"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

4 Epiphany proper B4                            
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Sermon                                   
February 1, 2009

THE FREEDOM TO HAVE FUN

TEXT (vs. 9 & 12):  “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak…. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.”
 

            Take a drive down a residential street—any street and any neighborhood you want to.  As you pass the various houses, can you tell which houses have small children living in them?  Is there evidence just by driving by?

            It might be a big house with plenty of bedrooms—that’s a good indicator.  There may be a mini van or station wagon parked in the driveway.  That’s another clue.  And if we add that the home is located in close proximity to a school, and it is on a quiet residential street, we have more clues.

            Those are indeed clues, but not hard evidence.  Single people can drive mini vans.  Older couples can live in large homes.  And just about anybody can live in a quiet neighborhood or live close to a school.  These things are not restricted to families with children living at home.

            There are other, better things that would be more convincing.  Is there a swing set in the back yard?  What about a tree house?  How about one of those “play tower” contraptions lots of people have?  Is there a basketball hoop in the driveway?  Might there be an old tractor tire filled with sand in the yard?  Are there tricycles, bicycles, or other toys outside?  Are there children playing around the home?  In most instances, this would be conclusive proof that at least one child resides in that home.

            Let’s change the situation for a moment.  A child wants to do something—some activity of some description.  A small child is not permitted to go to a friend’s house because it involves crossing a busy street, and nobody is available to take them.  An older child is not permitted to have friends over if nobody else is at home.  A teenager is not allowed to go to a party where there might be alcohol involved, or that is unchaperoned.  An older teen is not allowed to go joyriding with their friends.  And there may be an age limit on how old a person has to be before they can go on a date.

            It seems that whenever such restrictions are put into place, the child will frequently complain to the parents:  “You never let me have any fun….you don’t want me to enjoy life at all!” 

            Upon hearing these complaints, I’ve often wanted to take these children by the hand and give them a tour of their house, and show them a few things.  Consider the swing set, the sand box, the bikes, and the basketball hoop.  Look around inside and see the X-box or the Play Station, and all of the other games and toys.  Check out that TV and DVD player in their room.  These things aren’t there for punishment.  How can any child ever legitimately complain their parents don’t want them to have any fun or enjoy life?

            Parents really and truly want their children to have fun and to enjoy life.  In fact, I’d like to see the dollar total of how much an average family spends on things that are purely for their children’s enjoyment.  I would venture to guess that the figure would be staggering.  Even families without a large income will figure out ways to make things or do things that will be fun for their children.  It begins even in infancy when a baby is handed their first rattle, and it continues on from there.  There’s the first tricycle, the first bike, and the miscellaneous fun items along the way.

            Children aren’t the only ones to have fun.  This is something true for everybody.  In fact, we think that having fun is so important that large amounts of our tax dollars go toward parks and recreation.  Those things are put in place for our enjoyment, for our fun.  We go swimming, go for a picnic, or take the kids to play on the various pieces of equipment provided. 

            Think of the businesses that exist just because we want to have fun.  The family can go to Chuck-e-cheese’s, which caters to kids and their enjoyment.  There are any one of a number of entertainment venues where we can attend an activity.  There are bowling alleys and movie theatres.  And the list goes on and on.

            Today the topic of my message is about Christian freedom and Christian liberty.  The subject of having fun and enjoying life has a direct correlation with the freedom and liberty we enjoy as Christians.

            I think that in the Church and amongst Christians, we tend to get really bogged down on what we can’t do.  Our focus tends to be on the “Thou shalt not’s” of the Bible, and for good reason.  Nobody has to learn how to do the wrong thing.  People do that quite naturally of their own accord.  Sin and its pervasiveness in the world is the reason why.  We need to be continually reminded about the sin in our own lives, and the need for repentance.

            So what about the things we can do?  Why don’t we seem to give that some attention?  If that’s what you’re wondering, then take heart, because I’m going to be addressing that subject today.

            If we look at our text for today, which are the words of our Epistle lesson, we find the Apostle Paul addressing the congregation in Corinth in his first letter.  There must have been a huge misunderstanding about Christian liberty, because Paul addresses the topic at least three different times in the body of this one letter.

            The Corinthians were a group of people with some really messed-up things going on.  Some of the people were supposedly celebrating Holy Communion by having lavish feasts and getting drunk, while others were going without anything at all.  Of course there were other theological and moral issues as well.

            One of the problems was food sacrificed to idols.  The heathens would make various ceremonial sacrifices of meat and other foods to false gods.  Then they would take this same food and sell it in the market place.

            The Christians were purchasing this food for their grocery items.  It didn’t really matter what had happened to it before they got it.  The previous sacrifices were meaningless, because the false gods of the heathens didn’t exist.  So the Christians didn’t see a problem with eating this food.  It was really no different than if they would have purchased food that hadn’t been sacrificed.

            The Christians strong in the faith understood this; however there were weaker Christians amongst the group who got the wrong idea.  They felt that if the Christians were eating this food, then they were also joining in with the worship of the heathens, and condoning their sacrifices.  It was causing the weaker Christians to stumble in their faith, maybe even to the point of falling completely from faith.  So even though there was nothing wrong with the Christians eating this food, there was a problem because it was causing an offense.

            In verse 7 of our text, Paul explains this: 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.”  And in verse 11-13 he continues, “So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.”

            To apply this to ourselves in today’s society, we are free to do many things; but we have to be careful so we do not cause someone who is weak in the faith to stumble.    Jesus himself talks about this in Mark chapter 9 verse 42: “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”

            I’m going to give you an example from my own personal life as to what this means.  When I was a vicar (a student intern), I was assigned to a congregation in Princeton, Minnesota which is a town about the size of Crete.  In towns like that, the liquor stores are municipal establishments, run by the town—and there was only one of them. 

            I hadn’t been in town too long when I decided to go get some beer.  So without giving it too much thought, I toddled off to the liquor store to buy it.

            The next day, my bishop called me into his office.  He told me, “You were observed going into the liquor store yesterday.”  Now you must understand that there was nothing really wrong with what I did, nor did he have a problem with me having beer or any alcohol for that matter.  I’m not an alcoholic, so that wasn’t even an issue.

            The problem was the effect it could have on other people, especially those who might be weak in faith.  My bishop told me that he didn’t think there would be any issues with anybody in the congregation, but he couldn’t be certain.  So just to be safe, he told me that if I wanted to purchase alcohol, I needed to do it in St. Cloud or one of the neighboring towns.  And that’s exactly what I did, what little I did buy during those years.

            In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 3 verse 17 reads, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  We have the freedom, under Christian liberty to do many things.  If we want to go out and enjoy a cocktail or wine, or have beer in our refrigerator, there’s no problem with that.  We can have a cup of coffee or drink a Coke or Mountain Dew and not worry about some caffeine restriction.  We can have bacon, or sausage, or a pork chop without worrying about eating ceremonially unclean meat.  We can have cheese on our hamburger without worrying about mixing meat and dairy.  We can enjoy a T-bone steak, even though some religions believe that cattle are sacred.  We can pretty much listen to whatever kind of music we want, or watch any program on television without worry.  We can go to the movies, see a play, attend a concert, take a trip, or take a relaxing stroll and not think a thing about it.  And yes, we can even play cards and go out dancing.  Is that radical or what?

            And do we ever eat food sacrificed to idols?  Well we probably have without knowing it.  But it doesn’t matter anyway.  A good example might be with eating kosher foods.  How many times do you think that we’ve eaten foods that have undergone the process of being kosher for the modern-day Jews?  Maybe we’ve had a kosher dill pickle with our sandwich?  If you look at the bottle of wine we have in the back for Communion, you’ll see some Hebrew writing on the bottle.  It says, “Kosher la pasaq,” which translated means, “Kosher for Passover.”  Even though we’re not Jewish, we have the freedom to use it without any concern at all.

            There is one other thing that needs to be mentioned.  There are a good number of Christians out there that threaten our Christian liberty.  They’ll try to put their own restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or other areas where we have freedom.  They’ll even say, “You’d better not do that, or I’ll be offended!”  To them, Paul has some equally strong words as recorded in I Corinthians 10 verse 29 where he asks the question, “For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience?”  In this case, we’re not dealing with a weak Christian; we’re dealing with a self-righteous pietist.  Even though we have to be careful about causing a weak Christian to stumble, we can’t allow people to rob us of our Christian freedom either.

            To best understand this freedom and how it comes about, we need to see what has happened in our own lives.  We have been so permeated with sin that Satan has bound us up with it.  When we are in sin, we have absolutely no freedom at all.  We are slaves of Satan, and we have no way of breaking free of it.

            Just a few minutes ago, I quoted 2 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  That Spirit is what has brought us into the relationship with Jesus Christ our Saviour.  We have come to faith in him, so he is not only our Saviour from sin, but the Lord of our lives too.  And because of what Jesus has done in our lives, we now have freedom, and lots of it. 

            God wants us to be free.  He’s a lot like our parents, because he wants us to have fun and enjoy life.  He sent Jesus to this earth so we could have just that.  Christians are to be happy people, and fun to be around.   God does not want us to be a bunch of staid and stoic and miserable people who believe having fun is a sin.  He also doesn’t want us to be a bunch of self-righteous pietists who believe that they are better Christians because they don’t fully exercise their Christian liberty.  And God definitely doesn’t want people to make up a list of silly rules and regulations where he has chosen to remain silent.

            The theological term for Christian freedom and liberty is “adiaphora,” which refers to something neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture.  “Adiaphora” is a Greek word, which literally means “does not cut.”  Understood this way, “adiaphora” refers to something that doesn’t cut one way or another with God.  If something is adiaphora, it is your judgment call.

            In exercising our Christian freedom, moderation is always a good rule of thumb.  For example, even though consuming a moderate amount of alcohol isn’t a problem, drunkenness and alcoholism are.  A person can overdo things and create problems in many areas of Christian freedom and liberty.

            A good question to ask ourselves is, “Can I do this and still give glory to God?”  If we can give that question an honest “yes,” then go ahead.  God wants us to have fun and enjoy life.  He’s provided many things for our enjoyment.  But in doing so, he wants us to also keep three things in mind:  Keep it moral, keep it legal, and keep it safe.  Those are the basic guidelines parents use with their own children in order to keep them out of danger and trouble.  God wants no less for us. 

            So go out there, and enjoy life!  Don’t overdo it, but have fun, give God all the glory, and remember to keep it moral, keep it legal, and keep it safe.

4Epiphany proper B4
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Sermon
February 1, 2009

Hymns:
428 "O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing"
434 "Beautiful Saviour, King Of Creation"
542 "Son Of God, Eternal Saviour" (now playing)
307 "Jesus Shall Reign Where E'er The Sun"

THE FREEDOM TO HAVE FUN

TEXT (vs. 9 & 12): "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.... When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ."

Take a drive down a residential street-any street and any neighborhood you want to. As you pass the various houses, can you tell which houses have small children living in them? Is there evidence just by driving by?

It might be a big house with plenty of bedrooms-that's a good indicator. There may be a mini van or station wagon parked in the driveway. That's another clue. And if we add that the home is located in close proximity to a school, and it is on a quiet residential street, we have more clues.

Those are indeed clues, but not hard evidence. Single people can drive mini vans. Older couples can live in large homes. And just about anybody can live in a quiet neighborhood or live close to a school. These things are not restricted to families with children living at home.

There are other, better things that would be more convincing. Is there a swing set in the back yard? What about a tree house? How about one of those "play tower" contraptions lots of people have? Is there a basketball hoop in the driveway? Might there be an old tractor tire filled with sand in the yard? Are there tricycles, bicycles, or other toys outside? Are there children playing around the home? In most instances, this would be conclusive proof that at least one child resides in that home.

Let's change the situation for a moment. A child wants to do something-some activity of some description. A small child is not permitted to go to a friend's house because it involves crossing a busy street, and nobody is available to take them. An older child is not permitted to have friends over if nobody else is at home. A teenager is not allowed to go to a party where there might be alcohol involved, or that is unchaperoned. An older teen is not allowed to go joyriding with their friends. And there may be an age limit on how old a person has to be before they can go on a date.

It seems that whenever such restrictions are put into place, the child will frequently complain to the parents: "You never let me have any fun....you don't want me to enjoy life at all!"

Upon hearing these complaints, I've often wanted to take these children by the hand and give them a tour of their house, and show them a few things. Consider the swing set, the sand box, the bikes, and the basketball hoop. Look around inside and see the X-box or the Play Station, and all of the other games and toys. Check out that TV and DVD player in their room. These things aren't there for punishment. How can any child ever legitimately complain their parents don't want them to have any fun or enjoy life?

Parents really and truly want their children to have fun and to enjoy life. In fact, I'd like to see the dollar total of how much an average family spends on things that are purely for their children's enjoyment. I would venture to guess that the figure would be staggering. Even families without a large income will figure out ways to make things or do things that will be fun for their children. It begins even in infancy when a baby is handed their first rattle, and it continues on from there. There's the first tricycle, the first bike, and the miscellaneous fun items along the way.

Children aren't the only ones to have fun. This is something true for everybody. In fact, we think that having fun is so important that large amounts of our tax dollars go toward parks and recreation. Those things are put in place for our enjoyment, for our fun. We go swimming, go for a picnic, or take the kids to play on the various pieces of equipment provided.

Think of the businesses that exist just because we want to have fun. The family can go to Chuck-e-cheese's, which caters to kids and their enjoyment. There are any one of a number of entertainment venues where we can attend an activity. There are bowling alleys and movie theatres. And the list goes on and on.

Today the topic of my message is about Christian freedom and Christian liberty. The subject of having fun and enjoying life has a direct correlation with the freedom and liberty we enjoy as Christians.

I think that in the Church and amongst Christians, we tend to get really bogged down on what we can't do. Our focus tends to be on the "Thou shalt not's" of the Bible, and for good reason. Nobody has to learn how to do the wrong thing. People do that quite naturally of their own accord. Sin and its pervasiveness in the world is the reason why. We need to be continually reminded about the sin in our own lives, and the need for repentance.

So what about the things we can do? Why don't we seem to give that some attention? If that's what you're wondering, then take heart, because I'm going to be addressing that subject today.

If we look at our text for today, which are the words of our Epistle lesson, we find the Apostle Paul addressing the congregation in Corinth in his first letter. There must have been a huge misunderstanding about Christian liberty, because Paul addresses the topic at least three different times in the body of this one letter.

The Corinthians were a group of people with some really messed-up things going on. Some of the people were supposedly celebrating Holy Communion by having lavish feasts and getting drunk, while others were going without anything at all. Of course there were other theological and moral issues as well.

One of the problems was food sacrificed to idols. The heathens would make various ceremonial sacrifices of meat and other foods to false gods. Then they would take this same food and sell it in the market place.

The Christians were purchasing this food for their grocery items. It didn't really matter what had happened to it before they got it. The previous sacrifices were meaningless, because the false gods of the heathens didn't exist. So the Christians didn't see a problem with eating this food. It was really no different than if they would have purchased food that hadn't been sacrificed.

The Christians strong in the faith understood this; however there were weaker Christians amongst the group who got the wrong idea. They felt that if the Christians were eating this food, then they were also joining in with the worship of the heathens, and condoning their sacrifices. It was causing the weaker Christians to stumble in their faith, maybe even to the point of falling completely from faith. So even though there was nothing wrong with the Christians eating this food, there was a problem because it was causing an offense.

In verse 7 of our text, Paul explains this: "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." And in verse 11-13 he continues, "So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall."

To apply this to ourselves in today's society, we are free to do many things; but we have to be careful so we do not cause someone who is weak in the faith to stumble. Jesus himself talks about this in Mark chapter 9 verse 42: "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck."

I'm going to give you an example from my own personal life as to what this means. When I was a vicar (a student intern), I was assigned to a congregation in Princeton, Minnesota which is a town about the size of Crete. In towns like that, the liquor stores are municipal establishments, run by the town-and there was only one of them.

I hadn't been in town too long when I decided to go get some beer. So without giving it too much thought, I toddled off to the liquor store to buy it.

The next day, my bishop called me into his office. He told me, "You were observed going into the liquor store yesterday." Now you must understand that there was nothing really wrong with what I did, nor did he have a problem with me having beer or any alcohol for that matter. I'm not an alcoholic, so that wasn't even an issue.

The problem was the effect it could have on other people, especially those who might be weak in faith. My bishop told me that he didn't think there would be any issues with anybody in the congregation, but he couldn't be certain. So just to be safe, he told me that if I wanted to purchase alcohol, I needed to do it in St. Cloud or one of the neighboring towns. And that's exactly what I did, what little I did buy during those years.

In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 3 verse 17 reads, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." We have the freedom, under Christian liberty to do many things. If we want to go out and enjoy a cocktail or wine, or have beer in our refrigerator, there's no problem with that. We can have a cup of coffee or drink a Coke or Mountain Dew and not worry about some caffeine restriction. We can have bacon, or sausage, or a pork chop without worrying about eating ceremonially unclean meat. We can have cheese on our hamburger without worrying about mixing meat and dairy. We can enjoy a T-bone steak, even though some religions believe that cattle are sacred. We can pretty much listen to whatever kind of music we want, or watch any program on television without worry. We can go to the movies, see a play, attend a concert, take a trip, or take a relaxing stroll and not think a thing about it. And yes, we can even play cards and go out dancing. Is that radical or what?

And do we ever eat food sacrificed to idols? Well we probably have without knowing it. But it doesn't matter anyway. A good example might be with eating kosher foods. How many times do you think that we've eaten foods that have undergone the process of being kosher for the modern-day Jews? Maybe we've had a kosher dill pickle with our sandwich? If you look at the bottle of wine we have in the back for Communion, you'll see some Hebrew writing on the bottle. It says, "Kosher la pasaq," which translated means, "Kosher for Passover." Even though we're not Jewish, we have the freedom to use it without any concern at all.

There is one other thing that needs to be mentioned. There are a good number of Christians out there that threaten our Christian liberty. They'll try to put their own restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or other areas where we have freedom. They'll even say, "You'd better not do that, or I'll be offended!" To them, Paul has some equally strong words as recorded in I Corinthians 10 verse 29 where he asks the question, "For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience?" In this case, we're not dealing with a weak Christian; we're dealing with a self-righteous pietist. Even though we have to be careful about causing a weak Christian to stumble, we can't allow people to rob us of our Christian freedom either.

To best understand this freedom and how it comes about, we need to see what has happened in our own lives. We have been so permeated with sin that Satan has bound us up with it. When we are in sin, we have absolutely no freedom at all. We are slaves of Satan, and we have no way of breaking free of it.

Just a few minutes ago, I quoted 2 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 17: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." That Spirit is what has brought us into the relationship with Jesus Christ our Saviour. We have come to faith in him, so he is not only our Saviour from sin, but the Lord of our lives too. And because of what Jesus has done in our lives, we now have freedom, and lots of it.

God wants us to be free. He's a lot like our parents, because he wants us to have fun and enjoy life. He sent Jesus to this earth so we could have just that. Christians are to be happy people, and fun to be around. God does not want us to be a bunch of staid and stoic and miserable people who believe having fun is a sin. He also doesn't want us to be a bunch of self-righteous pietists who believe that they are better Christians because they don't fully exercise their Christian liberty. And God definitely doesn't want people to make up a list of silly rules and regulations where he has chosen to remain silent.

The theological term for Christian freedom and liberty is "adiaphora," which refers to something neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture. "Adiaphora" is a Greek word, which literally means "does not cut." Understood this way, "adiaphora" refers to something that doesn't cut one way or another with God. If something is adiaphora, it is your judgment call.

In exercising our Christian freedom, moderation is always a good rule of thumb. For example, even though consuming a moderate amount of alcohol isn't a problem, drunkenness and alcoholism are. A person can overdo things and create problems in many areas of Christian freedom and liberty.

A good question to ask ourselves is, "Can I do this and still give glory to God?" If we can give that question an honest "yes," then go ahead. God wants us to have fun and enjoy life. He's provided many things for our enjoyment. But in doing so, he wants us to also keep three things in mind: Keep it moral, keep it legal, and keep it safe. Those are the basic guidelines parents use with their own children in order to keep them out of danger and trouble. God wants no less for us.

So go out there, and enjoy life! Don't overdo it, but have fun, give God all the glory, and remember to keep it moral, keep it legal, and keep it safe.


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