Message:  In Romans 16 Paul is ending his letter to the Romans even though it sounds more like the beginning of a letter because of the way he is greeting everyone. In between all the greeting he throws in a few important warnings. The one that really stuck with me was the warning to watch out for those who cause dissensions and obstacles contrary to the gospel you have heard. He even goes as far as to tell them to avoid them because they do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. I’ve heard the warnings about dissension many times but I have always associated that with people who gossip and spread rumors. This is going another direction because Paul is specifically talking about people who taint the gospel cause “obstacles”. If an obstacle is something that makes things difficult Paul must be talking about those who were adding things to make the gospel for their own traditions or ideas. We know that the Jews had tried to require the Gentiles to get circumcised, but I feel like if that’s what Paul was talking about he would have said so. Since context is important I thought back to last chapter where Paul was talking to them (and us) about convictions. He was warning us not to talk people out of their convictions and cause them to sin because of their guilt conscience. In the same way, we also can’t allow others to put those convictions on us either. There is the unchangeable gospel which should never be altered, and then there are things that God requires of us individually through our growth process. For someone who struggles with addiction God might require to hold a higher standard with things like alcohol for their own good, but this doesn’t mean this should be required of everyone. There may be a higher standard God talks to us about that is meant for us for just a season in order to help us accomplish something or deal with a heart issue. We can’t then take that standard and add guilt to someone else for what God is requiring of us. The gospel itself never changes, but the process of learning changes for us often as God sees fit to help us overcome our issues. If God lays it on my heart to fast for something I can’t go around telling everyone else this is what God requires of them. The gospel has not changed, but clearly God has something to show me individually. To everything there is always an extreme taken too far. We can’t go so far with our individuality that we create our own plan for ourselves. We are in a culture that slams those who hold fast to truth, and applauds those who create ideas that the truth is whatever we want it to be. Our culture demands that we not only “tolerate” other religions, but it slams anyone who says that there is only one way. We have been trained to treat religions as a “to each his own” thing and that exclusivity is wrong. This has caused many to water down the gospel in order to appease everyone. Paul says this is a big NO. The gospel cannot be changed and there is only one way. We just have to make sure when we hold to this truth that we are not adding our own extra convictions to it and holding others to that standard.

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