Sun, Apr 04, 2004

CHRISTIAN CONFLICT? ROMANS 14:1-8

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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CHRISTIAN CONFLICT?

ROMANS 14:1-8

 

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Romans chapter 14 as we look at conflict in the church, conflict among Christians and how the Lord looks upon that.  Maybe some of you have heard the story of the woman, a very poor woman, who visited a church that was upper class you might say, kind of the high society church.

            The woman attended the church for a period of time and then she applied for church membership.  Her application though, was rejected.  She then sent a second one a few months later and that too was returned and she was rejected. She did this a third and a fourth time and finally she decided to go to the chairman of the membership committee and she asked him, “Why are you rejecting my application for membership to this church?”

            The chairman answered the woman in a very professional manner, “You need to go home and pray about this and I think the Lord will show you why you have been rejected, what the real issue is all about?”

            A few years went by and the chairman of the membership committee saw this woman working at a local hotel, scrubbing the floors and he said to her, “You haven’t made an application for membership lately.  In fact, I don’t recall seeing you in church at all!  Tell me, when I told you to go home and pray about this situation, did the Lord speak to you?”

            Very politely the woman replied back and said, “Why yes, the Lord spoke to me and He told me not to feel bad about being rejected because He has tried to join that church for twenty years before He finally gave up!”

            We laugh at that but do you see how we can allow our views, our legalistic views, our ideas to cause disunity, conflict, and ultimately division in the body of Christ?  That is what Paul is speaking about here in Romans chapter 14. Now, as I have said before in our previous studies, you are not going to be able to walk in unity until you first surrender your life to the Lord, place your entire life on the altar of sacrifice, consecrating yourself to Him.  Paul said in Romans 12:1-2, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  It is out of that we can then walk in the unity that is found in Christ Jesus our Lord!

            With that said, let’s begin reading in Romans chapter 14, starting in verse 1, and see what the Lord has for us this morning as we look at conflict within the body of Christ.

ROMANS 14:1-8

 

            Paul‘s point is simple, if you are legalistic in your views, don’t start judging those who walk in the liberty they have in Christ, don’t think they are compromising their faith because they are not acting like you are.  On the other end of the spectrum, you might say, are those that are walking in the liberty they have in Christ and they are not to despise or put down those who are stuck in their legalistic views, those that are weak in the faith!  Paul is calling for unity in the body of Christ!

            Tragically, many Christians devour each other because of non-foundational views, personal convictions!  Listen carefully to what Paul said in Galatians 5:13-15 regarding this issue, which is not a new issue at all. He said, For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!  The Amplified Bible puts these verses this way, For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another.  For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. [Lev 19:18.]  But if you bite and devour one another [in partisan strife], be careful that you [and your whole fellowship] are not consumed by one another.

            Those are powerful verses, eating each other up because of our own views, our own ideas, we don’t need Satan to come around like a roaring lion to devour us, we do it to each other!

            Now, how do we have unity in the body of Christ when there is so much diversity?   The answer is simple, by love, the AGAPE love of God that is not out to seek its own but to reach out to others, a sacrificial love, an unconditional love.  You see, we are not talking about foundational truths here but personal convictions.  If God told you to get rid of your television set, praise the Lord, do it. If you don’t, then it is a sin to you.   The problem comes when the Lord gives you a personal conviction and then we take it and make it into a law and tell everyone “Thou shall have no television sets!”  In other words, if you don’t get rid of your television set like I did, then you are living in sin, you are compromising your faith!  That is ridiculous and it is wrong!  Granted there is not a lot of good shows on television now but I have checked it out in the Hebrew, there is not an 11th commandment that says, “Thou shall have no television sets!”

            What tends to happen is that in legalistic circles they tend to look down upon those that walk in the liberty of Christ.  Why is that?  Because they are jealous, I guess. Because they are prideful, I guess.  I am amazed at what Christians argue over in the church and some even leave because of these issues that are meaningless when you consider every day millions are dying not knowing the Lord.  We argue over what color to paint the church, what color carpeting to get, chairs to get and-so-on.  Here is one issue that was seen here before I came up here and believe me, I have heard this at many other churches also, and that is how do we collect the tithes and offerings, by collection plate or a box at the back of the church?   Churches have had fights and even splits over this issue!

            As we fight over these silly, non-foundational issues, the Devil and his demons must just laugh at how easy it is to cause division, fights, to get our eyes focused on that which is not important!  And again, the issue is pride, holding on tight to what you believe and if others don’t believe the way you do, they are wrong, they are compromising their faith.  Out of that we see walls built up, fights, and division.

            Several years ago a few families left the church because they didn’t think Christian rock music, or whatever you want to call it, was of God, they said it was of the Devil.  My response was simple; the Bible never gives to us what the beat of the music should be, you know, 2/4 time, 3/4 time, 4/4 time, 20/20 time, whatever!  The music is there to drive the lyrics, the words and if the words are God-centered, then it is not wrong.  And truly it is a matter of the heart, you can sing hymns with the wrong heart, and it is not pleasing to God.

            Styles change, in fact the songs we sing today, some of the older ones, were considered of the devil when they were introduced back in the 1970’s!  There are a variety of styles of music out there, and I don’t like all of them, but that doesn’t mean they are evil because I don’t like that style of music.  I would never force anyone to listen to what I listen to; it is each individual’s choice – liberty!  The interesting thing to me is that because of the style of music we listen to, we like, those that left the church called us, instead of “Calvary Chapel” they changed it to “Compromise Chapel.”  I wonder how God feels about that?

            That is wrong and it truly negates the prayer of Jesus in John 17 when He prayed, I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”  John 17:20-21.  Jesus is praying for our unity, that we would be one as He and the Father are one!  I praise the Lord that there are a variety of Christian churches out there with a variety of worship styles, teaching styles, dress and-so-on because not everyone would be comfortable coming here, it is to relaxed for many.  The key to me is what Augustine said, and it is powerful.  He said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”  That is it folks, if we would only apply that to our lives, if we would desire to fulfill the prayer of Jesus that we would be one in unity with each other because Jesus unites us together.

            Again, please understand that I am not saying that we should just ignore foundational truths for the sake of unity, not at all.  What I am saying is for the sake of unity, to fulfill the prayer of Jesus, don’t let issues get in the way of us walking together, we are not going to agree on everything, but we can walk in unity.  My wife and I, we have been married for almost 25 years now, and we agree on many things, but there are things we don’t agree on. Does that mean that we give up, toss in the towel, split?  Of course not, because within the unity we have as a husband and a wife, there is diversity!

            Now let me make this a little more personal, the church is not a building, but individuals and thus, is there someone in the body of Christ that you are fighting with, there has been a division because you don’t agree on some non-foundational issue?  Guess what, you are wrong!  I’m sure you have a list of reasons why you are right, things to justify your actions, your behavior, but you are wrong!  Love goes beyond those things, you may not agree with them, and that is fine, but can you love them with the AGAPE love that comes as we surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit, that unconditional love? If you can’t it is an issue of pride on your part and you need to repent and love that person.

            Jesus, in John 13:34-35 said, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Isn’t it amazing what God tells us we are to do and then how we justify why we are not doing it!  Yes, there are people who will rub us the wrong way, they may irritate us, and we are to love them as Christ loves us, unconditionally!  And think about it, how many people do you rub the wrong way and they still love you?  Wayne Brouwer put it this way in regards to rubbing people the wrong way. He said:

            The German philosopher Schopenhauer compared the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winter’s night.  He said, “The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth’s winter eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness.”

            Christ has given us an alternative – to forgive each other for the pokes we receive. That allows us to stay together and stay warm.

- Wayne Brouwer, Holland, Michigan, Quoted in Leadership, p. 68

            Let’s face it folks, we all have our little idiosyncrasies that may irritate people, may poke at people and in return, we may be poked by people, friends.  Can we forgive; can we live in the unity that is based in Christ?  It is not something that is up for debate, God commands us to love each other, it is not a suggestion!

            John makes this very powerful point in I John 2:9-11, as he says, He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.  He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.  But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.  The Amplified Bible puts these verses like this, “Whoever says he is in the Light and [yet] hates his brother [Christian, born-again child of God his Father] is in darkness even until now.  Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin.  But he who hates (detests, despises) his brother [in Christ] is in darkness and walking (living) in the dark; he is straying and does not perceive or know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.  How can a person say they are walking with God when they have bitterness, hatred, and anger in their heart towards their brother or sister in the Lord? Let’s face it, you are not walking with the Lord if that is in your heart, in fact, you are hardening your heart to Him!

            Let me give you an example of what I mean about pride getting in the way of our walk with Jesus. In Mark chapter 9 Jesus is in Capernaum, and on the way there the boys, the Apostles, these were not the Bpostles, the top guys with Jesus were arguing amongst themselves who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom of God.  Just a little pride issue there, don’t you think?  The response of Jesus is simple, “ . . . ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’” Mark 9:35.

            Then John steps in, maybe thinking he is getting in good with Jesus by his statements, and he says Now John answered Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.’  Mark 9:38.  Notice what John is saying here, “Jesus, I found this guy, who doesn’t go to the same church we do, he does not belong to our group, casting out demons in your name!  I know, I couldn’t believe it either, so I told him to stop what he was doing immediately, or we would take him to court for his actions!”

            Again, the response of Jesus was far different than John thought.  He said to John and the rest of the boys, “ . . . ‘Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.  For he who is not against us is on our side.’”   Mark 9:39-40.  In other words, it is not what church you belong to, it is not what group you are part of, the key is Jesus and if you are serving Him, then you are part of the body of Christ, if you have surrendered your life to Him, if you are born again, you are His and we are brothers and sisters in the Lord – unity with diversity!

            Then, Paul wrote of some more trouble, now in the church, when he wrote His first epistle to the Corinthians and once again, pride was the issue that was leading to division.  Paul tells us in I Corinthians 1:10-13, Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.  For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.  Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

            The church in Corinth had divisions, they had schisms, and there were dissentions, why? Not because of foundational issues of doctrine but who they followed – they were name droppers! Some followed Paul, he is the man!  Others said, “No way, we follow Apollos, he is the man!” Still others said, “No way, Peter is the Big Kahuna, he is the man!”  Still others, they had the answer, they said, “Peter, are you kidding, we follow Christ!” 

            Who is right?  None of them!  They were quarreling, they were contentious towards each other, even those that said they followed Christ, and they missed the point, LOVE!  Oh how the enemy must just love how we fight and quarrel and devour each other all in the name of Christ!

            We don’t realize the destructive power there is when we divide ourselves up, for in that division is an explosion of power that is very destructive.  Folks, there is not the spiritual gift of quarreling, or contentions, causing schisms and divisions. Those are not spiritual gifts but works of the flesh and they are ugly!  Let me give you an example of how destructive something very small can be.

            On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay released from their cargo bay Littleboy. As it plummeted to the earth, at a predetermined height of 2,000 feet, the altimeter clicked which set off a chain reaction that will never be forgotten.  Only a few pounds of Uranium –235 split, and as these atoms split it produced an explosion equal to 26 million pounds of TNT (13 Kilotons).  In an instant, Hiroshima, Japan was destroyed.  12 hours and thirteen minutes after the Enola Gay took off and completed its mission, returning to its base, utter destruction occurred down below in Hiroshima, Japan.  Then, three days later another plane dropped Fatman on Nagasaki, Japan destroying that city.  Within days World War II was over, but what it left behind was devastating, two cities wiped out with just a few pounds of Uranium – 235!

            When atoms split (Fission) there is a tremendous amount of energy that is released and as I have said, great destruction. When we allow petty differences to get in our way, when we let anger, bitterness, jealousy, get in our way, we too will leave destruction wherever we go and it can happen very quickly.  I have seen people who are like an atom bomb, because as they leave, there is nothing but chaos and destruction left behind!  That is not what God desires of us, for not only are we hurting our family in the Lord but also as the unsaved world looks on, as non-Christians look at us, they see Christianity as a farce!  That my friend is not what Christ came and gave His life for. He died so we could be united with the Father and with each other.

It is as the Psalmist said in Psalm 133, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.  It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing — Life forevermore.  Unity among the brethren should be refreshing, it should be precious, it should be beautiful and it should leave blessings behind as we go!

Yes, as the body of Christ we   are made up of many members, individuals, but we are still one body, in that diversity there is unity!  Could you imagine having a problem with your right arm and fist? As you are walking down the street all of a sudden your right arm starts to punch you in the face.  Over and over again you hit yourself and people are watching, wondering what in the world is wrong with you, some are laughing; some are just shaking their heads; it is a horrible situation.  And yet, when this happens in the body of Christ, we think it is normal, we try to justify it, and that again is wrong.

Listen to what Paul said in I Corinthians 12:12-27, For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.  For in fact the body is not one member but many.  If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?  But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.  And if they were all one member, where would the body be?   But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.  And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

            When a person has a stroke, a part of their body may be paralyzed, they may not be able to move it; it is not a normal function of the body.  When a person in the body of Christ is not working for the betterment of the body of Christ, that too is an abnormality.  We need to work together in unity for the Lord and for the edification of the body of Christ.  Don’t allow petty differences to get in the way because that is just pride on your part.

            Paul, in Ephesians chapter 4, after spending 3 chapters telling us all that we have in Christ, now tells us we need to apply these things to our lives. In Ephesians 4:1-6 Paul tells us, and this is from The Amplified Bible, I THEREFORE, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called [with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God's service, Living as becomes you] with complete lowliness of mind (humility) and meekness (unselfishness, gentleness, mildness), with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another.  Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of [and produced by] the Spirit in the binding power of peace.  There is] one body and one Spirit — just as there is also one hope [that belongs] to the calling you received — There is] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of [us] all, Who is above all [Sovereign over all], pervading all and [living] in [us] all.

            I am sorry this was such a hard lesson, a difficult lesson, but I truly believe each of us need to evaluate our walk daily and make sure we are not allowing conflict to bring about division over non-essential doctrines, issues!  Paul said, For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.  For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.”  Romans 14:7-8.  May we not forget that, our lives are in the Lord and thus, His love not only flows in us but through us, touching the lives of others. Think of all that God has forgiven you, and now you are having a hard time forgiving someone or letting something go! May it not be so!

            I realize that this AGAPE love is difficult to grasp, to understand but I think Paul gives to us a beautiful definition of it in I Corinthians 13:4-8a, a love that we are to manifest in our lives. He tells us, Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails . . . ”

            Now, make these verses personal and insert your name every time you see the word “love”. You see, this is not a natural love but a supernatural love that comes as we surrender our lives, place our lives on the altar of sacrifice unto God, and allow His Spirit to have all of us.  I do understand that not all will receive your love, they may reject you, there is nothing you can do about that, but as Paul said, If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Do the best you can in the Lord, and then it is up to the other person to respond accordingly, if they don’t just love them and don’t let their actions cause you to respond in an ungodly manner.

            As I begin to rap this up this morning, listen to this little poem that kind of drives home the point of what we are not to be like. It goes like this:

Believe as I believe,
No more, no less;
That I am right,
And no one else, confess;
Feel as I feel,
Think only as I think’
Eat what I eat,
And drink but what I drink;
Look as I look,
Do always as I do;
Then, and only then,
Will I fellowship with you.
 

            May that not be the case in our lives.  There is diversity in our unity and our unity is based in Christ. Don’t allow relationships to be ripped apart by disagreements, but reach out in love and see what God can do. As Augustine said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

            If we believe that, if we surrender to the Holy Spirit, then we can say as John Wesley said, “I want the whole of Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.”  May we be able to pray like that, to have the Love of God flow in our lives and through our lives reaching out to people, but it does start with us, we can’t blame others for how we respond.  Folks, we are the Lord’s and thus, may we live to the Lord!

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