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discipleshipBy Laurel Strasshofer

Not too long ago I was reading the familiar passage many bible translations label as “the call of Peter”. That is how I had always seen it – as that pivotal moment Jesus let Simon Peter know he would no longer be catching fish, but instead would be catching men for the Kingdom. True. It was that: an invitation to a transformed life that would produce fruit impacting eternity! But, on this day, I saw something else here; something my life-worn soul needed so desperately to see. (more…)

Seeking peace requires absolute humility. #peace

 

Romans 14:19 “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”

 

What does it look like when we actually “pursue” something? Paul uses this particular Greek word purposefully. It is “dioko,” and it means “to chase down something vigorously.” Paul is telling us that in our fellowship with one another, we are to “vigorously chase down” things that bring peace and build each other up. It’s interesting that the things we are instructed to pursue in our relationships in the body of Christ are things that require absolute humility and “other-centeredness.” We are to purposefully move toward whatever actions and words put ourselves and our needs to be right aside and seek peace with each other. Not only that, we are to actively look for ways that do not affirm ourselves but that affirm and edify our brothers and sisters. These two things require humility and selflessness, which is why Paul writes this so often. In his letter to the Ephesians he urged them to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) In his first letter to the Corinthians he instructed them to “strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12) Our liberties in Christ should cause us to look completely outside of ourselves and instead bring glory to our Savior by humbly serving our brethren.

 

Study/Meditation: Read what Paul wrote about seeking unity in the church in Ephesians 4:1-16. What are the things he tells us to “pursue vigorously” in this passage? How might you do that practically in your church?

 

*Father, give me wisdom in serving my fellow brothers and sisters. Forgive me when I do not do so in humility. Thank You for giving me a family in You. Amen.

Christian lives are about holy living, not rule pounding. #Christianliving

 

Romans 14:17-18 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.”

 

It is extraordinarily easy for us to take our eyes off of the ball, isn’t it? When a batter in baseball deviates his concentration from the ball as it approaches the plate, he’ll either miss it or hit it in an unintended direction. The earthly family of imperfect believers can often do the same things in their walks with Christ. Our gazes can stray from what should be our focus and onto things that do not matter in eternity. The result is a skewed life with skewed results. Paul is reminding us that our focus is not on rules and traditions and non-essential matters. The Christian’s focus and his very being should be centered on righteousness, peace, and joy. When we focus on holy living before God instead of legalistic rule-following, we please God and show His holiness to a dying world. When we strive for peace with one another instead of bickering over the little things, we demonstrate the glorious peace our Father offers to His children. When our contentment and joy is in our standing before God and in the Holy Spirit, God is honored and pleased with our hearts, and the world is attracted to what it truly wants more than anything—to be joyful. The Christian life should concentrate on hitting home runs. We do that by directing others to our eternal home by keeping our eyes on the only target that matters—God.

 

Study/Meditation: Believers can certainly disagree with the lifestyles of unbelievers while still displaying righteousness, peace, and joy. How might that be properly done?

 

*Father, forgive me when I take my eyes off of You. Help me to remember the essentials in my life and not be sidetracked by things that don’t matter. Amen.

Christian liberty should never be an obstacle in evangelization. #freeinChrist

 

Romans 14:16 “So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.”

 

What a wonderful gift we have been given in Christ that frees us from the constraints and legalistic bondage of the law. Jesus has truly procured for us a liberty in Him that frees us to worship and serve Him completely. However, it is possible within our Christian liberty to so abuse that liberty that we damage our witness to the world. Paul has been discussing our care in fellowshipping with our weaker Christian brothers and sisters so as not to discourage them with the liberties in Christ to which we hold. In the next couple of verses, Paul is speaking to our witness to the world of unsaved men and women. We must take care as we evangelize not to flaunt our liberties, which are good, to a world that might construe them as evil, thus damaging our witness in their eyes. Peter gives the same instructions on using our freedoms to damage our witnesses when he said that we are to “Live as people who are free, not using our freedom as a cover up for evil, but living as servants of God.” He went on to say that in our freedoms we must be sure to “Honor everyone.” (1 Peter 2:15-16) The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 instructed the newly converted Gentiles to adhere to a few of the old laws practiced by the Jews there so as not to offend while witnessing to them. (Acts 15:19-21) Let us live as Paul described in his letter to the Corinthians, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

 

Study/Meditation: Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. What is Paul’s point to us in this passage? How can you live that out practically in your day to day life?

 

*Father, help me to be “all things to all people” in a way that glorifies You and shows them Your love and mercy. Amen.

 

 

Self-righteousness can destroy more than mere friendships. #Christianlove

 

Romans 14:15 “For it your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.”

 

This verse really brings home the point of Paul’s rather lengthy dissertation on conviction over non-essential beliefs. He simply reminds us that if we stand so firmly on our own convictions about one of these kinds of things to the point of hurting or confusing or discouraging a brother or sister, then we are not acting in love. Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is a weighty matter, and it encompasses so many areas where we can opt in favor of our own perceived righteousness over what is loving toward our brethren. Paul is dealing here in the area of food and drink, but it could be a matter of something less tangible, as in winning an argument or forgiving a trespass. How can we discourage and hurt a child of God, one “for whom Christ died,” simply so that we are right? If our perspective is truly one of eternity, then the temporary things of this world will be slight in our estimation and unworthy of conflict. Certainly this must be the case in matters like these non-essential ones when they cause friction and misery between brothers and sisters. Let us demonstrate that we are the bride of Christ in all of our lives, but most especially in the way that we exhibit love for one another.

 

Study/Meditation: Read John 13:31-35. What significance is there that Jesus gave His disciples this commandment on loving one another at this particular moment?

 

*Father, forgive me of my pride as I live with my fellow brothers and sisters. Help me see the areas where I need to be more pliable and exhibit more love toward others. Amen.

 

With Christian liberty comes great responsibility. #Christianliving

 

Romans 14:14 “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.”

 

Christ brought liberty to His children in His life, death, and resurrection. No longer are we constrained by the works of the law for salvation. That freedom, however, does not extend to a freedom to sin, nor does it allow us freedoms that would cause others to sin. These are the nuances of Christian living that Paul is dealing with, nuances that directly affect unity with our brothers and sisters as well as our own walks with God. Within God’s creation, all things are good, or clean as Paul refers to them. (Mark 7:15, 19; 1 Corinthians 10:26; Titus 1:15) It is what we do with these things or how we think of these things that make them bad or unclean. In other words, sin does not lie in food or drink or televisions or dress shops or golf courses. Jesus said it is not what goes into the body that defiles a person but what is in his heart that defiles him. (Mark 7:15-23) It’s the sin in us to misuse what is good that brings about sin. Any time we place the desires of our hearts on the created rather than on the Creator, we have sinned. Any time we misuse God’s created to hurt or destroy our bodies, we have sinned. And as Paul will continue later in this passage, any time we allow our liberties in the created to cause others to sin or be discouraged, we have sinned. There is great responsibility in liberty. As believers and followers of Christ, we must sincerely walk within both the liberty and the responsibility that comes with having it.

 

Study/Meditation: What examples can you think of where abstaining from certain things would be good even though the things themselves are not sinful? When would partaking of those same things be permissible?

 

*Father, help me to live in a discerning manner, always conscious of my fellow brothers and sisters and what is good for them. Amen.