As you’ve heard me say often that it’s important for a pastor to “exegete” (not execute-LOL!) his congregation and the culture he lives in. One of the issues with 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14-15 is to explore areas in our culture that our congregation is facing that match with the challenges addressed in those chapters.
One thing I would say about our Sunday services…my second sermon on Sunday was more fluid, more clear, and a bit better in my opinion. So, if you came to first service and want to clear some things up in your mind, take a listen to the second one. Sometimes, the sermon, hot off the press, is the one I’d like to record. Not this past Sunday.
Challenge in defining terms:
For instance, take the terms, ‘weak’ and ‘strong’. For Paul the ‘weak’ were more than likely those who abstained from meat sacrificed to idols because they were idol worshippers prior to believing in Jesus. But in our world, ‘weak’ is not a great term and usually taken to mean: ‘mentally weak’, ‘lacking strength’, or some other not very appealing term. And to make matters more challenging, not all abstainers are weak. For instance, in our world, there are those who abstain, like in Paul’s time, to protect themselves from going back to a former sinful lifestyle; but we also have those who abstain because they feel it is sin for any Christian to do things that God’s word does not strictly forgive; or there are those who abstain, because of personal choice (spiritual conviction, taste buds, or some other reason) but they don’t have any issue with other Christians exercising freedoms/liberties different from them. So, you can see the challenge.
Questions to help inform your conscience:
If the Bible forbids something, for the Christian, it’s off-limits. I’m not going to assume all of us know this or live by it. For instance: unrighteous anger is forbidden by God and I’ve found in my life that when I say my anger is righteous, it usually isn’t:). Sexual immorality (sex outside the bounds of marriage) is forbidden…this includes homosexual immorality and heterosexual immorality. Murder is forbidden by God. Those things are clear.
But where God’s word is not as clear, I’m a big fan of asking questions of myself about the things I do. So, in an attempt to encourage you to “be convinced in your own mind”, here’s a list of questions to ask regarding Christian liberties or convictions:
- Does this activity glorify God? Can I thank God while enjoying this or doing this? Where do I see God’s hand in this? Does this activity help me represent Jesus to non-Christians?
- Is this beneficial to others? Is it serving them? Does it bother them in the sense of causing them to sin? Does it build them up or encourage them to build a relationship with me? Does this promote peace with others? Am I regarding God’s work in others more than this activity?
- Does this have mastery over me? Is it controlling me and my behavior or is the Holy Spirit controlling me and my behavior?
- Am I prone to a danger in doing this? Publicly and privately? Am I willing to be held accountable by others and questioned by them about doing this? If I say ‘yes’, then why do I get angry when others ask me about it? (Normally defensiveness is a sign that shows me that I need to check myself.)
If you have other questions that have helped you through the years, would you be willing to share those with me? Send them to Christina Luther at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An issue of faith:
When Paul mentions, ‘weak’ in faith or ‘strong’ in faith, we need to recognize that he’s not talking about saving faith. Rather, he’s talking about the “measure of faith” that they have been given by God to do certain things. For instance in Romans 12:3, Paul wrote this: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (underline and italics are mine).” Notice those underlined and italicized comments. God gave Paul a measure of grace to be an apostle and a measure of faith that would match that calling. Just like, God gave you and I a measure of grace and faith to match His calling in our lives. So, when it comes to Christian liberties…God will give you the grace and faith to live for the Lord.
And to be honest, I think this is what Paul was getting at in Romans 14. ‘Weak’ or ‘strong’ means the measure of faith to eat meat sacrificed to an idol, observe certain days or drink wine. Both were given a measure of faith to live for the Lord.
A couple of good reminders:
Here are a couple of really good reminders that have helped me through the years.
The first one was spoken by the Protestant Reformers as they battled Rome over Catholic tradition. They said, “Where Scripture speaks, we speak. Where Scripture doesn’t speak, we don’t speak.” Their point seems clear. There are things where God’s word is not clear and we cannot be dogmatic about those things. So, it’s in those areas where I try to normally say, “well, I don’t know on that, God’s word isn’t real clear, but here’s an opinion…” And I try to overemphasize, that this is an opinion.
The second reminder is by a guy named George Grant. He said that it’s important to remember that “God gave us 10 commands and man gave us 10,000.” This statement is really true. Take a simple glance at our civil/government laws and you’ll see what I’m talking about it. And, go to any church, the “cultural sins” far outnumber the sins that God listed in His word.
A unique life:
When the power of God goes to work in our lives after we believe in the gospel, God begins to open our spiritual eyes and appetite to a variety of things. One of the areas that happened to me was beginning to see that God has provided all things for us to “richly enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). And what this began to do in my life was help me see the hand of God and the ‘face’ of God behind lots of things. I firmly believe that the Christian has a unique perspective on all of life that the non-Christian cannot have. We can eat and rejoice in God’s care. We can listen and hear God’s voice. We can watch and see God’s creativity. And we can do all things for His glory. Jonathan Edwards, an 18th-century American pastor/theologian believed that Christians could enjoy things more and have a fuller life than a non-Christian because they could see behind all things, the hand and beauty of God.
Two books on this that stirred my heart were:
From the Cheap Seats:
- FINALLY! Dak Prescott signed a long-term deal.
- First base hit of 2021 in the York household was done by Caleb. Doubled to right on a 1-2 count! If you know Caleb, he was ecstatic and talked about it all day. He went 1-2 with a hit by pitch…on base 2-3 of times. And…I could go on:).
- Ok, so March Madness is upon us. I’m not a basketball fan but I do watch this time of the year. I know nothing…barely know the difference between a man-to-man defense and a zone. But this thing I do know…there’s nothing like the buzzer beater, game winners, from underdogs!
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.
Have a great week enjoying all that God has provided you.