May 31 2020 Romans 14 - Diversity/Unity - When to Give up Your Rights
8th June 2020
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Lord, we ask you for our nation as we watch our news and there are going to be a lot of opinions, and I pray there'd be a lot of understanding. Lord, I pray that You'd help this country to come together. I pray Lord, since there is such sharp racial divide in this country and I think we want to ignore that, I think we want to deny that, but we can't; there's no denying it. I pray that Christians and the church would step up as examples of loving and laying our lives down for one another. No matter what color we are You died for people from every tribe and tongue and race and nation. In Your name we pray, Amen.
Romans 14:1 says Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters I love the way this version says that one person believes in eating everything that the weak person eats only vegetables the one who eats everything must not despise the one who does not and the one who abstains must not judge the one who eats everything for God has accepted who are you to pass judgment on another servant before his own master he stands or Falls and he will stand for the Lord is able to make him stand as we go through chapter 14 of Romans I think this is one of Paul's most important instruction to the church this is repeated in several other letters and it's a because it has so much to do with the unity and love of the church and division and stopping division within the church and what he's talking about and addressing throughout this chapter is how to address disputable matters or disputable issues within the church which if you've been in church long you know there are many and for all of history of Christianity there have been many disputable matters or issues now the first question I think we'd have to ask as we enter this is what our disputable matters and then the second question that relates to that is what are indisputable matters so we need to get those two things straight before we can move forward and I tend to think probably the way we all think because we are human that is this way about it if I do not have a strong biblical conviction on an issue then we could call that a disputable matter but then the other way I think we think if I have a strong biblical conviction on an issue then we would say that is an indisputable matter and if we were to say that we will be completely mistaken and not understand things what Paul is talking about both sides here had the view that their position that they had a strong biblical conviction and can show from Scripture why they were correct a second thing we might do in thinking about disputable matters is think well those are four minor issues and you know this is just talking about people eating meat or being vegetarians and that's really a minor issue and if we think that we would be wrong and mistaking because this is a major issue in the church in Rome and in the New Testament church because it's not about being a vegetarian it's not about what you eat or your diet it the meat they're talking about is meat that was sacrificed to idols at the temples of the gods and what some were convinced through Scripture was that in eating that meat you were part you were actually participating in the worship of those idols and others were saying no you are not so Paul is addressing all of this now it's hard because we don't have an exact correlation in our time to this let me just give you a very briefly just a very brief definition of disputable in indisputable matters a disputable matters are simply those things that have been disputed by true believers in the church throughout the history of the church pretty simple indisputable matters are those where the church throughout the history of the church has settled the matter and it has been clear so there you go now you may say oh does that mean I have to know church history and understand the traditions and all that's gone on to understand these things exactly that's our responsibility as Christians so begin when we talk about disputable issues that they come there's a wide range of broad spectrum of what we might have there's some minor things let's take this styles of a worship service now from a personal standpoint those might be major things but if we look at the Bible it doesn't say a lot about that so it would be a minor thing no one's going to be able to come up with a theological perspective on why one style of worship service is the biblical one it's going to be really hard to do this but that's still a disputable matter within the church it's a minor one this one was not like that now another one may be kind of in the middle would be the the drinking of alcohol and that would have some similarities to what's going on here Rome its but not completely and I would put that kind of in the middle where you know some I mean the Bible we could definitely come up with a strong biblical understanding on getting drunk and carousing and those kind of things but it would be really difficult to come up with a strong biblical understanding on whether or not a guy can have a beer and then the and so I try think okay what would be one that would relate and I thought well but it's a little bit overused but how we Christians today engage politically that one that's a that one is a disputable matter where people can feel right on several different fronts but which would be very different from one another but I thought of this is I thought this might be the best way for us to think about to feel what they felt in the church in Rome these Christians and I thought of this should Christians are Christians allowed to serve in the military now here's what I think this is really a good one for us is because probably and some thinking I may be guessing but I think I would have somewhat of a pulse in our church and in our country it's Christians in general most of us the majority would think sure that's ok many in our church would have served in the military or children have served in the military we think sure that's a in fact like last week was more than we would actually honor people who served in the military but let me say that has not been an indisputable issue throughout history in fact it has been very much a disputable issue throughout the history of the church and there have been many periods of time where it would have been indisputable that you could not we're the majority would have said you could not and so think you know in our church that's not an issue it's never been an issue but what if in our church half of the people believed you could not and half of the people believed you could and both were vocal Oh what would that be like in this church it would be so disruptive I just share that to say think of that when you think of this issue don't minimize what this issue is all about there is a way to live United and as partners with diverse opinions on disputable matters really that's what Pentecost is all about learning how to live United from very different positions so we go back to what Paul does now is he's going to tell throughout the chapter how to do that and he starts with some negative things and so as we read that passage the first thing he said don't pass judgment and do not judge so the first thing that we're in order to live united with these disputable matters we must not engage in judging the other side and what that means is to condemn them as guilty unbiblical wrong and unspiritual and I would ask you to think and just take some time sometime not at this very moment but what issues do you judge people for and then what beliefs do you judge people for as being unbiblical and especially and I'm not talking about those beliefs the indisputable beliefs that have been historically settled but all the many other ones that have been not and then the next thing he says here not to do is he says do not despise or view with contempt so we had two things going on in about this issue there was judging and urine dip local you're condemned you're guilty and then there was despising and having a superior attitude about the matter and looking at the others as inferior to them and what was happening here is both sides we're doing both both sides had an attitude of superiority and pride but they knew what was right on this and the other was off base and this though we have different issues we could kind of put it in this one there's in this realm there's those who are compromising with the world knows who are the legalists we could have the same we have issues ourselves where we you know we have people oh you're just compromising with the world with this one well you're just a legalist on this issue and then he goes on and he tells us he says this he says I'm do not judge the one who eats everything in the middle of this passage for God has accepted him who are you to pass judgment on another servant before his own master he stands and falls and he will stand for the Lord is able to make him stand so instead of doing this we need to understand God's perspective on these issues what it says here is he accepts both and now we want to say he's not allowed to do that somebody has to be right in biblical and somebody has to be wrong in unbiblical he says he accepts them both and then he we need to understand that when we're passing judgment or holding in contempt and despising we're despising the Lord's servant someone that God views as their servant and they will stand we can be confident of that when we judge and despise other Christians over disputable matters we're judging and despising God and we must be careful of that let me go to the next slide verse 10 and I skipped a few here to get us through it says but you who eat vegetables only why do you judge your brother or sister so it's interesting uses judges for both sides he wants to make it clear that it's both sides and you who eat everything why do you despise your brother and sister though he uses these switches of up hair says for it is written as I live says the Lord every knee will bow to me and every tongue will give praise the God therefore each of us will give an account of himself to God very simple what he's saying here is um your focus should be on you not on them in your position and and standing before God it's kind of like when Jesus said why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye but do not see the log in your own eye I think that's what Paul is saying here the eating or not eating is a speck the judging and the despising is the log and so I think a lot of this relates to having humility and and and having the attitude you know if not for the mercy and grace of God we would not be able to stand before him only by his grace and mercy do any of us stand before him go to the next slide in verse 12 so then each of us will give an account of himself to God therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another instead make up your mind to put any to excuse make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way he uses the word instead here he's moving from attitude to some actions that we can take in the first action he says is stop doing things that offend injure violate another's conscience and spirituality stop doing those things allow people to connect and worship and serve God in the way they believe God has called them to on these kinds of issues now when he talks about putting a stumbling block here what he is talking about he's he's not just saying don't eat meat around a vegetarian because they might feel bad about it the animal or something and that may be a good thing to do and all that I get that but it's much more than that he's what he's doing is saying what their what their behavior is doing is it's causing people to be drawn in to participation in this church in idolatry or in - we might say don't do stuff that may draw people in the sin that's how serious this is but also not only don't do stuff that draws them in the sin but don't do stuff that draws boundaries around the community of faith that excludes and limits full participation in relationship to disputable matters because that's also what they are doing in in this case this eating meat would say you no longer belong because of what you're doing you are impure you can't be a part of this and we have ways we do that also on disputable matters we draw people out of our circle with them if we go to the next verse 15 and the next slide says for if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat you are no longer walking in love do not destroy by your food someone for whom Christ died the real issue about disputable matters is that if they provide an opportunity for us to love like Jesus loved that's what they do and that's how we should view them this is an opportunity for me to practice the Philippians chapter - to lay aside my rights and privileges to not consider my own self but to consider others more important than me and there's two things that really prevent this from happening and that is pride arrogance superiority and fear and anger you tend to go together that's what happens when disputable matters come up there's a sense of pride I'm the smartest person in the room here then there's a sense of fear and anger over the dispute rather than the answer then is love okay here's this disputable issue how does love enter into this how do I love like Jesus loved in this situation if the way we live out and proclaim our personal convictions on disputed areas causes others offence we are doing it wrong and the problem isn't the conviction we have it's us that's where the problem lies and a good question to ask yourself is how do I you we burn and offend people with our conviction on disputable matters because we all do we all do I'm learning justjust even as I do it a thermos lets you sometimes I'll say stuff no the oh yeah that'll get them and then I have to stop myself and say I need to not say it that way I need to not do that and I rewrite it well maybe it's the attitude that I have that is important there okay the next slide verse 19 says so then let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another great verse and this what Paul's going to be talking about here and how do we pursue which makes 4pc first ye do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food for all for all though all things are clean it is wrong to cause anyone to stumble by what you eat it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything that causes your brother to stumble start stop there so how do we pursue peace with these kind of issues and one response may be to limit the people we hang out with to those we agree with on all the disputable matters and you can do that and good luck with that but you're going to have a very small circle of people you hang out with on you know because of that way of going about it a better way and maybe a more biblical way but if this is a disputable matter I won't judge you learn what is truly essential st. Augustine said in the essentials unity the non-essentials diversity and in all things well he said charity I'll say love you know use the word charity as much and you know and and so like I mentioned what are essentials are what are the indisputable things and those are the things that the church has agreed on throughout history those are the things in relationship to the gospel of Jesus Christ those are the things that are have been always shown to be clear like immorality those things in the Bible that have always been clear those are the indisputable things but there are many things that that's just not been the case and those are the ones we need to learn those are not essential those are non-essential they're important and each church has to make decisions on those things and that's okay but when we make those decisions and we hold something as old we're going to hold to this even though it's not an indisputable matter then we hold to that conviction with an open hand we hold to that conviction with humility knowing maybe the other side is right on this one and maybe we are but we think this is what we best got spiritual gifts in their use everyone needs to hold out with an open hand I love verse 22 it says the faith you have keep to yourself before God now he's not saying don't share the gospel what when he says the faith that you have that's not what he's talking about but an obvious he's talking about those beliefs you have or opinions you have on these and convictions you have on these disputable matters learn how to we need to learn especially we love making sure everybody knows where we stand on every issue I mean this verse should be you know Facebook should make this mandatory on their front page but learn to keep them before God to ourselves doesn't mean we don't discuss we don't debate yes we do that we do that all in a proper way it doesn't tell us that we're not to hold strong biblical conviction on these disputable issues of course we do we're going to have to but we hold them close to the vest we hold them in humility with sensitivity and understanding toward those good Christians who love Jesus just as much as we do who disagree and then in chapter 15 verse 1 Paul says we should all please our neighbor for their good to build them up and that resolves at all is what I am doing in relationship to this does it please my neighbor is it loving my neighbor and is it building up my neighbor Paul said Lapine's to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but in humility of mind let each of you regard one another more important than himself do not look out for your own personal interest but also for the interest of others I'd like to do in closing is just talk a little about because we've been talking about you know reopening and coming back together as a church and this whole Cove in nineteen stuff that's going on and there are diverse opinions about this there are diverse opinions in our church about when and how we should reopen the surveys we did they were 50/50 on the questions we had I've been talking with pastors and there's been so many churches and organizations putting out information and everyone's saying yeah that's just divided and God has done some tremendous things God has used this crisis to bring people to Christ but the devil has used us to divide and wants to use it to divide and these things that I've just gone through in relationship to these disputable matters we need to keep in mind with this issue don't judge or despise both sides don't judge or despise your understanding art you know my understanding is not superior to yours I may have an understanding and that's okay and an opinion and a strong conviction and that's all okay but don't judge and despise understand God's view of the other person in this and engage in love the way Jesus would as a person taking up your cross in this whole thing and how do it I look out build up and take care of my neighbor that needs to be our primary attitude so with that we are going to be hopefully opening up some time here in June not going to give you any specific dates we have some things as a church we have to do and all churches are doing this and they're important things critical things before we open up one of them and some folks here are working on this is we need a protocol guidelines and we need a document that states these guidelines that everyone who comes to this church has an opportunity to read and fully understand and that when they come to church they're green on these guidelines and we will be using help from you know we'll be making use of guidelines from Ohio state kind of thing and it's the CDC in a lot of other churches and church organizations have been putting out a lot of stuff and we're going through that trying to come up with stuff this document will be published to all who come here stuff will be published on these doors and you're doing a white as well is these are critical things that every church organization is saying you must do before opening for the safety respect of everybody this thing and then there are a number of things we have to do to our building to make it adequate and and to make it fit all the different guidelines so we can get back together but our hope you know my hope is for us to get back together and so we're working on this hopefully this will all take place in June we will once we have everything ready to go we will do at least one practice run with a more limited number of people because our building is unique and there's a lot of choke points and we'll just need to see what are we missing so we'll probably have a practice run with about think about that or we didn't think about this and these are some things we have to think about so you will be getting some time hopefully by the end of this week but maybe the beginning of next week this kind of guidelines protocol documents so and then at that point we would welcome feedback on that so so I'm going to close in prayer here we'll sing one last song Lord thank you and we ask Lord that you would help us to pursue the things that make for peace in the building up with one another especially now wouldn't we think of not just the coated thing Lord but now we have all this stuff going on in these cities the racial divide in our country how can we as Christians be people of peace teach us how to do that help us to make that our emphasis in your name we pray amen