walk in the word
“Have as your own conviction before God; happy is he who
does not condemn himself in what he approves.”
The Bible does not explicitly lay out what God wants us to do in every single decision we face. How big would that book be?! Instead in addition to explicit truth and commandments, God gives us principles on which to build our lives. When you come to that fork in the road and you’re like, “What am I supposed to do about this? How do you know what the righteous choice is?,” God’s principles can govern us there.
This specifically applies when you come up against gray areas. Some Christians are convinced that certain things are off-limits; other Christians don’t see a problem with it at all. What should you do? The Bible doesn’t lay out a “do” or “don’t”, so how do you make good choices in these debated practices?
First of all, it’s never about how closely you can walk the line between worlds—unless you want to live in spiritual kindergarten your whole life. It’s a matter of conscience between you and God. God cares a lot about what you do in the gray areas. Imagine Him telling you, “Go ahead and make application yourself, just get my heart in this.”
With that as a back drop, let’s drop down into Romans 14 and see the principles in God’s Word for which we will give an account. There are eight in all. As is our practice, we’ll look at one here and catch the rest in the message on the broadcast this week.
Now, here’s the first principle on which to build your life: Do all things as unto the Lord. Better yet, say in your heart, “Everything I do, I will do as unto the Lord.”
Ten Gray Areas
Romans 14:1 says, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.” Now, what’s that all about? The truth is, we’ve walked into the middle of a fight and Paul was playing arbitrator. He wrote this to the Christians who made up the church in Rome. Some were Jewish converts who lived and died by a strict rule-mentality. “You’re allowed to eat this; you’re not allowed to eat that.” Keeping the rules was the dna of their whole faith under Judaism.
Enter Gentile converts. The Gentiles were like, “Get away from me with all of those rules. Jesus didn’t say those, Paul didn’t say those, what is all this?” And conflict erupted. This time the fight was over whether a Christian should eat meat that had been offered to idols. Background: a pagan person would make a sacrifice to a pagan god. The animal was slaughtered and offered on an altar. When the offering was done, the meat was taken off the altar and sold in the market place. So some of the Gentiles were like, “Hey, come on over for dinner, you can’t believe the deal I got on this steak. It’s a little charred around the edges, but it was on sale and we’re going to have a great meal together.”
And the Jewish person would show up at their house for dinner, recognize the meat and go— “Don’t you know where that came from? That’s meat that was offered to an idol!” “So?”
Then suddenly there was this massive debate about what they should and should not do and it was dividing the church.
The principles that come out of that discussion are the principles that will be helpful to us. That will make a little more sense of verse three, “The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands and falls [and our own master, of course, is Christ] and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards everyday alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”
Now take that to heart. Each person has to hold to a conviction. The main thing Paul was attacking here was apathy. At this point, Paul was not so much concerned with each’s position on this gray area, but he was concerned about conviction. If someone was to ask, “Why are you doing that?” And they were like, “Well, I never really thought about it.” Buzz! Wrong answer for a follower of Christ. You ought not to be doing it if you haven’t been convinced of its place in your life. Is that clear?
Keep going with me. “Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind,” verse seven, “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore, whether we live of die, we are the Lord’s.”
The point is this: I will do all things for the Lord. Whether you realize it or not, whether you accept it or not, everything you do, you do unto the Lord. If you can’t do the thing that you’re considering as unto the Lord, it’s wrong for you to do it. That’s the grid through which you want to drop every decision in the gray areas. Get on your knees and say, “Lord, I’m doing this for You” and if in your heart you feel the tension of trying to fit them together, then, guess what? Don’t do it.
That’s the first principle: I will do all things as unto the Lord. For the other seven, tune into the broadcast for the message, “Holiness Means Purity.” In order to help you with this process, we collected the entire list of eight principles into one list, along with Scripture passages to read and meditate on and are making it available right here to download. Print out the list. Put it somewhere you’ll see a lot. Pray about different lifestyle decisions based on these principles from God’s Word. Then go live it.
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