Good Monday morning everyone. I pray you are ready to receive God's blessings today. I want to go back to 1 Corinthians 6 this morning to consider one thought.
We have to admit that coming across unselfishness these days is a rare thing and because it is when tend to celebrate it when it happens. Back in the day when agendas still came in paper form, I had placed mine on the roof of the van while putting my children into their seat belts. Somehow the forgotten agenda managed to stay on the roof until I reached a major six lane bridge where it promptly fell off. All day I looked from that thing that represented my life. That night at home I received a phone call from someone asking me if I had lost my agenda. I told him yes and then he told me he was a construction worker who had been working on the bridge. PTL! Several days later I received the agenda in the mail. It cost this kind stranger $15 to mail it and he did not ask for a dime in compensation. There wasn't even a return address so that I could send him a cheque.
I have been telling that story for years, celebrating this unselfish act. But why? Wasn't that the right thing to do? You would think so but many people would never put themselves out of pocket for anyone, and its sad. Consider what Paul wrote in response to some statements from the Corinthians:
"Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything. v. 12
In the Christian community we often talk about how we are freed by Jesus. As we mature and understand better the scriptures we learn the true freedoms we have received. But there is a catch. Just as true strength is strength that is restrained for the benefit of others, true freedom is freedom that we sometimes deny ourselves for the benefit of others.
The Corinthians are putting forward what Paul had told them about their freedom from the many things that had them in chains but they have distorted that teaching for their benefit. Paul's response is that just because everything is permissable does not mean everything is beneficial for everyone. At an "All you can eat" buffet it is permissable to eat everything but it is not beneficial to your health. It is permissable to drive your car five blocks to work but it is beneficial to you and to everyone else if you walked.
There are freedoms we enjoy in Christ that we should deny ourselves because it is not beneficial to others. If I am visiting a community of vegetarians it is permissable to eat meat but it is beneficial to others if I eat what the community is eating. If I am a theater lover and I visit a community that frowns on such activity, even though I know it is permissable for me to go, it is beneficial if I do not. This is an act of love and concern for people who have not yet come to understand freedom.
Paul says that everything is permissable but he refuses to be mastered by anything. That is a good question for us this morning; is there anything that we have allowed to take control over us? Does our appetite control us? What about the television? What about work? What about alcohol? I could name some other things like pornography, drugs, gambling but these things are not even permissable; we need to avod them at all cost. However the first things I mentioned are not only permissable, a lot of the time they are also beneficial but not when done to excess. Anything done to excess can take mastery over us; even exercise.
Addictions come in many ways and take on many forms but they all come when we surrender ourself to the thing, allowing it to take mastery over us. You may not recognize things as being master over you so you should evaluate your activities for a week and see what you do to excess. I once had a teacher say that any television watching in excess of two hours a week was excessive. I wonder what he would say about computer usage today? How much time do you spend on social networks? All of these things are good but not when they become master.
It is important that we develop discipline for our mind and body. Although everything is permissable not everything is beneficial and there should only be one master of your body and mind. Having such an attitude will help us to maintain an unselfish attitude throughout our day. Are you prepared to deny yourself your freedoms? Jesus did:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)
Are you willing to go there?