Saturday, April 28, 2007

Imitate Jesus! - Romans 15:1-13

Imitate Jesus! - Romans 15:1-13
April 29, 2007 AM
by Pastor Lee Hemen

In our day and age where people can remain intimately anonymous in cyber chat rooms and blog rings, they have submerged themselves into self-absorbed cocoons instead of servant churches. Encouraged into this kind of thinking, the local church is no longer a body of like-minded believers working together to build the kingdom of God. Instead, “herds” are ushered into spiritual slaughter houses, with the unsuspecting masses, to watch live video-fed messages projected onto a screen for spiritual entertainment. You can feel you are a part of something, while not really being a part of anything. Sadly, in many cases, the body of Christ in our world has become a prepackaged commodity and has ceased in being the loving intimate family of God it was meant to be.

Paul relates to the Roman church that they were to first and foremost imitate Jesus Christ as a church. They were to be His body in the world. This cannot be done in a supermarket prepackaged fashion or by encouraging self-absorbed standards. A spiritual family is grown, not produced or emoted. It is often messy by nature because of what it is -- a family of God. The spiritually strong are to encourage and help those that are weaker in faith. A church is to concern itself with building up the body of Christ through tenderly teaching and tending the flock and thereby imitating Jesus our Shepherd. Let’s find out how this is done…

READ: Romans 15:1-13

The world often teaches two diametrically opposed ideas: One is to step on anyone who gets in our way. You only help those who help themselves. In fact, the new mantra is often stated in this fashion: “How can you help someone else, until you help yourself first?” The converse of this is also found in those who tell us that everyone has to be treated exactly the same. In suffering or success we are all the same. Which view is correct? Neither. Rather than stepping on those who are weaker or trying to please ourselves, Paul says we are to imitate Jesus.

I. In imitating Jesus, Christians are to help the spiritually weak! (vv. 1-4)

1. Strength is found in Christian character that encourages rather than that which condemns! It is easy to be condemning. The Pharisees of Jesus day were experts at it. Demanding that those around them measure up to their standards, while not inspecting their own lives in the process. What Jesus, Peter, Paul, and all of the New Testament writers teach us is that “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” The strong should not end up despising their weak brothers and sisters in Christ; instead, they should continue to bear with them. In fact, the strong should not seek to “please” themselves. This last clause is the key; a Christian should not be self-centered, but should be concerned about the spiritual welfare of others out of genuine concern. Jesus did this very thing as an example for the rest of us. Just as Jesus was full of compassion, so we are to follow His example. Paul reminds us that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” If the spiritually infirm do not find hope in the church, and the Gospel message it is supposed to display, where will they find it? In the ungodly world? Therefore, Paul tells us that in imitating Jesus, Christians are to help the spiritually weak.

EXAMPLE: When a little baby is taught to walk, the parents do not take them home and promptly set them on their feet and then just give them push! They do not demand a baby not only know immediately how to walk, but to also know how to run, skip, and jump as well! Babies are encouraged to grow first, just as new believers are, and even those who may stumble in their Christian faith should be. When we look at Jesus and how He dealt with people, He only demanded more form those who proclaimed their own righteousness – like Peter who had to learn a tough spiritual lesson after being lovingly rebuked. In fact, Paul in his life walking with God, should have known better but Paul had to be brought along as well. This is why he could say with confidence, that in imitating Jesus, Christians are to help the spiritually weak!

However, Paul like any good parent, does not leave this issue alone. He wanted to make sure his audience understood completely what he was trying to teach them here. It was not as simple as just encouraging one another with an “atta boy!” The Christian life can be a messy affair because we are not our own, we are bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19) Therefore, the believer is to “honor God with [his] body.” Meaning in every area of life. In fact Paul steps it up a notch and writes that it is not just the individual that is responsible. He teaches us that…

II. In imitating Jesus, Christians are to be unified in Spirit! (vv. 5-6)

1. A likeminded spirit promotes the things of God! When disharmony in the church comes it is only from one source – Satan. He is the one who causes disunity within the body of believers. So important was this unity that Paul openly prays, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus!” Paul’s goal was that the church of Jesus Christ would be a body that was so loving and caring that nothing from the outside world could affect its spiritual bond of love. Why? Because the ultimate purpose of this unity was that with “one heart and mouth” (an inward unity of being and an outward unity of expression) they would continually “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” You cannot praise God with your mouth and gossip about a fellow believer. You cannot worship God with your whole heart and have bad feelings against a fellow church member. The sin is no longer theirs, but now it has infected you as well. This is why Peter would remind us to “love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22) Paul knew there was “one body and one Spirit,” and because of that we were to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3-4) In imitating Jesus, Christians are to be unified in Spirit!

EXAMPLE: The world asks, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Forgetting that the world in general does not know the unity of knowing God intimately through a relationship with Jesus Christ. A sin-fallen world cannot “get along.” In fact, this is why Jesus would say He would send the Holy Spirit! To literally “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8) The ungodly world is not “convicted” of its sin until the Holy Spirit does the convicting! Paul would say, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) However, the Christian does have the Holy Spirit and should be able to spiritually discern all things! This includes keeping the unity of faith within the church no matter what the cost to your personal self! Paul reminds us that in imitating Jesus, Christians are to be unified in Spirit!

Is it fair? Not always. But what it means is that Christians “no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15) So in our “self-righteous” attitude we had better walk very circumspect least we fall into the sin of pride. Paul would say, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 8:9) Does this mean we just smile and allow sin in another believer’s life? Absolutely not! However we are to remember who we are, and to Whom we ultimately have to give an account to. Therefore, Paul relates…

III. In imitating Jesus, Christians are to accept one another! (vv. 7-13)

1. The model of acceptance for the believer, is Jesus Himself! This is why Paul would remind his self-righteous audience, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” He wanted to remind them that even they were accepted by Jesus to bring glory to God! Jesus had “become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy.” If Jesus was able to set Himself aside and become a servant for all people’s salvation, then certainly every Christian could do likewise for the benefit of each other! How else will a ungodly world see the difference between the life of a Christian and a non-Christian? This is how both the Jews and the “Gentiles” [non-believers] were praised before God and could have any “hope” at all! (vv. 9-12) The “God of hope” should “fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” Why? Because Paul knew that the desire to “get it right” before God should never break the bond of unity with fellow believers, “so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit!” In imitating Jesus, Christians are to accept one another!

EXAMPLE: I can remember not liking some of the things my brother or sister did, and I am sure they could relate to you that they did not care for some of the things I did either. However, through it all one thing remains: We love one another deeply. We may not like sometimes how we conduct our individual lives, but we still love one anther. Why? Because we are a family and that is what loving families do. The family of God, His church, is bound by a deeper commitment and a spiritual bond that is brought about by an intimate relationship with Jesus. The world may not understand it, but we do and because we do, in imitating Jesus, Christians are to accept one another.

Conclusion:
In imitating Jesus, Christians are to help the spiritually weak! (vv. 1-4) In imitating Jesus, Christians are to be unified in spirit! (vv. 5-6) In imitating Jesus, Christians are to accept one another! (vv. 7-13)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dealing With Fellow Christians, Part II – Romans 14:13-23

Dealing With Fellow Christians, Part II – Romans 14:13-23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 22, 2007 AM

It has always amazed me that those who are usually in sin are the first to scream, “Do not judge me! Judge not, least ye be judged!” In doing so they miss the context of the verse (Matthew 7:1) they quote. Jesus was referring His audience to the fact that too many in His day and age were quick to weigh other people’s faults without first looking closely at their own (v. 2). The main thrust here is not that you can never judge someone else’s sins, which in fact Christ indeed does say a righteous person can do (v. 6), but rather make sure that you inspect yourself first before doing so. Most Jews in His day were more than willing to judge not only one another but especially the non-believing “goyim” around them. Can Christians judge one another? Paul deals with this issue for us here this morning and gives us a foundation for dealing with fellow Christians.

Of course we understand that when someone is in sin they do not want their sin exposed for what it is. Paul saw in the lives of some of his fellow believers the propensity to quickly pass judgment on the lives of others because those doing the judging tried to set the standard for their Christian living. Many had come out of Judaism and were trying to force their legalism on the lives of others. Paul was not necessarily dealing with Christians simply picking on one another. However, in Paul’s teaching we find out how to deal with one another in a way that is both godly and just. Let’s discover for ourselves what Paul teaches us in dealing with fellow Christians.

READ: Romans 14:13-23

We last learned that the spiritual freedom God has given to Christians comes with the price tag of responsibility and accountability. As our sovereign Lord and the Creator of the world and all its people, God is also the Judge before whom we all must stand. Every person must give account to God. In a sense, judgment comes daily as God interacts with our lives, and we also face a final judgment that none of us will escape. In the light of these truths, Paul reminds us that in dealing with fellow Christians…

I. Christians need to stop passing picayune judgment on one another! (vv. 13-18)

1. Fellowship should be a fundamental concern for all Christians! “Instead,” Paul relates, “make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” It is an individual choice for each believer to encourage rather than discourage each other in Christ! It goes back to the basic teaching of Jesus for us to look at the “splinter” in our own eye instead of the timber in our fellow Christian’s. Paul was “convinced” that “no food” was “unclean in itself.” The obstacle was when someone else saw it as a stumbling block for their fellowship with another. Paul would admonish, “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.” It was then an act of defiance, stubbornness, and pride: “I am going to eat what I want to eat and who cares what you think!” When this occurred the one who was hurt began to speak “evil” about their fellow Christians! A person’s spiritual focus has to be on what the truth truly is: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking (picayune things), but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!” Throughout the New Testament we read over and over that Christians are to “love one another.” Jesus, John, Peter, and Paul all voice this in their teaching to Christians, “because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” Paul reminds us that in dealing with fellow Christians, Christians need to stop passing picayune judgment on one another!

EXAMPLE: “Stop teasing your sister!” my father demanded from Ed and me. Of course we wanted to know “why?” His reasons were simple: “She is your sister, you are part of this family, and your mother and I have asked you to do so.” Interestingly, herein is found exactly what Paul is teaching us today! The world falsely thinks that Jesus and the other writers encouraged Christians to look the other way when they commit sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. While God does love the whole world and sent His Son to die for it, Christians are to condemn sin wherever they see it and whenever they experience it in their lives. While Christians are called to be “fruit” inspectors of their own lives and the lives of fellow Christians, they are to be careful not to break their fellowship with one another. Remember Paul taught us that “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:9-11) Why is this so relevant to the Christian? It is what my father tried to teach us about our family: Because “in Christ we (Christians) who are many form one body (family), and each member belongs to all the others!” (Romans 12:5) Christians are first and foremost God’s children and we also belong to one another in Christ! Paul reminds us that in dealing with fellow Christians, Christians need to stop passing picayune judgment on one another!

The value of citizenship in the kingdom of God, His church body, cannot be compared to earthly treasures. God’s kingdom produces the spiritual—and eternal—treasures of righteousness (right living among people), peace (well-being in all relationships), and the intrinsic joy of knowing God intimately. These spiritual treasures should not be traded for earthly riches which soon pass away. Our relationships with other believers should show our love for them and our concentration on spiritual treasures rather than on earthly pleasures. Therefore Paul teaches us that in dealing with fellow Christians…

II. Christians need to lead out in peace and edification! (vv. 19-23)

1. We should not destroy the work of God for our own selfish inclinations! Paul bluntly relates, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to [the things of] peace and [the things of building up one another] to mutual edification.” Picayune little inconsequential things do not matter and should not matter in the life of a Christian! “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of” these kinds of things Paul is literally saying here! In Paul’s day there were those who were deeply offended and spiritually hurt by the uncaring actions of other believers who ate any kind of meat or food without a thought as to whether it had been part of a sacrifice to a pagan god. Paul knew that “All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.” When this kind of distress was caused, for Paul, it was better not “to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall!” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23). And “be careful that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9). Both the “offended” and the “offender” should “keep” these things between themselves and “God.” What would occur if they did not would cause someone to either justify themselves or to doubt their own or someone else’s faith walk! Shame on them! This does not come “from faith; and,” Paul writes, “everything that does not come from faith is sin!” In trying to justify our actions to another would require a person to not act in faith but rather self-centeredness. In dealing with fellow Christians, Christians need to lead out in peace and edification!\

EXAMPLE: What Paul is describing here is exactly what many parents face in raising their children. Here is what I mean: When you catch one of your kind, considerate, and loving progeny behaving badly, they will immediately do one of two things: 1) try to justify their own actions or 2) blame someone else -- usually one another! I call it the “sibling survival syndrome.” Good parents do not let it manifest itself, as Paul did not allow it in the early church either. Satan loves to use the blame game within the rank and file of the fellowship. In dealing with fellow Christians, Christians need to lead out in peace and edification!

Conclusion:

Christians need to stop passing picayune judgment on one another! Christians need to lead out in peace and edification!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dealing With Fellow Christians, Part I – Romans 14:1-12

Dealing With Fellow Christians, Part I – Romans 14:1-12
by Pastor Lee Hemen
April 15, 2007

Although Psalm 133:1 reminds us “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” the Psalmist did not know about my brother Ed and me. While we get along very well now, because we are old and cannot run as fast as we used to, when we were younger we could put on a real show. While we could pound on one another until the cows came home, we also were the first to stand side-by-side one another as well. I will never forget the relief that surged through my scrawny body when behind the three upper classmen, who were trying to take may pants off in order to embarrass me, stood my “Big Brother.” It was kind of like the cavalry showing up in the nick of time! This is the way it should be for fellow believers within the church.

Certainly everyone knows that it is often easier to deal with the splinter in someone else’s eye rather than pull the log out of our own. Jesus knew this to be true. In fact, He related that the believer had better be very careful in eternally judging another before doing so. What we may think as justified judgment on our part may really be simple backstabbing belligerence. The focus for Paul was to help disciple the weaker Christian. Here in these verses he relates for us just how we are to deal with fellow Christians. Let’s learn for ourselves exactly how this is done.

READ: Romans 14:1-12

It has amazed me over the years how there will be folks who deliberately try to put one over on their fellow Christians. We have had people join our church and then try to change what we believe and practice as Baptists. They flat out lied when they joined. Why do that? There are those who will always try to prey on the spiritually weak. Paul was addressing this kind of issue. There were those for whatever reason who felt spiritually superior to their fellow believers by condemning them. Paul reminds us that in dealing with fellow Christians we have to take into consideration…

I. Their Weak Faith (vv. 1-4)!

1. For the Christian, it is not the survival of the fittest that gains the prize! We are not to kill our wounded. Paul did not excuse stupid or foolish or inane theology, rather he wanted his readers to understand how they were to encourage “weak” brothers in Christ. He related, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Disputable matters could mean several things. Namely, that “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” Some hyper Hebrews would not allow meat into their diet, thinking that it might be unclean in some way. Also, there were ex-pagans coming into the church who only ate vegetables to honor their false pagan deities, and now they continued to do so because it was their lifestyle. Paul knew about how Peter was rebuked by God and told to “not call anything impure that God has made clean (Acts 11:15).” And that Christians could eat anything with a clear conscience because “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’ (Matthew 15:11).” Therefore, “The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.” The Christian gives up the “right” to be judge and jury of another individual, period. Christians are considered “servants to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 4:1 & 1 Peter 2:16) As servants we cannot “judge someone else’s [God’s] servant.” In fact, “To his own master [Jesus] he stands or falls. And he will stand,” Paul declares, “for the Lord is able to make him stand!” Those who are strong in their faith are to help those who are weak in theirs.

EXAMPLE: Sadly, there are many people who consider themselves “Christian,” who could not explain even the simple basics of their faith. In the mad rush for numbers through the turnstiles of the neo-orthodox emergent church, the flood of unsuspecting souls are being lead into a bogus bill of goods. They are not being taught the reasonableness or responsibilities of their faith. The basic question of “What does it all mean?” has not been adequately taught them. We live in a culture where we cannot make anyone feel bad about themselves, so even in our Christian practice there are churches who never tell the crowd how to grow up. Feelings have been substituted for faith. Growth is equated with a momentary emotional rush. One has to continually get their Sunday morning spiritual “fix,” in order to feel their faith flow through them. The theatrics of the movie screen flicker in the lives of wasted adoring zombies who sit mesmerized by a glowing screen. They are the spiritually feeble in faith. They are the waiting cannon fodder for the cults. Paul would tell us in dealing with these fellow Christians, we have to consider their weak faith.

There has been a lot of discussion over the years as to whether Christians should be following Old Testament laws in regards to Worshipping on Sunday or whether we can correctly eat pork or not. These kinds of myopic discussions completely miss the point of why Jesus went to the cross in the first place. If following Old Testament laws could impart any grace at all, Jesus did not have to die on the cross. Yet, Paul knew their would be those who were weak in what they believed and needed those who took a stronger view of Jesus to help them understand the importance of grace by faith alone. Therefore he would relate that in dealing with fellow Christians we have to take into consideration…

II. What they Regard As Spiritually Significant (vv. 5-8)!

1. Misplaced devotion is simply that -- misplaced! A second area of differing opinions was how one displayed their devotion to God. “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike.” Yet Paul knew that such adherence to observing the feasts set up under the old covenant were no longer valid. “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16) Either choice for Paul meant nothing and it did not gain the individual anything. Why? Because “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” that what he was doing was for God and not for himself! Eating certain foods or observing a special day does not earn you brownie points or a special blessing from God. Rather, the person who does these things should do it for “the Lord and [give] thanks to God.” Christians should not get caught up in vain arguments, but instead they should remember that “none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.” The Christian’s entire life is lived for Jesus Christ! “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” The Christian does not live trying to please an ambivalent God. Paul realized that “everything God created was good, and nothing was to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” in the believer’s life. Eating certain foods or observing special days did not matter. In dealing with fellow Christians, we have to take into consideration what they regard as spiritually significant.

EXAMPLE: If we believe that we should only worship on Saturdays or Sundays does not truly matter. What does matter is why we do it. If it is to earn grace by following a set of rules, then we are trying to appease God by following the law again. Jesus fulfilled the entire law of God. We as sinful human beings can never hope to come close to observing even one law of God completely without blowing it. This is why I personally am glad that I do not have to sit and do certain rituals to gain any grace from God. Jesus paid it all for me. There is nothing I can do to earn God’s favor. Yet, does this mean I should look down on those who struggle with this? No. But rather, like Paul would relate to Timothy: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:2-3) In dealing with fellow Christians, we have to take into consideration what they regard as spiritually significant.

Now do not think that Paul did not give credence to worshipping Jesus, the Trinity, the Virgin birth, baptism, being a member of a local church, or other basic theology, because he did. In fact, Paul both saw for himself and taught others the significance of correct theology concerning their faith in Jesus Christ. This is why in dealing with fellow Christians we also have to take into consideration…

III. The Basis of the Problem (vv. 9-12)!

1. How firm is your foundation in the Lord? Within these final verses we will consider this morning, Paul gives us a foundational inescapable truth about our faith. Christians cannot and dare not judge one another as to whether their faith saves them or not, but they are to remember the very reason Christ died for them. In kind of a backhanded slap Paul relates that “Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” Both the spiritually dead and the spiritually alive, are under the grace of Jesus. This is why he asks two direct questions: “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?” The answer: Christians cannot decide who is ultimately saved or not. “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” What we believe and why does matter, but it is not up to the individual to pass eternal judgment. Only God can. Paul knew that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) Paul would continue by stating “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11) He knew it was important for us to not only witness to an unbelieving world, but to also train weak believers in the basics of their faith. He knew that at the core of the issue was the fact that one day, we all, weak or strong would stand and “give an account of himself to God.” This is why in dealing with fellow Christians we have to take into consideration the basis of the problem.

EXAMPLE: In the movie Cool Hand Luke, Steve McQueen, when he tries to escape is told by the sadistic prison warden that “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Too many see God as a kind of prison warden, ready to punish His wayward charges if they try to escape His watchful wrathful eye. This is completely a wrong view of God, and we indeed have “a failure to communicate.” The basic problem of too many Christians is they do not know God’s Word. Sure, many read it to discover a morning devotional thought for the day or to track the latest endtimes theory concerning who is the Antichrist, but few know how to actually make it valid for their life. Spiritual truth is learned as it is applied and lived out in devoted service to the Lord. Believers grow in faith as they go in faith. This is why in dealing with fellow Christians we have to take into consideration the basis of the problem. Some are weaker than others.

Conclusion:

In dealing with fellow Christians we have to take into consideration their weak faith, what they regard as spiritually significant, and the basis of the problem.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Relating to Life! -- Romans 13:8-14

Relating to Life! -- Romans 13:8-14
April 1, 2006 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

What one gift does the whole world need and that can never be exhausted? Now, think before you answer and be careful with your reply. It is the only debt you owe that is continually outstanding, that can never be repaid in full. In fact, in order to fully comprehend this gift you have to value the present day and age you live in. Origen, an Early Christian scholar, theologian, and one of the most distinguished of the early fathers of the Christian Church correctly deduced that this gift was “the debt of love [which] remains with us permanently and never leaves us; this is a debt which we both discharge everyday and forever owe.” It is the core of the Christian life.

St. Augustine said many centuries ago that you are to “Love God and do what you like.” He did not mean we could do whatever we liked. Rather, we are to live for God and when we do we can do what we like. We forget that faith is not just another word for always trying to do the “right thing.” Paul makes it abundantly clear that you will desire to do the “right thing” if you have the right faith. Sometimes you may succeed, while at other times, it will not be as crystal clear to you or anyone else just what the right thing is you should do. However, in life, you should always strive to do so. It is how, Paul would teach, that we as believers are to relate to the world in our entire life. He discovered it for himself when he came to know the Lord personally. It is what Jesus taught. The commandments of Christ are fairly simple, yet often hard to accomplish: To love God completely and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Paul knew that the longer we stay in the neighborhood of Jesus’ love, the more we are able to recognize how to do the right thing and the more we are willing to do it! That's how you can “Love God and do what you like.” Let’s discover exactly what he meant by this!

READ: Romans 13:8-14

Far too often we do not fully appreciate a priceless gift until we have to do without it for a period of time or until we are removed from its presence. This is especially felt and seen in the lives of those we cherish most. It is not until they are gone that we value their love and friendship. Recently, a fellow pastor passed from this arena of life and into eternity. In the sailing of his life, he left in his wake the flotsam and jetsam of lives he quietly touched. Many in the Northwest owe a great debt to him and others like him for they charted the way for Bible-believing Christians. Paul instinctively knew what this meant for the Christian. Our lives are not lived for ourselves. In fact, Paul teaches us that in relating to life, Christians have to…

I. Understand the outstanding debt they owe! (vv. 8-10)

1. A Christian should never fall short, and so be “in debt,” in loving others! It was a matter of personal concentration for Paul. William Loader wrote that “Paul was never so naive as to believe that the process of liberation and love happened automatically in people. It was a process easily foiled and subverted. People need to remain focused.” This is not a prohibition by the Apostle Paul against a proper use of credit; it is rather the underscoring of a Christian’s obligation to express divine love in all interpersonal relationships! The only debt we are to leave “outstanding,” is the “continuing debt to love one another!” What a gracious thing to practice! Why? Because “he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law!” The ungodly lusts of adultery, murder, stealing, bearing false witness, or coveting what others have are covered by the one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul had come to realize that when the love of Christ is freely applied a person could do no harm to his neighbor. Godly “love is the fulfillment of the law!” John would teach, “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” (1 John 2:10) And that, “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us!” (1 John 4:16-17a) In relating to life, Christians have to understand the outstanding debt they owe.

EXAMPLE: There are simply some gifts that are priceless. They are valued because of their scarcity, the material they are made from, the time or talent involved to make them, or the reason behind the gift in the first place. So something of extreme value to one person, could be seen by another as so much junk. Kind of like the sign over the secondhand store that read: “We buy junk and sell antiques!” Perhaps, value is all in the eye of the beholder. God valued us above all things or He would not have sent Jesus to die for our sins! John says that “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11) Paul reminds us that in relating to life, Christians have to understand the outstanding debt they owe.

I have found in studying history that in every age people have felt the one they lived in was far worse than the preceding one before it. In fact, ancient Roman philosophers bemoaned the fact that the people of their day and age were self-centered, that the rich kept running after money, the poor scrambled after handouts, and the arts were becoming ungodly! Sound familiar? While each day brings enough problems of its own, the Christian is to be aware of the time they live in. Sadly, far too many in our day want to focus on the “end of the world,” rather than what the ultimate answer might be right now. It is easy for the Christian to get caught up in “end time” theorizing and forget who they are to live for in the present. In relating to life, Paul teaches us that Christians have to…

II. Understand the present time they live in! (vv. 11-14)

1. Christian are not to walk around in a self-perpetuating spiritual haze! We have to remain focused by not only understanding God’s love lived out in our lives, but by constantly reminding ourselves not to get caught up in the self-indulgent nature of the world! Believers are to be motivated by God’s love and thereby remain clear-headed! Paul writes: “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Each day brings the believer closer to God’s throne! Paul bluntly reminds us that the “night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” As we rush out the door and face a new day, we are to first and foremost “behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.” It is the ungodly world that makes excuses for its evil behavior. The Christian is to understand the present day they live in and “clothe [themselves] with the Lord Jesus Christ, and… not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” It is the clear-headed rational thinking of deciding to live for Jesus that is to empower our lives. Besides, we do not know the “day or hour” when the Son of Man will appear. (Mark 13:32-37) Christians have to understand the present time they live in!

EXAMPLE: The house you now own, someone else will live in one day. Probably a total stranger you do not know. The new car you drive will be crushed and melted down and made into yet another vehicle or soup can! We live in a self-induced dream world. A “Matrix” of our own making, like the science fiction movie of the same name. Too many of us are guilty of “over-sleeping” and we need a spiritual wake-up call. Kind of like the man who thought he would build bigger barns to store his abundant grain in. He thought to himself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” In fact, Jesus related that “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God!” (Luke 12:19-21) What kind of seeds are you sowing in your life right now? What kind of crop will they produce for the future generations you leave behind? In relating to life, Christians are to understand the present time they live in!

Conclusion:

In relating to life the believer has to understand two important facts: 1) The outstanding debt they owe, and 2) the present time they live in!