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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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Baby Believers

Baby Believers

As we continue looking at the book of Romans, we’re now starting chapter 14. Here, Paul begins talking about how mature Christians should relate with those who are younger, spiritually.

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

Romans 14:1

This is the generation that definitely needs to hear this teaching. Especially in social media forums, we seem to love to be argumentative. People are judgmental, confrontational, and belligerent. This is because they can stay anonymous while they’re online.

The truth is that we need to portray Christ whether others know who we are or not. That’s why this teaching is so important.

So, with that in mind, the first thing I want to do is define what Paul means by a weak believer. There are a few aspects to this. The root of this Greek word means to be without strength. These are Christians whose faith is without strength.

Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God…

Romans 4:19-20

This verse is talking about Abraham. He could look at his situation, and still trust God. He didn’t allow his faith to become weak.

This is what we usually think of by “weak faith.” It’s when we start wavering when things look bad. However, that’s only one side of the issue.

At one point the writer of the book of Hebrews talks about natural priests who have to offer sacrifices for themselves first.

He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.

Hebrews 5:2

This verse tells us that the human priests have to be gentle with those who are ignorant and going astray. The words literally mean unknowing and roaming.

When someone is roaming or wavering in their faith, it’s usually obvious. However, those who are unknowing of the truth, not so much. Many times they’ll be judged and rebuked even though they don’t have the experience to know what the problem is.

We need to be careful in our treatment of those who are younger in the faith. The problem is that chronological age has no relation at all with our spiritual age.

But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!

Galatians 4:9-10

In this verse, Paul is upset because the Galatians do know the truth – yet they’re acting as though they don’t. They were observing rules to serve and please God.

This is sometime one of the most noticeable signs of a baby Christian. They need a set of man-made rules to serve God. Please understand that this is not a bad thing.

Rules help a young believer to become consistent in their walk with Jesus. Later on, they can lay aside the rules when they learn to walk by the spirit.

Unfortunately, there are too many times when some older Christians try to push them to act mature too quickly. It actually hurts their growth, and may even push them away from the Lord.

It’s like telling a two-year-old that if he doesn’t mop the kitchen floor, then he’s no longer part of the family. It’s very detrimental to someone’s growth in the Lord.

We must learn to accept people where they are in their spiritual level.

Question: What do you believe is your spiritual maturity level?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Weak vs. Strong Faith

Weak vs. Strong Faith

We’re continuing to look at the example of Abraham.  He’s Paul’s illustration of how we should walk in faith.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Romans 4:18

This is one of those amazing verses in the Scripture.  To fully grasp it, we need to understand what the meaning of hope is in the Bible.

When we use the word, hope, it usually means that we’re wishing for something good to happen.  “I hope I win the lottery.”

That’s not what this word means in the context of Scripture.  It actually means to look forward to with expectation.  “I place my hope in the fact that the sun will come up tomorrow.”

With this knowledge, we can see how Abraham operated.  He was in a situation where, logically, there was nothing to expect.  Yet, by placing his faith in God’s Word, he fully expected to have a multitude of offspring.

Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.

Romans 4:19

This is the tough part.  I talked about not walking in denial in my last post.  That’s the key to this kind of faith.

The verse literally says that Abraham fully observed the facts of his situation.  He was almost 100 years old and considered himself already dead.  He understood that under no circumstances could his wife, Sarah, have any children.

As a matter of fact, he had already picked out an heir for his estate.  He chose one of his most trusted servants (Genesis 15:2-3).

What amazes me is that even though he had all of these facts before him, he didn’t weaken his faith.  But that brings up an interesting question.  He already had an heir picked out that was not in his family.  How can you say that he didn’t weaken his faith?

We need to understand exactly what is meant by weak faith.  There’s a clear verse about it.

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.

Romans 14:1-2

What is weak faith?  It means that you don’t trust God to complete His work in you.  You feel that you have to establish rules to follow so that you won’t accidentally sin.  Weak faith has the idea that if I follow these rules, then I’ll please God and receive His blessing.

Abraham picked out an heir without weakening his faith.  That tells me that I do what I need to do as if nothing special will happen.  But, at the same time, I fully expect the Lord to intervene on my behalf.

I can see my doctor, take my pills, and pay my bills.  At the same time I trust God for my health and provision.

Some people think that they’re operating in faith by never seeing a doctor.  It’s actually a sign of weak faith because they can’t trust God to manage what the doctor might tell them.

Weak faith has to set rules and boundaries so that we can deny any problems.  Strong faith can look straight at the problems and trust God for the solution.

Question: What are you facing right now that requires faith in God?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2021 in Faith, God's Provision, Healing, Word of God

 

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