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Stumbling Blocks and Obstacles

Stumbling Blocks and Obstacles

As we continue through Paul’s letter to the Romans, he’s explaining the relationship between strong and weak believers. We mustn’t fall prey to the temptation to judge one another. In my last post, I left off on this verse.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Romans 14:13

I want to take the time to explain what these stumbling blocks and obstacles mean. It’s important for us to make it as easy as possible for growth to take place in the lives of fellow Christians.

The Greek word translated stumbling block, means a stub. It’s something sticking up from the ground, that will cause a person to trip. What does this mean in relation to weaker believers?

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.

1 Corinthians 8:9-11

When Paul wrote this, idol temples were the restaurants of his day. Selling the food that had been sacrificed was a way that these temples made money.

Paul taught that since these idols were nothing, you could eat this food without guilt. However, a Christian that might have worshiped at this temple before they were saved, would have a problem with it. In that case, the stronger Christian should be mindful of this issue.

What does that mean to us now? If you know that someone has rules in an area, then don’t rub your freedom in his face. If you know someone has an issue with scratch tickets, don’t wave your winning ticket in front of them.

“It’s not my fault they’re too weak to deal with it.”

But it is your fault if you don’t walk in love towards your fellow believers. That brings me to the word, obstacle. This word literally means a stick-trap. It’s what you see in the cartoons when a rope is hung from a bent tree.

This is a trap that will spring when you step in it. That’s what we’re doing when we don’t operate in love with a weaker Christian.

Maybe they had an issue with something before Christ. Maybe they were addicted to video games (Yes, that is an addiction) and the Lord had set them free from that. If you force them to play a game with you, the devil might use that to trap them all over again.

Do you really want to be the source of guilt and pain for a brother or sister in Christ? We must walk in love with each other.

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.

Romans 14:14

In this verse, Paul literally says that I have seen and I have been convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean in and of itself. This is totally opposite what he was taught as a Pharisee. God must have done an incredible work in him.

But, Paul adds a footnote to this. If someone assigns the label of “unclean” to something, then to that person it is unclean.

It’s all about your attitude. If it reminds you of your sin and tempts you to return, then it’s unclean to you. Since you won’t be operating in faith, that would make it a sin for you to do it.

That’s why our overall outlook must be that of love, especially to those of us with a weak conscience. We mustn’t ridicule or judge each other for what someone feels strongly about. In that way we can all grow together as the body of Christ, fulfilling His call.

Question: What is an area of weakness for you?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Faith and Conscience

Faith and Conscience

We’re continuing through the book of Romans. In this section, Paul is talking about how we should treat those of weaker faith than ourselves. It’s important that we don’t cause them to fall away by our actions.

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.

Romans 14:5-6

This is a very important concept for us to understand. That’s because this type of difference will always be the case in the body of Christ.

Someone believes that he cannot please God and buy a scratch ticket. Someone else believes that it’s okay. The fact is that neither of these conditions matter to God.

The key is that what you do is because in your mind you are fully persuaded by faith. Based upon your knowledge of the Word, you believe that what you’re doing is right before God. It cannot be simply because someone else told you to do it or not do it.

I looked at this next verse in my last post.

But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.

1 Corinthians 8:7

The catch is that when you were involved in something questionable before you came to Christ, it weakened your conscience in that area. Now that you’re in Christ, there’s a pain in your conscience until it heals. However, in some people it never heals.

For us to look down on someone in this condition, is wrong. I’ve also seen some militant believers try to push these weaker ones to do what their hurting conscience is telling them not to do. This is equally wrong, and maybe even worse.

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.

Romans 14:8

If you’re fully persuaded by your faith, then what you do, you do for your love of God. You do what you do in thankfulness and under submission to God. We don’t live for ourselves – our lives belong to the Lord.

If, on the other hand, I’m doing things for selfish reasons, or because someone told me to do it, that’s wrong. I need to live under the attitude that I belong to God. I need to be fully persuaded that what I’m doing brings glory to God.

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

Romans 14:9

This is why Christ died and rose from the dead. It was so that He’s Lord over the living and the dead. We need to get a handle on this.

When a person dies, they don’t cease to exist. We mourn because we lose the ability to fellowship with them for a little while. The fact is that when I die all that happens is I change my address.

That’s what we need to see. Jesus Christ is Lord over all. It’s His world. We don’t make the rules, He does.

I can’t judge you by my own definition of right and wrong. Neither can you judge me. That’s not our assignment. We all submit to the One, true God.

Question: How have you experienced the judgment of others in the past?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Judging Ourselves?

What comes to mind when you hear the words judge and judgment?  When reading Scripture, these definitions may not be adequate to help us in our understanding.  We need to know what type of judgment is being referred to.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul was writing to a church that was beginning to question his apostolic authority.  They thought that their way was better than the Word Paul was bringing them on God’s behalf.  Many of them were resisting his teaching.

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.
1 Corinthians 4:3-4

It’s very important that we understand what Paul is saying here.  Many have taken it out of context in order to choose their own path rather than God’s plan.  It all comes down to what’s meant by judging.

It turns out that in the Greek language there are many words that are all translated by judge or judgment in English.  That makes for some confusion when reading certain parts of the Bible.

The word, judged, in this section means to interrogate or investigate in order to make a determination.  It’s a critical viewing of all the evidence with the purpose of coming up with a verdict.  That makes this an important concept for believers to grasp.

Paul is saying that what they’re determining about his ministry is not important.  They can do their surface investigation and observe all that he says and does.  But that’s not the end of the story.  God, Himself has the final say as to Paul’s faithfulness.

There were some people in Corinth who didn’t like the fact that Paul was bringing correction to the church.  It was uncomfortable.

“Paul should be more loving.  Why does he always tell us what we’re doing wrong?  He can’t be doing God’s work with that kind of attitude.”

There were certain parts of Paul’s ministry that they didn’t like.  So they were majoring on other teachers that they liked better.  Paul is clear that this type of judging is wrong.

As a matter of fact, it’s just as wrong to judge ourselves by these standards.  You can’t simply look at surface circumstances and events to determine if you’re in God’s will.

Paul states that even though he can’t think of anything he’s done wrong, that’s not what justifies him.  He has already been declared innocent by the blood of Christ.  What he does has no effect on that.

But, when it comes to a final determination of his ministry, there’s only One qualified Judge.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5

There will be a final judgment for believers.  This judgment will not be a Heaven or hell decision.  That was already decided when I bowed my knee to Christ.  The judgment for believers is all about their rewards…or lack thereof.

The Lord’s judgment won’t be based upon what it looked like on the surface.  He’ll take into account the thoughts and intents of the heart.  God knows our motivations and our faithfulness even if they weren’t apparent to all those who were watching us.

Be careful not to make a determination about yourself based upon your apparent failures.  Let God have the final say.  Keep staying faithful to the Lord’s call upon your life.

Question: How have your motives not always lined up with the outcomes of your actions?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2019 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Favoritism

Do you show favoritism? What does that even mean? As Christians we need to be aware of the correct way to treat people that we meet.

According to James, we need to be careful of our attitudes towards others.

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.
James 2:1

This verse implies that faith and favoritism don’t go together. But that brings up some questions. When we hear the word favoritism in our society, we think of something unfair. The King James Version of the Bible translates it as being a respecter of persons.

The Bible also says that God doesn’t act this way. Yet we know that some people are under His grace – His favor – and others are not. So in actuality, the word favoritism is not a good description of what’s being talked about here.

The literal Greek translation of the word being used in the above verse is face-accepter. It’s when we judge someone simply by their appearance. God’s ways are very different from ours.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Psychologists tell us that our attitudes about people are formed within the first five minutes of meeting them. Usually it’s based upon zero facts. It’s all about the impression we get when we look at them.

Sometimes we pick up attitudes for no reason. We think someone is lazy and dumb without ever getting to know them. Then there are others we want to be around, knowing nothing substantial about them. That’s what James is talking about. Look at his description.

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:2-4

It’s obvious that this is about looking at people’s outward appearance and making a judgment based on sight alone. James tells us that if we approach people in that way, then we aren’t walking in faith.

That word discriminate means to separate in order to make a distinction. When we treat people in this way, it’s because we’re looking at their possible value in what they could give to us.

That’s the evil thoughts that this is talking about. Relationships based upon what I can get out of it.

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
James 2:5-7

The word insulted in this verse means to render valueless. That’s the true problem. When we see someone as having no value simply based upon their appearance, we’re not operating in faith. I’m glad that God placed such a high value on us that Christ went to the cross for us.

We need to follow His example. He went to those that society had written off. We need to do the same.

Question: How do you judge people when you first meet them?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in Faith, Fellowship, Ministry, The Church

 

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