I think we'd all agree, that the continuum of supernatural entities ranges from the hell of Satan's fiery inferno, to the city of Light and precious stones called Heaven. As Christians we can confidently say anything that God instructs us to do is not sin. We can also confidently say that anything that He instructs us not to do, is sin. We also know from reading Paul's epistles, that not everything in itself is evil. Between sin and not sin is realm I like to call "not sin, not God."
Certain things are sin for sure, we're not going there. What about stuff that just is? Like playing guitar, golf, hiking, board games, and other types of hobbies or pass times? I haven't even added TV or mindlessly surfing the Internet.
Paul said this: Romans 14:20 NAS Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.
This is really the verse that allows us to have the freedom to do all things. It frees the men's group to play a game of touch football, and kids to have an ice cream at church. It is the verse that allows us to listen to music written by artists not considered Christian.
Simple, right? Not really. God has a will for us, and our flesh is usually in conflict with it. Here is a test. Listen to and entire worship CD, like Michael W. Smith Worship or a Chris Tomlin CD each day for a week. Be sure to choose one that is meaningful to you personally- one with songs that you'd pick if you were the music director or worship leader at church. The following week, try listening to something else that you like right after your chosen CD. Close your eyes and really listen. Is it really the same? Do you think God cares?
One of the things that I have noticed in all my years as a Christian, is that the environment which we create in our homes, our cars, and at work impacts our spiritual life. Many things are permissible, but they may not edify us. In fact they may just erode our spiritual communication. Do you remember the days when you left church excited, full, and expecting the things of God? What happened on Tuesday, or Thursday? Why was church so energizing? Hopefully because there was a greater presence of God than we could enjoy on our own. (I am not saying that God lives in church! Read Watchman Nee, The Release of the Spirit)
Jesus slipped away to pray, and who among us has time for that? He couldn't be with the multitudes, eating with sinners and tax collectors without some place to to be directly communicating with the Father. If prayer is communicating with God, then it should be energizing. If you think that pressing in is all that God requires in prayer, you probably need to lighten up, or you are an intercessor by gifting. (Prayer is the place were we see the Father's Heart, His plans, His hope for the destiny of his people. As His sheep, we know His voice and we are able to see what He is doing-- so we can do it too.)
What is important to note is that things that are permissible can be abused, they can be deadly and they can keep us from what we really want; a relationship with a loving God. Moderation is probably a good idea.
I haven't even gotten into whether R movies are permissible. I'll leave that up to you.
A recent survey said that couples that have a TV in the bedroom have sex half as often as those who don't. Is TV permissible? Yes. Is it profitable is probably a better question. Another survey said that 80% of Christian men that had a computer in a room with a door looked at Internet pornography. I'd be interested to know how many men have a TV in the bedroom and a PC behind closed doors.
Not everything that is permissible is edifying. And I believe a steady diet of entertainment and hobbies is easily a problem for our spiritual life. Here is simple test you can do. List your top 10 favorite things to do. Then track your time in hours for all your activities during an entire week. And lastly, take a look at your checkbook. The health of our spiritual life is gauged not in works, but where our heart is at. Where we spend our passion, our time and our money is a pretty good indicator of where our heart is at.
If we are led by the Spirit our life is not our own. As a matter of fact, if we are in God's will our life is none of our business, now is it? We can't just decide what is not sin even when it is permissible. In truth, we need to obey God, not just follow His rules. There are things that the Bible commands that are neither prudent or acceptable at certain times. I am not suggesting we "break the rules." I am suggesting that there are so many things that we could do at any given moment from loving our neighbor to praying without ceasing. We need to hear God, and obey Him. That is why obedience is better than sacrifice.
If we are to obey God at every turn, and take captive every thought, then God is going to have an opinion about everything that we do. If He has an opinion, and we reject it, is that sin?
What we "do" under supposed grace has to be more than deciding is it a matter of choice, sensitivity, or legalism? Like Abraham, it has all got to go on the altar. Everything we do needs to be presented to God. Then we'll see what He provides for us in the process.
Enjoy your golf game.
How about you, do you do too many permissible things in your life?
(From the Fire & Grace archives.)