July 10, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 14)

Submitted by Johnny Y. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 14:13-18

  • What lesson is here about a life of voluntary self-limitation as a basic duty of Christian love?

In this highly individualistic culture, the world tells us that if we believe something to be right, something to be okay to do, then there is no one who should be able to tell us otherwise. But as Christians, we are called to a higher standard–we are called to live a life of love. It is not only about what our conscience allow us to do, but verse 13 states that we need to live our lives to “make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” We need to recognize that we do not live alone–there are many brothers and sisters who could be negatively impacted by our actions.  In light of that, our insistence in doing something because of clear conscience is selfishness.

I have witnessed my spiritual leaders exercise this love of self-limitation. A couple years ago, one of my leaders told to me that he drew clear boundaries in where he would go with his family for family vacations. For example, some of his family members were well off, and would often invite his family to go on luxurious cruises. He made it clear that a cruise is not something he would take his family to. It was strange to me–why would he insist on this small thing? He explained that as an older leader in our ministry he strives to not stumble anyone, to potentially hinder anyone from coming closer to God. He asked me what would the students think, if after all he preached against materialism, they later found out that he would go on those fancy cruises. Would they be able to understand that he was just going along with the rest of his family? For this reason, my leader was willing to limit himself, even if it could be inconvenient. He did not live his life only considering about himself, but he “made up his mind” to be blameless for other people’s sake.

  • What are some permissible things which, given the call to be mindful of other believers, I need to personally limit or eliminate?

Earlier in my Christian walk, I lived my life based on what was “permissible” to me. I would do anything I want to do, even if something appeared questionable to other people. I would justify my actions by saying that it is between God and me, and as long as I feel okay with it then I do not have to answer to anyone else. After all, if God is my ultimate Judge, then no one else should be able to dictate what I do or do not do. It was not until later on that I understood the damage it could cause by living in such a way. Consumption of alcohol is an example that came to mind.

It is true that the Bible never explicitly said we cannot drink alcohol.  I often hear arguments such as “Jesus drank wine,” and “wasn’t Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine?” Yes, the Bible did say that getting drunk is wrong, but nothing about drinking. What is wrong with taking a few glasses at family gatherings? What is wrong with taking a drink and saying “cheers” to the newlywed during weddings? What is wrong with going to parties if I do not drink there? Why would I need to abstain from alcohol all together?

I tried to hold on to that “what’s wrong with it” view before and tried to push that boundary. I remember taking some shots here and there in college, going to some parties to hang out with friends. I had no sense of problem with that, because I thought they were all permissible, I failed to see how it may affect the people around me, how it would cause people to view God and Christianity. Although I did not have a problem with addiction, I failed to consider those brothers around me, who might have once been addicted to alcohol and was trying so hard to quit. I failed to see all the negative things associated with alcohol—addiction, violence, poisoning, ruined lives, sexual assaults, etc.  What does it mean for others to see, that I as a Christian, would have no problem drinking here and there.  Can I really track everyone down and tell them that it is in moderation, that I do not get drunk, that I have no problem with addiction, that my conscience is free?

While I insisted on doing what was permissible to me, I was stumbling other people. It was not okay to do something just because I am okay with it. I shudder thinking about the people I was an obstacle to, people I could have pushed away from God.

Thus, for me, I choose to abstain from alcohol, understanding the heart behind it, having other people in mind, younger brothers and sisters, non-Christians I need to witness to by taking a stance. The same concept applies to many other areas of my life: what kind of car I would drive, how much I would spend on meals, what music I listen to, what entertainment I would choose to consume….

As a minister, what I say and what I do carry a lot of impact. Ultimately, what I have to answer to is not a list of reason of why something is justifiable or not, but I have to answer to if I am living a life of love. It is no longer a question of “what is wrong with it” but rather “what is so right about it” or “am I loving somebody by doing it?” Those are ultimately the question that we need to ask ourselves in anything that we do.

Submitted by Eugene P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 14:1-12

  • The Christians in Rome passed judgment upon one another over “disputable matters” such as the eating of meat.  Name some “disputable matters” of our day that have caused Christians to be un-accepting and judgmental of one another.
  • Methodology of teaching the Bible
  • Who gets to teach bible studies; role of woman leaders
  • Political issues
  • Praise and the kind of musical instruments used for praise
  • Ability to perform certain church-related functions or outreach
  • Church activity attendance
  • Attire
  • What are some “disputable matters” in my life that have caused me to fight wrong battles with other Christians?

In the same way that members of the church in Rome seemed to be critical of each other, from time to time I find myself unable to be gracious towards others over disputable matters, particularly in the area of competency.  I find myself thinking of others in terms of “How can you be like this after so many years of being a Christian?” or “How can so-and-so still not understand certain Biblical values?”  The irony is that I am even less gracious towards those who I am supposed to be close to.  Over time, I realize that I tend to be conveniently critical of others in areas that I am good at and I start treating myself as the norm by which I evaluate others in those areas.  What I have failed to see is that there are many other areas in which I am weak and I have received much grace from others.  Some incidents in my life have made it abundantly clear to me that others have put up with me despite how difficult of a person I am to work with.  As such, I am not in any position to be boastful or prideful; rather, I should be humble and grateful for the grace that I have received.

Certainly it is more than just mutual showing of grace among church members.  Apostle Paul makes it clear that such “disputable matters” are so minor, for “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking” (v.17).  In other words, who cares?  In the grand scheme of things, our fellow brothers and sisters are the ones that have crossed the line of faith and are our fellow soldiers in the cosmic battle.  I should be thankful that they have received their salvation!  I should be thankful that I have co-laborers in Christ! In view of the larger battle that we are in, the minor differences are absolutely irrelevant.  So what if one is more competent in one area?  Then one should take on more to help those who are weak.  There are areas in which I am weak and I too need to rely on others to help me remain in the battle.

The final outcome is not to let other Christians have the license to do whatever they want to do, but the goal is that we do not “put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way” (v.13) and that we do things that would “lead to mutual edification” (v.19).   There is room for encouragement and exhortation, but judgment belongs to God.  More and more, I have come to acknowledge that I do not know what I do not know, and I am not in the position to pass the final judgment.  We each have our particular stories that cause us to be strong in some areas and weak in other areas, and I do not know everyone’s story or, for that matter, the struggles that others have gone through.  For that reason, my duty as a Christian brother to other believers is to help build them up as members of the body and be gracious to others in their weaknesses.

This is a continuation of Apostle Paul’s thought on the summation of the law from the previous chapter – that is, when it comes down to it, the law can be summarized as “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  In areas of such disputable matters, it is an opportunity to love other believers as a fulfillment of the law and recognize how much love/grace we have received from others.

Submitted by Ilju W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 14:5,12

  • ·      Reflect on the words: “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (v. 5), and “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (v. 12).  Think about the degree to which God calls me to take ownership over my own convictions and decisions, and assess the degree to which I do things out of being “fully convinced in [my] own mind.” 

Being in ministry for a while, I know the importance of being fully convinced in my own mind.  With growing responsibilities as a minister, I can be easily carried away by just doing things out of duty.  This is what happened to me during the earlier years of serving in college ministry.  I wanted to be a “good trooper” so I just did what I thought was expected of me.  I did not really take the time or the work to see if I know why I was doing what I was doing.  I did not think it was all that important since I was busy trying to do what staff were suppose to do.  But this “good trooper” act only lasted for so long.  By the third year of ministry, I grew tired of what I was doing and I grew insecure as I tried to keep up an image that I was okay.  I did not know what brought joy into my life or what made me feel alive, because I have been just doing things for the sake of doing it.  I had forgotten the power of the gospel or the freedom I had in Christ’s forgiveness and love.  Instead, I was driven by my own insecurities and I was growing bitter at God as I did not know why I had to work so hard.  Because I never took the time or the work to build my own conviction, I quickly fell when doubts started to rise and when serving God became difficult.  I had to struggle during that time and really ask why I was doing what I was doing, why I would rather spend my evening after work taking care of people then just going home and resting.  After this period of struggle, I knew how important it is for me to have my own conviction about everything that I do.  Even though it takes more mental work and effort to take ownership over my own heart, I know that I have to do it again and again to protect my own heart and my relationship with God.  With the increase in responsibilities both in ministry and life, like having a newborn child, it has become more difficult to do this, but it is that much more important for me to take time to make sure that all the little and big things I do are out of love, out of my commitment to God and desire to obey Him.

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