Monday, May 7, 2018
Alive Together for the Lord! (A sermon based on Romans 14:1-9)
Would you ever drink a glass of wine in church? Would you ever smoke a marijuana joint?! Would such actions be wrong? They may not be wise, but would it be sinful? In today's sermon we consider the topic of adiaphora -- those things which God has neither commanded nor forbidden. But how should we treat such matters? Should we just do what we think is best? Thank God that he sent Jesus to do not what was best for him, but what was best for us. And his forgiving love for us moves us to live for him and to do whatever is in the best interest of our brother or sister in Christ. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Romans 14:1-9 and rejoice in God's grace to us in Christ!
Alive Together for the Lord!
A sermon based on Romans 14:1-9
Sunday, May 6th, 2018 – Easter
[Pull out a box of wine, pour a little into a glass, swirl it, sniff it, take a sip, smile.]
"What in the world is Pastor Guenther doing?!" Is that what you thought just now? I mean, I know it's 5 o'clock somewhere. But a glass of wine in the pulpit?! That's over the top!
I agree. And I admit, I did this for shock value this morning to grab your attention at the start of the sermon in a way I hope you'll remember past today. But… can you say that drinking a glass of wine (even in the pulpit!) is sinful? We might agree that drinking alcohol in church (apart from the Lord's Supper, of course) is terribly unwise, but can we say it is sinful? No. Not really.
That's our topic for discussion today: disputable matters, or what theologians call adiaphora. Literally that word means things not cut. Adiaphora are those things where God's word cuts no clean line between right and wrong. Adiaphora are things neither commanded nor forbidden in the Bible. Is it sinful to drink alcohol? Well, drunkenness is obviously sinful. God's Word is clear enough on that. Substance abuse clearly is wrong. But substance use, not necessarily. Now that it's legal, what about marijuana? We once had a lively discussion here on that topic for a midweek Bible Class. How about gambling for entertainment? Perhaps it could be done without sinning, even though greed and malcontent are certainly wrong.
Or what about worship styles? Guitars and drums in church? New hymnals or varied liturgies? What if the pastor wears a clerical collar? Or what if he wears no vestments, but preaches in a suit and tie? What if he were to preach in jeans and a T-shirt? We could discuss wise or unwise, but the Bible neither forbids nor commands such things. They are adiaphora.
For Paul's Roman audience it was about meat. In the Old Testament pork was forbidden. No bacon! No pork chops! So were shrimp and lobster forbidden. These were things the Gentiles ate, but a God-fearing Jew never would. But now that Christ had come to fulfill his mission, the ritual and ceremonial laws that kept his people separate from the nations around them until he came… well, they were now obsolete. But not everyone agreed with how best to proceed.
So Paul set pen to paper to straighten a few things out in regard to adiaphora. And as part of the solution to the Romans' problems he pointed to the resurrection. Christ died and returned to life to become our Lord. And as a result we longer live to please ourselves, but we live together for the Lord. Our text for today is found in Romans 14:1-9…
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
I. We Live to Ourselves
When the pastors of our circuit encounter a question of adiaphora we ask two important questions: First, we discuss whether a particular action or practice is sinful. We ask "Sin or no sin?" But if we determine that it's no sin, we don't end the discussion there. Then we need to ask a second question, "Wise or unwise?" "How will this particular practice impact those around me? What impressions will I give? Might I cause problems for a brother or sister in the faith?" And if a particular action or practice fails either question, we encourage one another not to do it.
It would seem that the Romans weren't asking those questions though. They were doing their own thing—whatever suited each person best—then looking down on the other side, condemning those that did things differently from them. The weak in faith were those Jewish believers not comfortable eating pork or worshipping on any day but Saturday, those who followed the rites and rituals the way they'd always done. The strong were those Gentiles who knew that what went into someone's mouth didn't matter as much as what was in their heart, that the rest the Sabbath Day pointed to was the rest they had in Christ, and that there was freedom worship with new forms.
But don't misunderstand. It's not just that the weak were the "bad guys" and the strong were the "good guys." No… the weak were those with sensitive consciences. But on the flip side, the strong were acting insensitive, caring little what their eating was doing to the faith of others.
Paul really scolds both sides when he says, "The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him."
The weak look down on the strong: "I can't believe he'd eat that! I can't believe he'd smoke that! I can't believe he'd watch a show like that!" and in doing so, they sin, judging others uncharitably in condescension and sinful pride. And the strong look down on the weak: "I can't believe he won't enjoy a drink, or smoke, or watch the shows I do. You'd think he'd know better; that in Christian freedom we can enjoy these things that God has not called sinful." And in doing so, they sin, judging others uncharitably in condescension and sinful pride.
Friends, whether you consider yourself weak or sensitive in the faith or strong in the faith, does it really matter? Haven't we all been selfish? Haven't we all looked down on others because they didn't do things the way we thought they ought? Haven't we all been less than charitable in judging in things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden? If the answer to "Sin or no sin?" is "no sin," can we condemn those that we deem unwise in doing things differently that we would? And haven't we all lived to ourselves; that is, lived selfishly knowing that we were right and therefore caring nothing for the other person, their view, their faith?
"Who are you to judge someone else's servant?" Paul says. "To his own master he stands or falls." In other words, don't worry about what the other person is doing. Focus on how well you are doing. Are you living entirely for God? Or do you sometimes—often?—live for yourself? Do you always seek what's in the best interest of others? Or do you do what's in your own best interest? Looking down on others as "not as good as me," or simply apathetic to the countless others we pass each day, so caught up in our own worlds, our own problems and pains, oblivious to the hurts and needs of others, shows how selfish and self-centered we all are.
And so, living to ourselves and not to others, living to ourselves and not to God, we deserve to have God pass judgment on us, looking down on us, condemning us. We deserve to fall. And we deserve to die apart from the Lord, spending an eternity of self-righteous indignation full of ever-increasing self-absorption in the torment of hell.
But… God loved us too much to let us get what we deserve…
II. He Lived for Us
"For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living."
Jesus lived a perfect life, never seeking what was in his own best interest. He always sought what was in the best interest of others. He always took the words and actions of others in the kindest possible way. He always loved, he always forgave. He never looked down on others (when he alone had every right to do so!). He never condemned others on the basis of adiaphora, personal preference, or prejudice. And "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:17)
And giving his perfect record of righteousness to you and to me, he took our sinful judging, condescension and condemnation, our bitter bickering about disputable matters, all on himself and took them to the cross. He never sought what was in his own best interest, but was so concerned for what was in our best interest, that he willingly endured hell on that cross to pay for ours sin. He died for us and then he returned to life for us that he might be our Lord. "For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living."
And so, "If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." We belong to the Lord. We are his. When we die, we will die to the Lord and be with him forever in the paradise of heaven. And for that glorious truth, we want to thank him! That means that right now we will live to the Lord, eager to do whatever pleases him…
II. We Live to the Lord and to Each Other
The players on the varsity basketball team would do anything to make their coach happy. If he asked them to run the lines, they'd start sprinting right away. If he called a play, they'd get in formation. He had led them to several victories and they knew they had a real chance at the championship if they'd do what he told them. But one game, Coach was livid. He was running up and down the sidelines screaming, "Same team! Same team!"
You see, in their zeal to win the game, his players were boxing out—shoving others out of the way in order to be the first to get a rebound after a missed shot. But… they weren't paying attention to whom they were boxing out and some of the players were boxing out their own teammates. That's what prompted Coach to shout, "Same team! Same team!"
In our text for today that's what Coach Paul was shouting to the Romans. "You've all been bought by the blood of Christ. You've all been forgiven by his passion. You've all got peace with God and the paradise of heaven that awaits you. You're all same team! So start acting like it! Don't let these petty squabbles or who eats what or what day you worship on—things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden in his Word—separate you, divide you, and cause you to treat each other like the enemy. You all belong to the Lord! You're all 'Same team'!"
"For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord."
Stop critiquing each other. Stop bickering with each other. Stop living selfishly to get your own way. Instead, live to the Lord. Focus on the relationship between you and Jesus, not you and other or others and Jesus. If you find one day to be more special to your faith, celebrate it with thanks to God! If you want to eat or abstain from certain foods, do so with thanks to God! Focus on Jesus, your Savior, and not on others. Live to serve him and please him. Isn't that why you come here in the first place? To be with Jesus? And as you focus on him and others do to, there's room to disagree on wise or unwise.
In a sense, we are a university. Literally that word means "unity in diversity." Even as we have different tastes, different hobbies, different ideas on how to best run the church, on to best use our finances, on what style of worship and music is best, on who we should call to be the next pastor… still, we have "one Lord, one faith, one God of us all…" We are, "One in love, as family, Living with each other. Gladly we share each other's pain." And we, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:3-6)
In other words, we're "Same team!" We're all doing all we can to live for our Coach, our brother, our Savior, Jesus! We're all doing all we can to gain a few more wins for him. So we set aside our squabbles over disputable matters: over food or drink, what we wear or what we smoke, what songs we like to sing in worship or what movies we like to watch at home. We don't worry as much about how the church is run or the money is spent as we do about how each of us individually may better serve our Savior and serve his Kingdom and his cause. And as we do we will find a unity that will make our Savior smile and that will more and more victories for the Kingdom as we work together "Same team." May Jesus help us to do this always, in thanks to him, and to his glory. In his name, dear friends, amen.
Pastor Rob Guenther
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611
Read sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Sermons
Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast
Like us on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/GraceLutheranKenai
Have you been blessed by our ministry at Grace? Consider supporting us with your generous gifts. Give securely online with a check or credit or debit card here: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Give