Don't Cause Each Other to Stumble

Brothers & Sisters

Pastor Jerry Gillis - February 26, 2023

Community Group Study Notes

  1. Did you complete last week’s action step and/or mobilization challenge? If so, spend time discussing what you learned and what God did in and through you. 
  2. Have someone in your group give a brief recap of Sunday’s message, highlighting the primary Scripture passages and main idea of the message.
  3. How did this message strengthen, confirm and/or correct your previous ideas about sacrificial love for our brothers and sisters?
  4. How can you tell the difference between knowing about God and truly knowing God? How can you ensure your pursuit of knowledge does not lead to pride or self-deception? 
  5. Interact with this statement: “Sacrifice that comes from love is better than freedom that comes from knowledge.” How is this a picture of the gospel of the Lord Jesus? 
  6. Describe a time you potentially “injured” a brother or sister based on freedom and knowledge. What can you do differently next time? 

Action Step

Spend time reflecting on ways you have caused others to stumble. Journal a prayer of repentance and share this prayer with a brother or sister in Christ. Ask for prayer in seeking new opportunities to sacrificially love those you’ve previously caused to stumble.  

Mobilization Challenge

Consider a friend, family member, neighbor, or coworker that has different beliefs than you, or who has recently been made new in Christ. How can you sacrificially love them this week? 


Sermon Transcript

As you can imagine, I get a lot of email, maybe like you do in your business, or what you do in your life, I don't know. But with that, I try to answer as much as I can. Sometimes I have to ask if there's others that will help me in responding to maybe some questions or whatever, that they could respond to as well. And obviously if I send an email, it has my name on it. If it has my name on it, it means I sent it. I don't ask somebody to do it, and put my name on it. So if you get it they'll tell you, "Hey, I'm answering for Pastor Jerry," or whatever. But by and large, most of the email that I get is good, by and large. Not all of it, but by and large, most of it is good. And a lot of it has to do with really questions usually around, "Hey, what does the scripture say about this?" Or, "What does God have to say about this?" And I usually see a scenario, you know, they write out a scenario and they want to know what does God say? What does the Word of God say? And that's wonderful because people are seeking after the Lord, and they're wanting to know what God wants them to do, and they're desiring to be obedient, and I'm so grateful for all of those things. It really encourages me when I see that. But sometimes I'll answer in ways that probably they assume where I'll just walk them through, "Well, this is what the scripture says "related to this issue." There's other times where I might answer in a way that's not exactly what they expected, or not what they anticipated. And it may be because I realize that when somebody is asking a certain question, that there may be some other things below that question that maybe need to be addressed. That maybe if I just answer, "Hey, this is the truth of this scenario," but I don't help you understand what the implications of that truth mean, and how those play out, then maybe we've missed something. And so sometimes it may be like I've answered the question, but I've maybe answered it in a way that seems a little bit unexpected. Paul has a tendency to do that sometimes, as I read through the book of 1 Corinthians, he has a tendency to do that on occasion. As you remember, Paul is writing this letter because he's responding to a letter that was written to him and that may be multiple letters in fact. The Corinthians are writing to Paul, and they're asking him questions around a number of different things. In fact, when you'll see, and you'll see this in just a moment when we're in 1 Corinthians 8, if you want to know where we're gonna be landing in a moment. But what you'll see is that often through 1 Corinthians you see statements maybe in the middle of sentences that have quotation marks in them. And that's because what Paul is doing there is he's actually referring to the letter that was written to him and he's usually saying something about what they said to him and he's quoting them, and then he's responding to them after he quotes them. It's not every single time that we run into quotation marks that that's the case, but many times that is the case. And sometimes he's answering them in some unexpected ways. And when we get to 1 Corinthians 8, Paul is addressing a particular question that they're asking, that's very specific. And it's this question, "Is it right for us to be able to go into the temples," the pagan temples that are there, "and eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols?" Now some of you're going, well, I'm really glad I came today, 'cause this literally has nothing to do with my life, right. You're thinking, I don't deal with this, I live in North Tawanda, like I don't deal with this particular issue, right. Or I live in Amherst, or I live in Mississauga, or wherever, right. You're thinking, does this really have an impact on my life? Well it does, not that specifically, you're probably not having to deal with, you know, food that's sacrificed to idols per se. But the principles of what Paul is talking about here, actually have significant impact in our lives, and in our lives with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we'll see that in just a few moments, but let me do this for just a second. Let me expand the lens on this question for a moment so that we have a little bit of a broader and better context for why this question was even being asked. Now, in the ancient world that Paul was talking to in Corinth, right, going to the pagan temple, and eating food at the Pagan restaurant, which is what they did, by the way, the restaurant was either in the temple, or was attached to the temple. That was as common in their day and age as it is for us in Western New York to be Sabers and Bills fans. Like this was just really, really common. And it was beyond even the religious affiliation, this was actually wedded into the entire social fabric of who they were. So for instance, what would happen is on a birthday, or a special occasion, or an anniversary, or a work party, or it's the weekend, or whatever, they would just get together and they would hang out at the temple restaurant, and they would eat together. This was super normal, just like it is for you to go out and eat at a restaurant here locally, or whatever. This was really normal for them to be able to do. If you were to take out their phones, just work with me for a second. If you were to take out their phones, and pull up their calendar, you'd be reading stuff that was really super simple. Something like this, "Hey Tuesday, 6:00 PM you know, "whatever, Lamar and Janice are gonna meet us "at the banquet hall of Isis." That's literally what it would've been. These are the most common things in the whole world. In fact, archeologists have various papyri. A papyrus is is really just kind of a plant, and you kind of strip it a little bit, and it provides like it's something that you could write on in the ancient world, it's sort of like parchment. And they've actually found papyri from, you know, not too far distance from this time that actually show these very things, like invitations to come to the pagan temple, to have something to eat. Here's one, in fact it's number 110 in the in the papyri, but it says, "Chaeremon requests your company "at the table of the Lord Serapis, "at the Serapeum tomorrow, the 15th at nine o'clock, "where the first birthday of his daughter "is to be celebrated at a meal in the Serapeum." What's the Serapeum? It's the restaurant. For who? The temple of Serapis, right. So there's this god, Serapis, which kind of is almost like, maybe you've heard of the god Osiris in Roman and Greek mythology, very similar and sometimes they say the same as Serapis. And so you've got this invitation, and by the way, there are five of these papyri that we still have, you know, extent right now that we can look back and see, these are common things that actually happened. So you can imagine how this kind of ended up getting to the place it was with the church, 'cause it was really normal to go to these places. It was like social, it was what they did, right. But now you've got divisions that are happening in the church, and there are two different groups. There's probably more than this, but there's at least two different groups. Let's call one of them the knowledge group, and let's call one of them the weaker group. I'm just using these terms for the sake, of kind of keeping it parallel to the text. The knowledge group says this, "Hey, we know the gospel, "we've heard the message of the gospel. "Paul, you've taught us, we've understood some of this. "We know that Jesus is Lord, "we know there's none other than him. "We know that idols are nothing, "we don't have to worry about that. "So we're just gonna go to the temple, "and we're gonna eat, "and we're gonna have fun and we're gonna enjoy ourselves "'cause we know that none of this really matters, "and it doesn't mean anything." Then you've got the weaker group that says, "No, "I mean I've just come to faith in Jesus, "and this is like what I was doing and I don't. "Nope, I'm not going back. "Nope, I'm not eating that. "I'm not going into that place. I'm not doing anything." So it appears that the knowledge group is probably who was writing to Paul, and asking the questions. They may have been more educated, maybe even more wealthy and may have had the opportunity to write some of this stuff. And so they're asking Paul, "Hey, would you respond to this issue, "because we say we can do it, "and then others are saying, no we can't. "And Paul, would you speak to this?" And so if I were to summarize, Paul actually takes 1 Corinthians 8, 9 and 10, to work through this question, but we're just gonna spend our time in chapter eight. It's not a ton of verses, we're gonna spend our time there. But if I were summarizing Paul's response, here's what he would say, "Brothers and sisters don't cause each other to stumble." It's real straight up. Brothers and sisters don't cause each other to stumble. Now he's going to say that directly, and he's certainly saying it by implication. But what I want us to see is the rationale that he's giving for this. And this is gonna matter to us, because as we learn why Paul is saying what he's saying, then we can understand how we look at that in our day and age and go, okay, I know we're not dealing with meat sacrificed to idols, but there's other scenarios where this might apply. We'll get to that in just a few moments. Let me unpack for you just a few of the ideas that Paul gives to us that we need to make sure that we understand, and here's the first. Don't disconnect knowledge from love. Don't disconnect knowledge from love. Let me see if I can help you understand what I'm communicating here. Look at verses one through three, in 1 Corinthians 8. "Now about food sacrificed to idols." So you know that Paul's now taking up a new subject. This is what he would do in 1 Corinthians. He would say now about whatever, because they were asking him about various subjects, he would say, okay, now about food sacrificed to idols. "We know that," you see quotation marks there. "We know that we all possess knowledge." In other words, they probably wrote to him and said, "Hey, we all possess knowledge, right." And he says, "We know that we all possess knowledge, "but knowledge puffs up while love builds up. "Those who think they know something "do not yet know as they ought to know. "But whoever loves God is known by God." So what Paul is doing here is he's warning them, he's concerned about the fact that those who have knowledge are separating out their knowledge from love. And he's saying, don't disconnect those two things. This is important for us. Don't get disconnect knowledge from love, because what that ends up doing is leading you to bad outcomes. Let me explain. Paul actually gives us three bad outcomes that occur if we separate love from knowledge, right. Knowledge by the way, is good. We need to have a knowledge of God, we need to have a knowledge of the truth, we need to have a knowledge of his word. That's a wonderful thing, but we can't disassociate that knowledge from love. Watch, he says it's a bad outcome if it does, because where will it lead? First place is to pride. That's where it will lead. In fact, notice what Paul says in verse number one, "Now about food sacrificed to idols, "we know that we all possess knowledge, "but knowledge puffs up while love builds up." Paul is helping us to understand something here that we don't want to disassociate knowledge and love, because what can happen is that we can be puffed up. It's a great descriptor, isn't it? Puffed up. You kind of think, did I just see that in the New Testament, puffed up? Yeah. Basically what we would say in our terminology is, they got a big head, right. They know a bunch of stuff. But if it's disconnected from love, that can lead to places of pride. Have you've ever been around people that know quite a bit, and want to make sure you know how much they know. They're not really concerned about you, they're not really concerned about anything, they just love for you to know how much they know, because they're an expert. I'm gonna leave that one for a second, 'cause there's like a couple of things that race to mind, and I'm like, nevermind. But what love does, instead of puffing us up, and that word literally means to inflate us with pride. What love does actually is it builds up. So Paul's not saying just be loving with no knowledge. He's just saying don't disconnect the two, right. Because even though we may have knowledge, we've got to make sure that that is partnered with love, because what love ends up doing is it ends up building up our brothers and sisters, and that's what needs to happen. So, if we disconnect knowledge from love, pride can show up. But secondarily, so can self-deception. So can self-deception. Notice what Paul says in verse number two, "Those who think they know something "do not yet know as they ought to know." Have you ever been around someone who thinks that they know a lot, but you know that they don't know as much as they think that they know? Have you ever been around those people? Have you ever been that people? I think we all have, right. I find it interesting now that at 53-years-old I feel like I know less than I did at 33. At 33 I knew everything. There wasn't much that I didn't know. Now I wouldn't say that, I'm diplomatic enough, I'm not stupid, right. But in your head you're pretty sure about a lot of stuff. Now some of you in here, you're in that age range, it may not be the case for you, but if the shoe fits, like that's you, right. You have to deal with that. I remember it though in my own heart, my own life. And I feel like now at 53, even though I know significantly more, I think I'm also really cognizant of how much I don't know, just how much I don't know, right. We've all been in those spots. So Paul says what can happen is if we disconnect knowledge from love is that not only can we be inflated with pride, but we can deceive ourselves in thinking that we know more than we actually do, or maybe even what we know could be grown. This is important for us, right, because we don't wanna be filled with pride, and we don't wanna be self deceived. That's why Paul is saying, don't separate out knowledge from love. The third piece and the outcome that he says that can happen is this, is that we can have knowledge about God more than knowledge of God. You know there's a difference in those things, right? A knowledge about God instead of a knowledge of God. It's like when Jesus would deal with the Pharisees, and he would say, "Hey, listen to what they tell you. "They are steeped in the truth. "They understand the teaching of the law, "but don't do what they do, "because they don't practice what they preach." See, they have a knowledge about God, but not a knowledge of God. Because that shapes us more like him. We're like him the more that we get to know him. Not just know about him, where we can pair it off a bunch of things, and say a bunch of nice theological slogans. It's not that, right. That doesn't impress anybody. Are we like him? Has he shaped us because of our knowledge? Don't separate those things out. Listen to what he says in verse three. Paul does something really beautiful here, "But whoever loves God is known by God." Do you know what he's doing here in this sentence? He's making sure that those things stay connected. He doesn't want them disassociated from one another. He says, "Whoever loves God is known by God." Do you know what the beauty of that is? Is that when we love God and God knows us, it doesn't mean just an intellectual knowing, of course he intellectually knows us. He's God, he's omniscient, he knows everything, right. This is the knowing of intimacy, knowing everything about us, like knowing us. And the beautiful thing is this, when God knows us, it means that he's also pouring out his love upon us, and that his love should then be demonstrated through our own lives to the people around us. See, Paul's setting up what he wants to be able to help them understand about how they treat one another as brothers and sisters. So he says don't disconnect knowledge from love, because there's some bad outcomes associated with that. But then Paul says something else. He says but knowledge is good, even though you don't disconnect knowledge from love, just understand this, knowledge is good. That's important for us to understand because Paul actually began his letter to the Corinthians by telling them that knowledge is a good thing. It's a grace that's been given them by God. Listen back in in chapter one of 1 Corinthians, he says this, "I always thank my God for you "because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. "For in him you have been enriched in every way "with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge." In other words, the grace of God has actually given to them a knowledge of God. And Paul is saying that's a wonderful, and that's a good thing. So what Paul does, when he says that knowledge is good, he actually affirms that the knowledge of the truth is a good thing, he affirms it, with the Corinthians, in fact. And if you're reading this, you're probably going, okay, so the knowledge group that I talked about, they're writing to Paul, and asking questions about eating, you know, meat that's sacrificed to idols. And it seems like now that Paul is agreeing with them. Yeah, listen to what he says in verse number four. "So then about eating food sacrificed to idols, "we know that." here's the quote, right, because they said, "an idol is nothing at all in the world "and that there is no God but one." So did you catch it? They wrote him the letter and they said, "Hey, we can do all of this. "Here's why, idols are nothing and there's only one God." And Paul says, "I agree, I'm with you a hundred percent. "The knowledge of God is a good thing," and he affirms their knowledge of the truth. In fact, he affirms their knowledge that an idol is nothing. That was the quote, right? An idol is nothing in the world. Look what he says says in verse number five, "For even if there are so-called gods," like he knows that they're nothing. He's calling 'em so-called gods. "Whether in heaven or on earth, "as indeed, there are many gods and many lords." In other words, they have many gods and many lords, and he said they're just so-called gods. But then look what he says in verse eight, "But food, it doesn't bring us near to God. "We are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do." In other words he's saying, just because foods sacrificed to idols, these idols are nothing. So that doesn't really matter. Paul's making that clear, because he's reminding them that he's affirming their knowledge of the truth. They said, "Idols are nothing." He's like, "I agree." They also said, "There is no God but one." Paul says, "Agreed a hundred percent." Listen to what he says in verse six, "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." So Paul's not trying to unpack the doctrine of the Trinity here, he's already been talking in the first few chapters about the spirit of God, and here he talks about the Father and the Son, and later on he's gonna talk more about the spirit, and he's actually gonna talk about in 1 Corinthians 12, he'll talk about the Father, the Son and the Spirit in that context as well. But he's not trying to unpack a doctrine of the Trinity here. He's actually simply trying to say, "Look, we believe in one God, Father, Son and Spirit. "And the Father is the author of creation for whom we live. "And the Son is the agent of creation through whom we live." This is literally what Paul is saying. And he's just reminding us of the familial nature of God, that God is Father, that he has Son, and that by the way, Jesus is our eldest brother. We're reminded of that in the book of Hebrews. And he's helping to say, "I affirm what you're saying. "Knowledge is good. "You understand that idols are nothing, "and there is only one God, I agree with you." But listen to what he then offers them. He affirms that not everyone possesses this knowledge. He says, not everybody possesses this knowledge. Look in verse number seven. "But not everyone possesses this knowledge." Do you wonder where I got that point? This is my job, literally, tell you what the Bible says. "But not everyone possesses this knowledge. "Some people are still so accustomed to idols "that when they eat sacrificial food, "they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, "and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled." See, Paul is helping them to understand something. He's agreeing with the knowledge group and saying, it's a good thing that you know these truths. But he's reminding them about their brothers and sisters who are not there yet, who don't fully understand all of these things. These are young believers who've come out of this lifestyle that it was involved with pagan worship. This was like everything they did. And now Jesus has saved them and rescued them, and they're not ready to go back into that. And Paul eventually would tell them in answer to their question, 'cause their original question is, "Can we eat meat that's sacrificed to idols in the temple? "Can we do that?" He will eventually answer that in chapter 10, and he'll answer it, "Don't do it." That's what he'll answer. Here's what he says in fact in chapter 10, "Do I mean that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, "or that an idol is anything? No." Like he agrees with that, right. "No, but it's bigger than that. "The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, "not to God. "And I do not want you to be participants with demons." Paul says idols are nothing. They don't have mouths that can speak. They don't have eyes that can see, they don't have ears that can hear, they don't have hands that can touch, they don't have feet that can run. They're nothing, but they're a gateway. Because what's being offered here is to the demonic realm. That's a startling thought. It's actually demonic what's happening here. He says, it's not that I'm concerned about the fact that idols are anything, they're not, but they're a front for demonic activity. And he says, that's why I'm saying to you on behalf of your brothers and sisters, don't do this. Don't do it. It's not good for you. It's not good for anyone actually. So he tells them not to do it. But you know what, he doesn't start by saying that in his argument in chapter eight. Do you know why? Because he wants to teach them something. And do you know what he wants to teach them? To love one another, that's what he's trying to teach them. Love one another well. And instead of just answering the question like, "Hey, here's the question." He just goes, "Nope, don't go." He doesn't do that. He instead walks them through a process of understanding some things. Don't disconnect knowledge from love, it's really important. And by the way, knowledge is good, but not everybody has it, so we have to pay attention. And then notice the third piece that he gives us, sacrifice that comes from love is better than freedom that comes from knowledge. I know that's a mouthful, but it was the best way I knew how to say this, and I know some of you are writing it down, so I'll give you just a moment. Others of you aren't because you got photographic memories. And I'll ask you about it in the atrium when we're done. Sacrifice that comes from love is better than freedom that comes from knowledge. Notice what he says then in verses nine through 13, "Be careful however "that the exercise of your rights "does not become a stumbling block to the weak. "For if someone with a weak conscience sees you "with all your knowledge eating in an idol's temple, "won't that person be emboldened to eat "what is sacrificed to idols? "So this weak brother or sister for whom Christ died "is destroyed by your knowledge. "When you sin against them in this way, "and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister "to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again." He's talking about meat sacrificed to idols here, not meat forever. "I will never eat meat sacrificed to idols again "so that I will not cause them to fall." Wow, this is brilliant and beautiful. Paul is basically warning those that have knowledge, and have this freedom that comes with this knowledge to be careful, because just because they have the right to do something, 'cause this meet is nothing. By the way, Paul would actually say later on, if you read in Romans 14, Paul actually talks about when people go to, you go to dinner at somebody's house, you're not at a pagan temple, you're not. And there's meat there, and you don't know if that meat's been sacrificed to an idol or isn't. And as long as you don't know, and it doesn't violate your conscience, feel free. That's what Paul said. Feel free, have at it. Paul is specifically here talking about being in the pagan temples in kind of the worship environment, and eating at those pagan restaurants with meat that you pretty much know has been sacrificed to idols. Different thing when you didn't know and don't know. And he says, we can just love one another in the middle of that, right over there. Here he says, don't do it. Why not? 'Cause he says it cause your brother or sister to stumble. But he actually uses stronger language than that, if you look back at your text. He says, "Are you going to let your knowledge destroy "your brother or sister?" Catch that. Typically when Paul uses that phrase, destroy, he's using it to speak of eternal condemnation. I'm not saying that he's using it in that way in this text, but most of the time that Paul uses that term, not every time, but many of the times that he uses that term, he's talking about that. So let's just at least leave it at this, it's a really strong statement that Paul makes, and that statement is this, do not cause your brother or sister to stumble. Don't destroy their faith because of the exercise of your freedom, the exercise of your rights. Because you're like, well I can do this because I know what God has said about idols and they're nothing so I can do whatever I want. He says, actually to sacrifice in love is better than to embrace your rights, and the freedom that you have because of the knowledge that you have. Why is that better? Because we don't want to hurt our brothers or sisters. Paul actually says that when we wound them this way, we sin against them. Listen to this, but it's bigger than that. He says, it's not only a sin to wound your brother or sister's conscience. It's not only a sin against them, it's a sin against Christ. That's what he says, it is a sin against Christ. Think about this for just a minute would you. Have you thought about your sin against a brother or sister as being sin against the Lord Jesus? Because this is his people, these are his brothers and sisters, he is our elder brother. And to sin against one is the sin against him. Paul says some things that are very stark, but beautiful. So what Paul does is he calls for the modeling of sacrificial love, instead of just the exercise of our freedom. So he says, "If me eating meat sacrificed to idols "is going to cause damage "to my brothers and sisters in Christ, "and call them back into a life "that's going to lead them into wrong places," he says, "I'll never eat meat sacrificed to idols again, "ever because it's not worth the cost "for my brother and sister. "I'm willing to sacrifice and love for them." Do you know what that sounds like? The gospel. That's what it sounds like. It sounds like the Son of God who limited himself to flesh, and came to live among us as sinful people, born of a virgin, sinless in word and thought, and deed. But what he did, even though he had all authority, all authority in heaven and on earth was granted to him, all authority given to him by the Father. He had freedom because he was not bound by sin, freedom to do whatever he wanted. The right to do whatever he wanted. He was the Son of God. And what did he do? In love he sacrificed himself for our redemption. He laid his sinless life down on a cross so that the God of holiness, who will judge sin, would judge it placed upon him, the sinless substitute, the sinless sacrifice, so that through Jesus death and resurrection, we now could be reconciled to the Father. Instead of exercising all of his rights, he limited himself, and took on the form of humanity, and in sacrificial love, laid his life down to redeem us. You see, what Paul's saying here, is he saying this is, what I'm doing, and I'm doing it because it's what Jesus did. That's why Paul could say imitate me, as I imitate Christ. In fact, when he was finishing up this argument at the end of chapter 10, listen to what he says. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, "do it all for the glory of God. "Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, "or the church of God, "even as I try to please everyone in every way. "For I am not seeking my own good, "but the good of many so that they may be saved. "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." See, this is what Paul is holding out for us. So how does that play out for us? What does that look like for us? We're not dealing with meat sacrificed to idols in a pagan temple, but what are we dealing with that maybe we need to pay attention to how we do this for the sake of our brothers and sisters? Well, you guys already know, I've talked about this before, but you kind of know how I've talked about alcohol. I don't drink, but I don't drink because I have a conviction that the word of God says that I could never have a beer, or that I could never have a glass of wine. Scripture doesn't say that. In fact, it even views it sometimes positively of how we will banquet with the Lord at the great feast, and there will be wine and all. The Old Testament talks about this beautifully, right. So I'm not even suggesting that to have a beer, or to have a glass of wine is a sin necessarily. It could be depending on your conscience and all that stuff. For some Italians you're thinking, it's a sin not to have that for us at a dinner, right. We're just kind of figuring that out. So I'm not even talking about that. Here's what I am saying, because the role that I inhabit, anywhere that I go in Western New York, anywhere, I run into people who say hello. Doesn't matter where I am, Saber's game, restaurant, Wegmans, Tops, gas station, it's happened everywhere literally. And that's okay, that's part of the deal. But I've been at restaurants where I've been served by a server the whole time, never, you know, just always interacting, whatever, learn their name, whatever. And then as I go to pay, "Thanks a lot, Pastor Jerry." You could have led with that. You could have told me like you knew, like you could have led with that, right. And then you're reviewing in your mind, okay, yeah, no I wasn't a jerk. Everything was good, right. It's great accountability for my life. Or people that say, "Hey man, "I hope you enjoyed your meal at Carrabas." And I'm like, what? Are you some kind of weird spy? Are you a stalker? What just happened? No, no, I was just sitting in the corner, I saw you. I didn't want to interrupt or anything like that, you know. Looked like you ordered, you know, chicken. What, what, what? What are we doing? What are we doing? I've had people say to me, you know, "I actually watched what you ordered, "and I was specifically looking at what you drank." So let me ask you this question. I realized that I've got brothers and sisters who are under the sound of my voice, somewhere, somehow, some way. This campus at Niagara Falls, Cheektowaga, Lockport, online, watching on television. They're under the sound of my voice, and my influence in some way. And while I might have the freedom and the liberty to have a glass of wine with my wife somewhere, if I wanted to do that, or if I wanted to have a beer, or whatever, if I wanted to do that, I've got freedom because I have a knowledge of the word of God. But if I've got brothers or sisters who battled with addiction, and we do, and whose life was blown apart because of these things, and who came to faith in Jesus Christ, why in the world would I wanna do anything that gives them permission or a runway to get back into the place where they were? Love says, don't do it. That's what love says, don't do it. Love trumps freedom. Or maybe you have to think about how you represent your life on social media, because you've got brothers and sisters there who are looking at your world. And maybe you, who feel the freedom to be able to do A, but that it was actually that world from which your brother or sister got saved, and it really causes them to stumble. And I'm not talking about little things that are, you know, I'm not talking about that, it's not every. But I'm talking about real stuff. We need to pay attention to even how we post, and what we say for the sake of our brothers and sisters, because we don't wanna cause them to stumble, or move back into the world in which Jesus has rescued them from. Or what about the friend that you have that's new to faith, brand new. And it's the person that you know, you used to go out with and go to the clubs, and dance and party and do all that stuff, and to fill their emptiness, they would often go home with someone for one night to kind of fill their emptiness. And you kind of say to them, you know, they've just now come to faith in Christ, and you're like, "Hey, let's go back out to the clubs. "Now we're not gonna get drunk or anything, "and it's not a sin to dance," and it's not. It's not. But do you really think that that's what they need right now? Is that really what you want to do? Do you wanna put a runway out and say, let's go back into the very thing that you got saved out of, where you couldn't even find your own identity, but were trying to lose your identity in sexual excursions and other stuff, and I wanna bring you back into that world right now. Love says don't. Love your brother or sister. And would you be willing, as a follower of Jesus would you be willing to not go to the club for the sake of your brother and sister? Paul said, I'll never, if it required me never eating meat sacrificed to idols again, I'll do it because I care that much about their flourishing in Christ, their growth in Jesus. H.A Ironside was the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago back in the 1930s and 1940s. Wonderful man of God. And he told a story about a Muslim man who got saved, I mean got saved. This man's name was Muhammad Ali, not the boxer, different timeframe, right. But his name was Muhammad Ali. And he got radically transformed. The gospel just took over his heart and his life, and he grew and matured and it was beautiful. Well, Mohammad was at a gathering in their church where they were doing a potluck, you know, kind of dinner, or picnic thing. And a young lady in the church, who's real energetic, came and walked up to Mohammad and said, "Can I interest you in a sandwich?" And he's like, "Yeah, sure, I'm hungry. "What do you have left?" She said, "Well everything's been eaten already." But she said, "I've still got a bunch "of pork sandwiches left. And he said, "Okay." He said, "No thank you." And she looked at him and she went, "Is this because you were Muslim and you won't eat pork? "Because you know, like now in Jesus, like you're free. "Like you know that, right? "You are free." And he says, "Oh I know, I know." He said, "But I'm also free not to, right." She said, "Yeah, but why would you do that? It's good." I mean, it's pork, barbecue, right. And he said, "Because all of my family in the Middle East, "who doesn't know Jesus, who knows that I'm a believer, "when I go home, the first question "that my father asks before he allows me "to walk into the house is, "have you allowed "that evil swine to enter your mouth? "Have those Christians convinced you of that already?" And he says, "And I can look at him and say, "it's never entered my mouth, dad. "And I'm welcomed into the house "to be a witness to the beauty of Jesus." He says, "So I, instead of embracing my freedom, "think of my family, "and choose to limit my freedom for the sake of love." You know what, that's called maturity. That's maturity. So brothers and sisters, don't cause each other to stumble, but instead think first about your willingness to sacrifice in love for the sake of the flourishing of your brother or your sister. Let's bow our heads together. In a moment we'll be dismissed, but you may be here and if never before, entrusted your life to Jesus. If that's the case, there'll be some men and women that'll be right down front in this room. And if you're in the east worship center, you can certainly come over into this room, and speak to someone. If you wanna find out what it means to be saved from sin, to have a life made right with God. Not because you can do it, but because Jesus has done this on your behalf. That while we were yet sinner, Christ died for us so that we could be reconciled to the Father. And if you've never before been transformed by the goodness of that news, and the forgiveness of your sin, then I hope that when I dismiss you in just a moment, as everybody's walking out, that you'll walk up, and take one of these men or women by the hand and just say, "I wanna give my life to Jesus Christ." They would love to pray with you, send you home with something that's gonna help you in your journey of faith. But maybe there's a bunch of us in the room, and watching in different places and you may say, "You know what, God spoke to me today." Here's what I want to ask of you. Would you just let the Holy Spirit do what he wants to do in your life to conform you into the image of his Son? I don't know what the situation is, or the particular example, but the Holy Spirit can make that clear to you, of maybe where you've allowed for. The exercise of your own desires and the exercise of maybe your own freedom because of your knowledge, but you've done that at the expense of a brother or sister. And what the gospel would whisper to us is this, love says to choose differently. It's what Jesus did. It's what Paul did. It's what we do, because we are brothers and sisters in Christ. So Father, I pray that you would do your good work among us. If there's a brother or sister in here who just needs to take one of these folks by the hand to receive you as Lord and Savior, I pray that you would allow them the strength to do that. Or maybe if there's someone here, a brother or sister, that is just dealing with something, and needs somebody to pray with them, that they'd avail themselves to these men and women, and have an opportunity to pray with them as well. But Lord, we wanna listen to what you have to say. Spirit of God, we want to give you full access to shape us, to mold us, to change us, that we look more and more like Jesus. Because what we need for the world around us, and for our brothers and sisters in the family of God, we need them to see and know the life of God in us. That when they experience us, they experience the grace and the truth of Jesus. So Father, would you help grow us in those areas, that we would listen attentively to what Paul taught the Corinthians about a specific issue related to them, and that we would apply that to various issues in our own lives, and that we would do it for your glory, and for the good of others. Would you help us more and more in our lives to not look to our own interests, but look to the interests of others. And that the same attitude that was in you, Lord Jesus, would be in us. Because you being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God, something to be forcibly retained, but made yourself nothing. Taking the form of a servant, and being made in human likeness. You became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God exalted you to the highest place, and gave you the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue, will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. May your heart and your life be in us, so that people would see you, 'cause that's who we need them to see. We pray this for the glory of your name, Lord Jesus, and for the good of our brothers and sisters. Amen.

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