Skip to comments.The Weaker Christian (From the Series: 1 Corinthians, Christians Gone Wild)
Posted on 12/14/2010 12:01:21 AM PST by streetpreacher
A brush of idealism paints the 1st-century church as a nostalgic example of community and perfection. The congregation in Corinth, however, was anything but ideal. Rather than sharing their possessions, the Corinthians would sue each other to get more stuff. Rather than eating meals together, the Corinthians would cut in line during communion to get drunk off the wine. And rather than communal singing, the Corinthians had communal sex. Im A.J. Hamilton with Mars Hill Church in Seattle. In this sermon series, Pastor Mark Driscoll teaches on the letter known as 1 Corinthians, which the Apostle Paul wrote to untangle the many moral and theological knots the Corinthian church created.
In addressing their sin, Paul provides some of the richest theological sections of the entire New Testament. After listening to the following sermon, e-mail any questions or comments to email@example.com. To automatically receive Mars Hill audio programming, subscribe to our podcast available at marshillchurch.org. And now, heres Pastor Mark with The Weaker Christian, the nineteenth sermon in a series, Christians Gone Wild: 1 Corinthians. Good morning; welcome to Mars Hill. You like the band? Arent they great? Very nice! Happy Memorial Day, and thank you to all the veterans who have secured our freedom to gather in worship today. We are gonna be in 1 Corinthians chapter 8; if youve got a Bible, you can go there:
Not a shameless plug, but my first book actually, Reformission, dealt with the topic were studying today.
You may want to grab a copy on your way out. And Ill go ahead and pray, and we will get right to work. Its a really cool topic today, and Im excited to get into it.
So Father God, thank you, first of all, that you love us. You care for us. You speak to us through your Word. You give us boundaries for living a holy, healthy and happy life. You want us to obey you so that we might know freedom and joy. God, thank you that in addition to Scripture youve given us a conscience to guide us to make decisions where the Scriptures are not clear, so that we might at least be clear where we should land practically in our own lives, and personally for our own choices. And so God, as we study today, we pray for unity as a church around the teachings of Scripture, and we pray for diversity around the issues of conscience.
For that to happen, we ask that the Scriptures be made known to us, that the Holy Spirit would teach us, lead us, guide us and convict us, and we ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Ill just start right in, in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. Ill just read the whole section. Paul is here dealing with one large issue, and I want to read it in totality, and then well pull some principles out and make them applicable to our modern day. 1 Corinthians 8:1: Now about food sacrificed to idols something I know youre all desperately struggling with is food sacrificed to idols. Its such a huge issue, that demon meat. We know that we all possess knowledge they were a sort of bragadocious bunch, saying they were very smart. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.
So its important to know things. Its more important to know that God loves you. So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: we know that an idol is nothing at all in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 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.
There he introduces this concept of conscience that will figure very prominently in our discussion today. But food does not bring us near to God all you vegetarians, underline that food does not bring us closer to God as well as you steak-eaters, underline it too. We are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom something else we will talk about does not become a stumbling block to the weak. Here he introduces the concept of spiritual weakness, which will also play prominently in our discussion.
For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idols temple, wont he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 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. Heres the issue: Christians exist in a greater, wider, larger culture than just the church in which they participate, and we are called of God to be missionaries into the culture.
In our day, this means that some issues are real controversial, particularly at a church like Mars Hill. Can I drink alcohol? Can I get a tattoo? Can I listen to hardcore or indie rock or punk rock or whatever my style preference is? Can I get a tattoo? Can I get a piercing? These kind of issues come up here at Mars Hill. As we are missionaries in greater culture, the question is what is acceptable and unacceptable conduct for a Christian? In Pauls day, the issue was meat sacrificed to idols, and heres how it worked: meat was a delicacy. You didnt get a lot of meat. Meat was generally associated with pagan occultic religious practice.
People would get together, they would slaughter an animal to some false god, false religion. And then they would have a huge barbecue, and everybody would eat meat, and it was part of the pagan worship ceremony of a false god. Some of those people became Christians, and they were conflicted. Hey, can we eat that meat or not? Is that demon meat, or is that good meat? Some Christians said, No, thats demon meat. It was offered to an idol, a false god. People are eating it in a false religious ceremony. I cant do that, because thats wrong. Other Christians were saying, Its meat, and theres no demon meat, non-demon meat; theres just meat, and you eat the meat. Thank you, Jesus, for the meat. Thats why God made cows out of steak, so that we would eat them.
Thats why he did it that way. And so theres this big debate in the church can we eat the meat; can we not eat the meat? Today that would be like can we smoke the cigarettes; can we not smoke the cigarettes? Can we get the tattoo; can we not get the tattoo? Can we play in the band; can we not play in the band? And so they asked their pastor Paul this question, because theyre debated over this issue, theyre divided. And so he answers them, and what he does is hes following in the example and the instruction of Jesus Christ, and Ill give you some preface. Jesus prayed in John 17 for his followers, knowing that these kinds of missionary cultural issues would arise.
And Jesus prayed, Father, my prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. And Jesus foresaw this for the Corinthian church, and he foresaw this for us, and so he prayed in advance. And what he prayed against was the twin errors of sectarianism and syncretism. Sectarianism is fundamentalism that says, We restrict ourselves from engaging in culture. We dont get cable TV. We dont listen to certain bands. We dont go to movies. We dont speak with non-Christians. We separate ourselves with lots of rules and morality and legalisms that distinguish us from non-Christians. Things that arent in the Bible, but rules weve made.
And that is what Jesus prayed against My prayer is not that my people would leave the world that they would dissociate and disengage from culture. Jesus prayed also, on the other hand, he said, I pray, however, Father, that you would protect them from the evil one. Jesus was praying there not just against sectarianism, but against syncretism. Not just against fundamentalism, but liberalism. Not just avoiding culture, but so being compromised in culture that your handling of sex and money and power is no different than a non-Christian; its worldly, and altogether corrupted. And these are the twin tracks that Christianity tends to ride on: separatistic, fundamentalistic, sectarianism, and compromised, accommodating liberal syncretism.
Jesus prayed against both. Dont leave the world, and dont be just like the world. Live in the world. Go as far as you can to participate in culture knowing that some things are a sin, and you have to draw the line, and you cannot do those things. Paul is dealing with this very issue. We deal with it all the time at Mars Hill. And so we will just jump right in, and were gonna look at four questions that we can each individually ask that will help us decide our participation in culture. The first, from 1 Corinthians chapter 8, answers the question can I do this cultural activity? That question is answered by this question: what does my Bible say? What does the Bible say?
The Bible is the Word of God. Its the law of God. It tells us what God has for us to do and not do. It gives us boundary markers for acceptable and unacceptable human conduct on the earth. We are Bible-believing literalists. We are a Bible-believing church. We make no apologies. We believe that the Bible is universally in principle applicable to all people. It doesnt matter what culture, what time in history, your gender, your race, your age, your generation, your preferences, your experiences. The Bible speaks to all people, giving them one codified set of truths. What that means is this: rape is always wrong. Murder is always wrong. Stealing is wrong. Lying is wrong.
Because the Bible says that those things are wrong, and they are for all people, times and places. These are universal sins. Additionally, other things, like homosexuality, fornication which is sex before marriage, pornography which is lust, are also spoken of throughout the totality of Scripture, and they too are sins, because when you disobey Gods law you are by definition sinning. 1 John 3, I think its around verse 4, says that sin is the breaking of the laws of God. So when God says, Dont do this, and you do it, you are by definition sinning, okay? And so there are universal sins for all people, times, places, and it is applicable to everyone.
So the first thing we must ask: is this something that violates the Bible? If I do this, will I be violating the teachings of the Bible, the law of God, the Word of God, the Commandments of God? And this is how we obtain our Christian unity. Murder, sex before or outside of marriage, lying, stealing, rape those are sins. Were not to do them, and if we do we are to repent and not do them anymore. So the first thing is when youre thinking about engaging in a cultural activity you ask the question what does my Bible say? And if the Bible says no then you abstain. But if the Bible doesnt forbid something, you are free to do it. The question now is should you do it?
There are two questions: can I, second question, should I, do this thing? So then we go to the second question, which is what does my conscience say? See, in addition to Scripture, God has given us a conscience. Were image-bearers of God. Part of being made in Gods image and likeness is that we all have a conscience. A conscience is like a rudder on a boat; it helps steer you through difficulty and keep you from just drifting and ultimately being destroyed. So some of you, even though you werent Christians, or maybe youre even not today, youre still a fairly moral person because youre working out of your conscience that God gave you.
You know that stealing is wrong, and lying is wrong, and raping is wrong, and murder is wrong, and its not because you believe the Bible. Its because your conscience is still functional. So you and I also obey and abide by conscience, which when the Bible doesnt speak of something clearly, then we operate according to conscience, and the Holy Spirit works through conscience. What this causes us to decide, then, is that some things are a sin for you and not for me, and vice versa. This leads to particular sins. If it violates the Bible, were dealing with a universal sin thats a sin for everyone.
And if were dealing with a sin of conscience, were dealing with a particular sin thats only a sin for some people, some places, sometimes, some cultures, some circumstances. And Ill give you a practical example from my own life. My dad, who probably is here in this service hey, Pop he grew up in a family where there were some generations of alcohol abuse alcoholism. So the drinking stopped with my dad. My dad was not a drunk, and I didnt grow up in an alcoholic home. And growing up, though, I remember reading and being told that there is a genetic link and predisposition toward alcoholism.
So that caused me to be very fearful; I dont want to be an alcoholic. I dont want to be a drunk. It stopped with my dad, and I dont want it to start with me. So what I decided was I would not drink alcohol. Now, does the Bible forbid the consumption of alcohol? No. My first book, The Reformission, Ive got a whole chapter on alcohol. The Bible says that God gave wine to gladden the heart of man. Jesus first miracle was the making of wine. Jesus drank alcohol, right? I mean this is just so clear in Scripture that only a confused fundamentalist could get it obscure, you know? Only they could make it unclear.
But for me, if you wouldve asked me I became a Christian at 19. I got married at 21. And my wife and I, Grace, we were in college together at Washington State University. And I turned 21, and she said, Are you gonna have a drink on your 21st birthday? I said, No. I mean they almost kicked me out of school for it, because there they just dont put up with that kind of stuff at WaSu. And I told her, I said, No. For me, drinking is a sin. Its a conscience issue. She says, Well, do you think its a sin for everybody to drink? No, I dont, because some people can drink in moderation. Their conscience is free. The Bible tells us that youre free to consume alcohol.
You gotta obey the governments; you gotta be 21 or older. I said, But for me its a sin. So we got married, and she said, Well, does it bother you if I have a drink in front of you? I said, No, because Ive never drank. I dont struggle with alcohol. Im not tempted to get drunk. I just dont want to drink at all, because Im afraid that maybe I would get drunk, and I dont want to do that. So she would drink when we were newly married, and have, you know, a glass of wine with dinner or something, and I wouldnt, out of conscience. And my conscience was that way until I was 30 years of age. I was pastoring Mars Hill, and I was studying Johns gospel, and I saw Jesus first miracle of turning water into wine. And so what I did is I actually had a drink.
My first drink was with Pastor Tim, the worship pastor here, my dear friend. We went out to lunch, and the pop machine was down. They said, Well, we got hard cider and beer. Im like, All right. And so I had a drink, and I billed it to the Mars Hill Church account, so thank you for picking up my first drink. And Ive never been drunk in my life, and my conscience changed. What Im saying is you need to obey your conscience, because you need your conscience. Dont break it. Its like the rudder on a boat youre gonna need that. If you break your conscience, you dont have a conscience, and then we call you a sociopath, right? So we would all like you to have a conscience and use it please do.
But your conscience also may change. You may mature in your faith to a point where something that used to be a sin in your conscience no longer is, and youre free to have a change of conscience. And what frustrates me is when people bind other people by their conscience, making rules that arent in the Bible. Whole denominations do this alcohols a sin well, its not, but if its a sin for you, you shouldnt partake. But you shouldnt bind everyone else by your conscience. Some of you wish wed make a rule saying all alcohol consumption is a sin. Theres other people that wish we would make driving a car a sin, right, and they all want you to ride a bike, because theyre environmentally happy, friendly peddlers, right?
And what we dont want to do is say everybody binds everyone by their conscience with things that the Scripture doesnt bind us by, right? Usually everybodys bound by the preachers conscience. I dont want to bind you by my conscience; I want the Holy Spirit to bind your conscience, and I want you to obey your conscience. And there are whole denominations, and whole groups of Christians that bind one another by one persons conscience on things that arent in the Bible. And that frustrates me, to be honest with you. Im gonna get in total trouble for this. Thats cool. The bloggers can have at it now. But the Southern Baptist Convention, for example, has declared drinking alcohol essentially a sin, and the Bible doesnt say that.
The Bible doesnt say that. I love the Southern Baptists. I love my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters, and we work a lot with the Southern Baptists. But, you know, thats not in the Bible. The Bible doesnt make that rule, so why should we? And I remember this was a while back I went out to a meal with one of my Southern Baptist friends, and he said, Well, you should think about joining the Southern Baptists, and you should join the team. Well take you out to dinner. Good guy; were talking, and so he said, Ill pick up the tab for dinner, so I ordered a drink and billed it to the Southern Baptist Convention, which I thought was funny.
He got the tab he was like, Oh, man, I gotta turn this receipt in. I was like, There you go have fun with that, buddy. And for me maybe its a little juvenile but part of it for me is, you know, I dont like rules that arent Bible, because I so respect the Bible that I dont feel like it needs my help, you know. I feel like the Bible is sufficient, and if the Bible doesnt forbid something, then why should I? But let me say this: just because you can do something doesnt mean you should. You are free, but your conscience has to also guide. Your conscience has to also guide, which means, for example, you are a vegetarian, and you love Jesus then dont eat meat.
But dont expect everybody else in the church to become a vegetarian, binding them by your conscience. If youre a person who has no problem with violence, and last night you watched Matt Hughes beat Royce Gracie in the Ultimate Fight thank you, Jesus. We all knew it was gonna happen. You dont have a problem with violence because youve read the Old Testament and you know its Biblical you dont have a problem with violence, then you can watch Ultimate Fighting. If you marry someone, though, like I did, and she says, I dont like violence, then I watch it with my boys, not with my wife. My wifes not into Ultimate Fighting. My boys? Totally into Ultimate Fighting. They take their shirts off and watch Ultimate Fighting with their dad thats what we do.
So my boys and I operate by conscience; my wife operates by conscience, right? So my wife doesnt like Ultimate Fighting. I do. And we take care of one another. We love one another, and this issue of conscience means I cant bind people by my conscience, they cant bind me by their conscience, and my conscience may change. So it makes no sense to make an irreversible rule on something that may change, like my position on alcohol did. That being said, Ive never been drunk, because thats not a conscience issue, thats a sin issue. Ive also never caused anyone else to stumble, which well deal with, because that is not a conscience issue. That is a sin issue.
So first question: what does the Bible say can I do it? Second question: what does my conscience say should I do it? Third question: what does my weakness require? We are all let me say this. Some of you will be frustrated, say, Im not weak; Im strong! You probably are weak if youve gotta whine about it, but the truth is were all weak and were all strong. Theres things spiritually where youre very strong; youre not easily tempted. There are other things youre very spiritually weak, and youre very easily tempted, and you have to be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses. Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 8 about those who are weak and those who are strong, and those who are strong not causing those who are weak to sin.
Ill tell you where Im strong. Ill tell you where Im strong. Im really strong in drugs. I have no temptation toward drugs. I grew up in a neighborhood near SeaTac where I was offered drugs all the time. I grew up riding my bike around White Center and the projects with my friends. Ive seen guys put needles in their arm, pop pills, smoke bowls, smoke pipes. Ive seen guys trip out on acid. Ive seen people smoke crack in front of me. And Ive never once even touched a drug, or drug paraphernalia. Ive never even smoked a cigarette in my whole life, because I saw the effects. I was like, That just does not look good. I want nothing to do with that.
So I can hang out with people that are struggling with drug addiction. Ive actually in the history of this church been to a drug house to get somebody out who was at Mars Hill. Ive hung out with street kids on the Ave when theyre doing drugs, trying to talk to them and see what has happened in their life that they ran away, and talk to them about Jesus. And Im not tempted at all, because Im strong. Drugs dont bother me. I dont have any personal desire to do drugs. Some of you are recovering drug addicts; you should never do that. Youre easily tempted. Youre spiritually weak.
You being around people that are doing drugs or still struggling with drugs, or maybe lets say you were doing drugs and you lived in a house with some roommates, and youd all get high together. Then you meet Jesus, and youre still real weak, real susceptible. You know what you should do move! You should get in a place where your weaknesses are constantly being exposed. If youre strong, maybe you can go out to your friends house where theyre doing drugs and say, Guys, what are you doing? Come on this is not right. You guys say youre Christians, youre sitting around getting high together? And youre not tempted; youre strong, so for you, thats an okay place for you to go and be to share the love of Jesus. But for those who are weak, they shouldnt go anywhere near that place. Were all weak, were all strong.
Ill tell you where Im weak: Im weak with horror movies. I know that sounds weird. I cant handle horror movies. I have seen a lot of demons, all right? I wont tell you all the freaky stories, but Ive dealt with a lot of demons, quite frankly, and I dont like them. Our general position on demons is were con I mean, thats our general position on demons.
So when I watch a horror movie, and theyre like somebodys possessed, or their heads spinning around on their neck, or theyre flying, or stuffs raising, or superhuman power, Im like, Dude, Ive been there, done that, got the T-shirt and still twitching, and I dont want to watch that! Because they think, you know, its kind of enticing into the occult man, Ive seen it. I dont like it; freaks me out. Im also weak when it comes to movies and television shows with storylines where children are being tormented and harmed. I cant watch that stuff. I got five kids. Im defender, protector, loaded gun dad, right thats me.
And the thought of something happening to a kid just destroys me, so I cant watch that. Is it a sin to watch a horror movie? Probably not. Is it a sin to watch a television show that involves a plot line of a child? No, but should I watch it? No. Why because my conscience doesnt allow me to. Im weak there. Youre not all weak and all strong. Youre all weak in some areas; youre all strong in some areas. So you gotta ask what does my weakness require? Where youre strong, you could be free you can have a lot of freedom and liberty. Where youre weak, you have to restrict your freedom.
You have to say, You know what, I cant go there. I cant hang with those people. I cant watch that. I cant do that. I just cant. To me, its just a weakness. Its just not something thats good for me. Now, what frustrates me is legalists will make lots of rules, okay; I dont want to make a lot of rules to bind your conscience, because I dont know where youre weak and strong. Ive been at churches that make all kinds of alcohol policies, but they dont make any food policies, so people dont drink, but they eat like crazy. Ive seen obese pastors preach against the dangers of alcohol.
You know, its like well, obviously youre strong in alcohol, Mr. Pastor, because you dont get drunk, but youre really weak on Twinkies; thats your weakness, all right? So youre starting to feel like one, you know, with the squishy middle in the center, you know. Youre weak and strong, and so we need to allow our brothers and sisters who are strong to entertain themselves and enjoy their liberties. And where were weak, we need to be honest and forthright, and we need to intentionally restrict our freedoms so that we dont sin.
So then the fourth question is this: what does my friend need, or what do my friends need? One of the biggest problems we have in America is rights. You say, What? The problem with rights is this: youve become so selfish you only think about your right. You dont think about others, right? You say, But Im free in Christ to do this! You are free in Christ to do this, but what about your friend? You know whats more important than your freedom, Paul says here your friends. If your friend is a recovering alcoholic, and theyre coming over to your house for dinner, dont serve any drinks. Dont choose beer over your friend.
If youre going out to dinner with a vegan and you love them, order something from the vegan side of the menu, and tell them, Im not being bound by your conscience. Im not gonna be a vegetarian. But when Im with you, Im a vegetarian. Why? I love you. Youre more important to me than a steak. Youre my friend. Ill give up my steak when Im with you. I dont care. I just want to be with you. The last thing we want to do is shove people away that are willing to be friends with us because weve chosen our freedom over our friends. Thats just horrible. People are more important than things. And so yeah, the Bible may give you freedom. Your conscience may give you freedom.
Your strength may give you freedom, but your friend may cause you to lay aside your freedom and to restrict yourself in an effort to show affection and concern for them. Well, that seems nice, doesnt it? Jesus says to love your neighbor, to love your brothers, to love your sisters; this is exactly what that looks like. So you can give your freedoms, without them being taken. This is where we get our diversity. Were unified around our belief in the true teachings of Scripture, and we have our diversity around these freedom matters and conscience matters. What this means is this: when youre in the presence of a friend whos weak where you are strong, or they disagree with you in conscience, heres what you do: you accommodate them.
You accommodate them. Thats what Paul is saying. In their presence, which means dont drink with a recovering alcoholic. Dont eat meat in front of the vegetarian. But that doesnt mean that if theyre not around you cant have a glass of wine with a steak at dinner, absent of their presence. You do whatever is most accommodating and affectionate toward them. Heres my fear at Mars Hill: some of you come out of legalistic, fundamentalistic, seperatistic, sectarian type backgrounds. You come to Mars Hill, its like a breath of fresh air. Whew! I can get a tattoo? I can have a drink? Nice! Nice! I get to buy an album that doesnt have a fish on it? Awesome! Right?
I get to laugh in church? I get more junk on that, you know? You shouldnt make people laugh. Youre funny, and Im pointing it out, and theyre all laughing at you, but thanks for the e-mail! And what happens then is some of you take your liberty too far. You say, But I have rights, and Im free in Christ! You cant take my freedom. Were not trying to take your freedom. Were asking you to give it away. Were not stealing anything. Were asking you to give it away. For example, you host a Bible study at your house, and afterward you all say, Hey, you guys want to go shoot pool at the bar? Is it a sin to go to the bar and shoot pool? No.
Lets say a friend of yours is a recovering alcoholic, and being in a bar is just not a good place for them to be. You know what you should do? You should say, Were not gonna go to the bar, because he or she cant go, and we love them. Maybe some other time when theyre not with us, maybe well go shoot pool at the bar no problem. But when theyre with us, we dont. Why? Because we love them, and we don t want to exclude them, and we dont want them to come along because they want to be with us, and we dont want them to be tempted to sin and drink and get in trouble. And thats a whole lifestyle theyre trying to avoid, and we want to honor that.
Does this make practical sense? You have freedoms, but youre also free to not exercise them, and youre also free to accommodate others, and youre also free to give away your freedom out of love for people. So, we will practically deal with this. Im gonna go through a lot of the issues we get all the time in the time Ive got left. Ill make two prefatory comments. One, you cannot break the law. Romans 13: obey the law, right? Some of you are like, (in slow motion) Dude, can I smoke weed? And I love the pot-smokers, because they usually ask it like this? (In slow motion) Dude, weed has no proven medical implications. Youre like, Really?
I love those pro-pot guys on TV, you know? Theyre all like, It doesnt do (pause) anything. Youre like, It kinda does. Youre just high, and you dont notice. So you gotta obey the law, right? So if youre under 21, you dont drink, right? You cant smoke weed, because its against the law, right? And additionally, you need to obey your parents, right, because I know whats gonna happen. Some 12-year-old kid is gonna be like, Pastor Mark said I could get a tattoo and drink beer and play in a band and watch R-rated movies and drive a motorcycle. No, you cant. You gotta obey your parents, right? Some of you are gonna go home and go, Dad, Im free in Christ!
Hes like, Not in my house! Im king, lord, this is my dominion. Youre free when you make your own money and get your own house, you little punk. Go scrub the toilet. So you gotta obey the law, and you gotta honor your father and mother. So Ill answer the questions. What is Mars Hills position on alcohol? Here it is: you gotta be over 21, because thats the law. Can you get drunk? No. The Bible says do not get drunk, so dont get drunk. Drunkenness is a sin. If youre over 21, are you free to drink alcohol in moderation, if youre not addicted, if youre not mastered by it are you free?
Yes. We have some great brewers in this church. We have a couple of great winemakers in this church. We actually have a guy who his signature line of wine is called Canas Feast named after Jesus first miracle in Cana of Galilee, and on the back of the bottle he tells the whole story of the Bible, all right? Because this is Mars Hill, and were the weirdest fundamentalists youll ever meet, right? We just are. So yeah, were okay with that. Dont get drunk. Should you drink in the presence of others who have had problems with alcohol, or have a conscience issue against drinking? Should you drink in their presence? No. No, no, no, no, no, okay?
But if youre not causing anyone to stumble, if youre not causing anyone to violate conscience, if youre not breaking any laws, if youre not getting drunk, if youre not addicted, if youre not habitually drinking, its okay to occasionally have a drink. Okay, yeah, thats our position. Thats our position. How about vegetarianism? How many of you are vegans? Whats our position on veganism? Our position is thats a conscience issue. The Bible doesnt require all Christians to be vegans, but its not a sin to be a vegan, so its an issue of conscience, which means if you have vegan if youre a vegan, cool. Welcome to Mars Hill.
Just dont be a self-righteous little legalist who believes in justification by carrots, okay? Because some people do, right thats Seattle. I know Im holy; I eat nothing but vegetables. I dont eat anything that was alive. Vegetables are alive. What kind of public school did you go to? You killed a living thing. Broccoli you killed it; you ate it. Its okay to be a vegan, but its not okay to be a vegan who thinks that youre holier than other people because of your diet. Paul just said here, 1 Corinthians 8, youre not more holy or unholy by what you eat. Youre not. But lets say that youre a vegan. Is that cool? Thats totally cool. Some of you for health reasons are vegan. Thats okay.
What we would say is if youre hanging out with your vegan friend, eat vegan. Accommodate them; love them. But vegan friends, dont try and impose yourself on everybody else in the church, okay? Allow freedom for some to be vegans, some to not; because the Bible is flexible on this issue, we must be flexible. How about organic food and naturopathy? Right, the PCC, whole foods, quasi-hippie movement, right? My wifes in this. My wife is organic, PCC, whole foods, nuts, grains, quinoa, rapadura some of you know what Im talking about now. The rest of you are like, Big Mac? No, they dont have any of those. They have tofutti and soy burgers, thank you, Satan.
And this is all stuff at my house. My wifes more of a naturopath organic girl. So shes like, Can we have a naturopathic doctor? Can we eat whole foods? Can we eat organic foods and brown rice, and can we do all I say, Yeah, honey, thats cool. But you will still shave your armpits. To me, thats the line of conscience, because I went to the PCC and I see the hippie girl going up to get the quinoa, looks like shes got dang Mike Tyson in a headlock that is not happening at the Driscoll house. That is not gonna happen. I dont mind organic diet. I do mind an organic wife. Thats the line for me. Thats not gonna happen.
So yeah if youre in that tribe, great, and if youre a gal whos a hairy-pitted gal, great! Great, great! Enjoy being single, but great for you! How about clothing? This is a great job. How about clothing? What can I wear, Pastor Mark? Right, okay, Paul says to dress ladies how? With modesty. Ill illustrate. This, ladies, this is not a shirt. This is not a shirt, okay? Gentlemen, this is not a bathing suit, all right? This is not a shirt, or a bathing suit, right? Theres a line, right? You gotta dress modestly. What is that? Well, it means we should have something left to the imagination, right?
So yeah, dress modestly. You gotta wear a burkha, a muumuu? Not necessarily, you know; not necessarily. But modesty in dress you shouldnt be the clear heels Christian girl. You shouldnt, right? I mean you shouldnt be the short skirt and the neckline meeting, you know. There should be something, you know. And just as a general rule, big people shouldnt wear short shirts. I dont have a verse. I just think its a health thing for me, because I feel a little just something to pray about. So clothing, yeah, we gotta dress modestly.
How about number of kids? Oh, some churches are all just, Have kids! Have more kids! Have a lot of kids! All kids are good! More kids are good! Just keep pumping out kids! You look at Mom, shes like, (old lady voice) Yeah, kids, love kids! I mean shes got bags under her eyes. She looks like she got beat up, you know? And Dads just, New Covenant, New Covenant! you know, a thousand generations! Moms like, I hate him. So you gotta think through how many kids. What you dont want to do is say some of you want to have big families. We say praise be to God! I got five kids. We had a miscarriage; otherwise wed be at six.
Your elders are big kid families, right? Thats where were at. Most of us have a lot of kids. But you know what, some of you may decide not to have a lot of kids. Some of you get married later in life, and youre gonna have a few kids. Some of you, Mom has medical health conditions, C-sections, certain number of kids, after that it gets dangerous. You know what, lets not judge each other. Lets just hold up the value of we love kids, we love marriage, we love family we allow a little room for conscience, right? Maybe Dad got hurt on the job, and the income stream has dried up, and the familys really tight financially, and they wanted to have more kids, but its not wise at this time.
I mean, lets leave a little freedom of conscience for people, but lets hold up the value of marriage, family and kids. Not to mention some churches split all over homeschool, public school, private school, and they plant the flag and declare war. Lets not do that, right? Lets not do that, because the Bible doesnt say. Ephesians 6 says that parents should raise their kids, so whatever educational choice is chosen, the parents have to be actively involved in the instruction of the child. But its not a sin if your kids going to private school. Its not a sin if your kids homeschooling, right? Its not a sin if you decide to send your kid to a public school.
Each parent needs to work by Biblical principles and personal conscience to make the decision every year for every child. Certain churches get so legalistic on this, and they proof text verses to try and make it stick. And I know some of you will try, and will send me an e-mail, and I will delete it, and that is fine. But you know what were gonna do on this? Were gonna leave freedom. Were gonna leave a little freedom here. How about political parties? Oh, I get this one all the time from the media. Are you a blue church or a red church? I said, Were a purple church. Were a purple church. We have red and blue. Some of you are Republicans, some of you are Democrats.
Most of you who own a home are Republicans. Most of you who dont are Democrats. And youre all saying, We need more taxes for poor people, and you guys who own the homes are going, We dont want to give you any more of our money. And people change, right? When youre young and 20 and you dont own a home, youre like, Stick it to the man! And then when you become the man, youre like, Hey, dont stick it to me, and you become a Republican. So this changes too, right, and I get this all the time. The media always comes up: Where is your church politically? I tell you where were at: on certain issues, we do have positions, because we dont see them as political issues as much as we see them as theological issues.
Marriage is one man, one woman, right? Sex is between one man, one woman, not all kinds of other activities. So were not pro-gay. Were not pro-gay marriage. Were just not. Theres certain things Biblically we say, Thats just not Biblical. Thats not a political issue. Thats a theological, moral, Biblical issue. As far as political parties, I bet you half this church is Democrat, half is Republican. I dont know. Were never asked. It hasnt really been an issue, which is probably a good sign. But we do have this whole neo-Democrat thread that runs through Mars Hill, which is, I like the environment. I like helping poor people. I also am pro-life, and I dont believe in homosexual marriage, so Im a neo-Democrat. We have a lot of neo-Democrats tons of them. Our thing is, You know what, there are certain things that the Bible is clear on, but what political party to join is really a matter of conscience. Really a matter of conscience, right, and we could point to Democrat and Republican Presidents who have deeply loved Jesus personally. And so we dont split over that issue. The media always comes up, Well, where are you at politically? I mean I always get this. Well, who did you vote for? Theyre trying to nail us on something. I said, I voted for Jesus. What? I wrote in Jesus.
I seriously did. Last election I wrote in Jesus Christ and sent it in. So I mean I figure when they ask, then Ill be like because if I say I didnt vote, then theyll be like, You dont vote! Im like, Okay, I voted. Whod you vote for? Jesus. Gotcha! Try to get me I got you! I voted for Jesus.
How about this one: how about cigarettes? How about cigarettes? Does the Bible forbid cigarettes? No, sadly. I hate cigarettes. Im an asthmatic. If you smoke around me I sound like an obscene phone call. I sound like Darth Vader. (Choking sounds) If you have a cat and youre smoking, I die. Thats what happens. I just die. So Im not a big fan of cigarettes.
I dont smoke. I never have smoked. And Ive tried to make a proof text argument against smoking, right, because smoke is usually associated with hell in the Bible. You know, the smoke of their torment rises forever, Isaiah says. Well, theres some smokers! You know, its not its a different kind of smoking. Theyre not smoking; theyre being smoked. Its different. So you cant really make a case in the Bible against smoking, okay? Now, youre free in Christ, right? How many people notice that people smoke outside of Mars Hill? And as the day goes on like by the 5:00 and the 7:00, its all smokers. I mean everybodys outside smoking, okay?
Smoking is it a sin in violation of Scripture? No. Okay, so what would I say about it. Well, heres what I would say: it still may not be smart. There are things that are permissible, but not beneficial. Paul will deal with that in the next chapter. For example, am I free Biblically to eat my lawnmower? I am. There is no Thou shalt not eat small one-stroke engine tools. Theres no verse. So I am free in Christ. But its not a good idea. Though Im free, it may not be smart. Likewise, I can take a roofing hammer to my head. Free in Christ! Free in Christ! Free in Christ! And I can, but its dumb. And I shouldnt, because its not a good idea.
Smoking would, I think, be like that. Now, I do know people in this church who are weird, and they say, Oh, I know its not good for me. Thats why I only do it after I jog. Ive actually had people tell me this. I run Green Lake, and then I smoke. What kind of public school logic is that? That is the silliest thing I ever they say, Well, I work my lungs, and then I pollute them, and it cancels each other out. Thats like eating a bucket of wings on the treadmill. That is just weird. But you are free in Christ to be weird, so have at it. Its not a sin to smoke, but is it a sin to smoke around your kids? Is it a sin to smoke around people like me who are asthmatic?
Yeah, because now youre what youre harming other people, and you dont want to just have your freedom, you want to have your friends, right? So its not a sin to smoke, and I know a lot of you would say, Just tell them it is! Nah, these are smart people. They read the Bible, and theyll send me e-mails saying, You have no case. I will tell you, I dont think smoking is a sin, but I dont think its wise. I dont think its wise. How about this one: tattoos? How many of you grew up in that fundamentalist church, where they told you the one verse on tattoos? Where is it? What book? Leviticus!
All these dudes at the front are twitching; dudes with tats are going, Leviticus! Leviticus! Leviticus! Because the youth pastor said, Dont get a tattoo. Its right here in Leviticus. Dont get a tattoo. Okay, but the thing of it is couple things: if you read the whole context, it actually doesnt apply. Its Old Covenant, not New Covenant, so Jesus has fulfilled the law. Additionally, generally its talking about priests marking their body, thereby identifying themselves with paganism, so I dont think it really applies. You can disagree with me; thats fine. I dont think that the Old Testament Levitical requirement theres poly / cotton blend requirements in the Old Testament too. Youre not allowed to wear fabric made of two kinds of material.
Well, you know what, thats fulfilled in Christ. Were New Covenant, not Old Covenant. I could get into all of this. I dont have time for it. Let me just say our position is that tattoos are not a sin, right? Jesus Christ is going to have a tattoo, Revelation says, on his second coming. It says that down his leg will be written, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, which will be really freakish for all the fundamentalists to see Jesus all tatted up. I cant wait for that day theyll all see Jesus tatted up. Now, that being said, I dont have any tattoos. I dont have any tattoos not because I think theyre a sin. Just because I think when I get old, and they stretch out, and they get faded, theyre just gonna look itll go from like, A unicorn! to like a retarded giraffe.
Its all limp, and its bent, so thats more what Im concerned about is the esthetics of the whole thing. But I dont have any moral aversion to it. Ill tell you what though if you are gonna get tatted up, a couple things. First, be smart about it. Like if youre a single gal, dont get your boyfriends name tatted on you, right? Jimmy forever! Then Jimmy dumps you and you marry Hank, and its the honeymoon and Hanks like, Who the heck is Jimmy? right? So be a little wise about it. And what sounds cool after a beer when youre 19 is not, right? Youre like, Lets get tattoos! Make sure you go to a good tattoo parlor. Two of the best in Seattle are actually members of Mars Hill.
Two of the best tattoo artists in Seattle are members of Mars Hill, and theyre great guys, and they love Jesus. And go in there for a Biblical New Covenant tattoo is what we would recommend. And it was weird, because I was reading the paper a year ago and they had the international tattoo artists convention for America or something. And hundreds of tattoo artists came from around the country, and Im reading the story. And the guy who founded it and runs it goes to Mars Hill and was talking about how much he loves Jesus. And he runs a Bible study for Mars Hill in his tattoo shop, so you know, all the tat guys are like, Thats our guy! So you know what, were cool with that.
Whatever, you know. Just, you know, just think it through, pray it through, and a tattoo is between you and your conscience, and your spouse, right? 1 Corinthians 7: Your body does not belong to you, but also to your spouse, right? So if your wife doesnt like dudes tatted up the neck, and you come home with flames up your esophagus, shes like, Huh? Talk to her about it. We do have some crazy tatted guys in this church. One of the guys who serves communion, hes got no eyebrows theyre tatted on. He has no sideburns theyre tatted on. He has tats on his head, tats up his neck, and I love it when hes serving communion. Its the coolest sometimes Ill just sit there and watch.
And youll see like people like youll see the gals coming in with like the doily on their head well get to that in 1 Corinthians 11 and the dress they made. And theyre like, Oo, were here to take holy mother of Mary! Holy mother of Mary! Theyll literally take the bread away from the juice and the wine and we use both for conscience, right? We have juice and wine, for conscience. Ive literally seen them take it back and go, Oo, not today, thank you, and just walk away because hes all tatted. We were talking before. We said, You should get those red contact lenses. It would just be so funny. (Monster voice) Any unconfessed sin? Do not partake until youve confessed all sin. That would be awesome!
How about its a good job how about music? How many of you were told when you became a Christian, You cannot listen to secular music! Youre like, What? What is secular music? Thats the good music. You cannot listen to any of that. So you chucked out all your albums, right? You bought praise music and started having suicidal thoughts. I just want to go now. You know, some of you have conscience issues on music. Like I had a gal, she loves the Lord, shes a friend, she goes to Mars Hill she grew up sort of Rastafarian, smoking dope, getting high, and she, when she came to Jesus, she couldnt listen to reggae any more.
Because for her it brought up all these bad associations and memories of just sitting and toking out, and it just wasnt good for her. I just dont like to listen to it. It just brings up lots of bad memories. Is it a sin to listen to Bob Marley? No. But if shes riding in your car, should you put Bob Marley in? Probably not, if you like her; I mean if you hate her, there you go theres something you could do. But if you love her, and you want to be nice to her, you just say, You know what, what do you like, what do you not like? You know? And you have to do this when people are coming over for dinner.
Are you a vegetarian? What do you think about alcohol? Do you have any food allergies? Do you have any conscience issues? Why? I want to love you, I want to accommodate you, I want to consider you. Same thing with your music; you got roommates; youre riding in the care with certain music. They go, You know, I just really dont like that. Okay, cool. That doesnt mean that its a sin to listen to a certain style of music, but it does mean for that person its a conscience matter, and you want to honor that. You want to honor that. So we get this all the time as a church, because the paradox, we run 700 shows for 70,000 kids; indie, punk, hardcore.
The kids who come generally arent Christian. The bands who play generally arent Christian. And people are always like, Well, thats not Christian! And Im like, You know what, Im not even sure what makes Christian music Christian. Half the labels arent Christian. Half the bands arent Christian. Half the lyrics arent Christian. Half the producers arent Christian. Im not sure what makes Christian, Christian. I know some people love Jesus, and some people dont. I know that some music honors God with its lyrics; some is really encouraging sinful lifestyle. But at the same time, were about freedom of conscience.
Paul walks into Mars Hill in Acts 17, quotes their poets, their musicians, and he does so freely. And we say, You need to know the culture. If youre a missionary, you need to know the culture youre reaching. Which means you may not even listen to certain music and watch certain films just for the entertainment value, but more for the education value, to understand what the predominant themes and concerns and ideas in the culture are, so that you can talk about how Jesus meets those needs in the greater culture. So the whole thing is really about being a good missionary, and its about being able to articulate to others in a language they understand this is where were going next week the truth of Jesus in culturally appropriate forms, going as far in the culture as you can without sinning.
And heres the bottom line and maybe why some of you are very confused at Mars Hill. We are theologically conservative, and we are culturally liberal. This means everyone hates us, right? Theologically conservative, meaning this: we are Biblical literalists. We believe in the Bible. We believe that there is one God. We believe that everyone is a sinner. We believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. We believe that everyone else is going to hell. Thats what we believe. We are Bible-believing, conservative, theologically conservative people, who are also culturally liberal, which means if the Bible doesnt forbid something, neither do we.
If the Bible gives freedom of conscience and strength and weakness, so do we, which means some will be tatted up, some wont. Some will smoke, some wont. Some will be into hardcore music, some wont. Some will be vegans, some wont. Some will be Democrats, some wont. And what holds us together is our theological conservatism, not our cultural flexibility. And we get hit by both sides on this; I mean, you google my name, youd think I was the anti-Christ. But the way it works is the fundamentalists say, We love their theology. We love their Bible. We love their Jesus. We hate their music. We hate their clothes. We hate their style. We hate their use of technology. We hate the fact that people smoke and drink beer.
Likewise, the liberals over on the other side, the syncretists, will say, We love the fact that young people come, and they smoke cigarettes, and they can be themselves, and they can get a tattoo, and they can speak in just plain old plumbers English. But we dont like the fact that they open the Bible, and we dont like the fact that they talk about sin, and we dont like the fact that theyre into Jesus. And we are both; theologically, very conservative; culturally liberal, very flexible. Were now at the point that we are the size of a lot of small towns, and if we bound one another by one anothers conscience, this would be nothing but a legalistic mess.
We would need to sort out the matters of conscience to do that. I would need to set myself up as like a little demigod saying, This is right, and this is wrong, and this is right, and this is wrong. Making rules where the Bible doesnt; imposing my will where God doesnt; restricting your freedom where God doesnt; taking away your conscience and being your conscience, and serving as the Holy Spirit for you? No. No, well teach the Bible, and well allow the Holy Spirit and your conscience and your love for your brothers and sisters and the overall wellbeing of your church to dictate certain secondary matters of freedom.
Some say, But thats messy. You know what, thats life. Thats why the New Testament was written. Thats why were dealing with these issues. You know whats just as messy legalistic, fundamentalistic homes where sin is never confessed because everyones hiding it. You know what even messier places and churches where there is rampant, abundant sin, and nobody deals with it because theyre into tolerance and diversity, not holiness and truth. As sinners, its always messy. We take our example from Jesus. Jesus Christ entered into human history, though he is eternal God, and he entered into culture.
He had holidays and festivals and meals and music and friendships. Jesus broke lots of cultural taboos. He was friends with women. He taught women. He was even friends and sat with a woman who had been very sexually active and impure. He hung out with men who were thieves and alcoholics. They accused him of being a friend of alcoholics and addicts and gluttons and sickos thats what they accused him of. So Jesus accommodated lots of people, and he never joined them in their sin. He didnt have sex with them. He didnt steal with them. He didnt murder with them. He didnt get drunk with them.
He loved them to repentance, and its the kindness of God, Romans says, that leads us to repentance. And so Jesus went far into culture, broke lots of cultural taboos, but he never violated Scripture. He says he came to in fact fulfill all of Scripture, and he never disobeyed the Bible. He never sinned. But he broke some rules that religious people made, and you and I, to be good missionaries, we must do the same. We must obey the Scriptures, and we must not obey the rules made by religious people who seek to bind our conscience and restrict our freedom. What that doesnt mean is that we get to exercise all of our freedom.
It means we personally will restrict it out of love for certain people, to welcome them so that we can be close and in good, loving friendship with them. And in that way we maintain our freedom, and we give it rather than it being taken from us by rules and legalism and abusive spiritual authority. So if youre listening to this, and any things are coming to mind, thats the Holy Spirit working in you. Saying, You know what, Im not really a Bible-believing person. I sin, and I disobey the Bible, and I dont really care. Youre in sin. Or maybe, I made a lot of rules that arent in the Bible. I got a whole list of rules that arent in the Bible, and I think theyre just as important as the Bible.
Maybe I really have something wrong with me that needs to be repented of. Maybe youve sinned, and youre convicted of your sin, that youve gone too far. Maybe youre convicted that you havent gotten far enough, and youve shoved away people that you should be loving. And you shoved them away unnecessarily, because you are not willing to break one of your own little rules. But God would ask you to do that to be friends with them. We call this repentance, where we acknowledge that were not like Jesus; that we all sin and fall short. We confess our sins to Jesus, who died to pay the penalty for our sins, and rose to forgive us, and send the Holy Spirit, and empower us to live a new life, like him, on mission in culture for others.
When youre ready and youve repented of sin, then you can partake of communion. Thats where we have juice and wine to just illustrate this. If you have a problem with alcohol or youre under 21, take juice. If you dont, exercise your freedom in Christ. We illustrate that at communion. Give of your tithes and offerings. If youre a visitor or a non-Christian, dont give youre our guest. And last thing, were gonna sing, were gonna celebrate, were gonna have music thats culturally appropriate. Well have a good time thats culturally contextualized, because we worship Jesus here, now, today. We go as far as we can without crossing the line of sin. Ill pray.
Father God, thank you for Mars Hill Church. Thank you for the Bible, Father God. I just love your Word. I love every word of your Word. We receive it as altogether true, altogether holy, altogether helpful, altogether necessary. But God, may we go no further than Scripture. May we not think that there are imperfections in your Word that we need to make up for. May we not think that there are other things that shouldve made the Bible, but just didnt, so we will insert them. May we not take portions of the Bible and bend them to fit what we wish they say instead of what they truly do say. God, please keep us.
Please keep us from sectarianism, where we so become a subculture, isolated, that we no longer relate to the city. Please keep us also from syncretism, where we so blend in that were sinning with our sex, and our money, and our use of power, and our alcohol, and were sinning all the time, and we justify it by being hip and cool and relevant, when in fact were just being wicked. Please allow us to be good missionaries. Please allow us to be a good missional church. Please allow us to be unified around the teaching of the Bible, and to be diverse around the matters of freedom and conscience and weakness and friendship.
And God, above all else, may we consider others more highly than we ought consider ourselves. May we think of other people, not just our rights, and our freedoms, but our relationships and our friends. Amen.
Youve been listening to the Mars Hill Church sermon series Christians Gone Wild: 1 Corinthians, taught by Pastor Mark Driscoll. If you have any questions or comments about the sermon you just heard, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.