“Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do” (Philippians 3:16-17, NIV).
In the 3rd chapter of his letter to the Philippians the Apostle Paul delineates two conflicting lifestyles. One lifestyle is characterized by having confidence in oneself and the material things of this world. Let’s call this living down.
The other lifestyle is characterized by faith in Christ and believing in His resurrection power. This lifestyle is characterized by living one’s life on this earth in preparation for the world to come. Let’s call this living up.
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4, ESV).
The Book of Romans provides several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Punctilious Christianity), we learned that Christians shouldn’t let their personal convictions cause someone else to question the legitimacy of their faith.
In Romans 15 Paul continues this lesson on not allowing your personal convictions to cause a Christian brother or sister to stumble.
Paul makes a distinction between the weak and strong Christian and then declares that the primary characteristic of a strong Christian is not to please yourself but to conduct yourself in a way that strengthens your brother or sister.
After all, that’s what Jesus did: “For Christ did not please himself” (vs. 3).
“The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.“ (Romans 14:3-4, ESV).
The Book of Romans provides several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Corporeal Christianity), we learned that Christians should accept responsibility for their own spiritual growth and development through bible study, prayer, meditation and godliness.
Moms are generally scrupulous about the behavior of their children. They want their children to be well-behaved. As Christians we want to be well-behaved for God, but in Romans 14 the Apostle Paul establishes that Christians are not “Mom” over the behavior of other Christians.
Punctilious means to show great attention to detail or correct behavior, which is probably a good thing when you apply it to yourself. But, the Punctilious Christian of Romans 14 exhibits an unwarranted amount of attention and compunction for the correct behavior of other Christians!
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14, ESV).
The Book of Romans provides several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Convictionless Christianity), we learned that God’s Law is, in fact, relevant and binding on our lives as Christians. So, we serve God through adherence to His commands!
In Romans 12 Paul admonished Christians not to live in conformance with this world but live according to God’s Law and God’s will. Then, in Chapter 13 this admonition about godly living became a stern warning about corporeal Christianity. Because of the immediacy of our salvation (Christ may come or we may die), we must not live out our lives in this world trying to fulfill our human desires.
Paul said salvation has brought light to our darkened souls so we must cast off the works of darkness–drunkeness, sexual immorality, quarreling and jealousy–and put on the armor of light.
“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:4-6, ESV).
Some interpret these verses and others in Romans 7 describing how the Law aroused sin in our bodies to mean that God’s Law was a temporary or provisional arrangement–a relic of Old Testament times.
They suppose that since Christ came there is no Law binding upon us. (When we say God’s Law we mean the ethics or ethos of God’s character typified in the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament moral and ethical regulations.)
If I may use a theological term, such thinking is a form of antinomianism.
Antinomianism refers to the belief that having received grace, Christians are ethically free to live whatever lifestyle they choose.
“But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’” (Luke 10:40, ESV).
I have written on these verses in a previous post. In reading again through my previous post and this story from Dr. Luke’s gospel, I think I may have overlooked an important point.
It’s not that my former exposition was inaccurate. It’s not that my theology was incorrect.
It’s that there is just another element to the story that I need to emphasize….
Martha was taking care of Jesus and His entourage while they were visiting in her home, but her sister Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching. When Martha complained to Jesus about Mary’s irresponsible behavior, Jesus responded that Mary was doing what’s really important (vs. 42).
Although we want to be spiritual Mary’s, we’re really superficial Martha’s. We busy ourselves in doing good works and then don’t have have the time or energy to fulfill our spiritual calling.
“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3, NIV).
Sometimes we don’t behave consistently with what we believe–or we claim to believe. What we purport is not how we comport!
Our behavior is defined by our beliefs–what we really, really believe, not what we say we believe.
It’s called ethics.
When we are more concerned with pleasing others, going along, or not standing out from the crowd than we are about doing the right thing, then we compromise what we believe. We behave unethically.
And, it begs the question: If you don’t behave it, do you really believe it?
“If food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13, NASB).
In Genesis 4, Cain killed his brother, Abel, out of jealousy. When God asked Cain where his brother was, Cain answered with that ageless question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?: (Genesis 4:9).
In 1 Corinthians 8 the Apostle Paul addressed a moral dilemma confronting the Corinthian Christians, that of eating meat that was offered as a sacrifice to an idol in a pagan temple. While this issue is not one to which we relate today, the resolution to the dilemma that Paul presents here has relevance for any moral dilemma of any age and culture.
Because these pagan temples offered parts of animals in sacrifice to idols, they also often functioned as butcher shops and banquet halls. Public and private dinner parties were held in temple dining rooms and meat from the temple was sold to the public in the marketplace.
“Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.” (2 Peter 2:2, NASB).
In this chapter the Apostle Peter describes the rise and fate of false prophets. He says that heresy grows concurrently with truth. As the truth of the gospel is more widely and broadly proclaimed, there is a corresponding increase in the willful perversion of it.
Deceit is a growth industry that is fiercely competitive with the truth. In fact, the misrepresentation or distortion of the truth of the gospel seems to be as prevalent as the proclamation of the true gospel.
“So you talk, but you keep on doing all the evil you can” (Jeremiah 3: 5, NLT).
At the time of Jeremiah’s ministry, the northern kingdom of Israel had been captured and exiled by the Assyrians, and now over 100 years later, the southern kingdom, Judah, was about to be conquered by the Babylonians.