Romans #30 – Church Family Supernatural Unity (Romans 14:1-12)

Romans #30 – Church Family Supernatural Unity (Romans 14:1-12)

– Well, howdy. If, if you’ve got a Bible, go to the book of Romans. We’re in Chapter 14. We’re taking about a year going right through this amazing and epic book of the Bible, and just to let you know where we’re going, we’re going to finish Romans in July. Then we’re going to do a short series in August on spiritual gifts. September, we’re going to jump into a book of the Bible called James. January, we’re going to go into a book of the Bible, Genesis, and if Jesus doesn’t return, we’ll do something after that. So that’s kind of where we’re going and what we’re doing and where we find ourselves in Romans 14 is in the second half of the book. So the book of Romans breaks down into two parts. Chapters one through 11 are primarily about our relationship with God as our father and then Chapters 12 through 16 are how He brings us into the church family. So Chapters one through 11, how do we have a relationship with God? 12 through 16, how do we have a relationship with each other, and this is really important. How do we have a loving, healthy, unified church that is also lovingly healthy and unified with other churches ’cause if anybody’s on team Jesus, we’re all on the same team and the timing for this is really, really significant because it was last June that we reopened after being closed for a short period of time, and once we reopened, we didn’t know what was gonna happen, who was going to come. Since that time, the church has doubled in size, and so most of you are new. Most of you are new to Arizona. We’re in the fastest growing city and county in America, and so many of you are brand new and you’ve just moved here trying to get set up before school starts in the fall, and if it seems hot, it’s because it’s hot, and so do you get used to it? No, you don’t. It’s hot, and so some of you are new to Arizona and the Valley. Some of you are new to the Trinity Church, most of you are new to the church and many of you are new to Jesus, and so since we’ve started Romans we’ve baptized 329 people. Last weekend, that’s awesome, we love that. Last weekend, we baptized 39 people for Father’s Day, and then we had our first ever student camp and the students had an incredible time. The Holy Spirit really, really, really fell on the students one evening. Extended, unplanned prayer, worship, deep confession of sin, a lot of relationships built. A number of kids genuinely became Christians and some feel a ministry call on their life to serve God in ministry, and then 18 students were baptized. So there’s a lot going on. It’s really, really encouraging. So the question is then, will all of this diversity, here’s people new to the Valley, new to the church, new to Jesus, different generations, different income levels, different backgrounds, some of you grew up with different religions, or maybe you were in Christianity, but different branches and denominations and teams and tribes within the Christian Church, how do we have unity? How do we have love? How, how do we maintain health as God’s people and with the rest of God’s people? That’s the big idea behind Romans 14, and so we’ll jump right in, verses one through three, and he’s going to start by saying that most of the time, the relationship is more important than the disagreement. If you have a relationship, at some point, you will have a disagreement, and if you’re married, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Anytime you have two people, you have three opinions. That’s just the way that it works, and every once in a while, there’s an issue that’s so big that we need to create a boundary or sever a relationship with someone, but most of the time, the person in the relationship is way more important than the issue or disagreement. So he goes on to say, “as for the one who is weak in faith,” he’s going to compare and contrast those who are weak and strong in faith, “welcome him, but do not quarrel over opinions.” That word is really important, opinions. “One person believes they may eat anything, “while the weak person eats only vegetables.” That’s awesome, now I just want to point out, that vegetarians are weak. I just want to point that out. Not just spiritually, but physically, and some of you are like, no, we’re not. I have never seen an army conquering on vegetables. It just doesn’t work like that, okay, and some people are like, oh, do you love vegetarians? I do, because when they’re over, there’s more meat. I love vegetarians. Do you want some ribs? No? I’ll take yours. Great, I love you. I’ll trade you for the turnip. There we go, we’re both happy. “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains “and let not the one who abstains pass judgment “on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” The big idea is this, in Christianity and in the church between churches, if God accepts you and them, then you need to accept each other. If God welcomes you and them, you need to welcome each other. If God is okay with you and them, you need to be okay with each other. That’s the big idea, and he’s going to talk about the weak versus the strong and the weak are those who cannot enjoy the fullness of freedom that God gives them. The strong are those who can enjoy the fullness of freedom that God gives them. So think of it this way. God, whether it comes to food or alcohol or marriage, sexuality, or whatever the issue may be, God draws a line, and He said, everything on this side is okay. On that side is sin. You can’t cross the line. The strong person can go all the way up to the line. The weak person needs to back up and say, I can’t get near the line. That’ll get me in trouble. I’m weak in that area, I’m tempted. I struggle, or my conscience can be violated, and what oftentimes happens is the people who have the weakest faith have the strongest opinions. Sometimes we look, we’re like, they’re so strong. No, no, the fact that they’re so vocal, so loud, so demanding, it may mean that they’re actually very weak. The person who is strong is more flexible. The person who is weak is inflexible, and when he’s comparing and contrasting the weak and the strong, a couple of things I want you to know is that all of us are weak and strong in various areas. We’re all weak in some areas. None of you are strong in every area. We’re all strong in some areas and weak in others. I’ll give you some example from my life. So when it comes to drugs, I’m very strong. No temptation, zero on the Richter scale, doesn’t, no, no desire whatsoever. I’ve never done drugs in my whole life. I’m 50 years of age. I still haven’t had my first cigarette and I won’t. I, I plan on spending forever in the non-smoking section. That’s just kinda my plan with Jesus. Nonetheless, I’m very strong with drugs. It doesn’t bother me at all. So when I was a brand new college pastor, I started administering to some kids at a state university and nearby there was a street that had all the homeless, runaway college aged kids, and, and they were, they were primarily drug addicts and they came from trauma and abuse backgrounds. I started getting to know some of those kids and I told them, Hey, Jesus loves you, I love you. You guys need Jesus, you need help. I said, hey, would you guys will be willing to study the Bible with me? They’re like, yeah, we’ll study with you if you come to where we live. I was like, where do you live? And they’re like, well, there’s this abandoned house that we broke into, and we’re squatting. I was like, great place for a Bible study. So that’s what I did. I got Bibles and I got lunch and I go over there. I go into this house, it’s a drug den. There’s, there’s drug paraphernalia everywhere. Kids are high on drugs, lots of drug use and abuse, all these homeless street kids, and I’d feed ’em lunch and teach a Bible study and it was zero temptation for me. I have zero temptation. Now it would have been awkward if you walked in being like, that’s a lot of needles, Pastor Mark. You know what, they need Jesus, and I don’t struggle with what they struggle with. So I’m going to go there and talk to them about Jesus and see if I can get ’em some help. How many of you, you couldn’t do that? You’re like, yeah, if I’m around drugs, I get in trouble. I’m weak there, I can’t do that. For me, my strength would be like, drugs. My weakness would be horror films. I can’t watch a horror, I can’t. I’ve had a whole life of demonic Scooby-Doo episodes. I get freaked out. People are like, it’s fake. No, it’s not, follow me around. It’s real, demons are real, evil is real, horror films are real. I don’t like hockey masks, even on hockey players. Like I’m just freaked out. Okay, and so for me, some people will be like, you can’t enjoy certain forms of entertainment? I can’t. In those areas, my conscience is weak. Even if I know it’s a pretend story, if a child or a woman is getting hurt, my stomach can’t handle it. We’re all strong and weak in different areas, which means we need to lovingly respect one another ’cause the relationship is usually more important than the issue. In addition, you can be strong in an area and then become weak, or you can become weak in an area, and then strong. These are not fixed. These are flexible categories. So for example, some of you may have had a real problem with alcohol. Then you become a Christian, but God delivers you, and over time you can maybe have a glass of wine with dinner without drinking the whole bottle for breakfast. You, you got stronger there. Conversely, I had a buddy of mine, he was a pastor and love the Lord, good guy, and he was a bit of a mentor to me, and he was at his house and he slipped and fell and he went face first down a number of wooden stairs. It just literally just did tremendous damage to this pastor. So they rushed him to the hospital and they put him on this very, very strong prescription pain medication. He gets addicted to it. He never had a problem in his whole life and now he’s an addict and so he had to go through withdrawals and treatment and get, you know, get clean, so he was very, very strong in this area but now he’s very, he’s weak. Like, when he goes to the dentist, he’s like, let’s talk about what you’re going to give me. He needs to be very measured with what he partakes of. The point is this. We need to love each other. We need to consider one another. We need to think about one another and not just say, well, I have my freedom. No, but I have my relationship and sometimes I’m willing to give up a little bit of my freedom so that I can enjoy our relationship. That’s the concept of the weak and the strong. Particularly applied to the context here in Romans, he’s talking about meat and he’s talking about dietary restrictions and as Gentiles, non-Jewish people, we tend to wonder, what is the big deal? Well, here’s how it worked historically. Jesus was Jewish and the first Christians were Jewish largely, and the Jewish people had their way of doing things like, we don’t eat pork, we go to church on Saturday and the guys all get circumcised, and this was just rote, just agreed upon. Then the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people, by the end of the first century, make up the majority of the Christian Church, and they’re walking in on Sunday with a pork rib, not wanting to be circumcised, and so they’re very, they’re unanimous on all of this. We do Sunday, not Saturday. Thank you, we’re going to eat the pork ribs, and yeah, if you pass around the clipboard for the circumcision class, nobody’s signing up. We’re not doing that. So then much of the New Testament is what happens when the, the gospel, the truth of Jesus goes from one culture to another culture, what things are primary and everyone needs to agree to, what items are secondary, and we can love each other and allow a little freedom, flexibility, and diversity. That’s the context of Romans Chapter 14, and so for them, the issue of meat was a big one because God creates and Satan counterfeits. So God creates a temple where priests offer sacrifices leading to Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, our, our high priest who offers the sacrifice and is the sacrifice. Satan counterfeits with demonic, false religions and cults, and they have counterfeit priests, and what they do, they offer sacrifices to demon gods. Then they would take that meat and they’d sell it in the butcher shop next door to the cult and the Gentiles are like, it’s amazing butcher shop and it’s cheap, and the Jewish people are like, that’s demon meat, you can’t eat demon meat. In addition, you’re funding the cult. You can’t fund the cult, and the question is, which one’s right, which one’s wrong, and the answer is that God sees the heart, that man looks at the outward, the Bible says, and God sees the heart. He says, they love me, and they love me, and they’re not eating ’cause they love me, and they do love me ’cause they like meat at a discount, but they still love me, and so I’m going to accept them both and they need to accept one another. This is the case with so many issues that we end up dividing or disagreeing or debating over what I’ll call closed-handed primary issues and open-handed secondary issues, and I believe this is the heart of Romans 14. So the closed-handed issues, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3, he says, “what I received, I passed onto you of first importance.” What he’s saying is, these things are first importance. That means that other things are of secondary importance, primary and secondary importance. Secondary importance he refers to here in Romans 14:1 as opinions. These are things that you have an opinion about, and you’re welcome to have an opinion about, but somebody may have a different opinion and the big debate within Christianity, what goes in the closed hand primary issues, open hand secondary issues. We need to hold onto this, we can be flexible with this. So we have nothing else to do, it’s 175 degrees outside. So let’s just have a conversation. Throw me a few issues, and I’ll tell you whether I think they go in the closed hand or the open hand. Permission to speak freely. What’s that?

– Speaking in tongues.

– Speaking in tongues, should it go in the closed hand or the open hand? Open hand, open hand, open hand. Now, some places they put it in the closed hand. You’re not a real Christian. You don’t have the Holy Spirit and still, unless you say yabba dabba doo and tap someone and they do too. All right, you don’t, you just start to counsel them, but it’s open hand. Some do, some don’t. Other issues.

– Infant baptism.

– Infant baptism. So do we have credobaptism, that they’re old enough to testify to their own faith? Do we have paedobaptism, we baptize the baby? In addition, how do we baptize them? Do we plunge them under water? Do we just little spritzer, little sprinkle, sprinkle? Open hand, but what I would say is, please don’t dunk the baby. That’s mean, that’s just mean. That’s abusive, right? Like, well, we, Jesus does love you, you made it. Congratulations, you survived an attempted drowning, okay. So, but we put it in the open hand. Some people will baptize the baby, some an adult. Some sprinkling, some immersion, and so we leave it in the open end, even though the people who sprinkle or baptize babies are wrong. All right, what else? Because I do have an opinion, about everything by the way. What other issues you want to talk about?

– Eldership.

– So church governance and structure, how’s it organized? Is there a senior pastor, is there a team? Does the congregation vote on everything? Is an independent autonomous church or is it under a denomination or has a bishop? These are just open-handed issues. What else?

– The Rapture.

– The Rapture, the end times. Do we get raptured, do we get stuck? What’s the mark of the beast? Who’s the Anti-Christ? Is it the President? I mean, all these kinds of issues. We’re in Scottsdale, I know what you guys are thinking. So, so at the end of the day, the end times, when is Jesus coming back? How’s He coming back? How’s it gonna work out? We do know He’s coming back. So let’s say this, He’s coming back. That’s in a closed hand. If He’s not, we’re doomed, I’m just telling you that right now. So Jesus is coming, when? Whenever. Exactly how? However He deseams, determines His ride. I always like to say, I’m on the welcome committee, not the planning committee. I don’t know when He’s showing up, but I’ll pull my kazoo. Right, I’m looking forward to it. So we leave that in the open hand. Does that, does that mean you can’t have an opinion? You can have an opinion, but again, it’s, it’s secondary, not primary. People who disagree on this issue agree on these issues and they’re still going to be together in heaven forever, so they need to start getting along right now as a practice. Any other issues?

– Abortion.

– Abortion, okay. We got all the Republicans in the house today. That’s great. That’s great. Okay, and I’ll tell you this too. So political party, open or closed hand?

– Open.

– Open, you can be a Democrat and go to heaven. Not right away, but like, you know. I mean, you’re not a first round draft pick. You’re gonna, you’re going to go later so. We’re just having fun, come on. I just found all the Democrats in the room. So let me say this. For me, so for us here closed hand would be that there’s one God, three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, the Trinity. If you believe in a different God, you’ve got a different religion. That the Bible is our highest authority, that the Christians are supposed to be Bible people, that it’s all about Jesus. Jesus is God, become a man born of a virgin, lived without sin, died on the cross in our place for our sins, rose from the dead, defeats death, forgives sin returned to heaven, and if you believe in Jesus, you go to heaven, and if not, you go to hell, closed hand. Open hand, okay. How old is the earth? Old enough. It’s a great planet. I totally like it. Things like, should you send your kid to a public school, private school, homeschool, or charter school. You should decide that as the parent and pray and seek the Lord and make your own decision. That’s an open handed issue. Should you speak in tongues, certain modes of spiritual gifts and-or denominations or traditions and-or translations of the Bible, open hand, and so what he’s talking about here is, make sure that your relationships with other Christians are really focused on the things that you agree on more than the things you disagree on, and that our love and our unity is around these things and our diversity and our strength is around these other things. Now, the reason why this is important, a couple of things practically as your pastor, we want to be a church where people come in and they’re free to learn and grow. You don’t have to walk in and know everything or agree on everything. Come on in wherever you’re at. Here’s the Bible. We love you. We want to encourage you to study it. We believe as you study God’s word, the Holy Spirit will lead you and guide you into all truth, just like Jesus promised that He would do. In addition, we want to be a church where we love people because sometimes the best way to open someone’s ears is first to open their heart, right, that sometimes you need to connect before you correct, is what we like to say. If someone disagrees with you, you’re more likely to hear them if you know that they love you, and they’re trying to help you. If they’re just critical or religious or demanding, or they don’t listen well, or they don’t seem to care about you, your ears are likely to be closed, but the love opens your heart, and once your heart is open, then your ears are open. So we believe if you love people and work on the relationship, it doesn’t mean you don’t talk about things you disagree about. You just disagree in a way that’s not disagreeable. You can dialogue and debate. I love you, I’m for you. Let’s talk about this, let’s study this. Let’s seek the truth together. In addition, sometimes the people who disagree with us, they provide additional perspective that really helps us, and you may not agree with someone who is a Christian. You may say, I think this, and they say, I think this. This is my opinion, this is your opinion. All right, let me tell you, here’s the scriptures I’ve studied and here’s kind of the journey I’ve been on, and here’s what I believe God has revealed to me. You may not fully agree with that person, but you’ll respect them. You’ll say, you know what? I actually appreciate your perspective, and I understand it. Even if I don’t agree with it, at least I understand it, and you do love the Lord, and you did pray and study the Bible and you have a, you have a good argument, and sometimes people change our mind. How many of you have talked to somebody, you’re like, I’m sure they’re wrong, and then you talk and talk and talk and pray and pray and pray, and you realize, I was wrong. The truth is we’re, we’re all in process and learning things. I had somebody come to me recently, like, Pastor Mark, I just want you to know, I don’t agree with everything you’ve ever said. I was like, me neither. Like, I say crazy stuff, like, and there’s stuff like, I don’t know, I wouldn’t say it again. I’ve changed my mind even on some things over the years. I’ve been teaching the Bible for 25 years. The core of what I believe has been unchanged, but there are certain things I’m still dialing in and working on and I’m sure will be the case for the rest of my life, and then lastly, practically, the reason why this is important is that listening to the Lord is a process that takes some time, and as God is patient with us, we need to be patient with them. How many of you, you’re like, I’m figuring out how to hear the voice of the Lord and to discern God’s will for my life. It’s a process. I’ve been a Christian 25 years. I’m still on that journey. I’m still in that process, and so what happens is the weakest people sometimes are the loudest people and they can drown out the voice of God in your life. They’re like, we know exactly what, let’s just get it. Get a paper and a pen. We just got a list. You just write this down, do what we tell you. It’s like, no, no. I need to hear from Him, and I’m willing to listen to you, but I need to ultimately hear from Him, and hearing the voice of the Lord is determining how God is speaking to you and what God is asking of you, and let me tell you, God does this in three ways. There are three levels and lines of authority, eternal authority, external authority, internal authority. I’ll explain each of these to you in succession. Eternal authority is God’s authority, and we find this ultimately where? In the Bible. Romans is a book of the Bible. We’re studying the Bible. This is God’s eternal authority. It was written a few thousand years ago. It still applies to us because it’s eternal. God doesn’t edit what He says ’cause He gets it right the first time, and God doesn’t change what He said to fit culture. Cultures need to repent so that we fit what He says. He’s in authority, and so God’s eternal authority is revealed in His word. It’s over all people’s times, places, and cultures. Then there is external authority. In Romans chapter 13:1, just the previous chapter, he told us to obey authority, that God works through authority. That’s exactly what He told us. Paul here is modeling it. He is an apostle, a spiritual leader, and he is exercising authority. So God speaks to us through His eternal authority of His word, through the external authority of leadership. So if you’re a child, listen to your parents. If you’re an employee, listen to your employer. If you’re an athlete, listen to your coach. If you’re part of the team, listen to the team leader or team captain. If you’re part of a church, listen to the pastors and spiritual leadership, and so ultimately God works through eternal authority, external authority, and internal authority. In Romans 2:15, and what Paul is doing here, he’s pulling a lot of themes previously in Romans to a practical application. In Romans 2:15, he talked about our quote, unquote conscience, and he said that it is God’s law written on our heart. God’s conscience is something that He has implanted in you so that, you know right and wrong. In addition to obeying eternal authority, external authority, you also need to obey internal authority, and oftentimes the Holy Spirit works through our conscience internally. Don’t break your conscience. You’re going to need it. Don’t violate your conscience. It is God’s voice to you. Now in saying this, people have different conscience issues because in some areas we’re weak and in some areas, we’re strong, and it’s respecting the conscience in another person and your conscience, let me say this, your conscience can’t get you into heaven, but your conscience can keep you out of a little bit of hell on earth, that your conscience will keep you from making some really dumb, devastating, deadly decisions. Now only Jesus can save you, but your conscience can keep you from a lot of pains, problems, and perils, and so I’ll give you an example of how this works in my own life, in my own experience. So I grew up in a neighborhood where there was a lot of alcoholism and drug abuse and prostitution and gang violence and danger. I had a mom and a dad who loved me, brought structure and order to the home, and I did not know the Lord Jesus, but I did have a conscience, and I did sin and I, there are things I regret, but my conscience kept me from some really deadly decisions. So for example, I never drank any alcohol. Public school, never drank any alcohol, not because I love Jesus, but because my conscience showed me that there was a lot of danger in drinking. In addition, in my extended family, historically, there had been some alcoholism and I wanted to avoid that. I, I, it just sort of scared me. So the age of 19, I become a Christian in college. Just prior to that, I was living in a fraternity at a state university where everyone has a major and their majors are different, but their minors are all the same, drunkenness. Everybody was minoring in drunkenness in my fraternity, and I’m living in the fraternity. I’m like, you know what? My conscience doesn’t allow me to live here. I moved out, not because I love Jesus, but because my conscience just didn’t feel right being there. So then I’m in the dormitory and I’m reading the Bible and I get saved, and now I’m not going to drink alcohol. I’ve never drank alcohol because number one, my conscience says no, but number two, I’m not 21, and Romans 13 says to obey the government and the government says no. Fast forward, I married my wife Grace at the age of 21. We’re now legal drinking age, and we are Christians. Her conscience is that she can have a drink, and my conscience is that I can’t. Now the Bible says don’t get drunk. So I know I can’t get drunk, but my conscience says that I’m weak, so if the line is, don’t get drunk, I need to back up from the line and not drink at all for the sake of conscience. Now, Grace loved me. If I had struggled with alcoholism or addiction and she didn’t, what do you think she would have done in our marriage, and in our home out of love to me? She would have abstained because the issue is important, but the relationship is more important. The freedom is a big deal, but the friendship is a much bigger deal. Now I never struggled with alcohol, so I told Grace, you can have a drink with dinner, have a glass of wine. When we go out, it doesn’t bother me. I’m not tempted, it doesn’t bother me. My conscience is just different. I won’t partake. So for some years, this was how we operated. She might have something with dinner and I wouldn’t. Fast forward, we graduate. I get my first job at a church and I love the pastor. He’s a big, strong African-American guy. Played in the NFL, was a linebacker, looked like Mr. T. He raised rottweilers and bow hunted, so he was, he was driving in his gender lane very clearly. He was a strong guy, and I loved him and I appreciated him and I followed his leadership. So I started as an unpaid intern, then a paid intern, then a part-time staff, and then they made me the college pastor. As soon as I hit that level of leadership, they gave me a little covenant, and they’re like here, kind of, if you’re going to be on staff, here’s what you can do and not do. I was like, okay, I read it. It was no problem. There was one thing though. You’re not allowed to consume any alcohol, and I, my conscience says no, but I want to know why, because I’m weird, and I’m a nerd. I’m like, why, why no alcohol? So, I meet, meet with the pastor. He says, we believe that the Bible forbids the consuming of any and all alcohol. I said, no, it doesn’t. Have you been drinking? That’s a crazy interpretation. That’s a crazy interpretation. I said, Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana of Galilee, he turns water into, wine, and he says, no, it was grape juice. No, it wasn’t, ’cause it says that they drank wine for a few days and then he made a drink and then they drank it. They’re like, this is way better. Zero people have been drinking wine and then drink grape juice are like, that’s way better. Zero people have come to that conclusion in the history of the universe. In addition, it says in Ephesians, don’t get drunk on wine. How much grape juice do you got to drink to get drunk? Now you’ll drown before you’re drunk. You just will. I was like, I said, I disagree with your interpretation of the Bible, but I love you. I said, now I will submit to lee, so the eternal, we disagree on what the eternal says. We disagree on what the Bible says, but now the second level of authority is, you’re my pastor. You’re my spiritual leader. You’re the father of this church family. Like, and I respect you, and I love you, and I like you and almost everything in this hand, like we do agree on everything in this hand. We disagree on a few things in this hand. I said, but I will submit to you as the pastor and I’ll follow your leadership and I’m not going to be divisive. I said in addition to the eternal, the external, and the internal, my conscience says no alcohol. So I don’t drink either way. So I’m not going to drink. I wasn’t gonna drink either way. I said, but what do you want me to tell the college students when they ask ’cause true or false, if you’re the college pastor, eventually the college kids are gonna ask you about alcohol. They ask you three things. Can we smoke weed, can we drink alcohol, and were there dinosaurs, and in heaven, can we smoke weed and drink alcohol while we ride dinosaurs? Those are all their questions. That’s all they care about. I said, so when they ask, what do you want me to say? And he said, well, just tell them that this is my interpretation, and this is your interpretation, and that we disagree, but you honor me as the pastor and the spiritual authority, and you’re willing to submit to my leadership and that your conscience is clear and you won’t be consumed. I said, okay, so I can just be honest? He said, yeah. I said, great, because what I can say is, this isn’t God’s rule, this is. I think I just got filled with the Spirit. What happened, that was amazing. That’s crazy. Are we back? I don’t know what to do now. I’ll just keep talking. So what I told him was, I said, okay, what I will do is I will not drink. I will honor the leadership, and when the students ask, I will say, we disagree on what the Bible says, but I am not going to be disagreeing with my leader. I’ll be submitting to them because the truth is, could I have left that church and gone somewhere else over this issue, yes or no? Yes, and what I would have found at that church, there was another issue I disagree about. If you’re one of those people who are like, yeah, I went to 75 other churches and I don’t agree with them, you’re the problem, just. I don’t even know, I wouldn’t even tell you to pray about it, you’re the problem. Every church you go to, there’ll be something you disagree with, and unless it’s one of these things, don’t fight over it.

– Amen.

– If it’s one of these things, just talk about it, work it through, and live with it, okay, and that’s what he is telling us, I believe here in chapter 14. At age 30 then, my conscience changed and I, I will have a drink now and then. So I was weak, and then at 30 God changed my conscience. Grace reminded me of this last night. I, I’d never drank any alcohol. Somebody sent us a bottle of Silver Oak cattle, Cabernet. They sent us a whole case. Okay, and this is not like the box wine at Costco. This is like, this is the real deal. So I didn’t know anything about wine. They sent it and I looked it up and it’s like this amazing Cabernet. Grace was like, wow. I was like, well, let’s try it. So we, and I was like, what have I been missing? So, so at the age of 30, my conscience changed, okay, and I wasn’t working in that church anymore, so I didn’t violate any policy. Okay, next point before I have to fire myself for saying something inappropriate. Romans 14:4-6. Here’s the big idea. God will judge them and God will judge you. You don’t need to judge them, and they don’t need to judge you because He’s going to judge you both. Jesus is the judge. “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? “It is before his own master that he stands or falls “and he will be upheld.” If you’re like, well I need to judge them to hold them up, God’s like, I’ve got them, I’ll hold them up. “For the Lord is able to make them stand. “One person esteems one day better than another.” The Jews are like, we will go to church on Saturday. Gentiles, Sunday. Some of you are like, I want to go at night ’cause I sleep in and watch the Cardinals, whatever. “While another esteems all days alike. “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” There’s your conscience, and here’s the deal. We look at the outward. The Bible says that God sees the heart. You can look at somebody and say, I don’t think they’re doing it right. God’s like, I know their heart, it’s fine. “The one who observes the day observes it “in honor of the Lord.” God says, they love me. “The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord.” God says, they love me. “Since he gives thanks to God, “while the one who abstains, abstains in honor to the Lord “and gives thanks to God.” Let me ask you this. How many of you are parents? Parents, okay? Question, if you have multiple children, are they different? Oh yeah. Oh yeah, you raise one, you’re like, I got this. The next one, you’re like, I, I don’t have this. I don’t, this one’s different. God’s a father, we’re His kids. Parenting for Him and parenting for us should not be a paint by numbers kit. You got to get to know the kid, their personality, their background, their experience, their strengths, their weakness, and you help them grow and mature. The Father does that with all of His kids, but our father is highly relational. He knows your heart and God looks at the heart, and He says, well, this person is going to church on Saturday. This person’s going to church on Sunday. This person’s in a college ministry. They go on Thursday night and He’s like, you know what? They all love me, I’m fine. So be fine. If God’s fine with them, be fine with them. God says, this person decides that they’re gonna change their diet, and they love me, and this person has a different diet. Guess what? They love me. I see their heart. They’re my kids, not yours. I’m working on them, I’ve got them. If they’re a little tippy, I’ll stand them up. If they’re going wayward, I’ll bring them back. You don’t need to judge them. They’ve got a father, and He’s got this. This is so comforting as a pastor and as a husband and as a father, and it reminds me of the words of the Lord Jesus. He tells us previously, I am the vine, you are the branches. Let me tell you this, friend. You’re not the vine. Your systematic theology is not the vine. Your denomination is not the vine. Your tradition of Christian faith is not the vine. Your Bible translation may be amazing, but it’s not the vine. Jesus is the vine, and if they’re connected to Him and you’re connected to Him, guess what? It’s all good. Some of you are like, but they’re not connected to me. That’s ’cause you’re not the vine, and the life comes from the vine to the branch that ultimately they’re getting their life from the Lord Jesus, you’re getting your life from the Lord Jesus. This is why I love multiple denominations. This is why I love people who disagree with me on secondary issues. This is why churches who do it different aren’t necessarily doing it wrong ’cause if it’s right with Jesus, it should be right for us, and so ultimately there’s a grace and a humility that should come with this, and so there are two ways that Christians can go wrong, liberalism and legalism. Liberalism is where you go too far to the left. Legalism is where you go too far to the right. Liberalism is Christianity by subtraction. It’s taking things that should be in the closed hand and moving them to the open hand. Well, yeah, I love Jesus, but I don’t know if everybody needs Jesus. Oh, He says they do. Well, I know we used to think that God made us male and female, but I think we should reconsider that. No, ’cause the creator said we’re male and female. Well, marriage was for one man and one woman, but things have changed. Yeah, they’ve gotten worse, and so keep these things in the closed hand. That’s what liberalism does. It’s Christianity by subtraction. Thomas Jefferson did this on one occasion. He sat in the White House in the Oval Office and he took out a razor blade to the New Testament, and he cut out everything that he felt was wrong, and he ended up with something called the philosophy of Jesus Christ, and he took Jesus from a savior to a philosopher. What he says was, well, there’s a bunch of things that I think we should just put over in the open hand. Legalism does the opposite. It takes things that should be in the open hand and it moves them to the closed hand. Okay, let’s, let’s have an honest conversation. Here at our church, are we more likely to be liberal or legalistic? Honest, you can give me an honest answer. Legalistic, and if you think liberal, you’re new, okay. You’re brand new because the more Bible you learn, Paul just told us, the more opinions you have. Is it okay to learn? Yeah, is it okay to have an opinion? Sure, but just make sure that you understand that a lot of your opinions need to stay here. They can’t move here. Once they move here, you’re doing Christianity by addition. You’re adding things to God’s word. The Holy Spirit reminds me in Proverbs 30:5-6, God says, “do not add to my word, “or I will rebuke you and prove you to be a liar.” You’re not supposed to take anything out of God’s word or add anything to God’s word, and the key here is figuring out which goes in which hand. What is closed-handed, what is open-handed? Now that being said, he’s going to really focus on the issue of legalism. Legalism kills unity. It kills grace, it kills relationship, and it kills fun. The problem with religious people is not that they take God seriously, but they take themselves seriously. That’s the problem, and they think if you disagree with me, you disagree with God. They say it like that, God. Okay, so what I want to do is I want to talk about legalism because the more Bible we learn, the more opinions we have, the more gracious and loving we need to be to make sure that we keep in the right hands the right issues. This is based on 25 years in the pulpit. Legalism happens when number one, you put religious rules over relationships. As Christians with one another, we should put the relationship at the starting line, not the finish line. Let me love you, get to know you so I can understand you, and if there are things that we disagree about or I even think you’re wrong, I want to build the relationship to earn the right to have the conversation about the issue. What religious people do, they put the rules at the front. Until you do everything that we tell you to do, you can’t be with us, you can’t have a relationship with us. Number two, you focus on winning arguments over winning people, and in the age of social media, everybody’s yelling at one another, but nobody’s really loving, helping and serving one another, and what happens is you can win an argument and lose a person. There’s nothing wrong with winning an argument, but the goal of an argument is to win a person. You know what our goal is? Not just to win arguments, but to win people to Jesus Christ, that’s our goal. You know what, we need Jesus. You know what, they need Jesus. You know what, the world has plenty of arguments. It needs more converts. Number three, your preferences become your prejudices. You’re like, well, this is the way I like it. So this must be the way that everybody should like it. Okay, let me ask you this. Do I have my preferences? I do. Do I have a preference on a Bible translation? Yeah, I do. I do, I have a lot of preferences. There are, there’s certain Christian music I don’t like. Let’s be honest with you. I won’t say what, but. Yeah, I won’t say what, but there are, there’s just, there’s like, there’s certain genres of Christian music. I’m like, yeah, I don’t really prefer that. There’s certain Bible translations like, I don’t really prefer that. There’s certain, there’s certain authors and books and theological teams, I’m like, I love them, and I know they love Jesus. It’s just, if I have time, that’s not going to be my first pick. You can have your preferences, but don’t make them your prejudices. Your prejudices are, if you like what I don’t like, or you like the way they do things, but that’s not the way we do things, then you’re ungodly and I’m godly, because you’re making yourself and not Jesus, the standard for holiness. In addition, you confuse unity and uniformity. Uniformity is, everybody’s the same. Unity is, we’re different but we’re in love with the same person, okay. So unity is we do everything the same, excuse me, uniformity is, we do everything the same. Unity is, we all follow the same Jesus. We love the same Jesus. If Jesus is the center and not your legalisms, not your rules, not your religion, not your tradition. If Jesus is the center, then as everyone gets closer to Jesus, guess what? They’re getting closer to each other, and ultimately I get really concerned when I walk into any ministry or church, and I see total uniformity. If I see all the guys have beards, like, okay, who forbid shaving? I walk in and all the guys are clean shaven, I’m thinking, who forbid the beards? When I walk in and all the women are basically wearing the same outfit, I’m, I’m freaked out. If they’re all carrying the exact same Bible, I have, I have a suspicion and that is, some weak person has started handing out the clipboard with all the rules for the holy people. There should be a little diversity in the same way that our God models diversity. The Trinity is this there’s one God, three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, perfectly unified. What that shows is diversity. The Father, Son, and Spirit, they are distinct persons, perfect unity, they are one God. We don’t need to all be the same. We need to follow the same Holy Spirit. We need to read the same Bible. We need to love the same Father. We need to be saved by the same Jesus. That’s our unity. It’s our unity. How about this one? You don’t differentiate between God’s principles and your methods. So the Bible has timeless unchanging principles that are singular and then a multitude of methods that are changing and cultural. So think about it this way. Just open your mind a bit. Christianity is the largest movement of any sort or kind in the history of the world. More languages, more cultures, more nations, more customs than any movement in the history of the world. In addition today, there are a few billion people on Earth who say that they love Jesus and are Christians. So the way that we have our methods are going to differ and principles and methods differ. So I’ll give you an example. Like for me, I preached in churches that meet in various places. I’ve preached in majestic cathedrals. I’ve preached in storefronts. I’ve preached in a church that met in a bar. I preached in a church that met in a house. I preached in a church that met in a fraternity. I went to India and they took me to the church and it was meeting under a tree. Their building was a tree, and I was like, where are the chairs, and they’re like, we sit on the ground. I was like, okay. So I stood up to preach and they were like, no, you need to sit on the ground. I was like, sit on the ground? I’m a grown man. I don’t, I don’t know. I did that once, and I got hurt. I can’t go down and get up, like I’m at the age where if I drop something, I’ll order another one on Amazon. The risk is too high to go down. It’s too high. So they said, no, the way we do it, the men sit on one side, the women sit on the other. We all sit under the tree and you need to sit up front and fold your legs and teach. I was like, I’m going to teach about suffering ’cause that sounds terrible, but you know what? All of these Christians, they, they had the same principle and that is meeting together, but their methods were different. So when you don’t distinguish between a principle and a method, what you’re saying is for God’s principle, I only tolerate my method. That’s how you get legalism. That’s how you get legalism. Next one, you bind others by your conscience. Your conscience is for who? You, it’s not for them. It’s not for them. Your conscience is for you, their conscience is for them. When they put their conscience on you or you put your conscience on them, you’re not loving one another, you’re judging one another. You’re not helping one another, you’re hindering one another. Raising children, this was one of my great goals. I want them to hear from God. I would always ask, what is God teaching you? What is God showing you, what is God speaking to you? What is God revealing to you from a very young age, because every time they need to make a decision, I want them to hear my voice, excuse me, not my voice, but His voice. I don’t want to tell them everything. I want to teach them how to hear what the Father would have to say to them ’cause I’m not always right, He is. I don’t always know, He does, and I’m not always there, He will be, and so ultimately, when you bind someone by your conscience, you’re saying, well, God’s line is here and my line is here. So your line needs to be where my line is. No, no, your line is wherever God draws it up until His line. Once we cross His line, we’re into sin. Before that, we’re into love, we’re into diversity, we’re into family. Next principle, you ignore the spirit of the law, but you keep the letter of the law. Jesus distinguishes between the spirit of the law and the letter of law. Letter of the law is do this, don’t do that. The spirit is, here’s why. Again, there’s a lot of parenting lessons here. My goal with the kids was not to just tell them what to do and not do, but to tell them why, so that they would be discerning. This is where raising a child is different than raising a pet. With a pet, you just give them commands, but you don’t give them reasons. You’re not raising a pet, you’re raising a child and they need to know the reasons. The difference between the spirit and the letter is this. Sometimes you can obey the letter and in so doing, you violate the spirit because you’re in a different cultural context. I’ll give you an example. So if you read the New Testament, it literally says to various churches to greet one another with a holy kiss. Are we going to do that now? The single guys are like, I’m in. Oh, you’re nodding. You’re out, okay. So why do we not greet one another with a holy kiss? Would that communicate a warm, appropriate welcome? In our culture, no. Like, if you’re in a Spanish culture, an Italian culture, they still do that. Hey, you walk into a Spanish family, you’re like, I made out with everybody. It was weird, like I don’t know. It was weird, Grandma kissed me, I was. This is what, they great with a kiss. In the ancient world that they’re writing to, that was a warm welcome. So the principle or the spirit of the law is a warm greeting so in our culture, how would we warmly greet one another at church. Okay, handshake, hand sanitizer, handshake, additional hand sanitizer. If you do that, you’re new, okay. What other things could we do for a warm welcome and greeting? We could do the knuckles, the fist bump. We could do a shoulder side, side hug. Okay, and you can do a hug, but let me just say this. There’s a three tap maximum rule, okay. There is, especially among men. Like, if guy, if you’re like whoa, you’re lingering, gotta let go, you gotta let go, okay. So here’s, so for men, here’s our thing. Okay, one tap, out. Okay, that’s fine, that’s fine. Right, bro, right? Good, okay. Two tap. Okay, we’re good, I’m out. Three tap, uh oh. That’s, that’s borderline. Now we’re, that’s a gateway hug. That’s the situation, okay. One, two, three, out. Four, no way, man. I’m out, I’m out, I’m out, bro. Says to act like men. That means three tap max. That’s what that means. We don’t do a fourth tap. Any guy comes in for a fourth tap, you got to disciple them. Okay, you got to train them. So yeah, we got to baptize him so. We hold him under a while so he understands the importance of this. So, so there’s a difference between the spirit and the letter of the law, the spirit is just keeping the principle. All right, how about the next one? I gotta keep going. All right, you’ve replaced Jesus’ righteous works for your works’ righteousness. This is a lot of what we’ve examined up until this point in Romans, so that because we’re made by God, we want to be righteous. We want to be right with God. We want to be good, we want to get better. What that leads to is one of two pursuits, what the Bible calls gift righteousness or works righteousness. Gift righteousness is through grace and it’s through Jesus Christ. Works righteousness is through my efforts and my performance. Some of you use spirituality like you would sports. We keep score and I’m winning. I have more points than you because I’ve done more good things and I’ve not done as many bad things. So I scored more points than I have less fouls, to use a sports analogy. The point is this, we’re all sinners by nature and choice. That’s what he’s told us in Romans. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is not one righteous, no, not one. Jesus comes, He alone is the righteous one, that Jesus Christ lives the perfect life that we have not lived. He dies the death that we should die. He rises to conquer the enemy of death that we cannot defeat, and to give the gift of righteousness that we cannot earn. That’s why we love Jesus so much. He takes care of everything. When He says on the cross, it is finished, it’s literally done. There’s nothing for us to do. He’s done it all, and so if you believe in gift righteousness, you talk about Jesus and how He is your righteousness. If you believe in works righteousness, you’re always trying to make a list and then keep it so that you can score more points. This happens in two ways. There is a religious version. What translation of the Bible? What church do you go to? How do you guys do things? Do you speak in tongues? Do you not speak in tongues? Do you tithe, do you not tithe? Have you been on a mission trip or not been on a mission trip? Do you fast, do you not fast? Do you pray early in the morning or not pray early in the morning? They’ve got a list. Every team has got a list, and then on the secular side, the non-Christian side, they’ve got their own list of secular works righteousness. We call it social justice and being woke, which is the counterfeit of being born again. Are you for or against this issue or cause? Do you repost our hashtag? Are you upset about the anger of the day, and the truth is all self-righteousness is unrighteousness, and the only true righteousness is gift righteousness. What legalism does, it says do this and don’t do that, and you’ll be good, not bad, and the issue is, it’s not about being good or bad. It’s about being saved or lost, ’cause Jesus alone is good. A couple of other things. You want to replace the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This happens all the time. Let me just speak to the parents. So parents, the most important thing you can do is help your child learn to have a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit ’cause parents will look at their kids and be like, well, somebody needs to control ’em. His name is the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the spirit is self-control. Well, somebody needs to convict them of their sin. Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and righteousness. Well, somebody needs to lead them. He will lead them into all truth. What happens in religion and with legalism, some people look at the ministry, the Holy Spirit, and they’re like, I’m not sure He can do his job, but I can. That’s very offensive, and it’s very proud. That’s where at the heart of religion, it’s pride. It’s like, Holy Spirit, we don’t need you. We’re here. The religious people are here with our rules and our legalisms and our commands and our demands. So Holy Spirit, you’re really not needed here. We’ve got this. Let me say this, you cannot be the Holy Spirit to anyone and no one can be the Holy Spirit to you, and what religious people do, they try and replace the Holy Spirit with their religious leadership. Lastly, your convictions become a prison instead of a home. People live in a prison and people live in a home. The difference is, you never get to leave your prison. We want your love for Jesus, your study of the Bible, your worship of God, your relationship with God, your walk with God to be a home, not a prison. I’ve been in conferences where I quote a translation of the Bible. Like, you can’t quote that translation. Yeah, I can. I live in a home, not a prison. There’s a translation that I spend most of my time in, and then I visit other translations and I learn from them, and I appreciate them. Sometimes it’s, you can’t sing those songs ’cause some of the people that are with that group, you know, they’re, they’re not part of our group, and they disagree with us on these issues. Therefore, we can’t sing their songs. If they love Jesus, and they’re full of the Holy Spirit, they’re on team Jesus. If they’re singing to Jesus and Jesus welcomes their song, why can’t we sing their song? Well, because they’re not part of our group, but are they part of his group, ’cause you know what? At the end of the day, my group is not the group that lasts forever. It’s His group that lasts forever. Are we on team Jesus? And so I want you to be free to know and love Christians in other churches. I want you to be free to talk to Christians with other beliefs, and you can have your opinions and you can debate with them and dialogue with them, but you need not destroy them, and this is not only important within our church family, but among church families, that ultimately what happens is, churches start criticizing one another and they shouldn’t, because God created us to complete one another, not compete with one another. Before we started this church, I flew to the Valley. Pastors met with me, private door, ask questions. They welcomed us to the Valley and they laid hands and prayed over me. When it came time to start this church, 40 churches in the Valley and around the country and the world, unsolicited, sent gifts and checks so that we could open this church. I am pastor, I’m friends with pastors all across the Valley, the nation, the world, and I love pastors and their families, and I feel like Satan’s already attacking them so we don’t need to add to that burden, and if you walk around property, you’re going to see kids’ play toys and furniture and gear that was given by all kinds of churches from all across the Valley, and at the end of the day, what I really love is that our faith can be a home and I can go visit their home, and maybe I talk to them and I make some improvements at their house, and then I learn some things and I bring them back to my house. If we’re going to be together forever, we need to start getting along right now, and what’s really weird is that sometimes Christians just turn into a circular firing squad, and it’s like, you know what? That’s just demonic because at the end of the day, if, if Jesus is okay with all of us, we need to be okay with each other and only the enemy would tell us otherwise, and I’ll just tell you this, friends, this doesn’t mean you don’t have opinions. Do I have opinions? Oh yeah, I’m a professional opinion maker, but what I believe is this, that love for fellow Christians should be in this hand, it should not be in this hand. It is not optional. It is mandatory because the fruit of the Spirit is love, and I just, I really am keen on this because I think as the world gets more anti-Christian, Christians need to act more like loving family, okay? Now that being said, he, he closes with this really great idea. Look up to Him, not down on them. Romans 14:7-12. “For none of us lives to himself, “and none of us dies to himself.” Right, you didn’t create yourself and you’re not gonna resurrect yourself. “For if we live, live to the Lord.” As long as you’re breathing, serve Jesus. If you die, keep doing that. Go say hi to Jesus. “So whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s.” We belong to Jesus. “For to this end, Christ died and lived again “that he might be Lord, both of the dead and the living. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother?” There’s a great question. I love you, let me just have the Holy Spirit ask you that question. Why do you pass judgment? Let me ask you this. Who do you pass judgment on? Is there an individual, you’re very judgy of them? Is there a group of people that you’re very judgy of them? The question is, why do you do that, or why do you despise your brother, because this is step one, judge. Step two, despise. Despise, like I hate them. I leak or vent or I speak ill of them. This is unhealthy. It’s not the fruit of the Spirit. It’s the works of the flesh, and sometimes you’re like, well, I didn’t mean to attack and critique and despise them. We started by judging them. God’s going to judge you, God’s going to judge them. God may judge them for their behavior. God may judge you for your judgment of their behavior. So if God is going to judge them and judge you, don’t judge them. Let Him judge you, “for we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” Let me say this. None of you will be sitting on Jesus’ lap on Judgment Day. Jesus, I’m here, here to help. He’s like, get up, this is not your seat. You and I will not be judging one another, Jesus will. “For it is written, as I live, says the Lord, “every knee shall bow to me and every tongue “shall confess to God. “So then each of us will give an account of,” who, himself, to God. You will not stand before God and give an account to them. You will stand before God and give an account for you, and they will stand before God and give an account to them, and someone’s like, well, they’re wrong and they need to be judged, and Jesus is like, and that’s my job, and while we’re at it, you’re wrong and need to be judged too. I’m working on both of you. How many of you are parents, and your kids are fighting and you realize that they both need work. God is a Father. This is how He operates. Sometimes when the kids are fighting, the Father says, I love you both, I accept you both. You’re not getting along. You both need some work. So don’t worry about them, worry about you. Let me deal with you both. So in our day, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Christian or not, the preponderance of people are not looking up to God, they’re looking down on others. Just in our age of social media and half-truths and technological flame throwing, it’s just judging, judging, judging, judging, looking at you’re wrong, you’re wrong, that was wrong, you said this wrong, you did this wrong. Everybody’s got a gavel, and the key is not to look down judging them, but to look up to Him who is the judge, and I’ll tell you this. When I, when I look up to Jesus, I really can’t see what you’re doing, and when I ask Jesus, okay, judge me, that list gets so long so fast, I really don’t have time to hassle with you. Hey Mark, here’s your sins. Here’s your Follies, here’s your pride, here’s your legalism, here’s your liberalism, here’s your bad attitude, here’s your self-righteousness, here’s your laziness, like oh my gosh. Okay, Lord. All right, yeah. Okay, Holy Spirit, I need help. There’s a lot I got to work on. I don’t have time. I don’t have enough time and energy to judge you ’cause I’m too busy letting Him judge me, and when this happens, what it leads to is an attitude of humility that says, okay, hey brother, sister, here’s what God’s convicted me of. Here’s what He’s shown me. Here’s what I’m working on. How can I pray for you? How do we encourage one another rather than judging one another? How do we help one another rather than hinder one another? How do we build one another up instead of beat one another down, and if Jesus is the judge of us both, it allows us to be the servant of one another, and so what he’s talking about here is in every church, there’s always somebody that wants to play what Jesus calls the plank-speck game. The plank-speck game is this. I’ve got a two by four in my head and you’ve got a speck of sawdust in your eye, and I’m really bothered by it, and I feel like we need to have a meeting and talk about it. You’re like, what about the two by four? You’re like, oh. Just ignore that, and the point is this. We tend to be far more worried about their sin than our sin, and sometimes we overlook the fact that our attitude is a lot worse than their action, and what happens in the church, there are always people that show up and they want to play the plank-speck game, and what He says, He uses three words. He says judgment, quarrels, and despise. I’m here to judge and then they get everybody else involved. Now there’s a quarrel, and now these people hate those people, these people are against these people. The people who seek to do this oftentimes, my observation, number one, they’re seeking to lead in a place that they shouldn’t be leading because they’re not leading in the place they should be leading. If you want to lead, start with you. All right, just tell America this. Everybody’s telling everybody else what to do, and if everybody just took care of themselves, the needs would go down pretty considerably. If you’re married and have a family, lead your family and don’t just show up at church and tell every other family what to do. Do it at home. Leadership starts with you. Leadership starts with your family, and what happens is they’re always people that show up and they’re the weakest conscience, so they’re most judgmental, and the result is they will create a lot of noise trying to create quarrels so that then we’re despising one another, and that just shows that the weak people are leading. Now, let me say this. Rather than looking down on one another, look up to Him, and when the weak people show up and they come with their list of commands and demands, love them, but tell them that they’re weak. Now their opinions are strong, but their faith is weak. I’ll close with two stories. Number one, Grace and I are totally different. One of the ways that Romans 14 plays itself out is in marriage. How many of you, you’re like, they love Jesus, I love Jesus. We’re gonna get married. It’s going to be amazing. We’re gonna do quiet times and pray together and sing songs and be full of the Spirit, and then you’re like, yeah, that didn’t happen, okay. So how many of you, you get married and you realize at a micro level, just the person you’re married to, their walk with God is not every single step the same as yours. They’re, they’re different. Grace and I are very different, very different. I realized this when we first got married and Halloween happened. Oh, I grew up in a non-Christian home. She grew up, Christian home. Halloween comes. I’m like, awesome, how much candy we gonna buy? She’s like, we don’t do Halloween. That’s, that’s a pagan holiday. That’s Saturnalia, that’s demonic, that’s witchcraft. I was like, it’s candy. You can’t be against candy. Everybody’s pro-candy. She’s like it’s demon candy. I was like, it’s candy. Right, that’s our version of the meat sacrificed to idols. I’m like, it’s candy. She’s like, it’s candy sacrificed to idols. I was like, it’s candy. So I’m turning the light on, she’s turning the light off. The kids are outside like, do we get candy or do we not get candy? We’re very confused. We had to work it through ’cause her conscience and my conscience were different. So pray for her. She’s weak, but she’s in process. Okay, so. She’s not here. Don’t tell her I said that, but like even the way we do our life together. She wakes up at seven or eight. I wake up at nine or 10. I used to not sleep and like any athlete, I’ve trained my body to sleep nine or 10 hours. She gets up before I do. First thing she does, she turns on her phone. She goes to the YouVersion Bible app and she reads her organized reading plan that she sticks to very consistently, and she loves Jesus, and I would never do that. I’ve got plans on YouVersion and I won’t read them. That’s silly. So I start my day, not with the YouVersion Bible app, but with cold brew. I’m not a Christian ’til after lunch. I just, I just kind of lay low. I’m not kidding you, okay. So Grace just knows. Don’t ask me anything until after lunch. Around lunch, the Holy Spirit comes. I’m like welcome. All right, now I’m a Christian for the rest of the day. So what happens is, she has an organized schedule. I don’t when it comes to my relationship with God, I never read the Bible the same time two days in a row. I actually don’t have a Bible reading plan, and she has a quiet time. I have a loud time. She sits on the couch and she, everything’s gotta be radio silence, and she puts her books around her and she prays and she drinks her tea. I go upstairs, I turn Chris Stapleton up to 12 and I open up like all my monitors, and I’ve got like, 20 Bible commentaries and it’s super loud, and it’s, it’s, and some of you are looking at me like, that’s secular music. It’s, it’s good music, you know? So, it’s like the candy. You know, don’t judge, so. So we’re just very different. We could never, she could never study the way I study. She, I do most of my best study between nine and 11 p.m. and she’s asleep on the couch, and the point is this. She loves Jesus, I love Jesus. She’s growing, I’m growing. God is pleased with her, God is sometimes kind of pleased with me. She’s a better Christian than I am. If I’m just honest about it publicly, I’ll just testify. Grace is a better Christian than me. Her relationship with God is very structured. Mine is very fluid and flexible, but the truth is, we share what we’re learning. We pray together, we study the Bible together. We serve the Lord together and the point is simply this. God loves you. Do you know Jesus? That’s really what matters, friend. Do you love Jesus? You’re growing in Jesus. You’re getting to know Jesus. At the end of the day, are you looking up to Him or are you looking down on them? Is there anybody you’re judging or despising, and my question to you, dear friend, would be this. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? What is He saying to you, ’cause at the end of the day, I want you to hear from the Lord and I want you to obey the Lord and I want you to follow the Lord, and this is a precious church family. Dear people, I actually really like you. There’s some lovely people here and everything that God is doing could be utterly ruined if a few weak people just show up and put together a lot of legalisms and start judging, which leads to despising and quarrels. Okay, so what we’re going to do, I’m going to pray for you, and I’m going to ask you to just ask the Holy Spirit what he would say to you. We’re going to bring the band up and we’re going to sing and we’re going to do it together, and as all our voices come together as one, we’re unified, not because we’re all the same, but because we’re worshiping the same Jesus. Lord Jesus, thank you so much that you’re our God. Thank you that you are the source of our unity. You are the center of our life and family and ministry and Lord God, we confess we’ve all looked down on others when we should have been looking up to you. We’ve been judging others when we should’ve been inviting you to judge us. We’ve been looking at their speck when we should have been paying careful attention to our plank and Lord, we pray for health and success of all the churches in the Valley, the nation, and the world that love and serve you. If they’re for Jesus, we’re for them and God, let our differences be strengths and not divisions, and let love cover a multitude of distinctions and differences and God, even for the marriages and families, husbands and wives are different and each kid is different and the family of God is no different, so let us put a lot of grace on our relationships and let us love from a pure heart, and Holy Spirit, we invite you to answer this prayer and to make it possible and help us, Lord, to dialogue and discuss and debate the opinions that we have so that we can all grow in wisdom and stature and favor as Jesus did, and we ask for this grace in His good name. Amen. Love you guys, thank you.

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Mark Driscoll
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