Word from Scotland
by Sandy Shaw
We are in Romans Chapter 14 - such an appropriate timely passage - because we need to see clearly that ‘religion’ is a terrible thing - religion which demands its rights - its legal rights.
Jesus Christ set us free from the shackles of legalistic religion - where people criticise and judge. May our God have mercy upon us. - because this does not present a very attractive picture to the people outside - in the world. What does this do for the preaching of Jesus Christ?
This could have happened in Rome - these believers in Jesus could have divided into a Jewish Fellowship and a Gentile Fellowship - or a meat eating fellowship and a vegetarian fellowship - or a group who were determined to keep certain days special and those who did not have this background?
The problems in Rome were enormous and serious and could have done so much harm and damage - and that is one of the reasons why Paul writes this letter - and part of the reason why God sees that these vital words are included in our Bible.
We hear of Jewish Messianic Fellowships arising today - as far as I know most of them are open to Gentile believers. I certainly know that is the case in Jerusalem - and I was most warmly welcomed when I went to the Fellowship meeting in Tiberias one Saturday afternoon.
When a Messianic Fellowship opened in the London area just a few years ago - when some Jewish people came to see that Jesus was The Messiah - and they came to real faith in Jesus Christ - they asked David Pawson if he would be one of their elders. Now that is a very different tone - a very different attitude.
Do you see how relevant this Chapter is? There are people who are weak or immature in the faith - and there are those who are strong or mature in the faith. Accept the one whose faith is weak.
Present your bodies - whenever it is possible - present your bodies and be present physically - and may the weak and strong get on together - may the immature and mature fellowship in harmony.
Be faithful disciples together - together be good citizens - obeying the authority over you and respecting those around you.
We are to accept and welcome one another because GOD has accepted and welcomed us.
As long as we live like this, we have nothing to fear. We do not fear the magistrate or the judge - because we are seeking to live in accordance with The Word of God.
God is revealing something rather beautiful here - something beautiful which has been lost in The Church of Jesus Christ for many years - and in every case it is because people have moved away from what The Bible teaches - or adds to it - or interprets it in some way which was never intended by God.
Verse 14 is rather revolutionary. All things are clean - the stronger brother knows this and occasionally this has to be said - sides have to be taken at times - not to win a point in an argument but to preserve the truth. But the main question is - Am I honouring the Lord in this?
Is the Lord Jesus pleased with my being involved in this? If I do this - or attend that function what will Jesus think of it - and also - am I sure that no weaker brother is going to be hurt, offended or injured in some way? There are times when we have to make certain decisions - and one of these is here - that we make up our mind not to put any stumbling-block or obstacle in our brother’s way.
If my love for my brother is real - I will consider him - I will do nothing to damage him in any way whatsoever. Because there is love for my brother, I will limit my liberty.
Verse 15 - makes a loud sound - this makes things quite clear. If we are going to cause distress by eating certain things at certain times – then we decide to limit our freedom. Paul is not compromising here - what we are reading is that his first principle is LOVE. Paul is being considerate. Paul would realise that the weaker brother had still to mature in certain areas - and love says - “I will not do what he thinks is not right.” We are never to flaunt our liberty. We can cause someone distress by exercising our liberty without the love of God - without considering how he will react.
Verse 16 - watch you don’t bring The Christian Faith into shame. We must not open ourselves to unnecessary criticism. Negative forces can be released against you and act against you so beware.
The kingdom of God is NOT a matter of eating and drinking - but of righteousness, peace and joy in The Holy Spirit. These three are in the Holy Spirit - outside of the Holy Spirit, all you have is rules and religion.
The Holy Spirit produces righteousness - then peace - then JOY. In life, many go for peace - but righteousness comes first - that is just the way God has designed it.
Many go to have a good time and are surprised when a good time doesn’t materialise - or last very long. The essential requirement for peace and also for joy is righteousness - which we receive from Jesus.
Verse 19 – Christians must always have an eye on what makes for peace in the fellowship - that which will build up the body of Christ.
What is really important in The Christian Life? Is it to argue about a minor point - and insist upon how right we are - or is it to bring about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit?
If you cause distress to your brother, you will NOT enjoy JOY in the Holy Spirit.
Verse 20 – Do not destroy the work of God. There is an enemy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ going around who will do all he can to destroy the work of God - to undermine it - to have a go at disciples of Jesus.
Verses 22,23 – Even the strong brother must be conscientious and show control. Keep your conscience clear and clean. It is better to be narrower than you need to be - and be on the safe side. And we are never to think that we are so strong and mature that we can attempt to sail too close to the edge - we never know how near temptation lurks.
Paul was very consistent - the stronger brother must adapt himself to be an example to the weak. And - a strong mature brother can limit his behaviour much easier than a weak brother can accept certain things.
The opening verse of the next Chapter shows us where the responsibility lies. We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. It is the strong who must bear the failings and failures and scruples of the weak. But there are other passages where the weak are encouraged to grow and develop and mature - and so become strong.
It is all right to dribble your food down your bib when you are 8 months old - but if you are still doing that when you are 84months old - then there is something wrong.
We have to hold these two views in balance - not to cause the weak to stumble - and at the same time to look for the weak to develop and mature.
1Peter 2verse 2 - helps us too - Like new born babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. Lunge at the breast of God and be fed and filled and satisfied – and thereby grow in every way, in Christ Jesus.
“Lord God, help us to grow – help us to develop and mature – help us to feed upon that Word which nourishes and satisfies and enlightens. Help us to grapple with the teaching in this part of Scripture – thank You, Father, for every word – may we be loyal and loving and faithful as we learn and share – in Jesus’ Name.” Amen.
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Alexander 'Sandy' Shaw is pastor of Nairn Christian Fellowship in Nairn, Scotland. Nairn is 17 miles east of Inverness - on the Moray Firth Coast - not far from the Loch Ness Monster!
Gifted as a Biblical teacher, Sandy is firmly committed to making sure that his teachings are firmly grounded in the Word.
Sandy has a weekly radio talk which can be heard via the Internet on Saturday at 11:40am, New Orleans time, at wsho.com.
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