Text: Romans 15:1-7
Main Point: The strong give the most.
We are witnessing a shift in mindset among the generations. The older generations, the builders and the boomers, often operate under the mindset that hard work and success secure privileges. Hard work and success mean you get the best office, the best parking spot, the best perks, and a seat at the table. Oftentimes the builder and boomer generations believe that hard work and success mean you necessarily get what you want. The younger generations, gen x, millennials and gen z, often operate under the mindset that they deserve the privileges regardless of work or success. By simply being born you get the best office, best parking spot, best perks, and a seat at the table. All these generations believe the same lie. The lie is I deserve to get what I want.
But let’s dig deeper into that idea, the idea that I should get what I want. Why do we believe we should get what we want? Underneath this desire is another desire, the desire to be happy. I want to be happy therefore I want what I believe will make me happy. The next step is easy. I want to be happy turns into I deserve to be happy. Since I deserve to be happy, I deserve what will make me happy. But a terrible problem arises when we don’t have the power to get what will make us happy. What should we do about that? We must get the power. We must grow strong. When we have strength and power we can get what we want and when we get what we want then we will be happy.
Each one of us is tempted to lean on a different source of power. For some of us, we trust in raw physical power. This can be the raw power of physical strength or beauty. The guys and gals work out to be strong and to look good. Both of them do it to gain power over another and get what they want. Others depend on the strength of education, money, fame, or government. If I can wield the power of money, influence, or the law then I can force people to do what I want them to do. And when people do what I want them to do then I get what I want and then I will be happy. You live under the same roof with a tyrant; each of us seeking power in order to force others to do what will hopefully bring happiness.
The church is particularly vulnerable to this misuse of power. Authority and strength are good gifts from God, but they are easily hijacked for the selfish pleasure of those in power. Elders and deacons are tempted to misuse their authority. Members who have served faithfully for decades are tempted to misuse their influence. Families that have served and given generation after generation begin to think they deserve to get what they want. This is MY church!
Here is where Christianity demolishes our culture’s current misuse of power: the stronger you are the happier you should be because the strong give away the most. Our culture says you will be happy when you get. Christianity says you will be happy when you give. Let’s dig into God’s word for the goal of increased joy.
I. This is a call to be joyfully strong
The world says we are all obligated to fulfill our desires. The world instructs us to be self-centered and self-seeking. The world’s motto is do what you want and don’t let anyone tell you no. The stronger you are, the more self-centered, self-seeking, and hopefully happy you can become. The gospel leads the opposite direction.
- The strong are made to carry the weak (1)
Look with me again at Romans 15:1, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” God tells us that the strong are obligated to please others. In God’s economy, the more you have, the more you give away. The stronger you are, the more burdens you bear.
The idea of an obligation can mean you have a debt to pay. I am obligated to pay my mortgage every month. The idea of obligation can also mean a responsibility like the responsibility of a husband or father or governmental authority. That is the idea here, the strong are responsible for the weak. The strong are responsible for getting to know the weak and strengthening the weak so that the weak are able to do good.
To put it simply, there will be things you want to do in the church, but you must not do them in order that you can do better things- namely, build up the weak. We are going to be tempted to put ourselves first. We must fight this temptation with greater joy. Don’t settle for short term joy; the joy of meat and wine. Set your mind to gain long term joy; the joy of the salvation and maturation of souls. Instead of using your strength to grab it all for yourself,
- Use your strength to please your weak neighbor (2)
Look with me at Romans 15:2, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” Now, this is not saying if it pleases your neighbor to rob a bank then you should help him rob a bank. Instead, if it pleases your neighbor to not eat meat or drink wine offered to idols then don’t do it. In matters of indifference, please your neighbor. This is a call to know your brothers and sisters. What concerns these people in this room?
This same call to please others comes in 1 Corinthians 10:33, “Give no offence to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”
Are you strong enough to understand that food and drink are insignificant? Please your neighbor by living out the reality of the insignificance of food and drink by laying them aside. Value your brother. Value your sister. Do not value food or drink. We are set free from these things in order to do the most good.
Verse 2 is very helpful for us as a church. The question we should ask on Saturday evenings as we wait for sleep is this, “What does God expect of me tomorrow?” Romans 15:2, “God expects you to do good and build up your brothers and sisters.” We want to train you to do good and build up. We want to give you opportunities to do good and build up. Once you understand your role on this small stage, the worship gathering of the church, you are better equipped to fulfill your role on every stage- with your family, coworkers, and neighbors. In all of this, we set our eyes on Jesus. Our desire is to be more like Jesus.
II. Jesus is our example
Jesus is the reason why the strong do not please themselves but instead seek to do good and build up others. The apostle Paul is using the gospel to direct the use of Christian freedom. The righteous life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection tell us how to live. Jesus’ life and priorities direct our lives. So, are you a Christian? Then you are committed to live like Christ. What did Jesus do? Verse 3, “Christ did not please himself.” Know this
- Jesus is the world’s strongest God-man
If anyone understood how to live as a son of God, it was Jesus. If anyone possessed spiritual strength and freedom it was the Son of God. Jesus is the world’s strongest man, the world’s strongest God-man. What did he do?
- Jesus did not put his comforts first (3a)
Look with me at verse 3. We don’t please ourselves, “For Christ did not please himself.” Again, we’re talking about matters of freedom. It may be helpful to think in terms of comforts or pleasure. If Jesus put his comfort and pleasure first he would have never become a baby. Think of the extreme discomfort and difficulty of the eternal omnipotent Son of God becoming an utterly dependent infant. Think of the omnipresent spiritual Son of God becoming bound in a body, even a body that cannot walk. But obviously verse 3 is speaking more of the cross. If Jesus put his comforts first, if Jesus sought only what was pleasing to himself, then he would have never submitted to being beaten, humiliated, and brutally killed. The cross and self-centered pleasure cannot coexist. Jesus didn’t live for his own comfort.
- Jesus lived to do his Father’s will (3b)
Instead of living for what feels good or tastes good, Jesus lived for what accomplishes the most good. And it is not that Jesus wasn’t happy. Jesus was perfectly happy. His joy was one of the reasons people wanted him to come to their parties. Jesus was no frowning legalistic fuddy-duddy. Jesus wasn’t sitting at home ranting on Facebook or Twitter. Instead, Jesus was out loving and serving people for their good. Jesus knew food and drink are small things. People, the salvation and discipleship of men and women, are the most important things. Doing his Father’s will, pursuing the salvation and growth of others, brought him joy.
Psalm 69:9 serves as the proof that Jesus did not please himself, “as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” One of the marks of a person separated from God is his anger toward God. The children of this world don’t like God and they don’t like God’s ways. So, here is the world shaking its fist at God and there is Jesus aligning himself with God and therefore receiving the hatred of the world.
Make the connections. Did everyone love and appreciate Jesus for doing his Father’s will? Did everyone write thank you notes to Jesus for denying himself in order to do good and build them up? No, Jesus loved and served, and they crucified him. You who are strong, will the weak always love and thank you for sacrificing your comfort for their good? No, you will sacrifice for them and they will not like you, they may slander you, they may reproach you, they may crucify you. Be like Jesus. Don’t please yourself. Instead, lay aside what you want in order to build up others.
How in the world are we supposed to live this way?
III. Read your Bible (4)
Pastor Aaron is going to unpack verse 4 in two weeks and get very practical with how to read your Bible. I’m going to introduce the ideas today as we head toward the Lord’s table. The way to become more like Jesus is to read your Bible. But we don’t just read it aimlessly.
- Read your Bible with Jesus at the center
Psalm 69 was originally written by King David concerning a situation in his life. The apostles knew Psalm 69 was not limited to David but was ultimately written about Jesus. This is why Paul could defend his call to sacrifice by pointing to Jesus and using Psalm 69 to describe Jesus: Jesus is the center of the Bible. More specifically, Jesus is the center of the Old Testament. Aaron is going to tell you how to read the Bible with Jesus at the center. Let’s stay with our quick overview. Read your Bible with Jesus at the center and
- Read the Old Testament in order to learn
Look with me at verse 4, “For whatever was written was written in former times for our instruction.” The Old Testament was written to teach us, New Testament Christians. The Old Testament is for you. If the Old Testament confuses you then come to our new Sunday school group that starts next week. Jay Collier and Johnny Lindsey are going to make Romans 15:4 come alive in your life. You have the Bible so that you can learn from the Bible. Come to the youth room next week at 9:45 am and experience the blessing. It’s going to be good. Read your Bible in order to learn and
- Read the Old Testament for endurance and comfort
Why do we have the Old Testament? We have the Old Testament because we need endurance and comfort. Weak Christians don’t become strong Christians overnight or after one conversation. Making disciples takes endurance. The Old Testament will give you that. Weak Christians will do and say things that disappoint you. Making disciples is costly. You need comfort. Where will you get it from? You’ll get comfort everyday from the Old Testament. Pastor Aaron is going to teach you how to get comfort. Jay and Johnny are going to teach you how.
Stay with me in verse 4. Where do endurance and comfort lead us?
- Read the Old Testament because it produces hope
We experience joy in the face of set-backs and disappointments because we are instructed by the Old Testament. And the Old Testament is producing endurance and comfort in us. Namely, the Old Testament helps us better understand who Jesus is and how Jesus lived. Knowing Jesus, through the Old Testament, gives us endurance, comfort, and hope. Meat and wine cannot give what Jesus gives. Read your Bible and
IV. Trust the God who speaks
Where do encouragement and endurance come from? Verse 4 tells us endurance and encouragement come from the Old Testament which points to Christ. Verse 5 tells us God stands behind the Old Testament and speaks through the Old Testament. God is the God of endurance and comfort, therefore, pray to Him. Pray to the God of endurance and encouragement (5a).
What I’m saying is prayer is the product of faith. When you believe God is the God of endurance and comfort, when you know God proves himself in Christ to be full of endurance and comfort, when you read your Bible and see example after example of God’s patience and encouragement, then you will pray. Trust in God and prayer to God are inseparable. So, what does Paul’s understanding of God lead him to pray for in verse 5?
- Pray for unity in the church
Verse 5 is Paul’s prayer for the Roman church. “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 5 is your prayer for this Church. You’ll see this prayer on the screens as we take the Lord’s Supper, “God of endurance and encouragement, make us live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Jesus Christ, that together we may with one voice glorify You and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ask God to show you how your use of freedom may be disrupting the body. Ask God to show you how to use your freedom to strengthen our peace and build us up. Pray for unity and focus on Jesus because
- Jesus is the means to unity (5b)
Verse 5, our harmony with one another is in accordance with Christ Jesus. Your position for or against meat offered to idols will not unify us. Your position concerning wine or flags or how to school your children will not unify us. Jesus is the only adequate means to true unity.
For this church to grow strong and enjoy unity you must choose to deal with us according to the mercy, grace, patience, and holiness of Christ. You must choose to forgive us. You must choose to serve us. You must choose to endure with us. You must choose to deal with us according to Christ and not according to your self-centered pleasures. We must all do this.
When we unite together around Christ the result is verse 6. Because of our unity with Christ we will come together and glorify God with one voice. God’s goal for us is unity and worship (6). It’s not enough for us to begrudgingly give up our freedom. No, God is with us through Christ so that we can joyfully sing and celebrate our life in Christ. When you do your own thing and go after your own thing it tears down our unity. When you chat with your neighbor during worship about common or insignificant things it tears town our unity. God’s goal is for each one of us, because of Christ, to add our voice in unified praise.
God wants you to
We are called to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. If Jesus only accepted those people who look and love and act like him then he would never welcome any of us. Instead, Jesus accepts us into his family because of his transforming grace. We accept one another around this table and into membership and throughout each day because of Jesus’ transforming grace. We look, love, and act differently. That’s ok. What must unite us, what must bring us together, is our shared desire to honor our Father by living like Jesus. Everyone one of us needs to deliberately set our minds on Christ and not on pleasing ourselves.
So, to prepare for the Lord’s Supper we are going to come together and with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are going to sing “We Hunger and Thirst.” This song may not be your favorite. Given the choice, you might have chosen something else. But having your own desires does not mean you are free to say one thing while we say another. Instead, our unity in Christ leads us to submit to one another, to join our voices together and sing the same thing. Our confession is the same. Our worship is an act of unity. So let’s sing. Let’s sing together. Let’s look around and welcome one another and with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A shift is happening. We are moving away from using our strength to fulfill our self-centered desires. We are moving toward the Lord’s table, toward joyfully laying aside our freedoms for the good and building up of others. Church, let’s join our voices and sing. Let’s confess our hunger and thirst for righteousness. We hunger and thirst for Christ.