Relative - Frank listens to both Christian and non-Christian music, while Bob listens to Christian music only
Non-Relative - Jesus is the only way to eternal life with God
(I'm going to include parts of my manuscript to fill in the rest of what we talked about for you all... it's quicker and easier than typing it all out again.. haha =)...)
Do you see the difference? There are some things that are core to the message of Jesus Christ that CANNOT be changed because they are part of the DNA of a Christian. If it’s changed, then it’s no longer Christian. We talked a little bit about these types of things last spring. Some of these non-negotiable, DNA areas include: Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus died on the cross to redeem humanity, rose again, and is alive today, Jesus is the only way to God and eternal life, if you’re going to be a Christian then you’re going to be baptized (if only for the simple reason that Jesus specifically said that we are to be), our God is a Trinitarian God (3 persons in ONE…not polytheism), etc. I could keep going, but this is good enough for right now. Some negotiable, non-DNA areas include: predestination vs free will, once-saved always saved vs the possibility of losing one’s salvation, contemporary music vs ancient hymns, etc. I think you get the picture here too.
Christ didn't die for His Church to be separated. This lie has been weaving its way into the minds of Christians everywhere for a LONG time. It’s nothing new. The Corinthians wrestled with it, and Paul had to help set them straight. Paul helped the Corinthians begin their church, and the proceeded on to help other cities and people start churches as well. After he left, other evangelists came and continued the work Paul had begun. Sounds great! Christians working together to further the Kingdom of God. However, trouble arose. Divisions began forming within the Corinthian church. Here’s what Paul had to say about that:
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” Has Christ been divided into factions?” Was I, Paul crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.) For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News – and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.” (1 Corinthians 1.10-17 NLT)
Paul’s asking the Corinthians, “what the heck are you doing?!?! Christ isn’t divided!!! So why are you trying to go and divide Him?” A little later in chapter three, Paul elaborates on the roles that Christ, Apollos, and even himself all play in the development of the church, as they are co-workers with Christ. He explains it in this way: he planted the seed, Apollos watered it, and God made it grow.
1. Paul planted the seed through preaching. (Romans 10.17)
2. Apollos watered the planted seed.
3. Christ brings about the growth (Ephesians 2.2)
(FOR YOU VISUAL LEARNING PEOPLE...)
Each party played a part in a person becoming a Christian and getting saved. Look again at verse 17. Paul makes it clearly known that his primary purpose was to plant the seeds, present the gospel to the Corinthians so that God’s Word could begin moving in them to bring about a decision of placing their faith and lives in Christ. Baptism is a marker event of a person becoming a Christian. It signifies that a person is crucifying their old self, so that they can live in Christ. It's seen as the identifying marker that a person has accepted Jesus (this is a position that is held across denominational lines). A person believes, repents, and is baptized. It's as simple as that. If you read through the book of Acts, every time a person made a decision to give their life to Christ, they were immediately baptized. Look here:
The two are connected. This is why Paul brings baptism into play here in this passage. He wasn't given the specific task of be there when people made the decision to become a Christian, although he was blessed with the privilege of being able to be there and take part in the decisions of Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas. Instead he was given the task of preaching the Gospel, which would begin that process within them.
All of this is only possible because of Jesus Christ. He’s the one that was crucified for us. Therefore He’s the one we were baptized into, not Paul and not Apollos. And since Christ is one and in Him there is no division, there should be no division among those of us who are in Him. This doesn't mean that we all have to have the same theological opinions and stances. In fact we are entitled to our own understanding s because we have freedom in Christ. If we had to have every single theological understanding perfectly correct in order to be a Christian and to have salvation in Christ, then every one of us would be in trouble, because none of us have everything 100% perfect! But thanks to Jesus, we don’t have to have everything 100% correct, because love and grace exist!
There are going to be some things in life that will seem acceptable to do to you, but unacceptable to others. There are going to be some things in life that will seem unacceptable to you, but acceptable to others. Unless that thing is a sin, a person has the freedom in Christ to do that something, in respect to his or her conscience. In Romans 14, Paul advises us:
“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.” (Romans 14.1 NLT)
He then uses the example of meat sacrificed to idols.
Here’s the history of this really quick. In the Roman Empire, there were pagan cults who were sacrifice animals and their meat to their ‘gods.’ It was a part of their worship that after they offered the meat up, there would be a meal where all of the worshipers would eat of that meat. Afterward, if there was any meat left over, it would be sold in the marketplace. Sounds harmless right? Well this proved troublesome to Christians in Rome. Many of the Roman Christians were converts who at one point in their lives had participated in these pagan worship services. Some of these believers quit participating in it, but others continued. It was troublesome for many of them when they saw other believers still participating in these worship services. Because there was a chance that this meat that was sacrificed to idols would be sold in the market place, many of these Christians quit eating meat altogether because it was impossible for you to determine if the meat you purchase in the marketplace was the same meat used in pagan worship. This is how the big conflict between eating and not eating meat arose within the early church. Paul wrote to the believers of multiple cities where this issue arose. I found a nice summary of his position that he wrote in Romans 14.
“I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.” (Romans 14.14-23 NLT)
It’s imperative that we use this principle in determining the things that we are able and that we ought not do. But whatever you decide, make sure that you don’t become a legalist and condemn or judge another if he/she arrives at the other decision than yours.
So what do we do? Maybe as I went through some of the characteristics of a Christian legalist, some of them hit uncomfortably at home, and you find yourself in the same situation I've found myself in many times of the course of my life. Well if you have, there’s good news, that can change. You want to know how? I’ll tell you. Here’s just a few of the things that will help:
- Give other Christians permission to be different from you.
- 1 Corinthians 12.6 (God works in different ways within us, but is the same God to all!)
- Keep your mouth shut and pray.
- Before you spout off to a person about his/her behavior, or talk about someone behind his/her back (which is gossip/slander…and a sin…), pray for him/her!
- Remember that God is still working on others, and on you!
- Philippians 1.6 – Salvation is a process. No one’s completely saved or sanctified (meaning made perfect) until they get to heaven.
- Practice the spiritual discipline of confession!
- Know the difference between the gospel according to the New Testament and the gospel according to you
- Negotiable vs non-negotiable stuff
Remember, the core of the Christian message is LOVE and GRACE!!!
Emily and I had a chance to travel down to Caswell, NC and help out with a youth retreat this past weekend. It was a blast! We had a lot of fun and it served as a short refreshing mini-vacation for Emily and I as well! =) I probably enjoyed it even more, only because the retreat happened to be at Fort Caswell, which is a former fort that was used beginning the in 1800's and going through WWI and WWII. Being the history nerd that I am, I absolutely LOVED IT! =) Anyway, it's certainly great to be back in Lock Haven and back with the students! Tonight we have another night that's been planned by the leadership team, so I'm looking forward to that! Thanks for reading! Until next time! =)