1 Corinthians 8-10, as well as Romans chapter 14, which speaks about the conscience and how concerned we should be for weaker brothers. If it is against someone’s conscience to drink alcohol, or against someone’s conscience to eat sugar, or against someone’s conscience to eat meat, then we must be very careful with them. Paul mentions the conscience at the beginning of 1 Timothy 4, and how it’s possible to sear our consciences as with a hot iron.
We are to inform our consciences, which is what Paul is showing us here, our consciences should tell us that everything God created is good, nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. But if someone has not yet seen that and it is against their conscience to eat a certain food or to get married, then we must be very careful in the way that we deal with them.
If that is you, I must be very careful in the way that I deal with you. I must be gentle with you, and I must never compel you to go against your conscience, never do anything that is against your conscience. Never, if it is against your conscience to drink a can of Coca-Cola, do not drink a can of Coca-Cola. If it is against your conscience to watch The Great British Bakeoff, you must never watch the Great British Bakeoff. If it is against your conscience to do anything that other people are doing, to wear a certain type of clothing, to read a certain type of book, to celebrate a certain festival, or to go on a certain type of website, follow your conscience. If you are wanting to do something and yet it feels wrong, that’s your conscience. Don’t do it.
Now, by all means, speak to other Christians and find out whether you really are at risk of sinning by doing this particular thing, and be informed, but always follow your conscience in the meantime.
But one of the purposes of the sermon on Sunday evening was to inform your conscience and to say to you what the apostle Paul says in verse four of 1 Timothy chapter four: ‘everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving’. So, you can ask yourself when considering whether to involve yourself with stuff you have before you—you know, all stuff is good. So then, you can think to yourself, “Well, can I receive this stuff with Thanksgiving?” If you can’t thank God for it, then that’s a sign that it is actually not stuff that you should be receiving. It is stuff that you should be rejecting.
We had an example on Sunday evening of stuff that is bad: porn. Porn cannot be received with Thanksgiving because its very purpose is to illicit image-worship and lust in the viewer, and so it must be rejected because you cannot receive it with Thanksgiving. You can’t give thanks to God for sin.
Shoplifting would be another example. You’re with a friend, and he tells you, “Let’s take this stuff.” You can go through the process and say, “Well, I know that all stuff is good; everything God created is good. So this stuff that I’m being asked to take is not inherently bad. But can I give thanks for this stuff if I steal it?” And then you think to yourself, “Well, no, I can’t give thanks for this stuff because it is stolen, and God says ‘you shall not steal’. So I know that this is to be rejected because it is not received with thanksgiving.”