Today is the fourth day in our 35th week, reading the bible through in a year. Our scriptures today are Isaiah 33-35; 1 Corinthians 6.
I turned eighteen years old the June after I graduated high school. Later that summer, our church's youth group went on a missions trip to Georgia. One night while on our trip, the group ate at Applebee's. I'd never before eaten at a restaurant that had a bar, and I came prepared with an argument for my pastor that I thought was pretty cool. "You know," I said with the kind of swagger that only an eighteen-year-old can possess, "I did just turn eighteen. And, did you know that the drinking age in Georgia is eighteen? What would you say if I ordered a beer?"
I'll never forget the lesson that Pastor Tim taught me that night when he said, "You're right, Greg. The drinking age is eighteen here, and you are eighteen. So you can order a beer, if you want. But think about this: You are the oldest one in the youth group, and they all look to you as an example. So, you just go ahead and order that beer, if you feel like that's the right thing to do."
In other words, just because you can, that doesn't mean you should.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul talks about similar issues that Pastor Tim had to deal with, as he taught me how to lead by example. In verse 12, Paul quotes the phrase that everybody in the church was using those days. "All things are lawful for me." The people were flaunting their freedom in Christ, claiming that since all their sins were forgiven, all things that were formerly called "sin" are now permitted. (This, by the way, was the teaching of the Nicolaitans which Jesus says he hates in Revelation 2:6, 15.) Paul responds to this teaching by saying, "But not all things are helpful." Again, he quotes this licentious aphorism, “All things are lawful for me,” and rebuts it by saying, "But I will not be dominated by anything." Finally, in verse 13, Paul cites another favorite motto of the antinomian crowd, saying, “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.” But then, he rebuts it with, "God will destroy both one and the other."
Paul basically is saying, Just because you can, that doesn't mean you should.
When it comes to sin, many people ask, "How much can I sin, and still go to heaven?" Others say, "Go all the way--since Jesus forgives everything, then everything is now permissible."
Paul does give a list of people (vv. 8-10), who, if they do not repent, will not enter the kingdom of God. Many of these likely call themselves Christians, yet they continue to live unregenerate lives. But rather than focusing on a list of don'ts, Paul takes a different perspective. He says "You were washed, you were sanctified,you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (v. 11)." Then, he adds, "You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (v. 20)."
Rather than asking how much we can get away with, we should be asking how we can honor God. In this chapter, Paul spends a good deal of time talking about sexual immorality, and certainly today there are a lot of people who claim to be Christians, yet who seem to be living without any biblical sexual boundaries. But, just as Pastor Tim showed me, just because you can do something, that doesn't mean you should. This principle applies to a long list of other temptations that we don't have time to list here. My prayer is that every believer should be concerned less with what we can do, and more with what we should do, as conscientious followers of Christ.