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This is the ninth week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 9, this week, is the third part of "The Principle of Preference" and works with Romans 15:4-13 addressing how the Scriptures are an aid us and point to Jesus, how we are to endeavor to be in harmony in Jesus' church, and how the principle of giving up our personal preferences relates to mission. This sermon was originally preached November 16th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.

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November 16th, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"The Principle of Preference" (Part 3)
Romans 15:4-13

Introduction

Personal greetings. Two weeks then advent.

Summary of last two weeks:
- Within Christian community there are areas of adiaphora/opinions due to different backgrounds and different beliefs.
- How we deal with disagreement matters because of character and care for the community. We are not to judge or destroy but seek to build up and love.
- We are to have a clean conscience and conviction but give way in order to please the other person.
- Concluded with the supreme example of Christ giving way his personal preference for us and bearing our reproach on the cross.

Let's read our text and pray for our time together in study this morning.


Gospel-centered Exegesis

A Christotelic Approach

Today we begin with a digression of sorts. We are still talking about the principle of preference, of how to live and love one another in Christian community. But we are going to first start out by talking about how Scripture, the Bible, helps us do that.

Verse 4 begins by explaining what was just said in the previous verse. Here is what happened in the previous verse, it quoted Psalm 69:9. Romans 15:3 "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me" is a quote of Ps 69:9 written by David.

In verse 3 of Romans 15, Ps 69:9 is applied by Paul to Jesus and the cross. An explanation of this hermeneutic is in verse 4…Jesus gives the hope. The way we approach the Bible is with a principle of historical grammatical interpretation but that approach is incomplete until it lands in the gospel.

Jesus explains this in Matthew 5:17 when he says all the Bible gets fulfilled in him. And then Jesus showed an example of this in Luke 24:13-35 when he took two men and walked them through the Bible showing them how everything pointed to him. What he taught them was learning the arc of Scripture, which begins at a point in time, finds its fulfillment in Jesus, and then is brought to life in us.

Paul has been doing throughout our chapter. In our community group this week we went through this section to see how this was done. 1. (14:10-11) Not judging because Jesus is judge. 2. (14:15-17) Not grieving because of the Kingdom to come. 3. (15:3) Not self-pleasing because Jesus suffered for us on the cross. Each reason for us giving preference to one another gets connected to some core part of the gospel, who Jesus is and what he has done.

This is what it means to be gospel-centered, to begin to see all of life in how it relates or connects to the gospel. Everything, even the simple things like eating and drinking have to do with the gospel.

I did it this week in my Pastoral journal entry for us with the latest cover article from Rolling Stone about the band AC/DC titled: "The Gospel of Rock and Roll." Now the word gospel is used in the article merely to say that AC/DC's new album, "Black Ice" is good and that AC/DC has been cranking out good music for 35 years now.

So I asked the question, "What is the gospel of rock? Maybe it's that one can find redemption through creating music, listening and enjoying music, or maybe that music is inherently good. Is that the gospel? Of course not. Music might soothe us or excite us at times but it cannot do anything to save our soul, to deal with our guilt and offense toward God.

But think about this. If we are saying that the true gospel says Jesus can redeem me and make me right with my Creator, then through him, through The Gospel, I get freed and enabled to enjoy music to the fullest because I am connected to the chief musician of all.

The technical word for this practice is a christotelic hermeneutic, I'm just calling it seeing the gospel in everything, in Scripture and in life. That is our what we are trying to do and be…gospel-centered.

Scripture Grounds Us and Scripture Ministers to Us

Let us look closer at verse four and see how it says the Scriptures are intended to function for us as Christians (re-read them).

Next to 2 Timothy 3:16 this is probably one of the clearest statements on the nature and purpose of the Bible for us. Two main things emerge from this verse: 1. Scripture Grounds Us. 2 Scripture Ministers to Us

Look at the phrase, "was written for our instruction." Without the Bible we are uneducated. We are essentially lost. We may know of God's existence, because as Romans 1:20 says, his eternal power and divine nature has been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made…but God would only be a distant, transcendent far off God to us…we would know very little of his nature and his love and we would not know the depth of his holiness and justice and how offensive our sin is to him, we would know nothing of his plan of salvation and of his son Jesus.

So first Scripture grounds us. It gives us a coherent worldview or framework from which to understand life and the God who made life and redeems life in Jesus. In Scripture God reveals himself to us. We are not left to our foolish speculations. He tells us who he is, what is required of us, how we have failed, what he has done about it in Jesus, and how we are to respond. Scripture instructs us in the faith. I mean really, if we did not have a written record like the Bible how would any of us know about Jesus. The stories would not have lasted if it was just passed down verbally. It is extremely huge that God chose to reveal himself in words in a book. He gives us a lasting record.

The second this that Scripture ministers to us. It not only gives us our philosophy but it is a living and active means God has committed himself to working through. Hebrews 4:12 says the Bible is a "living and active" book, which has the ability to pierce us to deeply as if into our bones.

Look at our words in Romans…"through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

We are a people who need endurance. There are times in life when you will just feel like giving up. Where will you turn?

We are a people who need encouragement. There are times when we have no courage or strength left and we need courage to be poured into us. Nothing empowers us more than the comfort of the Holy Spirit who breathed out special words to us in the Bible.

There is a well known story of Sir Walter Scott.

Sir Walter Scott is a famous novelist and poet from Scotland in the 18th century. Most famous works include "Rob Roy" and "Ivanhoe." Has written several books and poems now considered classics. Is considered the first English-language author to have a worldwide effect in his lifetime. The story of his death is quite interesting.

A few days before the death of Sir Walter Scott there was a lucid interval of that distressing malady which had for some time afflicted him. He had recently returned from a trip where he traveled to London, Italy, and Malta and then returned to his home in Abbotsford. He was greatly distraught having repeated aberrations of his mind, restless and uncomfortable. He asked for his son in law, John Lockhart to come to him. Mr. Lockhart came and Sir Walter Scott asked him to take him into his library and place him by the window, that he might look down upon the Tweed. Then he expressed a wish, asking that his son-in-law read to him. Mr. Lockhart replied, "From what book shall I read?" Mr. Scott replied, "How can you ask? There is but one book…bring me the good book."

Mr. Lockhart then understood and he opened up the Bible to the fourteenth chapter of St. John's Gospel and read to him the words of Jesus, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you…I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:1-2,6)." Sir Walter Scott listened with devotion, and said when his son-in-law had done, "This is a great comfort, I have listened to you distinctly and I feel as if I were yet to be myself again."

I have personally experienced the endurance and encouragement that comes through the Scriptures so many times. I can't quite explain how it works but it does. Just this week I was reading in the morning from Isaiah 54 where God says, "For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the LORD, your Redeemer (Is. 54:7-8)."

The last words of that passage pierced my soul, that God addresses me as my Redeemer. His very name dictates his character and his relationship toward me. Have you ever been addressed like that? Maybe you need to hear some of the many names God tells us he has in Scripture.

He says, "I am Redeemer." "I am Comforter." "I am Father."

We as Christians when we need encouragement we go to the Scriptures. We may be suffering through some trial or some disease or tragedy and we can go to God's word and read things like 1 Peter 3:17. The Bible is self-authenticating as the Word of God because it ministers to our soul.

Sometimes you might not have the strength and like Sir Walter Scott, you might just need someone else to read to you and pray for you. I do that with other people often.


A Prayer for our Unity

God's Nature
After talking about the greatness of the word of God, Paul just moves to prayer. Notice that, it is a prayer here. Some prayers are spontaneous and some are planned. This is a planned prayer…after stating what God's Word does for us he then notes in his prayer that his is God's very nature. God is one who gives endurance and who gives encouragement.

Our Harmony

Look at the next thing he prayers for in verse 5. After making all these great statement about the Bible, he then returns to the situation at hand, the principle of preference and prays for our harmony…read verse 5-6.

The unity of Jesus church is SO IMPORTANT. That is what this whole section is about truly living together as the church in com-unity as a family who truly cares and loves one another.

This goes against our nature. We usually are only attracted to those who are like us and then gossip about those who are unlike us. We tend to pride ourselves in our distinctives and minimize the things we have in common.

In Ephesians 4:3 Paul says, "Endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace." We have to fight for it at times, fight for unity.

Division and strife in Jesus church is something God hates.
- 1 Corinthians 2:25 says there are not "to be divisions in the body but members are to care for one another."
- Titus 3:10 says, "A person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him." Division can get you kicked out of a church!

Causing division and strife, over secondary, non-essential, opinion matters is a very serious matter. That means we are not to talk negatively about one another behind each other's backs. That's not love. We are not to stir up controversy and rebellion among us. Love is to drive our community. Not constantly questioning each other and everything we do.

Churches have split over things like the use of money, people speaking in tongues, some people liking or not liking a pastor, the songs that are sung, the music being too loud, too old, too rock and roll, whether wine or juice is served, how it is served…the list goes on and on.

I myself was in a situation when I was a college pastor several years ago and a new senior pastor was placed by the denomination and several people did not like him and wanted me to start a new church at that time. But I believed in the unity of Jesus church being more important with whether I liked or agreed with this new pastor, so I refused to be a cause for division in Jesus' church.

Separating from one another in any way is always to be a last resort, only after we have tried everything we can do to get along and do things with one heart and one mind in one accord. So often it seems we are so quick to be defensive and fight and bail out on each other if things get a little tough. It is not supposed to be that way.

I'll tell you this. Most church splits, and most of the denominations that have started out of church splits have been over secondary matters…because people who were a part of church families did not properly learn and apply Romans 14-15:13. Paul's prayer for us, The Resolved Church is that we work hard for harmony.

The Glory Goal

Maybe we should as the question why. Why is harmony or unity so important? Verse 6 answers, "that together (we) may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." The answer is so that God would get glory. Our goal is to show off how good and glorious God is.

If we are fighting and there is jealousy and power struggles and a lack of love and care and giving up preference for each other, that doesn't make God look very good.

God is glorious and he is most glorified in us when we together work and sing and love his son Jesus together in unison. And the wonderful thing is that when caring most about what God thinks instead of us getting our way and being recognized…then we end up the most satisfied and enjoying being a part of Jesus church.


Missional Preferencing

The Jesus Example

After Paul's prayer that we would glorify God together he makes an ingenious move, a shift. He's been talking about the principle of preference within the Christian community. Now he's going to take that and apply it missionally, to those who are not yet Christians.

It starts in verse 7 with the principle of hospitality, welcoming, receiving or accepting others. Verse 7, "Therefore welcome one another as Christ as welcomed you for the glory of God." This is where in the gospel we recognize that we are far worse off than we previously knew or understood but that we are far more loved or accepted by God than we ever dreamed because Jesus died for us anyway and welcomed us into his family. That changes us. It makes us accepting of others because we have been accepted despite all our flaws and sins.

The Gentile Example

In order to help us see and understand this…Paul, our human author does what he has been doing all along and connects it again with the gospel, that gospel hermeneutic. In verse 8, Jesus missionaries gets brought up, how Jesus was a servant to the circumcised in order to show the truth of the promised gospel. So here, Jesus' Jewishness is brought up. He was born a Jew and came to fulfill the prophecy given to the Jews of a messiah.

But Jesus was not for the Jews only. As verse 9 notes, the reason Jesus was born a Jew was not only to fulfill the promises of Scripture but so that God may extend mercy to the Gentiles, anyone who was not a Jew.

And that is exactly what we see in the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus spend time traveling in Gentile countries. Jesus eats dinner with sinners and outcasts. Jesus says he loves all the peoples of the world and came to die for them (Jn 3:16).

What we learn from this is it does not matter who you are or where you are from or what you have done or gone through in life thus far. Whatever your religious background, whatever your cultural preferences, style, dress, food…there is nothing that would cause Jesus to turn his head aside from you and not extend mercy.

Some of you may have trouble with that. You may be caught in a works driven, guilt oriented relationship with God, where you think he only loves you if you perform correctly for him. That is not the gospel, that is religion. The gospel is that you are accepted and welcomed by Jesus solely through faith in his person and work on the cross.

Supporting Scriptures

If you're unsure of that, Paul cites four Scriptures to help you. If the Scriptures gives instruction, endurance, encouragement, and hope…then here are four to do that for us…from each of the major divisions of the Old Testament Hebrew Bible, one the Law, two from the Psalms, and one from the Prophets.

1. From Psalm 18:49 "I will praise you among the Gentiles and sing praise to your name." This verse tells us that Gentiles and Jews can and will worship the same God together.

2. From Deuteronomy 32:43 "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people." Again a verse speaking of the worship of people from two religious backgrounds, and enjoying it! Rejoicing together!

3. From Psalm 117:1 "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles and let all the peoples extol him." Here a command for everyone to praise the Lord together.

4. From Isaiah 11:10 "The root of Jesse (that's Jesus) will come, even he arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope." And lastly a verse saying that Jesus will come and sit on the throne as king and all peoples will enjoy his rule and put their hope in him.

Missional preference. What this concluding section is teaching us, is that if this principle of giving away our preference can get a hold of us…it effects everything. Not only our community among us as the church but in our ability to love and reach out to our city.

San Diego has one of the most diverse populations in the country living in one city. What keeps many of those people from being able to hear the gospel is them not experiencing Christians giving away their preference, their secondary distinctives, so that they can hear the gospel.

We must think of ourselves as missionaries in our city. Our neighbors are often as different as us as people from the other side of the world. We've got to get creative in learning how we can connect with them and invite them into our lives so that can see that though we are different there can be much love between us through the gospel of Jesus.

Let me give you an example. Mark Driscoll tells the story of what happened in gay bar.

Over lunch, he informed me that he had been a closet homosexual throughout college, had joined the military after graduation, and had recently been discharged for having sex with fellow soldiers. He was presently frequenting public bathrooms throughout the city and having anonymous sex with various men. He shared that he was wrestling through whether he believed that he was a sinner and whether he still believed in God. When I invited him to attend church with me, he declined, saying that it was unfair for me to expect him to come into my Christian subculture, since I was unwilling to go with him into his homosexual subculture.

And he was right. So, feeling convicted to be like Jesus, I told him I would be happy to go into his world if he would come into mine. Seeing an evil dervish grin emerge on his face, I knew I was in trouble. He invited me to a gay country and western bar he frequented. At the time, I did not drink and disliked no one more than limp-wristed gay men and cowboys. I could not conceive of a worse purgatory than the one awaiting me.

I went home to inform my lovely bride about the mess I had gotten myself into, discovering that she was both supportive and good humored. The following week, I went out with my skinny, feminine gay buddy, who was dressed up in tight jeans, goofy boots, and a big hat for a night of country line-dancing. Walking through the front door of the queer cowboy club, I was hit with the shrill sound of country and western music and the sight of a sea of skinny men sporting tight jeans, well-groomed mustaches, and boots, even though we were in the middle of downtown Seattle and at least an hour's drive away from the nearest horse.

My friend took me to the bar and introduced me to a number of his gay buddies, who were drinking--of course--light beer. Feeling like I was wearing someone else's underwear, I stood there and tried to be inconspicuous, praying that no one would recognize me. Then someone I had graduated from high school with approached me with a surprised look. She asked, "What are you doing here?" And I quickly blurted, "I'm married to a woman and here with a friend, but I'm not a gay guy, so please don't tell anyone I'm a queer." She laughed and we chatted for a few minutes until a song she obviously liked came on, and she then shuffled off to the dance floor with her girlfriend.

Then a guy introduced himself and hit on me. Stunned, I did not immediately respond but instead stared at the poor guy, trying to figure out why he looked so familiar, how he could mistake me for a gay guy, and if I was really good looking. It then hit me and I asked him, "Are you my mailman?" He replied, "Yes, I am a mailman." Suddenly, I wanted to kill myself and never get mail again.
My buddy had abandoned me at the bar, and I frantically searched for him in hopes that if I was with him, no one else would hit on me. I found him drinking a fruity drink and flirting with an enormous man. I asked him how long we were staying, since the first five minutes in this hell were about all I could handle. But he said, "Mark, I have to go to a special room upstairs for about an hour, so you are welcome to come up with me or stay down here until I return." I asked what they did in that room, hoping I would not throw up my dinner after hearing his answer. Here's how he responded: "It's not an orgy. It's a meeting for the gay rodeo committee."

Gay rodeo?

Those were simply the last two words I had ever anticipated hearing together. He explained that the queer cowboys were hoping to have a rodeo and that he was on the planning committee. Not wanting to sit at the bar for an hour getting hit on, I chose to go to the planning meeting with a few dozen other guys. We all sat in a circle like we were in a home Bible study. The meeting opened with introductions, everyone giving their names and vocations.

I had prided myself on aspiring to the pastorate but now found myself in an awkward position. My buddy leaned over and whispered in my ear, "What are you going to tell them you do for a living?" Unsure, I said, "I have no idea. Maybe I'll tell them I am a teacher or a spiritual director."

When it came to my turn, I tried to avoid the inevitable conflict and lied to them by saying I was a spiritual something-or-other, hoping the queer cowboys would smile, nod, and ignore me. But one of the cowboys asked what my religion was. So I came out of my closet and told him I was a Bible-thumping, old-school Christian preacher, causing some of the guys to laugh, thinking I was kidding. The rest of the meeting went well and was not all that different from the boring staff meetings we had at the megachurch, where people who hadn't done much tried to appear as if they had. The guys were very nice, so afterward when we returned downstairs, I ended up buying some of them beers. However, I did not drink that evening because I wanted to respect the church's authority over me, which forbade alcohol consumption.

One of the guys asked if I was actually a real pastor and began explaining how his lover and many of his friends had died of AIDS. Actually, he began discipling me, articulating with great pain the loneliness and death that filled his community and explaining why he feared death. He asked what happens when someone dies and wanted to know what would happen to him, in particular. He was attentive as I sought to relate the gospel to his life: sin causes death, but Jesus is God who became a man and died--when he was about the same age as this man--in order to rise from death, forgive sin, and give eternal life to those who repent of sin and trust in him. I explained that only Jesus can take us through our own deaths and comfort us after the deaths of others, because he alone has been through death and come back.

The man was not converted during our chat, but in many ways, I was.

As I left the bar, God convicted me about my proud addiction to morality and my attempt to look like a decent guy so that others would like me. I was so insecure that I feared not only that my Christian friends would see me walking out of a gay bar with queer cowboys but also that the queer cowboys would reject me for being a Bible thumper who, deep down, believed they were running headlong to hell in their cowboy boots. I cared more about how I appeared to people than about whether I shared the passion of Jesus for those who are lost.

That night, I learned that reformission requires that Christians and their churches move forward on their knees, continually confessing their addictions to morality and the appearance of godliness, which does not penetrate the heart and transform lives. In the end, I learned that God's mission is not to create a team of moral and decent people but rather to create a movement of holy loving missionaries who are comfortable and truthful around lost sinners and who, in this way, look more like Jesus than most of his pastors do.


Conclusion

Paul concludes this whole section about giving away our personal preference with a final prayer in verse 13, " May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. "

The prayer recognizes that for any of us to truly change we need the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us. Our only hope is God giving us joy and peace in believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is not easy to be the church. I pray this sort of mini-series within our series has been helpful for us as a young small church plant to learn how to better be the church to one another and how to live in our city.

Here's what we've learned today…

There is a way to see Jesus in everything. Do you look at Scripture merely as a guide for good moral living or do you look at the gospel as the key to the Scriptures. Do you look at your life merely as mundane occurrences or do you see how Jesus has to do with everything in your life? Where do you need to see the gospel of Jesus applied today?

We've learned that the Bible instructs us and ministers to us. Are you reading your Bible? Do you look to the Bible for truth, endurance, encouragement and hope? Allow God's word to speak to you today. God gives us his word and says to you I am the God of endurance and encouragement. Find it in him this morning.

We learned we must work hard for unity. Are there things getting in the way of relationships with people that shouldn't be? Are you holding grudges or stirring up controversy with anyone? Know how much Jesus loves you despite your idiosyncrasies and sins and allow that his acceptance of you to give you much acceptance for others so that you can just give way.

Lastly we learned that we are to be on mission. Giving away our preferences in many ways really becomes the tenor of our lives, constantly laying them down for the sake of others. When we get connected to Jesus who sacrificed everything for us it ends up making us extremely sacrificial for others. Who is God calling you to reach out to? To go out of your way to figure out a way to share the gospel with them? What are you doing to tear down the walls of separation or preference so that the gospel can get a hearing with them?

As we approach the table today I just want to conclude simply, with the prayer of Scripture here. Usually we all close our eyes and bow our head in prayer. Today, I want to do it eyes wide open and just quote verse 13 to us. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."


So the cover story of Rolling Stone this week is about the band AC/DC and it titled, "The Gospel of Rock & Roll." The article basically is about how awesome AC/DC is, how they've been cranking it out for 35 years and how everyone should go buy their latest album, "Black Ice." What interested me most about the article was the use of the word "gospel" and the use of it as an adjective. What does that mean and why is it significant?



First, where the word "gospel" comes from, its etymology. The English word "gospel" is an English Anglo-Saxon word, meaning the earliest it could have been used is during the 11th century. The first English Bible was not printed until 1535, so it had to have been developed sometime during that 500 year period. That's a long gap, but what is evident is that by the time the Bible was translated into English the word "gospel" had become a common word. What happened during that time gap is quite interesting.

Apparently, a speech was called a spell if a person gave a "good speech" which had a certain kind of effect on the people listening...most likely penitence, jubilee, or being mesmerized. What appears to be so is that this is what often happened when preachers or priests would share about Jesus from the Bible. Now the period between approximately 500 to 1500 AD is known often called the "Dark Ages" because of it's lack of Christian activity, so most likely the word originated during the fifteenth century under the forerunners of the reformation...men such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus.

Okay, so what was normally called a good speech began to be referred to as a god-speech or god-spell when the speaker was talking about Jesus from the Bible. Saying god-spell was either apparently too much work or just freaked people out...so they eventually just shortened it to the word, "gospel." This still happens all the time today, this shortening of words or phrases. Think of the word, giterdon, short for "get her done." Or ya'll, you all. Thus, by the time an English Bible was made, the translators, whenever they saw the one Greek word "good-news," they just translated it gospel because that is what everyone had been saying for awhile.

The interesting thing about it is that the word gospel, in all its old uses (including the original Greek and Hebrew words which still get translated as "gospel"), is that the gospel was always an oral message. It has a resident adjective in it but the word gospel is a noun, a certain type of oral speech or presentation which has a certain type of content, namely about who Jesus is and what he has done.

Now, it is no secret that the content of the gospel is under fierce opposition by many today...whether it be the relativists, demythologists, modern monarchians, christo-humanists, universalists, annhilationists, or new perspectivists (and if you don't know what those are that's okay, you can find look up definitions on our doctrine page). So in reaction, some are fighting for the word "gospel" to only pertain to the objective historical facts of the gospel rather than the effects of the gospel in the human person.

Others have taken a different view, noting how it touches and effects every area of life. From the exegetical level with a Vosonian Christotelic hermeneutic (http://www.bsmi.org/vos.htm) to the personal sanctification level with a Keller-Powlison like application. People are talking about the gospel of creation, the flood, and the exile. Christians are now talking about "gospeling" one another, and the gospel of sex, food, friendship, joy, and church, which can be either good or bad. Apparently anything can be a gospel now. Maybe it can? What are we to think of this?

Here's the thing. We as Christians are supposed to test everything (1 Thess 5:21). There are going to be a ton of false gospels out there. Things which claim to be good news, which claim to provide us with a satisfying worldview...but they will all fall short. Maybe it is good to call them gospels to get us to think about the messages being presented to us? Gospels versus The Gospel. Maybe thinking about everything in terms of what it has to do with Jesus or not by using the language of "gospel" is not so bad?

Is it okay that Rolling Stone is stealing our "Christian" word and using it as an adjective? We can't stop them and sure, why not? People have been complaining about Christians using "Christianese" for awhile now. But apparently not everything we say is missing the mark. The funny thing is the word gospel used to describe the effect of the message of Christ and saying it was good, and now essentially using the word "gospel" is being used to describe anything that is good or that people like.

So then, what is the gospel of rock? I dunno. Maybe it's that one can find redemption through creating music, listening and enjoying music, or maybe that music is inherently good. Well, if music can redeem us, I think that's a false gospel...but if I'm saying Jesus can redeem me and make me right with my creator, then through him, through The Gospel I am freed and enabled to enjoy music to the fullest.

I think we need to begin to train our minds to think about the gospel in everything. What is being communicated by a movie, a television show, a song lyric? What is it promising, how does it fail, how can it succeed, what does it have to do with who Jesus is and what he has done for his people and for the future of the world? What is it's gospel and how does that relate to The Gospel?

How can we share The Gospel fresh so that it has that spellbinding effect on people once again? I long for that. Maybe this is one way to help us go deep with people...seeing how everyone is believing and trusting in a gospel. The question is if it is the right one or if it is one that can truly live up to its promises.

- Pastor Duane

Host: The Resolved Church
Contact: Ashley Freese
Location: Kearny Mesa Bowl - 7585 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego, CA 92111 US
When: Saturday, November 22, 6:00PM
Phone: Ashley at (623) 261-4610




If you would like to be added to the "FUN list" send an email to . Expect to be in the know about exciting happenings at The Resolved Church this season!

This month: BOWLING!
When: Saturday, November 22nd
Time: 6-9 pm
What: Bowling, bad beer and food, and fun!
Where: Kearny Mesa Bowl

View and/or RSVP via the Evite
This is the eighth week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 8, this week, is titled "The Principle of Preference" and works with Romans 14:13-15:3 addressing how walk to relationally walk through a disagreement with a fellow Chrsitian. This sermon was originally preached November 9th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.

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November 9th, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"The Principle of Preference" (Part 2)
Romans 14:12-15:3

Introduction

Good morning everyone. How's everybody doing? You all glad all the election craze is finally over. I sure am. Now we can all get on with our lives...at least for few years until everyone gets all hyped up at the next go around. Personally I just can't wait until Jesus returns, set-up his throne here on earth and then we can just be done with the whole thing.

Well, we need to get to the Bible eh? So let's do it. We're winding down, coming to the end of our fall sermon series, Viva La Vida Christus, which means that we are coming to the end our study through the book of Romans. We have only three weeks left.

Right now, today we're in the middle of chapter 14 and we're essentially talking about how you get along with other people who are in the church. If you thought that becoming a Christian and being part of a church meant that you were hooking up with the good guys and in the church everything is all nice and pretty all the time…I'm sorry to disappoint you but that just isn't the case. In fact it's the opposite.

The church is a group of messed up people. Everyone is messed up in the world, the only difference with the church is were supposed to know were messed up and we're looking to Jesus as our hope and our redemption…the gospel has gripped us and is changing us.

Maybe you haven't had that experience and you're experience of church has been all nice and good…that probably means you've never really got involved with the people who are the church. It probably means you've only attended Sunday services and failed to really get connected to the community of the church like you're supposed to. The word church means people, the relationships of a group of people who are together trusting in Jesus. Church is people and it means living the life of Christ together. And that gets messy at times but it's what we need. We need each other and each other's messes.

Rick McKinely, a pastor up in Portland, calls church the beautiful mess, which is the title of his latest book. And I think church is messy not only because we are all sinners and have a lot of junk Jesus has got to deal with us about but because in the church you get people from all different backgrounds, races, cultures, ages, life experiences, which makes for a wide variety of opinions on various things…and when you put all those people together, you're going to naturally have some problems.

The Bible recognizes this and that's why there are places in it like Romans 14 to help us learn how to deal with that. I'll give us a brief breakdown of what we covered last week in it and then we'll read the text we're working with today and see what God has to teach us through it.

So, chapter 14:1-15:13 really all go together as one section addressing the same thing. It's a long chunk, but in it there is this one overriding principle that gets restated 7 times in this with roughly 23 supporting reasons addressing the necessity and nature of the principle. The principle is one of preference, giving away personal preference for the sake of another.

Now, 14:1-15:13 is a really long section. I felt exhausted just trying to read the whole thing at the beginning of my sermon last week. It is a packed section. I don't know how the early church did it when they would sit and read the whole book of Romans together in one sitting. That's crazy. So we basically only talked about the first 12 verses because in our day and culture we all have ADD and that's about all we could handle. Today, we'll take on another 14 verses and still sort of cut things off short and deal with the final piece in this section addressing preference next week.

Last week was mainly a set-up week. Here's what we learned.

1. The original church in Rome had two main groups of people who came from two distinct religious backgrounds before they came to believe in the gospel and became Christians. One group's religion hadn't allowed them to eat certain kinds of meat, they only worshipped on certain days, and thought they were better than others for it. The other group loved meat and wine and didn't see anything more important about one day versus another.

2. Both groups were Christian and loved and worshipped Jesus, they "lived for the Lord" and gave honor and thanks to him. They had unity in that, their belief, confidence, love and trust in Jesus.

3. The disagreements the two groups were having were matters of "opinion (vs.1)." So they were inconsequential in regards to whether one group was really Christian or not. So we learned that there are a number of things we may disagree about as Christians, that we can disagree with about and still be in the same family.

There are secondary things, opinions, matters of indifference, or what's called adiaphora…that we can have different opinions about and it's okay. I listed off a bunch of them last week: not just whether your vegan or not, or whether you drink alcohol or not (which are sort of mentioned here) but also things like: voting, tattoos, smoking or chewing tobacco, cussing, "R" rated movies or TV, driving SUV's, listening to non-Christian or good music, baby baptism, speaking in tongues, or your view on end times just to name a few things. There is freedom in these things because it is possible for a Christian to be on one side or the other in these areas while having a totally free conscience before Jesus and thank and honor him in it. That's the main question.

4. One group is called weak and one group is called strong. Which was not an insult but a humble recognition that there are different levels of maturity among Christians, some are further along in the depth of their understanding and the way they are able live out their faith, and that is okay. Some are going to be weak and some are going to be strong and the weak and the strong need each other.

5. Lastly, we learned that since both groups are Christian we are not to judge one another in the since of calling into question and sentence one another to hell because of these practices. Both are Christian and the judgment is belongs to Jesus alone, thus it is a very serious accusation to call into question someone's faith in regards to one of these issues, that is not our place.

That brings us to verse 13 and as I said last week, this next part will really teach us how to walk through these issues in a practical way. How we make decisions and work with each other when we disagree. So let's read it and pray.

Holy Spirit of God thank you for breathing out these words of the Bible through your servant Paul. Help us today to grasp them, to see where and how to apply it in our individual lives and relationships with one another. Lord, use your word today to teach us how to build up your community, your church rather than tear it down. And most of all would you use this text and this time to draw us closer to Jesus and see how his life and death radically changes how we approach and view everything. We need Jesus desperately. Be at work in us in these moments. Amen.


Judging, Stumbling, Building Up and Destroying One Another

So my first point for this morning is, "Judging, Stumbling, Building Up and Destroying One Another." These are two pairs of warning and admonishments which get repeated a few times in this passage.

First judgment and stumbling. Verse 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." And verse 20-21, "Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves."

Now we already learned last week that the judging being talked about here is the final judgment, when at the end of our lives or when Jesus returns, whichever happens first, each and every one of us will stand before him and his throne and have to give an account for our lives. This judgment is the heaven and hell judgment. It's not saying that we don't ever challenge one another.

You might be tempted to think the Bible here is teaching relativism. The postmodern idea that there is no real absolute truth, and what is right or wrong is just relative to the person. Look at verse 14, "I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus (here Paul offer his personal opinion) that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it is unclean."

What do you think? It sort of sounds like it right? But notice something with me. Notice that word "think." That is a loaded word. He just said in this sentence that what one thinks is a matter of persuasion, he's been persuaded. Earlier in the passage, we learned last week, that if we do have differences of opinion or persuasion, we still ought to study the positions out and take a position. Look at verse 5, "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." So what we think isn't just offering our resident bias without actually really trying to pursue and land on the correct position.

If a person comes to a place as Paul does here and says I am persuaded this way, it is because number one they have given thought to it. They studied and considered both sides of the issue. And then two, they've put it before the Lord and have their position with a clean conscience. That's what the last reference to judging is about here. Your personal internal judgment of yourself. It's verse 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."

Okay, so I took us through that line of reasoning for two reasons. One, because we live in such pluralistic times, it is important for us to know that the Bible clearly does not teach relativism even in secondary matters where we are allowed to have differences of opinion within the church.

The second reason is this, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about judging. Often people, when confronted about some issue in their life, usually some area of sin, will throw up a sort of defense move and say, "Don't judge me!" And often for support they will sort of misquote, pull Jesus words out of context from Matthew 7:1, where Jesus says, "Judge not lest you be judged."

They often leave out how Jesus concludes his teaching on judging where he says to first recognize and deal with yourself and your own sin, so that you can see clearly to help your brother or sister (Mt 7:5). What Jesus was getting at in Matthew 7 I believe is the same thing Paul is getting at here in Romans 14…and that is consigning people to hell, coming to them from the top down as though we are better, and instead of coming to them out of a spirit of love and care and concern.

I get that from our text because of what it says about stumbling. Look at the second part of verse 13 again, "decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." The word for stumbling block here could also be a road block.

In the ancient province of Rome, the land this letter was originally written to, one of the chief things which made Rome so great was its roads. There was a saying called the "Pax Romana," the "peace of Rome." It often referred to the safety of the roads. They made roads and guarded them and insured safe passageway for people to travel on them. Sometimes there would be road blocks. Either because of a physical barrier or obstacle that ended up wrecking the road, which would need to be fixed. You've probably encountered something like that at one point or another when driving. Or sometimes a road block could be a human one, like a check point, where the soldiers would stop travelers and question them and based upon their answers decide whether or not to let them pass.

I used to take a lot of surf trips in Mexico and we would frequently encounter this. Maybe you've traveled down in Mexico and you come to these checkpoints where there are soldiers all dressed up in their uniform holding machine guns and they ask you a bunch of questions in Spanish that you don't understand. The conversation usually deteriorates into them point at different things in your car and you don't get to pass until you give them your watch or something.

I think that sort of captures the idea here with a stumbling block or hindrance. The idea is that we would act as some sort of officer toward one another, with a list of checkmarks that a person must first pass before we will let them into fellowship and friendship with us. That doesn't help someone, who is already a Christian and is trying live for Jesus. It just make it harder on them and confuses the gospel, turning it into a list of checkmarks and do's and don'ts where we work for the approval of men rather than relishing the God's acceptance of us on the basis of Jesus.

This text is saying, don't make it hard for each other. Don't put up road blocks and barriers in the way. Do you see that? Decide not to put a block or hindrance "in the way." We've talked many times about the Christian life being a journey we are traveling on. Often it is a long and arduous journey and we are to travel together not fighting and racing to see who can get to the end first.

That brings us to the second main pair here, building up and destroying. With these words we switch from the analogy of the Christian life being a journey to the analogy of the Christian life being a building. Here's where it's at…

The second part of verse 15, "…do not destroy the one for whom Christ died."

Verse 19, "Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building."

Verse 20, "Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God"

And verse 2 of chapter 15, "let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up."

So there are two options, building up or destroying, which is essentially tearing down…tearing down or building up. We are to build one another up and not tear one another down. This addresses a key issue within Jesus' church, within Christian community and that is our tendency to want to make everything into a competition. We have this bent to want to always compare ourselves to each other in terms of who is smarter, who is prettier, who is more holy, who is more right.

This tells us we are looking at things entirely wrong. When we look at things that way we are looking at our achievements and our giftings, we are indulging in self-centered pride. Instead we are to see ourselves in a much humbler fashion. We are to see ourselves as people who need a lot of work. The foundation has been laid in Jesus, but there is a lot of building left to be done. There are walls to be put up, a roof that needs to be put over our heads, there's electrical wires to run, drywall to be hung, there's a lot of painting to be done and fixtures to be installed. We are a building and we are to help each other in this work of, "mutual up building."

Now, I know maybe that analogy is tough for some of you to grasp because you've never touched a hammer in your entire life. Some of you guys have no clue how to work a screwdriver or a saw and you scare me. That's okay, just stick to the computer keys. You can work on the architectural plans or something. Just do some push-up every once in awhile to make sure your still a real man. :) We'll help out with the rest.

We're building a building. That's the idea here, that we are building a building together as a church and each member has a part and something to contribute and each person is important. When we take these secondary issues and turn them into primary issues and start comparing ourselves to one another and putting unnecessary restrictions on one another, that doesn't help. In fact it hurts, it tears down. It makes things more difficult and frustrating and not enjoyable and it can even damage someone's progress in the faith.

Did you catch that? That you can destroy or tear down the work of God, the one for whom Christ died? You might say how does that happen? It happens when you take a person's eyes off of Christ by causing them to focus more on how they think or behave regarding a secondary issue instead of them being motivated by a love for Jesus and for their Christian brothers or sisters. There is a danger of trying to turn the gospel into a religion, when it is not, the gospel is about those for whom Christ died.


Conviction, Community, and The Kingdom of God

Okay, let's move on to our second main point for today. Conviction, Community and the Kingdom of God. This is the nitty gritty. How we walk through something like this, when we disagree with one another. When two different people or groups think one thing with a clear conscience before Jesus and another person or group thinks another with a clear conscience before Jesus.

First, conviction. That is where it begins. The issue is having a clear conscience before Jesus. Verse 23, "Whoever doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."

You see it begins with each of us as individuals. We have to start at our motives. You see it is very easy for us to justify what we want to do just because it what we want to do without having any regard first for what God thinks about it. There is no area of life that has nothing to do with God. Whether it is sex, or what we eat and drink, or what clothes we wear, what job we work at, how we work at our job, what relationship we have, how we relate, where we live….everything has to do with Jesus. There is no part of our lives we have any right to cut off away from God and say he doesn't care or it doesn't have anything to do with him.

If we are not making our decisions on how we live and behave out of our faith in Christ, then no matter what it is, it is sin and displeasing to God. If it does not proceed from faith it is sin. So it would be very easy to take the freedoms or liberty we have in Christ and just say oh, it does matter. But that's not the case. Everything matters. This is another reason why there must be room for differences. Because what is right or okay for a person may depend on who they are or where they are at in their life.

For example, I spent 3-4 four years of my life, pretty consistently either high or drunk…when I began walking with Jesus I quit drinking entirely for 5 years. I didn't have a sip of alcohol until my honeymoon. That was a season in my life where it would have been wrong, a sin for me to drink because God wanted to teach me some things for awhile to get me to a place where I could drink alcohol again and it not be a sin for me.

You see based on each of our backgrounds or experiences God is working in each of us in different ways and there are different seasons of our faith. We have to stay sensitive before the Lord and always be willing to give anything up if we believe that is what he is asking. Our motives for everything must proceed from our faith.

Then, we are not only to first consider our personal convictions but then our community's concerns. Christianity teaches something radical and that is that we are all part of the kingdom of God, living life together under Jesus' rule. That means we are not living for building our own personal kingdoms. That is the way most people live and make decisions solely about how things effect only themselves or their immediate family. The gospel changes that and calls us to make decisions in light of how it effects our church family as well.

Last year Mikey and I were at an Acts 29 conference up in Seattle and we were talking with the musicians from one of worship music bands and they were taking the issue of Christian community and mission so serious they had begun a project called, "homiesville." Where they and their wife and kids were making decisions to all buy houses in the same neighborhood so that they could better love each other and better work together in loving their neighbors with the gospel.

Can you imagine that? Thinking that the people of my church have something to do with what house I buy? That my Christian brothers and sisters should have a say in where I decide to live? That is huge. But that is the kind of radical Christian community living that the gospel draws Jesus' church into. It always has throughout history.

Well let's take it down to an individual personal level...what you do when there's disagreement. So far we've got we need to approach it looking to by not making a Christian or not Christian issue, not approaching it with road block checklist, looking to build a person up, and first considering our own person motives and convictions. If all that is in place and there is still disagreement, here's what you do:

Verse 15, "If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love."

Verse 17-18, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men."

Verse 21, "It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble."

Here it is…you give way. You give up your personal preference, conviction, opinion for the sake of the other person. You just give in. You know in your heart you are right and are free before the Lord, your conscience is clean…you've studied it, your motives are right, but you just give way…because you care more about the other person and their faith and than you do getting your way. That's it.

Notice, love is the motive. If a brother or sister just can't come to grips with where you are at in something…they are grieved, it's just too hard. You give way. How can you do that? Because you love them and it doesn't really matter because when it comes down to it, the Kingdom of God, the good life, life the way it should be under Jesus rule and reign…isn't about what is right or wrong on these issues, it is about the righteousness, peace and joy we have together through the Holy Spirit who has been poured out into our hearts. That is stronger. Our bond together as forgiven children of God goes way beyond our petty disagreements.

So let me give you some examples just to drive it home. I mentioned alcohol earlier, I think that is probably the issue that comes up the most in our church. It was tough for Christian back then and it is tough for Christians now. Say someone thinks you shouldn't drink alcohol as a Christian.

Okay, I would disagree with them because Jesus drank and there is nothing inherently wrong with alcohol. Being drunk is wrong and is displeasing to God but not enjoying alcohol if you don't get drunk. But say someone just can't get over that. Fine, I'm not going to force them to drink with me and I'm not going to drink in front of them if that is just going to make them feel uncomfortable and at odds with me when in reality we have way more in common because of our mutual love and trust in Jesus.

Now it goes the other way too. Say someone has had a problem with abusing alcohol in the past and they are in a season of being sober in order to work on some issues in their heart on why they got so entrapped with alcohol before. Well duh, you need to help that person and not drink in front of them or with them…if you do you're just making it hard for them to abstain when they feel that is what God wants them to do for awhile.

You see our liberty as Christian enables us to be free to drink or not to drink. I don't have to have alcohol to have a good time and I'm not going to force the issue with those who have a problem with it. For example, I was at a wedding last night and there was an open bar and most the people at my table were having a beer or a glass of wine. But my brother in-law was at the table and he has a hard time with it. So I didn't hassle him about it and try and get him to drink and have this big argument about it. We both love each other. We're both Christians, we're both ministers and we've learned that our relationship means far more to us then whether we agree about alcohol or Calvinism or a whole other host of things we disagree on. So I had my beer and he had his juice and we had we just left it alone out of love and had a great time together.

So let me ask you a personal question. Take some issue you have, whether it be alcohol, meat eating, voting, baptism, any of the secondary issues…could you give up your position out of love for another. Say you want to get a tattoo and you know it would really hurt someone who you love. There's nothing wrong with tattoos, Jesus has one on his leg that says, "King of kings and Lord of Lords." But this person is weak in faith and is quoting Leviticus and is going to be really hurt by it. Could you give up your desire for the tattoo because you care more about the person you love?

Or how about the other way around? You may honestly think people shouldn't get tattoos but someone else has a free conscience before the Lord about it. Could you just give up your opinion out of your love for that person and let them be free to do as they wish rather than putting an obstacle in your relationship?

What about other things? Say you don't eat meat. But you are having dinner at person's house who prides themselves in their ability to cook meat, it's their specialty. Could you give up your personal preference out of love because you know the other person would feel bad if you refused their food? Or how about on the other side. You are having people over for dinner who you know are vegan. Could you just give up your love of meat out of love and cook up some tasty tofu instead because you love those people you're having over?

You see it goes both ways. It's like in marriage…you seek to out serve one another. And if both parties are always seeking to please each other then you're going to avoid a lot of problems because both people are always trying to figure out how they can give way and give preference to the other person. That is how it is supposed to be.


The Burdens and Pleasures of The Christian

Okay, our last point for this morning, "The Burdens and Pleasures of The Christian." These last few verses for today sort of summarize everything we've said and tie it all together with Jesus. Let's read 'em, Romans 15:1-3, "We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me."

There is so much joy in becoming a Christian and becoming part of Jesus' family in his church, along with it comes a burden because you inherit this whole group of new brothers and sisters to care about. This bearing with the failings of the weak has to do with being patient with one another. It is recognizing that some people may not be up to the standard of maturity you wish they were, but rather than getting frustrated and mad and upset and bailing out on them…you are patient and you just sort of absorb their faults and failures.

There is nothing like the gospel of Jesus Christ that enables you to do this. Everything else in the world is opposite of this. All religions. All self-help programs. They either teach you to ignore the reality of the hurt and the offense or to trust in some sort of payback or recompense. In the gospel the reality of an offense does not get diminished because Jesus absorb all of our offense for us on the cross. Our reproach fell on him…because of that we are enabled to take on a lot of reproach.

How does that work? When someone frustrates us, disagrees, hurts us…we can go to the cross of Jesus and recognize how much we have fought against God and frustrated him and hurt him and know how he absorbed that into himself, having God's wrath poured out on his body in order that we might be accepted and redeemed and forgiven. That changes things…it changes everything. That is why the gospel is so unique. That's why the gospel is not a religion. It is because the whole thing is about an exchange that happened on a cross which makes a way for us, a way out of ourselves and a way where we can truly love and serve and please one another.

Look at the first part of that phrase in verse 3, "For Christ did not please himself." This means he did not avoid the suffering and the pain of the cross. Hebrews 12:2 says, "…for the joy that was set before him endured the cross."

So it is not that there is no happiness or joy in the Christian life. It is not that we are all to be stoics and that anything is wrong if we get any pleasure from anything. It is what becomes the source of our joy and pleasure. For Jesus sought not to look to fulfill his own personal preservation but he gave his preference away. The result was much joy. It was the joy of Jesus to die for us.

And that same joy works its' way in us. You will find that when you give up your personal preference for another, though it is painful, you will actually end up experiencing more joy and peace and happiness in your life.

Martin Luther wrote a little book called, "Concerning Christian Liberty." I encourage you all to read it, it's only about 30 pages or so. But it is all about the liberty we have Christians, which is what we've been talking about today. In it he makes this masterful statement,

"A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one."

When we truly encounter Jesus, we become freed from all our vain pursuits and realize that only he matters. And it changes us. It enables us to truly turn away from ourselves and become servants to those around us, especially those in our Christian community.


Conclusion

Let me conlcude today this way.

Without the gospel, we will constantly be comparing ourselves among ourselves, considering some among us better than others. With the gospel, we will constantly see ourselves as in need of and recipients of the grace of Jesus.

Without the gospel we will either intentionally or unintentionally make it harder for other people to see and draw close to Jesus because of the sense of constrictions we put upon them. With the gospel, all barriers are removed so that Jesus is put on perfect display for all of us who need him so much.

Without the gospel we will fall into some form of religion thinking life is all about doing everything just right. With the gospel we will bask in the joy of knowing that despite us being so wrong Jesus has given us his spirit and we have his righteousness, peace, and joy together.

Without the gospel we as individuals will feel conflicted, with a troubled conscience before our God. With the gospel our guilt gets lifted and our life gets driven by a confident personal faith in Jesus known only between us and God.

Without the gospel, we will focus too much on ourselves and our own personal needs, wants, and desires. With the gospel we are enabled to turn our emphasis to care more about the social needs of the broader community, first in the church and then those in our city.

My friends, my family…we need the gospel. As we approach the table let the richness of Christ, who gave everything up for us. All his personal preference in order that our reproach, the worst of who we are, be dealt with on the cross so that we might have the peace and pleasure of God. Stand before Christ Jesus who died for you in order to save you and create a community of people who get radically changed by his grace.

Let's pray.

So since it's almost been a year since I've done one...it's time for another new books entry. I'll highlight some new things that are out...some I am currently reading, some I just finished reading, as well as some books I want to read. Reading goes hand in hand with being a Christian for this simple reason, God chose to reveal himself through words which he intended to be collected together into a book we call the Bible. The Bible is the primary means God has given for us to know him and grow in our faith. Reading other books alongside the Bible is a great aid in helping us be spiritually minded, gospel driven, Bible believing, Jesus loving Christians. So here's some suggestions from Pastor Duane...




New books I want to read/purchase:

The Prodigal God, by Tim Keller.
I have come to appreciate Dr. Tim Keller very much. He probably would not remember me but I met him back in February at an Acts 29 event where he preached on the biblical basis for gospel contextualization. More than anyone else I have studied, he is able to show how the gospel effects everything in our lives in profound and practical ways. If you haven't already read, "Reason for God" it is a must read, New York Times best seller, and excellent book. This is his latest book working primarily with the parable of the prodigal son. Tim Keller is the Pastor of Redeemer and does a lot of work in conjunction with Acts 29 Network that The Resolved Church is a part of.

When Grace Comes Home, by Terry Johnson
I have not read anything by Terry Johnson yet. However this book sounds intriguing. Many people tend to think Calvinism is just for the intellectual and is merely a set of impractical "dry and dusty doctrines" which make men arrogant, hard, fatalistic and unkind. Sadly, I have seen this happen with people. This book sets out as it's agenda to see how the doctrines of grace within Calvinism, rightly understood ought to have the opposite effect and radically influence the way we view "worship, humility, adversity, outlook, evangelism, holiness, assurance, law & liberty, prayer, guidance & living faith."

The ESV Study Bible
It is no secret that I am a big fan of the ESV translation of the Bible. A while back I wrote an entry entirely devoted to why (which you can read here: http://www.theresolved.com/?p=294). For some, the differences might seem minut or nitpicky. That may be true at times and yes I agree there is no perfect translation including the ESV. The chief reason for me boils down to the fact that as I translate the text of the Bible week after week for my sermons, I am most consistently impressed and pleased by what the ESV does over and against other translations. The study Bible adds notes by a team of scholars and pastors of whom many are those I have come to respect the most when it comes to biblical exegesis and sound theology.

Books I am reading right now:

Death by Love, by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears
This is Mark's latest book and probably the most theological book he has put out yet. But those who have grown to love his easy reading, culturally in tune, and clever writing style will not be disappointed it is still classic Driscoll. The book is arranged as a group of letters written to several different people dealing with different issues that the cross of Jesus speaking into in a very real and vivid way. It is a great book and helps us see how the power of Jesus blood can so mightily work in people's lives. Mark is a friend of mine and one of the people I look up to the most for his work in the gospel in our day. Read it, it's a great book. One last note on it is you may be surprised to find a chapter presenting "unlimited limited atonement," where Mark confesses he is really only a 4.5 point Calvinist. I disagree as many of you might have guessed about me, a 7 pointer myself :), but that's okay...I'm willing to be open-handed with my reformed brother about .5 of the doctrines of grace as long as those 4.5 are there. Much love to you Mark.

Christian Philosophy, by Gordon Clark
This book was given to me to read by one of our church members. It is a compendium of three of his books, "Three Types of Religious Philosophy," "Religion, Reason, and Revelation," and "An Introduction to Christian Philosophy." So far I am extremely impressed. I am primarily reading it to better understand his presuppositional epistemology. The late Mr. Clark can come across pretty harsh at times but for the most part I am pretty impressed and he definitely falls within the camp of reformed theologians I love. This is heady stuff, so if you are not able to read at a high theological level, you might want to start out with something a little easier than this at first.

Leading With Love, by Alexander Strauch
This is a great leadership book on love being the guiding principle of all Christian discipleship and pastorate. Alexander Strauch is the author of the magnum opus on plural eldership titled, "Biblical Eldership." I contacted Pastor Strauch when I was writing our Plural Eldership document for the church and in our leadership development process. He was a great help and sent me "Leading With Love" as a gift. Many today pursue and participate in leadership in either a quest for power or an enjoyment of it. This book digs out the motivations behind ministry and what it really takes to be a pastor like Jesus and to serve under him. It is helping me a lot.


Books I recently finished:

Humility, by C.J. Mahaney
This is a small book in size but enormous in its weight regarding Christian character. So much of life and sin has to do with pride. The beginning of humility begins at belief in the gospel and becomes the character of a man who matures in true biblical wisdom. Recently, I assigned this book for all the men in leadership development with me. It was a great book inspiring me to have all my words and attitude coated with the grace of humility.

Total Church, by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
I first met Steve Timmis when I went out to lunch with him and the director of Acts 29 a couple years ago up in Seattle. Steve Timmis has become a figure and a force for church planting in Europe. The strength of this book is in the picture it gives of the church living in community together for the sake of a city. There are some great stories to help give an idea and example to what a truly gospel driven church looks like. This was one of the main books which helped me form our theology of community groups before launching them this fall.

Brisnger, by Christopher Paolini
This book has nothing really to do with God or the gospel. If anything it is faintly against the idea in a few latent references. The book is about a war between good and evil, fought with elves, dwarves, men, and dragons in a fantasy world known as Alagaesia. It is sort of Lord of the Rings-ish only with fire-breathing dragons and more magic. It is the third book in the "Inheritance Series" which began with Eragon. I love fantasy books so I was hooked after the first book. The book was like 800 pages and I blew through it in three days, reading into the late hours of the night...my nerdness completely coming out.

There's more but that's all I feel like writing about write now. Happy reading.
- Pastor Duane
This is the seventh week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 7, this week, is titled "Meat, the Weak, and our Living Lord" and works with Romans 14:1-12 addressing how there can be differences among us who are Christians and how we need to avoid judging and despising one another. This sermon was originally preached November 2nd, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.

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November 2nd, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"Meat, the Weak, and our Living Lord"
Romans 14:1-12

Introduction

Good morning…Let's read our text and pray.

Lord God, it is our confession that we, together, as your people have much to learn. We like to fancy ourselves in thinking that we get things and have got them down…but the truth is we have a long way to go in becoming like Jesus, becoming the type of people we want to be and becoming the people you have designed us to be and are at work transforming us into being. Thank you for inspiring the Bible. A rich source and foundation for our faith which tells of who you are and the great things you have done. And thank you that in your book you get down and dirty and have your men address super practical issues so that we will know how our faith and love for you is supposed to work out in how we live our lives together. May your word sanctify us as we grow in grace through it. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.


This is a section of Romans, and really through the rest of the book, we get reminded that this isn't a book…it was originally a letter written from Paul to the original church in Rome. Other parts of the book are meticulous and carefully ordered and put together…here there is a lot more fluidity and weaving in and out because some real life issues are being addressed. Increasingly, we will see the letter-ness of Romans as we approach the end of the book.

What the letter-ness does for us who let the Bible dictate to us what we are going to talk about on Sundays is make this a really long section for us to deal with…because you can't just cut a person off in mid-sentence or mid letter-ness right? That'd be rude. So the plan is just to have a really long service today. I'm going to preach like Paul probably did and go for about 3-4 hours. You guys cool with that? J

Can you imagine it? Sunday used to be an all day thing because the pastor would preach for a long time and then after would answer questions and everyone would sit around and talk about it for a long time. How we do that today is through community groups. We just finished talking through and discussing Romans 12 a couple weeks ago at the community group I'm a part of.

I wrestled a lot in prayer and study this week to try and figure out how to best help us all to work through this section together. It's a tough, complex passage.

There are 10 direct commands. There is one overriding principle, which is restated 7 times in this with roughly 23 supporting reasons addressing the necessity and nature of the principle. There's no clean textual way to break it up, all the experts do something different. This section is obviously addressing some specific issues there were some problems or concerns about going on in the church at Rome in the first century, so it's highly dependent upon the history and culture of the time it was written.

There is a exchange back and forth between individual and personal faith and ethics and communal faith and ethics. There are two major, deep, rich, profound theological statements about who Jesus and what he has done for us. There is a great statement about how we are supposed to use and interpret the Bible.

And on top of it all the text ingeniously moves from talking about our personal relationships toward each other in the church to how that same principle applies toward our mission of showing and sharing the gospel with other people who don't yet know and love Jesus.

So here's how we're really going to tackle this. I'm going to divide the text at an awkward place and spend three weeks on it. So I'm just going to deal with verses 1-12 of chapter 14 today.


Here's the main questions I want to try and answer for us this week:
- What the heck is up with all the meat talk? Does God hate vegans? (preferences)
- Who's weak and who's strong? Why the differences? Can't we all just get along? (judging)
- The statements/sentiments: "Don't judge me!" and "You're all heathens!" (despising)

I don't have a good subtitle for today…the best I could do was this: "The Principle of Preference in Worship and Love Together"


Meat Eating and Holy Days

So let's get into it. I think we have to talk about the meat deal first. It is the primary thing which appear to give Paul the reason for writing this section, there were obviously some differences of opinion and strife going on over this issue in the early church. I don't think we can grasp what he is saying unless we get a handle on that.

Also, veganism and vegetarianism today is becoming increasingly popular today in our culture, especially in urban cities like ours in San Diego. Roughly 1 percent of the nation is vegan, meaning they don't eat or use animal products. There is all kinds of stuff out there on this…the Vegan Society, Vegan Outreach, Vegan Action, Vegan Health are all non-profits aimed at enjoying and spreading the joy of eating animal free food. People are or become vegans today for various reasons…some for health concerns, some for animal concerns, and some because of spiritual concerns, or a combination of the three.

Now, I know there are several of you in our church who are vegan or vegetarian (and yes, I know there's a difference between the two). Is this talking about you? Well, maybe, maybe not. You'll have to decide for yourself. As we'll see, I think it depends on your motivations and your love for God and his people and not whether it is right or okay to be vegan or not.

Here is what the first century vegetarianism thing was all about. It was not about animal concerns or health concerns…it was purely a spiritual religious issue. The two main groups Romans was first written two were Jews and Gentiles.

In the book of Leviticus, the Bible speaks very specifically about what his people could eat and not eat before Jesus came. Certain animals or parts of animals were not "kosher." Kosher means "fit", meaning what is fit for consumption. So for example, pigs were not to be eaten by Jews because only animals with cloven hooves that were cud chewing could be eaten (Lev. 11:3-4).

Ancient Jews were very concerned about the law, as we have learned, the Torah, the law, was essentially the whole hope for salvation…doing everything just right in order to earn favor with God. They took that seriously. So much so Jewish rabbis compiled two whole other books called the Talmud and Mishnah with additional rules in order to "build a fence around the law" so that you wouldn't even come close to breaking it. So many Jews, rather than try to figure out what meat was kosher and what wasn't just went the whole way and became vegetarians.

Now here's the other deal. In Jesus, he becomes the last sacrifice on the cross, brings us into a new covenant of salvation where we are not so dependent upon doing everything just right, but become wholly dependent upon him having done everything just right for us in our place and dying for all the things we've done that are not right and are in fact down right evil. In Jesus the law gets fulfilled and he tells his people specifically that there are no longer "clean" or "unclean", that is kosher foods (Mark 7:19).

Now here is the other thing. The reason for a lot of those crazy laws in the Old Testament had to do with other cultures in ancient Mesopotamia who worshipped many of those animals as gods. And God, the true God, really cared about his people knowing that and wanted everyone for all time to know that only he is the true God and his people are made distinct by his covenant with them…so he had them eat only certain meats in contrast to the meat eaten and sacrificed by those of other cultures.

This became a big deal in the New Testament after Jesus, God himself came and taught us that he fulfills everything and that the doors are now made open to all kinds of people through him. It became a big deal because what happened often is that the Gentiles would sacrifice their meat to gods in their temple and then afterward would sell it in the marketplace (1 Cor 10:25).

So for example, ancient Rome had temples erected to the gods Juventas, Diana, Mars, and Fauna. Jews who became Christians because they believed Jesus was the Messiah had a really hard time with this. Jews, who had never eaten meat their whole life would get together for dinner with their church family composed of Jews and Gentiles and the Gentiles would be eating meat bought in the market that had been sacrificed to a foreign god earlier.

That's what's going on here in our text. And it wasn't just meat. Look at verse 5, "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike." This no doubt had certain Jewish holy days in mind, as well as particularly the Sabbath, which was on Saturday. Jews now didn't know what to do. They worshipped Jesus with the church on Sunday morning, because that's when Jesus rose from the dead, but were they still supposed to worship on Saturday too as they had done their whole life?

Now maybe you get a little bit better feel of the situation going on behind this text? Yeah?


The Weak and the Strong

Now maybe we can actually talk about the issues involved here with being weak and strong, and with judging and despising. First off, does it strike you as weird that just calls one group of people "weak in faith" right off the bat? Doesn't that strike you as being a little bit offensive.

If I'm like…yeah, so and so is a nice guy but he's weak. He's a nice Christian dude but he kind of sucks. That's weird to me. I'm not sure if it would have come across like that to the original hearers or not.

Here's why…weakness and strongness in the faith has to do with our confidence and maturity in what we believe. Think of body building. Some of you life weights and work out regularly. If you don't, you're probably weak and can't bench a lot. If you are weak, you are probably not trained or very well, you don't know the exercises and how to use the equipment, and you haven't worked out your muscles very much. If you are strong, you've been trained, you know the equipment, and you've worked out your body a lot.

What this idea of the weak and the strong implies is that there are going to be differences among us in our level of maturity and faith. Some are going to be further along than others and that is okay. There is such pressure on us from all kinds of directions these days for us all to be equal in every area. Especially in Christianity, it is sad when competition enters in because of our pride and we think or feel like we have to have it all together and have all the answers or we are less than.

No, some are just newer than others, or less confident than others. We are not in a race against each other, having some competition to see who can win or be better than the other person. There are weak people and there are strong people and that is okay. And it is good for you to know where your at…because you who are weak need the strong and you who are strong need to help the weak. And on top of it all, all of us have areas of weakness and areas of strength.

In the Christian life you are supposed to have someone who is further along than you who is pouring into you and giving you wisdom and input and counsel. Then you are also supposed to have someone who is not as far along as you, who you are discipling and teaching and helping them grow in the faith. That is how God designed it to be. As Titus 2 says, the older are to teach the younger. If you don't have those two things in your life, you need to correct that…get a Christian mentor and a Christian disciple.

Now look at a few things in the text with me. Who is this weak person? Most likely it is a Jew who has become a Christian, which is ironic because you would think they would be the strong ones since they had the Bible before the Gentiles…but in their case, their past religiousness made it very difficult for them causing them to have to relearn a lot of stuff making them weak.

But let's get our ideas from the text…who's the weak person.
#1 - They have faith. 14:1, "the one who is weak in faith."
#2 - God has accepted them. 14:3 "God has welcomed them."
#3 - They honor and thank God. 14:6 "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."
$4 - They are in the church family. 14:10 "Why do you pass judgment on your brother (repeated
in vs.15)."

So the weak person IS A CHRISTIAN! Get that. This person is a Christian. So that means this, get it, this is important… There is room for areas of difference within the church family! We do not all have to think the same thing about everything at the same time. There are non-essential matters within Christianity. Areas that are open handed issues. What's he call this particular issue? Verse 1, "opinions." Other translations say, "disputable matters" and we are not to quarrel or argue about them.

You see there are some things worth quarrelling or arguing about, as long as it is done in love. Things which are outside being Christian. For example: If you believe there are other gods or other equally true religions, you are not a Christian. If you believe Jesus was not fully God and fully man, you are not a Christian. If you do not believe you are a sinner, you are not a Christian. If you believe that Jesus did not die on the cross and rise again for you sin, you are not a Christian. These are closed handed issues, not open for question or difference of opinion. The reformers called them adiaphora, matters of indifference.

Other things are open handed issues for Christians, non-negotioables. Like whether or not to eat meat or drink alcohol. Like whether or not you should be baptized as a baby or an adult (I want to do both). Like the sequence of events going to happen during the end of times when Jesus returns. Like whether or not to vote and who to vote for. Like whether or not you drive a hybrid, an SUV or ride a bike. Like whether or not you listen to "non-Christian" music. Like whether or not smoking tobacco is okay. Like whether or not cussing is okay or not. Like whether or not tattoos are okay. Like whether or not "R" rated movies or TV is okay. All these things are open.

You can have an opinion and you ought to really think hard and study and pray over these issues to where you have a stance. Like verse 5 says, "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." We should never do something just because somebody else told us. We all have a Bible and a brain and can think for ourselves. Remember from last week, Sola Scriptura. And as long as our position does not violate something Scripture clearly says and you can enjoy it with a clear conscience so that you can "honor and thank God" for it…then you are probably on pretty safe ground.

What matters is whether you are having such a position out of an attempt to glorify or make much of yourself, or because you are honestly thinking and behaving so out of a life lived unto Jesus. Look at verse 7-9, "7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 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. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living."

You what matters in the end is not so much what we end up thinking about areas we may or may not deduce from Scripture, but if you are being honest with yourself before Jesus about it and then treating others with charity and love when you disagree.


Judging and Despising

How we treat each other is when this issue of judging and despising comes up. Have you ever heard anyone use one of the two phrases. One person says, "Don't judge me!" or "They are so judgmental!" Ever heard that. Or on the other hand, maybe someone who says, "Oh, those people are such heathens, or so ignorant!" These are the two attitudes the Bible comes down on here

It is the attitudes involved. Verse 3 says, "Let not the one who abstains pass judgment." Verse 10 asks, "Why do you pass judgment on your brother/sister?" And verse13 says, "Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer."

Now this doesn't mean that when you see a brother or sister in sin that you shouldn't go talk to them about it. Matthew 18 is clear about that when Jesus says to go to one another when you see each other fall in sin and it is not addressed. Some of you need to learn that. You are not to go talk to other people in the church or outside of the church about something bad another person did or is doing unless you have first gone and talked to them first. When you do that, you are going to them in a spirit of love and asking them questions and trying to help them. That is good.

What is bad is the kind of judging where you are acting as though you sit in the place of Jesus on the throne and making a final conclusive irrefutable statement on a person and condemning them. Let me show you in the text.

Verse 10-12, "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; for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us will give an account of himself to God."

The Bible teaches that when we die, everyone, regardless of being a Christian or not, will receive an immortal body, and we will stand before Jesus seated on his throne to receive a judgment. Every knee will bow and confess and recognize that he is the true judge of all, the author of all, whom we owe our lives and our worship. He will ask us for an account of how we have lived our lives. And there is only one good answer.

I have failed. I have sinned against you my Lord. Have mercy on me. You came into this world to die for my judgment, that I might receive your life. Your blood Jesus is all I plea. I love you Jesus and live for you, you are my master. And Jesus says in Matthew 25:23, he will answer, "Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master (Matt 25:23)."

All other answers will be naught, and fail…I did this or that…or I tried but…, all those answers will be insufficient and Jesus says in Matthew 25:41 such will hear these words, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41)."

Now that is intense. Maybe you can see why it is so bad for us to make matters where there is freedom of difference and opinion into salvation, heaven and hell issues. That judgment belongs to Jesus alone, not us. When we make a big deal about things we shouldn't we are treading on Jesus ground.

Now all the judging stuff is directed toward the weak person, whose tendency is toward legalism and thinking they are better than others because of certain non-essential practices. But there is also a warning and a word of rebuke for the strong. It is not to "despise" the weak person.

Let me highlight it for you, verse 3, "Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains." Verse 10, "Why do you despise your brother." What can happen is when a fellow church member is talking about their personal preferences and restrictions…it can start to make the person who doesn't feel strongly about those things to feel resentment and bitterness toward the weaker brother who has a more tender conscience about some practices.

You see the one who is strong has dangers too. The one is strong and has a great freedom or liberty of conscience is not prone to legalism but the opposite extreme. They are prone to antinomianism, or lawlessness…just thinking that anything goes and not taking their life or their action very seriously spiritually. Despising breeds anger and frustration and discontent and ends up making you at odds with everyone. You begin to look down on others all the time rather than looking at others with compassion and reaching out to them.


Conclusion

Okay, next week we'll talk more about how to actually walk through a situation with a person who you may be in disagreement with about a matter opinion, in house, within the Christian family. So let me just summarize what we have set up today.

Here's what we've learned. The main issue here is not so much meat or not meat, this isn't primarily a text about veganism…it is a text about how we deal with and look at matters where there can be differences among us. You can fill in the blank several other things besides meat, like alcohol, tobacco, music, cussing, baptism, end times…you pick.

What matters to God is two things: our motivation and our mutual care for each other. In our motivation before him…do we live our life for him, with a goal of trying to honor and thank him for everything…is Jesus Lord of everything in your life or are there things you would not be willing to give up if he asked you.

That is a good test for your heart in matters of indifference. Ask yourself, could I do without this or that or does it mean so much to me that I couldn't give it up for God if he wanted me to. If you know deep down you couldn't then something other than Jesus really is your god and your Lord that is ruling over your life.

On how we treat one another, our mutual care. Do you have judgmental, passing judgment attitude, where you are constantly sizing yourself up and comparing yourself to other people. if so, that's not good. Do you look down on others or do you look across to them as brothers and sisters within the same Christian family? Do you resent or despise certain people or their beliefs or do you have a spirit of charity and welcoming toward them.

Here is the deal. If all of us are honest with ourselves…I'm sure we would all find areas where we are each weak and where we are each strong. What we need is Jesus. The center and most important words we've looked at today is at the end of verse 8, "we are the Lord's." If you are Christian you belong to Jesus.

If we look to the life of Jesus, our Lord…he was judged and despised for us in order that we might be freed from judging and despising others. Jesus allowed a human government to judge and sentence him to death so that we might be freed from the judgment of eternal death. In the carrying out of that sentence Jesus was mocked and spit on, despised and rejected, esteemed not but smitten by men in order that we might be freed from despise our sin brings before God. This is the gospel my friends…Jesus judged and despised for us in order that we might live a new life in a new way.

I want to encourage everyone today as we approach the table in this way. 1 Corinthians 11:26 says every time we do this, communion, "We proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." When he comes he will come as a great judge. Let's examine our hearts today and go before Jesus our high and merciful judge and take to him our weaknesses and our strengths and allow him to work out his Lordship in us. Ask yourself where you are weak, where you are strong…and then ask Jesus to be Lord in that area…Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.

Let's pray.



For most in my city...San Diego, CA...the über culture of the ever cool west, this week is all about the pumpkin' slinging, candy tokin', door knockin', party drinkin', dress up day of the year. Some call it Halloween, All Soul/Saints Day, the Day of the Dead, or Samhain...but for a rare few others, October 31st and the week of October 31st has nothing to do with any of these thing but rather to do with the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ itself. For these rare few, it is known as Reformation Day. In honor of Reformation Day this year, I devote this entry to the word "revealed" in Romans 1:17.




Martin Luther is the one who most often gets the credit for igniting The Reformation. It gets marked so because on October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed up his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenburg. However, in reality he was really simply the spearhead of many thing which had been brewing for quite sometime (the Reformation forerunners) which all collided together once Luther began to speak out. Regardless, we honor Luther and thank him for his example of carefully reading and studying the words of the Bible.

It was studying Romans 1:17 which unleashed a freedom, power, and confidence in Luther to begin to write about and preach on the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Working with the word which most often gets translated as "revealed" in English (apokalupto in the original Greek), was the turning point for him.

Listen to Martin Luther's own account of this...

I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was not the cold blood about the heart, but a single word in Chapter 1 [:17], "In it the righteousness of God is revealed," that had stood in my way. For I hated that word "righteousness of God," which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they call it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, "As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!" Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.'" There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.


The main question is how the word "revealed" (apokalupto) is being used. Appealing to etymology or lexical aid cannot answer this question since the word can mean a range of things from such as: uncovering, disclosing, signifying, setting forth, announcing, manifesting. In fact if you notice, this is the word we get our English word, "apocalypse" from, which in modern usage usually means the great and terrible events of the end of time.

Systematically speaking, in the Bible this is a most often technical word. We have a whole book of the Bible named after this word, "The Apocalypse of John." Jesus said referred to himself and his own words as "revelation (Jn 12:38)." And likewise the apostle Paul considered his writings "revelation (Eph 3:3:)." This technical word is a word referring what we call the inspiration or inerrancy of Scripture (go to http://theresolved.com/downloads/inspiration.pdf to read more on this).

Scripture is God's revelation to us from outside of us. God does not reveal things to us today since the Bible is written and there are no new books to be added to it (Rev 22:18-19). We may receive insight or illumination in what he has already revealed (Eph 1:18), but there are no new revelations.

Now whether we receive our own personal revelations or not, which is the modern opinion of most spiritualists and pluralists of our day, was not even on Martin Luther's radar. But I addressed because it is most likely on ours. I seem to regularly find myself in conversations with people who say "God revealed this...or that to them."

Martin Luther was mainly concerned about whether this revelation was an activity of God against us for sin as he had been taught. So again, the question is how is the word "revealed" being used in Romans 1:17. Is it a punishment thing? Wherein the righteousness of God is unleashed judicially against us for either the poor quality or quantity of our faith-works?

Let us consider this option. In this way, the gospel (the "it" in Rom 1:17) the righteous, good and true judgment of God is "revealed" against us according to our faith. Faith in Luther's day and still considered by many in our day, is solely works of faith, the volitional religious or moral acts of a person.

Here is the problem with this idea, the gospel. The gospel is good news. It is a good thing. It is the message of how we can be saved through Jesus as stated one verse earlier in Romans 1:16. But if revelation is punishment, then there is nothing good only bad. God's righteousness is perfect, 100% without error or evil. Thus, our faith-works would have to be the same. 100% without error or evil, all the time. The problem is that none of us have this kind of faith. Our faith is often weak and our works inconsistent fueled by all kinds of false motivations. So God's righteousness revealed to us as punishment becomes not good news but bad news. It becomes the message of death.

Here is the light or illumination into God's revelation that Luther saw...revelation here is not a punishment thing but a provisional thing, it is something God gives or provides for us on our behalf through Jesus. He gives us what we don't have, not on the basis of faith as works but through the faith which is solely our trust in Jesus that he actually is the gift and provision of God and is sufficient for God's righteousness! In this gift, the punishment falls on Jesus, and the perfection of Jesus falls on us as a gift.

This is the historical mark of the Reformation, which we celebrate this week. I am so grateful for it. It is one of the greatest holidays for all who treasure and cherish the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Without it Jesus' birth, death and resurrection are all meaningless because I don't need them to trust in my own works be judged by God. All the great Christian holidays are only great if justification by faith alone is really true because in it we get Jesus' righteousness revealed to us as a perfect provision and not a punishment.

Now, one last thing before I end this entry. This particular doctrine of the reformation, of the gospel, of the Christian faith, is currently under attack by a theological movement known as "The New Perspective" led by men such as James Dunn, N.T. Wright, and E.P. Sanders. The New Perspectivists have gained quite a following among many professors and pastors who call themselves Christians.

Most begin talking about their "New Perspective" by talking about Martin Luther and saying he was wrong and sent us down a wrong line of reasoning and way of thinking with his understanding of God's righteousness being provisionally revealed to us. Instead, they want to say that God's righteousness is God's faithfulness to his people (N.T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 96-98). Then New Perspectivists define God's people solely as historical Israel and say others can become part of this covenant of people through their good works, which is the gift of God.

Such a perspective not only tramples on our the heart of our theological tradition but essentially destroys the gospel because it eliminates not only the Jew's need for Jesus but as a result all other's need. Revelation is not just about the boundaries and being part of God's family. It is about Jesus being given to us through faith, which is not merely a realizing we can now be in God's family, but is the gift of God enabling each of us to trust in Jesus' person and work.

* To read more about what I've written on the New Perspective go here:
  http://theresolved.com/downloads/newperspective.pdf

* Or read a very good article from Robert Thomas of the Master's Seminary here:
  http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj16k.pdf

I bring up the New Perspective in this entry, not only because of it's relevance to Martin Luther and the Reformation but also so we will realize how important the true gospel is and why we must know, remember, and cherish the tenants of The Reformation.

In regards to Halloween or whatever you want to call it...sure, its' activities can be a great way to culturally connect with the people of our city. Just do this for me... This Friday, read Romans 1:16-17 and spend some time meditating on the greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ...God's power, act work in us, through Jesus, given for us, solely through our faith in him and his work. And if you really want to get into it, read some Luther or some stuff on the Reformation and then talk about it with your family or friends.

This Friday is a great day for Christians. It is probably my most favorite day of the year. It trumpets the significance of all that Jesus is for us. In some ways this has been one of my more technical or theological journal entries. In other ways it has been one of my most passionate entries because it drives at the heart of what I believe and why I do what I do.

May our Lord bless you this Reformation day. May you continually be reformed in your hearts as the power of the gospel is at work in you until the great day of salvation.

Soli deo gloria,
- Pastor Duane

Everything in the Christian life has to do with the gospel. Everything flows out of the gospel. If this is not our perspective we will lapse either into a prizing our moral achievements or pledging that anything goes. And both roads dead end with "yourself" being the all determined center and conclusion. Consider what the gospel is and how it relates to Christian behavior, whose perspiscuity shines in Romans 12:9-21.




There are a number of ways of defining the "gospel." And this is actually a matter of hot debate in some circles today. I'm a guy who likes to look at the logical conclusion of things and see the total ends of each side of a spectrum no matter what the issue is. So when it comes to the "gospel" I opt for both an extensive systematic definition on one hand and a short to the point definition on the other.

Exhaustively the gospel as revealed in Scripture appears to have six main elements.
1. Historical (factual/propositional) - God the Son, Jesus was born a human being and lived a sinless life. Jesus Christ gave his lifeblood as an eternal payment to the justice of God for the wrath incurred by the sin of humans. Jesus Christ from the dead, now alive forevermore. Jesus is the king of the kingdom.
2. Doxological (worship inducing/enabling) - Enables honest turning away from the false worship of our heart's idols. Enables true worship to God in Spirit and in Truth from the heart.
3. Personal/Individual - Our unique person gets connected with our supreme creator
(Rom 10:9-10).
4. Communal/Cultural (peoples/worldwide)- Worships Jesus Together (Eph 4:1-16). Together is composed of people from every tribe and tongue (Rev 5:9).
5. Transformational (character metamorphosis)- Jesus is ever changing our person through the gift of his life and death (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18).
6. Wonderful (beautiful/amazing/lovely)- Angels long to look into it! (1 Pet 1:12)

A simple definition, or short hand answer, could summarize all these stated elements this way:
"The Gospel is Jesus. The good news of Jesus life and death and resurrection for me."

There is something to learning how to think with the gospel as being the drive behind everything. In order to show you what I mean consider the Christian ethics as stated in Romans 12:9-21:
    Love genuinely [v9a]
    Clinging - Abhor what is evil [v9b] and hold fast to what is good [v9c]
    Family-ing - Love one another with brotherly love [v10a]
    Honoring - Outdo in showing honor [v10b]
    Boiling - Not being slothful in zeal but fervent in spirit serving the Lord [v11]
    Rejoicing - Rejoicing in hope [v12a]
    Waiting - Patient in tribulation [v12b]
    Praying - Constant in prayer [v12c]
    Giving - Contribuing to the needs of the saints [v13a]
    Welcoming - Seeking to show hospitality [v13b]
    Blessing - Bless those who persecute you and do not curse them [v14]
    Empathizing - Rejoice w/ the rejoicing and weeping with the weeping [v15]
    One-anothering - In harmony, not haughty, with lowly, not conceited [v16]
    Restraining - Repay no one evil for evil, what is honorable to all [v17]
    Peacing - Live peaceably with all [v18]
    Entrusting - Not avenging, but leaving to the LORD, & loving enemy [v19-20]
    Overcoming - Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good [v21]

We can love genuinely because Jesus has genuinely reached out to us with his love (Mt 11:28). We can cling to what is good and hate what is evil because Jesus avoided sin and evil his entire life (1 Pet 1:22). We can truly be as family toward one another because Jesus has adopted us into his family through our faith in him (Rom 8:15). We can honor one another because Jesus honored his father and bestowed that honor and dignity upon us (Rom 2:7).

We can boil in spirit because Jesus has given us his Spirit to fill us (Lk 3:16, convict us (Jn 16:8), and teach us through his word (2 Tim 3:16). We can rejoice in hope because for the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross to secure our future (Heb 12:2). We can wait through trials and tribulation because Jesus has been so patient with us and suffered much in order to minister to us in our time of need (Heb 4:15). We can be constant in prayer because Jesus is ever interceding for us to the Father and puts that same Spirit inside us (Rom 8:34). We can give to others because Jesus has given the greatest gift of all, his life (Jn 3:16). We can welcome others into our life because Jesus went out of his way to come into our world and welcome us into his intimate fellowship (Jn 1:14).

We can bless others and not curse them because though we have cursed God Jesus has blessed us richly (Eph 1:3). We can empathize with others because Jesus weeps at our pain and rejoices in our repentance (Lk 15:10). We can live amongst one-another in harmony because Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but humbled himself, taking on the nature of humanity into his being (Phil 2:6-7). We can restrain from repaying evil for evil because Jesus restrained himself and did not call down the angels out of heaven to fight for him in order to die for us (Mt 26:53). We can live peaceably with all because Jesus' propitiation has made peace with God for us so that we are no longer his enemies (Rom 5:1). We can entrust judgment to God because Jesus entrusted his life and his enemies to the LORD (Lk 23:34). We can overcome evil because Jesus stripped the devil of all his power and authority and defeated him and all his evil on the cross (Col 2:15).

Our mantra as a church is to be gospel driven in everything. Think about your life and your motivations. The things which drive you and seek to find Jesus and the extension of his gospel for you and how that radically changes everything. May Jesus continue to conform us to his image through the powerful work of the gospel in us.

- Pastor Duane
This sermon works with 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8 addressing the nature of love driven words, love driven knowledge, love driven faith, love driven hospitality, love driven death, and how the Bible defines love itself. This sermon was originally preached October 19th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.

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October 19th, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

"The More Excellent Way"
1 Corinthians 12:31-138a

Introduction

Good morning. If you don't know me my name is Duane and I get the pleasure of preaching God's Word for us all most weeks here at The Resolved Church. Well, we're about two-thirds the way through our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus." In it we finished chapter 13 last week and I was faced with a dilemma this week for few reasons.

One, next week is Reformation Sunday. We are a church who considers ourselves part of the Reformed tradition of the Christian faith. We cherish and treasure our reformed history and convictions. On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther nailed up his famous 95 theses upon the door of the Wittenberg church which sparked a reformation within Jesus' church profoundly effecting it, causing a revival of the gospel in cities all over the world.

So next week, we'll have five men from our church share for five minutes each…each one presenting one of the five solas, the marks of the Reformed tradition. It's going to be good. I encourage you to be here and invite some people.

The other thing, is the next section in our series is chapter 14 of Romans, which kind of all goes together and will take a couple weeks to work through the chapter…so I didn't want to start chapter 14, have Reformation Sunday and then come back to it.

So here's what's going on today…I'm preaching a sermon from the Bible on love. It seemed fitting because for one this whole series in many ways falls under the heading of love. We are learning together how to live in love…how to love God, love each other, and love those around us in our city. And the next section in our series in Romans 14 is specifically addressing some issues of how we love each other when it is difficult because of our personalities and preferences.

I spent a lot of time in prayer this week about what to do this Sunday and I came out of that having a strong conviction that we just need to learn more about what it really means to live in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, what better passage of the Bible to preach from but the famous "love chapter" of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. So let's read it and pray over it.

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8a - "31 I will show you a still more excellent way. 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.

God you are love. Would you teach us today much about love. Your love. The love of your Son Jesus. Teach us what love is and what love isn't, how to love and love has to do with everything. Teach us how important love is and make us into a loving people. Please…transform us with your love I pray as we are taught through your word. Amen.

I took the title for today's sermon directly from our text, "The More Excellent Way." Many times we've discovered here that the Bible talks about life as a journey we are walking through. And in this journey there are many ways you can walk. Last week I read from, "The Pilgrim's Progress" a whole book written upon this premise, comparing the Christian life to a person traveling from the "City of Destruction" to the "Celestial City" by the way of the "King's Highway." Or if you're not familiar with that, maybe you're familiar with the band "Journey" and the words to "Don't Stop Believing"? "Just a small town girl, livin in a lonely world. She took the midnight train goin anywhere. Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit. He took the midnight train goin anywhere."

Life is a journey. Jesus too said this. In Matthew 7 he talks about there being only two roads or two ways. The way to destruction and the way to life. In fact before Christians called themselves "Christians" they called themselves, "Followers of the Way (Acts 9:2)." Here in 1 Corinthians, Paul, the same author of the letter to the Romans we've been studying, says he will tell us about the "more or most excellent way." This way is the way of life in love.

Paul defines love for us in the later half of this section but first he wants to address love particularly within the Christian community as "individual members" of "the body of Christ" (1 Cor 12:27). You would think that as Christians, people who align ourselves with Jesus Christ we would naturally be loving people. I mean Jesus is the one whose whole life was about love, he said all of life could be summed up as, "Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves."

The sad truth is we are often not very loving. Oddly enough, even with some of the most spiritual things about our life, there can be a great vacuum of love.

Let me tell you the brief story of a man named Robert Chapman. Mr. Chapman was a successful lawyer in London during the early 1800's. After 6 years of attorney work Robert became a Christian and three years later he believed God had called him to be a preacher and he left his successful practice to become a pastor of a small church in a little corner of England called, "Barnstaple."

When Robert Chapman got to Barnstaple, he discovered that this little church had more problems then he imagined. It had grown increasingly smaller and smaller the few years before he arrived and had gone through three pastor in just the year and half before he got there. The church was proud of it's doctrinal distinctives and church polity. They prided themselves in their steadfastness in the faith, their intolerance of heresy, and their zeal for persecution…but it was dying because of lovelessness.

Pastor Chapman arrived believing God called him to love these people. When he got there he said, "My business is to love others and not to seek that others shall love me…There are many who preach Christ, but not so many who live Christ; my great aim will be to live Christ."

Through much patience, love and faithful Bible learning the church turned around and it became one of the largest churches in the country, known throughout England for it's love, it's missionary outreach, ministry to the poor, commitment to the truth of the gospel, and love for the lost. It became known as the "University of Love." This once constantly fighting and contentious church was transformed into radiating the love of Christ.

I can't help but think of the story of the Barnstaple Baptist Church when I read these first three verses in 1 Corinthians 13 because they address five key elements of Christianity and Christian community which all amount to nothing without love. Let's look at them.


Love Driven Words

Verse 1 of Chapter thirteen begins by talking about how we use our words. " If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."

Words are one of the things which separate us from animals. Words enable us to communicate with one another. They can be both one of the chief tools for communicating love and truth and have an extremely helpful potential. They can also be one of the chief tools for communicating hatred and falsity and have extremely harmful potential.

The book of James in the Bible specifically addresses this powerful potential of the tongue. In chapter three it says, "The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And (like it) the tongue is a fire…With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so (Js 3:5-10).

Our verses in Corinthians mentions not only human language but angelic language, possibly even referring to the gift of tongues or glossolalia mentioned in the previous chapter. Either way this is spiritual language and spiritual talk and we are warned here too that even such a talk as that can be ruined if not driven by the motive of love.

Paul gives us an illustration. He says if we are speaking anything to someone, even spiritual things in the tongue of angels and we have not love…then we are like a "noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." What's that mean?

It means this... If I start making a bunch of noise and talking to you about God (start banging metal together). Saying we've got to have love for our God and for each other and if we don't we're in danger and we are going down a wrong road going the wrong way. If I say you shouldn't be doing this or that because it is displeasing to God and doesn't give him glory and that instead you should worship him with all of your life and everything you have… Can you hear anything? Are you enjoying this? Does it please you? Is this helping you and your spiritual life and your walk with Jesus? I am helping you grow in your faith and your love by doing this? Do you want me to keep doing this until the end of the sermon.

No. It's annoying right? And you couldn't hear or focus on anything I was saying could you? Scripture here tells us that this is what it is like when our words to one another are not driven by love. Ephesians 4:15 says we are to "speak the truth in love."

So often I'm afraid that rather than having love driven words we just avoid situations. Either completely altogether or we just send those quick text messages or emails so we don't really have to talk to someone. If we actually do talk to someone I'm afraid often speak we do not speak out of love but are only reacting out of our hurt, anger or frustration. When that happens we're just a noisy piece of metal and even if deep down you do actually love the person you're talking to…they won't be able to hear anything.

Church family…we've got to be motivated by love in everything. When you see each other, whether it's here on Sunday, or in the middle of the week at community group, or at some other gathering…do you see each other and have love for one another. When I get home from work I cannot wait to see my wife and my daughter because I love them and miss them so much. We need to have that kind of love for each other. If we have love for one another then we have a context for our words even when they are hard.


Love Driven Knowledge & Love Driven Faith

Let's go on to the next two Christian virtues that must be driven by love, "Love Driven Knowledge" and "Love Driven Faith." Verse 2 If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."

Two things here, knowledge and faith. First knowledge. Prophets in the Bible were writers of Scripture and were gifted with the revelation of God to record. They had great insights into mysteries of God and the unfolding of his plan throughout the ages. Only God knows all things and as time and history moved forward God progressively revealed increasing details of the secret things previously only known to him.


This happens today often among us as we grow in the knowledge of God's revealed word and it's soundness and it's truth…it seems especially with those who subscribe as we do to the tenants of the reformed gospel. I've seen it in several men including myself.

You start to know and understand some things and then you start to think, "Hey, I'm pretty smart." And "Hey, those people are pretty stupid." And then when you try and talk to them and they don't get it you find yourself getting mad and frustrated. 1 Corinthians 8:1 says this, "Knowledge puffs up but love build up."

Here are some signs if you think you are getting puffed up with your knowledge:

1. You find yourself harsh, strident and not inclined towards patience with people and their level of understanding.

2. You like to let other people know about your theological superiority, whether it is using big words, referring to degrees or books you may have or have read.

3. You look down on others with less knowledge and giftedness sometimes to the point where you mock them and make fun of their views.

Sadly there have been even pastors who become overwhelmed with their sense of importance. They get an inflated ego and develop a spirit of contempt for those who disagree with them. There have been those who have pristine theology but they are cold as ice to any who may not be as mature as them.

Here, we're informed that such knowledge. Even right and true knowledge, revealed in the Bible…can corrupt us if we are unloving with what we do with it. 2 Timothy 2:15 commands us to be those who have no reason to be ashamed before God but right handle his word. That has not only exegetical implications but I believe also ethical implications to how we use God's word. Things like our motives in quoting it, our tone of voice, and most of all if the use of such knowledge is out of love.

Let me ask you. When you think of the Bible, the book of truth, and you think of those who don't believe it or disagree with it…do you get angry at them or do you get heartbroken out of your love for them? Do you want to see God's word forced into people or see people grow hungry for God's word and where it becomes a sweet guide for their soul.

Well what about faith? Paul quotes Jesus here who said in Matthew 21:21 that if we have enough faith we could go say to Bear mountain to toss itself into the sea, out toward the channel islands and it would happen.

What we learn here is that there are varying degrees of faith in people. Some may have more faith than others. The idea here is if you had as much faith as you possibly could have, being perfectly in tune with God and his will and empowered by him to do insanely inconceivable things like miracles… without love it is worthless.

Knowledge and faith are both very spiritual things and yet amazingly we can seem to have them totally devoid of love. The last phrase of verse 3 is striking, if "I have not love I am nothing." I am nothing. No one wants to be nothing. To be completely worthless. We long to be valued. But here we learn we are nothing without love. Knowledge and faith must be driven by love.

How is your faith? When you think of your beliefs and convictions is love the driving force behind them. Do you believe in Jesus because you love him? Or is there another motive at work? Like maybe you're tying to get something out of Jesus? Does your belief in Jesus translate into a deep love and compassion for others?


Love Driven Hospitality & Love Driven Death

Now we move on to these last two Christian virtues that must be driven by love, "Love Driven Hospitality" and "Love Driven Death." This is verse 3, "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

First let's talk about giving away all we have. As we learned a few weeks ago when we were studying Romans 12, we learned that we are to "Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (Rom 12:13)." This is what real Christians do. They help each other out and they help strangers out. That is what the word hospitality means literally, inviting strangers into your home. Who have you helped out recently in a tangible way?

Most of the people from the community group I am a part of and then a few others from our church helped out some of the homeless people of San Diego last week by making and handing out hamburgers at Balboa park. We also lent a listening ear to hear their stories, to shake hands, and to give hugs. I love hearing stories of our community caring for one another. There are a couple families in our church who consistently have welcomed people into their home let people stay with them for a period of time. You have lent your vehicles to one another, helped each other out with rent at times, and a whole host of other things.

This is to be our mark as Christians in the city of San Diego. We take care of each other because we are family and not just each other but anyone else who we come in contact with. But here's the deal…if that hospitality, that giving away of our time and resources, is not driven by love it is nothing. You gain nothing either for the person or for yourself. Hospitality in and of itself is worthless unless it is motivated by gospel love.

Think of this. Say you go out of your way to do something for someone…like say you hook them up with a job at your work, you pay their security deposit on an apartment, and you stock their fridge with a whole load of groceries and initially they are shocked and don't know what to say. And imagine they ask you, why have you done this for me. What if your response was, "Well, it's my duty as a Christian." How would that make a person feel? Pretty bad I'm guessing.

C.S. Lewis said, "Duty is only a substitute for love, like a crutch which is a substitute for a leg." Sacrificially serving others is meaningless if does not come from love…it gains nothing.

The last Christian virtue mentioned here is martyrdom…deliver up my body to be burned. I've told you before how the Roman Emperor Nero had Christian bound in oil, strung up in his garden, and then lit them on fire. The Bible as whole and Christian history has always looked upon martyrdom, making the ultimate sacrifice of your life, giving yourself to death for the sake of Christ and the gospel…as perhaps one of the most vivid and honorable ways of serving our Lord.

All of the apostles with the exception of John were died for their belief in Jesus. Peter, was so overwhelmed that he was going to be crucified for preaching the gospel, he said he was not worthy of such an honor to die in the same way as Jesus and so he asked to be crucified upside-down, and he was.

I mean think about it. If someone died for their faith in Jesus today here in our country. Wouldn't you think, man that person must have really been a Christian? They must have really loved the Lord?

But here, Paul teach us that even such a great sacrifice can be done for the wrong reasons, it must be driven by love. Maybe the reasons are to be stubborn and defiant, or the want of being a hero, or maybe for some other motive. You see even the seemingly most high and holy things can be corrupted if they are not soaked first in love. They gain nothing either for you or for the sake of the gospel.

Well those are five intimately Christian things that can be tainted and spoiled if they have not love. I mean that is his main point here. This is Christian stuff. Have you known "Christians" that just seem to not have any love, people that bear the name of Christ but are as cold and hard as ice?

That is what this is talking about. It's divine mathematics and it works differently than algebra. If I have all five of these things, words, knowledge, faith, hospitality, and sacrifice…but have not love, it equals zero. Five minus one is zero. We must have the love of Christ permeate our hearts or all of our efforts and achievements will amount to nothing.


Love Defined

But maybe you're here and you wonder what then is love? If these are five things which amount to nothing without love, then how can I be sure to have love, what is it to love?

There are a lot of different ideas about love about in the world today.

Chuck Palahniuk, the author of the book "Choke" which just came out as a movie…he says, "Love is just another chemical imbalance." Gandhi says, "Love is for the brave." Ben Gibbard from the band "Death Cab for Cutie" says, "Love is watching someone die. Friedrich Nietzsche
said, "Love is madness." Conor Oberst of "Bright Eyes" says, "Love's an excuse to get hurt. And to hurt." T.S. Elliot said, "Love is when the now ceases to matter." And Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons" once said, "Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."

Love. I've told you before that to the fault of English we only have one word for love but Greek has three different words for it, friend-love, erotic-love, and sacrificial love. Here we get perhaps the best and clearest definition of love anywhere. I mean if we're honest, love, real love, is just beyond words. Leave it to the Bible to come as close as possible.

Here it is. "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."

Let's go through them quickly. Love is patient. It waits. It does not demand it get what it wants right now. The old King James said "suffereth long," longsuffering. Especially when wronged. It does not immediately react and or retaliate out of anger. It does not make quick changes and decisions but slow ones. Love waits, and waits, and waits and waits and waits some more. Love is patient.

Love is kind. It has a general temperate of tenderness and goodness toward others. Kindness is to be gentle in tone and welcoming to others. Having a constant readiness to help another out. Love is kind.

Love does not envy. Envy is closely related to jealousy. It is the want for either a possession of another, either like a physical item or a position of status or respect. Envy can ruin relationships and can ruin church. To not have envy is to be content and satisfied with where you are and your current gifts from the Lord. Love does not envy.

Love does not boast. Boasting is a form of pride. It is a preoccupation with oneself. It's when someone loves to talk more about themselves, their experiences, their achievements, their things…then they do to listen to others. Love does not boast.

Love is not arrogant. To be arrogant is to be puffed up or inflated. Like a balloon, when it has no air in it is actually a rather small thing…when you put air or helium into it, the balloon becomes quite large. Spiritual arrogance looks down on those who are not as mature as them. Arrogance is a form of self-deception because you treat others as though you are better than them and cannot learn anything from them, which is really quite immature. It is being unreachable and thinking you got it all together. Love is not like that. Love is not arrogant.

Love is not rude. This one is really about being sensitive to others. What is rude varies from person to person and from culture to culture. It means you are socially conscience of who you are talking to and not only that but how you sound and come across. Sometimes you may have good intentions but it comes out really mean and nasty. That's not loving because love take into careful consideration how you sound when you say and do what you do. Love is not rude.

Love does not insist. Love is flexible. It not only listens and learns from others because it is not arrogant but it will gladly give way to others whenever possible. This is when you have a personal preference, maybe it is food, or maybe it is an opinion on what you think should happen regarding some issue. Love gives way to others as much as it can. Love does not insist.

Love is not irritable. Other translations say, not easily provoked. Living in this world and living with people means that there are going to be some irritating or inflaming things. Things which upset you and get on your nerves. Do you let that happen easily? Love is able to overlook offenses and just let them go. Love easily let's things go because love is not irritable.

Love is not resentful. This is the idea of holding grudges. Love doesn't keep a record or an account of wrongs and waits for the person to either make it up or for you to get back. Love does not allow bitterness inside you to form. Love lets go of all offenses toward others. Love is not resentful.

Love does not rejoice at wrong. If we were resentful then maybe we would be glad when something bad happened to another person. You might think, ah, karma…see, what goes around comes around. Love is not like that. It gets no joy out of wrong. It abhors what is evil and holds fast to what is good. Love does not rejoice at wrong.

Love rejoices with truth. The opposite of truth is falseness. It is often thought that love is just letting matters of truth slide, like it is loving to be morally indifferent. It is not loving to not deal with things…whether it is something going on in someone's life that you'd rather just avoid and not talk to them about or whether it has to do with the objective nature of the gospel concerning who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus. Love rejoices with truth wherever it may be found.

Next, we get four things where the word "love" gets coupled to the phrase "all things." Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. To bear, is to carry a heavy load. To believe is to have faith or trust, which is to bank on or rely on. To hope, is to have a secure confidence in the future. To endure is to lastingly hold out.

So to bear all things is to be wiling to take on a heavily load, whatever comes our way. To believe all things is to trust that God is working in all things for our good (8:28). To hope in all things, is to remember and rely on God's promise as our security for the future. And to endure all things is to hold out and hold on until then.

The last phrase and definition of love we get is this, "love never ends." There's been fifteen things were told make love love. And now they all get an additional qualifier…they never end. There is never a time which will arrive where we've been patient enough and kind enough so that we don't have to be so any more. We'll never have rejoiced with truth so much that there is no joy left to be had. Love never ends. Longevity is the finest mark of love. It is pure faithfulness. Constancy. Continual commitment. Real, true love goes on and on and on and on. Love never ends.


Conclusion

Well let's conclude this sermon. We've covered a lot. But there is one last thing I must say. All these things…everything we've talked about today, it is all impossible without Jesus. You can't take this list and these guidelines and treat them either like poetry or an instruction booklet. These things do not come naturally. That's why out of the list of fifteen things, only three of them are positive statement, the other twelve are negative definitions, defining love by what it is not.

These things do not come naturally because we are sinful people in need of a savior. What we didn't have time to do because we are not studying through the book of 1 Corinthians like we are the book of Romans, is to see that having Jesus' love put inside us is the only thing which makes this kind love described here even possible.

When Paul first started talking about all this stuff at the beginning of chapter 12, he said all the gifts, becoming a member of Jesus' church, and using our gifts, only happens by God's Holy Spirit enabling us to say, Jesus is Lord. In the book of Romans that we are studying, he says it this way, "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom 5:5)." Our greatest need is for God to give us his love.

What that means is the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It changes is us. It takes us from being naturally unloving people to increasingly being more and more loving.

Here's the thing. If you look at this instruction on love that we have spent the morning meditating on, if you look at just as though it were some nice poetry or as some nice doable instruction booklet here is what will happen. You will fail and fall short of it all. You will turn the gospel of love into a religion and you will miss the most important thing of all, the one who makes it all possible, Jesus.

There is one surefire way to make sure you and everything in your life is driven by love and is love…here it is: stay close to Jesus. Spend time with Jesus. Learn from Jesus. Talk to Jesus. Listen to Jesus. Look at Jesus. Mimic Jesus. Be changed by Jesus. Everything is about Jesus. It is that simple. Cling to him and you will become love.

My friends, you are my family, let us love one another and let us love our city. May our words, our knowledge, our faith, our hospitality, our sacrifice all be driven by love. May we be continually transformed by the gospel, the good news that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life be ever at work in us.

There are only two ways to live your life. For yourself or for God. If you live for God it will only happen through Jesus and it is the only way to true become a loving person. And Jesus' love is the far more excellent way.

Let's pray



Blog | Pastor Duane

The artwork from our Viva La Vida sermon series (to the left) comes from the cover of Coldplay's album, which is actually a 19th century painting by Eugène Delacroix called "Liberty Leading the People." Delacroix was a French Romantic artist who specialized in illustrating the literary works of William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Yet, his most famous painting was the highly political piece, "Liberty Leading the People."

In the painting a woman representing liberty is leading representatives of the three main classes in society...the rich, the poor and the middle-class while waving the French tricolour, which became the symbol of the French Revolution. The painting is on display at the Louvre, where it has been since 1874.

The subtitle to our VIVA LA VIDA sermon series is "Living the Life of Christ." So I thought I'd take this entry and an opportunity to talk about the connection between the life of Christ, revolution and liberty.

When you read the New Testament Gospels one of the striking things thing you notice is these repeated crowds showing up all over the place because of Jesus. Some were undoubtedly attracted to Jesus because of his miraculous feats. Some were surely drawn to him because of his great teaching the spiritual wisdom he imparted. And without a doubt many gravitated to him in hopes of him being a social and political revolutionary.

The first century was a tumultuous time particularly for the Jews. They did not like the ruling order of the Romans and hoped for a leader a messiah to lead a revolution and deliver them. And various potential messiahs of this sort tried. In historical order, this includes these men: Eleazar (Josephus, Jewish Wars [J.W.], 2.13.2), Judas Son of Ezekias (Joshephus, Antiquities [Ant.], 17.10.5), Simon Servant of Herod (Ant., 17.10.6), Athronges (Ant., 17.7), Menahem Son of Judas (J.W. 2.17.8), Simon bar Giora (J.W. 7.26-32), and Simeon bar Kokhba (Dio Cassius 59.13.3).

These are just revolutionaries who got recorded in history books, but there were also several other unnamed ones merely dismissed as "bandits" and "guerillas." Of the ones who are recorded 5 were before Jesus started his ministry and two (which were the biggest and most successful revolts) were after Jesus' ascension.

Knowing about these revolutionaries makes the following statement of Jesus from Matthew 24:5 astonishing, "Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray." Here Jesus does two main things. One, Jesus acknowledges that he is The Christ, The Messiah, The Revolutionary, the only one. Two, Jesus prophesies of all these false christs, messiahs, and revolutionaries.

Revolution and revolutionaries throughout history are wanted because the lack of freedom or liberty. Jesus never denies being The Social, Political, and Military Revolutionary...he just had to deal with something first, the cause of our lack of freedom/liberty, which comes from sin and us being bound by it. So he went to the cross to deal with sin first before he comes a second time to topple over governments and establish his rule. If he had done so in his first coming there would have been no people to enjoy his rule because we would have all been found guilty and overthrown.

In order to bring true liberty, Jesus went to the root, the root of all war, violence, and oppression...the human heart. The cross is the most revolutionary thing that could ever have been done. This is the gospel my friends, freedom in Jesus.

Martin Luther said, "The Christian is the most free lord of all and subject to none...the most dutiful servant of all and subject to every one." Because of Jesus we become the most free people of all. We are free because there is no longer the constraints of guilt and judgment hanging over us. Jesus has done all the work for us in order to free us. Once a believer, this freedom changes us and enables us to truly love God and those around us...and that is all the freedom we have ever wanted or needed. The freedom to becomes slaves of all and to love being so.

Eugène Delacroix thought a physical change in regime could bring liberty to lead all people. He was only partly right. Freedom does lead. But true freedom is the ability to sacrificially love without demand, return or expectation. Eugène was wrong if he thought merely a new regime could bring liberty. Liberty must first be gained in the heart, then Jesus, the servant of all can truly lead us all in the way of freedom.

- Pastor Duane