2 Chronicles 29:1-36, Romans 14:1-23, Psalms 24:1-10, Proverbs 20:12
Today is the 31st day of July. Welcome to the Daily Audio Bible. Here we are friends, the end of the seventh month of the year together. And as hard as it is to believe sometimes, we’re in the back half of the year. Five months from now we’ll be finishing the Bible which gives us a lay of the land as far as time goes, but we are here, and we are here now and we’re here to take the next step forward as we continue our adventure through the Scriptures. So, we’re reading from the Common English Bible this week and from the Old Testament will read second Chronicles chapter 29 today and the story of King Hezekiah.
Okay. Romans 14 packs a pretty good punch because it kind of flies in the face of some of our assumptions and it also shows us that the things that we usually think or kind of think or suspect, these were things that were going on a long time ago. They run the entire length of time that the church has been in existence. So, as believers we’ll hear phrases like “unity in the body”…”we need unity in the body.” We’ll even pray for unity in the body and we tend to think that if and when everybody who believes in Jesus finally could get on the same page and then we all become like-minded, then we will have unity and then then the power of God could be unleashed upon the earth and his kingdom could be revealed. But the problem is we’re probably not describing unity when we think of this, we’re are probably describing uniformity and that’s a different thing. So, the idea that in the body of Christ among the human race we can find unity in uniformity actually works against unity because it segregates us into these theological camps where we’re gonna battle each other over who gets to dominate and control the truth, who gets to be in, who gets to be out and how our expressions should be expressed in worship and so on and so forth. And, so, Paul begins today, “welcome the person who is weak in faith but not on order to argue about differences of opinion. And then he gave some examples from that particular time about what was going on. Like, the first was about foods that could be eaten or foods that should not be eaten and then the second was about which days were to be the holy days. And, I mean, this ended up in Paul’s letter to the Romans, which eventually ended up in the New Testament of the Bible that we place our faith in. So, these were actual issues that he wasn’t just making up. These issues had become such issues that they were dividing people, or he wouldn’t have mentioned them, and he wouldn’t have spoken so forcefully about it. So, if you look at the heart of the matter than we can see this this kind of stuff’s always been going on. It’s still going on now. We still are participating in this same kind of division. So, Paul addresses the posture in a way that kind of blows it all up and forces us to face that we have a tendency to judge each other very severely, usually because we think we’ve got it right and everybody needs to get on board with the way we’re seeing things so that we can have unity. And, so Paul steps into the fray and speaks very directly. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servants? They stand or fall before their own Lord and they will stand because the Lord has the power to make them stand.” So, Paul’s kind of basically saying like, “you can be as judgmental as you like, but it’s illegitimate judgment. There is only one legitimate judge and we’re wasting our time trying to take His authority so that we get to be right. Instead we should be keeping our eyes on our own lives and be led by the Holy Spirit about what we can and cannot do and how we should live. And we each have a different story to tell. And we each have different strengths and weaknesses. And we each come from different backgrounds. So, uniformity isn’t going to bring us into unity by force. And believe me friends, we have tried that in our church history, and it didn’t work. So, Paul says, “why do you judge your brother or sister? Why do you look down on your brother or sister? We all will stand in front of the judgment seat of God. So, stop judging each other. Instead, this is what you should decide. Never put a stumbling block or obstacle in the way of your brother or sister. So, I’m just reading this out of the Bible only. If you’re like, “oh, you’re off on the deep end here” then just go read Romans 14. We just read this. This is what it says, but more importantly is what it means. Because if we would actually take the advice of the apostle Paul from the New Testament of the Bible, we’re actually being given freedom, freedom to walk with God personally and that God will give our journey guidance, that God will give us grace and dignity. We don’t have to be defined by what somebody else thinks. We are given permission to be who we are as we’re being transformed by the one legitimate judge. But frankly, all that freedom can be taken to the other extreme, where we just cultivate pride. Like, “I get to do whatever I want, and I don’t care what you think.” Paul’s not saying that. He’s showing both sides of the equation here. He’s saying that our freedoms are our freedoms and they are between us and God, but they cannot be used to cause someone else to stumble on their journey. So, he says it like this because he’s speaking directly to those issues. “It’s a good thing not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that trips your brother or sister. Keep the belief that you have to yourself. It’s between you and God. People are blessed who don’t convict themselves by the things they approve but those who have doubts are convicted if they go ahead and eat because they aren’t acting on the basis of faith. Everything that isn’t based on faith is sin.” So, we all have a story to tell and each of our stories are different stories. If we were all to be telling a uniform story we would have all been created to look exactly the same and have exactly the same thoughts. We’re gonna stand before God as individuals, but there’s no way that we can ignore that our lives impact others. So, unity’s not gonna come when we all become clones. The body of Christ is as diverse as the human race. Unity will come when we agree on the essentials of our faith and when we offer grace freely like a cool cup of water or as Paul puts it, “God’s kingdom isn’t about eating food and drinking but about righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Christ this way pleases God and gets human approval.”
Father, once again we’re confronted with the fact that we’re pretty judgey. We’re continually judging, we’re continually making judgments about other people, about ourselves, about everything around us, but we’ve overstepped our bounds when we begin to judge another’s heart and motives and story and posture. That is not in our realm. That is in Yours and the truth is we need You to judge us mercifully because we have no hope otherwise. And You’ve said You would, but for some reason we seem to be unwilling to extend that to anyone else but ourselves. Help us to understand that as You judge us mercifully You are judging everyone else mercifully as well and they are in their story and we are in our story and if we would keep our eyes on You then we would see that we are holding in common in perfect unity what is true. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Come Holy Spirit. Help us to experience this as the freedom that it is. We don’t have to walk around in fear trying to fight everybody so that we can find out what we believe. We believe that we have called upon Your name and that You have rescued us and that You are transforming us and that this journey of life that we are all in together is an adventure of getting to know You. And we can’t get to know You when our eyes are on everyone else’s life. Come Holy Spirit, help us walk in freedom today in the name of Jesus we ask. Amen.
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And that’s it for today. I’m Brian and I love you and I’ll be waiting for you here tomorrow.