November 16, 2018

What Should We Do with All This Freedom?

Romans 14:20–15:3

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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.1 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.2

The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Footnotes

[1] 14:21 Some manuscripts add or be hindered or be weakened
[2] 14:23 Some manuscripts insert here 16:25–27

In Context:

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.

What Should We Do with All This Freedom?



Bio | Kenny Rodgers

My name is Kenny Rodgers, and I am thankful to be a husband to Anne and a father to Caleb and Ethan. I am most thankful, though, to be a child of God.

As I write this, I'm 36 years old. To some of you, that's old; to some of you, that's young. We can all agree, though, that our lives are short. Regardless of age, none of us has much time left. I pray that we all use the remainder of the time freely given to us by God to glorify Him in everything we do.

Central Truth

We need to constantly move toward Christ, point others in His direction, and rid ourselves of any sins or freedoms that get in the way.

Devotional | Romans 14:20–15:3

Some sins are easily categorized into right and wrong or black and white, such as cheating, murder, and adultery. What about the gray areas that aren't so obvious, though, like food, alcohol, and movies?...

Some sins are easily categorized into right and wrong or black and white, such as cheating, murder, and adultery. What about the gray areas that aren't so obvious, though, like food, alcohol, and movies? Paul is teaching us here how we should exercise any freedoms we may have in these gray areas so as not to sin.

One gray area I've struggled with in the past is gambling. Right around the time I graduated from college, I built up a fairly large amount of winnings. However, God graciously allowed me to lose all of it . . . and then some. Naturally, I'm not a fan of gambling now, as I've seen the destruction it can cause. Therefore, I've stayed away from it for quite some time.

So, a few years ago, when my community group wanted to have a "March Madness" basketball tournament, this issue came up. The idea was great—we would all fill out a bracket, with the winner essentially getting a date night with their spouse, and the loser being tasked to bring dessert to our next group meeting. This was meant to be in good fun, but because of my strong opinions on anything resembling gambling, my group wanted to make sure this was okay with me. Even though this was an area where they weren't sinning and had freedom, they didn't want to use that freedom if it was going to be a stumbling block for me (Romans 14:21).

I assured them that it was completely fine, and we all had a blast together. With that said, if I would have doubted whether I should partake in this particular freedom and chosen to proceed anyway, it would have been sinful for me (Romans 14:23). Had I chosen to abstain and my friends still wanted to proceed, they would have been free to enjoy themselves. But they would need to do so in a relatively private manner (Romans 14:22). See how that all works?

When faced with gray areas, we need to ask ourselves, "Will this action move me closer to God or further from Him?" See the discussion questions below for more helpful thoughts.

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Discussion Questions

1. God's Word should inform all of our decisions. In this example, there isn't a particular verse that says not to gamble, but there are plenty of verses that warn us to stay away from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5) and get-rich-quick schemes (Proverbs 13:11, 23:5; Ecclesiastes 5:10). God wants us to be good stewards of the resources He entrusts to us. So if gambling is going to draw you away from Him, it needs to be avoided. Remember, our goal should always be to move toward Christ as opposed to asking, "What am I allowed to do?" Don't hang around the edge of what your freedoms allow. Move toward the center. Do you find yourself at times looking at what you can do instead of asking God what He would like you to do?

2. Some areas we think are gray aren't gray at all—they are actually wrong. For instance, many forms of gambling are illegal, and God calls us to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-7). Are there any sinful areas in your life that you thought were gray, but are simply wrong and need to be stopped right now?

3. Are you struggling with gambling or any other sin pattern that is drawing you away from Christ? If so, I would encourage you to check out re:generation, Watermark's biblical recovery program. For more information, click here: http://www.regenerationrecovery.org.

4. For an additional resource on gambling and more helpful Scripture, please see the Real Truth Real Quick that Pastor Todd Wagner did on the subject at http://realtruthrealquick.com/can-a-christian-gamble/.

3 Comments available

Ronnie Oldfield 2 days ago

Super devo Kenny for such a young man. We have been encountering: verse 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. I have been processing this a good bit. From my perspective mental “doubts” arise from the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Ignoring the doubts is me denying the power available to me because Jesus went away. The Holy Spirit is a true compass and will always point me to the way of Christ. He will only take me places He knows are good for me. As I follow His ways, the renewal of my mind and the transformation of my life will progress. Thank you Kenny for this excellent devo.

Sue Bohlin 2 days ago

Kenny, NAILED. IT. Absolutely the most practical thing on gambling I’ve ever read. I thank the Lord for your discernment and clear thinking on this issue!

As the webmistress for Probe.org, which offers almost 2000 articles and answers to email on a biblical view of a wide range of topics, I’m going to add your devo to one of our resources on gambling. Bless you!

Hugh Stephenson 2 days ago

GM Kenny. Love your title. And thanks for your transparency.

This devo gives me a new question when I meet someone - (smiling) “What’s your unhealthy coping mechanism?”

If nothing else I’ll find out who has been to re:gen and who needs to go.

Maybe not the best approach?

Being serious, this passage speaks to me about compassion. Recently, God is showing me I have much more freedom available in this regard. What should be compassion usually shows up as indifference, sometime as judgement.

All my sins go back to Genesis 3. My sinful nature tells me that I know better than God does; that I should focus on me, that I am suitable to sit in judgement.

In reflection, God will roll some scenes from the Go Pro movie trailer of my life. The more pride I have the harsher the scenes.

Then He shows me the cross.

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