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For Heaven's Sake, Make up Your Mind!

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
November 23, 2023 12:00 am

For Heaven's Sake, Make up Your Mind!

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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November 23, 2023 12:00 am

Does "Christian liberty" mean we have the license to sin? Not on your life! Stephen gives us several guidelines that balance our liberty with God's holiness as he reminds us of our responsibility to our fellow believers. Learn more about this series, and read or listen to the full-length version of each message here: https://www.wisdomonline.org/grey-matters

 

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This is the conviction Paul is referring to in Romans chapter 14.

This is not some take it or leave it exercise. I didn't know what Paul was saying. He isn't telling the believer to go, oh, whatever. No, he's saying develop some conviction about what you do and what you believe and how you behave. For heaven's sake, make up your mind.

Even though it's a gray area, make up your mind. Our lives are not dictated by a ruling class of clergymen. You pray, you study, you ask, you seek. Even in areas where the Bible is not clear, God wants you to live with direction and conviction. You're not supposed to live a random, haphazard life, constantly changing your mind and shifting back and forth on your views. When the Bible isn't clear, God wants you to pray and study and apply biblical principles to your decision making process.

Your views might change over time, but have you struggled to arrive at convictions in areas that are unclear? This is wisdom for the heart. Today's lesson is called For Heaven's Sake, Make Up Your Mind. Here's some interesting laws related to the church. It's against the law to eat roasted peanuts during a church service in Edana, Oregon. In Honey Creek, Iowa, no one is allowed to carry a slingshot to church. Wonder how that law got in the books.

This one is still on the books of Blackwater, Kentucky. Tickling a woman under her chin with a feather duster during a church service carries a penalty of $10 and one day in jail. It's unlawful in the state of Kentucky to use snakes during religious services. Fortunately, we can still do that here in North Carolina. One more, I couldn't believe it when I read it, but it's against the law to have a cell phone on during church services and carry North Carolina. It's here in the books.

One day in jail. I said that first hour, somebody's phone rang in the back section right then. After the hour, a guy came up to me, I felt so badly. He said, were you talking about me?

And I said, why? He said, well, there are some friends in Ohio that don't have a church right now without a pastor and they're gathered in the living room. I had my phone on and they're listening to you through the cell phone into the living room.

I felt. He can use his phone anytime he wants. For the rest of you, it's against the law. All right? The problem with silly ordinances is not that they creep up, probably for some good reason, somewhere along the line into the ordinances of the city, but they creep into the law books of our churches. What's right?

What's wrong? When the Bible really doesn't specifically spell it out, the subject of gray matters, which we introduced last Lord's day is no easy matter. And it's not a new problem either.

It's not a new problem. Go back to the fifth century where spirituality was being defined by how much discomfort you would voluntarily go through. A man named Simeon Stylites who left his cattle farm, became a monk, became world renowned for committing to what he believed was spiritual, acceptable to God, pleasing to God. He chained himself to the top of a column 60 feet in the air and six feet across.

Food would be raised by pulleys to his perch. He spent his days reading, praying, doing sit ups, trying to stay fit. There he remained for 30 years, his entire life on top of this glorified flagpole, hoping to impress God with his spiritual activity. You bring the issue of true spirituality up a few centuries, then the problem continues to exist. What impresses God? If the Bible doesn't specifically say something, but you know you got to make a decision, what would God be most pleased with?

And that gray area where we drive, as it were, in the fog is so challenging and so difficult. Two of the most famous pastors living during the Victorian era in England were Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker. I have a number of books written by both men in my library. Great preachers, pastors. Parker's congregation was second only in size as Spurgeon who preached himself to about 10,000 people every Sunday morning. Early in their ministries, they fellowshiped and they even exchanged pulpits periodically. But along the way, they had a disagreement. Spurgeon accused Joseph Parker of being unspiritual because he often attended the theater where plays and operas were performed.

Parker fired back, criticizing the fact that Spurgeon was a poor example as a pastor because he smoked cigars, both in private and in public. Both considered the other to be misled, but more than that, misleading to their flocks. Their words became sharp.

In fact, their disagreement grew to such a level that reports of their disagreement made headlines in London newspapers where the city eagerly listened in on the latest salvo fire back between these men. Their fellowship would break apart and they would never worship together again. If you can imagine at around the same time in America, while that was going on, there was quite a debate over here about the manufacturing of shoes. What kind were really more spiritual? They argued one group that God was a God of order and so shoes should be made alike symmetrically because he would be a God of symmetry, not asymmetrically, different left and different right.

And finally, this one particular group won out and all their cobblers had to make shoes disregarding the difference in the design of feet. There's little doubt in my mind that the church has failed to advance, not so much because of disunity over doctrinal issues, but disunity over gray matters. I have personally been reminded of the divisiveness and disagreements that can come from any exposition of scripture.

In fact, I used to have a plaque that sat on the doorframe of my office in the old building and when we moved over here, somehow I got lost in the shuffle and I'd love to find it again and put it back over my new doorframe. But every time I would walk out of my office on Sunday morning, heading for the auditorium, I would see that plaque on top of my doorframe that read this, carved into the wood, wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there will be disagreement as to what the Bible teaches. In a way, though, that's not the biggest problem, is it? If we disagree over what the Bible clearly teaches, one of us could be wrong. Both of us might be wrong, but both of us could not be right. One of us is misinterpreting the meaning of the text. The tougher issue is when we disagree over what the Bible does not clearly teach. We could both be right and that's where it gets tough. And that's exactly the issue that Paul is addressing in Romans chapter 14.

Would you turn there? I hope you will take comfort in the fact that the clouds have barely come back together after the ascension of Christ and the church has already mired in debate over issues of gray. Having dealt with the controversial issue of special diets, as we did on our last session together, Paul now opens another controversial issue, this one over special days. Let's go back to verse one and get a running start. Now, except the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One man has faith that he may eat all things. 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 them. Who are you to judge the servant of another to his own master or Lord? He stands or falls and stand he will for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Now let's pick it up at verse five. One man regards one day above another. Another regards every day alike. What does it mean one man regards one day above another and another regards every day alike? Well, there would be a group in the assembly here in Rome who would say the Sabbath is the holy day.

It stands apart from all others. And other believers probably comprised from the Gentiles would say that isn't what I understand to be the truth. And I understand that every day is holy.

No day is to be regarded above another. What would Paul say? Well, we get a little insight. And for the sake of time, just let me read to you what he writes to the Galatians as he writes in chapter four about the same issue. How is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you that perhaps I have labored over you in vain. In other words, Paul is saying, I have delivered to you the gospel of grace. And now why after having the gospel of grace delivered to you, are you returning to the minutia of the law?

Why would you ever want to go back to that? Chapter one, he warned them of false teachers who were trying to pull them back into an Old Testament covenant of ritual and symbol and shadow away from the reality of the crosswork of Jesus Christ, which fulfilled it all. These false teachers were distorting the gospel of grace for another gospel, basically one attached to works, the celebration of days or seasons or events, effects, basically saying, you know, God would really be impressed with you if you sat on a pole or wore identical shoes or more significantly worshiped on the Sabbath. In chapter two of Galatians, he writes to this Jewish and Gentile mixed congregation. And he says, we know that a man is not justified by the works of the law, by keeping the law, but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ. Then in chapter four, he says, in effect, now that you are sons of God by faith in Christ alone, why do you want to go back to the ritual and the ceremony and the minutia of the Mosaic covenant? You're free. Why do you want to go back?

Have I wasted my time with you? Paul addressed the same issue with the Colossian believers who were struggling with the same issue. He writes to them in chapter two, therefore, let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath, things which are a mere shadow of what was to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

You can imagine how difficult this issue would be for the early church. Those, of course, coming out of Judaism would, in fact, we know from the book of Acts, they would worship on Saturday and Sunday. It wouldn't be until Acts chapter 20 when they would sort of officially switch their day of worship to what they called the Lord's Day, Sunday, the day that he rose from the dead and they celebrated that particular day in light of his resurrection. John had his vision called the book of Revelation and he had it on what he called the Lord's Day, which was Sunday.

Paul encouraged financial gifts to be set aside on Sunday to be gathered when he came into town. The Sabbath command is the only command not repeated in the New Testament era of grace. But listen to this, even though all of that's true, and even though you might follow the precedent of the early church for 2000 years meeting on the Lord's Day, there is not one command in the New Testament to worship God on Sunday. So here would be Paul's opportunity to settle the score.

Which is it? Saturday, half the church would go hurrah. Sunday, the other church, that's right, that's what we thought. Well, welcome to the age of grace because Paul will now settle the issue, which one is right, which one is closer to the truth, which would be impressive or acceptable to God. He gives them the answer. Verse 5, one man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Here it is.

Could each man be fully convinced in his own mind? That's the answer. Thanks a lot, Paul. Could you have given us a little more?

He nails it down firmly in midair. God is neither more impressed with those who worship on the seventh as he is the first or the third or the fifth. Maybe your church is going to worship on Thursday because that's when they can rent the community hall. Maybe it's because on Thursday, the communist guards don't seem to notice so many people slipping into the woods where they will worship and God will be in the audience.

He will be the audience. Can you imagine worshiping in the woods on Thursday? I remember when we started this church, the school we rented, we weren't allowed to rent it on Wednesdays, just Sunday morning and Sunday night. I remember people asking me, you know, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night? I'd say, no, not Wednesday night. You don't have church on Wednesday night? Are you a church?

I'd say, yeah, I think we are. I wasn't sure. Paul says you're both right. But listen, if you think that's a free pass, if you think grace isn't anything but at times a heavy burden, think again.

Paul will say it's not a free pass to thinking it through and studying it over. In fact, there's a word that you ought to circle in that text or two words in my translation, fully convinced. Plera foreo is the word it means to be fully persuaded. It means to come to a full certainty. It means literally make up your mind. Even though it's a gray area, make up your mind.

Decide. The word is used in the New Testament for preaching what must be fully known. Luke uses it as he opens his gospel account in chapter one, verse one of Luke where he says, we are eyewitnesses of these things which we have full conviction.

No question in our minds. This is the conviction Paul is referring to in Romans chapter 14. This is not some take it or leave it exercise. That is what Paul was saying. He isn't telling the believer to go, oh, whatever, whatever. No, he's saying develop some conviction about what you do and what you believe and how you behave for heaven's sake. Make up your mind.

Think. Don't pray other people's prayers. Our lives are not dictated by a ruling class of clergymen.

You pray, you study, you ask, you seek. It is not enough to say that's how I was raised or that's what my parents taught me or my parents believe that or my close friends believe this or my school believes that or doesn't believe this. Make up your mind.

Now listen to this. When you read that phrase, let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. Do you understand the explosion that went off in the church of Rome? Moses would never say that. Make up your own mind about the Sabbath.

What? Make up your own mind about the festivals and the seasons. Make up your own mind.

What do you mean make up my own mind? It's a pigeon for that offering or nothing. This was stunning, shocking, unsettling. Ladies and gentlemen, grace can be very unsettling. It was all so clear, but now they're told that as priests they can approach God directly.

They weren't used to that. You mean I can boldly approach the throne of God and pray whenever and wherever and in any context and setting and well how do I pray? Do I close my eyes? Do I open them? Do I bow my head? Do I fold my hands?

Do I raise my head and not fold my hands? Do I kneel? Can I sit down and pray? Can I lay down?

Can I lay back? Do you know in the fifth century a special council was convened called the Council of Nicaea to decide among other things on the posture of prayer? Debate, heavy debate. Paul would say just pray. In fact he said pray without what? Ceasing, which means that you can pray just before you fall off to sleep. Some of you are almost there. Go ahead and pray.

I'll assume with your eyes closed you're deep in prayer and meditation. The church in a matter of years after the resurrection of our Lord was deeply involved in thinking their way through issues of gray. And I believe that God wants us to use our gray matter as it relates to gray matters, to sharpen us, to develop us, to strengthen our resolve, to have an answer, but yet be gracious especially when the Scriptures aren't clear. It mellows us and sweetens us.

Truth is grace for us can be unsettling at times. We would prefer someone come along and settle all our differences of opinion so that we could be unified in every opinion and uniform in every appearance. Isn't that what church is? Everybody agrees on every single thing.

No, it's not. Like the poem I came across some time ago that spells out some of my own past experience. Believe as I believe, no more no less, that I am right and no one else confess. Feel as I feel, think only as I think, eat what I eat and drink what I drink. Look as I do, always as I do, then and only then will I fellowship with you. The truth is God does not cut out paper doll saints. He's never used a cookie cutter in crafting Christians.

He even made the left foot look different than the right foot. At the same time, differences of opinion where the Scriptures are not clear is no excuse for sloppy thinking and shallow living. Paul would say, make up your mind, develop well thought through convictions about what you do and what you don't do.

And as we make our way through this chapter, we'll discover so many principles of how to do that. But without a doubt here, as he opens this chapter, he's rattling their cage. He's rattling mine too. Is he rattling yours?

Sure is. Neither side can demand that the other side consider them superior. He takes the ammunition out of the guns of both the Gentiles and the Jews. In fact, I think that Paul is suggesting that if either side won the argument, the church would lose. There would be something lost on grace. Is there any way to help us make our way through the fog as we develop convictions about a myriad of issues?

I think there is. Here are two questions I think he gives us here in this text that serve as invisible boundaries. They can keep you from wandering and from experiencing unneeded guilt and pain. The first question is this. Can I do what I'm doing and be in total submission to God?

Shorter question. Am I surrendered to Jesus Christ? You can't help but notice as Paul repeatedly refers to the priority of the Lord. In fact, you could circle the names of the Lord as it appears 10 times in four verses. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.

Just so quickly, look there. He who observes the day observes it for the Lord. He who eats does so for the Lord.

He who gives thanks to God. He who eats not for the Lord he does not eat and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself and not one dies for himself. For if we live, we live for the Lord. If we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.

Are we getting the picture? For to this end, Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord, both of the dead and of the living. We happen to belong to our master, our God, Christ, the Lord. So whatever you are doing, are you doing it? And at the same time, could you say you are surrendered to the mastery of God?

Would he be embarrassed? Do you have to leave him behind as it were? Well, the less comfortable you think the Lord might be, the closer you are coming to that invisible boundary which represents pain and sorrow and guilt. Am I in submission to Jesus Christ my Lord?

Second question, can I experience whatever it is I am experiencing and at the same time have a spirit of appreciation to God? Shorter question, am I giving thanks to God? Notice the repetition of the phrase in verse 6, for he who eats does so for the Lord for he gives thanks to God. Look at the next phrase, and he who eats not for the Lord he does not eat and gives thanks to God. Here's someone sitting down to a meal and it's only vegetables and he, if you can believe it, gives thanks to God. I couldn't pray that prayer of thanks. And then you have somebody over here with steak and maybe salad and bread and mashed potatoes with a little gravy and some bread and extra butter and apple butter on top and that person gives thanks to God. I could pray that prayer. The question is, can you give thanks to God in whatever you're about to do, see, observe, decide, act? All good gifts come from him. There's no separation in our lives between that which is impressive to God or sacred and that which is secular. So in all that we do, can we glorify God? Can we thank the Lord? Let me wrap up our study by telling you a story you may be familiar with.

I'm sure you are. It's the story of Eric Little. His story was featured in the movie Chariots of Fire.

For the most part, it was true, a true story. He was called the Flying Scotsman because of his speed. He wanted to compete in the Olympic Games. His family wanted him to enter the ministry. He was planning on entering the ministry and becoming a missionary to China. But he felt in his heart it would be right to put off the ministry and train for the Olympics and then run.

His family was deeply disappointed, troubled and he got quite a few lectures on top of it. When he made the British Olympic team, he went to the games in Paris and that's when he found out a little differently than the movie, but he found out that the qualifying heats were to be held on Sunday. And he had already made up his mind that though he would put off the ministry and run in the Olympics, he would not run on Sunday, both gray areas, but he had made up his mind where he would stand. And so he preached in a church in Paris on that Sunday instead of qualifying. With permission, he was allowed to enter a different race. It was the 400-yard dash. It wasn't what he trained for, but Little ended up winning the race and at the same time setting a new world record.

After his Olympic victory, he traveled to China where he was ordained and where he served for the remaining years of his life. In the midst of the debate with his family, especially his sister, that he should not put off the ministry and run in the Olympics, Eric delivered that wonderful phrase that maybe you've heard. It's the kind of statement to which I believe Paul would say here in Romans 14, Eric, you got it.

You got it. Eric said this, when God made me, he made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.

That's another way of saying after a lot of thought and prayer and study that when I run, when I run, I can give thanks to my Lord and my God. So ladies and gentlemen, make up your minds. Study it through.

Talk it out. Debate it among friends. Look up the verses that might deal with the subject and commentaries.

Look up the words and lexicons. Call respected teachers and pastors and older Christians who've traveled down the path a little further than you have. But whatever you do, remember you have been saved to think it through. So think it through. And in making up your mind, remember these invisible boundaries that, by the way, will become very visible to those around you. And that is that Christ is your priority and Thanksgiving is your practice. Because you, for the sake of heaven, make up your mind. What a great reminder today.

We all face situations that are not as black and white as we wish. This is wisdom for the heart. Stephen Davey is working his way through this section of Romans in a series called Gray Matters. You can keep caught up if you miss a lesson by visiting wisdomonline.org or by installing the Wisdom International app to your phone. Search for the Wisdom International app in the app store for your device. If these daily Bible messages are encouraging you, please tell us about that. You can send your email to info at wisdomonline.org. We'd enjoy hearing your wisdom story. It would be a blessing to us. We'll have a message for you next time, so join us for more Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-23 01:26:34 / 2023-11-23 01:36:46 / 10

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