This chapter looks at what Paul recorded about being a living sacrifice for Christ. I have to admit, I was pretty mixed up about Romans until I sat down to look at this book chapter by chapter, verse by verse. Now it all makes sense. Paul wrote a manual about being a living sacrifice. Now I see why people avoid the real issue in Paul’s letter.
Romans 14:1-6 RSVA As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. (2) One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. (3) Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. (4) Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand. (5) One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. (6) He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Once we realize Paul is writing one long explanation about being a living sacrifice, there shouldn’t be any questions on his advice here. When we look at chapter 13 in the proper light knowing the chapter is about God as the authority we are to follow and be obedient to, we can see why Paul followed up with advise on how to treat a Christian weak in the faith. Chapter 13 also told us to respect God’s ministers. Everyone who ministers for God is supposed to be a good example. They are supposed to put away the old things of this world and cloth themselves with Christ. In other words, to become a living example of Christ. Now this letter is beginning to make sense. Once you become a living example of Christ, your life is designed to be more like Jesus. Your actions and reactions are more and more like Christ. You are ready to accept the challenge of dealing with those who are weaker in the faith. You are ready to face people with some rather strange and different beliefs and interject the respect they deserve. After all, those people are seeking God. God has been hard at work trying to reach them for years. God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and every being in Heaven has been paying attention to the life of that soul, observing their trials, seeing how success has changed them, how they reacted to every situation, and the Host of Heaven knows what that person will do when faced with the next step that will change their life forever. Heaven knows what that individual needs to draw them into the light, to see the open hand from Heaven, to feel the warmth of the SON, and finally realize the difference between temporary security the world offers and true happiness found only in Heaven. There is one ingredient missing. People are difficult to reach and slow to learn. People wait and pray for that one miracle to happen. Evidence that God really exists, and cares about them. People can see, hear, touch, and feel the security this world offers. They know that security by heart. They cling onto that security, embrace it, depend on that security, and love it. That security may be as little as some money in the bank, a retirement fund, their children who break every rule in the book, parents with a drug or alcohol addiction, abuse issues, or other addictions. Security in this world can be as simple as a cup of coffee in the morning, a drink at night, a little pot to smoke to sooth the nerves, or a pill to pop. Security in this world comes in many forms that can be hidden in the dark recesses of the closet, like pornography, sex addiction, eating habits, a needle, and a thousand other forms. Shopping addictions, fancy cars, boats, jewelry, and others forms of show are also security blankets this world offers. It can be difficult for any minister of God to identify those addictions and know how to deal with them.
That is why Paul told us to cloth ourselves with Christ before we step out of our homes into the world of addictions and false security. For one, it may be too easy for us to get drawn into those dark worlds people find security. Jesus could be sending us into a trap the devil has set for us. It is a dangerous world we live in filled with pitfalls, open graves, dark corners, and dangers down every path. Jesus would never place us in a position He has not personally prepared us for, or send us to a person we are not totally prepared and trained to deal with. Paul knew what he was talking about. But is that true today? What is the difference between a person trained by Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit, protected by God, and a person who was trained by an institution? There is a world of different. A professor earning six figures exudes an influence of worldly dependence on that type of security. Institutions train people to minister on a limited level at best. Institutions teach ministers to rely in what they have been taught, come up with a plan B in case the first attempt doesn’t work, or identify the problem and refer that person to a professional trained in a particular field. Every step of the way the wayward soul meets new people that display their own insecurities, lack of faith, and reliance on worldly security blankets. As the addict climbs the ladder from one professional dealing with the chemical addiction and the emotional problems faced, the addict is slammed to the ground by every painting on the office wall, every $300 suit, every fancy car in the parking lot, and every nick knack on the desk. Everyone of those items are idols designed to chain people to this world. Satan wants his people in a short leash.
Read the Gospels. Jesus dressed with simple cloths. His disciples ate from the fast food chain growing along the roadside. Jesus often fasted, and spend hours in prayer. What do you think Jesus was doing during those hours of prayer? He was being instructed by His Father, and learning about the people He was about to minister to. When Jesus met people, He knew where they were from, the restraints this world placed on them, how to deal with those restraints, and how to get those people one step closer to God. Jesus knew how to introduce the concept of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew how to deal with diet issues, wrong concepts on love, reliance on money, addictions, sickness, and every other issue the devil used to entrap and confine people. Jesus had a view of the secret life people led, and knew how to help them out of the deep, dark, homemade graves they dug for themselves. That is the life style we are supposed to be clothed in before we reach out to the first individual we are to minister to. That is what Paul has been explaining over the past few chapters in this letter to the Roman Christians. Why is it, the early Christians understood Paul’s letter, but today they call Paul, a difficult man to understand?
Its no wonder why the devil looked at every word Paul penned and found a handful of words he could easily change, hide, and steal from this world. Replace God;s authority with that of the state, and the next few lessons Paul wrote about are hidden under a blanket of deceit. The devil is crafty, and when we choose to put on the garments of this world, we fall into the ditch Satan dug.
When we look at $300 suits, decorations designed to attract the eye and excite the senses, expensive sound and video systems, air conditioning, heating systems, parking lots, fancy cars, dressing to impress, and formal settings, we are pretty much describing the church on the corner. Do lushes lawns, ceiling fans, spotless carpets, padded seats, and video aided presentations on big screens really represent an atmosphere clothed with Christ? Or do they represent addictions of the world? You have to make that choice. Paul is telling us not to judge people. That included institutions. One church teaches this on one subject and another church believes that. This is what Christianity has grown into and is comfortable with. They wage war with words while attracting new members with shinny ornaments designed to make the church appear successful. Churches offer man made comforts, then try to weave a new type of security blanket with a custom blend of the Bible, news stories, video and sound sensations, and other aspects to show off success in every manner a boardroom can imagine. Then they say, “this is the pathway to Christ.” They pay little attention to what Christ gave up to come to this world in the flesh. No mind can imagine the comforts of Heaven, the security of being next to God’s throne, or one second of life in Heaven. No one has any idea what that is like. So they take the best this world has to offer, spend a fortune on it, constantly improve it, and call that religion. No wonder people are so confused, and have such a difficult time hearing that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Addictions in every form have blocked out the voice of the Spirit. High priced institutions, six year degrees, and fancy titles have replaced the classroom at Jesus’ feet Paul experienced and wrote about. Editing, censorship, and personal preference has replaced the advise and words of wisdom found only in Heaven. The world of Christianity has become an ivory tower slapped together with the souls of millions of people led to believe this world has answers, knows the direction, and is able to produce its own light from the knowledge one generation has been able to accumulate.
Paul knew there would be differences of opinion creeping into the infant Christian community. Paul knew there would be divisions. I wonder if Paul knew, the Christian church would loose sight of the real Jesus, and loose contact with the Holy Spirit. That is true to one extent. But let me assure you, the Spirit is alive and well, and is reaching out to individuals 24/7. But are people looking for the Spirit on an individual or corporate level? Mistrust within churches has turned the individual journey into a boardroom meeting. We can’t trust one person, so form a committee. Use little terms like, “where 2 or 3 are gathered,” to weave a new security blanket. Forge a new god out of an understanding and hope a committee can be trusted because there is security in numbers. If one person begins to stray, the others will certainly point out those faults. Enoch never needed a committee. God on a one on one basis was all Enoch needed. God appreciated that so much, He took Enoch to Heaven. We should never allow mistrust to form a new security blanket. Put in Christ and begin your own personal journey. And let other people follow their own path to Christ at their own speed.
None of Us
Romans 14:7-12 RSVA None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. (8) If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (9) For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (10) Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; (11) for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” (12) So each of us shall give account of himself to God.
No not one of us. That includes the drunk in the gutter and the PhD on the pulpit. In God’s eyes we all failed. Not one of us has lived up to the expectations and perfection of Christ. But God will work with us anyway. He has no one else in this world to send out as that living example of Christ. So God sends out the best He has to work with. But with what message?
There is no one answer for every person in any situation. No committee has been able to accomplish that task. That’s not saying the world isn’t full of committees claiming to have that powerful message or one line cliché that will save the world. There are more one line messages in this world than we can count. That doesn’t make them right. That just makes Jesus’ job more difficult.
There is nothing we can accomplish on our own. Christ’s death brings that fact to light. Then men began placing restrictions on the reasons Jesus had to come to this planet to die. Hence, the simple explanation was born. Jesus was placed in a tomb, and instantly, people began to cover up with story, think of lies, try to take over security of the tomb, pace doubt in their minds, and use riches to cover up the truth. All of those are simple object lessons. Jesus walked around for three years to show His disciples how to ministry to people. Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit, prepared the small minority of this world that would listen to what to expect when the Spirit came in full strength, and set an example this world was supposed to follow. When Jesus came out of that tomb, He explained a million details His disciples missed. Then a new man made priesthood stepped in to stuff the majority of those lessons back into the tomb. With the simple concept of satisfy the masses with one shred of the fullness of Christ and we will be famous for creating a new one cliché god, a new religion was born. The cliché, “Christ died for your sins,” has replaced the lessons Jesus came to this world to teach. Gone is the simple dress, the simple life, total reliance in God, the other sacrifices Jesus made during His life here in earth, the love, compassion, understanding, lesson and example concerning the Holy Spirit, and every other aspect of Jesus’ ministry on this planet. All have been swept back into that tomb with one little cliché. And where does that leave us? With a total misunderstanding about what Paul recorded, and all the other Gospel writers and prophets. But don’t worry, we are still accountable to God on an individual basis. No committee has earned the right to call any one of us saved.
For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in chaos.’ I the LORD speak the truth, I declare what is right. “Assemble yourselves and come, draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.‘ “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed, all who were incensed against him. In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall triumph and glory.” (Isaiah 45:18-25 RSVA).
Isaiah placed judgment, or presenting your case to God, as an individual effort, or a one on one encounter with God. Who in their right mind would trust another human being with their salvation, not to mention, eternal life? Isaiah described God as the Creator. There was no other Creator. God created this world in perfect form. Perfect in law, acts, atmosphere, food, and everything a person could ever want. At Satan’s direction this world was changed, transformed, altered, modified, and ruined. Why would anyone go to this world, or a tainted, misguided individual for salvation, to present their case to God, or as Paul wrote about, to experience that rebirth? If men changed your life, would it be a perfect living sacrifice to God? Are you about to lay your faults at the feet of a man educated in worldly institutions? Like it or not, there is a big difference between concepts this world has developed and everyday life in Heaven. They are as different as the atmosphere, ground, and water on this planet. Each has been polluted and raped by mankind, who has no idea how to correct those mistakes.
Paul on Food
Romans 14:13-23 RSVA Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (14) I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean. (15) If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. (16) So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. (17) For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; (18) he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. (19) Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (20) Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats; (21) it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble. (22) The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God; happy is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves. (23) But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
How do we know when we are helping or hindering people? We often think sharing information about the Bible is often beneficial to all people, one way or another. Some people present the Bible in a very authoritative manner. Some people are rather forceful in their presentation of the Bible. For the most part, they present the Bible, the written words with little to no affirmation showing their life or growth in Jesus. No wonder Paul went into a long explanation about loving your neighbor before adding details about how to love them. Paul is teaching a subject people think they know, but really have no idea what love from Heaven is like. Paul knows this and is teaching in baby steps.
We don’t know if we are actually helping people or becoming a stumbling block. We won’t know the answer to that question until we find out about that aspect of love Paul told us to learn about. Why worry about the little things? In a normal relationship, people tend to overlook faults. That is a part of love you either understand, or completely miss. If overlooking faults is brought to your attention, it could be a long learning curve to change habits developed over years. Can it be done? Can old habits be changed. Jesus talked about the battles between old and new habits we face.
He told them a parable also: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it upon an old garment; if he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new; for he says, ‘The old is good.'” (Luke 5:36-39 RSVA).
It is human nature to blend the old with the new. People decorate new houses with old antiques. We like to cling unto the past. People spend years going over old relationships, remembering the good old days, reliving the past, and finding new ways to regain youth. On the other hand, older people often try to mimic the younger generation. The same is true when people undergo the transformation of being born again. A part of them always wants to cling onto the past, that old worn, torn, and dirty garment. And the old wine that fogs their minds. No one sees the danger in mixing the old life with the new life Jesus holds out. It is human nature to compromise.
That brings us to the fact, when people learn something new, and they finally move to a new level of spirituality, they expect the world around them to rise to that level in a heartbeat. Angels may have worked on that individual for years. But people give little credit to the Spirit for the changes they experience. People heap credit on themselves, and that is what forces them to misrepresent just about every subject in the Bible.
This part of Romans chapter 14 centers on food. We know there was one diet for Jews, and another for Pagans. Biblically clean and unclean foods are one aspect. Pork tends to be at the center of the debate since Paul’s day. Today there are Christians who decided to become vegetarians. That is fine. There is nothing wrong with a healthy diet. But how healthy is any diet when telling people about it becomes an obsession? What good does a diet do when people worry about what other people eat, get upset about Internet articles showing how animals are slaughtered, and people become nitpickers? Don’t those people know worrying is as harmful as any poor diet? Why try to improve your health on one level, then send it into the sewer on another level?