. Romans 15 says, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each one should please his neighbor for his good to build him up, for even Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, 'the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.'" That substitutionary language. Christ came from heaven to earth to identify with us, the strong giving Himself for the weak.
And so as I close today, all I can do is appeal to any of you that are on the outside looking in, who are not yet Christians, come to Christ. Maybe you came here today because of Mother's Day, you came here as a family connection, and that's wonderful. You came here to see beautiful young baby faces much prettier and handsomer than mine, but it could be that God drew you here today to hear that He sent His Son to die for dark, guilty sinners. And you know the sins you've committed, and you wonder, "Is there any forgiveness, is there any acceptance for me?" There is. Come to Christ, trust in Him. Close with me in prayer.