Here is the general outline of a talk I gave on August 24, 2010 at Collegiate Reformed Fellowship. Reposting it again three years later for obvious reasons.
My point this evening is not that smoking cigarettes is a sin everywhere and for everyone, under any conceivable circumstance. My thesis is a great deal simpler than that. I simply want to argue that smoking cigarettes is a sin for you.
Here are my seven reasons:
1. The Bible says that you should honor your father and mother (Ex. 20:12), and I have to confess that in all my years of being a pastor have never met a kid who took up smoking because he was really eager to honor his father and mother.
2. The Scriptures teach that maturity is a matter of discernment (Heb. 5:14), and this discernment is a function of long practice. If you were to make a list of ten Christians you really respect as having this kind of discernment, all over the age of fifty, and you asked them all whether they thought you taking up smoking at the age of 18 (or younger) was a good idea, what percentage do you think would offer you a light? Is that percentage somewhere close to zero? Does that thought experiment tell you anything?
3. The process of sanctification largely consists of learning to tell the lusts of your body no (Rom. 8:13-14). Jesus teaches us that the one who is faithful over little will be made faithful over much. We can flip this reasoning around, and say that if someone is faithless with a lesser amount, he should not promote himself to the place where he has more to be faithless with. If you can’t run with men, how will you run with horses (Jer. 12:5)? Do you really think you need additional desires to be undisciplined with?
4. A worldview consists of far more than the thoughts you think in your head. A biblical worldview consists of four elements—two of them propositional, and two of them enacted. The two propositional elements are catechesis and narrative. What doctrine do you hold, and what story do you tell? The two enacted elements are liturgy/symbol and lifestyle. An integrated worldview is one in which all four spokes of this wheel are balanced. You ought not to be carving a spoke that does not fit in our axle.
5. You are not C.S. Lewis.
6. Smoking reveals the method of a self-serving ethic. The way others are to view your liberty is not the same way that you should view your liberty. Other Christians should let you do what you want unless the Bible forbids it. That’s how we guard against legalism. But you should use your liberty differently—you should be asking what the reasons are for doing it, and not what the reasons are for prohibiting it. Liberty is intended by God for you to use as an instrument for loving others (Gal. 5:13), and not as an instrument for suiting yourself.
7. And last, my interest in discipleship of young men and women is to find and cultivate leaders. To look for such leadership abilities in the midst of these contagions of herd behavior is like looking for a redwood tree in the pumpkin patch. The motto of the future leaders of the Church will not be, “Guys, wait up!” Neither will it be, “Ooo, where did you get those?” We want to baptize the nations, bringing them to Christ, and so we should not be occupying ourselves with variations on the game of monkey see/monkey do.