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Ethical Christian Unity

I was just a little guy at the time but what I do remember at such a young age were the anxieties and unknowns of walking into a church for the first time. My parents were wonderful people. Although the surface level we may have appeared to be disheveled and not as put together as those around us, my parents really loved Jesus and knew who they were in Christ.

With that being said ,one of the most impressionable aspects of Christ’s church happened to me at a very young age; feeling accepted into the family of God. This act of love, devotion and acceptance has shown me what church family can be.

The Church should exemplify love and acceptance like this,  to be so in step with the Spirit that we are a place where walls are torn down and reconciliation is made. I believe with a deep conviction that a thorough understanding of the gospel produces actions of real love.

If you’ve been at a church for any amount of time, there are things that divide us, in regards to Christian living and ethic, that don’t really matter in light of eternity. I hope that through the power of the gospel we can understand that Christian unity is the greater good when it comes to open-handed or non-essential issues regarding Christian living, practice and ethic.

WHAT TO UNDERSTAND

Stop judging people where you have no place to judge, and accept each other as Christians in open-handed issues of Christian living and ethic, and do everything to the glory of God.

Romans 14:1-12

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 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.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For 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. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? 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.

WHAT IS IT SAYING?

Paul’s desire is for the strong and weak in faith to set aside secondary issues for the greater good of Christian unity.

  • The Weak: Those used to laws and are often subject to moralistic purity that is sincere which includes a lack of awareness of the full implications of Gospel living
    • Paul’s unifying plea to the weak is to not judge the strong and not judge what only God can judge.
  • The Strong: Those understanding the Christian liberty in Christ.
    • Paul’s unifying plea to the strong is to not despise the weak and not exercise such liberties for the sake of love for one another.

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO US?

This chapter is speak of things that a local body needs to work out. This is NOT speaking of denominational doctrinal distinctive. This is talking about you and me disagreeing about petty things and how we must dish out grace to one another for the sake of Christian unity!

STRONG OR WEAK?

Out of the two personalities in regard to Christian ethic, which one are you?

1) The Strong

You accuse the non-intellectual, or the less theologically informed, for not understanding the ‘liberties of a Christian’.

What you say…

  • Those people will understand once they are educated
  • Everyone who disagrees with me is always wrong when is come to my way of Christian practice and ethic
  • I don’t care what they think, I know what I can handle
  • people need to ease up a bit

Have you considered those you offend? Do you rejoice in your freedom as worship to God? Or do you choose to be haughty and gloat in your freedom? If one grew up in the south and has a conscience, right nor wrong, about the use of alcohol, do you drink in front of them? I sure hope not.You never know if the one thing that is against someone’s conscience may cause them to be put in a place of destitution.  Everything you say and do should be to honor the weak.

The kingdom work of Christ includes those you disagree with as being ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘legalistic’. God has them in your life and in your local body to be in your family. The deep things of God include those you disagree with as far as our lifestyles go. Don’t be a reverse Pharisee by thinking too highly of yourself and not considering others in love. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Allow the ethos of your relationship with Christ to drive your ethical practice with those around you. When I use the word ethos, what I mean is just that. It’s the very character of the value system that fuels your ethics or how you interact with others. You shouldn’t define yourself ever by what you can DO, but by who YOU SERVE. You serve Christ and love His church. The gospel of grace should incline you to restrict yourself for the sake of others occasionally

2) The Weak

You judge those around for not ‘taking extra’ precaution to live righteously.

You judge on (but not limited to):

  • Economic Political Views
  • Cultural views on work ethic
  • Structure of home life
  • Homeschool vs public school
  • The consumption of Alcohol
  • Music styles
  • Healthy food
  • Income levels
  • Dress code
  • etc…

God is asking you to receive whom he has already received. Why do you continue to question the motives of others, when those motives may not even exist? Do you trust in Christ? Paul would take this a step further by asking, ‘who do you think you are?’ Don’t you know these are your brothers and sister falling under the same banner of grace as you? No one has to prove jack to you, only to the Lord. God is the final judge. Whatever you choose to do, do it to glorify Christ, not yourself. And don’t pass judgment on others who do not live as strict as you, hopefully you do it to worship Christ. If you see the gospel, you must see freedom, and if you see and know the gospel, you must see those you disagree with as being part of your faith family. The implications of the gospel require you to be sharpened by those you disagree with. There is a reason why Paul clarifies his leanings personally by calling ‘the Strong’ as being stronger in faith because it is not in itself sinful to act out our freedom in Christ.

Don’t be a Pharisee. You can’t define yourself by what you’re against.

THE REMEDY FOR DISUNITY? THE GOSPEL.

The point is this in verse 9 Paul directs the readers’ attention to the Gospel truth of reconciliation…

“For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

We need to run to the gospel of Christ every time. Not some of the time, but all the time. How do you view the person across from you? How do you view each other as we sit across from each other in these rooms as we break into small groups? I pray that we view each other with gospel lenses and the mercy of God. Nothing more, nothing less.

We must believe that the cross of Christ and His resurrection has changed things. What He did for us has changed how look at our neighbors in Christ. What Paul said in chapter 12 about the renewing of our minds, this is where it takes place by the powerful work of The Spirit.

The Weak, whatever you do, do it to the glory of God. If you don’t drink, don’t drink to make yourself appear more religious, rather do it because you choose to worship Jesus with your abstinence, but don’t call another sinful because they have a glass of wine with their steak.

The Strong, whatever you do, do to the glory of God. If you like to drink wine with your steak, do it, but not around your brother that is convinced it’s sinful.

Ephesians 2:13-16

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Chrysostom

“Yet those that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us the causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, in that God’s wisdom turneth their plots unto our salvation and glory. See how really no one is against us” -Chrysostom

Having Eyes to See – Part 2

Last week we talked about opening our eyes to see windows of opportunity to share the gospel. This week is Part 2 to that blog post as we learn how Jesus and the apostles chose to walk through those doors opportunity presented to them.

See in Acts 3, shortly after Peter and John heal this beggar, they continue to use that opportunity to share the gospel with courage as the crowds approached to see what was going on after the beggar was miraculously healed.

Sometimes for us, the most difficult things could be knowing what to do when you finally see an opportunity you may have been praying for.

Walk Through Doors of Opportunity

1. Break the “us-and-them” mentality.

Concerning Acts Chapter 3, Peter and John could have done anything to avoid this situation with this expected beggar, but they didn’t avoid him. They stepped into this man’s life. Every human being deserves the dignity to be engaged. and more importantly, the opportunity to see the church at work in loving in extraordinary ways.

I had to break through my ‘us and them’ mentality the other day as I passed a beggar on the street.  Immediately there seems to be that feeling you get and all that self-talk about why, how, and for what purpose is this person here asking for money, food, gas…. I think we all know what I’m talking about. There are so many different reasons why our minds race during this moment of questioning; I would even argue that this feeling is not necessarily a ‘Christian’ self talk. You know… ‘do I roll my window down to say hi’… ‘well that’s stupid’… ‘do I ask what they will use the cash on?’… ‘nope’, …’can I ask them about Jesus in 22sec before the light turn green’?… ‘impossible’. So…. what do you do?

What I do was sorta weird. I pass her, with all those knee jerk responses in my mind, I drive away. It wasn’t really till a few miles out that I really felt conviction and knew that I could not justify my way out of this. I need to preach Christ to her and give her food. I have to confess that I have been jaded and therefore I have not always listened to the Spirit as He asks me to respond.

So, and this point I felt quite compelled at this moment to stop, get her food and get her permission to talk about Jesus. The truth is, is that there is no ‘us-and-them’. That idea of this feeling is the root sin of class and racial divide and needs to be quenched by God’s love. Believe me, none of are as special as we may think.

Anyway, there was no real profoundness about it at all. God does the saving, we just obey and go into the world to preach good news.

2. Listen like a friend

I’m convinced that most people don’t just want someone to be courteous and friendly. People want friends.

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, you can just imagine His level of engagement as He meets with her at a place that Jews and Samaritans would not normally cross paths. (John 4:5-32)

If you ask someone how they are doing, mean it. Don’t just ask then walk off. You never know whether this conversation may have content and value that could greatly affect your life.

Be vulnerable, listen, respond and interact with people that is categorized by authentic engagement.

3. Give hope for a future

Jesus or the apostles did not excuse sin, instead they practiced mission living by offering compassion –into-repentance. Through relationship we can best understand how we can assist in need, pray, and walk with people through their sin as well as our own.

When Jesus visited the woman at the well, He didn’t just leave her hanging after bringing up her obvious sin and brokenness. He let her know that there will be a time when people would worship in Spirit and in truth. That even as she was hopeless without Him, that He is the living water, and without Him she would dry up.

Do we leave hopeless those we are helping? It’s like when mission trips and service projects are done with no end to the means. The greatest gift we could ever offer those is the love of God by letting them know of a Savior in the midst of our and their wretchedness. Don’t just string people along. There should be a genuine concern for one’s well being, and ultimately one’s soul.

4. Contextually convey the Gospel

Sometimes we get tied up in method when most of the time you will get to share the gospel in ways that are directly associated within all the normal rhythms of your daily life.

The most prominent questions I get from stay-at-homes mothers is how do they live this out when their around only their children 24 / 7? My response is this. “Be the most loving mother and fill your children with faithfulness by allowing the grace of God to be most evident in your life. Then as you mess it up, share the Gospel of grace”.

Contextually sharing the gospel doesn’t mean getting cool hipster clothes and always drinking coffee while reading some dead theologian. It means being faithful to open your eyes to see the broken world around you and then approaching it knowing the Gospel can really break any chain of bondage, sin and death. That is how strong the cross is, and I believe with every fiber of my being.

Conclusion

What we learn in Acts Chapter 3 is that God has empowered His people to be witnesses preach and live ‘Jesus’ to the whole world with courage and boldness in the midst of persecution and even death.  At the name of Christ, there is authority when represented with clear concise belief and true faith in Jesus Christ; the way the truth and the life.

Can we put gospel lenses on? Can we view the world through the vision of the Word of God and see lives change? Can we see the pain and heartache? How can we play a role in this process? Through Christ and His redemptive work, we can see the love of Christ for broken sinners evident everywhere we look if we just open our eyes.

In this case (Acts 3) we have a crippled man, probably most of his known life, raised up again to walk. Imagine your whole life (and you may very well have experienced this or take care of one who has physically experienced this) completely unable to do anything without the help of another. Your usual story is brokenness, disappointment and pity. There were probably times, many, where the expectation was higher than what you could accomplish. And walking into the temple would have been something to want to be included in…This man is in need of a doctor, outside help to have the power to do anything. He needs a savior.

This is like us, but more extreme. The bible says we are dead in our sin. Dead. And through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, if we believe in him we can walk in newness of life. In the same way we must be brought back to life again by the cross and the awakening of the Holy Spirit.

Thankfully I am alive in Christ. Do you have Jesus today? Are you dead in your sin. If you do not know Jesus, are than you need of Christ and His accomplished work. Repent, be saved, and walk in newness of life.