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Navigating the Gray (part 2)

Romans  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:03:32
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Watch Video on “The Trolley Problem” as intro...
A dilemma such as this one is often used to discuss situational ethics.
In philosophy it is often used to show there is not always a cut and dry right and wrong answer....sometimes things are more complicated.
Today we are going to talk about what to do when scripture doesn’t spell something out for us in black and white
What happens when the bible is silent, or the bible seems to leave things up to conscience?
Today we will continue to look at these grey areas, specifically how to think through our own convictions.

The Problem in Rome...

Romans 14 Paul is attempting to mediate between Christians of strong faith, and those of weak faith.
Weak Faith - Were not eating meat, but only vegetables.
Might have been Jews who were keeping a kosher diet
Might have been Gentiles who did not eat food sacrificed to idols.
Strong Faith - Would eat meat, also would drink wine
Those who saw dietary laws were not required for gentiles, much like circumcision was not required.
Those who did not mind eating food sacrificed to idols, because they knew there was really on one true God and those were fake/false gods.
The Main Point - Paul is making something clear...
Romans 14:5–9 ESV
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
The weak are abstaining.....for God’s glory
The strong are partaking…for God’s glory
He illustrates by using the most two extremes we can think of…life/death. Total opposites, but God is Lord over both the living and the dead…those who eat and those who don’t.
Both groups are fully convinced in their own minds that there actions are glorifying God.
Paul is saying that our focus individually and corporately as a church, is not to convince others to follow us (be like us), but that we ourselves should focus on being like Jesus.
Our next two sessions in Romans
Today - How do we think through, or how do we discern what is right and wrong in these areas of conscience?
Next Time - What is our responsibility to others when we consider our differences in these areas of conscience?
Reminder: What are areas of Conscience
Globally, as the church (body of Christ), we are pretty well agreed that stealing, lying, cheating, murder, and adultery are clearly labeled as sin consistently in scripture.
There are also activities and ideologies that believers disagree on, because scripture is silent on an issue, lacks a definitive answer, or has some variance in interpretation.
A Brief List
How or to what extent (if any) should Christians celebrate Holidays?
Should Christians drink Alcohol?
How should Christians dress?
What avenues and forms of entertainment should Christians expose themselves to?
How and When should Christians Sabbath?
Which version of scripture should Christians use?
In Marriage are there sexual acts that are prohibited for Christians?
In what ways can women serve/lead within the church?
Should Christians send their children to public school?
Should Christians use marijuana? (for recreation or medicinal purposes)
The bible doesn’t specifically list out the correct answer for every single decision you will face in your life, but it does give some good guiding principles to consider as you navigate these grey areas.

Question 1: Will this violate my convictions?

There are two times here where Paul suggest that we must consider our convictions in matters of conscience.
Romans 14:14
Romans 14:14 ESV
I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.
Romans 14:23
Romans 14:23 ESV
But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
What does Paul mean by something proceeding from faith?
In Romans, Paul has explained saving faith in a way that is more than “just” saying a prayer. Faith is not a singular event, it a continual journey.
Saving faith admits who we are before God, sinners who deserve judgement and who are in need of a Savior.
Saving faith places our trust in the finished work of Jesus as our only hope of reconciliation to God.
Saving faith seeks to glorify and honor our Lord and Master, not as repayment, but because we see His worth and glory.
So when Paul speaks of actions that proceed from faith, he has in mind this life of intent, a desire to please God and glorify God in all things.
In opposition to that, Paul says when our actions do not proceed from faith, it is not that we no longer have faith in Jesus as Savior, but that our actions are not lining up with our convictions of what would please and glorify Him as Lord of our lives.
Let me use alcohol as an example
As a child, in my family drinking alcohol was a sin. My dad’s father was an alcoholic, he died an alcoholic and throughout his life made some really bad decisions because of the influence and bondage of alcohol.
As I grew in my Christian maturity and studied scripture and church history my opinions on alcohol slowly began to change...
There was a time in that process that even though I was studying and coming to a new conviction that I could not drink alcohol because I was not fully convinced in my own drink would have been sin.
Once I became fully convinced however, I now have the freedom to drink should I choose to, but I must also keep in mind that drunkeness is a sin.
So even though the act of drinking, was morally indifferent, if I drank it would have been acting against what I was currently convinced would be approved of by God.
Sin is not solely about committing an action that is morally right or morally wrong, even actions that are morally indifferent can be sin if we are rebelling against our current convictions before God.

Question 2: Will this lead me into bondage?

1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
Paul is writing here to the church in Corinth.
He quotes, “All things are lawful for me”, and this was probably a catch all phrase that many in the church would use as an excuse to justify their sin.
Paul reprimands them by saying, yes... some of you used to be sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards…but not any more.
God has rescued you, He has given you a new life, you are washed clean…don’t go back
Paul says, yes we are free in Christ. Jesus has fulfilled the law and was the perfect sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean we don’t live with a desire to glorify God.
We cannot glorify God if we have enslaved ourselves to another master.
There were some at this church who were enslaved to sexual lusts…to the point that they were applauding a man who was having sex with his stepmother. (1 Corinthians 5)
Their sexual appetite was so strong, that if they desired sex, they would just hire a prostitute and think nothing of it...”all things are lawful”
Paul says, No! You cannot become enslaved like this, you are not your own…you where bought with a price....Jesus gave his life so you could be redeemed, not so you could be enslaved to your sinful appetites.
If we look at the principal here...
It seems in the Bible Belt, we can easily identify those sins that bring bondage… don’t drink, cuss or chew or date boys who do.
But there are so many things we are surrounded by daily calling for us to “live for them”
Yes, drugs and alcohol can be addicting…I’m in the process of quitting dipping…it isn’t an easy road.
But what about...
Our addiction to food
Our addiction to Phones and Facebook
Our addiction to the golf course, tv, video games
Our addiction to new clothes, purses, fashion
There are so many things, things that are morally indifferent, things that God has made good that can enslave us...
Let Your voice be louder, let Your voice be clearer, than all the others.
When we are enslaved
We spend less time communicating with God
Serving those around us
Leading our family
Everything God has created He has called good, but we must guard against preferring our pursuit of creation of our pursuit of the Creator
So, will this violate my convictions, will this lead me into bondage...

Question 3: Will this benefit others?

1 Corinthians 10:23–24 ESV
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
The Context here, chapter 10, is Paul talking to the church at Corinth about idol sacrifices.
There were those in Corinth that thought going to feasts were food was sacrificed to idols was OK.
Paul distinctly tells them that this is not a good idea, and uses the The Lord’s Supper to show that when we eat/drink the bread and wine that we are participating with Jesus in His sacrifice.
He has absorbed the wrath of God on or behalf and we gain peace and acceptance with God because His death payed the penalty of our sin.
There were also those in Corinth who would purchase meat from the market (shambles) that could have been brought their from these feast by pagan priests.
1 Corinthians 10:25-27
1 Corinthians 10:25–27 ESV
Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
Paul says you don’t have to question the butcher on if meat they were selling were leftovers from a pagan temple…
There was a difference in participating in a ritual and eating meat later after their ritual was over.
You could even go to an unbelievers house if they invited you, and eat what they served…you didn’t have to question where it came from.
BUT, if you go to an unbelievers house and it and someone says, “this meat was offered to idols”, then don’t eat it.
1 Corinthians 10:28-29
1 Corinthians 10:28–29 ESV
But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?
Not because it isn’t common just like it would have been from the butcher, but because it might lead someone to think you are OK with idol worship.
It would be more of an advantage to show the host (a pagan) that you disagree with pagan idolatry than to give his conscience rest that you think there is more than one true God.
So in Paul’s example here, a believer has the freedom to eat leftovers sold at the market, but at this moment should choose not too because it serves as no advantage, and could actually hinder someone from coming to know God.

Question 4: Will this Glorify God?

1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
This last principle/question rings is of great importance, because really, it rings out in the all the others.
As we think through our convictions and our actions, we go back to the beginning…Paul said that in Rome, both the strong and the weak were seeking to live in a way that brought glory to God.
So quickly…what does it mean to glorify God?
We Worship Him - See His Weight (Sovereignty, Wisdom, Power)
We Praise Him - Thank Him for His creation, sacrifice, work
We Submit to Him - We are obedient, we serve, we live with intent to make much of Him...
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