Gray Matter

Romans 14:1-23


There the apostle Paul exhorts us to …

“Receive one another, or receive one who is weak in the faith. But not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not judge him who eats. For God has received them both. Who are we. Who are you to judge another’s servant. To his own master. He stands or falls. Indeed. He will be made to stand for God is able to make him stand.”

Father we thank you for your word today and we ask that you would. Instruct and teach us Lord. Help us to see in the text that is before us how we are to live. In a way that is both, glorifying to you but also Lord in a way that is a witness of your grace. And so God we pray for your strength by your Spirit for as we have seen in the text here over the last several weeks these things are things that we can not do without your empowering by your Spirit. We thank God that we are the temple of your Spirit. That you Holy Spirit give us the ability to do those things that we cannot do. Even to be witnesses of of your grace, God. So God speak to us transform us by the renewing of our minds that we would be able to display Your perfect and holy will in this world. We ask this in Jesus name and all God’s people agreed saying. Amen, you can be seated.

How many of you have recognized in your walk with the Lord in your time following Him that religion is quite a bit easier than walking by faith? It is much easier to have a list of do’s and don’ts or a list of things that are safe and those things that are out than it is to follow God by faith. But that’s what the walk of the Christian is. We walk by faith and not by sight. We walk being led by the Spirit of God and by the grace of God.

Knowing that we recognize that there are many things that will come before us in this life and in this walk and following the Lord that are not expressly spoken of in the scriptures. Please don’t misunderstand I’m not saying that in any way the scriptures are deficient. They’re not. Everything that we need to know about God’s character and nature in His will and salvation has been revealed to us. The scriptures are comprehensive in what they reveal, as God intended them to be. But we know that there are certain things that we face in this life that the Bible doesn’t speak about.

So there are what might be called gray areas. Things that we will face that don’t have a very clear “safe” or “out” marked upon them. The question is how do we deal with those things? How do we walk there in the middle? How do we confront those things that might be considered grey areas those areas where the Bible might be silent? Well Paul in this passage here in Romans chapter 14 going to be talking about that very issue.

Verse 1 he says, “Receive one who is weak in the faith.” “Receive one who is weak in the faith.”

Now without reading beyond verse 1 we can imagine a number of different things that might classify someone as weak in their faith. We might come up with things like well, those who are easily snared by temptation, who easily stumble into sin. That person might be classified as weak in their faith. Or maybe those that don’t have a firm grasp on doctrine. They might be classified as weak in their faith. Or perhaps that person who, you know, allows certain liberties in their lives, and there are other people who don’t. Maybe one of them is considered to be weak in their faith. And while such things may in fact be a reason to classify someone as weak in their faith and we will see in just a moment Paul’s can identify some very clear teaching about what constitutes a person’s weakness in the faith. We need to at least recognize some initial points here in verse one before we even step into the rest of the text. So if you’re taking notes the first thing we see here in verse 1 is that there are people who are weak in their faith. Now that may not seem like a very big point but it’s a point nonetheless. There are people in the church that are weak in their faith.

The Bible describes that every single Christian, when they first become believers and followers of God were called “babes in Christ.” We’re newborn babies, if you will, in the faith. You remember there in John Chapter 3 a man, a very religious man, came to Jesus by night and He said, Jesus said to him, “You must be born again, to come into the Kingdom of God.” And so every single Christian, every single person who becomes a Christian, they are born again into a new life. And when they’re born again into that new life they are “babes in Christ.” Now the unfortunate fact is that some people have been a part of the body of Christ, a part of a church for maybe ten, or twenty, or thirty years, and yet they still, because of their conduct and the way in which they live, could be classified as an infant in their faith.

Paul in writing to the church at Corinth, if you’ve ever read through the book of Acts, as we’ve been studying through it here at the church and gone through the books of First and Second Corinthians you know that the church at Corinth had all kinds of problems. And in chapter 3 of First Corinthians, at verse 1 Paul says to the church there in Corinth, “And I brethren, could not speak to you as spiritual people but as carnal, and as babes in Christ.”

Even though they had been followers of the Lord for a period of time several years by the time that Paul wrote that letter, he says I can’t write to you as spiritual because your carnal. You’re immature in your understanding and your application of the faith and the teachings of Christ. Now it’s not necessarily an abnormal thing for someone to be immature in their their faith in their application of the things of the scriptures because they may not know them. They haven’t been under good teaching whatever it may be. But we are not to stay in that place.

The author of the book of Hebrews, he writes to the Hebrew Christians, that is people who came out of Judaism to follow Jesus as the Messiah, and he says there in Hebrews chapter 5 verse 12, “for though by this time you ought to be teachers,” the author of the book of Hebrews, he says, “By this time you should be teaching other people and yet you need that someone teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God. You’ve come to need milk and not solid food.” “You’ve come to need milk and not solid food.” Well what exactly is milk? He goes on. Verse 13, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age. That is those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” So the author of the book of Hebrews says, “You should be at a greater stage in your walk with the Lord. But you’re not because you have not exercised yourself in the word of righteousness.”

The apostle Peter. First Peter chapter 2, he says to the church there, “Church, as newborn babes desire the pure milk of God’s word that you would grow thereby.” You see God’s desire, He knows that every single one of us when we begin to follow him are babes in Christ. We don’t have full comprehension of everything. When we become Christians and receive the spirit of God, we don’t instantly, like the Matrix, get plugged in and everything gets uploaded into our brain. Although that might be nice, it’s not reality. No we need to grow by the pure milk of God’s word.

Although we do receive God as those that are little children. Jesus and the Gospel of Luke and The Gospel of Matthew, He says, those who come into the kingdom they come with childlike faith. Yes we do come before God with childlike faith. We are exhorted to be imitators of God as dear children and Ephesians Chapter 5 Verse 1. But we are not to be children in our understanding and our comprehension of the things of God.

We do not want to be as children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, as Paul says and Ephesians Chapter 4 Verse 14. But we do recognize. Point number one in verse Number one, there are people who are weak in the faith. Number two if you’re taking notes. Spiritual strength and maturity are not requirements for church membership. Spiritual strength and maturity are not requirements for church membership. From what Paul says here in this verse he says receive one who is weak in the faith.

The third point is very simple it’s just like point two, those that are weak in their faith are to be graciously received into fellowship. There is no prerequisite to be a part of the body of Christ in the Church of God, other than putting your faith in Christ and receiving Him as Savior and Lord. You don’t need to take an entrance exam to get into the body of Christ. How many of you are thankful for that? I didn’t test well in high school. I’m glad there is no entrance exam.

And so received those who are weak in the faith. The word received means to accept or grant access. It could also mean “to lead by the hand.” “To lead by the hand.” Paul’s teaching is very clear. Those that are powerless. Those that are feeble. Those that maybe even are sickly in their faith, because they’ve had bad teaching, or not good teaching whatever it may be. They’ve not received what they need of the pure milk of God’s word. Paul says to receive them into the fellowship.

Obviously were to receive them into the body of Christ so that they would be strengthened and nourished and grow into mature followers of Jesus Christ, disciples of Christ. And we know that a mature and and healthy disciple is one who reproduces. They’re sharing their faith with others and seeing others also come to the knowledge of the truth.

So we don’t want to receive people who are weak in the faith and then just allow them to stay in that position or to maybe lead others astray with their wrong doctrine of wrong understanding. No. We want to see that they would be built up, and we see their in first Peter Chapter 2, that it’s God’s word that makes us strong. God’s Word that grows us in our understanding and comprehension of God’s nature and God’s will for us. And then God by his spiritual power in us, His Holy Spirit in us, enables us to do the very things that we find in the scriptures. The exhortations that we’ve been seeing in this passage of Romans over the last several weeks.

There in Ephesians Chapter 4. Paul says not only has God given to us his word to lead us to instruct us to teach us. But God is also committed to us spiritual leaders he says and Ephesians Chapter 4 verse 11 “some apostles prophets evangelists pastors and teachers.” Why has God given them to us, the body of Christ? “For the equipping, the perfection, the maturing of the saints, the building up of the body of Christ. And then he goes on a few verses later and says, “so that we would no longer be as children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.”

So God has given to us his word. He has given to us his Holy Spirit. He is given to us spiritual leaders within the body of Christ, to disciple, and train us, and raise us up unto maturity. But we still recognize that we are to receive those who are weak in the faith. But Paul goes on. Verse 1 he says, “But not to disputes over doubtful things.”

Grant them access. Bring them in. Lead them by the hand into maturity. But don’t bring them in just onto debates or disputes over doubtful things. Now the question comes what exactly is a doubtful thing?

Well it’s just those things I was talking about a few minutes ago. Those things that are not expressly or clearly spoken to in the scriptures, the grey areas in the middle of the Christian faith. Those things that don’t have a clear “do” or a clear “don’t” in the Bible. Those would be called doubtful things. They are things that we would refer to as nonessentials or secondary issues.

In reading and studying this 14th chapter of Romans we need to repeatedly come back to the fact that Paul is not speaking here about clearly articulated doctrines in the faith. He’s talking about those things that exist in the middle where there’s tension. Where there’s disagreement within the body of Christ. And yet those who disagree are still Christians. So Paul is not talking here about things like the death burial and resurrection of Jesus. He is not talking about the second coming of Christ. He is not talking about inspiration of Scripture. He is not talking about the importance of repentance. He is not talking about the sinfulness of things like idolatry, and murder, adultery, immorality, and those things like it. He’s not talking about those things that are clearly spoken to in the Bible.

But what is he talking about when he talks about doubtful things? Well I suggest to you that maybe he’s talking about whether or not Christians can dance. No I’m not going to speak to the fact of whether or not a Christian can dance, you know because I can’t. But whether or not it would be forbidden for a Christian to dance, or not. Did you know the Bible doesn’t say anything about whether or not you’re forbidden to dance? Or you should dance? Whether or not a believer is able to watch TV. Or go to certain movies. Whether or not certain musical instruments can be used in worship. Whether or not drinking or smoking are sin.

Now in saying that I recognize that yes drunkenness is sin. But whether or not consuming alcohol and not being drunk, and if that’s sin. Whether or not smoking is said no the Bible does not say “Thou shalt not smoke.” I’ve not come across that one. However, of course, you could make the case that well we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and you could go down a long line of different things. But we need to recognize the Bible doesn’t say that.

Whether or not a Christian should worship on the Sabbath, that is Saturday. Or on the Lord’s day, that is Sunday. Whether or not communion should be taken with grape juice, or wine. The Bible doesn’t expressly say that. Whether baptisms should be by immersion or sprinkling. Some churches like ours say that we want to immerse people under the water. Other churches say, “You know we’ll just kind of sprinkle them and they’ll be, you know we’ll baptize them in the name of the Father Son and the Holy Spirit.” The Bible doesn’t expressly say should it be by sprinkling or by immersion. Whether or not there is a rapture of the church, seven years prior to the second coming, or if it happens in the middle or … you know the Bible, there’s a lot of leeway there and a lot of discussion. And so there are people who hold different opinions, different positions on these sort of things, and yet they’re still Christians. They’re still Christians.

You know there’s a lot of good solid Christian churches in our community here, and they are our brothers and sisters in the Lord, although they may not have the same view of worship that we do. They may use wine in communion. They may not have the same exact mode of baptism that we have here at our church. But they still believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. They still believe in the inspiration of Scripture the incarnation of God here upon the earth. They still believe in those things that would be the essentials.

And so yes those who are a part of our extended family, attend churches like Bethel Baptist, or Emmanuel Faith, or Mission Hills Church they’re still a part of the body of Christ.

Now there are some others here in our community that call themselves Christians but they hold different positions on the essentials. They don’t believe that Jesus’s death burial and resurrection is sufficient for our salvation. They believe that they still need to do good works to get into heaven, and so those that would be called Latter day Saints, we would say there’s a clear separation between us and them, and they are not orthodox in their belief. They’re not. But those who maybe hold a different position on whether or not a Christian can dance, that’s not an issue of whether or not they can be in the fellowship.

Of course we are to contend earnestly for the faith. Jude tells us that in the end of the New Testament right before the Book of Revelation. We do aim to convince and rebuke and exhort with all patience and teaching those who do not believe the essentials of the faith, as Paul says in his letter to Timothy’s second Timothy Chapter 4 Verse 2. But as it relates to doubtful things. As it relates to non essentials. We are to be determined to not dispute or debate over those things. But the sad reality is most churches debate and dispute over these issues. These issues in the middle. These are generally the things that cause denominational separations, and doctrinal differences among churches. It’s not normally about the resurrection. It’s normally about things like “well we don’t like the way that church worships.” “We don’t like that church’s opinion about modes of baptism or whatever it may be.” “What do you mean Christians can’t dance. I’m going to a church where they can dance.” Maybe not me though.

These are sadly the areas where Christians normally divide. We’ve got to recognize and admit that the Bible does not speak to every issue that we could ever encounter in this life. It does speak to those issues that are important for the revelation of who God is and what he calls us to. It is comprehensive on salvation and issues like that. But where the Bible is silent, we should endeavor to be silent also. We ought not to disfellowshipped people over such things. Like what? Well look at verse 2 of Romans Chapter 14. Paul gives us a couple of things he uses a couple examples.

“For one believes that he made all things but he who is weak eats only vegetables.”

Now if you’re a vegetarian, this is not necessarily saying that you’re weak in your faith because you’re a vegetarian. We need to understand the context in which this was written. We need to understand just what it is that Paul is saying. And I believe, it’s my opinion so you can take it for what it’s worth, that Paul is speaking to a cultural issue within the early church. Now we’ve already talked about this quite a bit. We talked about this when we began the book of Romans, we’ve talked about it as we’ve been going through it. We talked about it when we were going through first Corinthians, because one of the earliest divisions and problems in the early church, in the first century, was a division between Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians. And this division was a serious problem.

In the Book of Acts. In Acts chapter 15 they actually had a church wide leadership council, in the city of Jerusalem to deal with these issues about the Gentile and Jewish separation in the early church. And Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. He had to repeatedly go back and discuss it. In his letter to the Galatians. Here in the book of Romans, although Paul is writing a letter to a predominantly pagan Gentile church, people who came out of Paganism, not out of Judaism there in the city of Rome. He recognizes that there was a temptation to divide along cultural lines within the early church.

And you see the Gentiles they were a part of that church in Rome. They grew up in a social life where the entire society existed around the worship of deities like Zeus, and Apollo, and Baucus, and Diana, and all these different Greek and Roman mythological characters and deities. And they would go and worship at the temple of Apollo. And they go and worship at all these different temples. And one of the ways that they would worship would be in the offering of sacrifices. And one of the ways that these temples existed and provided for their function, was to take the meat of those sacrifices and sell it in the marketplace of the day, at a reduced rate. because it was meat that was sacrificed to an idol.

And so you could go through the marketplace. And there you would see some meat would be classified as “clean,” not sacrificed to an Idol. If you will, Kosher or Hillel. And then there would be other meat that would be classified as “meat sacrifice to an idol.” There’s no real difference in the makeup of the meat. It’s exactly the same. Probably the original animal was purchased at the same place. And yet it’s offered to an idol therefore it’s cheaper. And how many of you like a good buy? We’re not foolish. We’re going to shop where it’s cheap. Give me the coupon. What do you mean, it’s sacrificed to an idol. OK. And in the gentile culture that just was no big deal. They grew up with it. It’s culturally normative.

Now for the Jewish believers. Those who came from a Jewish background, who existed under the lens of the Levitical law. Who existed under dietary restrictions and kosher rules. They lived a life where meat sacrificed to an idol was considered to be “unclean” spiritually and morally. They saw that consuming that meat, they believed that that would also make you unclean. So for the Jewish Christian their entire cultural upbringing, to the point that they became a Christian, it was drilled into their minds that you do not go near those things that are unclean.

And so now you have this issue within the early church it’s a cultural traditional issue. Does the Bible tell us that those meats sacrificed to idols are unclean morally or spiritually. Actually quite the opposite. We know Paul speaks student first Corinthians chapter 8, that those things sacrifice to idols, an idol is nothing. And there’s no demonic presence attached to the meats. That meat is intrinsically, fine. There’s nothing impure or unclean religiously about it. And yet in the mind of a Jewish individual their conscience would be buffeted by the fact that had been offered to an idol. And so there would be those who would say, “I just can’t eat meat. If all the meat in this town is offered to idols, then I’m not going to eat it. I guess I’ll be a vegetarian.”

You say, “Would they really do that?” Yes they would. Remember the Book of Daniel. Daniel, and many of these young Jewish men were taken away as captives to the city of Babylon. And there was set before them a spread like you and I could never have imagined. But probably many of those meats were also unclean, sacrificed to idols. And Daniel and his three friends. We know them as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They took an oath, and said, “we’re not going to eat of the king’s delicacies. We’re not going to partake. We’ll only partake of vegetables.

It was culturally normative for a Jewish mind. Now we recognize Daniel the prophet was a holy man of God. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, these were good guys, as it relates to their observance of things of God. But in their minds and hearts they could not allow themselves to partake. And so Paul says here in verse 2, “one believes that he may meet made all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.”

Now it’s very interesting that Paul classifies this standard that a person is set over themselves as being a “weakness in the faith.” Because we might think that the person who has some sort of standard that they seek to observe for righteousness in their life, we might think that seems to be a very strong, and noble, and admirable thing. And yet Paul says, “one believes that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.

Well what’s Paul’s teaching on this point? “Let not him who eats.” The one who says, “It’s okay to eat meat sacrificed to idols.” “Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has received him. Who are you to judge another man’s servant? For to his own master he stands or falls. Indeed he will be made to stand for God is able to make him stand.”

What we see here in this passage is that different cultures practice their Christian faith in different ways. Their practices are not necessarily wrong, they’re just different. They’re just different.

How many of you have ever visited another Christian church and when you walk in the door you go, “Well this is in my church?” You start to look around you go, “Oh I really don’t like the way that they did that.” “Oh goodness I didn’t really like the way that they said that prayer.” “What we’re going to stand up now and we’re going to kneel.” How many of you have been in another Christian church, and yet it’s a Christian church, they believe in God and yet culturally it’s different? You go, “This is different.”

If you ever have the opportunity to travel with us to China, or to travel with us to Africa, you’re going to see some amazing differences in the practice of the faith. And yet these brothers and sisters that you fellowship with they love God, but you look around and go, “Well that’s a little bit different.” It’s culturally traditionally different. Is it biblically wrong? No it’s just different. It’s just different.

Gentile Christians entering their faith, coming out of a pagan Roman world, that practices things like buying cheaper meats sacrificed to idols, they didn’t see an issue with this thing in the faith. The Christians that came out of a Jewish background, they did. They could not eat those things; did not want to eat those things. The believer that walks in liberty, as it relates to cultural or non essential teachings, is not to look down upon the other Christian with scorn. Upon that individual who refuses to eat because of conscience. Moreover the one that has established some religious standard in their life, not necessarily based on what the scripture says, is not to judge the person who does not observe that standard. Not to judge them.

This is the Biblical principle that Paul is giving here. There’s flexibility for traditional cultural values within the body of Christ. There are certain things that one set of Christians value and hold as important, that may not have a direct spiritual or scriptural relationship, and another group of believers say “Well it’s just no big deal. We just don’t observe that.” But the one is not to despise the other. And this one’s not to judge this one as saying, “well that’s unspiritual.”

Why? Well see here’s the problem, when we set up these non-scriptural standards that we hold other people to. It makes it very easy to live a fake spirituality. How so? Well there have been some who say, “Well you know it would be unrighteous to drink. Unrighteous to smoke. Unrighteous to chew, or to run with those who do.” And so there have been some within that context to say say, “Well I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke, and I don’t chew, and I don’t run with those who do, and so I am righteous.” And yet they’ve not even accepted Jesus. There’s a wrong standard of righteousness.

They follow what their religious practice says is righteous. They follow a set of “do’s” and “don’ts,” and yet they’re not even a believer. Or they’re living in open sin; living in an adulterous relationship, and saying, “Well I least I don’t drink and smoke, so I’m righteous.” See the danger?

Well Paul says here, “Let him who eats not despise him who does not. Let not him who does not eat judge the one who does. For,” notice this “God has received both.” “God has received both.” May be hard for us to recognize, but those who believe in Jesus, put their faith in God for salvation, that are a part of that church down the road, God’s received them just in the same way He’s received us. What we’re told here is that God does not care, it does not bother God one whit, whether or not one eats that needs sacrifice to an idol, or another doesn’t. There is no spiritual value to it whatsoever.

And yet oftentimes we make a big deal about it. If God has received us, then the teaching here is that we should receive one another. Even if our practice of faith is slightly different than that person’s practice of faith. And then he says Who are you to judge?

Who are you to judge? Judging another as it relates to certain things, that are not clearly, explicitly, stated in the scriptures, is frivolous and petty. Well Paul gives us the second example look at first 5 Romans 14 verse 5.

“One person esteems one day above another. Another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord, and He who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks. And he does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore whether we live, or die, we are the lords. For to this end Christ died, and rose, and lived again that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”

Paul says Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. Paul was willing to leave this up to conscience, the conscience of the individual. But whatever we do we must be able to do it “as to the Lord.” “Whether we eat or drink we do all to the glory of the Lord,” Paul says in first Corinthians chapter 10. I believe at verse 31. Whatever we do, can we do what we are doing unto the glory of God? Of course not using our conscience as an excuse for obviously sinful behavior.

So we recognize Paul. Again I’ve got to say, Paul is speaking about those areas in the middle, those gray matters in the Christian faith, where we don’t have a clear scriptural passage to point to that says “yes” or “no.” Ultimately you and I stand before the Lord. We don’t stand before one another, we stand before the Lord. He is judge.

Look at verse ten. “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother” Notice that Paul says your brother. These people who hold different values; different traditional views. They’re still your brother in Christ.

“Why do you judge your brother, or hold contempt for you brother? For we shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, as I live says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me in every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve to do this: not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brothers way.”

If it is true that God is the judge, then why do we judge or show contempt upon another? We were exhorted than last section there in Romans chapter 13 verse 8 that we are to love one another. And if we are to love one another, then we are exhorted here to no longer judge one another. Why should we not judge one another? Paul says, “because God alone is the judge.” He alone is the judge.

Furthermore we all shall stand before him for judgment one day. So God is the judge, and it is certain that He will take care of all these issues that we think “He should take care of that,” He will one day take care of that. So if it is true that God is the judge, and one day we will stand before Him for judgment, the obvious application is, we should be more concerned about ourselves than what the other person down the street is doing.

But boy it’s so much more fun to point our finger at other people. So much more … well it just diverts the attention away from us. Because our sins look our sins look much worse than other people’s lives.

Well Paul says since we’re not to judge one another because God is the judge and one day we will stand before him. Therefore how should we apply this the application is given to us in verse 13. “But rather resolve to do this.” This is what we should do. If we’re not supposed to judge, then we are supposed to do this. “That we not put a stumbling block or cause to fall before another person.”

Now this teaching that Paul is giving here to not put a stumbling block is very very specific. The idea is, that you and I should never do anything that might cause another individual to stumble into sin, or be caused  to follow away from their faith in Christ. Paul is not saying here that, you know, we’re never going to do anything, or should never do anything, that might bother someone. Because on every single day we do things that might bother someone. But the word here is very specific, that we not cause them to fall away from the Lord.

Paul continues verse 14, “I know, and am convinced by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself. But to him who considers anything to be unclean to him it is unclean.”

How many of you have traveled to Israel before? Lifter had to pay all our Israel travellers. Okay you can put them now. Now in Israel because of the dietary restrictions of the Jews you can’t buy a cheeseburger. Gosh that’s terrible. No In and Out, Double Double, Animal Style. Terrible. Now I know that there’s nothing unclean about an In and Out, Double Double. Now I’m not talking about the caloric intake. I’m not talking about the cholesterol value. I’m saying there’s nothing spiritually or morally unclean about the In and Out, Double Double, Animal Style. It’s just good. Did you know that this piece of property you’re sitting on right now was supposed to be an In And Out? Now thank God, they’ve got one down the street. But we got the property. Anyways. This would have been like the cash register, right here.

There’s nothing morally or spiritually unclean about the In and Out, Double Double. However, you can’t eat that in Israel. There is no In And Out there in Israel, and if there was they wouldn’t have cheeseburgers. Why? Well because they say that the meat and the cheese, the dairy product—and I know American cheese has very little dairy value in it, but still—you can not mix this meat and this dairy because the dietary restrictions in the Levitical rights. Now I know that there’s nothing unclean about that. However if there is someone who perhaps grew up their entire life under that restriction and they become a Christian and to them they say it’s unclean, for that individual it is unclean.

Now let me actually put this into something that’s a little bit more serious. Maybe there’s a person within the church that they came out of an existence, out of a lifestyle where they were totally consumed by alcohol and continual drunkenness. And they’ve come to faith, to put their faith in Jesus Christ, and they’ve renounced those things, and set them aside. And you may know as another person to the body of Christ that drinking alcohol is not sin. Drunkenness is. But for that person who’s laid it aside and said, “For me it is unclean.” For that individual it is unclean. For that individual it would be sin to consume.

Verse 15. “Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love.” Underline those words, “no longer walking in love.” “Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.”

I know that there’s nothing wrong with eating that In And Out, Double Double Cheeseburger, Animal Style. But if that causes my brother in Christ to stumble. I know that drinking alcohol is not sin, but drunkenness is. If I know that that causes my brother to stumble, I’m definitely not going to do so openly in front of them, so as to destroy them with whatever it is that I deem to be a liberty for me in Christ. And if I do that I’m no longer walking in love.

Remember what we saw Chapter 13 verse 8. “Oh no one anything except the love one another.” And love, we were told in that same passage, does no harm to their neighbor. Therefore if I know that this might cause my brother to stumble, then walking in love I do away with it.

Verse 16, “Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil.” “Do not let your good be spoken of as evil.” What does this mean? Well Christ Jesus has made us free. That’s a good thing. He’s given us liberty. But if I use my liberty to tear someone down then that good thing I have in Christ becomes evil.

Verse 17 “For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved to men.”

Too often we emphasize the wrong things in the church. In God’s kingdom righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit are of value. These are the things that give us great acceptance before God. We are not made to be accepted before God because we do or don’t eat cheeseburgers. We are acceptable before God because of righteousness. Not our own righteousness but God’s imputed righteousness to us. And peace that He has given to us through salvation. Which results in joy through the presence of the Holy Spirit. These things are what make us acceptable to God. Not whether or not you worship on the Sabbath Day, or worship on a Sunday. Those are not of value to God. So much more of value to God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

While churches grant or withdraw membership based upon the observance of dietary rites and observing certain days at certain times, God’s Kingdom does not grant access based on those things. Some churches have a really hard time with the church celebrating Easter, or Christmas, or having a Christmas tree. Do you know that God doesn’t care whether or not you have a Christmas tree. Now if you bow down to that Christmas tree, and offer a sacrifice to it, that’s idolatry, and that’s expressly spoken against the scripture. But having a Christmas tree does not make you more righteous or less righteous than the person who doesn’t. You might be happier, I don’t know.

“Therefore,” verse 19, “Let us pursue the things which make for peace, and the things by which we may edify one another.” Let’s pursue the things that are of value to God.

See the church in Corinth, they were split over sabbath worship or the Lord’s day worship. They were split over the observance of certain dietary restrictions. Over the observance of certain holidays and days. They were split over those things. And Paul’s exhortation to the church at Corinth. Paul’s exhortation to the Church at Rome, and to us 2000 years later, would be listen, “Pursue those things that are important to God. And to building up one another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure. But it is evil for a man who eats with offence.”

If it causes someone else to stumble. Even though you have liberty in Christ to do it. It now has become sin for you. Even though having it or partaking it is not sin. If it causes another person to stumble now it is.

Verse 21. It is good neither to eat meat, nor drink wine, nor do anything by which a brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak.”

If I know that it might weaken stumble or offend another person than pulses willingly lay it aside and pursue those things that are of importance to God. Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

“Do you have faith? You believe in God? Have to yourself before God.” Now notice this, “Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” What does this mean?

Well imagine this scenario. You’re walking with God by faith. You know His word. You’re mature in the understanding of what the scriptures say. But as you walk with God, God impresses you, by His holy spirit, and says to you, “I don’t want you to eat In And Out, Double Doubles, Animal Style.” And you say “But God they’re OK.” And He says, “But I’m impressing upon you that I don’t want for you to partake of those.” And you fight with the Lord, “But I like them. And it’s OK. There’s nothing in the Bible that says I can’t have it.”

And yet you go after church today, and you drive down the freeway, and you get off at In And Out, as you’re walking through the door, I guarantee you there’s going to be this still small voice saying, “But I said I don’t.” “But I want it!” And now “happy is he,” Paul says, “Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”

You’re approving of it you’re saying, “The Bible doesn’t disprove it. It doesn’t say that it’s wrong. And yet you’re condemned over it in your heart. Happy is the person who says well I’m just going to give it up.

“But he who doubts is condemned if he eats.” Even though the thing he’s partaking of is not wrong. “He who doubts his condemn if he eats.” He’s judged by himself and by the Spirit of God in him because, “He does not eat from faith.” He’s not able to do so faithfully to the Lord walking and faithfulness to Him. “For whatever is not from faith is sin.”

If you can not do what you are doing. If God was standing there right next to you. Even though there’s not an explicit declaration in the scriptures “thou shall not.” If you would feel uncomfortable if God was standing right there, and he is … then give it up. Let it go.

Now don’t apply that standard to other people and say, “You know you shouldn’t eat In And Out Double Doubles.” Don’t take that and say that’s the standard of righteousness. Before you and the Lord, as you walk by faith, It is. But not the standard for another.

How do we live in these gray areas? Well we walk by faith, with the spirit of God residing in US. Not judging another. But “Lord help me to judge by your direction what is right.”

Amen. Would you stand with me as we close in prayer.

Father thank you for your word. Lord help us to apply these things. It’s one thing to know it. It’s another to live it. Lord I thank you that, the things that are acceptable to you. And things that give us access, an open door to your kingdom. It’s not about eating, or drinking, or not eating, or not drinking. But it has to do with righteousness. It has to do with putting our faith in You for righteousness. And that through your righteousness we receive your peace. Peace with you and peace with one another. And joy, by the abiding presence of your Holy Spirit.

Lord it may be that as we stand here today there are some in this room that have not accepted your righteousness. They’ve been trying to be religious. They’ve been trying to do away with certain good or bad things in their lives, thinking that makes them righteous. But Lord I pray that your Word, as we’ve looked at it this morning, would open their eyes to see that righteousness only comes by you giving it to us. And that through Your righteousness we can have peace and joy, by the abiding presence of your Holy Spirit. Lord help us to serve You in these things. Knowing that it’s these things that make us accepted to you.