One day a Christian friend was driving me to an appointment. I was thankful for the ride, but we began to talk about Dan Ryan Expressway drivers and how some of them were just crazy. If you’ve ever been to Chicago and drove on the Dan Ryan, you would have given us a high-five. Some of the drivers are just insane the way they dodge in and out of traffic, won’t let you in the adjacent lane. The trick seems to be DON’T use your turn signals, just TAKE the opening.
Ahh…the Dan Ryan
I drive it every day of the week and understand the madness.
However, my friend began to say that the drivers were morally wrong. I was trying to figure out if he was serious. Then he started to talk about how the drivers had the wrong spirit (and many of them absolutely do), but he said this mainly because the drivers would not just wait in line for the feeder to merge onto the I-290. They would go the next lane, get as far as they could to the front and then cut in.
Ok. So it’s not the best thing to do, but I’ve done it, and no, it doesn’t work for the grand scheme of traffic, but sometimes I just don’t feel like waiting and want to get ahead of the other 50 cars. Am I going to hell for this?! I don’t think so, but my friend was so adamant that it was morally wrong I was concerned that they may have walked out the next time I preached. So I listened rather silently with interest, as my friend was taking his theory over the top declaring that these drivers were “in trouble with God.” His protests were met with my “oh, yeah?” and “Hmm.” I kept my expressway sin to myself. So far, Jesus and I are okay with my driving style, and that’s where it stays. I feel no condemnation when I’m running late, doing what I’ve got to do short of riding the shoulder and putting people’s lives in danger. See how people can think differently. So let’s talk about personal convictions in Romans 14.
I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Years ago I preached on Romans chapter 14, and as I went through the scriptures, I realized how problematic it was for our brand of religion.
Romans 14 is a scary thought to some. If people are led by God, won’t they feel differently about different things? Absolutely! Will God always point them to the same solution? Absolutely not!
After I preached about this chapter, someone came up to me totally confused “How do you practice those scriptures and not compromise our standards?” So I took some time, there in the parking lot, and went over some points of scripture with them, but they left my presence very, VERY concerned. I didn’t know how to put any spin on it to make it fit what we practiced (controlling people’s every move) so I just taught it as it was.
I believe what stirred the pot was, how does a church give people such liberty of conscience and still make them follow all of our rules? That would mean they would just be in the hands of God for Him to talk to them as He saw fit. To some, that would never do. I guess they would have to leave people alone and trust God to lead them. Like I said, scary thought.
This chapter gives Christians the freedom to walk with God based on His Word along and their culture.
It was then I realized that for some it was easier to explain AWAY Romans 14 or ignore it.
So let’s rip that page out.
What is Romans 14 Telling Us?
Romans 14 speaks of matters of conscience, personal convictions in our walk with God. For those that enjoy controlling other Christians, this may seem a fate worse than death.
What we personally feel free in doing and what we don’t is subjective and personal when it comes to the unwritten aspects of scripture. Paul addressed this because of the culture clash between Jews and Gentiles that caused a schism in the church at Rome. Paul spends 13 chapters talking about doctrine and then says in 14 and 15, “oh, by the way, stop fussing with one another over this small stuff, you’re all going to just give an account to God for yourself anyway.” Paul explained how to overcome this point of contention. These were minor issues that had little to do with salvation and the gospel of Christ but had everything to do with differences in visualizing of what it means to be a Christian in practical application. Something that frankly has caused divisions throughout church history.
Romans 14 has everything to do with being aware of who you are spiritually are in Christ. What you do to honor God and what you feel as a Christian you should restrain yourself from. It’s a chapter about holding your convictions in the spirit of love toward your fellow Christian Let’s take a look. Paul says:
1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.
First thought: Don’t be arrogant about your convictions! To walk with God, one must keep a spirit of humility. This involves just being happy with whatever freedoms the Lord gives your conscience and leaving other people’s convictions alone. None of the Gentiles could feel superior to their Jewish counterparts and vice versa. We have many Christians today who will downgrade your walk with God to 0, if you don’t vote a certain way, or feel like they feel on social issues. It’s important to look at Romans 14 and dial it back a bit.
My husband has a Christian friend who is on the total opposite of the political spectrum, but they never attack one another’s commitment to God. I admire that.
Frankly, anytime the reality of our religious practices fail to match up with the principles of the scripture, something is probably wrong with the method and not the scripture.
Throughout Romans, Paul talks to both a Jewish and Gentile audience. He switches back and forth between these two audiences. The Book of Romans is one of the most solidly doctrinal books about salvation in the New Testament, and I believe Paul, in this letter, stops a moment to address the differences in their cultures.
Second thought: Paul calls those that have severe conscience scruples, weak. One Christian may feel they need to bow their head in prayer before going to the even the grocery store down the street; another may not feel all that is necessary and prays as he goes, knowing and believing the Lord is always by his side. Paul said both are just fine.
In matters of conscience, this is where you have to be “fully persuaded in your own mind.” According to Paul, we should not force our convictions on others. These people were all serious about serving God. The ones who had scruples were just as serious as the ones that did not.
I am painfully aware that there were times in my walk with God that I felt ALL Christians should follow what the Lord showed ME. There are times I was so confident that God had spoken that I couldn’t imagine that he didn’t tell the next guy the same thing. But that’s how some Christians behave. Thankfully, I’ve grown.
God knows our make-up, our constitution. He remembers that we are dust. He knows what will send us down the wrong path and what will keep us in the straight and narrow. It’s not the same for every person. Everyone is not tempted by the same things. God focuses on the condition of our hearts, and our heart purity. I cannot decide for another person what will affect their heart purity toward God in matters of personal conviction. So in the gray areas, we have to keep in connection with God so that we can stay on the right path. Walking with God cannot involve someone else telling you what convictions you must have.
3 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.
God’s love toward us is immeasurable, and he will not allow us to drift away if we stick strictly to the instructions he’s laid out in his Word. He also wants us to treat others with His amazing love, even when we don’t agree.
12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God…
19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.
So we have spiritual responsibility internally and externally. A Christian must be aware and persuaded of what pleases God in his personal walk. He must be tuned in to the voice of God and what God requires of him. He also must commit to carrying his conviction in the love of God and not flaunt his liberty in a way that will cause someone to lose his faith in Christ.