“1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.’ 4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.“
I pray that you are enjoying this series in the book of Romans. It just so happens that it is now a part of my daily devotional reading as I am working my way through the NT again this year. Before I get into the lesson, let me encourage you to be diligent and disciplined about reading the Bible. To be able to recognize the lies around us, we must know the truth; the Bible is eternal and relevant truth. Over the course of this year, I have set about to read through the NT four times, and I am on my fourth trip now with the intent to finish before the end of December, and then to be reading the Proverbs through once each next year; I hope one is never too old to learn some wisdom. No matter if you can do a verse, or a few verses, or a chapter or a book, just read the Bible diligently.
When we looked at Romans 12:1-2, we heard about ‘presenting our bodies as living sacrifices’ to God. Over the course of the last few chapters, we have been learning just how to do that, how to live sacrificially. Over the course of the last few weeks, we have looked at chapter 14, and it calls us to take note of the people around us – the people in our neighborhoods and churches. Take note of their needs and idiosyncrasies, and be careful not to place ourselves as stumbling blocks in their lives. We should not be the reason that a person stays lost, nor that a weak or younger sibling in the Lord abandons the faith. We should be bringing the lost to Jesus and the saved into an even more intimate relationship with Him.
In the 6 verses we will consider today, Paul is going to give us a call to live sacrificially. Now let me be clear; we are not to compromise on the clearly stated doctrine of scripture. We are not to let people get away with open sin, and we are to hold leaders, pastors and elders, especially to a much higher standard. But in general, we are not to live for ourselves, but for the progress and growth of others in the Kingdom of the Lord.
- Be patient with each other, verses 1-2
Love is patient (1 Cor. 13:4). They go hand in hand. When one loves someone, the natural fruit of that is patience. So, what the Lord is calling us to do here is to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord and to be kind in everything. The goal of the local church family is to edify or to build each other up, to make each other stronger in the Lord. This is one of the reasons against a ‘universal’ church that we can look at in the scriptures. Each church is a local body unto the Lord, and in that body, we find the persons that God wants to edify us and, in turn, for us to edify, to build up in Him.
Here Paul asks us to put up with the scruples of the weak. We have to learn this; Paul did. Often, we have this idea that Paul just came from salvation as a mature Christian; he did not. Just like you and I, he had to learn to present his body as a sacrifice to the Lord. When Paul began his ministry, he was carried along and vouched for by a man named Barnabas. This brother carried Paul and stood up for him when the Jews questioned his motives. On one journey, they took a young man named Mark. He got scared at one of their missionary stops in a city called Pamphylia and left to go home. Later, as they begin the next leg of their journey, Barnabas, the one who vouched for Paul, wanted to take Mark, but Paul refused, and there was a division among them (see Acts 15:38 and on).
Eventually, Barnabas took Mark with him and built him up, and Paul began the new journey with Silas. Later in his life, Paul comes to realize the man that Mark had become and asks for him to come to him in 2 Timothy 4:11. You see, Barnabas did for Mark what he had done for Paul. He put up with the fears and natural timidness of this young man, just like he has put up with Paul’s ways and helped this young man to become profitable in the ministry. Paul, as much as he had matured, had not come to that point yet. He did not see the potential in Mark, just his failures. Paul had not learned patience. But here he is, by the power of the Holy Spirit, asking us to be sacrificially patient with our weaker brothers and sisters. We do what we can to build each other up and to make us better as we live sacrificially for the Kingdom.
- Be patient like Jesus was patient, verses 3-4
Jesus did not come to earth to die for His salvation, but for ours. And, to do so, He had to patiently experience things that were foreign to Him as God. He had to be submissive to his parents (Luke 2:51). He had to experience hunger, thirst, fatigue, using the restroom, crying, sweat, pain, being called a devil, betrayal, and ultimately death. He did this not for Himself, but for us. He did this so we could be redeemed and brought into the family of God. Jesus endured all manner of attacks and accusations; He put up with being arrested and betrayed, He put up with the beatings, the spital to the face, the cross and the nails for us, all to redeem us to His family forever. Certainly, we can endure a little to build each other up; certainly, we can sacrifice a few of our personal preferences for the benefit of another; certainly, we can cast aside a temporal enjoyment for the blessings of eternal joys.
Too many of us, myself included, are not doing this. Rather, we use our liberty as a hammer, always looking for a nail to hit. As a pastor who tries to diligently search the scriptures — and trust me, I know men who are much better at the teaching than I — there are things that I see in the scriptures that maybe a novice believer is not ready to see yet. We maybe can see things in this life that are there clearly to us but not to a young believer. Be careful what you discuss among the immature in the Lord; they can get overwhelmed, even with the truth. Follow the Gospels, and you will see that there were things that Jesus wanted to teach His disciples, but they were not ready yet to receive it; so, it was after the resurrection or when an event happened that they could understand what He taught them.
I have that with my little 8-year-old. She seems so mature at times; then she will ask me a question, and I explain it too high above her level, and she will say, dad, I still don’t get it. Well, Christianity is like this. Some of the people have been saved and in church for a year or 2 years, maybe 10 years for some, and they are still young. They are still learning and growing in the Lord. Treat them like delicate plants: water, protect from bacteria, and take the time.
Ahhhhhh, the swear word of the busy modern life — time. You want me to make time for this brother or sister to edify them? Yes. Make time. Have them in your home, go get a coffee, maybe a few minutes of face time on FB or Skype, and you will be astonished at what that will do. Learn to teach them accountability without being judgmental; encourage them to read the Bible; then read some more; then reread what they read, and read it again. Allow them to be real and for you to be real. Don’t hide your barnacles; talk about the scars and the hurts. Listen!
In too many churches today, we feed people the idea that the local church is all unicorns and rainbows. Rather, it is an ICU ward, and we need to prepare these new Christians to be the doctors and nurses in the ward when we are gone home to the Lord. One day they will be the ones making time and bandaging wounds; they will be the ones covering the hurts and carrying the weak. But we have to do it; first, we have to set an example, and we have to sacrifice ourselves for the Kingdom.
- Be patient, keep our eyes on the goal, verses 5-6
We live in an instant world, and this has affected our ability to be patient. However, remember 1 Cor. 13:4, love is patient. One of the ways to be patient is to keep our eyes on the prize. In this case, the Apostle Paul lays out the goal that each local church may be of one mind in glorifying God. Godly unity trumps everything. When the Lord’s churches are unified in their goal to glorify God and then to draw people to Him, then the work of the NT church is being done.
We need to help the ones we are being patient with to learn patience and to invest in others. Maybe it is that I am getting older and see things a bit more. Maybe I am dead wrong. But when Jesus tells the disciples to stop storing up earthly treasures and store up heavenly treasures, I think we, and for a long time I, missed the point. Look at Matthew 6: 19-21; the treasure is people. All the things that we hold dear here on earth, the gold, silver and jewels, are just building materials in Heaven. It is the people that are the eternal treasure, the treasure that Jesus gave His life for. He calls us to sacrifice for the Kingdom, just like He did — not for things, BUT for people.
When we begin to see the people as treasure, then we will have no problem being patient, kind, finding the time, making the time, taking the phone call or answering the same question for the umpteenth time. Once we come to this point, verse 15 will play out in us; God will grant us the power to be like-minded, like Him, to others. We will be patient like He is to us; we will be forgiving like He is to us; we will be kind like He is to us; we will be able to handle hurts as He does from us; we will take runaways as He does for us; we will be able to love unconditionally as He does us. We will be more like Jesus, and our whole perspective on life will change. We will build up our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and we will glorify God together, but we first have to sacrifice ourselves for the Kingdom.
Matthew 6: 19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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