Christ Pleased Not Himself!

christ-cross1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2– Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. 4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.    Romans 15:1-7

This is our standard when we have disputes over third-level issues in the church— not to defend our own freedoms or to impose our own strict rules on others, but to “please [our] neighbor for his good, to build him up” (15: 2), and to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed [us], for the glory of God” (15: 7). J.D. Crowley writes, “We win by losing; we live by dying; we gain by letting go.”

Christians with a strong conscience have two options (eating or abstaining) while the weak have just one option (abstaining), and since the strong consider themselves to be more knowledgeable than the weak, the strong are the ones with an obligation to give up their rights so as to not lead their weaker brothers into sin. This does not mean that the strong have to agree with the position of the weak. It does not even mean that the strong can never again make use of their freedom. On the other hand, neither does it mean that the strong only put up with or endure or tolerate the weak, like a person who tolerates someone he doesn’t like. To bear with means that he gladly helps the weak by refraining from doing anything that would hurt their faith.

Paul is not instructing us to be man-pleasers here. The choice is not between pleasing men and pleasing God, but between pleasing others and pleasing ourselves. It means pleasing others for their good, not pleasing others in order to escape persecution or opposition.

We cannot even begin to imagine the freedoms and privileges that belonged to the Son of God in heaven. To be God is to be completely free. Yet Christ “did not please himself,” but gave up his rights and freedoms to become a servant so that we could be saved from wrath.) Over and over scripture commands us to follow the example of Christ in pleasing others instead of ourselves. Compared to what Jesus suffered on the cross, we are making a small sacrifice indeed when we give up our freedom for a fellow Christian.

Crowley again nails this truth when he says, “We must keep the big things big. God does not allow us to have unity with Christians who reject the major doctrines of the faith, such as salvation by grace, the resurrection of Christ, and the infallibility of scripture. And… We must keep the small things small. God does not allow us to break unity with Christians who disagree with us on minor matters. Both errors are serious sins against Christ and his church.“

 

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By lakeviewbc Posted in Unity

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

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