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The Ties That Bind

"Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to criticize another's household slave? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And he will stand. For the Lord is able to make him stand.

5 One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord. Whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is for the Lord that he does not eat it, yet he thanks God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and came to life for this: that He might rule over both the dead and the living. 10 But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. 11 For it is written:
As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God. 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God."
Romans 14:1-12 

Good Morning Beloved,
We're so glad you're here with us today
Welcome to worship!

How we see and define ourselves is one of the most critical issues in our lives. Our perception of ourselves can affect a variety of things. It can impact how we think about ourselves. It also impacts how we can feel about ourselves. If you think you are important, you will feel important. On the other hand, if you feel that you are useless, you will feel useless and bad about yourself. Our self-perception can affect our thoughts, which in turn, can affect our feelings.

Our perception of ourselves also can impact how we interact with each other too. For example, if you think highly of yourself, you might begin to think that you might be better than others, and then treat them accordingly because of that. Paul picks up on these truths in Romans 14.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your Word for us today, may our hearts be open to receive it.
Fill our hearts with love, the love that can only come though Your Son, Jesus.  
May we understand and accept that all of us have been received by You, all of us are being sustained by You. Lord, we pray that we might learn from the Holy Spirit, speaking to us in the truth herein in this great passage. May it be confirmed in our hearts.

Father, help us to leave the things that are Yours to take care of to You, and help us to take care of what is ours, to love one another, as Christ first loved us. May we embrace those, even as we may disagree, because You have embraced them. Lord, let our differences be resolved by Your Word, Your truths. May Your Spirit speak to each of us, that we might live as You have called us to live, loving one another, praying for those who persecute us. Place a burden on our hearts, to be obedient to Your commands, to bring the lost to You, that they would receive salvation through Christ.
In His precious name we pray

Today's Message: The Ties That Bind

As we come to this magnificent epistle from the apostle Paul in the book of Roman. Open with me your Bibles to Roman chapter 14, today we'll be studying verses 1 through 12. Romans 14:1-12.
Here we find that Paul, is more concerned about the manner in which we deal with differences than about the fact that we have differences. Jesus does not call us to agree on every issue, however, He does call us to love one another.

Before we begin, I'd like to just say something, if I may.
The ties that bind us, are not our DNA, the ones we're related to, whether by blood or marriage, they are not our denominations,  it is the Savior, the One who shed His blood for our salvation, and for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus Christ, our Lord, is the ties that bind us, who are in Christ Jesus.

That said, let's begin. In chapters 14-15, Paul provides us guidance regarding the actions that loving Christians must take, especially when they strongly disagree.

The Christians in Rome were having problems in how they interacted with each, and Paul puts his finger on why that is. He knows the solution to the problems and quarrels: their identity in Christ. The Romans have not focused on that. But before we can talk about the solution, we need to know what exactly is the problem. What is the issue?

The Christians in Rome were a diverse group of believers. These Roman congregations were made up of two entirely different groups of people. They consisted of Jewish converts who grew up with the Law, and traditions of the Old Testament. They also consisted of Gentiles, non-Jews. The ethnic ratio of these churches is unknown but it is thought that there are more Gentiles since the Jews had been expelled from Rome just a few years prior to the writing of Romans. But when you have Jewish converts with Gentile ones, a common question and problem always arises: what do you do with the Old Testament food laws and feast days? The Jewish converts grew up with those traditions and rules while the Gentiles did not.

The issues that divide Christians today, are different from those of the first century, nonetheless, divided we are. The guidance that Paul gave Roman Christians will serve us well today if we can bring ourselves to hear it. In verse 1, Paul calls us to welcome those with whom we have differences, not to hold one another in contempt or to judge each other in verses 4, 10. He calls us to recognize our essential connectedness as brothers and sisters in Christ verse 10, to acknowledge that each of us is accountable to God, in verse 12, and to trust God to do his work well.

Given the sharp divide in the church today, particularly over such issues as abortion, racism, gay marriage, it is often difficult to do what Paul calls us to do. It is difficult not to believe that our position is right and the other side is wrong, dreadfully wrong. It is difficult not to judge other Christians and to hold them in contempt for having a different view. It is very difficult to welcome Christians from the other side as Christian brothers and sisters, and to imagine, much less accept the possibility that God welcomes them too. It is often, extremely difficult to love them. It is very difficult not to demonize those on the other side of our beliefs.

In verses 1 through 4, the apostle Paul speaks of the "weak" here, notice he does not use the word "strong" until Romans 15:1, where he says, "Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves." Here, Paul is obviously counting himself among the strong, and we know that he does not feel bound to Jewish dietary restrictions.

This helps us to identify which positions Paul considers as "weak" and "strong." This is helpful, because Paul generally avoids the position endorsing one side or the other here, and "weak" is obviously a negative characterization while "strong" is positive. Paul is referring to the weak as those who are "weak in faith." In this context, "weak in faith" does not mean not believing in Jesus Christ. Rather, Paul is talking about the person whose faith in Christ requires additions, the observance of dietary restrictions or other rules.

The Old Testament had prescribed the dos and don’ts for food in places like Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. In those chapters, we see what is acceptable for the Israelites to eat, and what is not. The people were not allowed to eat unclean animals such as camel, eagles, reptiles, certain insects, mice, and rabbits. Not so bad so far, right? But this list also included other foods like shrimp, lobster, oysters, and crab. They couldn't eat pork, sausage, ham, pork chops, pepperoni, or one of America’s favorite foods, bacon either! They also could not eat blood, so that means no medium to rare steaks. They could however, eat clean animals like fish, oxen, sheep, goats, cows, and deer though. The Old Testament also prescribed instructions for special feasts and days for the people to follow and observe as well.

With the coming of Jesus, we have a wrench thrown into all of these things. Colossians 2:16-17 says, "Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah."

This is like a long distance couple cherishing a photo of each other while they are apart. Once they are married and together, they don’t devote the same attention and time to that photo. Why is that? It is because they have the person. So why focus on the photo?

Jesus fulfills these laws and feasts. He has declared all foods to be clean. The laws and festivals pointed to Him and find their fulfillment in Him. Why have the photo, when you have the person? All believers are free from the food restrictions of the Old Testament, and do not need to do the festivals and feasts. However, on the other hand, they are also free to continue to abide by them.

In the Christian congregations at Rome, some believers still kept these things. While others did not. The "weak," those who don’t realize or understand their full freedom in Jesus, still continued to abide by these things. These believers were cautious of these food laws, they just ate vegetables to avoid the difficulty of eating unclean food. They continued to keep certain days and feasts. But, from a completely human standpoint, can you blame them?

If you were a Jew, you kept those things throughout your whole life, therefore, you avoided certain foods altogether. How challenging would it be to eat some of those forbidden foods, or to not celebrate some of those holidays? To some extent, I can relate. I bought some almond butter, which is said to have the same consistency, smell, look, and taste of peanut butter. I wanted them to know the joys of a peanut butter and honey sandwich without all the stuff that would kill them. the additives, preservatives etc. So, even though my sons could eat it, mentally, they couldn’t. There was something weird about it to them, even though it was perfectly fine. They didn't seem to feel comfortable eating it. So, I eventually opted for all natural peanut butter. Two ingredients, peanuts and peanut oil. I imagine, it was much the same for the Jews who had been  accustomed to adhering to the dietary restrictions. I'm sure that this new freedom was something to get used to.

The “strong” Christians, those who understood their freedom in Jesus, choose to refrain from these things. They ate what they wanted and held all days as alike. As you could imagine, with two completely different views on this issue, problems arose, and they did. This lead to quarreling and fights Paul says. It led the ones who ate to despise the ones who didn’t. The ones who didn’t eat passed judgment on those who did. You can almost picture Paul like a dad who is fed up with his fighting children who yells out: "Enough! Just stop!”

As Christians, we can have quarrels and fights over similar things even though we are Gentiles. We can look down and despise others in matters that we have Christian freedom in. I heard a speaker who spoke about a teaching experience he had, This speaker was of the Reformed background but was interestingly enough, was also a world class Martin Luther scholar. And, since he was an expert, he was invited to teach a class on Luther at another Seminary, which he did.

Now every good speaker knows that you need to be able to capture your audience’s attention right from the start. So, to start off, he used a humorous Luther quote about beer. Unfortunately, it did not go over well with his audience, who were of a background that refrained from drinking. The professor said they immediately tuned out from that moment, after which, he faced an uphill battle. The issue of having a drink, or even just mentioning it, this issue deeply divided them.

But choosing whether to drink or not to drink is not the only issue that Christians  have divisions with. We can see it with the music we listen to. Some people only listen to Christian songs while others are fine with just about anything they hear on the radio. Some are opposed, to the varieties in Christian genre. "Jesus Rock," Jesus Rap" which has a Christian message, but is specifically designed to attract a younger crowd.

In a season like Lent, we might see some people give up something or fast, while others don’t. We might see it in the types of television programs and movies we watch or the types of books and magazines we read. I remember some years ago that reading something like a Harry Potter book, about wizards, lead to some pretty strong disagreements, and arguments. We can even see division with our worship preferences.

Though we have a certain Christian freedom in these matters and many others, we still have our personal opinions, which can create major conflicts. We tend to judge others, thinking less of them, or in some instances, even argue with them, if their choices do not align with ours. The point I'm attempting to make here, is some two thousand years later, we really aren’t so different from these Roman Christians, are we?

Though our battles and disagreements are no longer about food but they have the same sentiment behind them. So, how was Paul able to resolve these issues at Rome? He pointed to their identity in Jesus. So here, in verses 7-9, Paul writes: "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and came to life for this: that He might rule over both the dead and the living."

What is Paul saying? Paul is teaching us, it is not about you or who you are, but rather, "whose you are." We are Christ’s, purchased and won with His blood. We all belong to the One Who fulfilled the Old Testaments Laws and restrictions. He pointed them to Christ and the salvation that He brings, and gives.

Paul is calling us, not to correct the weak in faith, but instead to welcome them, to acknowledge them as our brothers and sisters in Christ, to include them in our circle of friends. We can help them to become strong, but this can only be accomplished through love! Because, logic in itself, cannot, win a brother or sister. Logic has power only when it rests on a solid foundation of love.

A welcome with an agenda is not really a welcome at all. When a welcome is driven by an agenda, the agenda will dictate what happens next, the agenda will be the primary focus and the welcome will become secondary. Typically, the person with an agenda welcomes others only as a means to an end.

The apostle Paul then tells them that this identity has implications for their situation. He says, "Who are you to pass judgment in terms of Christian freedom?" In verse four, he says, "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

The Roman Christians are free and forgiven in Christ. They are not fighting over what is right and wrong, but on an issue that is debatable. They are free in regard to these issues but not free to judge His servants in regard to these issues. He points out that they are doing these things to honor Jesus, not to gain salvation or righteousness.

What then is the solution for our day? Beloved, it is exactly the same! As with the Romans, it is not who you are that matters, but rather, whose you are. That is a crucial point we all must remember today, when we face these issues. We are Christ’s, and we are made His own through faith and baptism. Since we belong to Jesus, we have value. Why? As Paul says, our Lord laid down His life for us! He died for us! If that doesn’t scream to you, that you are precious and valuable to God, what does?

This identity in Christ should effect our self-worth because in Christ, we have it! He loves and cares for us not because of anything we have done, but rather, because of what He has done. This identity should also changes how we see ourselves, for we are not defined by our failures, our wrongs, short comings, or accomplishments. Rather, we see ourselves in Christ and in His grace that covers all these things.

This identity in Christ must also change how we interact with others. How we see our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ,  as they are also forgiven, they have value, worth, and importance. This view leads us to not pass judgment in terms of Christian freedom because they are Christ’s, and we are not to judge the servant of another in these matters. It is not about who you are, or who they are, but Whose we are!

In Closing....

A servant is answerable to his/her master and to no one else. A person who has a quarrel with a servant would do well to address those concerns with the master rather than to the servant, because the servant who is doing the master’s will is free to ignore, in most cases, everyone other opinion than his masters. Furthermore, the master knows his servant, making it possible for him to temper your input and to act in fairness.

The principle of addressing concerns with the master does not apply to situations where there is no conflict. Further, it would be offensive never to address a servant or subordinate directly, as if he/she were not in the room.

In verse 4, we see the person in jeopardy is not the person from the other side of the debate, but is instead the person who is guilty of passing judgment on the Master’s servant. In other words, for the bystander who passes judgment upon the servant risks offending, not just the servant, but the master as well. That was the case in Paul’s day, and the principle still applies today to us today within society and any well-structured organization. It also applies in the church, where God is the Master. By despising or judging our fellow Christian, our brother and sister, we are therefore risking incurring God’s wrath, God’s judgment being brought upon ourselves.

Its important to note that when Paul writes, "Let each man be fully assured in his own mind" to Christians whose beliefs have been shaped by their relationship with Christ. While their differences may divide them, it is their common faith binds them. Paul’s words should have the same impact on all of the Christian faith today.

May it be so.. In Christs' name

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

Copyright © 2019-2020 All Rights Reserved

The Brian Monzon Ministries



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