I'm often asked, "Can I do this and still be a Christian?" Can I go to these movies? Can I listen to this kind of music? Can I go to this kind of place? Can I have this kind of relationship? Can I indulge in this pursuit and still be a Christian?
Is that thing you are wondering about slowing you down in the race of life? Is that relationship impairing your progress? Is that habit impairing your performance? Hebrews 12 instructs us to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (NKJV).
If you're preparing to run a race, you don't carry a set of scuba tanks on your back in case you need oxygen. That weight will slow you down. You must learn how to travel light. In the same way, if you want to run in the race of life, you must run light.
The Apostle Paul said, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify" (1 Corinthians 10:23 NKJV). Or, as another translation puts it, "All things are permissible for me, but not all things promote growth and Christian character."
If you have ever been doing something and wondered whether it was allowable for you as a Christian, consider these four questions.
One, does it build me up spiritually? There might be something in your life that tears you down because it tears you away from the people of God or dulls your hunger for the Word of God. If you like junk food and eat a lot of it, you won't have an appetite when it's time for a real meal. In the same way, there are things we take in that will spoil our spiritual appetites.
Two, does it bring me under its power? 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (NKJV). I don't want to be under the power of anyone or anything but Jesus Christ. I don't want to be under the power of drugs. I don't want to be under the power of alcohol. I don't want to be under the power of tobacco. I don't want to be under the power of television. If something is getting a hold on you, then maybe you need to cut it loose.
Three, do I have an uneasy conscience about it? Romans 14:23 says, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (NKJV). Another translation reads, "Whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful." Even another translation says, "Anyone who believes that something he wants to do is wrong should not do it. He sins if he does, for if he thinks it is wrong for him it is wrong."
Four, could it cause another Christian to be stumbled in his or her faith? Romans 14:15 says, "If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil"(NIV).
Don't do something that could spiritually stumble someone else. No man or woman lives and dies unto himself or herself alone. What we do has a direct affect on others, not only in this life, but also in time and eternity. This means that we need to not only live our lives considering God's opinion, but we want to be considerate of others. Don't use your liberty to stumble another person.
Are there "gray areas" that are holding you back from fully committing yourself to Jesus Christ? Are you having so much fun that it would keep you from God? Is any little pleasure that good? Be honest. Half of the time it is guilty pleasure at best, and a lot of times, it is not even that pleasurable.
Don't let anything hold you back. Don't let anyone hold you back. This same Jesus who said, "Follow Me" 2,000 years ago is saying the same to you today. He isn't saying, "Stand back and admire Me," or "Have good thoughts about Me." He's saying, "Follow Me."
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!