Yet, one of the movies we showed was rated R, and, in fact, might have warranted a stronger rating. Is it acceptable to show an R-rated movie in church? Again, what was the content? The movie in question is The Passion of the Christ. Many of you have likely seen the movie since it was first released in 2004. But the issue of whether Christians should see it or not was a topic of much discussion during that time. Some Bible-based colleges and seminaries have strict policies against seeing R-rated movies. If a student or faculty watches one they can be removed from the school.
So, what to do when a movie is made about Jesus and yet receives an R-rating? I am not talking about a movie with heretical viewpoints. I am talking about one which is largely based upon the Bible. Should we prohibit Bible students from seeing a movie about the Bible? And while movies are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, abstaining from evil and other such commands are certainly biblical, and many R-rated movies are evil. Thus, the conundrum.
But what if the command is more specific? What if a command relates to idolatry or worship? What do we do when Christians, even of the same church, have opposing viewpoints on matters of interpretation? Well, this week’s passage from Romans gets at that very issue.
Today, I am discussing the seventh step of this particular development theory. Previously we:
- have moved through trust by looking at how different groups opposed one another in 1 Corinthians.
- discussed the idea of autonomy and Paul’s life as he shared his ambition in Philippians.
- we observed that we must take the proper initiative to accomplish what God has for us in 2 Corinthians.
- saw our need to be industrious by imitating God from Ephesians.
- saw our need to understand our identity is in Christ because it is He who made us free.
- discussed the need for intimacy within the body of Christ.
Once we achieve intimacy, the next step is to determine whether or not to reproduce. Reproduction in this instance is not only the idea of having children (although that is certainly included in Erikson’s model), rather, it also includes the passing down of information, tradition, and values. To be generative (as the image shows) is to pass on to the next generation what is important to the current generation. To do so means that thoughts, dreams, hopes, purpose, etc. continue. To refuse to do so means a lack of growth, a lack of hope, and eventually a culture that is stagnant.
Relating this thought to our current study, being generative is to heed the call of Jesus to “go, make disciples.” On the other hand, churches that are stagnant, are filled with people who favor comfort over their calling, who prefer a mentality of “ya’ll come” instead of “Yes, Lord, we will go.” A stagnant culture can develop in a church for a variety of reasons and comprise a plethora of excuses. As we have done each week throughout this series, let me remind of us the (now) four overarching reasons people and churches do not make disciples.
- We don’t understand Jesus (it is our responsibility too, not just 1st Century disciples)
- We don’t believe God (He is greater than the problems we will face)
- We don’t love Jesus (If you love me, you will obey my commandments – make disciples)
- We don’t know how (But it is our responsibility to learn how)
As we look at the letter to the Romans, we could almost add a new reason – churches often fight over petty stuff. But really, this is an extension of some of the above. If making disciples is our first priority, we deal with the petty, but we do not let it get in the way of what is most important.
Last week, our Next Step was Love. In a sermon that focused on the need for intimacy it had to be love. I suggested that each of us should strive to do everything for this past week in love. And, following the words of Paul, I challenged us to do everything – EVERYTHING! – for the Lord. I failed. How about you? But, although I failed, I found myself more focused on that end. My words, which were Paul’s words, which is really God’s Word, kept coming back to me. Letting the Word of God dwell richly within me challenged me to be more focused on doing what He wanted me to do and doing it how He wants me do it. Of course, this is not a one-time or one-week exercise, but this last week I may have failed in various ways, but I did better in my focus on this area than I have in quite some time.
But, and this is important, when we focus on our love for others and working for the Lord, a lot of petty stuff gets pushed aside – and rightfully so. We will see this specifically in a few moments, but for now, before we recite our GPS, let me provide a brief outline of Romans so we have the context for our passage today. I am keeping this very broad because my current plans are to preach through this letter in 2018.
Ch 1-4: No One is Righteous Except Through Faith in God
Ch 5-8: Peace With God Is Not Through the Law, But By the Spirit
Ch 9-11: God is Sovereign and Has a Plan
Ch 12-14: Live According to Your Faith
Ch 15-16: Paul’s Plans and Final Greetings
Now, join with me as we recite our Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps.
To be A large church in a small town. (Matthew 5.13-16)
Exalt the Savior (John 12.32).
Equip the Saint (Ephesians 4.11-13).
Evangelize the Sinner (Acts 1.8).
Jesus (Matthew 16.18-19) – The One worth following.
Observe (Colossians 1.28-29) – Following the commands of Jesus.
Unite (1 Corinthians 1.10) – Being one in fellowship with other believers.
Revere (John 12.32) – Worshipping God in all aspects of our lives.
Nurture (Eph 4.12-13) – Building up others for the work of ministry.
Engage (Acts 1.8) – Stirring the hearts of all people with the Gospel.
You (Matt. 15.15-16) – The one who decides to follow.
Learn With Each Other (Acts 17.10-12)
Live For Each Other (Rom 15.1-2)
Love God and All Others (Matt 22.37-39)
Lead One Another (to Follow Jesus) (2 Tim 2.2)
(Leave) When Called by the One True Other (Acts 13.1-3)
To Evangelize the Sinner (see Roger’s Teaching Moment here) is to share the good news and even mature Christians need to be reminded of that good news. And evangelism and discipleship go hand in hand. When Jesus said to make disciples, He did not first say, evangelize the people and then make disciples. Rather, He infers that we must evangelize as we make disciples. And then those new disciples will do the same. This is generativity at is finest. But of whom should be make disciples? People who are like us? People who are different? Well, let’s look to Romans 14 for some answers.
Disciple-making churches welcome others who may disagree with them. (vv. 1-12)
Let me begin by teaching you a Greek word – adiaphora (meaningless). That is, things outside the moral law. We argue over matters like this all the time – who is the best…? Which product is the best? Etc. The answers may be important to us, but they truly have no real bearing on the ultimate outcome of our lives.
Paul begins this section by talking about arguing over opinions. This first argument is due to some people eating only vegetables and others who are eating meat. The likely issue is that the meat may have been first sacrificed to idols. We see similar ideas expressed in 1 Corinthians 9. If so, it was considered by the Jews to be an abomination to eat any such meat. Thus, the Jews were likely the ones eating only vegetables. The Gentiles on the other hand did not have the same historical understanding of Scripture and thus ate the meat. We will come back to this thought in the next section, but notice that Paul uses terms weak and strong here – with the weak person being one that only eats vegetables (see v. 2).
The issue at hand, however, is that both groups are claiming the actions of the other prevents fellowship. This is why the concept of intimacy was discussed last week. Certainly, the more we know about people, the more we will discover that they are different from us and that we may not like everything about them. And then we begin to judge them for not being like us. Paul says this is foolish – these matters are insignificant as it relates to the gospel – and therefore to pass judgment is not only unnecessary, but foolish.
Then Paul turns to worship. Verse 5 says that some only worship one day (let’s say Sunday, although we are not told), and others worship all days. Now, it is a fact that if we only worship one day per week, we will miss out on better knowing God and appreciating who He is. But again, we must consider that Paul’s statement refers to “one person” and “another” but these two “individuals” really represent groups of people. Thus, this idea is about when to meet corporately. Is one day each week enough or should we meet together every day (like the early church did)?
The answer to both of these items is found in verses 6-8. Whatever side you choose, be convinced. God is the Master and we will give an account of our lives one day to Him (v. 12). So, as we saw last week – whatever you do – do EVERYTHING to the Lord. Our living and our dying should all be for Him.
Therefore, whether we agree or not, we can welcome others in honor of Jesus. We can listen to others, learn from others, and then have a chance to share our thoughts as well. Specifically, this passage is talking to believers on both sides of the issue – and that is important. We are to guard against false-teaching and false-teachers. But the principles involved here extend to all who need to be made disciples – including you and I.
Fairfax Baptist Church, are we concerned with petty matters or with Godly ones? Are we willing to welcome others in God’s name in order to learn more about them, how they believe, and how live out their beliefs? Or will we be close-minded and think our interpretation of Scripture is the only one? Will we forsake fellowship and the opportunity to grow as a follower of Christ by judging other Christians without really knowing anything about them? Or will we seek opportunities to learn from others who may be different from us in many ways, but share a love for Jesus? Let us be a church known for being faithful to the truth, while also welcoming the opportunity to discuss the gospel to make disciples and be made into a better one.
Disciple-making churches welcome others to strengthen their faith. (vv. 13-23)
While the first point was really about strengthening our own faith, this one is about the faith of others. In verse 13, for instance, Paul talks about our actions being a stumbling block for others. We may not mean to be an issue, and may not even realize when we are causing a challenge to the faith of another. But many of us do it all the time. An issue happened to me this week, that when I learned of a situation that happened later, I wondered if I had any part in the development. I truly do not know, and I did not do anything wrong other than, perhaps, not helping someone enough. I simply do not know, but for me it is an opportunity for me from which to learn whether or not I had any fault.
The scenario Paul wrote about specifically addressed the strong – or the ones who ate the meat and presumably drank something that may have been offensive to others (v. 17). Paul says that true freedom isn’t a matter of doing what we want to do whenever we want to do it. Instead, real freedom is having the choice to not do something because it might not be understood or may even be offensive.
Again, we must remember these are matters of opinion. Paul did not say it was ok not to worship, he said how often public worship was needed was less important. In today’s world, some Christians will not eat at a restaurant on Sunday because that keeps others from honoring the Lord’s Day. But just because someone is working does not mean that they cannot honor the Lord. In fact, that is the connection between last week and this week. What we do – and think – should always be in honor of the Lord. So, as Paul wrote in verse 18, don’t worry yourself about eating and drinking – pursue peace and building of the Kingdom.
The reality is that too many people focus on one issue and use that issue to divide people, communities, and especially churches. Paul wrote that we should not let these types of issues destroy what God is building (v. 20). Before leaving this section, let me make a quick point of clarification on verse 22. READ 14.22. This verse does not mean that we are not to share our faith. In the context of Paul’s argument, he is writing that we should not impose our opinion on one another. We should clarify our hearts and minds by speaking with God on the matter until we are convinced of God’s truth, or else we are being sinful (see 14.5 and 23).
Fairfax Baptist Church, are we a church that is known for what we are against or Who we are for? Are we a people that use words like, “Well I think you should...!” or do we know our own convictions as they relate to the Word of God, causing us to say, “The Bible says...!” When we spout opinions, we are lifting up ourselves which might persuade someone for awhile until a better argument is made. When we proclaim God’s Word, and use our freedoms to NOT do what might cause others to stumble, then we lift up Jesus and show that we welcome others – because He did so first!
Disciple-making churches welcome others because the Lord has welcomed us. (15.1-13)
This last section has two parts, both of which I will cover briefly. First, Paul says the stronger should build up the weak. This is only natural for the weak do not have the strength to uphold others. In verse 2, Paul reminds the reader that it was in our weakness that that true Strong One – Jesus – upheld us. He continues by stating our hope (as weak ones) comes from ancient Scripture (the strong word of God) and is held together by Christ (the Strong One). Therefore we are to welcome others, and uphold them, because that is what He has done for us (v. 7).
Paul then turns his attention to the unreachable in verses 8-13. Paul shows how the mighty Christ humbled Himself for the sake of serving those who the Jews thought unworthy. Paul quotes from four different passages, each representing one part of the Hebrew Scriptures to show that God’s plan all along was to reach the Gentiles. And that plan was to be enacted by the people of Israel. However, the people of Israel chose not to be the light they were called to be. They chose to insulate themselves, and instead found themselves hauled off to foreign lands. Eventually, they found themselves without a homeland and even without a temple – the place where they were to worship God. Why? Because they did not welcome others and make disciples of those who were in their midst.
Fairfax Baptist Church, will we suffer a fate similar to the ancient Israelites? Do we seek to insulate ourselves from those who need to hear the message of God’s love? Are we willing to show our strength and welcome others who are weak or have we forgotten that we are still at the mercy of Jesus – who, as the true Strong One, welcomed us when we were at our weakest? Will we see God’s commands to welcome others and make disciples with the message of God’s love that rings true throughout Scripture? Or will we ignore the full counsel of God, and the exact words of Jesus that we need to make disciples of all those that God intends to welcome into His Kingdom?
Truly, the choices are ours, and the letter to the Romans serves as a staunch reminder to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is the gospel message because it is about the main person – Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is a truly amazing effort. But the focus of the letter is not so much about sin and justification, or about the sovereignty of God, or about matters of Christian living, per se. Yes, the letter includes all of those aspects, but it does so to remind both the Jews and the Gentiles of Rome of their mission – to live according to the truths of the gospel message and to share that message with others. Thus, we have the great verse near the beginning of the gospel that says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1.16).
Are we ashamed of the gospel? Are we fearful of what might happen to us if we share the gospel? I know I can be at times. But I also know that the Bible says we need not fear man who can hurt the body, but rather we should revere God who controls the destiny of our soul (Matthew 10.28, paraphrased). Thus we need to be generative. And with that, we need to:
JOURNEY: E – Engage
NEXT STEP(S): Lead: Pray for yourself that God would strengthen you and make you ready to welcome others.
This week, watch for opportunities to engage in discussions about the Bible, and share openly – unashamed! I would urge you to be especially ready to engage in a discussion with someone who needs to feel welcomed – by God and by you.