Don’t Build Your Life on Stumbling Blocks

August 8, 2021 Series: Romans

Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Romans 14:13–14:13

[13] Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. [14] I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. [15] For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. [16] So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. [17] For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [18] Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. [19] So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

[20] Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. [21] It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. [22] The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. [23] But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. - Romans 14:13–23

As we get started this week, let me ask you a question: what would those around you say that you’re building your life on / around? - What would others say you look to to find your solid foundation or even your centerpoint of life when things go awry...

Last week we started the discussion about the Disputable Matters of life.
Not discussing clearly stated sin areas, but doubtful things vs.1 (disputable matters, opinions)

“Look as I look, Do as I do...Then, & only then, I’ll fellowship with you.”

Let’s remember 3 things:
[1] The only option available to believers is true acceptance of one another in Christ.
[2] Christians may disagree on secondary things and be fully accepted by God.
[3] We all will appear before Christ's Judgement-Seat, giving an account of ourselves.

(V.13-19) Don’t Cause Stumbling

[13] Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. [14] I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. [15] For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. [16] So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. [17] For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [18] Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. [19] So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Paul isn't advocating for apathy toward others - He’s not calling for the abolition of objective standards.

The goal, in Paul’s setting the culture of the church, is to prevent obstacles in the way of others' spiritual development.

(v.13) Deciding on Distractions

[13] Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

ILLUS: Do you recall the last time that you met a good friend? One thing I’ve come to realize in life, is that friendships change over the years, some ebb and others flow. There’s almost a rhythm to it. I haven’t figured out what the rhythm is, I’ll confess, but I can tell there is one - It’s not a bad thing but, if you’re not prepared for it, the experiences of these changes can be jarring. I don’t say this to be discouraging, just realistic about what we experience in life.

When you last met a friend - not an acquaintance, a good friend, someone you’d end up inviting into your life, your home, those down moments, the times of rejoicing with one another… did you immediately throw down some random fact about you in order to test them? Cause them to trip and fall… what about setting a trap for them verbally? Trying to catch them in some way so they have to prove their ability to hang with you?

When would we ever say to someone: let’s build a friendship around our common interest in X, Y or Z related to our lives or even our faith?

I think in the church, while there may not be things like specific cliques as if we were an older version of the youth ministry, there may be ways that we use tests or traps to build up walls around ourselves… walls that, perhaps are trying to protect us from being hurt like we have been in the past with so-called friends… ways that we stay away from THAT part of the church, etc.

Things like music, fashion, drinking, dancing, schooling choices, working parents, etc. have become outside erosions from the world that tear away from the inward building up of one another that God wants to knit together in our gatherings.

Even doctrinally things like doctrines, fruit and work of the holy spirit, gifts, tongues and prophecy tend to become distractions (or worse, divisions) to what the main points of all of those truths, fruits and gifts are for - to love and serve one another.

Paul today wants to tear down those relational walls, he wants to clear the path of any obstacles for our relationships or any traps we might set for one another and remind us: in ‘not passing judgement’ we are also don’t set out hindrances/obstacles for one another or traps with our “Christian Liberties”.

Paul is making a distinction here between “giving” an offense and “taking” an offense - he is speaking to those who give offense. Making everything in life about this particular stance or that particular issue.

(v.14-16) Consider it Unclean

[14] I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. [15] For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. [16] So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.

No longer under the old covenant, Paul rejects the idea that some foods are unclean. Still, if someone believes particular foods are unclean, they are.

The apostle was echoing Jesus' remark in Mark 7:14-19 that nothing a man eats defiles him.

[14] And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: [15] There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” [17] And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. [18] And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, [19] since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) - Mark 7:14–19

Paul, in summarizing Jesus’ message, helps us understand that food and drink are ethically neutral (many are even called ‘good’ in God’s creating them) but, an activity may become unclean if it’s done the wrong way or with the wrong motives.

(v.17-19) Contemplating the Kingdom

[17] For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [18] Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. [19] So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

In our passage today Paul’s going to use ‘drink’ as it relates to Christian Liberty - last week it was meat & days - As I was thinking about why Paul might use these as an illustration, even as they were facing these debates in the church at the time, I was considering - what application is there for us in the church today?

Here’s what came to mind - in drawing these points out, as Paul has said up to this point in Romans, that we are to present ourselves as vessels before the Lord - days can represent the things we present the vessel of our bodies to and meat/drink can represent things we fill our vessels with - God wants Lordship over all of it! He wants us to present ourselves as living sacrifices before him and he wants to fill us with his Holy Spirit - empowered for the abundant life we’ve been called to. He also wants to be the Lord over the relationships we have with our brothers and sisters in the church.

His Lordship is what will ultimately lead to peace and mutual upbuilding as it says in v.19

(V.20-23) Kingdom Convictions

[20] Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. [21] It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. [22] The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. [23] But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

God finds our lack of faith, more than just disturbing, he finds our lack of faith dishonoring to him as we look to something else as the foundation for our lives. We look for righteousness in created things rather than their source -as well as our source- that is, the creator himself!

Paul concludes by drawing a distinction between belief and action, that is, between private conviction and public behavior. - John Stott

(v.20) Keeping the Kingdom from being destroyed

[20] Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.

Which is more important to you…the spiritual health of a fellow Christian -or- enjoying your freedoms in front of everyone? My fear is, we can so easily walk through our own lives in our own ways that we never even slow down enough to consider these things.

(v.21-23) Convinced of Convictions

[21] It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. [22] The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. [23] But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

ILLUS (R. Kent Hughes): Exercising Christian liberty is very much like walking a tightrope. As you walk the rope with balancing pole in hand, at one end of the pole is love for others and at the other is Christian liberty. When these are in balance, your walk is as it should be.

Adopt an attitude of concern for others & a sensitivity to their needs.

The basic concept of Theological Thoughtfulness 101: Being considerate isn’t just having nice manners!
It’s learning the sensitivities of your friends around you.
It’s observing what makes them uncomfortable. And,
It’s avoiding those things in their presence.

This is biblical love in action: [agape] it’s divine love placed in us through Christ, calling us to sacrifice and look beyond the surface things the world calls love to an unconditional acceptance of one-another so that we can serve one-another.

Look at the TailSpin of being Inconsiderate to these things that these verses spell out for us: Grieving(15); Stumbling(21a); Offending(21b); Weakening(21c); & possibly even Destroying(15,20).

Q: Is destroying another just to have your own way, worth it?

Closing Thought

As I’ve been praying through this passage and preparation this week, a thought occurred to me that I’d like to take a moment to share… I was thinking about the seasons of life represented throughout our church. That’s a beautiful thing, I believe. There are a wide variety of seasons of life, a diversity of backgrounds and cultures and a spectrum of ages (physically and in terms of spiritual maturity).

This actually means there’s tons of room to create all sorts of new stumbling blocks, obstacles or hindrances… a picture of all of this came to mind this week and I ran it past Stephanie to make sure it made sense was this:

May this not be so here, but… the church can at times feel like some form of “spiritual CrossFit” - the temptation exists to be better at creating “spiritual box jumps” rather than clearing the way for others to grow into health.

We're committed to be a place for individuals to be transformed by the power of God and grow in spiritual maturity. We do this for one another, for our witness and mission, for the Glory of God!

So, here's the challenge for today; Don't build your life on stumbling blocks...

Imagine how exhausting it would be as people work to find community or friendships that can actually, eventually lead to spiritual maturity if we just lay out, or build our lives on stumbling blocks...

Even worse than that, these ‘things’ or ‘boxes’ become the very things that we build our own lives on rather than Christ. They become our identity, our central issue, the hill we’re most willing to die on (so to speak…)

[4] As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, [5] you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 2:4–5

Again we see, we are called to offer spiritual offerings made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Our self-sacrifice for the Lord does not make us acceptable to God. In light of Jesus' tremendous act of redemption, we dedicate ourselves fully to the Lord of compassion. We also see what God’s work is in us and through us in the gathered church - being built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood!

Being built up - we have an answer in God’s Word to the question that you may find yourself asking today: What SHOULD I build my life on? - The answer we see throughout scripture tells us this: Build your life on the living stone that the builder rejected as 1 Peter goes on to say.

God’s Word connects us through these passages to the salvation people sought in enslavement, ancient prophecies, the Psalms, Hosea and ¾ of the gospels include that Jesus spoke of himself.

Psalm 61 speaks of being “led to the rock that is higher than I…” when our hearts are faint or weary. Psalm 118 in speaking of the steadfast love of the Lord tells us to find refuge in, build our lives upon this stone that the builders rejected…”

If you’re here today and what you’ve been building your life on, the things you put your hope and trust in for ‘good’, the ways you try to ‘keep your life together’ may have even become exhausting to the point of desperation for salvation. Today, turn from those things, whatever they are, and look to the savior. Jesus Christ. He is the one to build your life on, he is the only hope we have for salvation.

Church, let us, as Paul says in verse 13, collectively make a decision together, let us decide never to put a stumbling block in the way of a brother or a sister. Let us, in a healthy way that we think of one another, have consciences informed by God’s Timeless Word that we might be unified and maturing in our faith together and let us build the home of our heart on the rock that is higher than us!