The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.
How do you keep your balance between your own freedom in Christ and your obligation to others? There are two principles for keeping your balance.
Principle number one is the rule of conscience. To figure out if you really have the freedom to do something, ask yourself, “Do I have any doubts at all?” In Romans 14:22-23, Paul said, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” Make sure you do not have any doubts before you do this thing. If you have any doubts that some activity is wrong or questionable, then it is too questionable to engage in. That is the rule of conscience.
Principle number two is the rule of concern. I have to balance out my liberty with my concern, my responsibility toward others. In verse 21, Paul said, “It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.” We have great liberty in Christ, but our liberty ends when it negatively impacts another believer.
In the 1930s, when American oil companies began to travel to Saudi Arabia to develop the rich Arabian fields, they found themselves in the midst of the Islamic culture. They were not sure exactly how to conduct themselves, so a group from an oil company went to the king of Saudi Arabia and asked for permission to have churches in their camp for the oil company. The king said, “Let me think about it.” A few weeks later, other officials from the oil company came and asked the king if they could be permitted to have alcohol in their camps. Alcohol was against the Islamic tradition. The king said, “You came earlier asking for churches; now you are asking for alcohol. Which one do you want?” The company officials said, “We will get back to you on that.” For several weeks they had a debate within their company about which it would be: churches or alcohol. Finally, they came back to the king and said, “We want the alcohol.” The king said, “If you had said churches, I would have given you both, but since you said alcohol, I will give you neither.” The king understood a very important truth for Christians: if our heart is right with God, then we can be trusted to make the right choices.
Yes, we have liberty in Christ. Liberty is a part of growing up, isn’t it? It is like taking the training wheels off of a bicycle. It is risky. Sometimes we fall with our liberty, but it is necessary for us to grow up. The real test of whether we are strong in Christ is our willingness to voluntarily limit our liberty for the well-being of others. That is the message of Romans 14.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Tips On Tightrope Walking” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.