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Common Sense and the Holy Spirit January 24, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Body of Christ, Christian Liberty, Guidance, Holy Spirit, Leadership, Religion, Sermons.
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During the past four weeks, we have seen that the Bible teaches that those who put their faith in Christ alone for salvation, receive the person of the Holy Spirit for indwelling. The power of the Holy Spirit for witnessing of Christ is promised. This power or ability to witness of Christ is displayed in us through the filling of the Spirit.

There are, however, those who resist the Word of God, the gospel of Christ but even among them, the power of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by the life of the Apostle Paul, can wake a man up and bring him to salvation.

Further, every believer is selected by the Spirit to function within the body in reaching the world with the gospel of Christ as well in edifying one another.

There are, of course, many obstacles (which is part of why the book of Acts is such fascinating reading) but the body of Christ is equipped with COMMON SENSE FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT. This common sense guides us in overcoming some of these obstacles.
Acts 15:1-33

If ever there is an area of life open to the non-sensical, it is that of guidance. Haddon Robinson in “Decision-Making by the Book” tells the oft-repeated story of a man who was “…attempting to discover the mind of God by taking his chances with the Bible. He simply shut his eyes, opened up his Bible, and put his finger on a passage. Opening his eyes, he read this passage from Matthew 27: ‘Then he went away and hanged himself.’ Somehow, the fellow didn’t think that gave him any direction for his problem, so he closed his eyes again and opened his Bible to another passage. He looked and read Jesus’ statement in Luke 10: ‘Go and do likewise.’ That wasn’t quite what he was looking for either, so he tried one more time. He shut his eyes, opened his Bible, and read the statement in John 2:5, “Do whatever he tells you.’”

Now this is a humorous story but it points out that there are times when we face difficulties and problems so difficult that the temptation to forsake common sense is great.

Now there are many ways to maintain common sense. Being married to a good spouse, listening to the advice of wise parents, and seeking the counsel of experts in a certain field are all ways to maintain common sense in our actions and decisions. We, however, also have, as these people in Jerusalem had, the Holy Spirit within us both as individuals and as a church. He is the source of all knowledge and of all common sense. Today I would like for us to look at three lessons that the common sense given by the Holy Spirit teaches the body of Christ.

A. The common sense given us by the Holy Spirit teaches us to depend on God’s Word for guidance (Acts 15:15-19). This should not surprise us, since we know that the Holy Spirit is the divine author of the Scriptures. Yet we have already seen that it is possible to use the Scriptures without the common sense given by the Holy Spirit.

What then do I mean when I say the common sense given us by the Holy Spirit teaches us to depend on God’s Word for guidance? It teaches us to understand God’s perspective of this world. These people had a tough problem to solve. It potentially could lead to the first division within the church along religious/ethnic lines and to the weakening of the body of Christ. The problem could not simply be solved by the apostles proclaiming, “We said so!” That is why, after Peter spoke from his own personal experience and Paul and Barnabas reported on what God had done among the Gentiles, James, the writer of the epistle of James stood up and quoted or read from Amos 9:11-12.

Now Amos is talking about the millennial kingdom which is still future for us. It would seem that this might not apply. James, however, understood God’s plan for mankind as revealed in the Old Testament and understood that God’s plan is not to make Gentiles into Jewish proselytes but rather to make Jew and Gentile alike one people in Christ. God’s plan is to join the two groups of believers spiritually and not culturally.

WHY WE NEED A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

It is important for us to have a biblical perspective on life because perspective answers the “why” questions of life (idea from Rick Warren). Perspective will cause us to love God more. It will help us to handle trials, “My brethren count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2-3, 12). It will help us to love God more and to resist temptation, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity towards God” (James 4:4). I was speaking with one of our men this week who pointed out that his awareness that sin will keep him from some of the blessings of God helps him to resist temptation. Where does that come from? It comes from a biblical perspective of temptation and blessings.

This Holy Spirit taught dependence on God’s Word for guidance will protect us from error. This is what is happening in this chapter. Will the church fall into the error of performing rituals for salvation or will they continue to teach that Christ alone is the way of salvation? Because of the biblical perspective taught by James and accepted by the church, they did not fall into the trap of salvation by good works. Biblical perspective is not about being right about truth. It is about knowing how to live truth. That is why we have been looking at the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts and why on Wednesday nights we have been tackling the issue of perseverance in salvation. It is one of the reasons I encourage you to be in Sunday School. You need a biblical perspective of life. We need to know how to live the truth.

Now this does not mean that all the problems you will ever have are addressed in the Bible. There are many times when we have no specific answer in the Scripture for our particular problem. These people did not have a clear Old Testament verse that directly addressed their problem. They did though have the Scriptures and they had the Holy Spirit to give them common sense in discerning what they should do.

B. The common sense given by the Holy Spirit teaches us to work together for solutions (Acts 15:1-7, 22-27, 30-33). Again, this should make sense to us. Just as the Holy Spirit is the author of the Scriptures, He is the one who unites us together into the body of Christ. So it seems reasonable to conclude that if we are all baptized by the same Spirit into the body of Christ, we should be able as a body to work together for solutions. We know, however, that this is not always easy. Some issues are especially tough.

a. We cannot get around these issues because particularly tough issues often demand solutions (Acts 15:1-7). There are several reasons for this. Tough issues demand solutions, because the consequences of a decision made are significant. There are times when the consequences are clear but we do not like them. Sometimes, though, the consequences are unclear. In either case, it can make coming to a solution difficult.

The consequences of the tough issue facing the church in this case are made clear for us by Peter in verses 7-11. There was a danger of sinning against God by tempting Him (verse 10). Peter says that God has already spoken in this case. He has already made it clear that all, both Jew and Gentile are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and not through the yoke of the law. James followed that with his statement in verse 19, “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

b. Particularly tough issues demand action by the body (Acts 15:22-23, 30-33). Now it would have been easy for Peter and James to have simply dictated to the people the proper action. They had apostolic and pastoral authority to which they could have appealed. Paul also by reason of his apostolic call from God with Barnabas also could have bypassed the other apostles and the church in Jerusalem and simply done whatever it was that they wanted. They were after all both prophets (Acts 13:1-4). The church at Antioch could have declared its independence of the church of Jerusalem and kicked the troublemakers out. None of these things happened.

i. First, the church of Antioch chose to consult with the apostles and elders of Jerusalem (15:2). There was mutual accountability that went beyond apostolic authority. Paul in Galatians 1-2 makes it clear that his authority was equal to that of the original apostles. What we have here is an understanding that we as churches are accountable to each other.

ii. Secondly, the view point of other believers within the body was heard (15:5). For fifteen years there had been no doctrinal controversy within the church. There had been many changes. Now the problem arose and within the body there were believers (not outsiders) who wanted to require circumcision for Gentile and Jew alike. Rather than attacking the people, the leaders met together for serious consideration of the issue.

iii. Third, considerable time was given to consider the truth. God could have given them a revelation at the time to settle the matter but He did not. He allowed the body of Christ to function through the guidance of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Peter, recounted the story of Cornelius which was well known but was important to the issue. Paul and Barnabas then recounted according to verse 12 how that God had worked in the Gentiles in Asia Minor similarly to how He had worked in Cornelius’ situation. Then James confirmed that this was consistent with the Word of God by quoting Amos and then giving his judgment of how to deal with this problem.

iv. After all this, the leadership and the congregation decided to follow James’ recommendation, sending two of their leaders and prophets to encourage the church of Antioch in their carrying out the requirements given. Notice that both congregations acted within their own membership and in their relationship to each other as the body of Christ. They did not act as a democracy. A physical body is not a democracy and neither is the body of Christ. Neither, however, did the leadership as a whole act as a dictatorship. You see, the apostles and elders and prophets and other leaders are not the head of the church. Christ is the head. They function merely as a part of the body. Both extremes much be avoided. We are not a democracy nor a monarchy but rather a body under the headship of Christ and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. That is why these two churches and their leaders acted with common sense and that is what we should seek to do also.

C. The common sense given by the Holy Spirit teaches us the right balance of boldness and sensitivity (Acts 15:7-12; 20-21; 28-29). This balance comes when we give priority to what the Holy Spirit gives priority to, the truth of the gospel of Christ.

a. Boldness is needed to protect the truth of the gospel (15:7-12). Those who wanted to require circumcision were a powerful group. They continued to plague both the church at Jerusalem as well and Paul throughout the next few years. In fact, Paul recounts for us in Galatians 2 where Peter later lacked the boldness he needed to stand against these very same people. And lest you think that Paul was perfect in this matter, he recounts for us in 2 Corinthians that he was not always as bold as he could have and perhaps should have been. We need, however, to understand that we need to be bold for the gospel of Christ. If we had been as bold for the gospel of Christ as we have been for moral values over the last two hundred or so years, the spiritual landscape of this country might look much differently. We cannot do anything about the past but we can right now at Grace Bible Church make the gospel of Christ our top priority. We can do it and we must do it. It is the priority of God’s Word and it is the priority of the Holy Spirit and it is the priority of Jesus Christ. His gospel must be our priority also.

b. Sensitivity is needed to propagate the truth of the gospel (15:20-21; 28-29). Notice particularly verse 21. The reason given for these requirements is because of unbelieving Jews. James and the church at Jerusalem did not want the gospel to be hindered because of Gentile liberty. Now some of the things in the list are clearly sinful and some are debated even today. The point of this list is that there are certain behaviors both sinful and possibly non-sinful that can hinder the propagation of the gospel of Christ and we need to take that into consideration.

An example of this might be in a Moslem country where to lay a Bible on the ground would be highly offensive to a Moslem. A holy book deserves the respect of the high place. While that may seem silly to us, if we are aware of that, then we will avoid appearing to blaspheme God through careless behavior.

An example that hits much closer to home might be my approach to abortion. I am convinced from Scriptures that we should oppose abortion and in democracy we have the right to oppose abortion. Our opposition though should not blaspheme the gospel. When Christians in their opposition to abortion take on or defend unbiblical actions and attitudes, then they have forgotten the common sense that the Holy Spirit gives to the body.

Are you practicing Holy Spirit given common sense in your decisions, in your life? Let us learn the Word and accountability within the body and witness to the Word of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is in those activities that the Holy Spirit teaches us the common sense we need to be the church in this world.

Next Week: Proverbs 30:1-6 “Confidence in Life”

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What to do when you are in doubt about an issue? July 29, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Character, Christian Liberty, Judgment Seat of Christ, Romans, Sermons, Spiritual Emotions, Teamwork.
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Back from vacation…I’m interrupting the Sunday morning series on God’s Word to deal with an important issue.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE IN DOUBT

Romans 14:1-15:7

 

INTRODUCTION: When Christ died for us, He saved us from our sin and gave us a new nature. That is what Romans 1-8 is all about. In Romans 12-16, Paul describes how that new nature is to be lived out. Living God’s love out in your life affects every area in your life including those issues where the Bible does not clear up every doubt that you might have about that issue. That is the subject of chapter 14 and the first part of chapter 15.

 

BEGINNING WITH THE END 

Paul ends his instructions on doubtful issues with the instructions to receive each other in this area of doubtful issues just as Christ has received us. This is the general principle that we are to apply when someone disagrees with us over a doubtful issue.

 

It is important at this juncture to define what a doubtful issue is. A doubtful issue is any issue in which I am convinced in my mind that there is freedom but that other believers with whom I have close contact feel there is not this same freedom.

OKAY, GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE. 

We have two examples in this passage.

 

Romans 14:2 mentions that some believe that all things edible are lawful, but others for spiritual reasons eat only vegetables.

Romans 14:5 mentions that some believe that all days are the same, but others for spiritual reasons observe some days as being holy.

 

There are a lot of these types of issues.

  1. Some believe drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation is lawful, but others for spiritual reasons practice total abstinence.

  2. Some believe that Sunday is no different than any other day of the week, but others for spiritual reasons observe Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath”.

  3. Some believe that each Christian should vote his conscience; others for spiritual reasons prefer to vote either Republican or Democrat or perhaps even not at all.

  4. Some believe that corporate prayer in a small group is relatively unimportant, others find it to be a necessity for our spiritual growth and fellowship.

  5. Some believe that all types of music can be used for the glory of God in public worship, others believe that we should limit our worship music to a relatively small selection of types.

  6. Some believe that the mode of baptism is unimportant, others feel for spiritual reasons we should practice baptism by immersion only.

  7. Some believe that there is freedom in how we educate our children, others believe that only public schools or Christian schools or home schools are legitimate methods of education.

  8. Some believe that holidays like Halloween or the pagan practices that have been integrated into our Christmas and Easter celebrations are harmless, others believe that they are dangerous to one degree or another.

  9. Some believe that there is some freedom in the matter of divorce and remarriage, others believe that divorce and remarriage are forbidden in every case no matter the circumstances.

These are all issues that in our fellowship have been discussed at one time or another during the past two years. These are all issues over which good Christians disagree. There is debate as to what the Bible teaches in these areas. In the minds of some there is doubt as to that the Bible teaches in these areas.

AN ISSUE TO WHICH THERE IS NO DOUBT 

As we have seen already, there is no doubt as to how we are to treat the opposing side. We are to receive each other in this area of doubtful issues just as Christ has received us.

 

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      We are to receive, we are to welcome as honored friends, according to 14:3, those believers who disagree with us, because they have been received by God. This is independent of how they treat us. This is independent of any offense we may feel they have committed against us. Why? Verse 4 tells us why. He is God’s. God will take care of him or her if they are wrong. That is the only basis on which we can deal with each other. Only God can determine who is truly right or truly wrong and we should leave it to Him to take care of.

  • How did Christ receive us (15:7)? The word implies hospitality, to be welcomed as a friend. When we receive Christ as Savior we are received as honored friends into His kingdom and that is how we are to treat those who disagree with us in these issues over which there is doubt. We find this same word used twice in 14:1-3. There are two things that are important to understand from these two verses.

SO HOW DOES THIS WORK?

Verse 1 gives us the practical application of these principles. If you have a broader understanding of Scriptures than those who are on the other side of the issue, receive them, welcome them as honored friends. Don’t debate them (verse 1). Don’t despise them or hold them in contempt (verses 3 and 10). Do not grieve and destroy your brother or sister in Christ (verse 15). Don’t dissolve the work of God (verse 20). Don’t cause them to stumble (verse 21).  

OBJECTION #1

Does that not make us a slave of those who disagree with us if we submit or we acknowledge our differences as legitimate differences. Look at verse 18. We are to be slaves in these matters, slaves of Christ. We do that, according to verse 19, by pursuing peace and edification. The word “pursue” is used in other places to mean “persecution”. We are to chase peace and edification like a hound dog trying to tree a ‘coon. This is not passive. This is very, very active. All you have to do to understand this, is to lay in bed at night and listen to a pack of ‘coon dogs in the distance chasing a raccoon or a ‘possum. They get closer and closer and louder and louder and more excited and more excited, that is the way that we are to pursue peace and edification of those with whom we disagree, without debating them but rather, if necessary, submitting to them.

OBJECTION #2 – BUT THAT IS A TERRIBLE BURDEN

You are correct! Not only are we to pursue peace but according to Romans 15:1 we are to bear with the scruples of those with a stricter conscience than ours, not by pleasing ourselves but by pleasing, i.e., accommodating ourselves to the opinions, desires, and interests of others. Paul does not pretend this is easy. The word “bear” implies something burdensome, something heavy, something that is perhaps exhausting to carry. That is why the picture of Jesus pleasing us, accommodating Himself to our interests, bearing our reproach in 15:3 is such a beautiful picture of what we need to do. In the same way that Christ bore our sins for our interest we are to bear the opinions of others for their good and their edification.

OBECTION #3 – HOW ABOUT THEM? 

This does bring us to a very thorny problem. What is the responsibility of the person with the stricter conscience? Are those with a less strict conscience at the mercy of those with a stricter conscience?

Romans 14:3b answers this question for us. Just as those with a broader understanding of the issue are not to despise those with a stricter understanding, those with a stricter understanding are not to judge, not to criticize, not to look on them as a criminal or to dispute with them as before a court of law. When they do this, even if they are right in their opinion, they are doing several things…

TAKING THE PLACE OF CHRIST

According to verses 4 and 10-12, the believer with a judgmental attitude has taken the place that belongs only to God. The place of judgment. The place of evaluation. Obviously, the Bible teaches that we can and should evaluate others to see if they are qualified for certain responsibilities or to know if they are believers of the truth or not but it is left to Jesus Christ alone to judge our opinions and how we lived them out. That is not my place and that is not your place.

CHRIST DIED FOR UNITY NOT UNANIMITY

According to verses 8-9, the critical believer has not only taken the place of God but he has attempted to destroy the unity for which Christ died. Christ died to save us from our sin, He died to give us an eternity with Him but He also died to make us one body in Him. He died that we as a body of believers might be united together in Him. Verse 15 warns us not to destroy with our critical attitude, those for whom Christ died. Romans 15:5-6 sums this up for both sides of the issue: “Be like-minded according to Christ.”

THE QUESTION FINALLY ANSWERED

There is a third group that is addressed in chapter 14. First, there are those with a broad understanding of an issue. Then, there are those with a narrow understanding of the issue. Finally, there are those who are not sure where they stand on an issue. There are two commands to this group. These commands apply to all of us but they are especially appropriate for those who are in doubt, those at whom the title of this sermon is directed.

ESTABLISH YOUR CONVICTIONS

Command #1 is given in 14:5—Be fully persuaded in your own mind. Do not let there be a shadow of a doubt about your position. Investigate, try to understand the issue. Paul expands on this concept in verse 14. He says, “I know and am convinced, persuaded, not just by logical arguments but by Jesus Christ that the opinion I hold is right.” He says though, “There are others who are not so convinced and if they are not convinced then they should stay away from the broader position.” Why? Because in verse 20 it is evil, it is bad, for one to partake, to be a participant of something of which their mind is not convinced that it is okay.

DON’T PARTAKE UNTIL YOUR CONVICTIONS ARE ESTABLISHED.

This brings us to the second command. It is implied in verses 22-23. “He who doubts is condemned, is damned if he eats.” If you are not convinced, don’t you dare follow the broader understanding of the issue. That is simple but that is the way that you should look at issues for which you are not convinced in your mind about the truth.

What is certain is that as a believer, whatever my opinion is, I am to fulfill the law of love in everything I do. There is not one area in my life, in which I cannot express the love of Christ. When I give up my rights the way God wants me to give up my rights, when I refuse to criticize and judge and condemn, that is, view others with the attitude God wants me view them, when I honor as a friend those believers, even though they differ with me on various issues, I am showing God’s love in my life. It does not really matter what your position is, if you have the stricter or the broader position or no certain position at all, you are to love your brother as Christ has loved you.

Last year I preached from this same chapter and mentioned a number of issues, many more than I have mentioned this morning that raised the eyebrows of a number of people. One of those was mode of baptism. In that area, I have a stricter conscience than some other believing Christians. I am not talking about liberals but people with solid Christian credentials. I believe they are wrong. The constitution of this church holds them to be wrong. I must follow my conscience but my attitude toward them must be Christian. Perhaps we cannot work together in the same church because of this issue but I am not to judge them, that is Christ’s responsibility.

AN INVITATION TO THE FAMILY OF GOD

We have talked today about some family matters. I trust that you understand that we have a wonderful family and Christ is the head of our family. The only way to become a part of His family is to be received by Him as an honored friend.

The only way to be received by Christ is to understand that you are a sinner. Like a sheep gone astray, your end is doom. You are spiritually condemned by God but Jesus bore your sins in His body on the cross so that you might become righteous, acceptable before God. Jesus paid your sin debt, was condemned, and punished for your sins. When you trust Christ as Savior your debt of sin is paid in full and you are received into the wonderful family of God.

Will you trust Jesus today and be received into His family?