March 10, Friday

The AMI QT Devotionals from March 6-12 are provided by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S. F.  Mark, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), has been married to Mira for 20 years; they have two children, Jeremiah and Carissa.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

One excuse that people make to avoid obeying the commands of God is the right for believers to exercise their Christian liberty.    However, we need to understand that Christian freedom is not a license to do whatever we want to do.  You cannot make the Bible a book of mere suggestions when in fact, these are the very commands of God.  Therefore, the Scriptures give us wisdom on how to exercise our Christian liberties and outlines the limits of our freedom.

The important point that we need to know is that Christian freedom can only be exercised in matters that are non-ethical in nature.  Here, in this passage, we have the question of whether to eat food offered to idols.  There were some dietary and religious limitations that particular Jewish Christians held onto.  Clearly, some old practices are hard to break.  In addition, there were other debates that the early Christians struggled with, such as the question of whether to mark off certain days as holy in terms of the traditional Jewish calendar (e.g. Yom Kippur and the feast of Purim).  And so along these non-ethical issues, where the Bible is largely silent, the Word teaches us to do as we are fully convinced in our minds (Romans 14:5). The key word here is fully.  In order to be thoroughly convinced, it means having studied the Bible on the subject and taking it up to the Lord in prayer before deciding to exercise your Christian freedom.  These decisions of liberty and conscience should not be made flippantly for the following two reasons:

First, in the case where Christian freedoms are debated, both parties share the blame.  Those of us who can exercise our freedom with a clear conscience often judge those who might have doubts and questions. Those of us who feel more comfortable in limiting Christian freedom often hold in contempt those who exercise their freedom.  No party is right here, and we will be held accountable to God for the attitudes that we hold against our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Second, in applying our Christian freedom, we must follow the law of love.  Paul places greater responsibility on the person who wants to exercise their freedom over the person who wants to limit freedom, because it is much easier to change one’s own behavior rather than asking someone else to change their attitudes and thoughts. If you stumble another Christian while exercising your freedom, you can possibly damage the faith of someone who Christ died for; and to do so over a trivial matter, such as the use of alcohol and food, is both unloving and unthinkable.  To show love for others is the highest Christian ethic, and this law of Christ mandates that love restrict even our freedom.

Prayer: Lord, it is so easy to just think about myself and my own personal needs.  Yet You remind us that our highest calling is to love others as ourselves.   If this means sacrificing some of my rights as a Christian, help me to make those necessary changes in my life.  In all things, I pray that love would be the final standard for every decision that I make.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 21


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read Romans 14:13-23: Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.  20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Questions to Consider

  1. Instead of judging each other, what should Christians resolve to do?
  2. How should my personal Christian freedom be exercised?
  3. What are the more important matters that need to be considered when deciding on debatable issues of Christian conduct?

Notes

  1. Instead of judging one another, it is important that everyone resolves not to be a hindrance or to place a stumbling block to someone’s faith.
  2. Personal Christian freedom should not be an on-going source of tension in the church. Debatable matters should be resolved in such a way that peace is preserved and there is mutual edification.  I believe the one who is called to limit his Christian liberty is actually built up the most because he/she can grow in the areas of self-control, sacrifice, and humble submission.
  3. Christians have incredible degrees of freedom in the Lord, unlike many of the other world religions. But ultimately, our liberties are subordinate to the kingdom of God, which is characterized by joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.  Any Christian behavior that does not add to this is probably not beneficial in the long run.

EVENING REFLECTION

As you may know, Pastor Jack Hayford has a certain way with words.  As he prayed in front of the million men gathered in the National Mall in Washington DC, he said these words that have stayed with me all these years:  “For 200 years we have come here to declare our rights, today we come to confess our wrongs.”  It ushered in an atmosphere of repentance that was palpable.  We have many rights as Christians, rights that we vigorously defend, but we have forgotten how to confess our wrongs to God and one another.  Spend some time tonight confessing your sins and allowing the grace of God to cleanse and heal you.

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