Acceptance, Judgment, and the Essential Point of Nonessential Points - Romans 14:1-6 - Nate Heitzig
Well, good morning and welcome to Calvary. Who's excited to be in church today?
I'm not going to tell you who I'm rooting for in the Super Bowl. Hopefully you already know. But if you don't, I don't want to get stoned today. This guy's still going for the Saints. They're not in it anymore, bro.
Hey, turn your Bible to Romans chapter 14. We're going to be a versus 1 through 6 this morning for a message I've titled Acceptance, Judgment, and the Essential Point of Non-Essential Points. You know, judgment is a really funny thing, isn't it? It's something in our culture that drives the economy of our culture today. We try so hard to fit in so that we can avoid judgment. That's why we do, say, and dress certain ways.
We pass it on so many people before we ever get a chance to really know them. Judgment is something we love to give, but we hate to receive, right? No one likes being judged. Who's ever been judged before? It's not a fun thing, right? Who's ever been criticized? Nobody enjoys being judged.
And one of the things we hear so many people say today is don't judge me, right? Don't judge me, bro. But let's be honest, usually, if we have to say don't judge me, we deserve to be judged, don't we? Who's ever said that, don't judge me? Right? Now that you know, I'm not going to say it.
For instance, maybe you're a buff, athletic, strong, manly man. Maybe you're like a contractor, you work with your hands, and you're having friends over today for Super Bowl. And you're ready to chow down on some wings, and you get into the living room, and you turn on the Apple TV, and the first thing they see before the game can come on is you've been binge watching Gilmore Girls for the past eight weeks. Don't judge me, bro. Don't judge me.
Or maybe you and your girlfriends decide, hey, it's 2020, we're going to go on a diet, 2020, 20 pounds in 20 days. That's not healthy, by the way. Don't do that. And you guys have this solidarity pact. You guys are going to do this together. And then one day, lunchtime, your friend finds you in the parking lot of McDonald's eating four Big Macs and a large fry. Don't judge me.
Or maybe after church today, you're going to get in your car, you're going to head to a restaurant and have some food, and you get in your car, and the first thing they hear is the song you last had playing on your iPod. (SINGING) You need to calm down. No? Nobody. All right, don't judge me.
Here in Romans 14, we find a passage that addresses this very subject, addresses the subject of judgment. Are we supposed to, as Christians, judge one another? What is the role of acceptance, judgment, and the essential point of non-essential points? See, each and every one of us has our own unique background. Some of us come from a background of absolutely no church at all, while others come from a background of far too much church, far too many traditions.
You know, traditions are some of the hardest strongholds for us to break in our lives. And some of us never do, and the result of this, oftentimes, is friction, division, arguments, and judgment within the Church of different groups who have different backgrounds and different traditions. And Paul addresses that topic here in Romans 14.
See, it was the same in the early church. In the early church, there were some who were Gentiles, and they were used to idolatry. And then there were some who were Jewish who had very, very strict laws. And in Rome, Paul's addressing a huge debate that emerges in the early church, a big division and argument and disagreement over certain practices, and it really boils down to days and diets.
Again, we're talking about non-essentials today. And we're going to talk about several different non-essentials. But the non-essentials that Paul is specifically addressing here in Romans chapter 14 is what days to worship on and what kind of diets should we have. See, in Roman culture, it was normal to offer animal sacrifices in the temples and then take the meat that was offered in the temples and sell the best meat to the public for food.
Now, for the Gentiles, they had no issue with this. They had no problem with this, with eating meat that had been sacrificed in a temple. For them, it was just meat. It was just a meal. They ate the meat, they enjoyed the meat, didn't mean anything to them. But for the Jewish person, this was a little bit too close to idolatry. This was a little bit too close to idol worship.
And so a huge argument arose with two sides, different traditions, different backgrounds, judging each other for what they were doing within the church. Now, I want to point out, the Church has never been a perfect church. Historically, the Church that we all are a part of, the Church has never been perfect. All the way back to the early church, there have been divisions, arguments, and squabblings.
In Acts 6, Ananias and Sapphira pretended to be holy, and they were dropped out of the Church. In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas had a falling out, not over any doctrinal issues, but over a guy that Paul simply didn't like named John Mark. To the Corinthians, Paul said, "There are envy, strife, and divisions among you."
Understand this, there's always going to be people in church that you don't get along with. There's always going to be people who are part of the body of Christ that you don't agree with on certain issues. There's always going to be people sitting next to you or in front of you or behind you that you just don't like for some reason. And what is our response supposed to be as people within the Church to those people that we have the tendency to judge? What is our response supposed to be as Christians in acceptance, judgment, and the essential point of non-essentials points?
Let's read Romans chapter 14 versus 1 through 6 as we see how Paul admonishes us. Verse 1, "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let him who eats despise not him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats for God has received him. Who are you to judge another servant? To his own master, he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above. 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 who does not eat to the Lord he does not eat and gives God thanks."
Let's stop there. In this text, we see three things in our response to acceptance, judgment, the essential point of non-essential points. Number one, we see that we need to start accepting all believers. Number two, we see that we need to stop judging some believers. And then third and finally, we see whatever you do, that is to say whatever you choose to do in relation to these non-essential points, be convinced.
Let's look at our first point. Start accepting all believers. Look at verse 1 again with me. Paul says, "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to dispute over doubtful things." Basically, Paul is saying in this whole text that we need to begin to receive people into fellowship, receive believers, and we need to stop arguing about dumb things. Why is it that we as human beings love to argue about unimportant issues? Why do we love to argue about dumb things? Why do we love to fight? It's ingrained in us.
You know, my kids fight over the dumbest things. They fight over what color a toy is. No, it's this color. No, it's that color. Why? Why are you fighting over that? But it only gets worse as we get older, right? We, as a nation, are a nation of offense. We get offended over everything. It's impossible to post anything on social media without somebody getting offended. It's impossible to share a message from the stage without somebody getting offended.
Case in point, last week, the message that I shared, wake up, we had two different letters that were inside the agape box. One of them said, how dare Nate talk about alcohol in that way? And the other one said, what a great message. I needed to hear that. Two opposing viewpoints. Two very different thoughts on the same message. It's impossible for people not to be offended, not to argue about anything in society today.
Paul says in verse 1, "Receive one who is weak in the faith." I want to define our terms as we begin to dive into this text. What does Paul mean by weak? Receive one who is weak in the faith. Well, he's not talking about somebody who is morally weak. That is to say, he's not talking about somebody who falls into sin and temptation because they have certain struggles in their lives. He's not talking about somebody who is weak in character. That's to say, he's not speaking of somebody who's spineless, somebody who refuses to stand up for their faith in God.
Rather, he's talking about somebody who is weak because they're having a hard time believing in the great liberating truths that Paul has delivered so far in the book of Romans. That is to say, they're weak because they haven't yet grasped Romans 8:1, that there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. They haven't yet grasped Romans 5:1, that salvation is apart from works, not through being legalistic. The weakness that he is speaking of is weakness that is traditional baggage that weighs on people and in turn causes them to judge everyone else around them.
He's speaking of weakness in relation to an over sensitivity to the non-essentials. Now, we all know people like this, don't we? People who are oversensitive to non-essentials, and we're afraid to ever say anything in front of them because they're going to start judging us and jump down our throats. So it's like don't want to say you went to a concert, you don't want to say you went to a restaurant, you don't want to say, oh man, the other night I was going to a movie, because they're going to go, movies, you're going to hell.
All I do is read my Bible 24/7. Like, they're so oversensitive to everything because of the traditional background they might have had, because of how they grew up. They have put a certain amount of baggage upon their shoulders that they hold themselves to, but that more dangerously, they hold other people to as well.
We have to constantly, as believers, think essential. Think focus on the essentials of the Christian faith, on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, that we are saved by the blood of Christ. There is only one way to heaven, and His name is Jesus, that He rose from the dead, that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, that Christ was born of a virgin, the deity of Christ, that He was God and man, the Trinity, that there is one God in three persons. These essentials, we need to think on.
And yet so often times, I find what most believers get bogged down in is the non-essentials. Well, what did you eat? Well, what's that in your glass? What are you drinking right over there? Well, I heard you praying in tongues. I don't think you should do that. Well, that church had a woman teach or that person did this or that person did that, and we get so bogged down in these non-essentials. And this problem still exists very much in our modern day church life.
See, in this passage in Romans 14, he was speaking to a group of people who put upon themselves the baggage of the Old Testament law. And this baggage of the Old Testament law caused them to judge other people in accordance to what they thought they had to do. And there are still some people today who revert back to the Old Testament laws. They abide by the Old Testament dietary standards.
Some say that Saturday is the only day to worship, that it's a condition to fellowship. There's some people who would say that you being here at church on Sunday is a sin. Some say that you can only take communion if the bread is unleavened, and if it's not, it's not true. It's not valid. You didn't actually take communion. Some say that you can't have any tattoos or piercings.
You know, it's interesting that the weak believer that Paul speaks about here is the legalistic one. He says receive one who is weak, and when he starts talking about the one who is weak, he's talking to somebody who says, well, I can't eat that. He's talking about somebody who says, well, no, I have to worship on this day. The weak believer is the legalistic one.
But you know what's funny, the legalistic believer thinks that they're the strong one. The legalistic believer thinks that they're stronger, that they're better, that they're more holy, because they're doing a certain number of things, sometimes even things that God didn't even ask them to do. The Pharisees did the same thing. They were so righteous, so holy, they were abiding by laws that the Bible didn't even give, and they thought it made them strong. They thought it made them better. They thought it made them more holy.
And this tradition, this baggage that they put upon their shoulders, it caused them to judge others around them. Why is it that the weak believer is the legalistic one? Well, because it takes more faith to believe that Jesus is enough and that you can't add anything. You want to measure your faith, measure how much you believe that Jesus is enough. They are weak in the faith. They are weak in faith that Jesus is enough. They're weak in faith to say that man, God is enough. What he accomplished on the cross, it's enough to wash me white as snow.
Some people here that and say, yeah, I believe that, but I'm just going to hedge my bet. I better still do x, y, and z just to make sure that I'm OK, just to make sure that I'm good, and they think that these good deeds that they add on top of their faith in Christ somehow makes them more holy than other people around them.
Look, true faith is the Isaiah syndrome, that says all my good deeds, all the things that I could do to try to please God, they're just filthy rags. They're just junk. All I need is faith in Jesus. That's enough. Anything else that I try to do to make myself look good, it doesn't make me look good. It's just filthy rags.
See, legalism seeks to add to the gospel, to attain salvation through works and good deeds, to say, yeah, Jesus is enough, but you should also do this. You know, it's also interesting that this text is written to the strong believer. This is written to both, but it's initially addressed to the strong believers. Receive him who is weak in the faith.
Look, who in here has ever been judged by a well-meaning believer or criticized by a well-meaning believer who said something to you, and they weren't trying to be jerks, but they were? They just said something really mean to you, and it hurt you, and it cut you some way. Paul's addressing this passage to those strong believers, who are being attacked or judged by weaker believers, and the reason he is doing that is because we can't control how people judge us, but we can control what our response to those people should be.
And Paul is saying to those who are strong in the faith, hey, when somebody judges you, when somebody jumps down your throat, when they get mad at you and try to put something on you, the law upon you that you don't have to abide by, instead of arguing back, instead of fighting back, instead of pleading your case and hitting them with the Bible and showing them all the verses of why they're wrong, instead of getting into it with them, receive them, love them, accept them, put a hand of fellowship out to them.
Don't fight with them because that's not going to get anybody anywhere. We are to welcome them and receive them, not tell them how stupid they are, not kick them out. Look, again, I already asked who's been judged by a well-meaning believer. I think we all have. We've all been judged at some point by a Christian who meant well, but just didn't go about it the right way. I've been judged by well-meaning believers.
It might shock you to know the amount of letters and email I've gotten of Christians criticizing me and judging me, not because of something unbiblical I've said, not because of a false doctrine I've spread, not because of an errant word that I gave or because of some secret sin, but because I wear ripped jeans and I have tattoos and I have facial hair, literally.
I've had people say, hey, would you consider wearing flesh colored sleeves to cover up your tattoos. I've heard people say, hey, we've been praying, a group of us, that you'd stop wearing ripped jeans. Does anybody ever remember the era my dad had a goatee? If you do, you've been here for a long time. In that era, he had people call to and say, hey, several of us are together praying weekly that you would shave your goatee. Look, if your prayer life consists of praying that people would stop wearing ripped jeans and shave their goatees, you need something better to pray about.
When we get those emails, and when we get those letters, when someone comes up, and they'll say a joke of hey, you need some more money to get some new jeans, I don't pull out my Bible and criticize them and condemn them for looking at the outward appearance, and man should look at the heart, and God judges the heart. We don't start addressing those issues. I don't get mad at them and say, well, how dare you judge me? I laugh it off. I let it go.
There's no reason to fight about it. There's no reason to argue about it. There's no reason to get up in arms about it. You receive them. When someone judges you for something dumb, receive them. Accept them. Put a hand of fellowship to them and say, hey, it's OK. If you want to wear khakis and Hawaiian shirts, that's fine. That's you. You be you, boo. Do what you gotta do. Where would you want to wear. If you don't like long hair, shave your head. I don't care. If you don't like facial hair, go clean shaven.
Don't fight with them over those issues. Receive them. Love them. That's the desire that God has for us within the Church. And yet it seems that too often the Church resembles a playpen with babies throwing rattles around screaming at each other, throwing tantrums. I want that, you did this to me, you hurt me, you pushed me, I'm going to push you. And it resembles this contentious atmosphere.
It says that we should receive. The NIV and NLT translate this to accept. The EXV translates this as welcome. The passion translation says offer an open hand of fellowship. The basic idea is stop arguing about dumb things, and start loving each other. Start receiving each other. Start accepting each other. Start welcoming each other. Start fellowshipping with each other.
The message translate this passage as this. "Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way that you do, and don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with, even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently."
Look, it doesn't matter if the person you disagree with isn't the same level of maturity as you are. It doesn't matter if they disagree with your viewpoint. It doesn't matter if they're even hostile towards you, if they bad mouth you and talk poorly about you to other people. You hear from somebody, oh, so-and-so was saying this about you. It doesn't matter if they do those things. Receive them. Accept them. Love them with an open hand of fellowship.
It's sad that so many churches are so exclusive, that you have to go through some spiritual gauntlet to be gained acceptance into their club. That's why we as a church have never had membership, because you don't have to be a member here. This isn't a club. This isn't some secret society. This is a family.
All you have to do to be a part of this family is believe that Jesus Christ came to this earth, died for your sins, rose from the dead, you can find salvation and no other name than the name of Jesus Christ, you believe the word of God.
You believe those things, you're family. You don't have to accomplish something to be here. You are here, so you're with us. The job of Christians is to help resolve conflict, not start it. We need to be resolvers of conflict. When someone does something or says something or comes to you or brings up something to you, be a resolver of conflict. Be the peacemaker in this situation. Don't add fuel to the fire. Don't fight back because all that shows is that you're just as immature as they are.
Verse 2 continues and says, "For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables." Again, Paul is calling those who are hung up on eating certain things, who are hung up with worshipping on particular days weak. And again, they're weak because they don't have enough faith to just trust that Jesus is enough, to trust Jesus for their righteousness.
The New Testament says that in Jesus, we have no ceremonial or dietary restrictions. However, the mosaic law does. In the mosaic law, there was a certain dietary restriction they had to follow. There was a certain day they were prescribed to worship. Peter himself had a hang up with this at first, and in Acts 10, the Lord told him, "What God has cleansed, you must not call common."
Now, again, I talked about tradition, and this tradition we grow in can sometimes bring baggage upon ourselves, that we feel we have to do certain things. Many of you might have grown up in a Catholic church, where you observed Lent, and you swapped the Big Mac for a Filet o' Fish. And that was what you did. This passage is in saying hey, stop doing that. Look, if you still observe Lent, that's OK. It's not a sin. But don't think that it makes you more holy than the people who don't.
Don't think that it makes you better than the people who don't do it the same way that you do it. The danger is to raise the non-essentials to the level of essentials. Look, if you want to go on a diet, go on a diet. Go for it. If you want to dress a certain way, do it. If you want to cut your hair a certain way, go for. It if you want to listen to only CCM music for the rest of your life, enjoy yourself. But don't think that it makes you better than those who don't do it. Don't think that it makes you more holy than those who don't do.
Don't let it cause within you this pride that makes you think you're stronger and causes you to be able to judge others for not doing it the way that you're doing it. See, the danger is this not only raises the non-essentials to to the level of the essentials, but it brings the essentials down to the level of the non-essentials. It brings the essentials, like the Atonement, like the deity of Christ, down to the level of well, should a Christian speak in tongues, or is a Christian allowed to drink alcohol, or are women allowed to teach? It brings these essentials down to a place where it takes the power out of them.
So what is defined as non-essentials? Well, we already mentioned quite a few earlier-- dietary standards, what day you go to church, should communion bread be unleavened, tattoos and piercings. Another one is the mode of baptism. Should it be immersion or effusion? The use of cosmetics is one actually. People actually fight about whether women should wear makeup, believe it or not. Jewelry, alcohol, tongues, music. We already said women teachers and pastors.
There's a lot of these non-essentials that we as Christians want to squabble over. Never separate or divide on the basis of non-essentials. Only divide on the deity of Jesus, the Atonement, the Resurrection, the Trinity, one God in three persons, the virgin birth, the inerrancy of scripture. These things-- and there's others-- that are essential to the Christian faith that we say, if you don't believe this, you can't be a Christian, these essentials, divide on those. But in regards to all these non-essentials, don't divide on them.
Second John says that with such people who don't believe those essentials we are to have no fellowship. My friend, Nate Bush, explains it this way. I had Matt bring out three chairs, four chairs rather. I can't count today. It's good. Four chairs. And he explains the essentials and non-essentials basically become issues that we have the choice. Any issue, any essential, any non-essential, we have the choice to sit in one of four chairs.
The two chairs on the outside are activist chairs. These chairs are reserved for the essentials. These chairs say, if I sit in this chair, and somebody else sits on the opposite side of this subject in the activist chair, I can't have fellowship with you. The activist chair says, I believe so strongly in this belief, that if you believe the opposite way, you're not a Christian.
Now, on essentials, we should sit in this chair. For instance, if I say Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, that there is one way to heaven. His name is Jesus. You have to accept him into your heart. But Matt says, well, actually I think all roads lead to heaven, and it doesn't really matter what God you believe in. They're all the same. And so just go on your journey, and we'll all end up in heaven someday. Matt, I don't really believe that you believe that, first of all. But if that's his standpoint, I'm going to say I'm going to divide with you on that. That's an essential. I'm going to take an activist standpoint and say that I can't have fellowship with you.
But on the non-essentials, Paul says we should sit in these middle chairs. These chairs are conviction chairs. This chair says I have a personal conviction, and my personal conviction is that Christians should speak in tongues, and you say, well, I have a personal conviction. And my personal conviction is Christian shouldn't speak in tongues. We say although we may not agree on this issue, I'm not going to sit in the activist chair and say, well, you can't be a Christian, I can't have fellowship with you. I'm going to sit in the conviction chair that says, I can understand how a thinking Christian could get to that place. I could understand why you're in that camp, and that's an issue that doesn't determine salvation, so I'm happy to sit next to you and have fellowship with you.
These are the conviction chairs, not the activist chairs. What Paul is saying is that on any non-essential, we can never sit in either one of these activist chairs, fully for or fully against and say if you believe opposite, I can't be your friend. I can't fellowship with you. Paul is saying, on all non-essentials, we have to find a middle chair. We have to find that middle ground where we can say, hey, even though I don't agree with you, I recognize that I'm going to spend eternity with you. So I better get used to it.
Let's start hanging out now. Let's start fellowshipping now. Let's be friends now because we're going to be together forever. Start accepting all believers.
Now, I want to point something out because there is the risk that when I say that, you say, well, what about the person who says, I'm a Christian, and then they start spouting off terrible things? They say I'm a Christian, I'm a Mormon, or I'm a Jehovah's Witness, and where's the line between accepting all believers? When I say all believers, I'm speaking of what Paul talks about, all true believers. The measure of a true believer is on their belief in the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. The measure that we're to use is on the essentials, not the non-essentials, and that really leads us to our second point.
Stop judging some believers. Look at verse 3. It says, "Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats. For God has received him." A word to the strong and faith, "Let not him who eats despise him who doesn't eat." Look, if you've got enough faith, if you've got enough understanding of the liberty that you have in Christ, and you can do certain things, you're free enough in the spirit where you can speak in tongues, you have the liberty in Christ where you feel it's OK for you to drink, you have the liberty in Christ where you can do some of these things that other people can't do, don't judge those who can't do it.
Don't get mad at those who can't do it, and try to sit down and expose and explain to them why their theology is wrong, why they just don't have enough faith, why the Bible doesn't really call what you're doing a sin, and explain to them why it's OK for them to do the same thing. Don't judge them and despise them.
Now, a word to the weak in the faith. "Let not him who does not eat judge him who eats." Look, if you're convicted that you shouldn't eat meat, then don't. If you're convicted that you shouldn't speak in tongues, then don't. If you're convicted that you shouldn't drink alcohol, then don't. If you're convicted that you should keep a certain dietary standard, then do it. If you're convicted that you should worship on Saturdays, then you've already sinned, so you should right now probably ask God for forgiveness, because it's Sunday.
But don't assume that everyone else feels the same way as you. Don't assume that everyone thinks the same way that you do. And understand, they're not less spiritual because they don't agree with you. And also understand this, you're to receive them. Why? Because verse 3 says, "For God has received them." God's accepted them, so you should, too.
If they're holy enough and Christian enough for God to accept, don't you think they should be holy enough and Christian enough for you to accept? Rather than pulling out bibles and lashing each other, receive each other. You know it's sad to me how judgemental and critical some Christians can be towards those who don't agree with them on every single point. And nothing puts a bad taste in the world's mouth towards Christ more than judgemental and critical Christians attacking non-essential issues.
For instance, I have a letter I want to read to you. A couple months ago, my wife and I were with a couple of friends, and we went to a restaurant that also happened to serve alcohol. And we had a great meal. We had a fun time. We ended the night, and I had about a $30 tab that I closed out, and the next morning, when I woke up, I looked at my card statement, and I had a $2,300 bill on my credit card statement. And I was like, danger, Will Robinson.
And I immediately called the restaurant. It was like 7 o'clock in the morning, so it wasn't open yet, and I left a message. I said, hey, I think a mistake was made. I was at your restaurant last night. I had like not very much food, and I got a $2,300 bill on my credit card statement. I was just hoping you could fix it.
About 10 minutes later, the owner of the restaurant, not even the manager called me, and she said, I'm so sorry. I don't know what happened. I'm driving there right now. Please forgive me. And she was so frantic, and I said, hey, it's OK. Calm down. It's not a big deal. As long as it's taken care of, I'm not mad, and she was taken back by how understanding I was. And she said, man, a lot of people would be yelling at me right now. A lot of people would be so angry right now. Why aren't you so mad? I said, because it's an honest mistake, and it's not a mistake you made, and you're being a good owner right now by taking responsibility, addressing the issue. As long as it's taken care of, I'm happy.
So she went to the restaurant, she took care of the issue, refunded the money, and she called me back. And she said, man, again, just thank you for being so understanding. I want to send you some gift cards just to thank you and just to apologize for the mistake. So she sent me about $200 worth of gift cards, and she also attached this letter, and she said "Nathan, thank you for your grace and kindness through this situation. Once again, I apologize that this happened. On a side note, when I hung up with you the first time I talked to you, I knew you were a Christian. The fact that I own bars, most people assume I am not, so I get the worst from those, even those who profess to believe. Thank you for restoring my faith in Christians."
You know, it's sad to me that her experience up until that point had been with Christians who had judged her based on a non-essential issue. Based on a non-essential point, she had been judged, and she had experienced, rather than grace and love and forgiveness that Jesus Christ has she had experienced hatred, judgment, and criticism from those who professed to have received the forgiveness and the grace of Jesus Christ.
The message puts it this way. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing the other over what they ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited both of them to the table. Wouldn't it be great if, as Christians, we could sit at the table together and instead of arguing back and forth about how we disagree on the non-essential, dumb, unimportant issues, we could fellowship with one another, encourage one another, strengthen one another, exhort one another for good works, so we could go out and make a difference in our communities? Wouldn't that be a great idea?
We're family, after all. And I understand that maybe family meals are a contentious situation for you. But in the body of Christ, we're meant to love each other. We're meant to fellowship with each other. You know I've noticed something about worldliness. There's some things in the Bible that for a believer, anywhere it's wrong. The Bible is expressly very clear on certain issues that this is sin, this is wrong for anyone. But then there's other stuff that is geographic worldliness.
For instance, as I already pointed out by that letter, in America, there's some Christian circles where the thought of any form of alcohol in any capacity is viewed as sinful. If you even look at it, you might feel the flames of hell creeping up on your butt. Don't do it. Stay away. And yet, if you go to Germany, you might find that after church the congregation, even the pastors would go to a bar, enjoy a beer, and discuss the work that God had done that weekend and the souls that were saved.
Two different traditions, two different backgrounds, two different viewpoints on a non-essential issue. And yet, if you put those two people at a table, they'd probably fight. Now, some might say, well, that's wrong, they shouldn't do that, they're going to cause someone to stumble. Well, they over eat and are gluttonous after church and then break the speed limit on the way home.
In Victorian era, Charles Spurgeon and J.W. Packer were friends, pastor friends. They fellowshipped together. They even exchanged pulpits together, until they had a disagreement. See, Charles Spurgeon got mad and accused Packer of being unspiritual because he went to the theater. And yet Spurgeon smoked cigars, a lot of cigars, so many cigars, in fact, that there is a billboard of him in London that said "Cigars, the kind Spurgeon smokes."
So he's condemning someone for going to the theater while he is a chain smoker. Do you see the irony there? Even after this weekend, I'll probably get a couple letters of people criticizing and mad about this message about non-essentials. They're going to judge a message about non-essentials. Does anyone see the irony in that situation?
Verse 4 says, "Who are you to judge another servant? To his own master, he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand for God is able to make him stand." See, the premise in the idea of this is who are you to judge somebody else's worker? Think of with your kids. Who are you to judge someone else's kids? If someone started judging your kids and parenting your kids, you'd be like, hey, those are my kids. Who are you to judge my kids? I'll parents my kids. I'll take care of this. It's not your place. You don't have any right.
Those Christians aren't your Christians. Those Christians aren't your servants. They're God's servants. Those Christians won't stand before you. They're going to stand before God. This verse sounds a lot like Matthew 7, where it says, "Judge not that you be not judged." Now, this does not forbid discernment.
See, a lot of Christians think that this means that we should never evaluate anyone or anything. As a matter of fact, in some Christian circles, if you have strong convictions, and you speak up, or if you discern, they respond, hey, judge not, lest you be judged. But right after Jesus said do not judge, he also said, watch out for false prophets.
How do you watch out for false prophets? Well, with some level of judgment and discernment. But the point is, we're judging, we're discerning based on the essentials, not the non-essentials. Judgment and discernment is OK in relation to protecting the church and making sure that the essentials are taught, but in relation to non-essentials, we need to draw the line. Now, there's two wrong responses in the area of judgment. One is going overboard in the area of judgment, having an arrogant self-righteous attitude towards those who have sinned or even towards those who haven't sinned, but they are perceived to have done so, because of the tendency of so many to jump to conclusions and be overly judgmental because of traditions, this baggage that many of us hold.
The second, though, is just as dangerous. That's completely lacking in the area of discernment, lacking in the area of accurate judgment, and being taken in by practically every Christian and con artists wielding a Bible that comes down the pike. This is why I said accept all true believers. Evaluate them based on the essentials that the Bible talks about, the essential doctrines. Have fellowship with those people. Have discernment. Don't judge.
One of the easiest habits to acquire is the habit of criticism. Once you start it, it's really hard to stop. This is the fault fighter, the sin sniffer. They always think the worst of everybody. This is a big problem, even in the Church today. We can be so quick to make snap judgments about people. We can be at dinner with somebody and see somebody eating a big fancy meal and say, how can they spend that kind of money with their income? Maybe they have a gift certificate. You don't know.
You go to someone's house, and their house is a mess, their kitchen is a mess, and you say, man, their kitchen is always a mess. They're not taking care of the things that God has given them. They're not being a good steward. Maybe they're sacrificing the time they spend cleaning to spend more time with their kids. Maybe they have more time with their kids than you are.
Well, they just get up so late. They're so irresponsible. We should be early to rise and be hard workers. Maybe they have a night job, or maybe they're a night person, they're more productive at nighttime than they are in the mornings, so they spend more time getting stuff done at nighttime while you're sleeping than they do in the morning.
It's not a sin to live your life based on those things, but it's wrong to judge others who don't. The sad part is that so many Christians look down on others because of a spiritual pride or because they do or don't do certain things. But there's also a danger for someone with a very wide view of liberty to criticize those people who hold to certain convictions.
For instance, it's very common sometimes for people to get saved, and then once they get saved, decide that they want to get rid of all their secular music. I've known numerous people who say, man, I got saved, and I just feel a personal conviction that all my secular music, I need to get rid of. My mom when she got saved because of her experience working in discotheques and bars and other areas where the music was a big part of that, felt that she was convicted to get rid of all her records. Now, does that mean that she still only listens to Christian music? No, she listens to some secular music now.
But the point is that if somebody has that conviction, it is wrong for us, those who have a higher view of liberty to come to them and say, you know, that's dumb. Why do you do that? That doesn't make sense. The Bible doesn't command that. Why are you doing things the Bible doesn't command? If somebody has a conviction, don't tear down their conviction because you have more liberty. If you don't have all the info, don't cast judgment.
The last thing that we see, we've seen that we need to start accepting all believers, stop judging some believers. The last thing we see is that whatever you do, whatever non-essentials you view as important or non-important, whatever you do, be convinced. Look at verse 5. "One person esteems one day above another. Another esteems every day alike. Let each person be fully convinced in their own mind."
Whatever you do, whatever see you sit in in the place of conviction, if you say man I'm really convicted that I should speak in tongues, or I'm really convicted that I shouldn't speak in tongues, or I'm really convicted that I shouldn't eat meat, or I really, really like meat, and I'm going to eat all the meat. Whatever seat you sit in, be fully convinced in your own mind. Whatever you do, make up your mind about it, and stand true to the convictions that God has placed upon your heart.
He says one person esteems one day above another. This literally means one person gives honor to. That is to say they pick out a certain day, and they give honor to it. Speaking of the Jews with Sabbath, because of the tradition they came from to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, they felt that you had to go to church on the last day of the week, the seventh day.
In many churches, there were Judaizers that they felt they had to keep the law of Moses. The same thinking influenced the Galatians. In Galatians 4, Paul referred to them, and he said, "To which you desire again, to be in bondage. You observe days and months and seasons and years." This was also a problem for the Collossian church. Collossians 2 said, "Let no one judge you in food or drink or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbath."
And yet this conflict still exists today. Now, we have it easy because we worship on two days. Look, if you want to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, come on Saturday night. We got you covered. If the first day is more important to you, and you want to worship God on the first day of the wee, come on Sunday. We've got you covered.
But a lot of people say, well, when did the Sabbath change? Who changed the Sabbath? You know, the Church changed the Sabbath to Sunday. The answer is no one changed the Sabbath. The Sabbath is still the Sabbath. The Sabbath is Saturday. If you want to worship on the Sabbath, come to church on Saturday.
Now, there is an answer to why a lot of Christians worship on Sunday. See, the seventh day commemorates finished creation, but the first day commemorates finished redemption. Paul said to the Corinthians on the first day of the week, each one should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income. Acts 20 verse 7 says, "Now on the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread."
Many people hold Sunday to be a holy day. Oh, it's Sunday. I got to wear a suit. I can't work. I got to go to church. What Paul means in all of this is he wants to prevent an attitude that would degenerate the real meaning of Christianity. The real meaning of Christianity doesn't matter what day you worship on, but that you worship. The real meaning of Christianity is that hey, none of the days are yours to begin with. They're all mine that I've given to you to live.
So worship me in them. And whichever one you choose to do, make up your own mind about it, and don't judge other people who view differently than you do. Whatever day you decide to worship, make it a holy day. Verse 6 continues. It closes and says, "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 who doesn't eat to the Lord, he doesn't eat and gives God thanks."
Basically, Paul is saying in all of this, when it comes to non-essentials, whatever you decide to do, whatever see you sit in on the non-essentials-- again, you can't sit in the activist seat. Don't sit in one of those. But whatever seat you sit in on the conviction seat, whatever place you fall into, it's OK as long as your motive is the same. As long as your motive at heart is to give God thanks, as long as your motive in your heart is to glorify God in all things, it doesn't matter which seat you sit. Make up your mind, decide what you want to do, be convinced.
This brings up our closing, but possibly our main point of today. In these gray areas, in these non-essentials, we've mentioned several, but there's many more. In these non-essentials, how do we discern what we should do? Maybe you say, Nate, honestly I don't know what I should do. I was kind of coming to church hoping you would tell me what I should do on some of these issues.
But the Bible gives us a little test that we can use to decide if some of these gray areas or these non-essentials are OK for us to do or there's something we shouldn't do. Number one, we should ask the question does it help me? Does it help me? Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful."
The idea is of making personal progress towards a goal that you have what is the goal that you have as a Christian? Is this gray area, is this non-essential helping you towards that goal? Or are the things that you're doing furthering your walk with God by faltering your walk with God? So ask yourself that question, does this help me? Does it help me?
Number two, does it hurt me? Again in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul says, "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the control or the power of any." Ask yourself, although I could do this, will that thing becomes my master? Look, cigarettes won't send you to hell, but they can enslave you.
Just because something is not bad doesn't mean that it's not bad for you. Just because something is not a sin doesn't mean that it's not a sin for you. And so in the areas of scripture that the Bible is neither for nor against, it's always wrong to go against your conscience. What's your conviction?
If when you pray, you have a conviction that you should speak in tongues, then do it, because if you don't, you're going against your conscience, and that becomes a sin for you. If you have a conviction that when you pray, that man, I just don't want to speak in tongues, because it just feels weird to me, and I feel like it would be contrived, and it wouldn't be the spirit, then don't do it, because if you did it, you'd be going against your conscience, and it would be a sin for you to do. Whatever you do in regards to these non-essential areas of life, it's so important that you are convinced and you are sure that it's OK for you to do. Because to go against your conscience is to do that which we believe is wrong, even if it's not.
The last question you should ask is does it hurt others. This is found in 1 Corinthians 10 where Paul says, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things edify." This is the question of, well, what will that do to them? What will it do to the people who are around me? How will my actions affect their walk with God?
Because understand this, it's also sinful to hurt the personal convictions of others, because you're pushing them to go against their conscience. That is to say, you're pushing them to do something that you believe is OK, but they have the conviction that it's not OK. Again, this is deciding to sit in the activist chair and say, hey, I think this is OK to do. I think it's OK to speak in tongues.
And maybe you have somebody who's sitting in a conviction chair, saying that they don't think that they should, but they're OK if you do it, but you're sitting here, saying, well, you should do it, too. Why don't you do it? If you were really filled with the spirit, you would speak in tongues. And if you're not speaking in tongues, you're not filled with the spirit. You know, it's actually OK-- the Bible talks about it-- trying to persuade them to your viewpoint. That's what it's talking about.
Does it hurt others? Does my personal conviction, my view on this non-essential point, is it hurting others? Am I causing others to go against their conscience, against their convictions, and causing them to sin? No Christian has the right to play the Holy Spirit in doubtful issues.
If there is a doubtful issue that you go to one side of, make sure that you don't play the Holy Spirit in other people's lives and tell them what they should do as well. We can pray We can advise. And even though doctrinally, the strong believer might be right, they are also called to tread lovingly.
Lord, we thank you for your word, the way that it encourages us. Lord, I pray that each and every one of us would begin to accept one another, accept true believers, have fellowship, welcome, receive one another into fellowship with you. Lord, I pray that we wouldn't judge one another, that we wouldn't jump down each other's throats when it comes to non-essential issues, that we would stand firm upon the essentials of the Christian faith, but in the non-essentials in those things that are unimportant issues, in those things that don't really matter or we would have grace and kindness and love.
And in doing so, you would bring us together as the Church that you desire, your Church, as we love one another. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen. God bless you guys. Have a great weekend.
How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.