Gospel Living: Welcoming Others for the Glory of God

Aug 25

Gospel Living: Welcoming Others for the Glory of God

Romans 15:1-7

Preached at Main Street Church on August 25th, 2019

Proposition: Since Christ has welcomed us, we must welcome one another

Our Problem: We turn each other away

1. Since Christ has welcomed us, we must welcome others by bearing with them (v. 1, 3-7)

2. Since Christ has welcomed us, we must welcome others by building them up (v. 2-7)

Paul wrote the book of Romans as a letter around 60 AD to the church that was in the city of Rome at that time.  In the first eleven chapters Paul gives an explanation of the gospel, and in chapters 12-15 he gives application of the gospel to our everyday lives, which is why we have entitled this series, “Gospel Living: 101.”  Another way to say it would be to say that chapters 1-11 talk about God’s work for us in the gospel, and chapters 12-15 talk about God’s work in us through the gospel.  Over the last two weeks we’ve had the privilege of hearing from Pastor Doug and from Mark Ryan from Covenant Seminary speak to us on chapter 14, and what it means to not pass judgment on each other, but to welcome each other with love.  Our passage today in chapter 15 actually wraps up that message from chapter 14 concluding with verse 7 that says, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” So I’ve entitled this message, “Welcoming Others for the Glory of God.”

Romans 15:1-7  We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

This weekend marks the 3 year anniversary of the first sermon I preached here at Main Street Church.  In that message I shared a story of my memories of recess as a kid.  When I was in third grade I was in a class of about 25 kids, and when we had recess it was just our class.  One of the kids in my class would organize games of soccer, dodgeball, steal the flag, and other games like that by getting everyone to line up against the fence.  He would then pick captains and the captains would pick their teams.  Of course, if you were a captain you wanted to get the strongest team you could, so you would pick the strongest players for your team.  And no matter what game we were playing, there was always one kid who always got picked last.  And the worst thing about getting picked is last, is that you realize that when you’re picked last, you’re not really even getting picked—you are simply ending up on a team by process of elimination.  In a sense, you’re getting turned away from the game.  You’re getting turned away from the team. 

A lot of times we treat the church like third grade kids at recess trying to pick all of our cool friends to be on our team, and turning away the weak players who would just slow the team down.  I’m continually tempted to do this.  I want people with all the exact same convictions as me so I can validate myself and my own lifestyle as the best way to live the Christian life and anyone who thinks otherwise is just plain wrong. 

But Jesus calls us to a different pattern of life.  He calls us to invite the weak players onto our team, because when he was team captain, that is exactly what he did.  This passage today is saying Since Christ has welcomed us, we must welcome one another.

There are two core principles that Paul lays out in these seven verses: bearing and building.  He commands us to bear with one another and build up one another.  And those two ideas are laced throughout all seven verses, and they are anchored in the fact that that is exactly what Christ has done for us.  Since Christ has welcomed us, we must welcome one another, and we do that by bearing with one another, and building up one another.

First we’ll look at what it means to bear with one another, and then we’ll look at the next step, building one another up.

  1. Since Christ Has Welcomed Us, We Must Welcome Others by Bearing with One Another

Verse 1 says, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Bearing with someone means being patient with them. The next closest word to bearing with someone is enduring with them.  And Paul draws on that idea in verse 4: “that through endurance…we might have hope“ And then again in verse 5: May the God of endurance…grant you to live in such harmony with one another.” Bearing with someone is to have endurance in the relationship with them.  Having patience.  Playing the long game.  And he says if you’re strong you are obligated to bear with the weak.  Why? Why are we who are strong obligated to bear with the failings of the weak?  Paul gives three interconnected reasons:

  1. First, we must bear with one another because that’s what Jesus did.  Look at verse 3: “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”
  2. Second, we must bear with one another because that’s what God’s Word instructs us to do. Look at verse 4: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
  3. And third, we must bear with one another because that’s what God does for us.  Look at verse 5: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,”  Which means that God endures or bears with us, but enabling us to bear with one another.

In other words, Paul is saying since you have a bearing Savior, and a bearing Bible, and a bearing God, you need to be a bearing church.  Bear with one another as Christ bore with you.  Bear with one another as God’s Word instructs you to.  Bear with one another as God bears with you by helping you bear with one another.  Since Christ has welcomed us we must welcome others by bearing with one another.

Every other summer that my family was in Korea we would take about a two month trip back to the United States to see friends and family.  When I was fourteen years old I reunited with some friends I had grown up in church with and we had a great time together that summer.  One of my friends was a girl named Ashley who was really the leader of the group.  She was incredibly kind and had an infectious laugh.  Two years later when I reunited with my friends once again Ashley wasn’t there.  I asked them where she was and they told me that several months after I left she was picking up a friend of hers who worked security.  He had a gun in his backpack that wasn’t properly stored, and it went off, firing through her seat directly into her spine, paralyzing her and almost killing her.  Due to her condition she hardly ever got out anymore and her life had been changed permanently. 

At that time I lived in Korea which does not allow it’s citizens to possess firearms of any type, and even the police don’t carry guns.  The result is that there is zero gun violence in South Korea.  My experience at that point in my life made me hate guns.  I didn’t want to see one, I didn’t want to shoot one, look what happened to my friend, look at South Korea where there are no guns—I was basically anti-gun. 

Eventually I moved to the United States and met my wife Brittany who is from a small town in Missouri.  If you know anything at all about the people of Missouri, you know that people from small towns in Missouri love their guns.  Brittany told me that I was invited to go target shooting with her dad and brother if I wanted to.  I proceeded to relay to her the story of my friend, the great laws in South Korea, and my absolute disdain for guns.  Because of my life experiences, I had a weak conscience about guns.  My feelings about them were raw.

Now here is what could have happened.  Brittany and her family could have all slapped on their open carry holsters, cleaned their guns on the dining room table, lectured me about the 2nd Amendment, told me about the difference between gun control on a tiny post-war nation in the 20th century versus gun control in the United States, told me how the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, and on and on and on.  And guess what? They would have had every right to do just that. 

But do you know what they actually did?  The next day when I saw them they said, “Brittany said you have a friend who was paralyzed by a gun going off.” I said, “That’s right.”  They said, “That’s a terrible and devastating situation.  We’re so sorry to hear that.”

And that was that.  They never brought up guns to me again, they didn’t try to sell me on them or show me the error of my ways, but they bore with me in my weakness.  Instead of pleasing themselves, they bore with me. 

Now here’s the thing, because of their patience with me, and their love towards me, my thinking about guns has changed.  But it wasn’t a lecture, or someone proving me wrong that brought about that change.  It was my family bearing with my weakness. 

Now, bearing with the failings of the weak doesn’t mean tolerating things the Bible clearly calls sin.  Paul clarifies that at the very beginning of chapter 14 when he says, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” Another translation is not to quarrel over ‘disputable matters.’  What we’re talking about here are things that are disputable matters. Embezzling money or sleeping with a prostitute are not disputable matters—but whether you buy free range eggs or not is.  And if you want to say, “Okay Paul, what’s NOT a disputable matter?” Simply read everything Paul wrote up to that point.  The gospel is not a disputable matter.  The bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead is not a disputable matter.  The nature of humanity is not a disputable matter.

But who you vote for? That could be a disputable matter.  What kind of music you listen to?  Watching R rated movies?  Birth control?  Feeding babies on demand, homeschool vs. public school, women at work vs. staying at home, choosing to smoke, play poker, drink alcohol, go clubbing, vaccinate or not, those things are disputable matters that Paul says, if you are strong, you should bear with the person who thinks you are wrong.  The way Paul designates the weak and the strong here is that the weaker person—the person with the weaker conscience—is the person who says, “you shouldn’t do that.”  And instead of trying to convince that person that it’s actually okay for you to do it and flaunting your freedom, you bear with that person.  You please them, rather than yourself.  You endure with them.  Since Christ has welcomed us we must welcome others by bearing with one another.  That’s what Philippians 2 means when it says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,”. Instead of pleasing ourselves, we are to welcome others by bearing with their failings. 

Is there someone you know that really gets tied up in knots over certain disputable behaviors?  Do whatever you can to bear with that person.  That means don’t try to convince them that they are wrong and you are right.  Don’t try to justify your behavior.  If you are actually the stronger person, that means you help the weak, not make them stumble.  A stronger person lifts up the weak, protects the weak, and endures with the weak.  That’s what Christ has done for us, and so we must bear with one another.

2. Since Christ Has Welcomed Us, We Must Welcome Others by Building One Another Up

We welcome the weak by bearing with their failings, but that’s not the end.  We also welcome them as Christ has welcomed us by building them up.  Verse 2 says, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” Another word for “building someone up” is encouraging them.  And Paul uses that exact word in the following verses, and he gives three reasons why we should build each other up.  Since God has welcomed us by building us up, we must welcome each other by building one another up.

  1. First, we must build one another up because that’s what Jesus did.  Look at verse 3: “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”
  2. Second, we must build one another up because that’s what God’s Word does for us and instructs us to do. Look at verse 4: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
  3. And third, we must build one another up because that’s what God does for us.  Look at verse 5: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,”  Which means God builds us up by enabling us to build up one another.

So if you’ve got a Savior who builds up, and a Bible that builds up, and a God that builds up, then you should be a church that builds up.  Which in this context, building up means increasing someone’s ability to glorify God.  5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,” Here’s the point: “6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

According to Paul’s theology, building someone up means helping them glorify God in unity with other believers—the church.  So that together with one voice they might glorify God.  And this is exactly what Jesus has done for us.  He has built us up into his body—the church, and enabled us to glorify Him because of what he has done for us.  Romans 5:6 says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Since Christ has welcomed us, we must welcome others by building one another up.

There’s a gym down in South County called JD’s gym, and JD, who runs the gym hosts regular strength competitions.  And if you ever go to that gym it’s pretty intimidating at first.  There’s a kickboxing ring in one corner where you might see people practicing martial arts.  There’s 250lb stones that guys will try to lift.  You’ll see women lifting more weight in that gym than most men will ever lift in their life.  And people are grunting and chalk is flying and sweat is dripping and loud music is playing and you get the picture, people here are strong!  And that impression is verified even more by a huge whiteboard on one wall that lists people’s biggest lifts.

Now if you’re new to strength training, or you’ve only been doing a little while, or maybe you’ve been going at it a while but you’ve struggled to make any gains, then that place could look really intimidating.  You might be tempted to just leave.  But I’ve seen new people go in there who could’ve been really intimidated, and JD will help them learn how to do the lifts.  And not just him, but everyone there in the gym cheers each other on while they’re working out.  People talk to each other, there is a strong sense of community there, they talk about how it felt when they first started out and how far they’ve come—how much stronger they’ve gotten.  And a huge part of it is because in that gym, they build each other up, because they know that no one is every going to get stronger unless they are encouraged to do it. 

Once when I was competing in one of the gym’s competitions I was supposed to carry a sandbag, along with some other heavy objects thirty feet and back as fast as I could.  As soon as I picked up the sandbag I started trying to go faster than I should and I lost my balance and fell right on top of it.  And I had people all around me, from that gym, in front of me on either side of me, and behind me all saying, “Get up! You can do it!”  And I picked the bag up and I kept going and the whole time everyone—people I didn’t know, even people I was competing against—were yelling at the top of their lungs words of encouragement to me.  They were building me up. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Friends, the church ought to be a place like that.  When people come in, the strong ones surround them and help build them up.  They share their own struggles.  They shares stories of their own failings, they give tips for how you can grow, in fact they say hey, why don’t you meet me here on Saturday and we’ll work on your sandbag technique. 

The only way we can glorify God together with one voice is if the strong build up the weak and we come alongside each other.  In areas that my conscience is weak I need strong people to build me up and help me glorify God.  And in areas that I’m strong I need to help others who have weak consciences in that area. 

1 Cor. 12:22-25 says, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

That means spending time with people who feel differently about disputable matters than you do.  One of the most dangerous things to happen to a church is for it to become homogenous.  That is a recipe for narcissism.  Because if everyone looks like me and thinks like me, it will make me think I’m even more awesome than I already do, and I am not awesome.  God is awesome.  And if I’m in a church where people look different than me, and think different than me, I can see the image of God reflected in them in different ways than I see it in myself and God looks bigger and better as a result. 

And you know what else?  When the world sees a group of people that all build each other up, even though there are differences, that makes Jesus look really good!  When you’re willing to bear with the failings of a weaker brother or sister, and then build them up instead of breaking fellowship with them, people see, “wow, Jesus is more important to that person than the president!” Or politics, or education, or any other disputable matter. 

And let me say this as a strong word warning to that church that I love the most: Main Street Church, if you break fellowship with another believer over their politics, you are cheapening the blood of Jesus, sullying the name of our Savior, and dragging his bride through the mud while you do it. It turns the question from “How big is politics for them?” To “How small is Jesus for them?”  Your views on politics is a disputable matter; that Christ and his work matters to you more than politics is not

I’m not saying disengage from politics or political discourse. No, we need that in order to be a faithful witness in our time.  But the cross on someone’s chest ought to always outrank the donkey or the elephant. 

And if you know someone who is fixated on their politics more than they are fixated on Jesus, don’t lecture them about how they need to focus on Christ more.  But as this text tells us, bear with them, and build them up.  Affirm the good that they want to see in the world.  Spend time in conversation with them, just listening.  Help them glorify God more by allowing them to see Christ in you.  According to Paul you are obligated to do that.

All for the Glory of God

We are commanded to bear and to build.  If you’re strong, bear with the failings of the weak.  If you’re strong build up the weak.  What’s the goal of this?  Verse 6: “that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The goal of being a church that bears with one another and builds up one another is to make God look great. And it makes God look great because He is the reason that we bear with one another.  He is the reason that we build up one another.  He has bore with us.  He has built us up.  He grants us the ability to bear with one another and build up one another.  No credit goes to us.  All credit goes to him.  All credit goes to God.  That’s why Paul concludes this section with verse 7: “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

Jesus bore our sins and our failings on the cross, and he has built us up through the empowering of his word through the Spirit.  He bore with us, and he built us up, and we ought to do the same for our brothers and sisters.  Since Christ has welcomed us, we must welcome one another for the glory of God.