Title: Biblical Truths > Personal Preferences
Text: Romans 14
Bottom Line: Our personal preferences do not hold the same weight as Biblical truths.
Text in red indicates that it is a slide.
The illustration for this series requires a large rubber band.
Good morning Real Life! It’s so great to be here with you this morning…
We are going to be starting a new series this morning called Tension. We are going to be dealing with some topics that in Christianity and in the Church that have historically caused some tension. And if we are honest, most of time when these topics come up we just kind of brush them to the side. We don’t often know the answer or how to deal with it so we just sweep it under the rug and hope it stays there.
The reason that tension exists in these because most of us approach these things from grace OR truth. Here’s what this looks like… You can’t do that because the Bible says so… That’s truth. It’s okay that you made that mistake, God will forgive you… That’s grace. You can’t say that, act like that way, wear that dress, eat that food, or be like that… That’s truth. It doesn’t matter what you say, what you do, what you wear, how you spend your time, who you spend your time with, because God loves you anyway… That’s grace.
You can see some tension in those extremes… The reality is most of us approach life in either grace or truth. So this is what this looks like… (Show rubber band) On one side you have grace and on the other you have truth. I have this band to show… EXPLAIN… Many of us just grab one side and say, good enough.
But Jesus paints a different picture. In John 1:14 we are told that Jesus came full of grace AND truth. So here’s the reality, we need that tension. Because truth without grace breeds self-righteousness and legalism. Grace without truth breeds deception and moral compromise. The best expression of love is found in the tension between grace and truth. And that’s why we are doing this series… Because we want to know how to live in the tension between grace and truth.
Few areas of brought as much tension into our lives as the Bible. Now listen I need to be clear on this before I say anything else, I believe everything in the Bible is 100% true. I believe that everything the Bible says about life is true. But though everything in the Bible is true, not everything that is true is in the Bible. And though everything the Bible says about our life is true, not everything we need to know about life is in the Bible.
Let me say that again… Everything you read in the Bible is true… But not everything you need to know is in the Bible. And there are some issues that just aren’t addressed in the Bible. And how we handle those issues often creates tension.
Here’s how many churches have dealt with this tension. When the Bible doesn’t specifically address certain issues that we are dealing with in our culture they take their spiritual preferences and made them spiritual laws. Maybe you’ve been in a church like that. A church were they decide what’s sin and what isn’t, what’s right and what’s wrong.
Let me give you a example, and this might even cause some tension in the room right now… When it comes to drinking alcohol… some of you are already uncomfortable… The Bible never says that it is sinful to drink. It’s not in there. I’ve sat in churches where the preacher stood there and told the congregation that it was it sin to drink. The Bible doesn’t say that, it’s not in there, I’ve looked… Now the Bible does say that it’s a sin to be drunk. That’s in there. But no where does it say you cannot drink. But many churches take their spiritual preference of “we prefer our people just not drink” and they turned it into a spiritual law.
Yes the Bible is true, and yes the Bible doesn’t address every single issue we face. And that creates tension. Sometimes we think tension distorts truth, but that’s not true. Tension doesn’t make truth less true, it makes it more real.
When we deal with tension, when we deal with grey areas, when we face some disputable matters. We don’t do justice to the issues. This especially plays out in the lives of our students, because they need help navigating this tension in life. They don’t need to be preached at about our spiritual preferences. They need to know God’s truth and how to navigate the areas of life where the Bible doesn’t speak. Tension is a reality we need to acknowledge in their lives and ours.
Here’s a couple of issues I was thinking about this week that we could have some tensions. Drinking, dating the Bible never talks about how that works or using dating apps, gambling, smoking, kids having cell phones, what you wear, the tv shows you watch, music you listen too, in some churches birth control is a huge issue. I had a few friends that went to Christian schools and they had a rule of no dancing. They would say dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal idea. Listen none of these are in the Bible, there are all grey areas, they are all spiritual preferences.
Maybe the biggest issues that are facing the church right now that could cause some tension is who we voted for, whether or not we protested, what we think is best for our country, how we should respond to refugees. These issues are important but the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us what to do. It’s a grey area. But there are many Christians that are trying to impose their view on others. Many churches have said “well we just prefer our people act like that, vote like this, avoid this drink, wear these clothes…”
We’ve taken these preferences that we have and say well you can’t be a Christian if you watch that TV show. If you support that law. If you voted for that person, you just don’t love Jesus. If you don’t do this, if you don’t stop that, then clearly you’re not a Christian…
These issues haven’t brought tension because we approach them with either grace or truth. (Show Rubber Band)…
If you have your Bibles turn to Romans 14 we will get there in a few minutes… Paul is going to help us navigate some of these grey areas. As you are doing that I’m going to put this down before I smack myself in the face… He’s going to help us sort of some of this tension. The tension that we experience today isn’t unique to us. In this passage Paul was writing to Jews and Gentiles. And there’s tension between these two camps.
The Jews were God’s chosen people and they have this history that’s told in the Old Testament, that is just crazy. They pursued righteousness, which is right standing with God through obeying the law. How righteous you were was dependent on how closely you followed the law. But what happened is they could not live up to this law. They would fail time and time again. God sees this and because he loves us he decided to come down and pay the price for our sins. So the law does not determine our righteousness. Now our righteousness is based on if we accept the payment for our sins, which is Jesus. And we call that grace.
To follow God we don’t have to follow these 50 rules to be righteous… That’s not how our faith works. Now God does put out some rules for us. Why? Because he wants the best for us. These rules help our life function better. And we are called to follow after those things. But when it comes to these grey areas, they don’t determine our righteousness before God. Listen you are saved this morning not because of your work and your righteousness, you are saved this morning because of the work of Jesus. No amount of good works can save. The work that Jesus did on the cross saves you, period.
Much like the Jews there is something inside of us that wants to think it’s our righteousness that saves us. We like to think this week I did good, I made it to church, I didn’t do that sin, I helped my neighbor out… None of that is bad, but none of that has to do with our salvation. And this is the tension the early church is dealing with. They had just come out of a rule following approach to their faith. But then you had these gentiles who had none of that. They had no clue about the law and pursuing works based faith seemed ridiculous to them. These two approaches were causing tension and creating a mess.
Listen this is a warning for our church today. We have to be really careful to not let our spiritual preferences and turn them into spiritual laws. We need to be really careful about this. We have people coming into this Church investigating who this Jesus guy is. And the last thing we want to do is weigh people down with our spiritual preferences. Let’s not call sin what isn’t sin. We have to be really careful to not put laws out in-front of people that are still figuring this thing out and say this is truth, when it’s not truth.
Whenever I meet someone new, that is a stranger on an airplane or when I move into a new house I run this experiment. I ask them tons of questions about their life but I offer very little about mine unless they ask. It’s interesting to me to see how long it takes before someone asks me a personal question… Plus when people find out I’m a pastor they typically don’t want to talk to me anymore. When my wife and I moved into our last house in Colo I ran this experiment with my neighbor. I would talk to him several times a week about projects and what he had going on in life and he would use, how should I say, colorful language. Finally after 3 months he asked what I did. I told him I was a pastor and he proceed to apologize for the harsh language he had been using with me… This is why I don’t always tell people I’m a pastor, I don’t want people to act differently around me. I assured him it did not bother me and I wanted him to still be himself around me…
Here’s why I tell you this story… What if he were to walk into a church, how would he be treated? Would he hear the message of Jesus? Would be feel loved and accepted? Or would he feel judged because people would weigh him down with spiritual preferences?
So Romans 14… Paul is writing to the Jews and the Gentiles and the church right now is at odds over over these disputable matters. The Gentiles are walking into Church and the Jews are saying nono if you want to come in here you got to act this way. Here’s what they are talking about… They are fighting over food. They cannot figure out what they are allowed to eat and not allowed to eat…
Check this out… Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 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. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Romans 14:1-4
The word Paul starts off with is “Those whose faith is weak”… That word is used many times in the Bible as to describe someone’s physical condition, they are sick, they are weak in body. What Paul is stating is that they are not morally weak or wrong, but rather physically weak.
So here’s what’s happening… In their city there are pagan temples that are sacrificing animals to their pagan gods. So some smart business man realizes that he can take this meat that’s already been paid for and sell it in the market. The jewish Christians are saying to the gentile Christians, look you can’t eat that meat, that’s a sin! And the gentile Christians are looking at them like you crazy?! Ribeye! So now you have these two camps that are judging each over over their preference.
The Jews look at this as a violation of OT law. Can’t eat meat sacrificed to an other God. The gentiles don’t get it so they just do what they’ve always done and eat the meat.
Paul looks at the Gentiles and says stop looking at the Jews like they are crazy. Stop rubbing it in their face that you can eat ribeye. Stop gloating over your freedoms. Then he looks at the Jews and says stop judging. They were raised differently and have the spiritual freedom to eat what they want.
So Paul brings in this illustration. He starts talking about kings and servants, and he says look… Suppose there is a king inside his house he sets the rules. And he has servants that come in and care for the house. It’s the king that sets the standard, not the servants. It’s the king that says this is how we are going to live. And when they live like that it brings peace and unity to the house.
But here’s the problem, when the servants start calling the shots, when the servants start setting the standard, and act like the king, we have a problem. In this scenario God is the King and we are the servants. God sets the standards, not us. God calls the shots, we don’t.
Right off the bat in this text Paul is telling the Jews and the Gentiles to stop judging one another. You have your differences, you have live your life different in the grey ares, but Paul is saying look stop judging one an other over something that is not a spiritual law. Paul makes it clear that we are not talking about sin issues, we are talking about disputable matters.
Eventually he gets to this idea… That unity in the body of Christ is bigger then anyone’s personal preference.
In other words if we are fighting all the time over things of little importance how will the world know about Jesus? Being unified doesn’t meant that we agree on everything. It means that we agree on the most important thing, the truth of the Gospel. With all this in mind let’s jump down to verse 13…
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Romans 14:13-18
Here’s what Paul is saying here is that even if you are right, you are correct, you are in the clear, if your actions are causing a someone else to stumble, stop. That’s crazy right?
Mine first reaction when someone disagrees with me in a grey area is to show them all the reasons I’m right and they are wrong. I want to argue to prove that my spiritual preference is right, why it’s okay for me to eat that food. Watch that movie. Dress that way. But what Paul is saying is stop, don’t get caught up in these disputable matters. Offer grace.
I went to college in the Bible Belt of the midwest. It was a very conservative area and the school had a rule for everything. Even how long your hair could be… Which was a big problem for me… These rules created tension and a division among the students and those trying to enforce the rules. That tension kept us from having deeper relationships with one another.
It would have been much better for me to obey the rules and not create tension. Even though I had the right to do those things. We had the freedom in Christ to do these things, they were not sin issues. Even though to this day I am convinced that the majority of those rules are not sin issues. It would have been better for me, for the school, for the body of Christ, if I had followed the rules.
Here’s the bottom line… What would happen if we all said… I’ll default to you. If you have a couple in your life group that has a different political view… Maybe you skip some of those topics when you are together. “Yeah but I have the freedom to believe that, plus this is the best way, I’m right!”…. Yeah maybe you are. But unity in the church is much more important. So while you may have the freedom, it’s not what’s always best for the Church.
And listen the church should be known for more then just food. The church should be known for much more then the words we do or don’t use. We should be known for more then the political issues we support or don’t support. The church has such a bigger mission.
The church has split over these disputable matters… Color of the carpet, two churches. Communion every week or once a month, two churches. Drums no drums, two churches. If Paul was here today he would look at these things and say there’s bigger things happening. Those don’t matter. yes figure out if those grey areas are sin or not. But that’s between you and God. And when you get around other people that disagree have maturity.
Here’s a phrase I think the Church should listen too, let’s just agree to disagree… Listen if the Church could just rally around the deep theological truths that are in the Bible. If we could just agree to follow what’s in the Bible. And give grace for the rest, leave the grey areas up for each person to decide. If the church could get on the same page and say we have these truths that we will not comprise, but these other areas we will just agree to disagree for the sake of the mission the church is on. I believe the impact of the Church on this world would explode.
But the history of the church is rather then do that we dispute these grey areas. We argue over whether we have the freedoms to do this or that. That we don’t even talk about the Gospel. And listen what we are communicating to the world is that we aren’t on the same page.
Paul is saying it’s okay disagree on these grey areas. Our unity is much more important. Paul is telling us that we are the servants, not the lawmakers. He’s telling us not to judge those that choose to live differently in the grey areas of life. Let’s not judge those that view these grey areas differently then us. Our unity, the mission of the church, Jesus is way more important then the kind of food that we eat. Jesus is way more important then a beer. Jesus is way more important then the clothes you wear. Jesus is way more important then who you voted for. Jesus is way more important the language you use. Jesus is way more important then the shows you watch. Jesus is way more important then any of those disputable matters in our culture today.
Wouldn’t you want to be apart of church that could agree to disagree in these areas? Wouldn’t you want to be apart the church where these disputable matters were nonissue? Where there was no bickering over things that don’t matter. Wouldn’t you want to be apart of the Church that held tightly to loving God and loving others and nothing else? I believe if we did that thousands of people would here the message of Jesus. I believe thousands of lives would be forever changed. Wouldn’t you want to be apart of that church? Or would you rather be apart of a church that argues about food? Or something else in our culture?
The win for us is when people come in and hear about Jesus and lives change. That’s the church.
If people walk into this church, no matter what history they’ve had with the church or what they’ve heard. If they could just walk into this church we get this. They would hear the truth of the gospel and not be judged for things that aren’t in the Bible. That would be radical. People could bring their beliefs in these grey areas and we would just say we still love you. It’s not worth arguing over because Jesus is more important. Would you want to be apart of a church like that?
Wouldn’t you want to be apart of a Church that stands on the truth of the Gospel and not the preferences of the culture? Wouldn’t you want to be apart of a Church that focuses of caring for the community and not arguing over food? Wouldn’t you want to be apart of a church pushes you closer to Jesus and not handing you a list of rules to follow?
That’s the kind of church this world desperately needs. It’s up to each of us to become that Church. To put aside our personal preferences and pursue unity.
What does this mean? How do we live this out? It’s important to remind us that this message is not an excuse to get away with sin. There are issues that the Bible is clear on. We will be talking more about that next week… We are talking about the grey areas, that the Bible does not specifically address.
We each need to decide where you stand on these grey areas in life. Paul makes it clear in Romans 14 that you need to live out your convictions. You have the freedom to do so… Inside your house you are free to live your life in the freedom Christ has given you. But when you walk outside your doors put on a little maturity, pursue unity. Offer grace to those that view those areas differently then you do.
So what do we do? Where do we go from here? What do we do with these grey areas, dating, gambling, smoking, what you wear, the tv shows you watch, whether you are republican or democrat, music you listen too… What do we do?
Hold Tightly to God’s Truth
Church we cannot let go of the Truth of the Gospel. The best expression of love is found in the tension between grace and truth. (Show Rubber Band) If we let go of God’s truth and we only have grace we are not loving. We’ve got to hold onto both. We’ve got to hold tightly to God’s truth. We cannot budge on God’s truth.
This message is not an excuse to write off sin. This message is saying we should downplay sin in our lives or others. We need to stand firmly on what God says is true, we will be talking more about that next week. Rather what we need to grab ahold of is there are disputable matters that we will come down on in different spots. Offer grace in those areas. And when you do see someone not living in God’s truth don’t condemn, don’t throw truth at them, offer them grace as Jesus offers you grace. And point them to the truth in a loving way.
Maybe you are thinking well what is the truth? Jesus was asked this over and over again. And he boiled it down to this… What does it mean to hold onto truth? Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself.
Let me ask you a question. Are you holding tightly to God’s truth? Are you loving God with your whole heart? Are you loving your neighbor as yourself?
If you are hearing this message for the first time about God’s truth. Or if you’ve heard this message before, but never responded. Or maybe you’ve been hurt by a church that throw rocks at you over disputable matters. And your sitting here wondering what to do, how to respond to God’s truth.
First, You repent; which is just a fancy word that we have way over complicated. Repent means that you rethink the direction your life is going and shifting the focus from your desires to Gods. Repent means to turn from your ways to Gods ways. It’s saying I’ve been doing life on my own for awhile but it’s not working out too well for me. God I’m going to trust you and follow your direction for my life. Second you be baptized. Once you repent and follow Jesus you are saved. Baptized is an outward showing of an inward change.
If God is nudging you to take this step If God is nudging you to grab ahold of his truth and be baptized. We have a baptism day coming up on March 5th, following service you can go to the Info Center and put your name down on the Baptism sheet. This is going to be an amazing celebration. I would encourage to come have a conversation with me or an other staff member.. If you haven’t been baptized I would strongly encourage you to pray and consider grabbing ahold God’s truth.
Hold Loosely to Spiritual Preferences
Do what you feel honors God. Pray about your the grey areas you are facing. And whatever you feel God convicted you to do, live that out. But if the Bible doesn’t directly address it, don’t impose it on those around you. Don’t go around imposing your spiritual preferences on others.
In your own home you are free to live out their disputable matters however you feel best honors God. If you are convinced that watching that show, drinking that drink, or dating that way is a sin. Then don’t do it. Paul seems to be insinuating that if you feel convicted that something is a sin, treat it like a sin. But when you walk out your doors and you interact with someone that thinks differently then you do, offer grace. Default to them.
How powerful would it be if we as a Church said “Your feelings are more important then my freedoms in these grey areas.” I’ll default to you. I think this Church would explode. Everyone wants to be apart of a community like that. Let’s be that kind of church, that puts others in front of themselves. Let’s live in that Tension between grace and truth. The best expression of love is found in the tension between grace and truth. (Show Rubber Band).
Here’s a question to ask yourself. “Although I may have the freedom to do this, ask yourself this questions: how will this effect the body of Christ?” Our unity is more important the our freedoms. Jesus is more important then these grey areas.
(Show Rubber Band) Let’s be this Church. Let’s be the kind of church that hold’s tightly onto what Jesus said and but doesn’t impose our spiritual preferences onto those around us. I believe if we do this we will continue to see lives transformed, we will see the Gospel take root and people’s lives will be forever changed; starting with our own.
Hold tightly to Gods truth and loosely to your personal preferences. Let’s pray…