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.” – 1 Corinthians 8:4
In the Corinthian church back in the day, there was a serious debate among Christians. From my understanding, one could acquire two types of meat: meat that had been sacrificed to idols, and meat that had not been sacrificed to idols. I would guess that the meat sacrificed to idols was a lot cheaper. I would also guess that there were some Christians who said, “I don’t serve those gods, big deal if I eat the meat.” On the other hand, there were Christians who said, “There is no way a Christian should ever eat that meat!”
Which camp would you be in?
Paul teaches us here that we all have different convictions about different things. He goes on to say that, in this particular case, one should never try to project his or her personal convictions onto another. If I did eat meat sacrificed to idols, I should never try to convince you that it isn’t a big deal if you honestly feel that it is. Likewise, just because this is a big deal to you, you should not necessarily try to make your conviction my conviction. In the grand scheme of things, whether or not one eats food sacrificed to idols is not a heaven or hell issue, but there were obviously people in Paul’s day that made it one.
The church world now is all over the place as far as personal convictions are concerned. What must be done, through the reading of God’s Word, is to separate personal preferences and convictions from flat out sin. As you read the Bible over and over during the course of your life and ask God to give you more and more of His Holy Spirit, your convictions will actually change . . . or maybe a better word is evolve.
I remember the very first thing that God asked me to do after becoming a Christian: Tell the truth! Using Revelation 21:8 on a t-shirt, God showed me that I was a liar. He also let me know what was going to happen to me if I stayed that way. This scared me into action. I certainly did not want my part in the “lake, which burneth with fire and sulfur.” Therefore, I began to beg God to help me change. Lying is not a personal conviction; it is a sin. It is a sin that will send you to hell if you do not change. This is not Adam projecting his personal conviction onto you. You are free to read Revelation 21:8 for yourself. God says it, not me.
I don’t regularly drink alcohol. I believe God has put this in my heart and mind. It is a personal conviction. My first thought is to get really judgmental when I see Christians post pictures on Facebook with their drinks in hand. I quickly shake that off and simply say, “My conviction is not their conviction.” Excess drinking is obviously a sin, but you cannot show me in the Bible where it says every Christian should not drink at all. With my family history, I totally understand why God would ask me not to drink. However, because of this, I don’t get to project this personal conviction onto you.
Here is a weird one: I had about 8 years where I was not to play golf. Playing golf for me was a sin. God let me know that this game had become an idol in my life. It consumed me and I thought about it a lot more than I thought about Him or anything else. So, God asked me to stop. I basically said, “No” and kept playing anyway. He allowed me to get so bad at it that I stopped anyway. After God regained first place in my heart and life, He let me play again. Why? The game has been dethroned and is now in its proper place. How stupid would it have been for me to tell another person, “Golf is a sinful game and you will have your part in the lake of fire if you play?” Um . . . very.
There are three situations where I know I am to fast. I fast for 21 days every year because I made this hasty vow to God 14 years ago and now I’m bound to it. I fast when I am in great distress. I also often fast while preparing to preach and just before I preach. Now, do I get to tell you that you must do the same? I don’t get to do that at all. This is my personal conviction and I might suggest it to you because I believe it is highly beneficial, but I would never belittle you simply because my conviction is not your conviction.
I remember how difficult it was for pornography to be dethroned in my life. This was a hidden sin that went on for years and years. When I was 31 years old, in a single moment, God did one of the most amazing things He’s ever done for me and dissolved years of images in my head sitting in a church service. Do I get to tell you not to look at porn? If you call yourself a Christian, then yes I do. Jesus Himself said if you look at a woman and lust after her, you are committing adultery. I didn’t say it . . . He did.
I say all that to say this: When it comes to the things you believe, ask God, “Is this a personal conviction? Or, is this flat out sin?” There is a big, big difference. Many, many, many unbelievers right now are still unbelievers because “Christians” preach their personal convictions as flat out sin. These unbelievers tell me all the time, “If that’s the way Christians are, then I don’t want to be one.” I do my best to undo the damage and let them know that if they choose to follow Christ; they will be starting completely over and will develop their own custom set of personal convictions over time. God will teach them how they should live their lives in order to honor Him.
I think Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 8 that we should never let our personal convictions get in the way of other people’s spiritual growth. What we project and the way we project it matters. Christians with no convictions in a certain area should not attempt to diminish the convictions of those who have them. By the same token, Christians with certain convictions should not project their personal convictions onto those who do not share the same ones. I’m telling you, the unsaved world is watching, and there are a lot of people who want nothing to do with Jesus or His church because we teach and preach our personal convictions as gospel.
Lord, simply help the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to Thee. I look so forward to being with you on that day when my faith becomes sight.