Author Archives: Michael Yates

About Michael Yates

I have taught Bible at the Secondary level for 8 years. I have a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Evangel University. I have also been educated as a husband and father by my wife and 3 lovely children. I enjoy reading about political theory and theology. Mostly I have learned that a theologian is one who prays; therefore, I pray for my family, friends, and for you.

Conscience, Conviction and Unity – Romans 12 and 14

https://1drv.ms/u/s!Auq7HAi24rrq_DG9asCOMe5vLooQ

The link above goes to the audio file of a sermon I delivered on July 31, 2016 on Romans 12 and 14. The unifying theme is living by our biblical convictions, even when those convictions don’t mesh well with the convictions of others. My notes are below.

 

Intro: A conviction I was raised with:

  • No TV shows involving ninjas, other martial arts – due to false religion and violence – Deut 7:25-26 25 The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire. Do not covet the silver and gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you will be ensnared by it, for it is detestable to the Lord your God. 26 Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Regard it as vile and utterly detest it, for it is set apart for destruction.
  • No Halloween

Text:    Romans 12 and 14 (bold for my points of emphasis)

Romans 12 (ESV)

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 14

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 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. 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, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

 

Thesis: God did not make a church of clones. He allows us to seek him in our imperfect flesh, guided and guarded by the Holy Spirit. Despite that flesh, the Spirit speaks to us and directs us. We can be confident that God’s word is always true, reliable, and to be obeyed. There are, however, matters of conscience in which one feel’s the Spirit’s conviction, but another does not.

Trans: Who is wrong? How can we be a unified body if people are convicted differently about different actions?

  • Is it ok for a “couple” to hold hands on a missions trip?

Conscience

  1. We should not do things the way the world does them.
    1. 12:1-2 present your bodies as a living sacrifice, Do not be conformed to this world. Theme for the next few chapters. Through 15.1-2. The reason we are a living sacrifice is because Christ was.
    2. 12:9 Abhor (ἀποστυγέω – from deep hatred) what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
    3. [Phl 1:10-11 ESV] 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
  2. Acting in conscience means acting in humility
    1. 12:3 – I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned
      1. What is this “measure of faith”? According to one’s spiritual gifts given by the HS. Paul will also explain in ch 14
    2. 12:12,13,16 – “be constant in prayer…seek to show hospitality…Do not be haughty [high and mighty], but associate with the lowly [near the ground]. Never be wise in your own sight.”
  3. Conscience comes from insight provided to us by the Holy Spirit
    1. These aren’t just opinions. The HS has guided our faith and we are accountable to obey
    2. 14:5-6 Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind… The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Trans: Before delving into this, we should understand the situation Paul is addressing. Observe, then interpret, then apply.

2 situations he addresses:

  • Jew/Gentile combo church – issue over food sacrificed to idols and celebration of Jewish holidays
  • Compare to a modern vegan, acting under firm conviction

Conviction

  1. Recognize that there are many areas that are not grey. God has spoken.
    1. Also recognize that often, disputes of conviction come because 1 thinks that it is a matter of personal conviction, while another regards the issue as a firm, clear teaching of Scripture.
  2. Modern examples? (that are safe to discuss)
    1. Worship song preference
    2. Movie choice, theater attendance
    3. Eating at a restaurant that has a bar
    4. Playing with dice or cards
    5. Dressing for church – either up or down
    6. Time wasters – phones, sports, tv
  3. How do we respond? Paul offers these teachings.
    1. First, as a minor, honor your father and mother
    2. If you find yourself to be the stricter one
      1. You honor the Lord by abstaining in order to worship and honor him
      2. Check your motives, have you created a rule out of your own, or a cultural, sense of honor that is not explicitly biblical?
        1. Are you trying to demonstrate moral superiority, or worse, try to cover up your own failings by finding weakness in someone else?
        2. Be fully convinced, if you are truly convicted in this area, obey the Lord’s convictions fully.
      3. Be mindful that some of your sins are a result of your own unnecessary strictness or even legalism (enforcing the man-made standard on someone else)
        1. 14:23 – “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
    3. If you find yourself to be the less strict one
      1. You honor the Lord by appreciating your freedom trusting that his “yoke is easy”
      2. Do not argue for others to drop their standards
        1. 14:1 – As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
        2. Check your motives, are you trying to “get away” with something immoral, or are you truly acting in the freedom of Christ with a clear conscience?
        3. Do not partake or participate in something that will offend someone else. This is becoming a “hindrance.” It will be difficult for the other believer to relate to you if you put this issue into the relationship. Honor them by obeying their standard when they are around.
          1. 14:13,15 – For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.
          2. 14:20 – Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.
      3. Notice, all along, the focus is on being mindful of one’s own actions and how they affect the body

Trans: Elder Paisios – “If you want to help the Church, it is better to try to correct yourself, rather than be looking to correct others. If you manage to correct yourself, one small part of the Church is immediately corrected. Naturally, if everyone did the same, the body of the Church would be in good health. But, today, people concern themselves with anything but themselves. You see, judging others is easy, whereas working on yourself takes effort.”

Unity

  1. The purpose of this section was to bring unity in a divided church without minimizing the importance of the guidance of the HS in individual lives.
  2. If a person is legitimately seeking to honor God, He receives that honor as honor.
  3. Ultimately what honors him and brings him satisfaction is our mutual submission and respect
    1. 12:16 – “Live in harmony with one another.”
    2. 14:19 – “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
    3. 14:18 – For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  4. Fruit of the spirit v works of the flesh Gal 5 – walk in the spirit
  5. Where is the balance? Gal 5:16,18 “16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

Trans: What must we do? Repent. Forgive. Repeat.

Conclusion: Pursue humility. Pursue sincerity. Pursue Christlike holiness.

Advertisements

God’s action in an evil world

I had the privilege of worshiping the Lord in music and in thought this morning. After an important message on the psychology and spiritual background to the evil actions of mankind from Dr. Ryan Darrow, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion that dealt with the following:

  1. What is evil?
  2. Where does evil come from?
  3. Can we be rescued from evil?
  4. Where is God when evil happens?
  5. What is God doing in this calamitous season?

View the service here: https://venue.streamspot.com/video/f99d9d4618

Please comment below with any questions you wish we would have addressed or any responses of your own. I’d love to sort through these questions together here.


Social Media and Empathy

“She may have a disorder.”

It was meant to be funny, but they had named the disorder. When a friend read this, they were quite offended.

The friend didn’t comment, but did share later, “they must not know what it’s like to have that disorder, to face these problems every day.”

It was a joke; it was funny. But, it was posted for over 500 friends to see.

How can you know the impact of your words when they are so freely posted for all to see? Any pastor will tell you stories of when they said something from the pulpit they regretted, and those speeches are planned. What power we have to summon the eyes of hundreds while being completely unaware of how our words will be heard.

I was already planning a social media fast when the above story occurred. At the end of the 40 days, I decided I needed to know who I was speaking to when I posted online. I needed a small enough group that I could be mindful of what they were thinking and how my words might impact them.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I said goodbye to Twitter and haven’t looked back (it’s been 2 years). I had 450 friends and determined to limit them to my close relatives and only a handful of friends that were close enough to hold me accountable for what I said. I’m down to 45 (and 5 are in heaven).

I haven’t abandoned my friends. I just relate to them the way I did 10 years ago–in person or my phone. I still have friends, but I no longer have to worry about my impact on people that I barely knew when I actually knew them.

It is strange, and I feel bad when I get those friend requests, but I let them know my number…and ignore the request.

Is this the only way? Of course not. I know of some who use social media well as a platform of encouragement. However, we must all be mindful of our audience and the power of what we say.


What is Romans all about?

I have found it frustrating to get the “big picture” of the book of Romans despite many attempts at studying it. To help myself in this project, I decided to outline it by giving a basic topic to each chapter of the book.

Romans 1. Gentiles have no excuse for their sinfulness.

2. Jews have no excuse for their sinfulness

3. We’ve all sinned, but Jews have an advantage over Gentiles.

4. Faith is a greater advantage, however.

5. Jesus justifies all who have faith.

6. We all used to sin, but it’s not to be expected any more.

7. Just because it’s not to be expected, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Reject the sinful nature.

8. Live in the Spirit.

9. God is testing the Jews by reaching Gentiles.

10. God can save Gentiles, and Jews need to be okay with that.

11. God still wants to save Jews.

12. Jews and Gentile Christ-followers are one. Serve God as one.

13. Serve outsiders and love each other.

14. Don’t enforce your own made-up rules on others that don’t need them.

15. Get along and meet others’ needs.

16. Greet each other and be hospitable.


A fascinating speech on religious left politics

Here is a selection of quotes from a speech given by a somewhat famous public speaker. I think it would be fun to get through all the quotes before seeing who said them.

Today I’d like to talk about the connection between religion and politics and perhaps offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often bitter arguments that we’ve been seeing over the last several years.

I do so because, as you all know, we can affirm the importance of poverty in the Bible…

[People are saying, he’s] a Christian … and yet he supports a lifestyle that the Bible calls an abomination. … says he’s a Christian, but supports the destruction of innocent and sacred life.

…At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word “Christian” describes one’s political opponents, not people of faith.

…I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people’s lives — in the lives of the American people — and I think it’s time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.

..I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope. … Faith doesn’t mean that you don’t have doubts.

You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away – because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle …one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross …I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

…Some of the problem here is rhetorical – if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice.

Imagine Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address without reference to “the judgments of the Lord.” Or King’s I Have a Dream speech without references to “all of God’s children.”

…Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting “preachy” may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness – in the imperfections of man.

Solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers’ lobby – but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we’ve got a moral problem. There’s a hole in that young man’s heart – a hole that the government alone cannot fix.

…Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

… during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? … So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. … I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

…Politics…involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible….religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible.

… If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

…Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats.

…It’s a prayer I think I share with a lot of Americans. A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come.

–Barack Obama, June 28, 2006

http://www.obamaspeeches.com/081-Call-to-Renewal-Keynote-Address-Obama-Speech.htm