The following series of articles comes from David Cloud and gives us some helpful insight into how to really make the most of being a member of a church. I am so grateful for the church that Jesus Christ loved and gave Himself for, and I want to have a right relationship with the church, which is his body, his bride. I would not agree with every point he makes, but I think there is alot of good truth in what he writes. Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 as well.
5. WE MUST UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONVICTION AND PREFERENCE
Another key to fruitful church membership is to understand the difference between conviction and preference. Conviction is based upon a clear teaching of God’s Word. Preference is not. A Christian can have preferences on all sorts of church matters, but he is not at liberty to make his preference a law for others. This is discussed in Romans 14:
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks” (Romans 14:1-6).
This passage is often misused by ecumenists to support their phony idea of legalism. They claim that it is not right to judge others even in matters of doctrine, but that is nonsense. It is not legalism to cry out against sin, to judge false teachers, to set standards for God’s people based on the clear teaching of the Word of God, to demand that Christians obey the details of the Bible. In Romans 14, the Lord is forbidding us to judge others IN MATTERS THAT ARE NOT CLEARLY TAUGHT IN SCRIPTURE. Two examples are given: what we eat and how we respect holy days. These are issues that the New Testament does not address. There are no dietary laws for Christians, and there are no Old Testament holy days that we must keep. These are matters of Christian liberty. I am free to eat meat or not to eat meat, but I am not free to judge others by my conscience in this matter or in any other matter that is not plainly taught in the Scripture.
When the Scripture speaks plainly, we must speak; but when the Scripture has no plain word, we have no authority to speak. In such matters I am free to follow my conscience and the Lord’s leading in all matters for my personal life, but I am not free to make my conscience a law for others in areas of Christian liberty. That is the teaching of Romans 14.
I believe many of the things mentioned earlier in this article fall into this category. There is the matter, for example, of holding fellowships on Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and Halloween. Obviously it is wrong to be involved in witchcraft, idolatry, or immorality, but as for the days themselves, they are nothing. The Lord made the days. Why would it be wrong to have a church fellowship on October 31, for example, as long as the church does not promote things associated with evil, such as a haunted house, or similar things connected with ghosts and goblins? If the church tried to incorporate such worldly, evil things into the youth activities, this should be resisted loudly; but if they are simply having a youth activity on or near October 31 in order to reach the unsaved or be a blessing to Christian young people, there is nothing wrong with this. It is strictly a matter of preference. Our church often has a Harvest Fellowship at Halloween time, primarily to provide an activity for to help keep young people away from the wicked things that go on in the world then. I see nothing unscriptural about this.
Likewise, the Lord made February 14. The Lord made romance. If a church wants to have some sort of fellowship on that day, so be it. Don’t get me wrong. I am not giving a blanket endorsement of the world’s holidays. There is much that is evil there. Cupid is connected with a pagan god of lust, and the Christian must avoid every form of immorality; but I don’t believe it is wrong for a church to have a fellowship or some sort of sweetheart banquet at Valentine’s Day for married couples. There doesn’t have to be immorality or lasciviousness involved, and that is what God forbids.
I am convinced there is freedom of conscience in such matters. They are matters of preference. If a person doesn’t want to have any type of get together on such days, he shouldn’t have them. He also doesn’t have to participate in something at the church if his conscience will not allow him to do so, but he shouldn’t make his own opinions about these things a law for others. God has made no such laws.
I know some are going to groan when they hear this, but I believe this principle is applicable for certain Christmas practices, as well. We know that the Christmas season has come from Rome and from paganism. I am as opposed to Romanism as anyone. I have written many unpopular books against Rome. Yet while I am sickened at the commercialism and debauchery that characterizes the Christmas holidays on the part of some, I don’t think it is wrong to enjoy some aspects of that season. I am convinced there is Christian liberty in many of these things. Definitely we must not be involved with Santa Claus, which is a combination of a pagan god and a Catholic “saint,” but I believe a person can enjoy the social and family aspects of the season without worshipping false gods or committing sacrilege. I don’t believe in setting up Christmas trees in or having a Santa visit the church, but I don’t think it is wrong to have a nativity play and sing some of the Christmas carols that are Scriptural and otherwise involve one’s self in activities which do not bring dishonor to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me be quick to say that it is important that the church recognize that Christmas is not a biblical celebration of the birth of Christ. We must not try to Christianize paganism. That is the essence of Romanism. The only holy day God has specifically given to the churches is the first day of the week, the resurrection day. This is what we are to focus on, but it is also true that the Bible does speak much about Christ’s birth.
I know this is a delicate subject, and there are strong feelings on all sides. My goal is not to defend Christmas. I am simply talking about one’s attitude toward those things which other people or churches do that I might not agree with, but which are not directly and plainly condemned in the Word of God. I am trying to illustrate this with some concrete things that we face in everyday life. I don’t expect every reader to agree with me in all of these matters, but I am trying to illustrate that we have liberty in matters not directly addressed in Scripture. The very fact that each of these matters is highly controversial illustrates my point. I must be careful that I am not trying to make my own preference in some issue a law for others.
While we must stand for the Word of God in every detail, we must also be careful that we not take away God-given liberty and hold our own conscience up as a law for all. Anything which is not clearly taught in Scripture falls into this category–whether or not a church uses musical instruments, the type of music that a church uses (we know that some types of music are clearly wrong, but there is also a lot of liberty in the area of music), times and days of services, evangelistic methods, how to conduct children’s ministries. The list is very long. It is a blessing to see that God has given us much liberty in Christ and that in these matters each Christian and each church is free to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.