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Elephants All Around
11/06/2011
Scripture: Romans 14:1-12
Track 2 of 6 in the A Freedom Journey series
Running time: 1 hour, 09 minutes, 12 seconds.
The coming lessons are going to require this class to think and study as mature Christians. Our freedom can best be described as being rather than doing. It is all about your identity much more than your actions. I want to look at the debatable issues that many people call the gray areas. Paul talks a lot about the gray areas in life and how to handle them inside the church. I want to call them the elephants in the room.



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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Elephants All Around

I can remember the first time I attended MPCC. The church then was on 25th and Vermont and I attended a Sunday night service because if I was going to get anywhere with this hot girl named Pam Thomas, I had to be where she was and on Sunday nights, she was in church. I had never attended a church service outside the Catholic Church before and what I heard and saw was very foreign to me.

Before church started people were talking to each other and were quite noisy. No one spoke or made noises at St. Mary Catholic Church before mass or after. Prayers were different; they were more casual and relational rather than ritualistic as I was use to. My prayers were memorized and recited; at MPCC, prayers were more conversational. The songs were way different, almost party like and people seemed to be having fun rather than hoping the service would quickly end. I was totally out of my element at MPCC and chasing after Pam was going to be very difficult and different.

It has been exactly 40 years since I was baptized at MPCC. I was won to Christ and baptized on August 16th 1971. A lot has happened since then and where I am now compared to where I was back then is totally opposite. When I entered MPCC the first time I was imprisoned. I was imprisoned by the traditions of my church and my traditions prevented me from enjoying God and from enjoying other Christians. If they weren’t Catholic, they were going to Hell and the girl I was chasing after was one of “those people” my Dad use to warn me about.

I thank God a lot for allowing me to find MPCC and the people here. They changed my life and my outlook on life. This church introduced me to Jesus and from there the HS has taken me to places I never thought I would go. I was the person Paul talked about in Romans 14, the weaker believer. The weaker believer is the Christina who gets all tied up with the trivial issues in the faith. Issues like dietary rules, idols or special days to observe. Too often Christians fight over such issues when the stronger Christian is to help the weaker Christian and not bring him down.

We discussed chasing after the Wild Goose. That is when the Holy Spirit comes running through our lives and he asks us to chase after him even when the chase seems to be wild and unplanned. I want to introduce another “chase”, chasing after elephants. That is when Christians chase after and wrestle with the gray areas of the faith. It is amazing to me how many Christians actually participate in this chase. They chase after what they feel are important (large) issues when in all reality, freedom in Christ actually treats them as small insignificant issues.

• Playing pool
• Playing cards
• Listening to non-Christian music
• Proper church clothes
• Which instruments could be used in worship – no drums. Only pianos and organs
• Social drinking
• Social networking
• For some churches, the proper types of people to have as members

And the list can go on and on. As a Christian, your freedom is a powerful, sacred and even mysterious trust given to you by God. If we don’t seek to properly understand our freedoms in Christ, we can cause divisions and hurt within the church and end up as poor representatives of Christ to those outside the faith.

The coming lessons are going to require this class to think and study as mature Christians. Our freedom can best be described as “being” rather than “doing”. It is all about your identity much more than your actions. I want to look at the debatable issues that many people call the gray areas. Paul talks a lot about the gray areas in life and how to handle them inside the church. I want to call them the elephants in the room. They are so large and yet no one wants to talk about them because they are unsure how to properly deal with them. The elephants are here in this class and in this church and it is easier to talk circles around them rather than learn what is right and proper.

In your family, when a fight or argument erupts between your kids and reasoning has to be introduced, who do you go to first, the oldest or the youngest to settle the dispute?

The Roman church had big elephants in their community. They were so large that divisions had developed based on the traditions of some people. In Romans 14, Paul writes to the “stronger in the faith” versus the weaker. The church was made up of Jews and Gentiles. Both lived different lifestyles and what was important to one wasn’t important to another. The weaker Christians believed they were bound by certain dietary restraints and had to observe certain days as more holy than others. The stronger Christians understood their freedom and didn’t feel the need to be bound by those restrictions.

Romans 14:1-12 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

When Paul says that the stronger Christian is to accept the weaker Christian, what does that mean in practical application?

Paul wants the stronger Christian to know that the strong bears a greater responsibility to focus on community and not allow division to take place over differences of opinion.

So why are some people weak in their faiths while others are strong?

I, as well as any Christian who moved from a ritualistic faith to one like we share at MPCC, can testify that it is difficult to accept and practice freedom in Christ especially when we never experienced it before. A weaker Christians is wed to the rule-oriented, mechanical type faith. On some level, the weaker Christian is trying to earn a relationship with God. It is a normal response because that is all they know. The Jews were the same way. Once they became Christians and was given freedom, they exercised their faith the way they always did, through their laws and observances. The Gentile Christian had no connection to those rules so they didn’t have problems with it.

We see two dangers and warnings in this passage:

• First Warning: To the stronger, do not despise or treat with contempt the weaker brother. Our freedom does not allow for us to breed arrogance. We have no greater right to look down on someone who has not yet attained the same freedom. In fact, the stronger is to encourage the weaker to grow.

• Second Warning: To the weaker, do not judge the strong. The weak often times makes it their goal to be right rather than to build community. The mistake comes when the weaker Christian doesn’t understand the freedom that the stronger person is enjoying. He concludes that what is wrong for him is wrong for everyone.

What is really critical for us to look at is what Paul writes in verse 3.

Romans 14:3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.

So what is the point here? What is at the core of the issue? All of us, both the strong and the weak are desperate for the Lord in order to have strength to stand at all. The Lord is able and we aren’t. There is no room for us to judge when we are so unable to do anything on our own.

What do you know as Holy Days? What are some of them in Christianity?

Lent: Begins 40 days before Easter. Observance: Self-examination and preparation for Easter

Palm Sunday: Sunday before Easter. Observance: Jesus' entry into Jerusalem

Maundy Thursday: Thursday before Easter. Observance: The Last Supper of Jesus

Good Friday: Friday before Easter. Observance: Crucifixion of Jesus on the cross

Easter: First Sunday after the first full moon after March 21. Observance: Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Pentecost: 40 days after Easter. Observance: Coming of the Holy Spirit

Advent: Period marked by the four Sundays before Christmas. Observance: Preparation for
Christmas and Christ's Second Coming

Christmas: December 25. Observance: Birth of Jesus Christ

How many of you would feel bad, sad or even guilty if you missed any one of these days. Which ones, if you had to miss church, would you feel was okay to miss?

But what about these Holy Days: To Catholics, these are the Holy Days of Obligation. The Catholic Church says that celebrating those feast days is a part of the minimum level of commitment to the Catholic faith.

Jan. 1: Mary, Mother of God

Jan. 6: Epiphany

Mar. 17: St. Patrick

March 19: St. Joseph

Ascension

June 29: Sts. Peter & Paul

Aug. 15: Assumption

Nov. 1: All Saints

Dec. 8: Immaculate Conception

How many of you would feel bad, sad or even guilty if you missed any one of these days. Which ones, if you had to miss church, would you feel was okay to miss? How did Paul feel about these days? He was a former Jew, do you think he still observed the Passover?

Romans 14: 5-6 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.

So what are the things Paul wants us to understand about these issues? How are we to act and how are we to handle the weaker brother? What are the boundaries of Freedom in Christ?

1. Don’t Judge: We must remember, even the weaker brother is still a believer. We are to build up, not to scold but to serve.

2. Do Not Cause Others to Stumble: Don’t allow your freedom be a tool that causes someone else to sin.

3. Don’t Go Against Your Conscience: Opinions are not your conscience and your opinion does not determine sin. Your conscience is directly connected to the HS. Allow him to lead you.

4. Don’t Prohibit Community with Fellow Believers: Don’t allow trivial issues in the faith the divide the church. Unity is more important and sometimes deference is needed when dealing with the weaker brother.

5. Don’t Destroy Your Reputation:

Romans 14:16-18 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
This has more to do with the infighting that goes on within the church. Too often Christian infighting becomes sport to those outside the church. Don’t let our freedoms become sport to the unbeliever.

6. Don’t Destroy God’s Good Work: Satan loves to mess up great work in the Kingdom. He does it often by messing up the freedom issue in the church. When we are in dispute with one another, it tarnishes all the good God is doing. What is the good, the good is the salvation of man and the growth he enjoys through the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:19-21 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.