When I was a teenager a member of my immediate family attended a party at a known drug house. Our uncle was captain of the drug detail, and his team was staked out in preparation for a raid that night.
It had taken a lot of time and planning to coordinate the different agencies, obtain a warrant, and be ready to act on short notice; but when my uncle saw his niece walking into the house he aborted the mission.
Our family was devastated. My parents were so ashamed that my mother decided the family had to move.
I share this story in the context of Christian liberty. How many Christians have brought shame to the body of Christ because of their indiscretions?
How many Christians believe they can continue in sin because they are covered by the blood of Jesus? I knew a young Catholic woman who boasted that she slept with a different man every weekend. Nothing changed in her life except for the belief that her sins were now forgiven. Another Christian acquaintance was a heroin addict who unashamedly pursued the world’s temptations. That’s what faith means to some believers — get your hand stamped by Jesus, and go on sinning without a guilty conscience. “Oh,” they say, “King David committed murder and adultery, but God forgave him.”
Grace is not a green light to sin.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1)
I hear people say, “All things are lawful,” but they don’t complete Paul’s admonition. So they drink, have premarital sex, smoke dope, and shamelessly fulfill their desires.
Taking a glass of wine with dinner is a lawful thing to do. However, drinking until you’re tipsy is not. If a brother who is struggling with alcohol sees you purchasing liquor, and it causes him to stumble, then you are guilty of sin.
Remember, as a youngster, when you pleaded with your parents to let you do a particular thing because … why?
“All the other kids are doing it!”
Well, no, they probably weren’t. What you were really saying is that a few of your inner circle may be doing such a thing, but certainly not all kids. I know this for a fact because I was one of the kids who abstained from following the herd.
Paul taught that Christians were no longer under law, but grace (Romans 6:14). Imagine a child being told there were no longer any house rules. The Romans did not distinguish between ceremonial and moral laws nor did they understand that grace was not a license for unbridled Christian liberty.
This is what Paul was saying:
“All things are lawful to me, which can be lawful at all.”
— or —
“All things that are lawful I may do with exception.”
Even the most innocent thing can be a sin if it causes a brother to stumble. In that sense not all things are lawful, or as Augustine wrote:
“He alone does not fall into unlawful things who sometimes abstains by way of caution even from lawful ones.”
Billy Graham said the reason he didn’t go to the movies was because he didn’t want to cause a brother to stumble. That may seem extreme, but it should give us pause.
How do you celebrate the holiday season? One of Israel’s greatest sins was that it adopted the customs and traditions of its pagan neighbors. Solomon fell from grace because he adopted the customs and traditions of his pagan wives.
In my home there are no carved pumpkins, Christmas trees, or Easter eggs. Granted, I am unmarried and childless. If I had a wife and children it might be more difficult to live as I do; but these customs and traditions, though they have been adopted by Christians, are inarguably pagan in origin. No matter that they have been sanitized for the sake of conscience they still represent pagan deities and idolatry.
If I unknowingly ate meat offered to idols there is no sin. However, if I knew the meat was used in a pagan ceremony it would be unlawful to eat. If you know the pagan origin (of these holiday traditions) is not abstention a Christian’s lawful duty?
Halloween, for example, is a Celtic sacrifice to the Druidic gods. The only way to escape the god of death was to wear a costume or disguise.
Odin, chief of the Nordic pagan gods, would mount his flying horse at the Winter Solstice. Accompanied by ghosts (and lesser gods) he would soar over Norwegian villages terrifying adults while delivering toys and candy to the children. In the Christmas tradition Odin and the lesser gods became Santa Claus and his elves.
The Ishtar egg was a Babylonian fable in which a giant egg fell into the river Euphrates, and from this egg the fertility goddess Astarte (Easter) was hatched. The rabbit was associated with the Mother Goddess of fertility; and Eastre was worshiped as the Teutonic goddess of Spring.
[Israel was taken away captive because it followed the traditions of its neighbors. Even the altar in Damascus was recreated in Jerusalem so that Israel could sacrifice to the pagan gods. Nor did Judah walk after the LORD, but followed the customs which Israel had introduced so that all the people of God were led away into captivity for they whored after other gods (Judges 2:11-15).]
The Catholic Church noted that 80% of its young parishioners leave the faith by the age of twenty-three. The world is enticing, glamorous, and seductive. It tempts the senses of young people. Technology, movies, music, and social media renders tasteless years of Catholic training and catechism. Sex, drugs, and alcohol are served up as icing on the devil’s food cake.
Younger Christians are especially challenged to follow Christ, or hang with their friends. I recall one young man who attended a weekly Bible study on Saturday night much to the chagrin of his girlfriend who stammered, “Who reads the Bible on Saturday night?” My suggestion to him would be find a new girlfriend.
Paul warned the Corinthians:
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:21).
At least the 80% who walk away do not pretend.
But this is what, dare I say, many Christians do. They serve the gods of this world, and are more devoted to their friends than to the LORD. They partake of the Lord’s cup, but with a bit of hangover, you know, from that tipsy indulgence shared with their buds the night before. “Oh, it’s only social drinking,” they say defensively.
Within the context of Christian liberty, by all means, enjoy a Saturday evening meal (and glass of wine) with your closest friends. Drinking for the buzz, however, is a whole other matter. What’s that you say? Jesus is a buzz kill?
Consider this, only in Christ is our joy made full (John 15:11).
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