Love Your Brother
April 18, 2015
The themes of these last chapters is offering your life. Paul says- ‘I urge you brethren, offer your life, your bodies as a living sacrifice.’ And he goes on- ‘Don’t be conformed to this world. Be transformed.’ See, this is the point of the whole thing, when you give your life as a sacrifice to the Lord, he will transform you. How does he do that? By renewing your mind. And this is really a very important thing. It’s the change that comes. When you come to Christ, the point is, you came out in the world. And you brought a lot of the world with you. And that’s the very thing that God wants to transform. In other words, a lot of our thinking is worldly. It’s coming right out of the world that we came out of. We need to think with godly judgement, sound thoughts. The best way to have godly and sound judgement, the scripture tells us, is to have a plum line, by which we can compare our thinking to that of God. The plum line of God is Christ himself- his character, his ways, his word. Build your life right next to that plum line and you’ll see all that needs to be transformed. Compare your thoughts to his, your ways to his.
Now, when God says that he transforms us, by the renewing of the mind, that suggests change. That suggests that the old must be made new- old thoughts, old ways, got to go. But see, now here’s where the rub it. This is where the difficulty arises. Many people are set in their ways and they don’t like the idea of change. But transformation is all about change. And this is important, see, because, Paul likens it to a mirror. And he says- ‘you know, it’s like this, you have a mirror and you look in the mirror and you see- Oh, there’s spinach is your teeth. Well, the point it, do something about that. If you look in the mirror and you see there’s mustard on your face, do something about that.’ It shows you what needs to be corrected. And actually, this is read also out of James. James 1:23-24 ‘If anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he’s like a man who looks at his face in the mirror. Once he’s looked at himself, and gone away, he immediately has forgotten what kind of person he was. You know, it’s interesting, there in the book of James when he says that he’s like a man looking in a mirror. He actually uses the word man or male, in other words. Suggesting, perhaps, that women understand the value of a mirror more than a man does. That’s kind of the suggestion, right? A guy looks at a mirror and glances at it and looks away. But women, you know, have a whole series of mirrors. They understand the value of a mirror. You know, they get up and they look in the mirror and the first mirror they look at is really to assess the damage from the night before. Then they have their makeup mirror with the magnification, you know, to really understand the delicacies and the intricacies, of what they’re doing. Then they have the full length mirror, to make sure that everything is looking just right. And then they get out to the car and they have another mirror on the visor, just in case anything has changed from the house to the car. And then, of course, when they get to wherever they’re going, they’ve got another one in the purse. See they understand the value of a mirror because there’s some things that have got to be changes. And this is the point. See, God gives us this perspective.
The two greatest commandments in all of God’s word. The first and the highest- love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is like it- love your neighbor as yourself. That actually summarizes the themes of these chapters quite well. This is about how to honor God, loving him, honoring him with how you live your faith out in everyday life. Whatever you do, do it by faith. Do it to honor of God. Then, it also is about loving your brother. Now, he gets very practical in these verses. In Paul’s day when he wrote this letter, but also in modern times, people have different ways of living out their faith. Some, in all faith and honor to God, have many freedoms. Others, in all faith and in honor to God, have many restrictions. Each one of us, the scripture says, each one of us will give an account of his life to God and how we lived out our faith. So the point is it gets very practical. It gets right down to it is this. Can we not respect our brother? If you love God, then love your brother. Can we not respect each other? In other words, we need more grace with each other. Don’t judge your brother, don’t regard your brother with contempt. He’s going to give his own account to God. You’ve got convictions, by faith? Wonderful. Great. But don’t look at others with contempt who don’t have your identical convictions because there is a spiritual principle that is above all other spiritual principles. Love God and love your brother.
I. Walk According to Love
Let’s read the verses. Starting in verse 13, actually let’s start in verse 12 because it’s a really great lead up. So then, each one of us shall give an account of himself to God. In other words, each one will give his own accounting. Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore. The word anymore suggests- ‘Stop doing that.’ But rather, determine this. Not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know, and I’m convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, well to him it is unclean. For if, because of food, your bother is hurt or literally offended, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food, him, for whom Christ died. Therefore, do not let what is for you a good thing, be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not eating or drinking. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he, who in this way, serves Christ. Now I love that phrase. He who in this way. When you love your brother, and when you understand the significance of respecting the differences, you are serving Christ in this way. He, that one, is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then, let us pursue. That is a very active, good word. Pursue the things which make for peace. And pursue the things which are the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things, indeed, are clean. But they are evil for the man who eats and give offense. It is good not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything by which your brother stumbles. Now the faith that you have as your own conviction and have it before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats because his eating is not for faith. And this great phrase- and whatever is not for faith, is a sin. Really practical verses. And the theme that we really need to capture in those early verses is very very important is this, he says, ‘walk according to love.’ This is the spirit of Christ, lived out by faith in us. Walk according to love. This is the guiding principle over all of these verses. And he uses food as an example.
A. Don’t offend your brother
This was very relevant in that day, particularly because of the Jewish influence. Verse 15- ‘If because of food, your brother is offended, you are no longer walking according to love.’ You know when you go to Israel there is still a lot of sensitivity about food today. They don’t eat meat with milk. So if you go to a hotel or a restaurant for dinner in Israel today, you will not get milk with your dinner. It will not happen in any way shape or form. They do not serve cheese. They do not serve cream in your coffee. You will not get milk for dinner. You say- ‘Well, why is that? That seems a little unusual.’ There is a verse in the Old Testament that says, you cannot boil a kid or baby goat in his mother’s milk. So they’ve taken that, one verse, and they run with it to this point where you cannot get a cheeseburger in Israel. It does not exist. Nor do they eat pork. Of course, because of the law. Here’s my point- neither do we when we go there. We don’t either. ‘Well, why not?’ Because we don’t want to offend. John 13:35- ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ Honor them. Respect them. See the differences. We love cheeseburgers, but we’re willing to let them go when we’re in Israel. We love cream in our coffee at dinner. Nothing like cream in your coffee with an after dinner dessert. Not in Israel. See, we give it up. We give it up easily because of this principle- don’t offend your brother. That’s maturity of Christ lived out in a very practical way. Don’t give offense. We need more grace, that’s the point. Can we not have more grace? ‘Don’t judge one another,’ Paul says, ‘Instead, give grace.’ Don’t put up a stumbling block or an obstacle in a brother’s way. Talk about putting a stumbling block in a brother’s way, here’s a very sensitive and very important example. My wife Jordi was teaching a class a few years ago. She was teaching women. And the class was, one of the topics, was about how Christian women should dress modestly. Now you say, ‘Oh, here he goes,’ No, no, no, this is really important. It’s very very sensitive, but very important. So she’s talking about us. Christian women should dress modestly. And someone in the class, one of the ladies said, ‘Hey. If a man’s got trouble with his eyes, that’s his problem.’ And, actually, that is true. But the question is not whether you have liberty in Christ. The question is whether it edifies your brother. Ah, a different perspective. I love First Corinthians 8:9- ‘Take care that that liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block for the weak.’ That’s a good verse. It applies right there. Paul then brings them food. He says ‘If by faith you have freedom doing all things, well then don’t flaunt your Christian liberty, but respect others who, by faith, have more restrictions. Be willing to give some things up. And Honor. See in Paul’s day, you could get a great discount on meat if it had been sacrificed to an idol. And meat would be sacrificed to an idol, put it in the meat market at a great discount. And Paul’s attitude was- ‘Idols are absolutely nothing. They are of no account. They have no power. They are nothing.’ But this became a big issue, in other words, Paul had no problem. He could eat anything. First Corinthians 10:25-28 puts it in a really helpful perspective. He says- ‘Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience sake. Don’t even ask. But, if anyone says to you- ‘this is meat sacrificed to idols,’ don’t eat it. Don’t eat it for the sake of the conscience of the one who informed you.
B. Don’t be easily offended
Now, that’s a great principle for us to understand, but the inverse is also an important principle. Do not offend your brother, but also don’t be easily offended. In our Christian maturity, he says, do not offend your brother. Give grace. But in the same way, then, we should not easily be offended. Or take offense. Judging and holding others in contempt goes both ways, is the point. It’s easy to have contempt for those who have a lot of restrictions. You look at their life, and have contempt for them. But it’s also easy for the one who has a lot of restrictions to judge the one who has many freedoms. It goes both ways. So God wants us to have maturity of faith. So that we do not offend our brother, but also that maturity of faith should also allow us to not be easily offended.
I remember, a few years ago when we were doing the addition/remodel to the building here, and we were putting together the church building again for our mid-week Wednesday service. And you know what’s interesting, in the whole remodel process, we never lost one service. It was just absolutely amazing about how we all work together. So it was a Wednesday, we just finished painting the sanctuary, and trying to put it all back together again. So we were kind of working fast and I saw this woman in the back and she was just standing in the back just kind of looking around and I thought, oh, she’s appreciating all the things we just did and so I said, ‘Hey, what do you think?’ And she looked at me and said- ‘Do you really want to know?’ Actually, at that point, I didn’t want to know. But I was already starting in this so I said, ‘Okay. Yeah.’ She says- ‘It’s terrible. You painted the ceiling black? Black of all things? It’s heavy, it’s dark, it’s evil.’ Forgive me for what I said next. I said, ‘Do you know any churches that have colors that you find edifying?’ And she said ‘I know several, as a matter of fact.’ I said, ‘Well good, you might want to check them out.’ Don’t worry she never left the church. We laughed at it later. Well, I laughed at it later. She forgave me is the point. Taking offense.
See, the reason taking offense is displeasing to God is because it’s destructive to relationships. Families, friendships, churches, have been divided over people taking offense. We’ve all heard of stories of churches dividing over silly things- the color of the carpet, or whatever. I think the classic story of all stories is this one. Let me just read it to you.
It all started with one original Presbyterian church that had an internal conflict around the year 1911 over whether to receive the offering before or after the sermon. That’s pretty important, apparently. The splitting of the church became the Centerville Reform Presbyterian Church. Just four years later, another church split occurred over whether to have flowers in the sanctuary. The church that split off was named the Trinity Reform Presbyterian Church of Centerville. A total of seven more splits happened between 1915 and 1929, for various issues, and by 1931 the latest church was named the Third Westminster Trinity Covenant Presbyterian Reform Church of Centerville. A few more church splits over various issues brought the total number of church splits in that town to 48. Of course, this is over a number of years. The last one was whether or not it was a violation of the Sabbath Day to check email on your personal computer. The church split over that issue, and some folks left the Second Street First Ninth Westminster Covenant Reform Presbyterian Church. And then they started a new church, which they called the Presbyterian Totally Reformed Covenantal Westminster Church of Centerville.
I hope that story’s made up. But, it does illustrate the point. You know, here’s a great scripture- Proverbs 17:9- ‘he who coves a transgression seeks love.’ Isn’t that a principle that is higher- love? If you love God, then you’ll love your brother. And it goes on to give us the opposite. He who covers their transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends. The principle of the scripture, the principle of God’s heart.
Here’s another great principle- Proverbs 19:11. The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger. And his glory is to overlook a transgression. I mentioned last week my personal story that I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t see that particular restriction in scripture, but I do it to honor those who are struggling in that area. Many people struggle and I want to give them support and honor them. I’ve also come to realize that I don’t drink for personal reasons. Alcohol has hurt people I love, and therefore I have little regard for it. But it makes some interesting examples. When I was a youth director, and this was many many years ago now, there was a couple from the church that had us over for dinner. And asked- ‘Would you like if a Coke or a Pepsi or whatever,’ and I said, ‘Sure.’ And when I sipped it, I realized, ‘He spiked my drink.’ Now I was in the world long enough to know what things taste like. And so I sipped it and I realized, ‘Hm. What do I do now?’ And I’m sitting there thinking and praying and I really believe thee the Lord just gave me an interesting insight. It’s a glory to overlook a matter. Overlook the transgression. So I said nothing. I didn’t drink anymore, but I just held it and then when we had the opportunity to get up and go in the kitchen, I poured it into the sink. But, meanwhile, I’m thinking- ‘Oh, there’s my wife and she’s just having a great time drinking this Coke.’ And so I’m just trying to communicate to her. You ever try to do that? Try to communicate to somebody and not be known that you’re communicating. . It made for some great stories later.
II. Pursue the Things which Make for Peace
Some people, however, this is just, I guess, living life long enough to see that nature of human character. Some people become offended as a way of getting their way. So, a number of years ago, a guy, this was 20 some years ago, made much of his Christian maturity. Which is interesting itself. He made much of his maturity and then wrote a letter to me with a list of offenses. Things that offended him. This, after making so much of his Christian maturity. One of the things on the list was that he was offended because one of the leaders in the church had a wine rack in their house. To quote from the famous British philosopher, William Shakespeare, ‘Methinks thou dost protest too much.’ In other words, his offense was baked in the oven so long it no longer had nutritional value, nor any merit. God is giving us a better way. In Proverbs 14, the verses give us a great perspective. He says, verse 19, ‘Pursue the things which make for peace.’ Pursue is the key word here. It means to make seriously good effort. See that this is important. Pursue with diligence. Pursue is an active, good word. Pursue. Seek after. Chase after the things that make for peace. This is about loving your brother, and it comes out of our relationship to God. If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, then love your neighbor. See, God values people, and he wants us to respect and value one another as well. Romans 12:17-18. Respect what’s right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. I love that phrase. I’ve quoted it many times. So far as it depends on you. You do your part. Pursue the things which make for peace.
A. This is acceptable to God and approved by men
And then he goes on. This is really a very important perspective. Because he says in these verses, also, that the one who takes this heart, this is verse 18, is acceptable to God and approved by men. God is pleased with us. When he says this is acceptable, it means God is well pleased with it. This is acceptable to God and approved by men. The kingdom of God, he says, is righteousness, peace, and joy. God is pleased when we pursue these things. Righteousness, yes, because we’re not made acceptable to God by the keeping of laws. We’re made righteous when God himself gives us, as a gift, the righteousness of Christ. And then he says just walk according to that. Peace. My peace I give to you. Pursue the things that make for peace. There’s a calm, confidence in Christ. When your faith is growing in maturity, so that you’re unflappable and undisturbed in the irritations of life. Because his peace resides in him. Joy, the kingdom of God is made above these things. Joy. See, joy comes from a delight that finds purpose and meaning and life. Because God has given you that life. It comes not because of circumstances but because of who we are in Christ. In other words, don’t lose your joy over irritations in life. Don’t lose your joy over small offenses. Paul says that you are serving Christ in this way. He who serves Christ in this way will find that he is pleasing God. And, interestingly, another phrase, and approved by men. That is very interesting. In other words, there is something very desirable about a person who’s a peacemaker. Who does not give offense, nor easily taking offense. Wiling to yield their rights in deference to those who might be struggling with an issue. They love their brother. There’s a favor of God and, he’s telling us, favor of men.
There is an interesting lesson that God taught me, on this one, many years ago when I was in Bible College. I was just coming to the end of my Bachelor’s program and I wanted this particular degree- a Bachelor’s of theology, and it required a certain number of Greek classes and I had kind of moved into it a little later in the program. So I was missing one Greek class, was my point, and I had gotten everything done. Everything done except for this one Greek class. Well, rather than wait a whole year to continue, I went to the registrar’s office and I asked for a special deal. And I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this one class. I’m going to go to the Master’s program and I’ll just take it as part of that program and then I’ll just transfer that class back, and then I’ll graduate.’ Is that acceptable? And they said, ‘Yeah. That sounds like a good deal.’ Then I want to the master’s program- ‘Can I go ahead and enter without my degree? I’ll get it next year, but all I’m missing is the one class and I’ll take it here.’ Agreed on both sides. We’re all good. The year rolls on, and I’m just about heading towards graduation and I get a letter in the mail saying, ‘You’re missing this one class, and therefore, you’re not graduating.’ I transferred that back. I had an agreement. So I called on the phone, ‘I think that, perhaps, we have a small misunderstanding. See, I had this agreement all made and I’ve already taken the class, I’ve transferred it, I think we’re all good.’ ‘No, you can’t do it.’ I said, ‘you’re kidding.’ Now, immediately, there’s something that rises up inside me that says- ‘This is not right,’ so I said, ‘Who can I speak to? Who’s in charge of all these things?’ ‘Well, that would be the head registrar, Ms. Kehue.’ So I said, can I please have an appointment with Ms. Kehue, and they set this up and she had been there for many years an older lady, and so I have this appointment. And as I’m heading towards the appointment, I’m praying. Lord, I’m convinced I’m right. I had this agreed, but help me to know what to say. Because I don’t want to offend. Help me, help me, lord help me.
So, I’m sitting there with Ms. Kehue and I’m explaining the arrangement that I made. Well, she said, whoever made that arrangement with you was incorrect. You just simply cannot do that because you’re asking for one class to apply to two programs and it just doesn’t work that way. We are overseen by an accreditation. It just doesn’t work that way. And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, this is tragedy. I’ve got to put everything on hold and retake the class.’ And so I thought, ‘Oh.’ I said, ‘Ms. Kehue, perhaps we can get a little creative here. I’m just asking for some grace.’ And she looked at me, long, long silence. And she said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what. I’ll go ahead and allow it on one condition, that you give me your personal words that you’ll make up that class at some point in your life. Any credit will do. Just make it up. Just make the credits up.’ I said, ‘You know what? You have my word.’ And she said, ‘You know what? I trust you.’ It’s a deal. Yes! Thank you Lord for a wonderful reconciliation and a great answer.
So, a couple of weeks later, I get another letter, and this letter says, you have been selected the valedictorian at graduation. So I call the school again. ‘I think you have a mistake. There’s another student with my same name, I’m sure you probably mean him.’ ‘No, we know who you are. You’re the one.’ I said, ‘really, I don’t even go to this school, I’m taking the master’s program.’ ‘It doesn’t matter you’re graduating, you have the best grades, you’re the one. And there’s other things, other factors, characters, etc.’ I said, ‘who’s on that committee?’ ‘Ms. Kehue.’ Oh lord, thank you for the wisdom that you gave. The favor of God, but the favor of men. I’ve seen it over and over and over. This is why he says, in chapter 14, ‘pursue the things which make for peace.’ But he goes on to say- ‘pursue the things for building up one another.’ Pursue. Seek after. Building up one another. Seek for ways to bless. Seek for, look for, ways to edify. Build them up. This is part of the maturity of Christ. When you build your life next to the plum line of God, this is the life he wants you to build.
B. Pursue building up one another
Now, let me give you another verse that I think goes right with it, but it’s very specific- Ephesians 4:29. I’ve quoted it many times because of its power. It says it this way- ‘Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.’ Now, the key there is the word no. None. Nada. Nichevo. None. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth. But only such a word, as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.’ Now, that’s a powerful verse. I mean, that’s just straight right between the eyes. That is a really good verse. Now, for some people, this is radical. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth? Is this for real? Yeah. It’s for real. It’s a powerful verse. It’s radical. Somebody will say- ‘that’s not who I am. I am who I am. That’s what I was made to be, and that’s who I am.’ Okay. That’s who you used to be, and perhaps that’s who you still are. But the question now is- who will you become? Because God is able to transform.
Some people are under the false assumption that who they are is somehow locked into their genetic code. And they have no choice but to live out the disposition that was given to them. Well, that is actually true of alligators and hyenas, but it’s not true of us. There is something much higher at work in us. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit. When he says be transformed by the renewing of your mind, he’s going to give us a word of power. The Holy Spirit of the living God to empower it. I send forth my word, which is truth, to transform your mind. It’s radical in its transformation. I can tell you people who have been radically transformed. Yes, that’s who they used to be, but they became someone that very much resembled the plum line of God because they moved closer to it. When you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you’ll be transformed. Love your neighbor as yourself is the result of it. See, here’s the point- God is love. And when you build your life next to the plum line of God, you also love. Even the unlovable, because it’s a radical transformation. Even the unlovable.
Some time ago I had a difficult person in my life and one day God gave me a tremendous shift in my perspective. Changed my mind. Totally showed me a completely different way. I’ve never seen it. I was in the shower and thinking about what I should do about this difficult person. I do a lot of my thinking in the shower. And I’m just thinking about ‘What do I do? God, what do I do? What do I do about this difficult person?’ Shift. I felt the Lord saying to me, ‘Does God love that person?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Does God want to bless that person?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Are you going to be in agreement with God or are you going to be against God?’ ‘Good question, Lord.’ ‘If you want to be in agreement, then you love that person and you bless that person. Because that’s what I’m doing.’ ‘Okay Lord.’ That’s a huge shift.
C. Live from faith
This is why he’s giving us this powerful verse. At the last verse of the chapter, the point he’s making is this- live from faith. Paul summarizes the entire chapter in verse 23- ‘Don’t eat or drink unless you can eat or drink from faith. For whatever’s not from faith is sin.’ The phrase- the idea is from faith, or out of faith. All things are to be done and lived out of faith. From faith. How do you do this? Well, you are aware of his presence and desire to give him glory with all that you do. When you do it unto him and you do it for his glory, knowing that he walks with you every step of the way, ‘even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, though art with me. And your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ That understanding is very important. This is why, and I quoted it last week, Colossians 1:10 is so practical, because it says it this way- walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. I love that. I want to walk in a way. I want to live my life in a manner that is worthy of your life and honors you. Now you’re living your faith. You’re living and moving in your faith. And then it goes on- to please him in all aspects. ‘God, I want to please you in all aspects.’ Ah, now I’m living from your faith. I want to bear fruit in every good work. Ah, now you’re bearing fruit because of your faith. I want to increase in the knowledge of God. Now you’re continuing to grow in your faith. Powerful principle when you realize that applies to every area of your life. In other words, it brings God into every equation.
The way that you relate to your spouse- can you do that, from faith? Can you do it as honor unto the Lord? Ah, now you’re living from faith. The way you conduct your business. Can you do it from faith? Can you do it as honor unto the Lord? Ah, it begins to impact every area. God is brought into every equation. I see now Lord. I see now that you walk with me every step. That’s why I love Galatians 2:20, 21. I quote it many times because of it’s power. ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It’s no longer I will live. Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, this body of mine, I live it by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.’ That’s the perspective. The shift. When you see it. It changes everything. God, what you’ve done for me. What you’ve done for me, it’s amazing.
You know, when I went to Oregon State- completely different perspective. Worldly. Worldly decisions. Irresponsibility. Parties. Grades reflected it. Shift. God began to move, get ahold of my life. Showed me the ways of blessing. His ways are better, higher. Many years later, get to start again, go back to school. It’s a whole different story this time. God’s blessed me. Favor. God provided entirely for me. God, if you’ve done that for me. If you’ve done that for me, I’m going to do this for you. I’m going to sit in the front row. I’m going to take notes. Lord, you’ve done so much for me, this is the least I can do for you. Because you blessed me. See when you see the perspective, how much has God done for you? Oh, when you see what he’s done, when your eyes are opened to what he’s done. Man, you want to live for him. You want to do it as honor unto him. Oh, it’s a very huge shift. But, oh, is it powerful, because it brings God into every equation. And that’s what transformation looks like.