Summary: A tightrope is a picture of Christian liberty with legalism on one side and unrestrained license on the other. But somewhere in between the two is the beautiful tightrope of balance, and the balance bar for a Christian is love.
I invite you to open your Bibles to Romans 14. We’re going to start reading at verse 13. You remember last week, I started the message by holding a gold earring to my ear and some of you thought, well there’s nothing wrong with a guy wearing an earring. But others of you, good Christians, said, “That’s wrong.” You remember last week, also, I had a pack of cigarettes up here. I hope you knew I was just kidding when I said those were Mike Park’s. Those were not Mike’s; those belonged to my wife. There are some of you who said, “As a Christian, it’s okay to smoke.” Others of you said, “No, a Christian can’t smoke.” The same thing goes for wearing a hat inside. You remember where we were going with that? Now, if you weren’t here last Sunday, you really need to get the tape from last Sunday, because it’s a two-part sermon, and this is the second part. If you’re here today and you know some people who weren’t here last Sunday who need to hear both of them, get them the tape for either this one or the one before so you can hear both of them.
I heard about a man sitting in the den reading the newspaper. His wife was in the kitchen. He said, “I knew it. I knew that women talked more than men. This article says on the average a woman speaks 30,000 words a day and a man only speaks 15,000 words a day. I knew it.” His wife said, “That’s because we have to repeat everything we say to you men.” He said to her, “What was that, dear?”
Today, I want to repeat some of the things we studied last week about our liberty in Christ verses 1-12 of Romans 14. Paul is saying guard your attitude, don’t have a bad attitude toward somebody who may not have the same list of taboos you have. Now here’s the review:
Some conduct is right or wrong
The Bible speaks clearly. Some conduct is right and some is wrong. But the Bible also says
Some conduct is a matter of personal conviction
Some issues are a matter of personal conviction. We talked about some of these issues last week: Dancing, card playing, going to movies. The list goes on and on and on; there are lists of things people say are wrong, but the Bible doesn’t address it. It says in 14:1, these are called “disputable matters.” What does that mean? It means you may dispute with me about something and I may dispute with you about what’s right and what’s wrong, but we’re to love each other, we’re not to disagree in a harmful fashion. We can disagree, but we’ve got to do it by being loving toward each other. Disputable matters. This is what we said last week:
In the essentials, there must be unity
There are many essentials of doctrine and practice we must agree on. We cannot compromise on the essentials. But,
On the nonessentials, liberty
But in all things, charity
There are some people who think that’s what the Christian life is. It is a bunch of rules of “thou-shalt-not’s,” and they think being a Christian is thou shalt not dance and thou shalt not smoke and thou shalt not cuss and chew and things like that. Down the road from our church, there is a large group of people, several hundred people who, I promise you, they don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they don’t dance, they don’t cuss, they don’t chew: They are the residents of Rose Hill Cemetery. They’re dead. And by some people’s opinions, they would be the best Christians there are, because there’s a bunch of things they don’t do. That’s not what the Christian life is. Jesus said,” I’ve come that you might have life.” It’s living the Christian life. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.
I. LIBERTY: I’M CONVINCED IT’S OKAY!
Beginning in verse 13, Paul says, “Not only guard your attitude, don’t be judgmental towards people whose list is not your list, but guard your actions.” You’re free, but you’ve got to be careful with your liberty. Love is better than liberty. Verse 13, “Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus.” He’s talking about himself. “I am firmly, fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him, it is unclean. If your brother is distressed,” Underline the word “distressed,” we can use the word offended there. “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you’re no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.” And then here’s the verse we were just singing while ago. Mike was teaching us this song. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost. Because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” He says it again. “Hey, all food is clean.” That’s liberty. “But it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.” That’s love. “It is better to not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things,” Here’s good advice, “Keep between yourself and God. Don’t argue about them. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith.” Maybe you didn’t know this, but here’s a pretty good statement about sin. “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.”