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The following is the sermon manuscript from last week’s message on Romans 14.
And just so you know, I preached Romans 14 because it follows Romans 13! :-) No one made me mad just before the service.
I preached this message because we are in a series from Romans 12-15.
This sermon could be preached in any church in the world and members will feel like you are reading their mail!
We all need to hear this message.
Transformed In Your Acceptance of Others (Free To Disagree)
Romans 14 (NKJV)
In his commentary on Romans, R. Kent Hughes recounts the story of two famous friends who had a falling out.
Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker were both mighty preachers in London in the 1800’s.
They were close friends and even exchanged pulpits on occasion.
They had a disagreement that made the papers.
Spurgeon accused Parker of compromising with the world because he attended the theater.
Spurgeon had a habit of smoking cigars, a practice many believers would frown upon.
When Spurgeon was confronted about his habit he claimed that he did not smoke to excess.
When asked what that meant, he replied that he did not smoke more than two at a time!
Hughes asked, “Who was right?
Perhaps neither, perhaps both!
Better yet would be to realize that the two could disagree and both be in the will of God” (Romans, Righteousness From Heaven, p. 263).
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Free to disagree”?
The phrase is usually heard when two or more people believe that their respective position or practice or opinion or belief is correct and the other side is wrong.
After unsuccessfully trying to convince the other side to adopt their position they will say, “Well, you are free to disagree.”
Is it possible for Christians to be free to disagree on certain matters?
Absolutely it is.
Even though we are the body of Christ there is often a range of issues on which good Christians can and do disagree.
Now I am not talking about doctrines the Bible clearly defines as essential to our salvation.
Nor am I talking about practices the Bible clearly labels sin.
Christians have no authority to condone sin or to compromise on essential doctrines of the faith.
But there is a wide range of issues and practices that the Bible does not clearly label as biblical or unbiblical.
Sadly, many churches have split and have lost their evangelistic focus because they fought over these non-essential issues.
No church is immune from this danger, not even Fort Caroline.
I could get a heated argument going this morning if I opened the floor to a discussion about
•the church budget,
•or the style of music suitable for worship,
•or whether our small group ministry should be called LifeGroups or Sunday School like Jesus said,
•or whether the term “Baptist” has to be in the church name,
•or whether the pastor should preach from behind a pulpit of wood or not,
•or whether men should wear suits and ties to worship on Sunday morning,
•or whether it is a sin for Christians to dance or smoke or go to movies or have tattoos,
•or whether it is a sin to work on Sunday,
•or whether drums ought to be used in the church,
•or whether Christians ought to observe Easter or Halloween or Christmas.
The list could go on and on.
One of the reasons we divide over such issues is because we come from such different backgrounds.
Look around this church and you will discover that we have a wide range of ages and generations represented here.
We have people from different cultural and national backgrounds; Anglo, Hispanic, Korean, Ukrainian, Ugandan, Cuban, Columbian, Black, white, etc.
We also have different philosophies of ministry, different personal preferences, and different traditions.
Put all of us together and you are bound to have disagreements.
Add to the list that we are all flawed, sinful, and at times difficult to live with and you see the recipe for disunity.
Another reason we disagree is because the Bible does not always clearly speak to our specific issue or concern.
We have a desire to honor God in the matter and we often disagree on how best to do that.
Many specific behaviors, methods, ideas, church traditions, and practices are not clearly spelled out in Scripture.
Problems arise when well-meaning Christians, out of a desire to be holy, allow their attitude to turn sour when other people hold different views.
This is especially dangerous and devastating when believers elevate their personal preferences over the clear precepts of God’s Word.
It is destructive when believers lift their traditions above God’s commands.
For example, some Christians believe that it dishonors God when men come to church without a suit and tie or women come in pants and make-up.
Some church-goers believe that to change the traditional order of worship borders on sin.
I have received scathing letters accusing me of borderline blasphemy because I used candles in a Communion Service once.
Some of the people who get so angry and resort to gossip and sowing seeds of discord among the church over peripheral non-essential matters need to remember Jesus’ words in Mark 7:9, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”
The 21st Century Church is not the first to deal with these types of issues.
The 1st Century Church faced the same dilemma.
Let me turn your attention first to Romans 14:19.
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
Romans 14:19 (NKJV)
This is a great verse for our church.
We must always pursue things which make for peace in our fellowship.
And we must look for ways to build each other up, not tear each other down.
As we will see this is a great chapter to help us be transformed in our acceptance of others.
We will discover how we are to relate to one another when we disagree.
We have more in common with the church at Rome in the 1st Century than we might first believe.
The church at Rome was a very diverse congregation.
Culturally they were made up of people who were from a Jewish culture and a Greek, Gentile culture.
Talk about diversity.
Now they were all members of the same church.
They brought with them very distinct beliefs about how Christians should and should not live.
They brought their own customs and idiosyncrasies.
They were beginning to judge, criticize, and condemn each other over their differences.
Paul knew that it was vital for them to learn to live together in unity as a mark of the Gospel.
If the lost community of Rome saw the church fussing and fighting, disagreeing and dividing, it would ruin their testimony of the Gospel’s power to transform lives and to bring reconciliation with God.
The same is true in our community.
Why should unbelievers in our community believe our message that Christ can reconcile them to God if we cannot be reconciled to one another?
The world will not believe the authenticity of our Gospel message until they see the reality of our love for one another.
So let’s read from Romans 14 to learn how we can be free to disagree.
We will start with Romans 14:1. 1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.
Romans 14:1
What is the first lesson we learn when we disagree over disputable matters?
! 1. ACCEPT others without judging their convictions (14:1-8).
/1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things./
The issue Paul is addressing is about “doubtful things.”
He is not saying we should check our brains at the door and refuse to discuss doctrinal matters.
This letter itself is evidence Paul is not downplaying doctrine.
He has spent the bulk of his letter defining and defending the doctrine of justification by faith.
He wrote eleven of the most detailed, and beautiful chapters on the doctrines of salvation and sanctification.
He is not telling us to now forget all that and to accept one another uncritically.
Some in the church want us to do that.
They say that doctrine does not matter; that doctrine divides.
If you preach that Jesus is the only way to salvation you will be ridiculed by those people.
If you preach the moral truths of God’s Word they will tell you to stop judging them.
Paul is not saying let go of all doctrinal and moral differences.
He is saying do not divide over disputable issues where good Christians can disagree.
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