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I’m going to invite you to Romans. Chapter 14 is where we’re at today, Romans chapter 14. And we’re going to be talking about a very important passage of scripture where I find it creates a tension in the body of Christ when we have this this concern for people. And yet we know that we have a truth that we believe in when we try to flesh out our faith, it creates this tension in how we live in this world because we understand that there is a there is a conflict between what the world says, how we should live and what God’s Word says. And as Christians, we are certainly not called to called to compromise the foundation of our faith, but to figure out how to be for Christ but live in this world, right? Our our home is is not here. It’s in heaven with Jesus. But we live as aliens in this world. But we want to we’re certainly called on mission to connect to this world, to proclaim Christ and hold to the truth that we find sacred and invaluable. In the Book of Romans, we’ve learned that this book really is divided into a couple sections. The beginning of this book, up until Chapter 11, teaches us how to to understand the truth of what God has done for us and our identity in him as it relates to our faith in Jesus. So we we know apart from Christ, we’re lost.
That’s why Jesus came to rescue us, save us Our our sin has separated us from God. But because of what Jesus has done, we have the opportunity to experience a reconciliation in our in our relationship with God that should then impact how we live. When we understand what God has done for us and giving His life for us, we then begin to understand that God has called us to give our life in return. That the reason God has created you is for relationship. And the only way to have that relationship is through what Christ has done in reconciling you on the cross to God. And He calls you to put your faith in Him. And when you surrender your life to Christ, God transforms your life in Him. And and God calls you on a new mission because you have a new identity, new value, new meaning in Christ. And so in Chapter 12 in Romans, it then calls you to lay down your life in Jesus, to live for his glory in this world. And as we live, God does a transforming work in us. We don’t we don’t walk into Christianity knowing everything we should know about our relationship with God. But we we grow in that relationship and it continues to transform our life day to day. But as God does that, and as the church lives on mission for what He’s called us to in this world, we find that it becomes an invitation for others to come to know Jesus.
And we’re we’re coming from different places in life as we live out this this gospel, this message of freedom in Jesus. We we reach different ethnic groups with different cultural backgrounds of different educational levels and socioeconomic positions and political understandings. And and so what it creates within the body of Christ, it creates this this place of tension, of not answering the question, how are you going to get along? Right. All these these different understandings of life now coming into to Jesus and and what God desires for his church is this beautiful unity in working together and what Christ calls us to. In fact, we’ve used the disciples as an example and recognizing just among Jesus’s 12 disciples, they had an array. They’re they’re Jewish people, but they had an array of understanding of how of how they were to live life. You had Peter who was a zealot or, or which would attack people that didn’t agree with him politically. He would chop your ear off. Or you had Matthew, who was a tax collector, and they tended to side with Rome and you had the Pharisees that they lived separate. They lived in the culture, but they lived separate from from the the Gentile people. They looked at the Gentile people as unclean, and they tried to treat their people separately from Rome.
While Rome was certainly involved in Israel, they didn’t like the presence. And so they were they were segregated, but still a part of of Rome itself. And then you had the A-scene’s who were like, we don’t like anything that’s happening. So they would just go out into the woods and live by themselves. John the Baptist was likely in a in a scene. So you had this this spectrum of of positions coming together in Jesus and the one thing that united them. Was Christ. So within the body of Christ, we certainly desire unity, but but not necessarily uniformity that God has made us all unique and different. And there’s something about the way that God has gifted us to be a blessing in this world, that we should appreciate the uniqueness and the gifts and the talents that God has has given all of us. The Church, though, it needs to hold its message. While also caring for people. How do we do that? And you find that some people oftentimes with that conflict of loving others, but and understanding the truth that God has given us, they they they might feel the temptation to compromise. And if you end up embracing everything, then really what you stand for is nothing, because there’s there’s nothing unique about your existence. But we understand that God has called his church for a purpose and to the point that he was willing to give his life for it.
And so we don’t want to compromise that message because it’s built on the sacred foundation of Jesus and his life given for us. And so there is the uniqueness for which we stand in the truth and a concern for humanity. That same concern that Jesus carried in this world, that’s the reason he gave his life. In Romans chapter 14, verse one. That’s where Paul begins to describe for us how, as God’s people do, we experience godly unity in diversity. God cares about what you believe. And God also cares about how you live it out. What you believe and how you behave. Because what you believe impacts your life in how you live. And in Romans chapter 14, verse one, Paul starts to give us this this background of of understanding of how we navigate this as a community for Christ without compromising the message for which we stand on. And he says in Romans chapter 14, verse one. As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. Paul is helping us understand that when we come into the body of Christ, look, we’re coming from different positions. We need to have a place to mature in Jesus to understand who we are in light of who Christ is and and rest in that foundation and become confident in that foundation, find our security in that, and begin to understand how to live it out, to let go from the things of the world that we might have thought was truth that we’ve beginning to discover isn’t.
And now who we are in Christ and everything that represents for us and the way that He refers to that is is weak. And when he uses this this word weak, he doesn’t mean, look, when we come into the body of believers that someone isn’t less than someone else. But but rather, when he talks about this idea of weakness, what he means is we’re not fully developed yet. We haven’t hit this place of maturity that when we come to Christ, we all come to Christ as infants in the Lord. And we we need that space to grow. And so what Paul is indicating by this word weak is that it’s temporary, meaning in the life of the believer, you’re expected to mature and grow in Christ. But we need the freedom to be able to do that. And then he goes on and says this, that As for the one who is weak, he says in the faith, welcome him not to quarrel over opinions. And so what Paul is distinguishing in this verse is that within the Christianity, we have a faith. Now, sometimes when we talk about faith as individuals, we we tend to, in our culture, especially make faith just just all about being personal. You know, you have your faith. And I have my faith.
And what’s true for you is true for you. And what’s true for me is true for me. And we describe truth in that sense in a subjective way. But but in terms of Christianity, what we’re interested in is objective truth. What is the overarching foundation? What is the truth that transcends us for which all of human nature are designed in under the Lord? What is what is the objective truth to life? Because we do have a personal faith that we might put in truth. But in Christianity there’s also the faith. And the faith helps us to define our faith in in the Lord. And so Paul is saying, look, there is the faith. And some of us come to the faith and we’re weak. We we need this place to grow. In fact, all of us, we start from this place of infant and Jesus needing a place to grow. And so he’s saying, look, there’s weak in the faith, welcome them, but do not quarrel over opinions. There’s certain things within the the realm of Christianity that it’s a matter of methodology or a matter of of opinion. And just to give you an idea of what I mean by this, if you look within passages of Scripture, I think in your notes, I have this written out for you, but there’s, there’s, there’s a few passages that just remind us that we’re not about whatever you want to believe.
There is a foundation to who we are as a church. That’s what makes us unique. It’s what gives us identity and calls us into mission in this world. The Apostle Paul Titus one four. He writes to Titus, my true child in a common faith, recognizing both he and Titus held this or Colossians chapter one, verse 2023. If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Paul is saying, You want to understand why I know what I’m doing in this world or what I’m about in this world. It’s written by not my faith, but the faith has been communicated to me. I’m living this out and Galatians one eight, the sacredness of that faith, he says. But even if we or an Angel from Heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preach to you, let him be accursed. There’s a sacredness to the message that we carry. It cost Christ his life. Don’t undermine that. It’s precious to who you are and the freedom that we have in him or in Jude three tells you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. And we talk in terms of contending. It doesn’t mean we we need to fight one another. Right. We’re not about to get in some kind of fistfight or argument over the faith.
But but simply, we want to stand on it with confidence as first Peter three, verse 15 says, make a defense for the hope that’s in you. Explain to people why this foundation is so important and at the same time, the way that we employ this might look different how you worship in the United States. But if we were to fly into another country and participate in a different church service, you might find there’s a little bit of uniqueness in the way that those people may gather. That’s. Is different from what you’re accustomed to in the United States. It’s not that it’s wrong. It’s just different. It’s a matter of opinion and how you reach a particular culture. Methodology has a place, but it’s not in the same position as as theology. There is truth, and then there’s the way you employ that truth and that it becomes a method. And methods are important. Every generation needs to ask, How do we take the truth that God, God gives us and communicate it in a way that reaches the generation where we find ourselves? Any time a church marries a methodology, what you find is it starts to get stuck in a in a time warp and it runs the risk of making itself irrelevant to the next generation. It becomes a kind of a scary thing or maybe a trepid thing when a when a church gets to a place where it marries its methodology.
And loses the opportunity to reach the next generation of people. Sometimes I like to remind churches or I when I get around churches that may be dying just to help them recognize it’s because you’re not looking for opportunities to be helpful in connecting to the next generation. You don’t want to marry your methodology. You want to marry your theology or your truth, but adapt your methodology. Treat it as a as a as a friend to employ for the purpose of of reaching people. And this is this is what the apostle Paul is saying in this passage of scripture. I’ll say as a church, you want to know what our methodology is? It’s to do whatever we can short of sin in order to reach people with the gospel. Whatever it takes for people to to know Christ. We want to do that. But but not to the point of sinning. We want to take the message that we find so sacred and help people connect to it. And this is where Paul is saying to us, look, you may cherish certain methodologies. You may have grown up in a church experience. And there are certain things that you you went through as a young person that met you right where you are in Christ. And that particular style of worship, you know, was important to you. But but if if Jesus really matters to you and you know what Jesus has done for you, then your heart’s desire more than just simply holding that method forever and demanding other people do it.
Should be to ask the question and how how can I take that sacred truth? And share it in such a way that I can meet the next generation. In a way that impacts their heart, the way that that tradition impacted mine. And so Paul is saying the way that we we minister in this capacity matters. In fact, he gives a few examples within the book of Romans and in Romans chapter 14, verse two, Paul gives us the first example. He’s saying, look, you want to talk about ministering to the weak and giving them space and helping them learn how to grow. Let me let me give you an example of what that looks like. Romans Chapter 14, verse two. You can imagine in Rome, you’ve got Jews and Gentiles coming to Christ, which there’s a couple different worldviews there. And with even even within Judaism, we just described Jesus’s disciples. You had groups within those groups and in the Gentile community the same thing. And so Paul is saying, let me give you an example. Verse two, One person believes he may eat anything while the weak person eats only vegetables. Interesting. When you study the New Testament, the idea of eating and how that impacted people came up multiple times, listed just a few of those in the passages of Scripture there, but it was an issue in communities and how they addressed what they ate.
It’s a unique thing. I like all kinds of food, but but here for some people this was was problematic. And if you put it in a first century context, I think it’s important to know that people don’t specifically know exactly the issue Paul is addressing here. But what they can recognize is within the body of Christ, it created a tension. To some degree. It became an issue. And how can we move forward if we don’t all agree on what we should eat? Right. And so Paul is addressing that. And it was a common practice when the church would gather, they would partake of a fellowship meal within that community. They would eat together. Now, usually after Sunday, we don’t we don’t typically do that here, but you guys may go out to a restaurant and eat. Can I just encourage you don’t fight about it, right? Just let your wife pick the restaurant and just go there and be happy. Okay. If you’re I don’t want to share our stories, but I will tell you the predominant struggle within our relationship is where where are we going to eat? But here in in Romans 14, Paul is talking about this in a in a broader community. Now, you’re going to think if you’re if you’re a Jewish person now you’re mingling with gentiles.
Jews were they ate kosher and the gentile community, they may not have had so much of a concern there. And so how might a Jewish community address that? Well, then rather than run the risk of eating anything that might have been touched by meat that they would consider not kosher, they just decided to eat vegetables. And on the other side of that, in the Gentile community, they may have said, well, we can eat whatever we want. And so he’s saying in this passage, one person may eat anything while the weak person eats only vegetables. Right? Or in a Gentile community, it was common in Rome that that people would make sacrifices to idols. They would sacrifice meat to idols. And if you went to the meat market, it was cheaper to buy meat sacrificed to idols than other meat. And so if you’ve got a big family and you need to save a buck, you’re like, sweet. I’ll just I’ll just buy this this meat sacrifice to idols because they’re not real. Anyway, I already know how this works as a Christian. Right? So you would eat the meat sacrificed to an idol. But. But within that same gentile community, let’s. Let’s pretend that you had a friend that was very involved in the worship of that false God. And maybe to the point that that that false God also accepted a temple prostitution and you literally gave your body in recognition of this false God.
Or are you dedicated your life to it and and sacrificed everything you had. Time, talent, resources. Only to find out that it wasn’t true. And you’re so devastated by that that you can’t even look, even if the meat’s cheaper, you can’t even look at the meat offered to idols. And rather than sear your conscience by eating that meat, you just said, forget it. I’m never running the risk of eating any meat given to this idol. I’m just going to eat vegetables for the rest of my life. You can understand how someone in Christ not truly experiencing their freedom yet could struggle their. And so the question is a believer, what are you going to do? You’re just going to eat that meat, brag about the money that you saved and flaunt it in their face. Are you going to be concerned about another brother and sister in Christ who who may be weak in this area? Because they’ve got trauma through what they’ve gone through. Maybe their families divided over over the issue of this false God and how this one person forsook the family religion to now follow Jesus. Now, any time he sees anything dedicated to that false God. He struggles. Unity and diversity. Paul, in this passage in the book of Galatians, he dealt with this. He says, you were called to freedom, brethren.
Only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another. So as a believer in Christ, you might be completely free to eat whatever you want. But out of concern for another, sometimes you just walk mindfully of how they might receive that in order, in order to better minister to them in the place that they’re at because you love them more than you love the meat. You’re interested more in what Jesus wants to do in their life than you are in just simply having a piece of bacon. Although sometimes bacon may be worth it. Right. But. But you get the point. Like, what is your heart about? Is about serving you or is about meeting people where they’re at for the sake of the gospel. And so Paul reminds us about our attitude towards those things. I’ll say as a Christian, you’re free to eat. I don’t want to say whatever you want. Tide pods are bad. Don’t drink bleach and rubbing alcohol. So there’s certain things. There are certain things you want to withhold, but within within reason, right? You have the freedom in Christ. But. But when I travel to certain places in the world. I want to be mindful of the community around me. How are they going to receive it when I’m in India? I’m not eating a cow, right? Go to the Middle East somewhere. Probably not going to partake of pork.
Because the message that I want to share is more important. And I don’t want to lose people for the sake of the message. Now, there might be times where you need to you make a statement and what you’re about. For example, I don’t know why this happens, but it seems like about once every Christmas I get a message from someone angry about the fact that we sometimes will put up Christmas trees. I think we’ve done it every year. Christmas trees. Because someone read somewhere that a Christmas tree at some point was given over to some false god. And how dare you put up a Christmas tree? And I think to myself, I, I’ve never seen someone come into our church see a Christmas tree and think, oh, false gods, let’s bow here and worship false God, right? Like people, people tend to not make that attachment. And in fact, if you’re going to live your life that way, like there’s nothing in this world that someone hasn’t taken and used for a wrong reason. So therefore, everything in life you should cut yourself off from because at some point everyone has used everything that exists in this world to worship some false God, whether it be themselves or an idol. But the reality is God made trees, man, right? They’re created by him and for his glory. And. And so if I can figure out a way to to leverage the thing that God has made to promote his glory in this world, I’m going to do it.
Just because someone does something bad with it doesn’t mean everyone has to do something bad with it, or you have to forsake it. God made everything that’s good and we can use it to appreciate him. If for some reason it leads us down a path of pagan false worship, then yes, we we can consider stopping at that point and probably should. But God made all things for his glory, including food. And we recognize within that tension, some people just aren’t there yet. And others are great with bacon. But we need to be mindful about each other’s position. Let me give you another point. Example number two. He goes on and says, Romans 14 five. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. Again, the day of worship was somewhat of a tension in the body of Christ and how they dealt with it matters. And. And even today people look at the weekend and what is Sabbath or what does it mean to rest a little different.
Martin Luther, historically, the 1500s, Martin Luther said this he believed Sunday was not the Sabbath day, but a new day of worship. At the same time, John Calvin believed the Sabbath changed to Sunday. So you remember in Jewish tradition, they believe the Sabbath started on Friday night at sundown and ended on Saturday night. On sundown. For them, that was the Sabbath. And Martin Luther agreed that was the Sabbath. But he also held that Jesus was resurrected on Sunday, which is why here we are as a church, gathered on a resurrection day to praise the identity that we have in Christ and and the hope that it gives to his people that we, too, in the future would be resurrected. John Calvin taught well. That became the Sabbath day. There was there were these different beliefs on what Sabbath was. And get this, I think they’re all wrong. I think the Sabbath isn’t a day. I think the Sabbath itself is Jesus. And we’ve entered into his rest because of the completed work that Christ has accomplished for us. And if you want verses on that, I wrote them on the bottom. You can read that. And if you disagree with me, you’re wrong. But I still love you, right? It’s okay. We can we can still get along in the body of Christ. Some of you might look at Sunday and think, you know, there’s something about Sunday that I just grew up with.
It’s important to me. My ears are open to what really what God wants to say in my life. On this day. I just I’m. That’s fine. That’s great. You know, I don’t want to take away from that, But but at the same time, I would encourage you to think and how can you engage in Christ every day that way? I think it’s important for the body of Christ to have at least a day where we gather together in celebration of what God is doing for us as a community. I mean, it’s a beautiful story that God is writing here in Lehigh to see how how a church community has really started with nothing and and to where God has it today and and to know our future is even brighter in him. But but it’s really it’s determined on how we seek him individually and how we work that out collectively. As we are a unified people, though, we could be diverse. And so, Paul, he’s engaging this this thought for us to to walk mindfully of where one another’s coming from to meet one another, where we’re at and love one another as Christ would would love us and to help us mature in him, because we all have struggles. We all have these places of weakness and the experiences that we’ve carried into this place.
I mean, we come with baggage. But to let Jesus work that out in our lives. So as God’s community there, there are certain things that we hold to with with a closed hand. These are sacred to our identity. We we will not let these go. But then there are other things, opinions, things that we we treat more with an open hand, that we might have a conviction about it. We might have a methodology we want to employ. But. But at the end of the day, we are the body of Christ. Let me just toss them out. You don’t have to answer these out loud, but. But in your mind, you can answer the question, is this is this a closed hand issue or an open hand issue? What about what about the way that we dress clothes hand or open hand? I mean, in terms of biblically speaking, I would say dress is by far more of an open. You can look at a different cultures in the world and the way people show up to to church or or the way that they might dress Monday through Saturday outside of maybe a Sunday gathering. And every culture is unique. There’s some diversity in that, and that’s okay. And it’s part of the beauty of having different ethnic groups around the world and different cultural groups. There’s different ways we dress about. The only prescription in scripture related to dress is, is that we should dress in modesty.
I think, in fact, when a certain group of gathering, they all have to dress the certain way and act a certain way all the time. There’s a there’s a little bit of concern of how how that’s shaping their mind. You might wonder, is, is this about unity or uniformity? And uniformity is all about everyone needs to act and be a certain way. And it becomes more about legalism than about the freedom that we have in Jesus. Or what about this? What about style of music? People people fight over styles of music. Some are like, I want more of a rock concert. Other people are like, I want the kind of church music that sounds more more like you’re in a funeral parlor than anything else. Different styles and and the beauty in the body of Christ is God gives them gives us freedom in that to leverage that to to minister to our culture wherever we are. Or how about this deity of Christ? Is that open hand or closed hand? It’s closed hand, right? We will not let go of the deity of Christ because his sufficiency, it determines everything that we’ve put our hope on. If he if he isn’t God, then we really we have no hope or in that in the same terms, the humanity of Christ. We need Jesus to be fully human, to be a sufficient sacrifice for our life.
That is that is closed hand. Or what about this by by grace alone through faith alone. I mean, for us, that is a that is a closed hand issue. It’s saying the sufficiency of Jesus. Some people tease that statement, talking about grace alone through faith alone, saying you don’t need to add the word alone to grace. If it’s grace, then it always is alone anyway. It’s not grace unless it is alone that Jesus is sufficient. He paid it all grace through faith that is that is sacred to our identity. We. We don’t let go of that. Or. Or what about the inerrancy of scripture? I would say it’s an issue of a closed hand that we have God’s truth and it’s it’s not corrupted or changing. We’re not looking for any addition to God’s revelation. We have what God desired for us. How about this one? Romans 1616 is going to tell you this greet one another with a holy kiss and it says it like a command. Greet one another with a holy kiss. There are some passages that say, with a holy kiss of love, I’m like, man, is that open mouth and close mouth here? What is it with love? I’ve been in some churches where some older ladies, I’m like, Man greet greeting one another with a with a holy kiss. Are we supposed to do that? I mean, it tells it says to do it.
It doesn’t even say, here’s option for you. It tells you to do that. How do you handle that? Is that an open hand or a closed hand? And that is for us and an open hand. I know just taking a trip to Africa. I’ve been there a few times now to to Uganda. And one of the things that they do in that culture that I just am not comfortable with is grown men hold hands with grown men like. And when I just friends, you just grab a hand and walk down the street. And my third time there, I’ve developed great friendships with people and and first time I see someone that, you know, it’s been been about a year since I’ve been there and first time I see one that’s become a close friend of mine, he immediately runs up and he holds my hand and starts walking. And for that culture, they’re cool with that, right? For me, I’m not there, but but I’m there thinking, you know, I can appreciate what this stands for. But in my mind the whole time I’m thinking, But how soon can I let go? Right? I don’t want him to feel like I’m rejecting him as a person. But this is beyond my boundaries here. But close hand or open hand in that sense, it is no hand at all for me. But. But the way you respond matters. What about this in our culture? What about sexuality? In our culture.
It’s a little bit of an issue, right? In a biblical understanding. It’s not First Corinthians chapter six, verse 20 says You have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God with your body. Meaning as Jesus gave himself fully for me, including his body. Jesus asks me to give fully of myself in return, including my body doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to Him. In fact, everything I have is his. I happen to just be a steward of what he’s given to me, including me. God cares what I do with my body. Now, when I say that I know there’s a theological statement I just made. Right? But but I also make that statement recognizing and within our culture. Things aren’t always in a line with what Jesus says. And I care about people. And we understand as a church, when when people come into our building, they may come from different places in life and try to figure out, like they’re saying to themselves, I know I love Jesus, but what does it mean for me to follow after that? And how does it how does it affect what I believe and then how I live? And so for me to say something like that in our culture can be shocking. It can disrupt people. It can cause them anxiety or frustration. And so they need some freedom to understand and have a place to ask questions without feeling like they’re being attacked.
And okay, if that is a stand in scripture, Jesus gave his life for me. And so I give my life in return. And God cares about what I do with my body. How does that fit with where I am in my worldview? We don’t want to attack people. We want to love people where they are. Or I can throw up another hot topic like what about abortion? For for fun. This week I got online and I just asked artificial intelligence all kinds of things. Well, one thing I asked him was I think I asked OpenAI. I said, when does human life begin? And OpenAI said this to me. It said, Biologically speaking, human life begins at fertilization when a sperm cell joins with an egg cell to form a single cell called a zygote. The zygote contains all the genetic information necessary to determine the individual’s unique physical characteristics, such as eye color, hair, color and gender. A conception that’s the way the openai human life is at conception, if that is human life. To take that life is considered, then murder. Now, I know there could be exceptions that we can talk about, and I don’t think exceptions set the standard for the norm. But but again, in our culture. We have people that have experienced certain things taught by their culture that may feel the effect of it.
And they may ask the question, What do I do with this? Because there’s the theology of what we believe as Christians, but then there’s the care of the human heart. And if someone’s gone through that in their life or they know someone that has. As a church community, our calling is to meet them where they are and love them as Christ loves them and let God mature them in Him. And if there’s questions to be asked, if there’s a need to learn and grow, I just want to cast stones at people. When lot love people where they are and help the truth of God’s word shape their heart. This is not a place where we’re unconcerned with people that live contrary to what Jesus says, because all of us have lived contrary to what Jesus says. This is a place of grace and healing and hope and and the way that we do that matters. And because there’s what God’s truth is and we want to hold it secure, it’s what transforms us. It’s what sets us free. And then there’s the world in which we love. And there’s the people of the world in which we love. Excuse me. We don’t want to love the world itself, but. But it creates tension. As we come into the body of Christ, then we we we live within that that tension. So I want to just share this with you very quickly.
Honestly, it is quickly, because at the end of my notes here, this is just this much section of out of a whole sermon. But but Paul says first then for the rest of this passage to verse 12, three things he wants us to hold to as we think about how we engage our church holding united in the truth that we carry, but yet in the expression of diversity that God has for us to give one another the room that we need to grow as we move forward and what God calls us to. Three positions toward godly unity in diversity. Number one in your notes is this Do not devalue others, but welcome who God welcomes. Do not devalue others, but welcome who God welcomes in Romans chapter 14, verse three, he says, Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains. This This word for despise is literally devaluing someone else. So here you are, the one that’s eating the food. Remember the example we shared that you’re just eating whatever they want and you’re looking at someone just eating vegetables and you’re thinking, Who are they? You know, they’re obviously less than me. You’re devaluing that person. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains or look at this, the one who abstains. Pass judgment on the one who eats. They’re likening each other, thinking I’m better than you. Right? And both of them think that they’re in this position of superior order.
And he’s saying that’s that’s not what God’s heart is for. God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls and he will be upheld. For the Lord is able to to make His stand. Now God holds him up and God welcomes Him in. And so we need to have a place for one another to to learn and grow within this. I know as a pastor, every once in a while I get the privilege of answering this question. Like, if I have someone that comes in to church and they held to a certain belief system or worldview and they realized what they were holding to isn’t true. And and all of a sudden they’re now coming into a church, but they’re reluctant to want to believe in anything again because, well, they don’t want to be lied to. They put so much trust in what they had held to before, and they know what it felt like to find out it wasn’t reality or it wasn’t true. And now all of a sudden, here they come. They know that they they love Jesus, but they’re they’re unsure about anything else. And and they’re worried about believing something that might be a lie. And so so rather than believe in anything, again, they want to know everything before they trust in something.
And and you and I know as human beings, that’s impossible. It is impossible to know everything before you believe in something. So here, here’s what I’d like to remind people of. In Christianity, we have two foundations. One is, who is Jesus? And the other is what is truth? Or is God’s Word true? Can you trust it? If you can trust in the reliability of Jesus and you can trust in the Bible, then that foundation becomes the foundation for everything. If you can rest on that, then you can work the rest out. But just come to the confidence of whether or not you can rest on that. Now, if you’re asking those questions, I’d love to talk to you about them. Right. But but you don’t have to know everything because this is a journey that we’re all on and growing in Christ. And so don’t devalue others, but rather welcome who God welcomes and give each other space to learn and grow in the Lord. Point number two, do not isolate yourself, but collectively surrender in Jesus. As long as we’re surrendered in Christ, we have a place to move forward. That’s how Romans 12 started. Remember, we get to the place of living out our faith. You know where Paul wants us to begin? Is your life completely surrendered to Christ? If you’ve surrendered all that you are to Jesus, there may be some bumps in the road as you as you mature in him.
But as long as the state of your heart is committed in Christ, God’s going to do that work in your life. It’s got to start from that position. And if we’re there, then God can work the rest out. So that becomes the foundation for us. And and in recognition of that, Paul encourages us not to isolate, but collectively surrender in Jesus. He says it this way in verse seven, for none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord. And if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are in the Lord’s for. For to this end, Christ died and lives again that we might be be Lord, both of the dead and of the living. And what does this mean? Let me let me just share a little bit of an idea. Notice in verse seven, he talks about the individuality. We tend to focus on this as a culture. The faith is a very personal thing. And it is it is a personal thing, but it’s also more than that. It’s more than just a personal thing, because faith is also intended to affect us in community, because God calls us to community. Sometimes you may not like what people do in their methods, and some people could get angry about that and say, You know what? I’m taking my ball and going home.
But but what Paul is saying here is, look, there’s what God has done in you personally, but the whole reason God is working you personally is for the impact communally, starting with your walk with God and then how that impacts your relationship with one another. You cannot live what God calls you to live isolated, and so working in community is important. Relationship becomes the great sanctifier of life. You may think you’re roses and all that, right? It’s not until you get into relationship that you begin to realize that sometimes there’s tension here and how you respond to that lets you see if whether or not you’re walking in the spirit or living in the flesh. You need relationship to discover if your heart truly is surrendered to Christ or if it’s all about self. And so he’s encouraging us here in Jesus. Don’t don’t isolate, but rather live collectively in Christ and let God refine you, sanctify you through those relationships so you figure out how to honor him and the complexity of learning how to love one another. I mean, it’s what Jesus did for you and giving his life. And point number three, do not be the ultimate judge, but know you are accountable to him. And he reminds us sometimes we can get so passionate about our opinions, we forget their opinions, and we also forget that you’re not judge, jury and executioner.
And you start acting like it. But when we walked mindfully that everything that we do is accountable to the Lord. It helps us think through what we what we know should matter, Right. And how we hold to that. And at the same time, what are some things that I need to hold loosely? It may just be something that I really care about, but it’s not necessarily what God calls us to. And he says it like this. Romans 14. He says, verse ten, Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Are you why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written as I live, says the Lord. Every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us will give an account of Himself to God. The way you treat others matters to the Lord. It affects your relationship with God. It affects your impact in this world. Learning what God holds as sacred is important. And learning how to live it is is important. Let me close with this. I don’t know how many of you here would claim to be rock climbers, but let me just tell you probably what your mama wants to tell you. You’re crazy. Anybody scaling off the side of that is you are out of your mind.
But but for whatever reason, rock climbers have this passion to scale mountains. The goal is the mountain. The experience of climbing those mountains for different reasons. I’m sure they might have different passions for this, but. But when you when you observe rock climbers for the first time and I don’t know if this person is climbing or rappelling, maybe a rock climber can tell me. But. But when you climb a mountain. Rock climbers do something very interesting that at first glance most people would probably think is crazy until you learn why they do it. And that is when they they climb, they typically climb in groups and they tie themselves together. They tie themselves together, which normally you would look at that and think, oh, so if one falls, you all fall, right? Why would you do that? That seems insane. But but you realize that when when rock climbers climb, the reason they tie themselves together is because if one falls, then then the rope actually helps them hold one another to the side of the mountain. It keeps them anchored until the rock climber can gain their footing again. The one that falls can gain their footing again. And they continue on the climb the journey. Now, what’s interesting, and though I’m not encouraging any of you to risk your lives by doing such a thing, I, I do think there’s a parallel here to Christianity. And I think it’s what Paul’s describing for us in Romans 14.
God calls us to be a community united in Jesus. The goal, the journey. That’s that’s our prize to know Jesus and to walk with him, to scale the mountain of faithfulness in Christ. But we come to these places on this journey where we’re weak and sometimes we lose our footing. And sometimes we need other brothers and sisters in Christ who are tethered to us that hang on to that rope until we can get our footing. So that we can continue on that journey again together. And this is what the apostle Paul is saying to us in Romans 14. Church, the sacredness of what you hold is life transforming. Meeting people where they’re at and helping them grow is also important. Because the truth in what you carry is intended to impact and transform lives in him. And we go through seasons. We need other brothers and sisters in Christ that are willing to hold that rope. Because we don’t have our footing. But if someone can gently stay there and encourage us on the opportunity it gives us to move forward in Christ together. It shapes within God’s church. A beautiful story of how we scale that mountain. Church. Can I encourage you? As you think about your own walk with God, cling to what is true. And continuing to let God shape within you how to live that out, that you meet people where they are and love them as Jesus would love them.