Life By the Spirit and the Gospel pt. 2
Last week we learned about the importance of releasing the people that God has assigned to us over to the power of His Spirit. Expecting God to fulfill His promise in sending His Spirit to each believer, to lead and guide into all truth. Rather than our attempts to lead people by the convictions we have personally received from God, we allow them the joy and freedom in working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Loving these people enough to show them the way of salvation in believing on Jesus and helping them grow in the grace and truth of God's love. We continue this powerful truth this week by looking into the scriptures for greater evidence and knowledge concerning this.
Paul wrote the book of Romans for the purpose of instructing the church. He shared with them the doctrine of righteousness. Doing what is right in the eyes of God. In these instructions for living right, Paul addresses the practical side of living in harmony with others. Examples of righteous behavior are cited and given as patterns for the church of Jesus Christ, not just the church in Rome, to follow.
In Chapter 14, verse one, reading from the Amplified Bible, it is written "As for the man who is a weak believer, welcome him into your fellowship, but not to criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions." Paul goes on to talk about the faith differences between people. Some people's conscience 'permits them to believe' that they may eat anything, while another's conscience 'permits him to believe' entirely different.
Rather than for me to quote the entire chapter in this letter, I urge you to read it again in the light of this teaching. Consider the admonitions such as "Why do you criticize and pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you look down upon or despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God." (Paul is not talking about judging sinful fruit by the Spirit of God's judgment – that's another teaching!) And in verse 16 "Do not therefore let what seems good to you be considered an evil thing by someone else. In other words, do not give occasion for others to criticize that which is justifiable for you." And finally, the sum of the teaching "So let us then definitely aim for and eagerly pursue what makes for harmony and for mutual up building (edification and development of one another … your personal convictions on such matters, exercise them as in God's presence, keeping them to yourself, striving only to know the truth and obey His will." Love others enough and trust God completely in allowing His Holy Spirit to deal with the people around you in convictions of righteousness, sin and judgment. Take heed not to overstep your call as a teacher, church builder, messenger of God, preacher and evangelist. All of these calls operate by the Holy Spirit but none of them take His place.
In our zeal to help others grow and mature spiritually, we must be careful not to hurt them, wound them and separate them from our fellowship because they are permitted by God to believe differently than we do. God is responsible for their salvation, not us. If we are praying for them, loving them and caring for them appropriately, and they are seeking God with all their hearts, we are experiencing the true church of God, pleasing to God. We do not owe it to them to set them straight in their beliefs. If they love God and are seeking to please God they are in a perfect place in God's sight. We must not try to impose our personal commandments of "you must do this" or "you need to believe this" or "you are guilty because you don't believe this". Romans 13:9 states "… and any other commandment, are summed up in the single COMMAND. You shall love your neighbor as you do yourself. Love does no wrong to one's neighbor (it never hurts anybody). Therefore love meets all the requirements and is the fulfilling of the Law."
Take heed that doctrines do not become laws that you feel you need to enforce and punished offenders. Do you love your congregations? How much more does God love them! Do you desire to help your people live victoriously? How much more so does God desire this for each of them? You were assigned a group of people from this world – people that belong to God. God did not give them to you so that you will make them yours. He gave them to you so that you can love them, edify them, encourage them, build their faith in God and when in unrepented sin, to admonish them but never has God asked you to impose the beliefs that God permits you to have, upon them. Love never hurts anybody. Is someone sick and needing an operation? If they are content to depend upon God guiding the surgeon, then don't try to impose your strong beliefs in healing upon them. If they ask you, most definitely preach the Word on healing and divine health, but if they don't then love them through the surgery and pray for them.
Does a woman come into your meeting not wearing a head covering and your personal belief is that all women should have their head covered … allow her the freedom to work out her own salvation without shame or condemnation from you. Does God love her and will He gladly welcome her into His heaven if she were to suddenly die? We know that He would. How much more so should we welcome those who love God, regardless of their customs or opinions or personal convictions. Live in harmony with all believers.
Is someone in your fellowship a carouser, a drunkard and immoral? Then love them enough to confront them and heal their hurts with the anointed power of Jesus. These are sins that will keep a man from heaven. These are not to be ignored and accepted by the church. True love will snatch them from hell's fire. If you were perishing, wouldn't you want someone to care enough to rescue you?
This is the gospel of peace. This is living in harmony with one another. This is the unity that Jesus prayed for in John chapter 17. This loves our neighbor as ourselves.
In the next issue we will continue this study on living by the Spirit and living by the gospel.
May you take these words to heart and meditate on them, searching the scriptures to judge the truths herein. Allowing the Holy Spirit to work truth in you, to the renewing of your mind. Rest for your soul. Have a light and easy week as you accomplish great things for His Kingdom!