Grace Allows All?

January 22, 2012

Being a bit of a history buff as well as a student of Scripture I have noticed a vast difference between the Church of even sixty years ago and today. I have heard sermons from many men who were considered great in their day and even revered now in some circles. They were certainly more hell and damnation types. We frown on that now with grace and love being the prominent themes and the sermons more like motivational speeches than exegetical calls to holiness or service. Now, I thoroughly believe in grace and love as I am in much need of both but there needs to be a balance.

There is also a difference between the commitment and priorities of Christians. I recall a story from the biography of George Mueller. A couple visiting London went to his church and in the process became convicted of their need for rebirth and were saved. They were not going to be in town long and so there was not a lot of discipleship given much like Paul’s short stay in Thessaloniki. A year later they returned and told George all that they had done and what they had changed in their lives. At the end they asked him what else could they give up for Christ.

That is a far different attitude from today. Many Christians scan the Word to see what they can still get away with or explain away rather than what may need to go from their lives. Keith Green has lyrics where Christ is chastising the Church corporate saying, “You thrive on milk and reject my meat.” That song is entitled, “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice”. He is dead and the song is old but it still has a lot to say to us.

1 Cor 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. KJV

Many use this passage to advocate an anything goes Christianity. First, we must take it in its context. Paul is trying to help two opposite cultures merge into the New Covenant Church. The Jews who know only the Law and were having trouble grasping that Grace had done away with the Law since it was fulfilled in Christ and the Gentiles who had no clue and were accustomed to having drunken orgies in their worship had trouble changing to a new and purer worship of God. They could not understand why bringing a ham to a Church supper should be a big deal with the brethren of Jewish background. The Jews could not understand why the Gentiles could not practice the rituals and holy days that the Jews have always practiced.

This was not saying that immorality or other sin was now legal. Just 1 John 1:9 it and rock and roll. It’s all good. No, those things did not change. What changed are the ceremonial, sacrificial and dietary laws that were all a part of the tutelage to bring us to Christ. And even though a ham sandwich was now lawful it was not necessarily expedient or profitable to eat one. There would be times when it would be better to forgo the exercise of your freedom.

Rom 14:22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. KJV

Romans 14 and 15 are often taught from the perspective of proving that anything goes especially in “gray areas”. Weaker brothers need to grow up as a title of an article some time back in a very large Christian magazine proclaimed. You have your rights and you are free in Christ so go for it and live in grace seems to be the prevailing attitude. Yet, as verse 22 says there are times when you need to exercise your faith or freedom in private. You can be condemned in what you allow not what you disallow.

Since I became a Christian in 1975 I have heard numerous debates over various issues and anyone who wanted to not do something that someone else wanted to do was called a Legalist or worse. The scarlet L, be it Liberal or Legalist was something to be avoided. The true definition of a Legalist is really someone trying to add anything to the Gospel or Christ plus ___ saves you or keeps you saved. It is something other than being saved by faith alone. Initially, it was the Law or Old Covenant and today it has branched into many varieties of the same principle. It has nothing to do with standards unless those standards are cited as salvation issues.

Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. KJV

The Jerusalem Council met and said this was not true and they only imposed a few restrictions and said the Gentiles would do well to practice these, but did not make them a part of salvation. Paul had to deal with this a lot in his epistles and it is still a problem today and as I said it comes in many forms.

So a Gentile is free to have a pork chop and so is a believing Jew since Peter was told to arise and kill and eat of unclean animals in a vision. Peter balked and God said to not call unclean what He has called clean. After all, only He can declare something clean and unclean for it is His creation and his curricula for teaching mankind. Thus pork is lawful for all under the New Covenant. So let’s pig out (pun intended) at our next Church fellowship no matter if a few new converts from Judaism are present! Not so!! Paul says to not destroy the faith of your brother for a pork chop. Eat your pork chop at home! Rein in your rights or freedoms that you have or think you have to not hurt the conscience of another. Sacrifice!!!

I know we get off on crazy trails sometimes. Yet, we are to live as much as possible peacefully among all me. If you know something offends people in your family or your church then keep it to yourself. If you have no problems with having Ruben’s or Botticelli’s Venus as a piece of art then hang it in an area where not everyone sees it when they come into your home. Anything else that you know that there are people who would find it offensive place it somewhere not open to the crowd or remove it when they are coming to visit so they are not confronted with it and have it on their mind for the whole visit. Don’t treat guests different than family. If members of the family are offended it is all the more reason to ditch it temporarily or permanently!

Permanently? Yes! Paul said he would eat no meat forever if it caused a brother to stumble. Again, in context, he did not mean he would be a vegetarian. Meat was used for food in general and he was not going to starve himself to death. He is talking about food declared unclean in Leviticus or meat offered unto idols though the idol be nothing if someone was going be be tripped up in their Christian faith over it. The pork chop or meal was not worth the soul damage of a brother/sister.

While Paul told the strong that they were right in their perspective of foods and holy days they were still to not abuse their liberties. The strong were to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please themselves. Thus in a given body of believers there are folks who are offended by certain practices, attire or music etc then we should refrain from those things and pray that God will mature them. Yet, if He does not change them He will strengthen us by our learning to sacrifice for the good of the Body even if it is something permissible.

If you have gotten this far some are thinking that then the weak ought to leave the church or the strong leave and start another church where they can be free. You are wrong.

Rom 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. KJV

If you start another church or boot them out you are judging them as not being worthy of your sacrifice and your input into their life. Conversely, if they leave or cause a bunch of trouble they are also saying you are not worthy of giving input into their life. We have way too many churches built for all the wrong reasons. If there is more than one church of like faith and doctrine in the same town there is redundancy that was not created by God but rather the flesh. If a split is not over doctrine then it is of the flesh. If it is of the flesh, the ones who caused the split will not prosper spiritually even if they prosper materially for it shall be Ichabod. Many churches need to merge to see the power of God in them. God called us to unity and yet how can that be when we are so ignorant of doctrine that we can get six people together and have thirteen opinions or half are plotting how they can get control of the church and the other half are going to do what they want no matter who is offended for they have their rights!

Rom 12:1-2

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. KJV

Many of the attitudes in the church are patterns or forms of the world. We seek success by self-promotion where as God says that He exalts and debases and the way to be chief is to be a servant. We look at numbers and money as a sign of God blessing and yet He condemned the church at Laodicea who had all of that but had Him outside knocking at the door. We seek highly educated men to pastor and yet most of His chosen men were minimally educated and of the educated only one was a theologian. We strive to reach the rich, wise, and noble and yet God says that not many of them would be in the church for He has chosen the weak, base and foolish to confound the wise. We want cushy and elaborate buildings to have a grand experience when He taught in the fields. We are to take care of the poor, the widows indeed and to send out missionaries but our building and salary make that nearly impossible. We toss a tidbit to the message, mission and masses with the rest going to the mansion and managers. I recently visited a church where the pastor declared them to be a missions minded church. Their budget is around two million a year and their missions budget is only one hundred thousand. They are in the process of another building project for Sunday School rooms and a fellowship hall at a cost of two million dollars. Their focus is off though it is a good church in many respects.

We want things our way and yet we are called to be a living sacrifice. How many things did a sacrifice get to have their way? Did it really matter what they thought? No, because all that died with them. True, they were animals and did not have all the desires a sentient human has, but is not most of the desires we have pertain to creature comforts?

What if we actually started living as if we were a sacrifice and looked at what we do and stop doing the offensive and start doing what is best for the Body? What if we quit worrying about rights and did some things that might soothe a weaker brother’s nerves and allow him to grow? Would it kill you to do that? Hardly, since you are already supposed to be dead to the world and its traditions, trends and such. What if we spread the grace and love around by actually extending some to the brethren by putting away some of the earthly and childish things that we split churches over and discriminate against people?

Ah, your flesh may be getting you riled up about now and maybe you are saying, “Well, what about the weaker brother? Doesn’t he need to give some and grow up?” Yes, but the Word says that the strong bear the infirmities of the weak and did not speak to the weak directly. It speaks to the strong directly. We will teach them by the strength we have to sacrifice for them in the love and grace of Christ. We become servants and living sacrifices for the sake of the weak and in obedience to God. He will take care of the rest.

Does grace allow all? No. Sins are still sins and it means we have to become mature and discerning to know what sin is since that seems to be a cloudy issue for many. Even if it is lawful we still may have to refrain from exercising our liberty for the good of the Body. Does grace really call for sacrifice? Yes it does and some things are even stricter and harder to follow under grace than it was under Law. While the weaker brother needs to grow up it is time for the stronger brother to show his strength by restraint.

That is where the real power lies. Think of how often Christ could have exercised His rights and strengths by calling for a legion of angels to handle many of the things that were wrong? A couple of angels could have really cleaned out the money changers and indeed Christ could have vaporized them since by Him all things consist. Yet, He restrained Himself to turning over tables. Judas could have been toast as well as Pilate and the Sanhedrin. Out of grace, love and dedication to the Father’s mission He controlled His strength and did not exercise His rights so that the mission might be accomplished and men could be saved. What has power over you rather than you having power over it to restrain it?

Can not we then who are to be Christlike restrain ourselves for the good of the Body and the mission to win people to Christ? The stuff we hurt each other over will mean nothing in eternity. Most of it deals with flesh. Can we not sacrifice those things out of love for Christ, His Body and the Lost so that we can be more unified and fruitful spiritually? Grace will allow that! May we start practicing it soon! Maranatha!


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