Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"A People of Peace for a Fragmented Church" PART 2

Click here for Part 1of this lesson
Click HERE for Reese's message on why our children are leaving.
If there is a theme verse in Romans, it would be Rom. 1:17 (which is repeated at 3:21-22). For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (NIV84)

Rom. 3:21-22 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference…(NIV84)

So he’ll say in Chapter 1, the Gentiles have sinned and their sin is awful…ain’t they awful? Then he says in Chapter 2, for you Jews…what’s your excuse? Your sins are as great as theirs and you have the law!? How can anyone boast?

They will then turn to Abraham as the father of the faith primarily for the Jews. No, because you know the covenant was made before he was circumcised…before he became a Jew (Rom. 4:9-12). So who can boast? The righteousness of God has been revealed to us all! That’s the foundation for Chapters 12-16.

In Chapters 5-8 the language is not Jew or Gentile, but about what God has done in the cosmos. The transition from one age to the next. Hope and suffering are the 2 words that Paul plays off of each other time and again. See Rom. 5:3-5

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (NIV84)

Rom. 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV84)

Our hope and suffering are tied to the death of Jesus. In chapter 8, he talks about hope and sufferings; verse 18-25:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (NIV84)

He is pointing to the culmination of the Christian life and existence. Here we stand in suffering and hope between the cross and the ultimate adoption and fulfillment of what we will become.

This backs us into chapter 6 where Jack first wanted to go. What does baptism have to do with all of this?

You’ve been saved by grace not by your works. So what does that mean? That we can sin all we want to so that grace may abound? The more we sin, the more grace there is? You know that! That’s not the case! Chapter 6 is not arguing FOR baptism. It is arguing FROM baptism. It’s not saying this is why you aught to be baptized, you already were baptized. If you were to ask someone from the 1st century world, “Is baptism necessary? Do you think you need to be baptized in order to be saved?” They would look at you incredulously. “Why wouldn’t you want to be baptized…everyone is!”

Paul is saying you were baptized. You died to an old way of living; you have been resurrected to a new way of living. That’s what your baptism did. You have been freed from sin and enslaved to God and the advantage you get (6:22) is holiness. You live differently. It is not that we are baptized and your sins are forgiven “back then" or that you are baptized and get to go to heaven “some day in the future.” You are baptized so that you can live holy lives here and now!

Do not think you are wiser than you really are. This is not about what you figured out; what you understand and getting it all right. Rom. 11:25 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. (NIV84)

Rom. 11:34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (NIV84)

Rom. 12:1-5 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 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. (NIV84)

Rom. 12:9-14 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. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (NIV84)

Rom. 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. (NIV84)

Rom. 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV84)

Yet we divide over things far less significant. Look at chapter 14.

Rom 14:1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. (NIV84)
Those that eat certain foods, accept those who don’t.
Those that don’t drink wine, accept those who do.
Stop judging each other! (v. 4)
You are not God!
God is God and does the judging. You have a different responsibility.

Don’t cause others to stumble. Don’t push them into sin but don’t spend your time with your arms folded acting in judgment of one another!!! Welcome others just as Christ welcomed you. Because you deserve it after all! No…in spite of the fact that you don’t deserve it, Christ welcomed you anyway.
That is what your baptism does.

2 words for all of us:
1. By the power of God because of what he has done for us, through the power we have received in our baptism, Paul’s clear call is for us to stop judging each other. We have divided over things both profound and pathetic. Instruments, cooperation, drinking fountains, the Holy Spirit, multiple cups, one cup, clapping our hands…

In our DNA is a tendency to want to only be around people who are like us.
”I’m not comfortable with that…”
“They’re not really a part of us…”

Paul is sick of the "us" vs. "them" that is going on. We’re going to survive because God is in charge, not us. Is the only choice, “Agree with us or get out!”

2. Welcome one another.
Receive those with whom you disagree. Invite them. Greet one another. Welcome one another. Encourage one another. Serve one another. Spend time with all people of all ages of all races. What would it be like to have some cross-generational activities. Classes and functions together. Don’t just hang out with people like yourselves.

Church is a place where Christians come together out of our differences, still wet from out baptism, cleansed from our sins, redeemed by God and we say to one another, “Welcome, how can I serve you?”
Your baptism has led to holiness, Paul said. Live like it.