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.
Brotherly love and affection is serious business. #Christianlove
Romans 14:13 “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.”
This is serious business. We might expect a discussion about causing another person to stumble in their Christian walk or hindering them in that walk to be a discussion about leading them mindfully into sin or teaching them incorrect doctrine. We might make a cursory observation that these sorts of hindrances are the responsibilities of teachers and pastors and elders and that these types of leaders are the ones who need to be mindful of leading others astray in the church. However, here Paul is directly addressing the topic of correct relationship between brothers and sisters in the body of Christ and how we relate to one another, and it is in this very discussion that he tells us not to cause each other to stumble or hinder one another in our Christian walks. Broken relationships brought on by unloving or hypocritical behavior are the leading cause of men and women walking away from a church, and sometimes they never return to one. We must acknowledge and accept the grave responsibility each of us has to the other to love and be kind, holding one another accountable with that love while lifting each other up by that love. It is indeed serious business, and the way we manage it or mismanage it will be called to account by our Father.
Study/Meditation: What is your responsibility in restoring relationship with a Christian brother or sister with whom you may have acted in an unloving or judgmental manner? How might you go about this restoration?
*Father, help me restore broken relationships with my brothers and sisters. Give me wisdom and discernment to know exactly what I must do in an attempt at this restoration. Amen.
Every believer and unbeliever will give an account of himself to God. #judgment
Romans 14:10b-12 “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
It is often difficult to stand outside of our need to be right in a situation and to instead act in love and mercy toward one with whom we have a disagreement. It is often equally difficult to forgive another and respond in mercy when we feel we are on the side of righteousness. Paul is reminding us that one day all of us will stand on one side together, and that will be the side facing the Holy Judge. God will not talk to any of us about what someone else did in a given situation. He will talk to us specifically and individually about what we did in that situation. Whereas it is true that our salvation is undergirded by God’s mercy and grace, we must also acknowledge and remember that it includes judgment for everyone. As Paul said, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” As we relate to one another while here on this earth, let us do so with mercy and love and forgiveness. Not only is that God-honoring and God-driven, but it will also be God-judged.
Study/Meditation: Read Matthew 5:7, 6:12, and 7:2. What did Jesus have to say about judging one another?
*Father, forgive me for those times when I respond incorrectly to others. Help me to love and forgive in ways that honor You. Amen.
Christians are called to love, even in correction and disagreement. #harmony
Romans 14:10a “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother?”
Christians are certainly called to distinguish between good and evil and to discern matters of moral and doctrinal statutes. Even though mainstream society might tend toward the most widely misused phrase in all of Jesus’ words, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1), we are held responsible for judging and thereby correcting on the basis of essential biblical teachings. Paul’s central point in these verses is division in the body of believers in matters of non-essential practices, but the greater principle at stake is our hearts and the motivations therein. He makes this clear in using the phrases “pass judgment” and “despise” in these rhetorical questions. In other words, these questions could have been asked like this: “Why do you stand in judgment on your brother as if he is condemned?” or “Why do you treat your brother with contempt because of this disagreement?” In all matters of disagreement between brothers and sisters in Christ, whether on essential or non-essential elements of biblical teachings, we should remember Paul’s direction in Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Then we mustn’t ignore the rest of that verse which says, “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” That temptation is to judgment and feelings of contempt. As children of God, ours is to love, even when we disagree and are called to make correction.
Study/Meditation: Read 2 Timothy 2:24-26 and 4:2. Then read what Jesus said in Matthew 7:5. What do these passages teach about our heart condition when we are called to correct a brother or sister in Christ?
*Father, give me wisdom and discernment as I live here on earth and serve with my fellow brothers and sisters. Help me have a compassionate and loving heart in all things. Amen.
Authenticity comes only when we see Christ as Lord. #truth
Romans 14:9 “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
It is a tremendously awe-inspiring thing that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, the King of kings, came to this earth as a man and was murdered, then was resurrected to sit at the right hand of the Almighty for one soul-altering purpose—to be Lord and thus save His bride unto eternity. This act of love is unmatched by any we will ever know, and it was done for you and for me. Christ lived, died and then lived again so that we might see with authentic knowledge our Lord and thus live and die for Him. How interesting that it is at this point in Paul’s teaching that he makes this point, right in the middle of an exhortation on how we are to avoid divisive, argumentative behavior with our brothers and sisters. The apostle is drawing us to ultimate truth, beyond the petty and superfluous details of this world to the only truth which matters, that Christ is Lord. He is our Lord and our eyes must be on Him, living for Him, not on each other in bickering and obstinate behavior. Our faces must be ever looking upward in worship and love for our Bridegroom, the Lover of our souls, and that perspective has to be the one through which we view each other and this life while waiting on His return.
Study/Meditation: How can a perspective like the one described in today’s devotion direct your behavior towards others, especially those with whom you may have a disagreement?
*Father, forgive me for the moments when I take my eyes off of You and Your Son. Give me eyes to see beyond these temporary things and instead to things of eternity and what was done so that I might live in it. Amen.
Mankind was designed to seek identity in God. #identity
Romans 14:7-8 “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
In the “Self Help” section of any major bookstore throughout the country, one can most likely find a plethora of books on “finding self.” Identity: Your Password to Success, Identity Development, and Identity: A Sociological Perspective are just three that come to mind. Humanity is obsessed with knowing who we are at our cores so that peace with that self can be obtained. This is a human condition and it is purposeful. We were created to seek identity, but the world is looking for it in all the wrong places. All mankind was made to see its identity in God because all that we are and all that we do was designed to be about Him. We were made to belong to Him. Consequently, until we relinquish our ideas about looking for our “true self” in any other place but our Lord, it will be impossible for us to treat anyone else with His love and grace. This is Paul’s point. Divisive, argumentative, and obstinate behavior toward one another can only be eliminated when we know our true identity and for Whom we live. Paul simply states, “We are the Lord’s.” Know this, and know peace.
Study/Meditation: What does it mean to have your identity in God? How does this perspective dictate appropriate behavior and responses to others?
*Father, I am Yours and I rejoice that I am. Help me to live as Your child, placing all that I am in Your hands, my Maker and my God. Amen.