If You Got It, Don’t Flaunt It!

Keep It To Yourself22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.   Romans 14:22-23

Often people with freedom like to show off that freedom to those who are strict. Paul forbids this. If your strong conscience allows you to eat meat or drink wine, don’t flaunt those things in front of those with a weak conscience.   Also, those who are strict often like to “police” others to pressure them to be strict like them. But Paul says we are to keep these decisions between the Lord and us.   “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.” This shows us again that the word faith in this passage is limited to faith in the realm of conscience. You are most certainly not supposed to keep your faith in the gospel “between yourself and God,” but spread that faith to everyone everywhere. But we are to keep our decisions of conscience between the Lord and us. Go ahead and use your freedom, but don’t flaunt it. Go ahead and be strict, but don’t expect others to be strict like you.

To live your life without faith in God is to live your life like an unbeliever. An unbeliever constantly sins against his conscience until it is seared. If you live this same way, you will destroy your heart. You are not the lord of your conscience; God is.

How do you know the difference between training your conscience and sinning against your conscience? You are sinning against your conscience when you believe your conscience is speaking correctly, but you still go against it. You are training your conscience when Christ teaches you through his scripture that your conscience has been wrong in a particular area, so you decide to not listen to your conscience in that one area. This is called adjusting your conscience, not sinning against it.


By lakeviewbc Posted in Unity

When Good is Bad!

Righteousness_Peace_Joy_20120715 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.     Romans 14:14-21

No Christian would want to insist on eating meat if he knew that his eating would embolden another believer to sin against his conscience, fall into sin, and maybe fall away from Christ. Why? Because “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” In other words, what kind of food we eat is not important in God’s kingdom. What matters is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”! Our goal is not to defend our own freedoms, but to pursue peace in the church, and to build up other believers in their faith. This kind of life is “acceptable to God and approved of men”

Perhaps Paul saw that both the strong group and the weak group were beginning to make big things out of little things. Maybe they were forgetting the really important things like “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” To argue over inconsequential things like food and drink and special days is to forget that the Holy Spirit has ushered in a new age of life and love and peace. If you don’t care about how your freedoms are affecting others, you are not practicing righteousness, and you are in danger of destroying the peace in the church, and sucking out all the joy as well. Although the strong wanted to believe that the Holy Spirit was on their side in this dispute, and the weak wanted to believe that the Holy Spirit was on their side, neither side was being led by the Holy Spirit.

The Christian who emphasizes “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” is the true servant of Christ.

Love for fellow Christians is the sure sign of a Christian. Disagreements about small things do not lead to “mutual upbuilding,” but rather a tearing down and destroying of God’s work.

Paul does not advise against all eating of meat and drinking of wine, but only that which “causes your brother to stumble,” that is, causes him to sin against his conscience and be in danger of falling away from Christ. Paul adds the words “or do anything” to include any other possible disagreements. Every age of the church and every location will have different disagreements about what Christians are allowed to do and not allowed to do.

Something considered good can be bad if it causes a brother to sin. Don’t let your good be evil spoken of.


By lakeviewbc Posted in Unity

Consider Your Brother/Sister!

Consider13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. 14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.           Romans 14:13-15

Paul addresses those who have a “strong” conscience because they are the ones who have a choice in these third-level matters. Those with a “weak” conscience do not have choice: they have to listen to their conscience and not eat meat (to use Paul’s example). However, the strong can either eat meat or not eat meat. To show that they are more mature believers, they should be willing to give up their freedom so that they don’t destroy the faith of another Christian.

Notice that Paul does not say that the “weak” brother is upset or irritated at the freedoms of the stronger Christian. The term “stumblingblock” means causing the weaker brother to fall away from God. While “grieved” in verse 15 carries the idea of mourning because he has sinned against God. “Destroy” means the weaker brother has turned away from God because of this problem, and is danger of being totally lost.

Again, Paul puts emphasis on the persuasion of our conscience. He says that he is persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. If a person believes some action to be a sin, yet does it anyway, God counts it a sin, even though there is no law in the Bible. God never wants anyone to sin against their conscience.

We must respect the consciences of others. If we have opportunity, we can slowly help them train their conscience to be more in line with God’s standards, but we must never compel someone to sin against his conscience. Freedoms can never be forced upon one whose conscience will not allow it.

“Weak” conscience Christians are not to impose their rules on everyone else in the church. It is a serous sin to try to bind someone else’s conscience with a rule that does not come from God. We must reject any attempt by anyone to force the church to obey a commandment that doesn’t come from God.

J.D. Cowley writes, “If a brother doesn’t like my freedoms, that is his problem. But if a brother falls into sin because of my freedoms, that is my problem. Christ gave up his life for that brother; am I unwilling to give up my freedom for him?


By lakeviewbc Posted in Unity

Giving Account of Ourself to God!

The-Judgement-Seat-of-Christ-540x34010 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.  Romans 14:10-12

The thing I think that we have to remember is that all of us must stand before God’s bar of judgment. Each of us will stand and give account for our own lives. Don’t you think you have enough that you must answer to God for that we really don’t have time to try to straighten out our brother on these disputable matters. What we must remember is not I need to judge my brother but that I will be judged of Christ.

The emphasis here is on ourselves. There is much to do to get my own conscience in line with the Word of God. Too much to do to be consumed on correcting my brother. We should share truth, we should point them to the Bible, but then we need to mind our own business and let God be their master. On that day we will be busy enough answering for our own life; we don’t need to be spending our short life meddling in the lives of others.

Again, if we hold our convictions loosely, realizing they can be wrong, needing confirmed and corrected by the Word of God, and that we will answer to God that will help with our need to make everyone confirm to our convictions.


whatever-you-do-do-all-to-the-glory-of-god6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.  Romans 14:6-9

Both the spiritually weak and the spiritually strong can both please God although they disagree about these third-level issues. I hope you see that in the text. They can both please God because their motive is the glory of God. If both are placing emphasis on honoring God, then both can please God even if they differ on these things.

We are reminded here that in Christianity, why we do something is often more important than what we do. This is true because God sees our hearts and knows our motivations. Since third-level issues are disputable, the important question for Paul was one of motivation. Why are you doing what you are doing and why are you not doing it? Why do you eat meat and why do you abstain? Why do you celebrate special days and why do you regard all days the same? If if is for the glory of God, Paul says, “God bless you, keep doing it or keep refraining from it.”

J.D. Crowley gets to the point here, “Too often, we make decisions about these kinds of matters based on what others will think or say, not based on the glory of God. Perhaps there is strong pressure from others in your church to be strict like they are, and you want to fit in. Or perhaps you sense that your Christian friends who have more freedom than you are making fun of you for your strictness, so you decide to go ahead and be like them. Or perhaps you’re tired of growing up in a strict family, so as soon as you move out, you start doing things that your parents had not allowed. These are not the right reasons to change your actions. You must decide to live your life for your real Master. Your friends are not your master. Your fellow church members are not your master. Your sinful nature is not your master. Even your church leaders are not your final master. Christ is. You should certainly listen to the counsel of others and respect your church leaders, but on the last day you will not stand before them. You will stand before Christ. Because of his death and resurrection, only Christ has the right to be the Lord of all the living. If you live, you live for his glory, and if you die, you die for his glory. So make sure the decisions you make in life are for the glory of God and not out of fear of man. God has given us much freedom to do many things, as long as we do those things for God’s glory.”


ConscienceOur consciences are like snowflakes, there are no two that are identical. While we may have many of the same moral ideals, there will be some areas in which we all will differ. We will notice these differences very quickly and long before we appreciate what areas overlap in agreement.

We must remember that our conscience is prone to error and on its own is not sufficient to unerringly guide us. While all of our consciences are different, all consciences fail to meet God’s standards. Therefore, while we may be fully persuaded in our mind of the correctness of our understanding of third level issues we must hold them loosely and be willing to allow them to be corrected by the Word of God. Our main problem is that our culture shapes our conscience more than the Scriptures. This is further problematic due to our inability to adequately distinguish between which of our convictions are cultural and which are biblical.

One example of this is divorce. The Scriptures explicitly condemn divorce. Yet, living in a culture where divorce is accepted and even promoted in certain cases, our consciences lean toward cultural convictions instead of biblical convictions. So our consciences are subjective and therefore not an absolutely reliable guide. This is why we must hold third-level beliefs loosely and make sure they are submissive to the objective truth of the Bible.

One of the errors we can make is that we help people embrace cultural conversion rather than genuine conversion to God in Christ. We can wrongly lead others to conform to our cultural convictions instead of repentance from sin and faith in Christ as written in the Word. We want people committed to God, Christ, and the Word and not to our set of non-essential convictions. I feel we would rather see people agree with our conviction of eschatology instead of committing themselves to Christ.

This is why faithfulness to church and our own consistent Bible study is so important. We must constantly be subjecting our consciences to God’s standards and not the cultures. It is God who must and who will adjust the conscience. Our consciences are being sanctified by the Word of God through the power of God in the Spirit of God.

Again there are truths we MUST believe to be Christian, other things we must believe to be a unified church, and there are things we do not have to agree about and yet we can love one another and fellowship with one another until the Lord adjusts our consciences.

Be Persuaded!

live persuadedOne man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Romans 14:5

Here is an area where differing opinions were clearly permitted. We must obey our conscience and we must not cause others to sin against their conscience. We must not change our opinions unless we are convinced in our mind that change is true. You are not to change because someone wants you to change. You must be convinced of the truth from the Bible.

The conscience is our conviction that what we believe is either right or wrong. Everyone has a conscience. Your conscience is independent–meaning that it can cause guilt when you don’t want it to. It can have different results depending on individual standards. Our consciences can mature and change. What you thought was wrong at one time in your life, you may now believe is right and vise versa. Your conscience warns you or wrong, convicts of wrong, and celebrates the right.

Let me also say that just because we have a conscience, that does not mean our conscience is right. I may be fully persuaded in my own mind about a certain thing and be totally wrong. Our conscience needs constant adjustment toward compliance to God’s Word.

So whatever you believe about food, drink or special days— or whatever the issue—live consistently by that decision until God leads you from his word to adjust your conscience.

Anything else would be spiritually unhealthy. No matter what you believe concerning third level truths, be fully convinced it is Biblically true.

Refrain From Judging!

Judge-not3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. Romans 14:3-4

It is very easy to for those whose conscience allows them eat meat to look down on those whose conscience won’t let them eat meat and vise versa. It is easy for one group to feel superior, holier, or more mature than the other. It is easy for one group to call the other group legalistic and the other group to call the other liberal. Paul condemns that attitude from either side. In non-essential matters we are not make them issues of judgment.

I do understand that whatever side you take on a particular issue both cannot be right. One is right, one is wrong or they are both wrong. We may not know at this point. Therefore, don’t make issues out of things that are non-issues.

Paul says that one reason you are to reserve judgment is that God has received them. What right do we have to reject one that God has welcomed? How do we break fellowship with those who are in fellowship with God? Are we greater than God? It seems that God has permitted us to have different opinions on minor issues. We should allow these disagreements instead of trying to make everyone see things our way.

The second reason is that when we look down on another we are establishing a Master/Slave relationship that should not exist. We are not their master, God is their Master. I am not anyone’s master and no one is my slave. That is the relationship between God and believers. Who are we to intrude in that relationship? We need to welcome our brother and let God, their master, straighten out any errors. Each of us has to answer to God.

Again, we are speaking of matters where disputes are permitted. We are not talking about essential matters of theology. There are things we must believe to be Christians and there are things we must believe if we are going to have a unified church. However, Paul says that the Lord is able to make him stand. God can straighten out errors. God can take care of it without our help.


Welcome and Don’t Argue!

welcomePaul writes in Romans 14:1, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.”

God has rescued us from sin and Satan in the work of Christ and has placed us in the church, the body of Christ. It is God who choses the members of the church. He chooses who will be members of Lakeview Baptist Church. What this means for me is simply this; God chooses who my friends will be. If I choose my friends, they will be much like me: same likes, same dislikes, same political views, same theological beliefs but in the church, God chooses my friends and the friends that God chooses for me might have different opinions from me, different ways of doing things, different politics, and different likes and dislikes.

That is why Paul tells us in Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind one toward another.” And in Philippians 2:2 Paul commands the church to “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Being of the same mind does not mean that we will always agree about everything. We MUST agree on the major doctrines of the Bible, but we will disagree about smaller issues. That is why Romans chapter 14 teaches us how to love one another even when we disagree, otherwise, when we have disagreements in the church, we will sin against each other. We might even spit the church or quit attending. That is not the way of God, but is the way of the world.

Paul tells us that we are to welcome a weaker brother and not argue over opinions. Or in other words, we are to receive and not make third-level truths an issue.

In almost every church in the Bible consisted of a mixture of Jew and Gentile. They both brought their own traditions and opinions to the table. The Jew was very careful to obey as many Old Testament laws as they could, especially the laws about observing holy days and refraining from certain kinds of food, like meat that was not prepared properly and may have been left over from the previous day’s idol sacrifices at the pagan temples. Just because they were now Christians does not mean these traditions were easy to change immediately. His conscience still convicts him if he eats meat. So in Paul’s day, may Jewish Christians were still obeying many of the Jewish laws.

On the other hand, Gentile Christians had no law keeping traditions at all. There was no conscience toward these eating laws for the Gentile. So “weak” here does not mean their faith in Christ was weaker than the others. However, it meant that they still were troubled by their conscience about traditional matters—so their conscience was weak. I think we would put these traditions in the third-level category. You had some who were very strict (weak in faith) and those who were free (strong in faith). Yet, Paul says to welcome them and to not make the traditional baggage an issue.

This idea of hospitality and tolerance of third-level issues are important in the church. J.D. Crowley reminds us why Paul saw this as important. “When you’re splitting firewood, you try to hit the log right where there is already a gap. So Satan saw that there was a natural gap in the church between Jews and Gentiles, and that’s where he tried to split with his axe. Some who were strict about food laws started to think that they were better than the free group. They were judgmental toward those who ate any kind of meat and didn’t follow certain holy days. As far as those who had the freedom to eat meat, some of them thought they were the better Christians. After all, they were the ones following Christ who said that it was okay to eat everything. So they were tempted to look down on the Christians who had too many rules.”

The sad truth is that many churches have split and countless fruitful relationships have been destroyed over issues that should have never been divisive. Satan took aim and hit the gap and it easily split. Paul is telling us here to remove the gap.

Levels of Truth!

Unity_in_Our_CommunityThere are always priorities in our lives. Some things are more important than others. That is not to say some are important and some are not important. However, there are levels of importance. That is true when we come to the Bible as well. Everything is important but there are levels of importance or priority that we need to consider and remember.

There are things that are ESSENTIAL TRUTHS. These are those truths that you cannot deny and still be a Christian in any meaningful sense. For example, the deity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, the sacrificial death of Christ, salvation by grace alone, the second coming of Christ, the Triune Godhead, and so on. A denial of any of these truths would cause you to cease to be a believer and follower of Christ.

Secondly, there are things that are ESTABLISHING TRUTHS. These are truths that create boundaries or divisions in the sense of what kind of church or denomination you choose to belong to. Such as what you believe about baptism, church government, eternal security, spiritual gifts, role of men and women, and so on. What you believe about these issues do not determine whether we are a Christian but it is very difficult for a group of people (church) to have unity when it disagrees on these types of issues.

The third level are things that are ETHICAL TRUTHS. These are truths that are disputable matters or matters of indifference. These are things that we can hold different opinions about and yet we do not separate or withhold fellowship over. These are not unimportant matters but members of the same church should be able to disagree and still have close fellowship with each other. In other words, disagreement over these issues should not cause disunity.

What this means is that none of us will agree with each other over every Biblical doctrinal issue. You will never agree with everything an author says in a book you read, you will never agree with everything the preacher says, and you will never agree with everything the person you sit near in the church. You don’t even agree with everything your wife or husband says. Nevertheless, we don’t cease fellowshipping with each other because of it.

Some of these disputable issues include: going to movies or not, having a television or not, how we dress for church and how we dress during the week, what version of the Bible are we to use, how we spend our money, how should we celebrate Halloween, Easter and Christmas or should we celebrate them at all, birth control or not, disciplining children, how often or when should the church gather, what programs should the church have, beliefs about end times, what type of music should the church use, should we clap in the church, should we raise our hands in church, should we say amen in church, what kind of political stance are we to take, and so on. This list is almost endless.

We all have opinions on every one of these third level issues, opinions that we are convinced are correct, and opinions that we have reasons for believing. These issues are important but the question is how important are they? The answer is they are NOT AS IMPORTANT as first or second level matters. They should never be first level or second level matters as so many are prone to make them. In fact, I know churches today that the entirely of their thinking is on third level issues. They are flexible on essential matters as long as you dress a certain way and use the “right Bible.”

We must agree on first level issues, we probably have to have a high level of agreement on second level issues but we do not have to agree on third level issues to have fellowship. We can be unified, love each other, and glorify God even though we disagree on disputable matters. Moreover, we are dead wrong when we think we can’t or when we don’t.

Several years ago a man who wanted to join our church came to me and expressed concern that he did not hold to the dispensational understanding of scripture and wanted to know if that would disqualify him from our fellowship. I immediately told him NO even though our church’s by-laws and constitution holds the dispensational view. I replied the way I did because I feel that eschatological views are third level truths and are disputable and not divisional. In addition, if we elevate them to first or second level status, and divide fellowship over it, we are dead wrong.

Does the Bible address this issue, of course it does and that is what I want to try to discuss on the blog over the next few posts. I hope it will be informative, helpful, instructive, corrective, and glorifying to God as we strive to move toward greater unity at Lakeview.

By lakeviewbc Posted in Unity