Sunday, March 25, 2007

Relating to Authority – Romans 13:1-7

Relating to Authority – Romans 13:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 25, 2007 AM

Almost every young person goes through a time of rebellion to authority in some form or another. Whether it is deliberately ignoring a parent when they are speaking, getting a weird haircut, or dressing is some fashion that is supposed to be against society’s norm. However the one act of Christianity that is taught over and over throughout the pages of the New Testament is the fact that the believer is to be submissive. This does not mean an acquiescence of our faith, but rather our willingness to set aside our own needs for the needs of others. In this the Christian is following the example of Jesus. This attitude is to continue into the are of authority as well.

While the Christian’s “citizenship is in heaven,” (Philippians 3:20) and we are now citizens of the kingdom of God, we are to be first and foremost living our faith out here on earth. Being citizens of God’s kingdom does not give us a “pass” on ignoring our responsibilities to the governing authorities. Yet, what is the believer to do when the government is ungodly or asks us to do something that would be against our faith? These are great questions and Paul helps us to be able to answer them in teaching us how to relate to authority.

READ: Romans 13:1-7

In writing on our willingness to surrender ourselves to the Lord, Hannah Whithall Smith wrote about a young man who decided to explore a dark well by sliding down a long rope. He guessed that the rope was more then long enough to reach the bottom of the dark hole, but to his dismay he reached the end of it without touching the well’s bottom with his feet! Dangling in the dark, he tried in vain to climb back out of the well. Due to his fear of being killed if he let go of the rope, he hung there in the dark. Minute after minute went by as he held on as long as he could. Utterly exhausted he finally let go of the rope and fell… three inches! We soon discover if we let go, then we can relate to authority in our lives. Paul teaches us that…

I. Christians relate to authority through their submission to God! (vv. 1-3)

1. Paul’s readers would understand the relationship a person was to have with their government! After all, they were citizens of Rome, the imperial capital, the seat of the empire’s civil government! Paul therefore knew then that “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.” Why? Because “there is no authority except that which God has established.” In fact, “the authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” The issue here is not with what kind of government the Christian is to obey, but rather is the believer willing to be submissive and obedient to God first and foremost? If so, Paul realized that “rulers,” who are truly ordained by God, “hold no terror for those who do right, but [only] for those who do wrong.” However, when Christians are asked to do that which would go against the commands to love God and others, then we are encouraged to understand there are times when it is better to follow God rather than men! (Acts 4:19) Paul knew that if Christians wanted “to be free from fear of the one in authority,” then [they had better] do what is right” and they would be commended for it! The simple truth is Christians relate to authority through their submission to God!

EXAMPLE: After Madalyn Murray O'Hair, perhaps the most notorious atheist of the 1900s, mysteriously disappeared in 1995, her diaries were auctioned to pay back taxes she owed the federal government. They reveal an unhappy human being who didn't trust even the members of the American Atheists Association. She passed this harsh judgment on herself: "I have failed in marriage, motherhood, and as a politician." Yet she yearned for acceptance and friendship. In her diary she wrote six times, "Somebody, somewhere, love me." By the way, her dismembered remains were later found in 2001, buried in a barrel. Her entire life was one of disobedience not only to God, but towards any authority. Even her children were taught to be disobedient. And those she once trust, she learned to fear and she was later murdered by! She never submitted to anyone, especially God. Paul teaches us that Christians relate to authority through their submission to God!

Paul continues by telling us that…

II. Christians relate to authority because of our Godly conscience! (vv. 4-5)

1. The foundation for government is ordained by God! “For he,” the government employee, “is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Sadly, too many politicians and government workers have forgotten the concept of where government originally comes from -- God! Many think that they are “above” those whom they are to serve and are careless about how they administer their God-given office. Government is to be the earthly protector of the people. Nothing more. Hebrew reminds us that Christians are to “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” (Hebrews 13:17) Account to God! Far too often governments end up abusing the authority given to them by God. Governments exist to protect and defend the populace. They are to enforce God’s law here on earth. A Christian, Paul relates, has two reasons to be submissive to civil authorities -- to avoid “possible punishment” and to listen to his “conscience,” which prods him to obey God’s law. That is to be our entire motivation in life anyway. Therefore, the basis for Paul’s teaching is the fact that we as Christians are to relate to authority because of our Godly conscience!

EXAMPLE: Dave Branon writes in Our Daily Bread, “Nearly every day we face questions of conscience. We must choose between doing what pleases God and what appeals to our own selfish desires. Government officials may be tempted to accept bribes and to make unethical decisions. Employees are sometimes asked to rearrange numbers or file false reports. Students often face temptations such as cheating and plagiarism. As Christians, we face situations in our daily lives that are conscience-testers. They help us to see whether we are serious about the integrity God expects of us. We know our choices will have good or bad consequences, but the real test comes when we must decide what to do. What is the greatest protection against making the wrong decision? It is trusting God to take care of us as we choose to do what's right, regardless of the outcome.” A Christian’s godly conscience is to guide them in how they relate to authority.

Paul would teach us that...

III. Christians relate to authority through their willing support! (vv. 6-7)

1. However, a Christian’s responsibility to civil authorities involves more than obedience! It also includes their support by paying the taxes they owe! Remember, Jesus taught that we are to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) This is because government leaders, as God’s servants, are supposed to give their full time to governing and need support through taxes from even, and especially, its Christian citizens! So, quite frankly, a Christian ought to give everyone what he owes him (literally, “repay everyone his dues”), whether in monetary substance (taxes and revenue) or in “respect and honor!” The Christian does not have the “right” to pick and choose which part of a godly government he will follow or obey. We are called to obedience and part of that obedience is paying our taxes, whether we like it or not. Does this mean we as believers, in a democratic republic, can work toward and make changes on how much tax is paid or by changing the laws of the land? Absolutely! Christians should be involved in changing their government to a more godly one! It is another way of showing their support of the political process and the God-given government they are part of! Christians relate to authority through their willing support!

EXAMPLE: In India Christians have discovered a unique but simple way to give to the work of the Lord. As the women prepare meals, that consist primarily of rice, they measure out just enough rice to feed their family. Then, before the rice is cooked, they reach into the dish, grab a handful, and take it out. This is set aside until Sunday, when it is combined at church with the rice brought by other women who have done the same thing. The church then sells the accumulated rice and uses the proceeds to support missionary projects. They willingly “tax” themselves in order to see ministry done. One of the items purchased was a computer that is being used to help complete a translation of the Bible in their language. It is often easy for people without much money to look at the little they have and decide it's not worth giving. Yet, these women teach us a whole new truth to follow: Christians relate to authority through their willing support!

Conclusion:
Christians relate to authority through their submission! Christians relate to authority because of our Godly conscience! Christians relate to through their willing support of it!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Living the Transformed Life! - Romans 12:9-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 18, 2007 AM

There is an old adage that states: “What you do speaks louder than what you say.” This could not be more true than as it is seen in the life of the Christian. There is almost a myopic phobia in Christian circles today that does not want to mention the word “responsibility” in connection to Christian living. The fear stems from the absurd notion that if we “offend” the unsaved they will not want to hear about Jesus. Also, there are those who think that this might in some way be an endorsement for the believer to try and gain God’s approval. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not in support of works, but rather what is to spiritually occur after the love of God transforms the life of a believer. Paul would say that it is how a believer lives the transformed life.

The transformed life is displayed in every responsibility, attitude, action and reaction, and relationship the Christian has in life. And as believers in Christ we are accountable to the Lord for each area. My father would say, You are a Hemen, now act like one.” My mother would tease us by declaring, “You act just like your Dad, a Hemen!” At first I did not understand what that meant. My father was not holding up some ancestral tradition that enslaved me to a specific way of living, but rather an expectation of how I would act in the world as a young man. In this, my father set a high standard. God does as well. Paul teaches us what living the transformed life means.

READ: Romans 12:9-21

Someone once asked Vice President Cheney how the White House defines excellence in journalism. The Vice President, in his blunt but dry wit, quickly answered: “I’ll know it when I see it.” It was kind of a backhanded response to the one-sided nature of the press. This is kind of what Paul was trying to portray to his Roman readers as well. Paul knew a Christian when he saw one, and seeing for Paul was an experiential thing. He did not pull any punches in relating exactly what he would find in a life that was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. For Paul, living the transformed life meant…

I. A believer has sacrificial responsibilities to one another! (vv. 9-10, 13)

1. Responsibilities begin at “home,” so-to-speak, in the family of God! Paul began specific exhortations on how the church was to act with the key ingredient for success in holy living – “agape” sacrificial love. He starts with the notion that “Love must be sincere.” True sacrificial love must be. It cannot contain a false piety that only outwardly shows empathy, it must act. Saying, “I feel your pain,” means nothing. In godly agape love, the believer is always to “hate what is evil.” Anything that even hints at evil should be avoided by the believer. Is it because we are fearful of being “tainted” by the world? NO! Instead we should always want to “cling to what is good” because the ultimate goodness of God lives in us! The Christian does this by “being devoted to one another in brotherly love!” Paul is speaking of Christian unity in the church. How is this possible? By honoring “one another above yourselves.” How do we do this in a real way? Christians are called to “share with God’s people who are in need,” and we are called to “practice hospitality.” Notice this is directed to God’s people for God’s people. If we cannot take care of and envelop our own, who will? The world? Paul is telling his readers that a transformed life will display a godly loving sacrificial responsibility to one another!

EXAMPLE: There are churches today that “win” a lot of people to Christ, but they do not disciple a lot of people for God’s kingdom. They think that all there is, is to come to Jesus and that is enough. To disciple someone takes time, effort, and being involved. I fear that many who think they know Christ, have no clue at all what the transformed life truly is about. Many have accepted a spiritual concept rather than a life changing accountability. You cannot sit in a darkened room and watch a TV screen and have a relationship with God that is reasonable and responsible. You will live it out in your church. A transformed life will display a Godly loving sacrificial responsibility to one another!

For Paul, living the transformed life also meant…

II. A believer watches his attitude! (vv. 11-12)

1. The life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit radically alters the way a person lives! This is why I often tell folks not to worry about “cleaning” their lives up for God. God will do it, if you are sincere in your faith! It is a fact that people who say that they are “Christian” will display certain attitudes because they have been spiritually changed from the inside out. Paul tells his readers to be “never lacking in zeal.” Literally, the idea is that a believer will always be diligent in their faith! In fact, Paul relates the Christian is to “keep” their “spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Not because they “have to” or because it is “required” of them. It is who they are in Christ! They will display attitudes that focus not on themselves, their problems, or their meager little world. Instead, you find them looking life squarely in the eye and being intentionally “joyful in hope (confident trust), patient in affliction (keep on keeping on),” and “faithful in prayer (not allowing Satan an opportunity)!” What a marked difference to the attitude that is often encouraged and displayed by today’s “me-first” society! The transformed life will display a godly attitude!

EXAMPLE: I find it odd when people actually want to be a part of a church where the pastor never associates with the “common folk.” Where you have to schedule a meeting with an underling rather than break bread with the actual shepherd of the flock. And, I find it personally repugnant when pastors are not willing to get their hands “dirty” in the actual work of the church. I have witnessed pastors who treat others with disdain as if they were “owed” their position. This is not who Jesus was and it should not be found in His church here on earth. A transformed life watches his attitude.

For Paul, living the transformed life also meant…

III. A believer controls his actions and reactions! (vv. 14-16)

1. How the person responds to a personal slight, an unkind comment, or an unwarranted offense displays their spiritual foundation! Paul knew that being falsely accused is often hard to take. But perhaps he thought of Stephen (Acts 7:59-60) and of Jesus Christ (Luke 23:34). They both modeled these words and responded to persecution even to death by praying for God’s forgiveness for their persecutors. The principal of non-retaliation and not taking personal vengeance is found throughout the pages of the New Testament. Why? It is based on the loving mercy of God. This is no silly endorsement of pacifism, but rather one of personal commitment. If we have been shown God’s mercy, we are to display God’s mercy. Christians are therefore to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” How is this done? By actively living “in harmony with one another, by no being “proud,” but by our willingness “to associate with people of low position.” Harmony is not found in compromising your faith, but in a mutual understanding God’s way of thinking. If Jesus was humble enough to come to earth and die for us, we should “not be conceited.” Our actions, again, speak louder than our words ever do. A transformed life will have control of its actions and reactions!

EXAMPLE: There are special classes in the public school where children, that cannot control their behavior, are taught. It takes a lot of patience and endurance to do this. These children cannot be in a regular classroom because of their wild and uncontrollable conduct. For some it is because of medical or psychological conditions, while for others it is simply because their parents have made very poor lifestyle choices or they refuse to make sure their children control their actions. When families have these kinds of problems they are called dysfunctional. When someone who is supposedly a Christian constantly behaves in an ungodly way, they are spiritually dysfunctional. A transformed life will have control of its actions and reactions.

For Paul, living the transformed life finally meant…

IV. A believer understands his relationship to the world! (vv. 17-21)

1. The church and the Christian are not to act like the world they are part of! Although it is important that Christians take great pains to do what is right in the eyes of God, it is also essential that what we do is seen as godly by the world. While we are living in the world, we are never to acquiesce our morals or ethical standards to the world’s in order to “fit in.” Paul bluntly tells his readers, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” And then he ratcheted it up a notch and states, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone!” Everyone? How!? Sometimes, it may not be possible because the gospel message by its very nature can be contentious! Namely, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) However, believers are not to “take revenge,” but we are called to “leave room for God’s wrath.” It is His right as our Heavenly Father to “avenge” and “repay” the evil done to us because of His Son’s name. How is this possible? Paul reminds us that we are not to “be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We do this when our “enemy is hungry,” we “feed him.” When they are “thirsty,” we “give him something to drink.” By our doing this in the right spirit, we “heap burning coals on his head.” Does Paul mean that this is our revenge? NO! The “burning coals” refers to repentance on the part of the “enemy.” Our goal is to do such Godly goodness, even when we are hated for it, that our enemies would repent and turn to Jesus! A transformed life understands its relationship to the world!

EXAMPLE: There are bugs that look like thorns, leaves, or twigs. There are lizards that change within seconds to the pattern and color of the background they are resting on. God created them this way so they could survive by blending in. Yet for the Christian, God did not make us new in His Spirit so that we would blend in to the world around us. Quite the opposite is true. Sadly there are those who have made the body of Christ in the color and shape of the ungodly world instead. They think that by making it easier for the ungodly to feel comfortable it will result in more people being won to the kingdom. But does it really do this? We see no change in our society, communities, or churches in reaching the lost and dying world. I fear that while many are claiming they “know” Christ, most have no clue what it means. While they feel good about themselves emotionally, they are not transformed spiritually. A transformed life understands its relationship to the world!

Conclusion:
We covered a lot of ground today. In these verses Paul teaches us that a transformed life will display a Godly loving sacrificial responsibility to one another! The transformed life will display a godly attitude! A transformed life will have control of its actions and reactions! A transformed life understands its relationship to the world!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Transformed Living! - Romans 12:1-8
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 11, 2007 AM

Sometimes standing for your faith is tougher than simply deciding between a lesser or greater evil or lesser or greater good. It often requires the individual to make a decision on how they will live their lives. Most of Jesus’ disciples found this out rather quickly. In fact, to the point of their dying for the sake of the gospel message. Sadly, there are those in our day and age who claim to know Jesus, but are very willing to toss Him over board, rather than step out on the water and join Him, in order to be seen or viewed as nice or likable by the world. While we should not necessarily be contrary on purpose, the very nature of our lives lived for Jesus should make us “enemies to the world.” If we as believers are too well liked by those living in the ungodly realm of this world, then we should take a closer look at our faith walk and what it means. Living for Jesus means transformed living.

Transformed living can only come about when the individual has placed themselves at the mercy of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Then the Holy Spirit comes and lives within the individual and His power is displayed as we live for Christ. Many try to fake it by being nice, good, or by being religious. In fact there are those who equate the Christian faith with just being a good person and doing good things. If this were true, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection were not needed and we are living a lie! Transformed living can only be lived by those who truly have been changed by the power of God! Let’s discover this morning what Paul teaches about transformed living.

READ: Romans 12:1-8

There are some messages that are so important that you wish you could not only make people listen, but that you could also make them fully understand what you are trying to convey. This is true for this passage of Scripture found in the book of Romans. Paul’s message here is so important for the Christian that it should be required reading for anyone that claims Jesus as their Savior and Lord. We can live our lives in such a way that we glorify God or that we are useless for the Lord. Some of us will simply settle with being “okay” in our living for Christ, and will actually think this is a good standard to live our faith by. Shame on us! Do we not know that a life lived in mediocrity for Jesus is a life that is not well lived? Are we willing to tell Jesus here is my mediocre faith, such as it is, use it if You can? Paul related that a life lived for Jesus is a transformed life. A transformed life means…

I. We are to live holy lives! (vv. 1-2)

1. The practicality of the Christian faith is lived in full view of God! Paul urged, beseeched, called along side – with all that was within him to his fellow Christians to live their lives “in view of God’s mercy.” Literally, “by God’s mercy!” Living in the “view of God’s mercy” means the Christian does not live for themselves! They live in full exposure of God’s infinite act of grace! If God sacrificed for us, then the Christian should live accordingly. We are to “offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices.” A living sacrifice dies to self and then lives for God. It voluntarily sacrifices all that it holds dear and gives it “freely over to the Lord Jesus Christ. .” This is “holy and pleasing to God.” This is our “spiritual act of worship!” How is this possible? Paul does not leave us in a spiritual dilemma, but answers: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The word for “pattern” is "suschematizo" (soos-khay-mat-id’-zo), where we get “schematic” from. By this new life schematic we “will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Rather than be squeezed into the mold that world desires for us, we willingly allow our lives to be transformed and renewed by God through holy living! That’s a transformed life!

EXAMPLE: So much of the world wants to inject itself into our lives that often as Christians we can become confused. We have all heard as children, or used the phrase as a parent, “If your friends all jumped off a cliff, would you?” Yet many of us right now are guilty of this very thing as we live our lives as Christians. We willing “jump off a cliff” spiritually and into sin because those around us expect us to and we do not want to be seen as not being accepting, nice, or socially amiable, which is just another phrase meaning easily pliable. We would rather “fit-in” than live for Jesus. Transformed living means living a holy life!

Like silly putty we allow our lives to be molded by friends, family, or the world around us. However, Paul calls to us to join him. To come along side of him and be “transformed by the renewing of [our] minds.” By the very way we think! Paul warns us to “think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Not the ungodly world, not our unsaved friends, nor our acquiescent family – we are to be transformed through holy living. Paul related that a life lived for Christ is a transformed life. A transformed life means…

II. We are to remember we are part of the body of Christ in the world! (vv. 3-8)

1. A believer’s transformed life is lived out in the church! Far too often we think we are the only one that matters. It is only by God’s grace we see ourselves as we truly are and others around us as God really views them! Robert Mounce states that many Christians are “egoholics!” Ungodly self-centeredness infects the “emergent” church of today whereby believers are taught that Jesus revolves exclusively around their meager little lives and is totally engrossed in every minute detail! While I believe God is aware of our lives, I do not think He is interested in what deodorant I use. What it boils down to is how we “feel” about our relationship and not what God desires to use us for. Paul relates that “sober judgment” requires that we take a closer look at ourselves and how we are serving God in His church. Paul reminds us: “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” We are not our own. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” This grace is extended to us from Jesus through the Holy Spirit living is us. It is not some mystical or magical power that we can turn off or on at a whim. Rather, it is our act of worship within the confines of the body of Christ in the world! Some of us are called to “prophesy” (proclaim) the word of God boldly, others to “teach,” “serve,” “encourage,” “contribute to the needs of others… generously,” “leadership” by being hard-working, or by displaying joyful “mercy.” When we remind ourselves whom we serve and why we serve, then our spiritual act of worship within the church transforms our lives. We are to remember we are part of the body of Christ in the world!

EXAMPLE: My father would remind us that when we acted up in public, we reflected on the entire family. He would declare, “Do you want the world to think I raised a bunch of monkeys?” Only once did I respond by hunching over, scratching myself, and making simian sounds. My father did not find the humor in my actions. I think this may be true of God as well when He sees individual believers in His church acting so self-centered. Worship is self-centered. Bible study is self-centered. Many of the ministries of the church are self-centered. Everything revolves around what do we need to do to make the crowd happy, rather than what does it do to build the kingdom of God? Many churches today say they allow latte stands, indoor playgrounds, gymnasiums, and worship so that makes it easier for the non-believer to come and be readily accepted. Yet, isn’t worship for believers? Isn’t church “the body of Christ?” In fact the mere word “church” means “those called out to do a specific task.” I fear some Christians have reduced church to a emotional spiritual experience rather than God’s people worshipping, learning, and serving Jesus Christ. Transformed living is remembering we are part of the body of Christ in the world!


Conclusion:
Paul related that a life lived for Jesus is a transformed life. A transformed life means living a holy life and that we are part of the body of Christ in the world!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

God’s Election Through His People! – Romans 11:11-36
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 4, 2007 AM

There is a commercial on TV where a group of office people are milling around in a jungle setting, when all of a sudden they all begin to run in a blind panic as if they are stampeding like wild animals. The camera pans back and you see them pushing, shoving, and headed for a cliff as they literally push one another off the edge. It is to depict the lemming-like mentality that exists in some offices. I am not quite sure who the commercial is for or what it is trying to sell, however, people can and often do act like the proverbial lemming. Remember the old Wonderful World of Disney where they showed lemmings headed for the cliff as they hurled themselves off into the sea below? Of course we later learned that this does not happen as depicted, yet the fact remains there are a lot of human lemmings in the world, madly rushing off spiritual cliffs of their choosing.

If you knew someone close to you was going to blindly hurl themselves off a cliff, what would you do to stop them? Most of us would do whatever it takes to save them. We find the Apostle Paul doing the very same thing with his own Jewish people. They were headed for a self-induced doom. Blindly plunging into an eternal spiritual oblivion, and there was no reason for them to do so. Paul wanted to wake them up from their spiritual slumber and help them see just how God had offered them a way of escape. After all, they were God’s elect weren’t they? In fact, it was through the Israelites that God had chosen how people would be saved for eternity. Let’s discover what Paul teaches as we take a closer look at God’s election through His people.

READ: Romans 11:11-36

I can remember my father telling me, after catching me probably doing something I was not supposed to do, “Now, before you respond, you had better chose your words carefully.” Why would he tell me this? Well, because he knew I needed to know he knew what I had done and he wasn’t about to be fooled by some lame explanation from me! This is basically where Paul begins in our verse today. He teaches that when considering God’s election through His people…

I. Be careful how you respond! (vv. 11-21)

1. A careful response considers the consequences! Paul asks another question expecting a specific answer: “Did they,” the Israelites, “stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?” The Greek simply says, “Did they stumble so that they fell?” It implies the idea of falling beyond recovery. It was worded to elicit a negative answer, and Paul responded, “Not at all!” (God forbid!) Israel’s fall was not permanent, but was used for a reason: “riches for the world” and “riches for the Gentiles!” Paul was speaking to the non-Jews, since he was appointed as “the apostle to the Gentiles.” Why would he? It was “in the hope that [he] may somehow arouse [his] own people to envy and [thereby] save some of them!” Paul wanted them to understand that in considering God’s election, they needed to be careful in how they responded. If the Jews initial rejection of Jesus resulted in “the reconciliation of the world, what [then] will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” God’s chosen people could be restored through faith in Jesus! Paul wanted the Gentile believers to “support the root” and not turn their backs on the Jews. Proudly, some of the Gentile Christians were evidently lording it over their fellow Hebrew believers. Paul reminds them, the Jews “were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either!” When considering God’s election through His people, be careful how you respond!

EXAMPLE: Recently there has been a stir created by a TV documentary on the Discovery channel that depicts the finding of some burial ossuaries that are purported to be the last resting place for the bones of Jesus, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdala, and one of Jesus’ brothers, Jude. Of course it is simply a TV stunt that disrespects the Christian faith. These ossuaries were found way back in 1980. They were totally discredited then as they are now by all archeologists. Why then do this right be fore Easter? Because, I believe, the producer and the Discovery Channel have an anti-Christian prejudice. They simply do not care what they depict, whether true of false concerning Jesus and Christianity. And, sadly, there are those who will ignorantly not research what is said and might believe it. Paul would patiently remind all of us that when considering God’s election through His people, be very careful how you respond.

God had used the nation of Israel to do something absolutely marvelous and wonderful for all mankind. No one should ever dispute God’s reasoning or His way of doing things. Yet, there were those who did and those who still do! If God desires to use a whole nation as an example for the rest of the world, why should we question it? Those who came before us and believed God was working through them by faith, deserve our admiration and support, not our condemnation! Paul would remind his Roman readers, and us today, that when considering God’s election through His people…

II. Be careful to consider the kindness of God! (vv. 22-27)

1. Remember, God’s kindness considered you! Paul places both groups into perfect spiritual perspective by reminding them, “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.” And, he included a dire warning: “Otherwise, you also will be cut off.” This does not mean that individuals could lose their salvation, notice the emphasis on “you,” meaning that non-Jews as a whole could be cut off in much the same way Israel had, if they were just as obstinate! Israel, “if they do not persist (continue) in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again!” At issue here is not God’s capability but God’s kindness. He as God chose to put the Hebrew people aside because of their unbelief and to extend righteousness by faith to everyone! However, “God is able to graft them in again,” because “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13)! It is God’s kindness! It is God’s plan. Paul relates, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” In fact, the grafted parts, both Jew and Gentile, will become one people under God. And in this “all Israel will be saved!” When considering God’s election through His people, we must be careful to consider the kindness of God!

EXAMPLE: If the producers can infect people’s hearts with the notion that Jesus was buried and His bones were placed in a family tomb, then that would mean He did not rise from the dead. If they can do that, then people would not have to repent of their sins. Paul would say if “we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But… if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.” ( 1 Corinthians 15:15-17) There it is. The non-believer would therefore not be condemned and die in their sins! If Jesus was buried and His bones were found in a box, every Christian’s “faith is futile.” It would completely ignore the fact that all of His disciples would have suffered horrendous and needless deaths for a lie. That more than 500 people were deluded when they indeed saw the resurrected Lord. And that nowhere in all of recorded history, either Christian or non-Christian, does it even hint this, until way past the 4th century, and then only in cultic Gnostic circles. However, Paul would proclaim, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!” (1 Corinthians 15:20) Paul would remind us that when considering God’s election through His people, we must be careful to consider the kindness of God!

Some would claim, “Pastor, you must not see Israel as God’s chosen people!” or “You must think that God has revoked His promises.” I would say, “No way!” I see God considering relationship instead of race. Hosea 2:23 reminds us that God declared, “I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’” Paul would relate in his letter to Colossae that in this relationship “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” When considering God’s election through His people, Paul teaches you to…

III. Be careful of your spiritual disobedience! (vv. 28-36)

1. Disobedience is saying, “No!” to God! Paul would remind his Roman readers that the Jews “As far as the gospel is concerned” might be, “enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs!” Those tremendous men who trusted God and walked with Him by faith. Paul knew that “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” God would not renege on the promises He made. Israel did, but not God. Israel is loved by God because He chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring about His purpose and plan. If the Jews would turn to Him through faith in Jesus, He will not reject them -- He loves them and will carry through on His promises! Just as the non-Jews had been spiritually “disobedient to God” and “have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so [the Jews] too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you!” Why? “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” Remember, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin” (3:9), so that “there is no difference” (3:22). Now, out of “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God,” He has a way of bringing all people to grace by faith in Jesus Christ! Paul is literally reminding them that when considering God’s election, be careful of your spiritual disobedience!

EXAMPLE: We do not like it when people say we are disobedient. So much so that in many schools the politically correct thing to say is, “That’s not how we do things here,” instead of “Hey, you little cretin, you are being DISOBEDIENT!” This is also what is behind this Discover Channel documentary. People want to live their lives without God interfering in them in any way. If Jesus really did do what is testified about in the Gospels, that means they have to change their lives or face the consequences. In fact the producer has tried to both be an expert on history and then also say he is just a “film maker.” What his actions show, however, is spiritual disobedience to the truth of Jesus Christ. Paul would remind us when considering God’s election, be careful of your spiritual disobedience!

Conclusion:

When considering God’s election through His people, we need to be careful in how we respond, we need to be careful to consider the kindness of God, and we need to be careful of our spiritual disobedience!