Paul has moved away from general instructions and is dealing with some more specific issues in real time within the Roman church.
My big idea for today is that we must contend for unity in the church. We must all do our part to make Living Water a place where the hurt can find comfort and the healing processes can begin in the lives of any/everyone that comes through our door. The healing the brings salvation.
My prayer today is that by hearing this message, together our hearts will be opened towards our fellow humans regardless of where they come from or what kind of sin we detect on them. If you have your Bibles today you can join me as we turn to, you guessed it Romans Chapter 14 starting at verse 1.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.Romans 14:1-3
In order to help me share with you today, I have separated my thoughts into 2 sections or points. Let’s take a look at my first point. In reading this passage, I would like to address 2 groups of people here that Paul identifies. The first is…
The Strong In Faith.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.Romans 14:1
The strong in faith will bring along the weak in faith. The strong in faith will lead by example. The strong in faith does not indicate superiority. I don’t believe this is necessarily a statement about belief itself, Rather, it’s about the conviction about what is permissible within the faith system itself. The weaker in faith, as Paul puts it, are not lesser Christians, they are merely at a different place in their journey with Christ. Paul recognizes the role of the spiritually mature in bringing up the less spiritually developed.
In this passage, Paul continues to point to the divide in the Roman church between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. One of their biggest issues was the disputes over dietary restrictions of the Jewish Law and eating meat that may have been offered to idols. What was considered clean to eat and what was unclean to eat. Paul clearly makes the distinction in that the stronger in faith is the one who eats everything and the weaker only eats veggies.
This reminds me of a certain story in Acts 10. Peter’s vision. God shows Peter a vision of all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds. God instructs Peter to choose one to eat. Peter is in his journey as a Jewish Christian has a hang up about eating something foreign or unclean. The conversation goes like this…
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”Acts 10:14-15
The connection here is not so much about what is sin or other disputable matters, but today I really want to look at both because they are connected in how we see and respond/react certain things. Peter needed to be strengthened in his faith so that others behind him would also be able to grow to maturity. Peter needed to receive this understanding because through this, God was making him the front runner that opened the Gospel to the Gentiles. Peter, as the head of the church in Jerusalem needed to be free in his relationship with Christ because there were pagans coming to faith. God was preparing Peter to be unshakable as they made their way to faith in Christ Jesus. God prepared Peter to be unrattled by their appearance. Peter was prepared to be unrattled by the perceived sin he would detect on them.
When we came to Christ there was a stain of sorts, a residue that our previous life had left on us. It was easy to be perceived by others. We had received our salvation, but we were in a certain place in our journey. We we’re growing in our faith but we were weak. We would put out our cigarette on the way to the doors of the church. On our way out we would light up before we stepped of the curb. We couldn’t hide it. We smelled like an ashtray. There was obviously something lingering from our old life. The strong in faith helped us along and God began to remove those old things that lingered. We were not in a place to judge anyone and those closest to us did not look down on us. They helped us. They loved us through it.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.John 6:44
Every day we pray that God would draw in the lost. But if we don’t get prepared for them, we will find ourselves rattled when they arrive. We will be caught off guard by whatever sin we detect on them. If a homeless person who wreaks of alcohol comes in, they should find a safe and welcoming place to grow in the Lord. No matter what the dysfunction or sin might be, we must remember that It is God that has drawn them here. Ultimately, they are not here to meet you or me, they are here to meet with God. We must not look down on them, but welcome them and help them grow in God. And in this same way we are to offer deference to one another.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.1 Corinthians 10:23
Let’s move to my final point. The second group Paul identifies is…
The Weaker In Faith
One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.Romans 14:2-3
In correct context this passage is about Christians arguing over what is permissible to eat. But the overarching concept is unity among believers and how we can love each other in a manner that fosters spiritual growth. What is proper and how to support those who are not secure in their faith. Paul implies here that some are weaker while others are stronger. The strong in faith were not always strong. They were once weak in faith but grew to be strong. Those who are strong in faith retain their strength by continuing to exercise it. This type of spiritual growth is not magic, nor is it automatic. It takes some work and some love and the positioning of our hearts towards Christ daily. And it takes some personal responsibility. If we expect to grow in the Lord, we must seek to be like Him by engaging in prayer and reading God’s word.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17
Paul lays out a clear plan that all believers should be active in the work of spiritual growth. This is the expectation.
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:17
lets go back to every believer is at a certain point of their journey with Christ. In humility and Christlikeness, we don’t cast a disparaging judgment on the persons or freedoms the strong have in Christ. And the strong will not look down on the weaker in faith. As we look at this, I really want us to consider this idea of training ourselves as a church to welcome someone who is not like us. To be unrattled by someone who we may see as unclean. The addict/alcoholic doesn’t need another person to remind them of what a disappointment they have become. The person in sexual immorality doesn’t need clarification on the church’s stance on sex outside of marriage. John chapter 8 the Pharisees brought to Him the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. There was no question about her guilt. I want us to look closely at Jesus’ position. He took a position of love. He took a position of mercy and grace. The took a protective position-
…he who is without sin, cast the first stone.John 8:7
Jesus didn’t need to recite to her the position of the church on extramarital affairs, she already knew.
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”John 8:10-11
God has entrusted us with the hurt and the damaged, the weak in faith and those who are strong. As a disciple of Christ our job is to nurture others into a relationship with Christ. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to transform the heart of the sinner. It’s his job to create new life. Our job is to love. Church, I feel like sometimes we are still stumbling over our own self-righteousness. Don’t get me wrong I feel like we are making great progress in lots of areas. But when we are faced with the LGBTQ community, we throw up walls and the unwelcome mat comes out. Don’t worry I’m not willing to compromise the word of God. But this is a topic that we as a church will need to address sooner or later. And while we are talking about fostering spiritual growth in the church, I’m compelled to mention this to say that, we as the body of Christ must not withhold the love of Christ from any group that God has drawn into this building. We can love all people at any level of faith and trust that the Holy Spirit will be faithful to bring transformation. We must not be rattled when they come. We can be confident in sharing the love of Christ free from of judgment without feeling like we are cosigning on some facet of sinful behavior.
We will have plenty of time to dive deeper into these issues, as time goes on. In the spirit of these recent passages, I have felt the Lord pressing on me the importance of training ourselves in His love. We are called to love God with everything we have, submitting to Him in holy reverence. And to love our neighbor as ourselves. We don’t have contempt for ourselves. We don’t look down on ourselves. God has worked miraculously in our lives and we must give the same consideration for each other and anyone that comes through that door. Especially, if its clear that there is a sin issue present. After all Christ opened is heart to each of us despite all of our undealt with sin.
Will you open our hearts to Jesus today in such a way that you become open to loving each other and anyone that He puts in front of you.
About this lime I like to remind you of this…
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
Jesus, He’s the Son of the living God, and we can receive from Him today His Righteousness, His purpose and His calling. Will you call on him today? Your salvation/forgiveness is just one prayer away. Will you trust in his ability to do what He said He would do? Will you believe today? Many of you need a fresh touch from God today. Is there some form of unbelief or a fracture of trust as it relates to God in your life today? God wants to redeem and restore those areas of your life? He wants to restore Joy and hope for you today. You’re hearing this now and the Holy Spirit has brought someone or something to mind. He wants to speak life into this today. He wants to bring healing in this area today. There are areas of deep regret when it comes to your relationship with God and you have rejected Christ as your savior …It’s not too late
It’s not too late to humble yourself before him today, hold out your arms and open your hands to receive from him today. Will you say yes to Jesus, today? Will you bow your heads with me? Some of you already know the Lord, but maybe he’s put something on your heart that you need to deal with, you need to ask his forgiveness today. If that’s you will you just acknowledge that to him today. This is just you and God here.
Now someone here may not have that relationship with Jesus and today you’ve felt him tugging at your heart, you’ve been hurt, and you’re guarded, I know. Jesus is here and wants set things right in your life. If you’ll say Pastor, I want Jesus to be my Lord and savior. Remember, it’s just you and God here. Will you pray with me today, We’ll pray here as a family and you can repeat after me.
Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner. I ask you today for your forgiveness. I believe that you died for my sins and on that 3rd day, you rose from the dead. I ask you to come into my heart today. I trust and follow you as my Lord and savior. Guide me and help me to do your will. In Jesus’ name Amen.
“‘“The Lord bless youNumbers 6:24-26
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’