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The Value of a Good Name

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 14:16–18

As we consider how to use our liberty in Christ to God’s glory, we are helped by dedicating ourselves to the principle of keeping a good reputation before God and man in all we do.

Transcript

The New Testament teaching of our freedom in Christ and the principles of a grace-oriented life, are important truths. Indeed, the Bible speaks clearly about our liberty in Christ.

The problem is, there are many areas of life to which the Bible does not speak at all. And Christians can turn their liberty into license, to do whatever they want to do. Some Christians use their freedom as if the barn doors have been flung open, and now it is wide-open spaces, and they are off and running!

Well, hold back the stampede! Let us understand, beloved, that being free in Christ does not mean you are free to do anything you want. It means that you are free now to do everything He wants.

So far in our Wisdom Journey through Romans 14, Paul has given us a challenge to be careful of less mature, new believers who are watching our lifestyles and decisions. We called this the principle of protection. Do not let your life become a stumbling block or a hindrance in the path of a younger brother or sister in Christ. They are just learning how to walk with Christ, so do not go throwing your liberty in their path in such a way that it might trip them up. Consider carefully the principle of protection.

Now Paul gives us another principle to help us know how to use our liberty wisely. I call this one the principle of reputation.

He writes here in verse 16, “So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.” The “good” Paul is referring to here is any act of Christian liberty. For you, something may be fine to do, but keep in mind your reputation as a child of God who is pursuing integrity and purity.

Paul is telling us we need to guard our reputation—to be concerned about impressions we make on others. Do not allow your spiritual freedom to cause someone to slander your faith.

I remember reading how the late evangelist Billy Graham was so careful never to be in a closed space with a woman other than his wife—whether it was an office or an automobile or even an elevator. Some people thought he was too concerned, but he wanted to guard his reputation.

Many Christians would say he needed to loosen up. I would say that many Christians need to wise up and wake up.

Let me just pull over at this point and offer some practical guidelines as you consider the value of your name—this principle of reputation.

First, wake up to the fact that you are being watched. It might surprise you to know how carefully you are being watched by other believers, by unbelievers, and even by little children. They notice things we do and say that we might think nothing of.

Second, wake up to the influence you exercise. You are not only being watched, beloved; you just might be copied! And what is even more sobering is that the imitation will often go farther to the right or left than you would have approved of. Young people will often exaggerate what they see and hear us do, taking our actions farther than we ever intended them to.

My little grandson at the age of three responded to something by saying, “Goodness gracious a livin’.” Well, he heard me—his Poppa—saying that, and he was now saying the same thing. It reminded me that I had better be careful.

Third, wake up to your priorities as a Christian. Notice verse 17:

 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The kingdom of God is not represented by people there in Paul’s day who did not eat meat offered to idols or drink something that had previously been offered to an idol. No, the kingdom of God is represented well by those who demonstrate purity and peace and joy produced by the Holy Spirit in their lives.

The question for us to answer is this: What do we want to have associated with our name and our reputation? And this: Does it truly help the reputation of Christ?

The famous nineteenth-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon was known for smoking cigars. This was before the medical world understood the danger of it all; in fact, it used to be advertised as a relaxing practice. And Spurgeon defended his liberty to do it. But one afternoon he quit, just like that. Why? Because he saw a billboard showing a box of cigars with words that read, “The cigars smoked by Charles Spurgeon.”

Spurgeon decided right then that he was not about to allow his name and reputation to promote anything other than the gospel. The cigars had to go.

Here in the book of Romans, Paul often uses these three words together: “righteousness,” “peace,” and “joy.” They are loaded with theological truth. But in verse 17, Paul is not emphasizing their theological truth but their practical truth. We can see this from what he says in verse 18: “Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.”

Paul is not talking about your conversion; he is talking about your character. We ought to be characterized by purity, peace, and joy.

So, in this matter of Christian liberty in gray areas—uncertain areas where the Bible does not specifically address the issue—we should ask ourselves some questions: Is my Christian liberty demonstrating Christian purity? Do my actions create peace or conflict? Does my lifestyle encourage joy in others, or sadness? Let us demonstrate purity, peace, and joy in our lives.

I want to point out the two sides of this that are mentioned here in verse 18: “acceptable [pleasing] to God and approved by men.” How is that possible—to please both God and men? After all, listen to what Jesus tells us in Luke 6:

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! . . . Woe to you, when all people speak well of you.” (verses 22, 26)

The apostle Peter wrote essentially the same thing:

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:14)

That does not sound like a Christian can please God and others at the same time.

The truth is, even if unbelievers want nothing to do with you and never compliment you, they are still going to secretly respect your testimony. They cannot help but notice and maybe even silently appreciate the fact that you keep your word, do your job, and tell the truth.

Yet, others out there are going to openly dislike you and mock you. Frankly, they think you are strange!

I like the way Donald Barnhouse balanced this approach by putting it this way: If nobody thinks you are strange, you are probably not a good Christian; however, if everybody thinks you are strange, you are probably not a good Christian.[1]

When your life is marked by purity and peace and joy, then you are an authentic testimony to the name and cause of Jesus Christ, regardless of what some might say about you. And that is pleasing to God.

Beloved, as we decide what things we will do and what things we will not do, let us keep in mind the principles Paul has given us so far:

  • Do not overlook the principle of protection.
  • Do not underestimate the principle of reputation.

If you keep these two principles in mind, some of these gray issues of life might become a little easier for you to make decisions about as you walk with Christ.

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