Robert Jeffress - Drinking, Dancing and Doubtful Things
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". In many cases, scripture clearly defines whether something is right or wrong, but what about times when the Bible isn't so clear? Today we're going to look at a passage that describes how Christians can determine what is right and wrong when the Bible doesn't give a black and white answer. My message is titled "Drinking, Dancing, and Doubtful Things" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Well, it's time for another one of our First Baptist Dallas opinion polls. You know there are polls being taken right now about a variety of subjects, so I thought it'd be a chance for you to give your input about some subjects as well. So I'm going to make four statements, I'm going to ask you to agree or disagree with each of these statements, okay? Statement number one, you can be a dedicated Christian and drink alcoholic beverages on a regular basis. We're not talking about getting drunk, we're talking about just regularly having wine with your dinner or something else. You can be a dedicated Christian and drink alcoholic beverages on a regular basis. How many of you agree with that statement? Would you raise your hand? How many of you disagree with that statement? Would you raise your hand?
All right. Question number two, it's best for Christians not to shop on Sundays. If you agree with that statement, would you raise your hand? How many of you would disagree? You say Christians shouldn't shop on Sundays, okay? Question number three, Christian parents should discourage their children from celebrating Halloween. If you agree with that statement, raise your hand. Okay, if you disagree with that statement, raise your hand. Final question. Church staff members should refrain from dancing in public. If you agree with that statement raise your hand. If you disagree, raise your hand.
Now, did you notice the variety of opinions on those topics? I mean, with such a divergence of opinion on these subjects, how can we ever hope to get along as a church? How can we worship together? How can we be on mission together if we are sharply divided on these issues? After all, didn't Amos the Prophet say, "How can two people walk together unless they are agreed"? How can Christians get along when they disagree with one another? Well, that's the topic we're going to look at today from Romans chapter 14. If you have your Bibles, turn to Romans chapter 14 as we talk about "Drinking, Dancing, and Doubtful Things". Romans chapter 14. Romans 14 is about how to get along with fellow believers with whom you disagree about those issues the scripture does not address specifically. We're going to be talking about the gray areas of the Christian life.
Now the theme of Romans is the righteousness of God. That is a right standing with God is available to anyone who trusts in Christ. That's what the word righteousness means, a right standing with God. And remember the outline that we followed in Romans. First of all chapters 1 to 3 deal with the problem of righteousness. What is the problem of righteousness? The problem of righteousness is none of us have it on our own. None of us has it on our own. We are all sinners, we've all fallen short of the glory of God. We have no righteousness of our own. But then secondly, Paul talks about the provision for righteousness. Even though we don't have any righteousness, God has plenty of it, and he offers it to us through Christ Jesus.
When we trust in Christ as our Savior, God clothes us in the righteousness, the perfection of his Son, and that righteousness is available to anyone who asks for it. We all need God's forgiveness, the Bible says. But we have to be willing to ask for it and that's what Romans chapters 3 to 5 are about, God's provision for righteousness. And then the power of righteousness in Romans 6 through 8. That is, once you're in a right standing with God, you have the power of the Holy Spirit to give you victory over sin. And then, the program of righteousness. A right standing with God, Romans 9 to 11, is available to anyone, Jew or Gentile. And then finally, we get to the section we're in now, Romans 12 through 16, the practice of righteousness. How should being in a right relationship with God affect our life every day?
Now, it's interesting to me that Paul devotes the largest amount of this section to the subject we are talking about today. Now some of you are going to wonder, Pastor, why are you spending two Sundays talking about the doubtful areas of the Christian life? Why spend so much time on this subject? Well, the simple answer is because Paul does. I mean, it's interesting when you look at Romans 12 through 16 on the subject of developing a Christian mindset, he only spends two verses. "Don't be conformed to this world. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind". When it comes to spiritual gifts, very important subject, he just devotes six verses to it. When it talks about how to live in light of Christ's return, seven verses. When he talks about how to respond to government, he gives 13 verses on it, but when he talks about this area of the gray issues of the Christian life, he spends 35 verses talking about this.
Why is this such a central issue? Very simply, because the local church is the body, it is the representation of Jesus Christ. Do you realize the world cannot see Jesus right now? Jesus isn't here on earth, the world can't see Jesus. Jesus has left the building, so to speak. He's not here, but he's left his body here and that body is called the church. We are Christ's body and individually members of it. And that means, how the world looks at us, what the world thinks of us is what they end up thinking about Jesus Christ. If they see a bunch of Christians who are fighting and devouring one another with criticism, do you think that attracts them to Jesus? It repulses them, and that is why it is so important that we, as a church, learn to love one another, even those with whom we disagree. It is the greatest testimony of the authenticity and reality of Jesus Christ.
That's why Paul spent so much time on this subject. The late Ray Stedman once said, "The favorite indoor sport of Christians is trying to make other Christians like us". Well, Paul says in this section, "Don't do that". In fact, if I were going to outline Romans 14, I would do it this way, I would say verses 1 to 12 deal with our responsibility to respect the convictions of others with whom we disagree. Our responsibility to respect the conviction of others. Verses 13 to 23 that we're going to look at next time, our responsibility to refrain from conduct that offends other people, that is, it leads them to sin. Now let me give you this caveat before we begin looking at Paul's words today. At the end of this message, I guarantee some of you are going to walk out of here and say, "I'm not sure what I thought of the Pastor's message today.
I sure wish he would have spent more time dealing with this issue, talking against this issue, pointing out the dangers of this..." I'm not doing that today because Paul doesn't do that. He doesn't argue the pros and cons of certain behavior. The theme of these first 13 verses is respect the convictions of those with whom you disagree. Now, let's look at the text itself, what was the problem Paul was addressing with the church in Rome? There were two controversies in the church at Rome. First of all, the issue of diet, what we eat and drink. Look at verses 1 and 2, "Now except the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only". There was a controversy in the church raging over whether Christians ought to eat meat or not. There was a second controversy, beyond diet, that is food and drink, and it had to do with special days, the observance of special days.
Look at verses 5 and 6, "One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day observes it for the Lord, and he who eats does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God, and he who eats not for the Lord, he does not eat and gives thanks to God". What was he talking about, special days? Well many people believe he was talking about the Sabbath. You know, under Judaism, the Jews worship on Saturday, Saturdays, and in addition to worshipping, they had all kind of restrictions as to what you could and couldn't do on the Sabbath. Well, when they became Christians, many of those Jewish converts brought their restrictions about the Sabbath into their worship on Sunday. After the resurrection, the day of worship was changed from Saturday to Sundays for Christians, and yet some Jews brought those restrictions and placed them on Sunday.
There were certain things you could or could not do on Sundays. They observed the Sabbath on Sunday. Other Christians, they said "Hey, as long as we worship, don't forsake the assembling together of ourselves on Sunday, we're free to do whatever we want". Now you know, you find the same thing going on today. There are many Christians who believe there are a list of restrictions of what you shouldn't do on Sundays. You know, you shouldn't shop, you shouldn't go out to eat, you sure shouldn't go to the movies. Some people who say they have the freedom, they point to Mark 2:27, "And as Jesus was saying to them, the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath". Jesus said the reason God gave the Sabbath was not for us to help it, it was a gift to us.
What is Paul saying in these verses about the issue of diet or days or doubtful things? He's simply saying live and let live. Let people be persuaded in their own mind, don't judge other people. You know, you can't help but notice the difference in Paul's attitude here and what he said in Colossians and Galatians. For example, remember the problem in Galatians? There was a group in the church called the Judaizers, and they were saying to be a Christian, yes you need to trust in Christ, but you need to keep the law, the Old Testament law. Did Paul say to them, "Well, just live and let live"? Not on your life. In Galatians 1:8 he said, "But even though we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a Gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, let that person be accursed," anathema, literally let him go to hell.
"If anybody adds to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and says it is anything other than grace received through faith, that person is damned". But here he's kind of nonchalant about it, if they want to do it, fine, if they don't want to do it, fine. Why is that? Because in Galatians the Judaizers were talking about salvation. They were saying, "You need to keep these restrictions in order to be saved". Now, the key verse in Romans 14:13 is, "Quit judging one another". Now let me again remind you we're talking about areas that the Bible doesn't address specifically. Situations like adultery, drunkenness, theft, I mean, these issues that the Bible judges very specifically, we don't have the freedom to disobey God's Word. We're talking about the gray areas of the Christian life, areas in which Christians disagree.
Paul is saying in this passage, in these areas, when you're with somebody you disagree with, instead of judging that person or looking at that person with contempt, we are to accept that person as a fellow brother and sister in Christ. Why are we to do that? Notice the three answers Paul gives to that question. Why should we quit judging and start accepting? First of all, because God accepts that brother with whom you disagree. That's going to be hard for some of you to stomach, but God accepts the Christian who chooses to drink just as much as he accepts the Christian who refrains from drinking. He accepts the Christian who likes traditional music just as much as he accepts the Christian who likes contemporary music. He accepts the Christian who likes to dance as well as the Christian who doesn't dance, the one who goes to the movies, the one who doesn't go to the movies, the one who's a Democrat as much as the one who's Republican. God doesn't have any favorites, both are accepted by him.
That's what he says in verse 3, "Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat and let not him who does not judge him who eats for God has accepted him". One writer gives a vivid word description of this, he said, "Imagine a great chasm, a great divide like the Grand Canyon. You're on one side and there's another side way over there and a deep chasm between the two". He said, "The problem with most Christians is we put the chasm in the wrong place. We think the dividing line is between Christians who like contemporary music and those who like traditional, those who drink and those who don't drink. those who are Republican and those who are Democrats. No, that's not where the chasm is, the great divide is between those who trust in Christ as Savior and those who don't".
That's the dividing line. We've got to quit putting the dividing line where it doesn't belong. The second reason we are to quit judging and start accepting other Christians, is secondly, because God is responsible for them. God is the one who is responsible for those Christians with whom we disagree. They are not responsible to us, they're responsible to God, and that's what he says in verse 4, "Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand". If that Christian with whom you disagree is wrong, guess what? God will take care of it. God will correct him if he needs correction, it is none of your business. That's the point.
Thirdly, why should we accept Christians with whom we disagree? Because God will judge them. God accepts them, God is responsible for them, and one day God will judge them. Now, listen, don't come away from this message saying, "Well, look, if the scripture doesn't prohibit it, I'm free to do whatever I want to do". Oh, oh, no, that's not the theme at all, as we'll see next time. We have a responsibility. First of all, we have a responsibility to other Christians. Our freedom ends when it negatively impacts another Christian. We're gonna talk about that next time. We are part of one another. No Christian is an island in to himself, that's what he says in verse 7, "For not one of us lives for himself and not one dies for himself".
1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul said, "For we are Christ's body and individually members of it". I mean think about it, I mean, your finger, your finger isn't free to run off and do whatever it wants to, it's connected to the rest of the body. One cell in your body isn't free. In fact, if it starts acting on its own, we have a condition we call, it's called cancer, a maverick cell in our body. No, it's all connected. And Christians are connected to one another. What you do has a profound effect on other believers. No, Christians are responsible to other Christians, but we are also responsible to God, we're not free agents. We're one day going to give an account to God for what we do, and that's what he says in verse 8.
"For if we live, we live for the Lord. If we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we all are the Lord's". Remember in our study on Bible prophecy, we talked about the judgment that every Christian is going to face. It's called the judgment seat of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:9 and 10, Paul says, "Therefore, we have as our ambition, whether at home, that is, whether here on earth or absent with God, we have as our goal to be pleasing to him, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one of us may be recompensed for his deeds in the body according to what he has done, whether it is good or bad".
Have you ever heard people say, "Oh, God really doesn't care what we do. It's he just cares about who we are. He cares about our character, not our actions". Remember that Greek word baloney? Notice the evaluation of our life is not what we are on the inside, it's also what we do. We're facing an evaluation one day, even as a Christian, of our life, so we can be rewarded according to what we have done, whether it is good or whether it is bad. Now Paul is talking about that same truth in verses 10 to 12 of Romans 14, he says, "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God".
There it is again, the bema, the judgment seat of Christ. And then he quotes from Isaiah 45, "For as it is written, 'As I live says, the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' So then each one of us shall give an account of himself to God". Whatever we choose to do or not do, it oughtta be with a realization that one day, even as Christians, we're going to be judged by God. It's not a judgment of condemnation, determining whether we go to heaven or hell, that's already been settled, but it is a judgment of commendation, of rewards. And that's why before you choose to engage in any activity that is gray, that is questionable, there oughtta be three questions that you ask yourself before you say yes, I want you to write them down.
Number one, do I have any doubt that this is right? Before you drink that wine, before you participate in that dance, before you go to that movie, whatever it is, ask yourself the question, is there anything inside of me that says this isn't right? If so, Paul says don't do it. Verse 5 says, "Let every man be fully convinced in his own mind". You know why you shouldn't do it if you have any doubt at all? Because it means you're violating your conscience. We're going to talk about the conscience next week. A conscience is an internal warning system that God places in every Christian and not every person's conscience is the same, it's a very personalized instrument.
God knows us so well, he knows where we should go and where we shouldn't go. And whenever we start toward a behavior that is going to hurt us or hurt somebody we influence, that little warning sound, beep beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, starts going off. It's a warning to us, we don't need to go there, not because it is absolutely immoral and wrong, but because it's wrong for us. And whenever you violate your conscience, you can harden your conscience to the point you can't feel anything any longer. The guidance system doesn't work any longer. That's why it's so important, you not violate your conscience. If it's wrong for you, it's wrong. Do I have any doubt that this is right?
Number two, can I thank God for this activity? Look at verse 6. "He who observes the day observes it for the Lord, and he who eats does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God. And he who does not eat, for the Lord he does not eat and he gives thanks to God". What he's saying here is, before you indulge in this activity, ask yourself is this something I can sincerely thank God for? Before I lift that glass of wine, before I participate in this activity, before I listen to that CD, before I go to that movie, can I really say, "God, thank you so much for bringing this into my life"? If you can't thank God for it honestly, you shouldn't do it.
Question number three, will I be embarrassed at the judgment seat of Christ? That's what he's talking about in verses 10 to 12, knowing that one day your life is going to be evaluated by God, every part of it. Is this something you're going to be embarrassed about that's on your life's record? There's a fourth question we're going to look at next time and that is, how will my choice affect other people? Will it help them or will it hurt them? What this point is in verses 1 to 13 is simply this, quit judging other Christians with whom you disagree. Just because that person doesn't agree with you, doesn't mean necessarily that they're wrong. If you have a list, again, live by your list, but keep your list to yourself, I promise if you'll do that, you'll live a longer and a healthier and a happier life.