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Food Fights

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
November 22, 2023 12:00 am

Food Fights

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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November 22, 2023 12:00 am

One of the most difficult discoveries in the Christian life is that life is not always black and white; it is often colored in grey. Many of life's daily questions aren't answered in Scripture . . . at least not directly. So in this message Stephen lays the groundwork for dealing with difficult issues as he investigates the highly explosive topic of Christian liberty. Learn more about this series, and read or listen to the full-length version of each message here:



One of the most difficult discoveries actually in the Christian life, particularly for the new Christian, is the discovery that there are so many areas that are not given support or condemned in Scripture where the answer is not cut and dried. It is not black and white and maybe you have discovered because you've been a Christian long enough, if only Paul had just given us another verse.

Have you ever said that to yourself? If only we'd been given a little bit more, or if only he would have addressed that. It would have solved so much trouble and anguish. There have likely been many times when you've read the Bible and wished for more. I've often found myself wishing that the Bible gave me a little more information. That it would just definitively say that this is right or this is wrong on the issue that I was working through.

But that's not the case. Sometimes things are gray. And in those situations, God wants us to use the principles He's given us to come to a biblically informed conclusion. That's the theme of the series Stephen Davey begins today.

It's called Gray Matters. How do we ever hope to get along? How do we ever hope to make it?

So many backgrounds, so many histories, so many cultures. How do we make it together? Without a doubt, one of the greatest witnesses to the world of the power of the Gospel is the fact that we can and that we do. The power of Jesus Christ binds together dissimilar people in a fellowship of genuine and profound unity. There is perhaps nothing more remarkable than the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, Ephesians 4-3.

No wonder Jesus Christ said, this is the thing above all others that will so mark you that people will know you've got to belong to the true and living God in that you what? Love one another, John 13. Well, if that's true, and it is, it's no wonder then that the Apostle Paul was deeply concerned about the fellowship of the brethren and the unity of the church. I found it interesting as you move into the practical portion or what we call the practical section of Romans, which is somewhat unfortunate because doctrine is very practical, but we typically think of chapter 12 and forward as the practical portion of his letter.

Boyce gave me an interesting idea, and I kind of went back myself and looked through these chapters. Paul spent two verses on the necessity of the transformed mind in chapters 12, 1 and 2. He spent six verses on serving one another through spiritual gifts down through verse 8. He spent five verses on how to act in the church, verses 9 to 13. He spent eight verses on how to respond to your enemies, there to the end of chapter 12. He spent seven verses on how to respond to civil authority, chapter 13, verses 1 to 7. And he spent seven verses on how to live in light of eternity and the return of Christ, chapter 13, verses 8 to the end of the chapter. Now, Paul will spend time telling the believer how to get along with one another, specifically in light of differences. And it will run, friends, all the way from chapter 14, verse 1, down through that chapter, going through chapter 15 and all the way over to verse 13. Not two verses, not four, not six, not eight, but 36 verses on how to get along with people who view life a little differently than you do, who happen to be in the assembly along with you. And he begins by bringing up one of the most difficult of subjects for this particular body to agree with.

It was the issue of food. Look at chapter 14, verse 1, now, except for the one who was weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One man has faith that he may eat all things, and he who is weak eats vegetables only. Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him too. Who are you to judge the servant of another?

To his own Lord or master, he stands or falls, and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Now, you read that and you may be tempted to think, how divisive could an issue of food be? Can't the believers in Rome figure this one out all by themselves? Surely they can figure it out and get along.

I mean, how difficult could it be? But just think for a moment what it meant for a Jew steeped in his religious Jewish tradition with all of its ceremonial and dietary laws to enter the church of grace and freedom. They were surrounded by that culture. Think of where you've come from. Lots of hands go up on moving here from the north. You have things that have sort of seeped into the way you think because of coming from the north. And you're in the south and sort of things just kind of seep into your accent and the way you think, right? I remember spending only three years in Detroit, Michigan, working on my first master's degree, just three years surrounded by the factories and automotive plants.

My wife and I lived at one point in time in what was considered the slums just near the Fisher Body Plant. And those big stacks from that automotive plant would just spew out the dust. And every morning the car would be covered with a thin film of Vash.

Some of you are nodding your heads. Well, after just three years of being surrounded by the pride of the American-made car, I came to the conclusion and didn't really think much about it. But there was something wrong with Volvos and BMWs and Mercedes. I wouldn't own one of them. Okay, I couldn't afford one.

But if I could, I wouldn't. There's just something right about an American-made truck. That's just better.

It's just right. There would be people in the New Testament church who had been influenced by the Essenes. This was a strict sect of Jews who had special meals together and before they ate together, they had special bathing rituals that they would personally perform. And then they would come dressed in special clothing as they prepared to eat together. The meals had to be prepared by the priests or they wouldn't eat them. This seemed right. It was better. Think of the Gentiles who were being saved, coming out of pagan idolatry where everything they ate or drank was offered first to the gods and they were so sick of that idolatry, they wanted nothing to do with it.

They didn't even want to smell meat that had been offered to idols. There would be Christians coming out of and under the influence of Pythagoras, whose teaching was popular in the days of Paul. He spoke of the soul being fallen and residing in a human body, confined to the body. And he, much like Hindus, have repackaged his teaching. And he, along with him, believed that you would come back in this endless cycle of reincarnation as another human being if you'd been fairly good or an animal, not so good, a plant if you'd really been bad.

And the way you could break the endless cycle of reincarnation would be to interrupt the cycle with absolute purity, absolute discipline, a life of quietness and study and self-examination and, most importantly, abstaining from anything that brought pleasure or joy. Happiness was out. And so they come in now and they find that the church is filled with laughter and enjoyment and good things to eat. It might seem silly to us, but the issue of food in the first century was very significant. Today we might find a closer analogy if I rattled off a list like differing opinions on fashion or makeup or sports or movies or playing cards or playing golf on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps it's cherished political opinions regarding the environment, drilling in Alaska, gun control.

Perhaps the temptation to divide is over the educational choice of your children or the use of money and wealth, the choice of a college or a career. And I could go on and on, and I intend to go on and on for several Sundays as we dive into this chapter and look at issues that are not explicitly forbidden nor explicitly supported or even addressed in the Scripture. Paul refers to them in verse 1 as opinions, doubtful things.

You could translate it scruples in Old English. We refer to this arena of living as a gray area. One of the most difficult discoveries actually in the Christian life, particularly for the new Christian, is the discovery that the Christian life is not always black and white. In fact, it's most often colored what?

Gray. The discovery that there are so many areas that are not given support or condemned in Scripture where the answer is not cut and dried. It is not black and white. And maybe you have discovered because you've been a Christian long enough, if only Paul had just given us another verse. Have you ever said that to yourself? If only we'd been given a little bit more, or if only he would have addressed that. It would have solved so much trouble and anguish. Yet you discover instead many times you have to muddle through the gray.

And he will spend more time on this one subject than just about any other subject in the letter. Evidently to the Apostle Paul, gray matters. It matters. Ask a church that canceled Wednesday night prayer meeting for some other program if it mattered.

Ask a church that decided to support a divorced missionary if it mattered. You ask churches with even less of an issue than that, the color of carpet in the auditorium, it's got to be red. No, it's got to be like the color of heaven, blue. No, this is a place of growth.

It needs to be green. Do you think I'm teasing? That's why we don't have carpet in here. I've avoided the whole issue.

What do we do in those areas? Who's right? Who's wrong? Paul says here to the Romans, he gets to the heart of the problem, which was food. He says, well, one man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. Now, before we dive into what he means by weak, I think you'll be surprised, but evidently some of the Roman Jews had become vegetarians, not because they thought that killing and eating an animal was an immoral act. In fact, the Old Testament never required abstinence from meat. The problem more than likely for these believers was their inability to trust whether or not the meat was kosher. That is, it was killed, slaughtered, and prepared in the presence and under the direction of a rabbi. Since they couldn't be sure that meat was kosher, acceptable, they simply refused any of it at all.

It stayed away from it. There is a division in the church now between the meat eaters and the vegetable eaters. I tried to think through of all the different pockets of people that might have been struggling over this issue. You would have had meat eaters who didn't care if it was kosher. You would have had meat eaters who wanted only kosher meat. You would have had meat eaters who wanted kosher meat, but wouldn't eat it if it had been offered to idols. You would have the vegetarians who wouldn't eat meat offered to idols. You would have vegetable eaters who wouldn't eat meat, not because it had been offered to idols, but because you couldn't be sure it was kosher.

I came up with five or six. The church would be deeply divided. I mean, you would have the salad side, and you would have the steak side. As funny as it sounds, this was the church in Rome. This was nothing less than a food fight. But it wasn't taking place in a cafeteria. It was taking place in the middle of church.

Paul, we need a referee. Can you help us out? Could you give us some insight? Could you give us some guidance?

Could you help us know? Is it salad or steak? I like to call these first few verses four ways to stop a food fight from ever starting. Number one, and then we'll go through the text as I give you these four steps.

Start with acceptance. Look back at verse one again. Now, except the one who was weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. Except, proslambano is a warm Greek word, a strong word, which means to literally take to oneself, to welcome someone into your life. And it's always found in the middle voice, which means it's personal. It isn't something you can say, yeah, I want to make sure my church welcomes people.

They better do that. No, this is for us to do personally. We are to live with a welcome mat, open for people who view life differently and disagree with us in gray areas or matters. This is the same word that Paul used as he wrote his believing friend Philemon. He said to him, look, I'm going to send your runaway slave back to you, Onesimus. I want you to proslambano. I want you to receive him back just like you would receive me. You love me.

You respect me. Treat your brother now, the slave who is now a believer, just like you'd treat me. It's also used in Romans 15 verse seven to speak of Christ receiving us as believers. So the starting point is that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we belong to one another. And he says, except one another, especially here, he says, except one who is weak in the faith. Now, you need to understand this entire text comes from the vantage point of teaching the strong how to handle the weak, how to treat a young believer.

So if you happen to think today that you are on the side of the strong, that you are one of the strong, then this text is specifically for you. Except the one who is weak in the faith, the definite article is in the language here, which means he's speaking of doctrine. He's not talking about someone who is weak in their trust in God.

He's talking about someone who is young in their understanding of the truth of the gospel and the doctrine of God's word. You need to know that these Jews and perhaps these Gentiles who'd come out of idolatry and wanted nothing to do with their former lives, these are not insincere. They're not weak in the fact that they are petty. It's easy for us to view the weak as, well, they're just petty and they're just looking for a fight.

No, not these weak. They're young in the faith, but they were so conscientious about their holy living that they had simply walked away from anything that could smack of their former life, their former world. If we could say anything, it is we should live a little more like that. So conscientious to be different from our past. This is what they had done. Young in the faith, they were only going to eat vegetables.

The word vegetables comes from the verb to dig, which means they were only going to eat stuff that grew out of the ground. They were passionate in their lifestyle. The problem was they didn't yet realize that their acceptance into the family of God had nothing to do with what was in the oven and what was on their plate. And he tells the mature believer who knows the truth, be patient, put the welcome mat out, accept them into the fellowship, which means that in a healthy church, it will not mean that we all look alike and sound alike and talk alike and do the same things. It will mean that all across the spectrum, we have young believers who don't have a clue yet what Christianity is all about and older seasoned believers who understand the difference between orthodoxy and opinion.

If I could paraphrase the first part of Paul's answer, it would read, welcome into your fellowship the one who is weak in his understanding of grace. Don't bring him in just so you can straighten out all his opinions, but welcome him to yourself just as he is. Start with acceptance. Here's the second way to stop a food fight. Number two, simply refuse to argue.

That's another way of saying don't start, period. For those of you that know, those of you who are more mature in your understanding of doctrine and truth and the faith, don't major on minors. Recognize the difference between orthodoxy and opinion and don't get pulled into debates on opinionated things, which means here's the tough part. We're going to have to at times keep our opinions to ourselves.

Isn't that going to be hard? I mean, we live for the opportunity of telling somebody what our opinion is, except it's an opinion. Don't argue.

Keep your opinion to yourself unless you're asked and at that point, that young believer may want to know why you do or do not do the things you do. Why debate? Why argue over petty things?

Frankly, if we can be real honest, it is because we like to. It's fun until it begins to get beyond opinion and it begins to hurt. The third way to stop a food fight is to seriously adjust your attitude. Adjust your attitude. Don't welcome somebody in just so you can, with glee, fix all their opinions that you disagree with. Look at verse three. Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat. The word contempt means to view as worthless, to disdain, to disrespect. You might not be arguing with them in public, but you can't stand them in private. You might smile at them in the hallway of church, but as you walk by, you mutter under your breath, but I don't like that person.

Viewing them with contempt. Paul goes on to say in verse three as he addresses the other side of the argument. Notice had let not him who does not eat judge him who eats.

Did you catch this? It works both ways. Both sides are judgmental. Both sides can be censorious. Both sides can be critical and truth be told, downright hateful. Those who do look down their nose at those who don't, and those who don't look down their nose at those who do.

Judging them, the word is krino, which refers to separation or isolation. I'll have nothing to do with that person because they do what I don't do or they don't do what I do. I was talking a few months ago to a pastor. We both had a mutual friend that has been in the ministry for many years, and I asked him if he knew about our mutual friend and about his ministry, and he responded, oh, yes, and he's become such a disappointment. And I thought, oh, no, he's left his family. He's gotten involved in some sort of unorthodoxy. And I said, really, why?

And he responded, oh, he started letting his church sing choruses on Sunday morning. It had become a matter of krino, a matter of separation and isolation, a notorious judgment in the arena of matters that are absolutely gray. Both sides need an adjustment of their attitude. By the way, and I want you to catch this, both sides have valid points.

He's going to make it clear as he works through this passage. Both sides have valid concerns. Do you know what's lost in the heat of the argument? Balance.

Balance. Somebody says, Christianity has nothing to do with what you wear. And another says, but wait, doesn't what you wear communicate a message? In fact, it could elicit feelings and thoughts from someone about you that you wouldn't want them to feel or think.

I hadn't thought of that. The truth is both sides can be right, and yet both sides can be unwise. I know that my neighbors are living in sin. I'm right.

They're wrong. But I could be unwise in how I communicated that message to them. In the mind of Paul, both sides might be necessary in order to reach a balanced, wise position. Start with acceptance. Simply refuse to argue.

Simply adjust your attitude. And the last step, stop and remember your authority. Notice verse 4. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Paul is literally saying stop and think here now. What right do any of us have to judge the servant that belongs to another master that does the bidding of another authority?

None of us would have that right. Now he's not talking about doctrine. He's talking about explicit sinful behavior which the church has commanded the judge. He's not talking about those things. He's talking about the gray areas, those things which are opinions, questionable areas, matters of conscience and personal conviction.

Who are you to play the judge in that? He's saying. Especially given the fact that they are servants of the living Lord.

Don't forget that. They have another authority, by the way, and he's higher than you. In fact, he's really the only authority that matters.

You know, I find it interesting that it is in this context. It is in this chapter. It is along with this issue that Paul delivers some truth about the bema seat of Christ. Later on in this chapter, he'll tell us that we're going to stand before the Lord at the bema seat, the judgment seat. Every one of us as believers will give an account for every one of our choices, every one of our decisions, both major and minor, both private and public.

He will deal with both action and motive. God will have the last word. Paul, in effect, is saying, if you're thinking about getting into an argument about something that's in the gray arena of life, remember God will have the last word.

He's the authority over your brother or sister. In the meantime, get along on the journey. The key word in this text that runs all the way through is the word accept. You ought to circle it appears for the first time in verse 1, now accept. I have circled it and drawn a line down to verse 3, the very ending phrase, God has accepted him. And then a line over to verse 18, accepted to God.

And then a long line down to chapter 15 and all the way down to verse 7, and I've circled the word accept where it appears there two different times. Accepting others in the Lord is going to go a long way in stopping food fights from ever happening in the church. His name was Bill. He had wild hair, wore a t-shirt with a couple of holes in it, jeans, and he was barefoot the day he visited our church that summer day.

We were located near his university and although he was a brilliant student, he looked like just any other student from his college culture. He had become a Christian while attending college and decided to try out our church. He'd never been to a church service before in his entire life until that Sunday. He walked in with no shoes, jeans, his t-shirt, and long hair.

The service was well underway and completely packed. And as Bill made his way down the aisle, he couldn't find a seat. When he reached the front row, all eyes were on this young man wondering what he was doing and a few perhaps what was he doing in here. So Bill got all the way down to the front, no seats.

He did what was characteristic of his culture. He just sat down on the carpet. It was how many of the kids he had come to know sat in their college fellowship times during packed Bible study meetings. So he sat down right there. By now the people were uptight and tension was in the air.

It was thick. About this time the pastor saw one of his deacons making his way down the aisle. This deacon was in his 70s, silver-gray hair, a suit and necktie cleaned and pressed. He was a godly leader in the church. Everyone knew he was the epitome of dignity and quiet godliness. As he got closer to the young student, everyone was saying to themselves, well, you can't blame him for what he's about to do. How can you expect a man of his age and dignity and background to understand some college kid sprawled out in the aisle by the front row? When the old man finally reached the younger man, the church was utterly silent, all eyes focused on him. Even the pastor stopped what he was saying and they all simply watched as this elderly man with some difficulty lowered himself down and sat next to Bill, patting him on the back and whispering, welcome here.

He would sit next to Bill for the rest of the service. When the minister finally broke the silence and spoke again, he said, what I am about to preach you will never remember, but what you have just seen you will never forget. Let's put out the welcome mat for one another. Let's live in the light of this truth.

This is lesson one in a series called Gray Matters. We're going to spend nine messages in total looking at this topic. And as you listen, you'll be equipped to deal with the issues that are not necessarily black and white. And I hope you'll join us each day. This is Wisdom for the Heart. Steven Davey, your Bible teacher, is the president of Wisdom International. You can learn more about Steven and our ministry if you visit Get there today, then join us next time for more Wisdom for the Heart. I'm Steven Davey. We'll see you next time.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-22 01:11:32 / 2023-11-22 01:21:53 / 10

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