Category Archives: Ray Stedman Sermons

Devotional by Ray Stedman for November 25- Pioneers or Settlers?

Topic:Pioneers or Settlers?

Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation…
Romans 15:17-20

Concerning the principles of his ministry, Paul tells us five things: First, everywhere he went he found himself boasting, or a better translation is “rejoicing.” He said, “I rejoice, I glory in Christ Jesus, in my service to God.” Why? Because when this man came into a city, he usually found it in the grip of Roman authority, and ruled with an iron hand. He would find the people in widespread despair, empty and longing for something they could not find, and fallen into terribly degrading habits that were destroying homes and the very fabric of society itself. He would find them in the grip of superstitious fears. No church existed where he went, but after he had been there a while, and had begun to preach these tremendous themes, light began to spring up in the darkness. People were changed; they began to live for the first time. They discovered why they were made, and excitement appeared in their lives. So Paul just spent his life rejoicing over what was happening. That is the kind of ministry he had, and he gives us the secret of it in Verse 18: “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done.” That is the greatest secret God has to teach man — that man was designed, not to do something to make God happy, but to let God work through the man. God would do the work — that is what Paul said, “.. Christ has accomplished through me.”

Paul’s life and ministry were constantly characterized by the display of the power of God to change lives. Then look at how widespread his ministry was (Verse 19): “So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” Jerusalem is way down on the eastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia. Paul had traveled up and down that coast, on into what we call Turkey, in Asia Minor, up and across the Dardanelles, into Europe, then into Macedonia and Greece. He had gone into what we call Yugoslavia (Illyricum). And the nature of his ministry was pioneering (Verse 20): “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.” He never wanted to build on another man’s work.

There are two kinds of Christians: Some want to be Settlers, to live around the courthouse and let the mayor run everything. They have lost all desire to reach out. But then there are the Pioneers, like Paul. They want to be getting into new areas that have never been touched adequately. I believe this is characteristic of the Spirit of God. He loves to thrust out into new areas.

Some of us are praying for a thrust into unreached and needy areas, to touch folks who have never been touched much. You should pray to be able to reach into these areas, that something will develop that will have the touch of God upon it. And this is Paul’s great hunger. We are to reach out with the good news, as Paul did.

I pray that I may not forget that I am still in the battle, and I am still to be your instrument. Help me to partake of the apostle’s spirit and press on, until you are ready to call me home.

Life Application

Have we settled for apathetic complacency though surrounded by evidence of personal and worldwide spiritual warfare? What steps are urgently needed to be God’s messengers, empowered by His wisdom and indwelling Presence?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for November 24- A Bold Reminder

Topic:A Bold Reminder

But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:15-16

Ray Stedman

You would think that a church that was theologically knowledgeable, able to instruct and counsel one another in the deep problems of life, and filled with a spirit of goodness and compassion, would hardly need anything more said to them. Yet it is to that kind of church that Paul addressed his letter to the Romans. He says they needed three other things.

First, they needed a bold reminder of the truth. I saw a man the other day with a string around his finger. The string was to remind him of something. The fact that we so easily forget things is somehow built into our humanity and I think one of the greatest proofs of the fall of man is that we have such a hard time remembering what we want to remember, yet we so easily remember what we want to forget! We even need to be reminded again and again of these great themes of the gospel. That is why in, Chapter 12, Paul says, “You need your mind renewed by the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 12:2). That is one reason to gather every Sunday: We need to have our minds renewed. We need to be called back to a vision of reality. Living out in the world, as many of you are, working every day among non-Christians, it is so easy to be sucked into the attitudes of the world around. It is so easy to get the idea that life is designed to be a pleasant picnic, that we can work toward the day when we can retire and enjoy ourselves. I find that attitude prevalent among people everywhere, but that is not what the Bible says. The Bible says we are in the midst of a battle, a battle to the death, against a keen and crafty foe. He wants to discourage us and defeat us, and to make us feel angry and hostile. He knows how to do it, and he never lets up. This life is not designed to be a time of relaxing. There are times when we need recreation and vacations, when we can slow down a bit. But you never see Paul talking about quitting the battle. You cannot quit, as long as life is there. So Paul tells us that we need to be reminded, day by day and week by week, that we are in a battle and that we have a crafty foe.

The second thing the apostle said the Christians at Rome needed was a priestly ministry. He told them, “You not only need to be reminded of the truth, but you need an example to follow. You need somebody you can see doing this kind of thing. That is what pastors have the privilege of doing. They are called of God, not only to be an example of leadership, but also to be like a priest working in the temple, to awaken among people a sense of worship, a sense of the greatness of God”

The third thing they needed is that, “the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Every congregation needs this. We need to labor, to pray, to work, to counsel, to evangelize. But all of the activity of the Christian life is of no avail if it is not sanctified by the Holy Spirit, if it does not have in it that touch of God, that unction from on high, that divine wind blowing upon the dead bones and making them come to life. Paul is reminding them here of the ministry of prayer, and the need to remember that God himself must touch something — otherwise it is dead and useless. So Paul calls this church at Rome back to this tremendous reality. They had so much, but they needed this as well.

Lord, continue to remind me of my need for these three things. I continue to need a bold reminder of the truth, a priestly example and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Thank you that you are more than willing to provide these things.

Life Application

Has the daily exposure to worldly affairs and ideas diverted our minds from our heritage of Truth and Love? Have we settled into complacency when that knowledge and goodness is so urgently needed?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for November 23- Full of Goodness and Knowledge

Topic:Full of Goodness and Knowledge

And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
Romans 15:14

Ray Stedman

In this chapter of Romans, Paul gives us a little further insight into the church at Rome. Here, in Verse 14, there are three things that he says about this church, three great qualities that they possessed.

First, he says, “I am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness.” That is, their motives were right. They had come to the place where they were motivated by a sense of goodness. Certainly, this church at Rome was a responsive church, a compassionate church. It reached out to people who were in need. It responded to those who had hurts and burdens and concerns. This is one of the qualities I most appreciate about a congregation. Whenever a need is shared, there is always a compassionate response.

The second thing that the apostle says is that they were complete in knowledge. That is rather remarkable. Here was a church to which Paul did not need to give any new theology. He acknowledges that they had it already. Though this is one of the most deeply penetrative theological treatises in the New Testament, Paul did not write it because these people did not already know the truth that he was giving them. If you think back through the letter, there were certain themes that the apostle emphasized: One was justification by faith, i.e., the gift of worth in God’s sight. This gift could not be earned: It was a gift because of the work of Jesus Christ for us. They also understood the nature of the flesh, the need for sanctification. They knew that even though they had been redeemed, they were still possessed of a fallen body. The flesh was still there, giving them trouble. I still struggle with my own flesh, and so do you. Young Philip Melancthon, the colleague of Martin Luther, once wrote to Luther and said, “Old Adam is too strong for young Philip.” These people at Rome understood this truth and they knew that this would be the struggle of their Christian lives. Paul did not have to tell them that; they knew it before he wrote. But they knew also that God is working out a great plan, that he is creating a whole new humanity, and building a new creation. Right in the midst of the ruins of the old, he is producing a new man, and they were part of it. Finally, they understood the great themes of glorification, and of the eternal ages to come.

The third thing the apostle had to say about this church was that they were competent to instruct one another. In a sense, he was saying, “You are able to counsel one another.” That is a remarkable thing. This is the answer to all the terrible pressure that is placed upon pastors, who are expected to solve all the problems of their congregations, and to counsel everyone first-hand. That was never God’s intention. The plan of God is that the whole congregation be involved in the work of counseling. The whole congregation is to be aware of what is going on with neighbors and friends and brothers and sisters, and do something about meeting their problems. The way this is done is by the imparting of the gifts of the Spirit. So the church at Rome had the right motives, they had complete knowledge, and they had the full range of gifts, so that they were able to do many things within their church community and in the city of Rome.

Thank you, Father, for all the gifts of goodness and knowledge and instruction that you have given to your church to use in serving and loving one another.

Life Application

Three great doctrines of the faith were known by the church in Rome. Are we being equipped to serve and counsel others with the gifts of godly insight and knowledge?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for November 22- Accept One Another

Topic:Accept One Another

Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, “Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles, and I will sing to Your name.”
Romans 15:7-9

Ray Stedman

I do not know if you have ever been involved in a church fight, but if you have, you know that tempers can get very hot. People can get very upset, and factions can form; divisions and feuds break out.

Yet I have never heard of a church fight that was any worse than the attitudes that Jews and Gentiles had toward one another in Paul’s day. The Jews held the Gentiles in contempt; they called them dogs. They would have nothing to do with them. The Jews even regarded it as sinful to go into a Gentile’s house and they would never dream of eating with a Gentile. They regarded them with utter contempt. In the book of Acts, Peter got into serious trouble with his Jewish friends because he went into the home of Cornelius, and ate with him. It was only because Peter could show that the Holy Spirit sent him there, that he was able to justify his conduct to his friends.

Of course, if the Jews felt that way about the Gentiles, the Gentiles paid it right back in kind. They hated the Jews. They called them all kinds of names. This is where modern anti-Semitism was born. These were opposing factions who hated one another, and would have nothing to do with one another.

Yet, Paul says, that kind of division God is healing by the work of Jesus. How did Jesus do it? A more literal translation of the text is that, “he became a minister of circumcision.” What the apostle is arguing is that the Lord healed this breach between the Jews and the Gentiles by his giving in and limiting his own liberty. He who designed the human body, he himself consented to the act of circumcision. Jesus consented to that and limited himself in that way. He became a circumcised Jew. He who declared in his ministry that all foods are clean, and thus gave clear evidence that he understood the liberty that God gives us in the matter of eating, never once ate anything but kosher food. He limited himself to the Jewish diet, even though he declared that all foods were clean.

He who was without sin insisted on a sinner’s baptism. He came to John, and John said, “Why are you coming to me? I need to be baptized by you. You do not need to be baptized.” Jesus said, “Allow it to be so, for in this way it becomes us. It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” (Matthew 3:15). So he who had no reason to be baptized consented to be baptized. He who longed to heal the hurts of the world said that when he came, he limited himself to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Paul’s argument is that the results of that limitation were that Jesus broke the back of the argument and of the contempt between the Jew and the Gentile. He reached both Jews and Gentiles to the glory of God. If you trace this through you can see that what Paul is saying is that in the death and resurrection of Jesus, God showed his faithfulness to the Jews in fulfilling the promises made to the patriarchs; and he showed his mercy to the Gentiles, saving them who were without any promises at all. Thus the two, Jew and Gentile, shall fully become one, just as the Scriptures predict.

What Paul is really saying is, “You do not need to separate; you do not need to split; you do not need to fight; you do not need to sue one another. You can work the problems out, and God is honored and glorified when you do.”

Thank you for this miracle of unity in Christ, and I ask that it be preserved in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Life Application

Jesus’ example is the answer to ‘What would Jesus do?’ The cross was the price He paid for our acceptance. Are we laying down our rights in order to accept others for Jesus’ sake?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for November 21- The Wise Use of Liberty

Topic:The Wise Use of Liberty

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.
Romans 15:1-2

Ray Stedman

There are two thumbnail rules to follow when you have to make a quick decision whether you ought to insist on liberty in a certain area, or give way to someone else’s qualms, or prejudices, or differences of viewpoint.

The first rule is: Choose to please your neighbor rather than yourself. Do not insist on your way of doing things; be quick to give in. This is what love does. Love does not insist on its own rights, Paul tells us in First Corinthians 13. Therefore, if you are loving in your approach, love will adjust and adapt to others.

The second rule, however, says to be careful that your giving in does not allow your neighbor to be confirmed in his weakness, that you do not leave him without encouragement to grow, or to rethink his position. We are to seek to build one another up. If we do nothing but give in to people’s weaknesses, the church eventually ends up living at the level of the weakest conscience in its midst. This presents a twisted and distorted view of Christian liberty, and the world gets false ideas about what Christianity is about. So this helps to balance the situation. Please your neighbor, but for his own good, always leaving something there to challenge his thinking, or make him reach out a bit, and possibly change his viewpoint.

A man made an appointment to see me and told me he was a teacher in a Christian school. He had been asked by the board to enforce a rule prohibiting students from wearing their hair long. It was a rule that he did not agree with, so he found himself in a dilemma. If he did not enforce the rule, the board had told him that he would lose his job. If he did enforce it, he would be upsetting the students and their parents, who felt that this was a matter that did not merit that kind of attention. Our culture has long since changed from regarding long hair as a symbol of rebellion, so this man found himself in between a rock and a hard place. His plea to me was, “What shall I do?” My counsel was that we should not push our ideas of liberty to the degree that they would upset the peace. So I said to him, “For the sake of peace, go along with the board and enforce the rule for this year. But make a strong plea to the board to rethink their position and to change their viewpoint. At the end of the year if they are unwilling to do that, perhaps you might well consider moving to a different place. That way you would not be upsetting things, and creating a division in the school.”

That illustrates what Paul is saying. People can lose sight of the main objectives of being together as Christians, and they get so focused in on these issues that a church can split right down the center. Or else these issues will create such arguing, bickering and dissension within the group that the whole atmosphere of the church is changed. Paul is saying to us that this is really not necessary as there are things that can be done to work these problems out.

Father, thank you for the liberty and freedom that you give. I pray that we who regard ourselves as strong, may be willing to bear the burdens of the weak. May your people manifest a spirit of unity to the watching world that knows no way to get divergent factions together.

Life Application

Are we committed to pleasing our ‘neighbor’ for their good? How will we discern the good that is needed? Do we have increased awareness of our own need for discernment from the Word, both written and indwelling us His people?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for November 20- Conviction Based on God’s Word

Topic:Conviction Based on God’s Word

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.
Romans 14:22

Ray Stedman

This verse is not saying you are to keep quiet about your liberties, that you do not say anything to anybody, that you keep it between yourself and God. What Paul is saying is, “if you have faith, have it between yourself and God.” Let God’s Word be the basis for your faith, and nothing else. Be sure that what you are doing is not because of pride on your part, because you want to show off how free you are — you are doing this because God has freed you by his Word. If you have really based it on that, then your action will be one in which your conscience is free. You will not feel guilty and troubled as to whether you are acting beyond what the Word of God really says. You will be happy, free, blessed. But, if you do not, if you really have not settled this based on Scripture, but are acting only because you want to indulge yourself; if you like this thing but you still feel a bit troubled by it; if you act then, you are going to be condemned by your conscience. And if you are condemned by your conscience, you will feel guilty. And if you act because you feel guilty, you are not acting out of faith, and, therefore, you are sinning. This is Paul’s argument.

“Without faith,” Hebrews says, “it is impossible to please God,” (Hebrews 11:6a). Faith means believing what God has said. You must base your actions in Christian liberty on what the Word of God declares — not about any specific thing, but the great principle of freedom which is set forth. Now, if you understand that, fine, Paul says. But be sure that you yourself are acting not out of pride, not out of mere self-indulgence, but out of a deep conviction that rests upon the Word and revelation of God.

To sum up, what Paul has said to us is: Do not deliberately stumble or shock your brother or sister. Do not deliberately do things that will offend them, or even make them feel uncomfortable. Think about them, not yourself. Second: Give up your right when it threatens the peace or hinders the growth of another individual. Be alert to judge in that area. Third: Never act from doubt. Act only from conviction, by the Word, and by the Spirit of God. If these problems are all settled on that basis, you will be moving gradually toward the great liberty that we have as children of God.

What will happen in the eyes of the watching world? Christians will be seen to be free people, not controlled by scruples that limit them and narrow them in their enjoyment of God’s great gifts. Yet, these things will not be of such importance that they are put at the heart and center of everything. The world will begin to see that the heart of the Gospel is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, the gifts of God. Those gifts, then, are the basis for freedom in all these areas. But you are just as free to say, “No” to the indulgence of a gift as you are to say “Yes” to it. That is true freedom. You are not free if you think you have won your rights. That is not freedom. Freedom is the right to give up your rights, for good and proper cause. That is what the watching world will begin to see.

Teach me Lord, to walk softly before you in this, with a concern for my brother and sister; to be patient and to learn to enjoy my liberties only as they do not injure or hurt another.

Life Application

What three conclusions summarize God’s Word to us concerning our attitudes and behavior in debatable issues? What is authentic freedom when the issue is our ‘rights’?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for November 19- What Matters

Topic:What Matters

Therefore, do not allow what you consider as good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
Romans 14:16-18

Ray Stedman

If you are going to create division by arguing so hard for your rights, or your freedom, then you are distorting the gospel itself. The word Paul uses for “evil” means blaspheme. You are causing the good news about Christ to be blasphemed because you are making too much of an issue over a minor matter. You are insisting that your rights are so important that you have to divide the church over them. That is saying to the watching world around that Christianity consists of whether you do, or do not do, a certain thing.

I heard of a church that got into an argument over whether they ought to have a Christmas tree at their Christmas program. Some thought that a tree was fine; others thought it was a pagan practice, and they got so angry at each other and even got into fist fights over it. One group dragged the tree out, then the other group dragged it back in. They ended up suing each other in a court of law and this was spread in the newspapers for the entire community to read. What else could non-Christians conclude other than that the gospel consists of if you have a Christmas tree or not?

That is wrong. The main point of the Christian faith is not eating or drinking or Christmas trees. The main point is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. A non-Christian, looking at a Christian, ought to see righteousness, peace and joy, not wrangling and disputing and fighting and law courts. That word righteousness means that, because of the death of Jesus for you, you are loved and accepted by him. The world ought to see you confident about who you are, with an underlying assurance that shows you have a basis of self-acceptance that the world knows nothing about.

Another thing the world ought to see is peace. That comes across visibly as a kind of calmness, an inner core of unflappability that is undisturbed by the minor irritations of the moment. It is that quiet and calm assurance that God is present in the situation; that he will work it out for his glory, and we need not get upset or angry. It is hard for the world to get that impression of peace and calmness if they see two people screaming at one another. That does not look very calm.

The third element is joy. Joy is that delight in life that always finds life worthwhile, even though it may be filled with problems. Joy does not come from circumstances. I met a woman who had been lying in her bed for 13 years. She has arthritis so bad that her joints are disconnected and she cannot even raise her hands. But the smile on her face, the joy that is evident in her, is an outstanding witness to the fact that joy of this kind is a gift of God. It comes out of relationship, not out of circumstance.

Paul is saying that if that is what you have discovered, then you can easily give up some momentary indulgence that you enjoy and are free to participate in, if it is going to cause someone to act contrary to their own conscience. Sometimes, when you enter a main highway, you see a sign that says, “YIELD.” I wish we could make one of those and put it up in our dining room. That is a Christian philosophy — to yield, to give way. Do not insist on your rights under these circumstances.

Thank you, Father, that there is a way of working problems out, peacefully and cheerfully and joyfully, “preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Life Application

What is the three-fold evidence of one who is intentionally walking in the Spirit? How does the alternative to these violate the Gospel, and invalidate our witness to the world?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for November 18- Reading Hearts

Topic:Reading Hearts

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Romans 14:5-8

Ray Stedman

What Paul is saying is that God can read hearts and you cannot. These distinctions and differences of viewpoint arise out of honest conviction which God sees, even though you cannot. Therefore, the individual is not simply being difficult because he does not agree with you. He is acting based on the basis of what he feels is right, so trust him on that. Believe that he is as intent on being real before God and true to him as you are, and if he feels able to indulge in some of these things you think are not right, then at least see him as doing so because he really feels that God is not displeased with him on that basis. Or, if he does feel limited and he feels he should not do certain things, do not get upset with him because he has not moved into freedom yet. Remember that he really feels that God would be displeased if he did those things. The apostle makes clear here that every person should have that kind of a conviction: “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own heart,” (Romans 14:4b KJV).

Paul says that God sees both of these people and both of these viewpoints as honoring him. The one who thinks Sunday is a special day that ought to be kept different from all other days is doing so as unto the Lord, therefore honor that, respect that viewpoint. The one who says, “No. When we are in Christ, days do not mean anything. They are not set aside for any special purpose. Therefore, I feel every day is alike, and I want to honor the Lord on every day.” Okay, do not feel upset at that. He is doing so out of a deep conviction of his heart.

The one who drinks wine gives thanks to God for the the taste of it, and it is perfectly proper that he does so. The one who says, “No. I cannot drink wine, but I can drink coffee,” gives thanks for the coffee. The coffee may do as much physical harm as the wine, but, in either case, it is not a moral question. It is a question of what the heart is doing in the eyes of God.

I heard some time ago of a girl who was a converted nightclub singer, a fresh, new Christian, who was asked to sing at a church meeting. She wanted to do her very best for the Lord whom she had come to love, and so she dressed up the best way she knew how and she sang a song that she thought was expressive of her faith. She did it in the style of the nightclub singer. Somebody came up to her afterwards and ripped into her and said, “How can you sing a song like that and claim to be a Christian? God could never be happy with a Christian who dresses the way you do, and to sing in a nightclub style must be offensive to him.” The poor girl was so taken back, she just stood there for a minute, and she broke into tears, and turned and ran. That was a wrong and hurtful thing to do to her. Granted, later on she might have changed her style, but God has the right to change her, not you. Her heart was right and God saw the heart and honored it. That was something he was pleased with.

Father, help me to see where I have been usurping your place. Help me to stop that, and to begin to answer only for myself before your throne, and upholding and praying for my brother or sister if I feel they need it. Grant to me, Lord, that illuminating understanding of truth that sets me free.

Life Application

Are we qualified to change others’ hearts? Shall we consider it off limits for us to judge their motivations or conclusions? What is our recourse when we see what we deem erroneous choices?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for November 17- Debatable Issues

Topic:Debatable Issues

One person’s faith allows them to eat everything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.
Romans 14:2

This issue arises out of the background of the early church in which there was a real moral question about eating meat. Not only were there the Jewish restrictions against certain forms of meat — Jews did not eat pork, and even beef and lamb had to be kosher — but it had to be slain in a certain way. So a Jew, or even one raised as a Jew, after he became a Christian, always had great emotional difficulty in eating meat. There was also the problem in Rome and in other pagan cities about the matter of eating meat that had been offered to idols. Some Christians said that if you did that it was tantamount to worshipping that idol. Other Christians said, “Oh, no. How can that be? Meat is meat. The fact that someone else thinks of it as offered to idols does not mean that I have to.” So there was a real problem in the church.

As in every area of this type, there were two viewpoints. There was a liberal, broad viewpoint that said it was perfectly alright to do this, and a stricter, narrower viewpoint that said it was wrong to do this. You can put many of the modern problems that we have into this category. Should you drink wine and beer; should you go to the movies; should you dance; what about work on Sunday? Let us be very clear that there are areas that Scripture speaks about that are not debatable at all. It is always wrong to be drunk. It is always wrong to commit adultery or immorality. These things are clearly wrong. In both the Old and New Testaments, God has spoken, he has judged, in these areas. Christians are exhorted to rebuke and exhort and reprove one another, and, if necessary, even discipline one another according to patterns set out in the Scriptures. This is not judging each other in those areas.

But there are all those other areas that are left open, and the amazing thing to me is that Scripture always leaves those open. Paul will not give a “yes” or “no” answer about some of these things because God does not do so. There is an area, in other words, where God wants to leave it up to the individual as to what he or she does. He expects it to be based upon a deep conviction of that individual. But it is up to them.

It is also clear that he calls the “liberal party” strong in the faith, while the “narrow party” is weak in the faith. Therefore, the mark of understanding truth is freedom. That is why Paul calls the person who understands truth clearly one who is strong in the faith, while those who do not understand it clearly are weak in the faith. They are weak in the faith because they have not yet discovered the meaning of Christian freedom; they see Christianity as a thing of rules and regulations. Also, they have not yet liberated himself from a belief in the efficacy of works. In their heart they believe that they can gain God’s favor by doing certain things and abstaining from doing others. Basically, they are still trying to earn a right relationship with God, and have not yet accepted the way of grace.

That is the problem here. It is the problem of a Christian who is not yet understanding fully the freedom that Christ has brought him, who struggles with these kinds of things, and who feels limited in his ability to indulge or to use some of these things — while others feel free to do so. One is strong in the faith; the other is called weak in the faith. Every church has these groups. Paul puts his finger precisely on the natural attitudes which each group would have toward each other that must be avoided if we are going to accept one another as he says.

Father, teach me to accept and love my brothers and sisters in Christ and refrain from judging in debatable matters.

Life Application

Are we honoring the privilege of choosing to our fellow believers when their opinions differ from ours? How does God use our choices to teach and train us?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for November 16- Put on the Lord Jesus Christ

Topic:Put on the Lord Jesus Christ

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Romans 13:14

When I got up this morning I put on my clothes. I put on my clothes with the intention that they would be part of me all this day, that they would go where I go and do what I do. They will cover me and make me presentable to others. That is the purpose of clothes. In the same way, the apostle is saying to us, “Put on Jesus Christ when you get up in the morning. Make him a part of your life that day. Intend that he go with you everywhere you go, and that he act through you in everything you do. Call upon his resources. Live your life in Christ.”

These words have forever been made famous by their connection with the conversion of Saint Augustine. Augustine was a young man in the fourth century who lived a wild, carousing life, running around with evil companions, doing everything they were doing. He forbade himself nothing, went into anything and everything. And, as people still do today, he came to hate himself for it. One day he was with his friend in a garden, and he walked up and down, bemoaning his inability to change. “O, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow! How can I free myself from these terrible urges within me that drive me to the things that hurt me!” And in his despair, as he walked in the garden, he suddenly heard what he thought was the voice of a child — perhaps some children were playing in the garden next door — and the voice said, “Take and read, take and read.” He could not remember any children’s games with words like that, but the words stuck. He went back to the table and found lying on it a copy of Paul’s letter to the Romans. He flipped it open, and these were the words he read: “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies, and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ…” Romans 13:13-14a

Augustine said that at that moment he opened his life to Christ. He had known about him, but had never surrendered to him. But that moment he did, and he felt the healing touch from Christ cleansing his life. He was never the same man again. He went on to become one of the greatest Christians of all time.

That is what Jesus Christ is capable of doing. He gives us all the power to love. If we but choose to exercise this power in the moment that needs it, we can release in this world this radical, radical force that has the power to change everything around us. It will change our homes, our lives, our communities, our nations, the world — because a risen Lord is available to us, to live through us. I love J. B. Philips’ translation of this last verse: “Let us be Christ’s men from head to foot, and give no chance to the flesh to have its fling.” ((Romans 13:14) J.B. Philips) That is the way to live.

Thank you, Father, for the freedom and the power you have given me to clothe myself with Christ and no longer gratify the desires of my flesh.

Life Application

Have we grasped the inestimable privilege of actually choosing to be clothed with the Life and Love of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is this becoming a habit of heart and mind?