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Let Others Be
Scripture: Romans 12:9-17; Romans 14:13-18
Track 7 of 11 in the The Freedom that Comes from Grace series
Running time: 49 minutes, 27 seconds.
I believe we have full control of our attitudes. We decide how we will live. We control if we want to be charming and gracious or restrictive and rigid. Are we going to live a life of freedom or a life covered in legalism Depending on our attitude, we are either grace givers or grace killers.

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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.

Let Others Be

Grace comes in two dimensions, vertical and horizontal. The vertical dimension centers on the relationship with God. It is amazing. It frees us from the demands and condemnation of the Mosaic Law. It announces hope to the sinner and the gift of eternal life. Horizontal grace centers on the human relationships. It is charming. It frees us from the bondage of having to please people and adjusting our lives to the demands and expectations of human opinion. It gives relief and the enjoyment of freedom.

There are two questions I want to ask you. These are probing questions so think about them before you answer them in your mind.

1. Do you add to othersí guilt or do you lessen it?
2. Are you the type who promotes another personís liberty or restrains it?

These are hard questions to deal with in reality. Both have to do with attitude. How important is a personís attitude?

True or False: We do what we do with others because of the way we think?

How much control do you have over your attitude? Is it at your full control or is it something we are captives of? I believe we have full control of our attitudes. We decide how we will live. We control if we want to be charming and gracious or restrictive and rigid. Are we going to live a life of freedom or a life covered in legalism? Depending on our attitude, we are either grace givers or grace killers.

True or False: It is our inner decisions, not the outer influences that makes us the kind of people we are?

I donít think many Christians understand that truth. Some will say that they are who God made them to be. But we wonít find anywhere in scripture where Jesus commanded us to be rigid and restrictive. In fact, his example to us was exactly the opposite. His call is for us is to be free and to lead others to freedom as well. Jesus wants us to understand the importance of maintaining a positive attitude that results in extending grace to others.

So how does a person go about changing their attitude in life especially concerning being a gracious person and not restrictive? Paul writes for us some very practical ways to change our negative attitude to a positive and gracious one. In Romans 12, he lays out some commands that when applied transforms us into affirming people.

Romans 12:9-17 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with Godís people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

I donít know about you, but I would love to be like that. How many of you want to be like that also? So why donít we treat one another the way the Lord instructs us to? Why do we love with such hypocrisy? What keeps us from being devoted to one another, from honoring one another, to contributing to each others needs, from practicing hospitality?

I think the real truth to these questions is this; more often than not we nullify grace rather than magnify it. It is hard to admit to but in reality, that is the truth in a lot of us. We resist it much more often than we release it. What is it that hinders an attitude of horizontal grace from flowing freely? Charles Swindoll wrote about this issue in many Christians lives. I know in my own life I wrestle with the attitudes that roam around inside me. It frustrates me that I canít be like the person in Romans 12 all the time. I want to be that person but too often I am the opposite. Swindoll tributes these shortcomings to two very human tendencies:

1. We compare ourselves with others which leads us to criticize or compete with them
2. We attempt to control others which results in our manipulating them or intimidating them.

To Compare:

Believe it or not, this is a powerful human trait. I know for me, I fall victim to this more than I want to admit. I am a ďType AĒ personality. The love of competition is a major strength and it helps me a lot to be successful but it is also leads to one of my greatest weaknesses when it comes to being a gracious person. I desire tremendously to be a person who displays grace to others but by nature, I like to compete. I like things to be predictable. I am uneasy with change and I like things just the way they are. My wife often tells me I am way too predictable. Things like moving the furniture around or changing the color of the paint in the kitchen makes life for me uneasy.

It is natural for people to prefer sameness, predictability, common interest. All one has to do is inject something different or makes different choices than we do or prefers different entertainment, clothing, tastes in food, express a different opinion or live a different lifestyle, some Christians get nervous.

Think about yourself, how much weight do you place on the externals? How much importance do you place on appearances?

Too often the externals in life, the outer appearances consume how we live and think. But what about individuality and variety? Are you comfortable with people expressing their individuality around you. What about in your kids? Do you want them to be just like you or do you encourage them to strike out and be the person God is calling them to be even if it requires them to take risks beyond your own comfort zone?

Someone explain to me the phrase ďacceptable normsĒ. In most families and I would venture to say, in every church there are what we describe as acceptable norms. What are they and how are they established? Are they sacred? Are they inspired? What happens when someone steps out of the norm? Does MPCC have acceptable norms?

The problem with these norms, they are very similar to land mines. One doesnít know they existed until someone accidentally steps on one. To be honest, within many churches there are many comparisons going on. We compare musical tastes, we compare financial incomes, we compare marital status and even spiritual growth (some Christians are better than others). If you are a person who like hymns and mellow songs, well that is great until the person next to you prefers jazz and rock especially in worship music. Some kids are better disciplined than others. Why canít all kids be like mine? If asked, Iíll share my success and how much closer to God I amÖat least that is what I think. I am married, you are divorced. He has never gotten marriedÖI wonder what is wrong with that guy. Actually, the only thing wrong is the COMPARISON.

So, in MPCC, who wrote the ďLetís CompareĒ rulebook? Can someone please show me from Scripture where God is pleased with such negative attitudes? Think about this a minute: ďWho saidĒ these things?

ē A person canít be spiritual and enjoy expressions of music or art totally different from the ones you like?
ē Who said it is carnal to have nice things or enjoy a few extravagant luxuries, especially if oneís generosity is also extravagant?
ē Why canít people drive any car they can afford or vacation anywhere they please or live in a home of any size they want to enjoy or wear the clothes the prefer?

The problem with all of this is, we criticize because we are different than that or we canít have that or we donít prefer that. With that being a fact, why should that affect others? The dirty truth to all this is ďComparisonĒ fuels the fire of envy within people. It prompts the tendency to judge. It boils up the prejudice in people. But the worst part of all, it nullifies grace.

Jesus brought grace when He came to this earth. Every day he displayed grace in His speech, who He associated with, the people He brought together and the lifestyle He lived. Think about it a minute, what would the disciples be like if they were all like Peter? Even when Jesus chose the 12 disciples, He injected grace into the group. Not one person was the same. In fact, they all were opposite each other and in many cases, probably fought one another and didnít like each other at times. I bet there were times they hated each other also. Only Jesus would have assembled that group of disciples. He did it to demonstrate the power of variety, horizontal grace.

To Control

The other attitude we have to change if we are to awaken grace within this church is to stop the tendency to control others. The Pharisees come to mind when I think of control. Those who find security in a religion that is rigid relies on manipulation and in some cases, intimidation. I came from the old school of Catholic education when nuns were the teachers. You donít understand intimidation until you had a nun for a teacher, especially if the nun was older and didnít like kids. Those who find control a good way to lead use fear tactics, threats and overt hints to get their way. Most often, those who prefer control are themselves very insecure and donít know the first principle of being free so they are uneasy when someone around them is free. Trust me, I was a free child at St. Francis school. My freedom was not appreciated.

Usually controllers within a church are not as obvious as some nuns were. What are some of the ways controllers can stop freedom from existing within a fellowship?

True or False: When we attempt to control the lives of others, we hinder the leading of God in their lives?

Unfortunately, parents are usually the biggest offenders of this. We have our dreams, desires and plans for our kids. Too often our plans hinder what God wants for them.

Romans 14:13-18 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brotherís way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food£ is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 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. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.