A. What affect do you think your behavior has on those you encounter? A lot, none or a little.
B. We can break this down farther. Does the affect of the behavior change if the person knows you?
C. We can even take it a step farther. Does the affect of the behavior change if the person knows you claim to be a Christian?
D. Take for example the common scene of road rage.
1. You are driving down the road minding your own business and going the speed limit to boot.
2. Someone flies up behind you and rides your bumper until they find a place to pass.
3. As you watch them in your rearview mirror, you begin to feel anger rising up. You imagine things you might like to say or do. You make plans for a little sign language when they finally pass, and to release the pressure of the anger you mutter a few unmentionables under your breath so the children won’t hear.
4. When they pass, you give the planned sign language and then gasp in shock. You know this person, and what’s worse they know you as a member of First Baptist, a Sunday School teacher, a deacon, an usher, etc.
E. Our behavior does make a difference, and Paul continues to deal with this matter of sensitivity in most of this chapter.
I. Our Behavior Should Reflect Patience With The Spiritually Immature (vv. 1-3)
A. There is no break as we move into chapter fifteen, and Paul continues his theme of trying to understand those who don’t have the same understanding we do as mature believers.
B. The specific topic is the same: eating meat sacrificed to idols that was being sold for public consumption in the marketplace.
C. For believers who didn’t understand idols were nothing and that eating meat sacrificed to them meant nothing, this was a troubling scenario. They were also troubled by believers who were eating this meat and obviously thinking nothing of it.
D. Should the mature believers stop eating this meat, try to convince the immature believers it was acceptable or just ignore the situation altogether?
E. Paul reminds us our interests are not what should be foremost in the discussion or decision.
1. We may have knowledge a certain attitude is acceptable for believers who are living under the liberty of Christ, but as Paul says, “we cannot just go ahead and do them to please ourselves. We must be considerate of the doubts and fears of those who think these things are wrong.”
2. Our responsibility is to please others rather than ourselves.
3. Now we might ask; “Doesn’t this move us into the category of being people pleasers?”
4. We know we can’t please all the people all the time. Even Jesus was unsuccessful in this.
5. And Paul’s instructions should not be understood to mean we are to try and please all people no matter what.
6. To please some people would involve disobeying God’s instructions.
7. His teaching must be taken in context. He is speaking of harmony among God’s people. We are to do all within our power to live in peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
8. Rather than focusing on self all the time, we should focus on the needs and concerns of others.
F. Christ gives the example.
1. His ministry was first and foremost what the Father wanted him to do.
2. The struggle he went through-even as God’s incarnate Son, is witnessed in the Garden of Gethsemane when he asked the Father on several occasions to remove the cup of suffering and death that was soon to come.
3. But he put his interests beneath the Fathers as he said, “Not my will but thine be done.”
4. We must be careful lest we make it appear Christ didn’t want to die for our sins. He did but he struggled with the cost required to enact the transaction.
5. He was human and struggled with human emotions.
G. Believers are at different levels of maturity. From babes and children to teens and adults, we run the gamut. Combining this with traditions we have been taught-some of which are not biblical, we understand how easy it is to disagree but also to do so in an UnChristlike spirit.
H. As we interact, we must remember we are all growing up in Christ, and some are farther along than others.
I. The question is not always whether my behavior is moral and upright but whether it is helping my less mature brother or sister in Christ grow into maturity or destroying their faith?
J. Our freedom should always be limited by love and concern for our fellow believers and their growth in Christ.
II. Our Behavior Should Be Based On Scripture (v. 4)
A. God’s Word has purpose.
1. How those of old would have longed to have God’s Word in written form as we do. To have the variety of translations to help us better understand the meaning. To have all the resources available to enlighten us.
2. God’s Word expresses his purpose and standards.
3. His word provides historical examples to learn from.
4. His word is alive and interpreted in our personal lives as the Spirit gives understanding, conviction and application.
5. We will not grow as we should spiritually or realize God’s full plan and purpose without a daily helping.
B. God’s Word gives hope and encouragement.
1. It affects our attitude about the past, present and future.
2. Reading of God’s actions in the past-and experiencing them in our own life, gives us confidence in him for the future.
3. God’s Word should be hidden in our hearts so we can walk in the Spirit and avoid a fleshly lifestyle.
III. Our Behavior Should Illustrate Harmony (vv. 5-6)
A. Jesus prayed for this.
1. John 17:11 “Holy Father, keep them and care for them-all those you have given me-so that they will be united just as we are.”
2. If Jesus prayed for harmony among believers, it must be important.
3. Paul’s desire was the same, and he gives the key for achieving this harmony-have the attitude of Christ toward each other.
4. When we see ourselves as fellow laborers not competitors, when we understand we are working for the same goal, when we understand God’s love, it will be much easier to get along.
5. When you stop to think about it, believers, of all people, should have no trouble getting along even though we are still human and will not agree on all things.
B. When there is unity we will sing the same song.
1. We may not agree on the form of church government, the number of ordinances or the best way to observe them or even what to call our officials, but we will sing the same song of salvation-only through Christ.
2. Paul says we can join together with one voice which will praise and give glory to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. This we can all do and agree we should do.
C. Harmony in our association goes a long way in making the gospel believable to unbelievers.
1. A lack of harmony only reinforces what many unbelievers already believe-there’s nothing to Christianity.
2. To adequately see what they need they must see something different in us.
3. The same old same old is not attractive.
4. A divided church cannot adequately worship God.
IV. Our Behavior Must Reflect Acceptance (vv. 7-12)
A. For harmony to be achieved there must be an attitude of acceptance.
B. We must accept all who God accepts, and God accepts all who come to him in repentance and faith.
C. A pertinent question is: Who would we not want to be part of our fellowship based on their desire to worship Christ? The answer can be very revealing and show areas in our life needing spiritual attention.
D. Our acceptance of others is based on Christ’s acceptance of us.
E. Taking into consideration all Paul has taught about our sinfulness, how can we possibly not accept those who Christ will based on their repentance and faith in him?
F. This is something we need to seriously consider when our attitudes or likes and dislikes keep us away from fellow believers.
G. Believers can do so much more together than apart.
H. When we get along God is glorified. The spotlight is put on him and it becomes a good testimony of his power to create unity within his followers.
I. Paul was not talking to a church who had this down to an art, for the church in Rome was a mixture of Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, slave, free, mature and immature.
V. Our Behavior Should Reflect Peace (v. 13)
A. Based on the hope we have in Christ, we should be happy and exhibit a peaceful attitude.
1. Our hope is in forgiveness of our sins and eternal life in heaven.
2. Happiness is attained by obedience to God’s Word and especially to the instructions laid down in Jesus’ Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.
3. Peace comes in all situations because we know God is in control and has our best interests at heart.
B. We also know peace through the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit.
A. Behavior does matter.
B. It should reflect unity and the hope we have in Christ.