Letter to Christians in Rome: Chapter 14 (pt 18 of 19)

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Now, be careful there. Paul does not say it is wrong to make him think; it is never wrong to indulge your liberty to such a degree that your brother has to ask questions about his viewpoint. That is all right. As they say, “Inquiring minds, want to know.” It actually demonstrates maturity in the believer to be able to ask the questions. They may not agree with you, but at least they were able and willing to ask and not simply jump to judging you.

However, it is wrong to persist in it if it causes him to act beyond his convictions in order to feel acceptable. Let me illustrate what I mean for you: Let’s say you are in a group where several of the people are having a beer and smoking a cigar and you don’t want to look like an “outsider,” so you open up a beer. Now you don’t feel comfortable about it and feel like you are betraying your faith . . . that is what Paul is saying. Look at Verses 22 and 23:

Your personal convictions are a matter of faith between yourself and God (Romans 14:22a)

This is not saying that you are to keep quiet about your liberties; that you do not say anything to anybody; that you keep it between yourself and God. That is not what Paul is saying. What he is saying, though, is, “if you have faith, have it between yourself and God.” Let God and God’s Word be the basis for your faith, and nothing else. Be sure that what you are doing is not because of pride on your part, because you want to show off how free you are—you are doing this because God has freed you by his Word. Now Paul says, if you do that,

. . . and you are happy if you have no qualms about what you allow yourself to eat. (Romans 14:22b)

If you have truly based it on that, then your conscience is free. You will not feel guilty and troubled as to whether you are acting beyond what the Word of God really says. However, if you do not, if you really have not settled this on the basis of Scripture and acting only because you want to indulge yourself; if you like this thing but you still feel a bit troubled by it—then for you to continue doing it, you are going to be condemned by your conscience. When your conscience condemns you, you will feel guilty. If you act because you feel guilty, you are not acting out of faith and you for you, it is sin. This is what is Paul is arguing for.

Let me illustrate this for you. A friend of mine was struggling with weight (like many of us are) and he felt the Lord directing him to quit eating Lemon Merange Pies. That was his particular weakness (among other things). Is there anything intrinsically wrong or sinful with Lemon Meraine Pies? Of course not. However, for my friend it was! The Lord was dealing him with this issue, so for him to indulge this weakness, was sin.

For you it might not be Lemon Pies, but it might be your all-night gaming or your use of tobacco products. The point is that when the Lord begins to speak to you on particular areas of your life, you have to respond to his leadings, because it will affect your faith.

I get that from the writer of Hebrews when he said that, “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith means believing what God has said. So you must base your actions in Christian liberty, on what the Word of God declares—not about any specific thing, but the great principle of freedom which is established. Now, if you understand that, fine. However, make sure that you are acting not out of pride, not out of mere self-indulgence, but out of a deep conviction that rests on the Word and revelation of God.

What I am getting at is that we are not to deliberately stumble or shock your brother or sister. Do not deliberately do things that will offend them, or even make them feel uncomfortable. Think about them, not yourself. Second: Give up your rights, when it threatens the peace or hinders the growth of another believer. Does that make sense? Be alert to judge in that area. Third: Never act out of doubt. Act only from conviction, by the Word, and by the Spirit of God. If these problems are settled on that basis, a congregation will be gradually moving toward the great liberty that we have as children of God.

If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome

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