With baseball (FINALLY!!!!) back, I thought I would share some wonderful quotes and a video at the end that gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. Do you have any great quotes to add? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.
You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you.- Roy Campanella
It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. ~A. Bartlett Giamatti, “The Green Fields of the Mind,” Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977
You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time. ~Jim Bouton, Ball Four, 1970
“Character, Courage, Loyalty.”
Little League Motto
One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something- Nolan Ryan
Don’t tell me about the world. Not today. It’s springtime and they’re knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball. ~Pete Hamill
That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball. ~Bill Veeck, 1976
People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. ~Rogers Hornsby
Baseball is beautiful….the supreme performing art. It combines in perfect harmony the magnificent features of ballet, drama, art, and ingenuity.-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn
In Essentials Unity, In Non Essentials Liberty, In all Things Charity
Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Romans chapter 14. If you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.
Before we get started, I want to take a quick, informal, voluntary poll. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. If you do, just raise your hand at the answers that apply. I’m going to ask how many Bible translations we have in our congregation right now. I’m not talking about when we use multiple translations to do our studies, or when we enjoy reading different one to see how the phrasing is different. Im talking about the main one that you use. The box you would check if you could only check one box.
So, We will start out with the one I am using this morning, the English Standard Version. How many of you here use the ESV as your main translation?
How about the original King James, like Frank uses for the scripture readings up here? How may of you use the King James?
Next, how many of you use the New King James?
Next, Hopes translation of choice, the New American Standard?
What about the NIV?
Lastly, how many of you use any other versions than what I listed?
Ok, so I just listed 6 different options there. And we have a normal weekly attendance of less than 40. So, does those differences of preference create disunity? What about other matters of preference? Thats what Paul is going to address here in the passage we are looking at this morning.
We are individuals. Created as unique individuals. Created and called to unity, (Ephesians 4:3) but not created and called to uniformity. Lets go ahead and read this mornings passage, Romans 14, verses 1-9. As I said earlier, I am reading out of the English Standard Version. Paul writes:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Disagreements, disunity, arguments and division go all the way back to the earliest churches, as we see here. This is not new, and unfortunately, due to the human sinfulness of all of us, it’s not something we can completely avoid. However, Paul shows us that we are not to be content with that answer. We are not to resign ourselves to the fact that their will be division and disunity, but we are to work at driving that out of the church at all costs.
This is the same principle we touched on last week in regards to sin. We recognize that we are all sinners and justification, the moment of salvation where we put on Christs righteousness and are declared righteous by God the Father, that moment does not make us perfect (Romans 7) But we are called to be holy and perfect as God is holy and perfect. (1 Peter 1:15 & Matthew 5:48) We can not use the fact that we are not yet perfect be an excuse for our sin. We can not let our selves be resigned to the fact that we will sin. Instead, as Paul says in the last verse of Chapter 13, we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. We do everything we can to drive sin out of our life.
In the same way, the Bible is clear that we do the same thing in regards to division and disunity within the church. But we also see, as in what I showed us at the beginning of the sermon, that differences in preferences and even disagreements don’t necessarily need to lead to division and disunity.
We need to discern and distinguish between essentials and non essentials. Thats why used this quote as the title for my sermon this morning. In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things grace. I have heard other pastors refer to them as “open handed,” or “close handed,” issues. The idea being that the non essentials are ones we hold with an open hand. We will discuss and disagree, we will hold them loosely and come together and worship together regardless of where we all fall on these issues. In theses things liberty. The close handed issues are the essentials. These are things that are fundamental and foundational to the faith. These are the things that we all agree on if we claim to be Christians. These are the things the hold tightly and we defend and we will fight for if need be.
If you are having trouble determining what an essential is, I suggest we start with Paul as he lays the gospel out simply and clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7, where he writes:
Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
That hits a whole lot of the essentials. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. All according to the scriptures. Salvation, which is need because we are sinners from before birth, is by the grace of God alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus is truly God and truly man. He in eternal, not created and he is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13) He is not a god, not a saviour, but He is THE Way, The Truth and The Life. (John 14:16) Those are the things that make us Christians and these are things that separate us from those who believe differently.
To put it bluntly, if you say you believe in and worship God, but you don’t believe in these essentials, you believe in and worship a different god than the god of the Bible.
On the other hand, there are a whole host of non essentials. These are things that we don’t have to agree on. We can disagree and still know that we are still brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul gives the examples in his letter of eating meat. He gives the example of celebrating certain days. He gives the examples of what were going on in the churches in Rome in those days. And those weren’t just issues in Roman, but they were issues throughout the all the churches of that time. Because they were a part of the change over from Jewish traditions and dietary laws to the Christian liberty.
One of the big questions in the early church was whether one could eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. Today, a direct translation would be similar to, can we eat kosher and halal foods? Paul responds to this issue in 1 Corinthians 8 & 10. Essentially, because other gods, Idols, don’t actually exist, and/or, have no power, you are sacrificing something sacrificed to what is essentially nothing. It’s really not a big deal. HOWEVER, if you personally feel like you shouldnt eat that food, then you should not eat that food.
He makes another point as well, some new christians come from a place in their life where those idols or false gods were very real to them. Eating those foods may cause them to fall back into old sinful behaviors. If that is the case, if you are around those people, don’t eat those foods around those people. We don’t have to agree that eating those foods is wrong or that it is right, but if we are stumbling block to one another, we are in sin. And if we impose our conscience in these areas of liberty onto others, than we are in sin.
We as Christians, are not bound by the dietary laws that God gave the people of Israel in the Old Testament. We see that in Acts 10, where Peter has his vision regarding clean and unclean things. Some see the only application of that passage, however, as the inclusion of the gentiles into the family of God as full heirs. I see that as the main application, but thankfully that’s not our only text that shows our release from the dietary laws.
If we look at Marks Gospel, in chapter 7, we see an explicitness and a clarity that cannot be refuted. Reading verses 14-19, we see Mark write:
And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand:15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”[e]17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable.18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him,19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”[f] (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
So, again, we are not under the Old testament dietary laws anymore. That does not mean that some of us are not individually convicted to not eat certain foods or drink certain drinks. If that’s the case, if you are convicted not to do something, for you to do it is sin. And if you are not convicted, but to cause those who are to stumble, that is sin.
Paul next example, he talks about different days. He is actually speaking about a few different things in this. We worship and gather together on Sundays for two intertwined reasons. In Acts 20, it shows the early church gathering on “the first day of the week,” or Sunday. The related reason is that they were meeting on the first day of the week, on Sunday, because that was the day of the week that Jesus rose from the grave.
So, that’s why, traditionally, christian churches meet on Sunday morning. But we also need to see clearly that this is not command in the scriptures. There are some who, because the jewish sabbath was on Saturday, feel that Saturday is the correct day to meet in worship. Fine. Churches used to have many different services, many different days of the week. Some of you can speak to that.
The point was not which day we were supposed to gather together in worship, that’s an open-handed, non-essential issue. The point is that we gather together, as a church body, as a church family and we worship Christ. That is a close handed, non-essential. (Hebrews 10:25)
The other part of what Paul is referencing here has to do with the Jewish festivals. Were the still required to observe them? Paul’s answer harkens back to what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23, Whatever you do, do unto the LORD. Here, he tells the churches in Rome, The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
If you do continue to celebrate the festivals, celebrate them not as if you are still required to, not as they were originally instituted for, looking forward to the someday appearance of the coming messiah, but if you do celebrate them, do it unto the LORD, celebrating and recognizing that Christ has already come, and that he was the fulfillment of all prophecy and festivals.
As an example, Hope and I celebrate Hanukkah and Passover. And we do so unto the LORD. We do so for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that, for us as a family, specifically, it brings us closer to Christ. We are not required to. And we are not to celebrate them as Israel celebrated them. But we are to recognize and draw closer to christ through them, if we choose to celebrate them. Both those who partake in the festivals, those who eat, and those who abstain from the festival, both do so in honor of the LORD.
Those are the two examples that Paul gives here. And his point is not to address these two examples specifically, but instead to give us a principle from which to work through. Unity, Liberty, and Charity.
We have many, many rights and freedoms as Christians. But our freedoms are to take a back seat to unity, love and charity towards each other. Read again the last three verses of our passage this morning.
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
We do not live for ourselves. Our purpose is not for ourselves. Our death is not for our self. We have Christ, and he brings us together. He gives us our life, he gives us our purpose and he gives us our life after death. And in return he says to give them to him. Our life is for him. Our purpose is for him. Our death and the life afterwards is for him.
And so we have freedom and liberty. We have preferences and opinions. And we may disagree on them. hats why there are so many denominations. Because of differences in non essentials and preferences.
Now, we don’t live in a community with a number of different denominations. If we were in a real big city, like Sacramento, like some were, you would be able to pick and choose. You would be able to be a part of and serve in a church that most closely meets your theological beliefs, your preferences, your convictions, so long as it was faithful to the essentials, the closed handed issues. Technically, you could also chose to pick unfaithful churches as well, there are many so-called Christians churches that do not hold to the essentials. But staying faithful to Christ, you would have a number of options of churches to be a part of and to serve at and to worship with.
Even in Oroville, I’m learning more of them, I don’t know all of them, but I we could find churches in Oroville of every major, faithful denomination. And if its your prerogative, you are free to drive in there to attend the church you feel called to. My concern is not the numerical attendance of Bangor Community Church, my concern is the biblical faithfulness of Bangor Community Church and that all Christians are attending and connected with a Bible believing, Bible teaching, faithful Church.
We are not the only church within driving distance. However, we are Bangor’s Community Church. Bangor doesn’t have a bunch of denominational options. So instead, we have a community church. We focus on the Essentials. We discuss and celebrate the non essentials. And we unite and love each other in all things.
We have people in this room from an incredibly wide variety of spiritual and denominational background. And yet, we are all worshipping together in this room. We likely all have something about the church or the service or the music or the pastor or whatever, that doesn’t perfectly fit our preference. At yet, here we are, all together in this room worshipping Christ together.
And that’s because we recognize what is our preferences, and what are our essentials. If Im up here and start teaching against some of those essentials, for example, If I start saying that Jesus was not God while he was here in earth, as some mega popular so-called christian churches teach from the pulpit, just 2 hr north of here. If I were to start teaching that, I would expect to be run out of here post-haste. If I start teaching that Jesus never rose from the dead, I would not be around for long, at least I pray so.
However, If I’m reading out of a translation of the Bible you don’t prefer, or if we sing songs you don’t care for, or if we think the service is too long or not long enough. Whatever the case may be, we set aside our preferences for the sake of unity.
Psalm 133 speaks directly to church unity. David writes:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity![a] 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
I heard one pastor sum up this psalm by saying that church unity smells good to God. I like that. No, we can not attain church unity in our own ability and power. Look at the situation Paul is writing to. Eat meat or not. What days are better than others, to have latkes for Chanukah or not? Something little in the grand scheme, but important to the individuals.
And because human people were involved, hurt feelings, likely broken relationships. Potential and likely disunity and division. When we let our preferences and non essentials come ahead of loving each other, when we let our feelings come ahead of unity, we place stumbling blocks in front of fellow believers AND in front of potential believers that may or may not be here, but will see. They dont have to be in this room to see division and disunity.
And ultimately, we have two goals as a body of christ, two main reasons to pursue church unity. First, to worship him and to follow his commands. Can you worship next to someone, can your mind be truly set on things above, truly set on God, if we are dealing with hurt feelings and division next to us, or een across the room? Unity brings a holier, more worshipful gathering of the saints.
But we also want to follow the commands of the God we are worshipping. Im not even talking about the command for church unity in this specific context. But the Great Commision and the Great Commandment. (Matt 22:36-40 & 28:16-20) Love God and Love your neighbor and go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded us.
And we will not draw anyone to Christ if we are fighting and dividing and putting ourselves above each other. One of the greatest blessings of this passage this morning is the emphasis and reminder of the freedoms that we have in Christ. But that freedom, again is not our own, but to by used for Christ, who it belongs to, who gave it to us.
John MacArthur says, Immature Christians are concerned with how much freedom they are entitled to. Mature Christina are concerned with how many freedoms they may gladly set aside to make the gospel attractive… How willing are we to give up any freedom that we might win some to Christ?”
that s the big thing. Paul has been establishing the importance of love in the life of a follower of Christ, and what that practically look like. And he has more recently been specifically reminding and instructing us to love others like our selves. This means giving up our freedoms if they become a stumbling block to others.
Now, as we finish up, I want to recognize some of the wording in the early part of this passage, talking about weaker or stronger. We will get into that in a few weeks and especially, specifically look at how this all applies to discipleship and the spiritual growth of young and new christians.
But here and now, I want to point out what Paul is doing here and challenge you to take it seriously. Paul is writing, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, in order to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29) He is trying to show us how to transform our minds (Romans 12:2) and to act out and live our faith. He is calling us to lay down our lives for the sake of and the purpose of what Christ has called us to. He is reminding us that we are not to be served, but to serve. And that, as he said just a few short chapters ago,Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)
He is challenging and encouraging us, In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Liberty.
Well, Its been close to 15 years now. 15 years since I tagged along with a friend to their church and never looked back. I didn’t have Saul/Paul type conversion. I don’t know the date of my salvation. But I know it started by tagging along to Hood view Church of God in Woodburn, OR. The Teaching on Sunday Mornings, the discipleship, the friendships and the focus on the bible were what brought me to belief and repentance.
Through a variety of reasons, I became less connected to the church (two jobs, starting school, etc.) but I still had a desire to learn more and to listen to more teaching. I didn’t leave the church or anything like that, just got less connected. So, I somehow, some way ended up turning to listening to sermon podcasts.
After the fact that I actually went to church, this is one of the first things I can point to Gods sovereignty & providence working through less than ideal situations. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know any names, good or bad. I had not been raised in the church, so I was a blank slate. Anyone could have taught me and I would likely have soaked it up.
Despite what I going to say here in a bit, I thank God on a regular basis for the pastors he brought in to my world that I was taught by. They shaped my faith, my devotion to the Bible, and testing all teaching by the Word of God and grew me In ways I probably still don’t realize.
However, Almost 15 years later, of the 4 main that I listened too, of the ones that most influenced my faith and grew my in wisdom and knowledge of the LORD, of those 4, there is only one that currently continues to influence me.
Right now, 15 years into my walk, I listen to and am taught by Men like the late RC Sproul (Ligonier), Gabe Hughes (WWUTT), Albert Mohler (The Briefing) and Alistair Begg (Truth For Life). Its the last one, Allister Begg that has remained an influence throughout my Christian life.
Of the other three, one, Tommy Sparger, had an affair and disqualified himself from ministry. One, Mark Driscoll, had to step down due to some combination of arrogance, bullying, spiritual abuse, whatever else. You ask anyone who was even peripherally aware of the Mars Hill situation in Seattle and you will get a long list of his faults. He may have been THE most influential in my growth and faith as, specifically a young Christian man. He relocated to Phoenix, started another church and for a brief time, I continued to listen to his sermons but, I just wasn’t interested anymore.
The last one, I don’t know what’s going on with. There have been no sin issues that have come up, no affairs, or disqualifications or anything like that. He is still the pastor at the same church he was when I started listening to him. He has been one of my favorite guys to listen to over the course of the last 15 years. Some of his sermons are still in my top 5 of ones I have ever heard. I quote him often. I just dont have any desire to listen to him anymore. Matt Chandler, is the pastor, other than pastors I have personally sat under and been mentored by (Thank you Pastor Dave, Pastor Scott and Pastor Scott (different one)), who has influence my faith and my knowledge of Gods Word the most. His sermons series through Habakkuk, through James, through Luke, I will always remember. His Sermons on The Law nd the Gospel (sin is cancer, Law is diagnosis, Gospel is cure) His sermon on Psalm 23 from Orange Revival at Elevation Church, his sermon on the Sinner and the tax collector in the temple from Luke, All still impact my theology and how I read the Word.
And I dont know what happened. I don’t know if he has changed, if I have changed (I know we all change) or both to bring us to this point.
And through it all, Alistair Begg, and his Scottish accent and love for the Beatles has stayed faithful to the Word, faithful to his ministry and his stayed as an influence and as a model for my to aspire to be like in my own ministry.
I don’t know what my point is, I don’t know what this all means, maybe this is more of a journal than a blog post, but it is something that has been weighing on my mind recently. God used these men to grow me, to challenge me, and to shape me in my walk with Christ, and now, and new group of men has mostly taken their place.
What about you? Have you had any pastors or men in ministry that you have “outgrown”? I don’t mean false teachers per se, though I love hearing about Christians who were saved out of the prosperity Gospel or NAR movement, but that’s not quite what I’m looking at. Are there any solid, faithful pastors, who you just don’t listen to any more? Id would love to hear from you all out there!
Good Morning! Go ahead and grab your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 13. Please remember that if you do not own a Bible, we have some on the back table that you are free to take as our gift to you.
We have now been in Romans for an entire year. I preached on Romans chapter 1. verse 1-7 on March 4 of last year. Just to be clear, we will not be in Romans for another year. But in the introduction sermon to Romans, one year ago, we talked about some of the historical importance of the book of Romans. We looked at the conversions of Martin Luther, of John Wesley, and of Augustine.
The first two, Luther and Wesley were converted through the Word of God while reading and studying Romans 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
It is the power of God for salvation and the righteous shall live by faith. Those are things that hit Luther and Wesley. And as we read it, it’s completely understandable. But that’s not what Augustine read that hit him. The verse that hit him is one of the ones we are going to look at this morning.
As we prepare to look at these couple of verses, I know you’ve heard this a million times before, but it reminds me of the importance of context. If all we look at are these 4 verses, we don’t really get a sense of what Paul is trying to say. If we separate it from the context of the previous couple of verses especially and chapters 12 & 13 as a whole, we lose the point that Paul is making.
So, before we go any further, let’s go ahead and read our passage for this week, Romans 13:11-14. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and encourage you to follow along in whichever version you have. Romans 13:11-14. Paul writes:
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
So, we could, if we want, take this as a standalone section and go all sorts fo directions regarding the end times or so many other ways, but this passage is directly tied to what we have been reading in the last couple of sections, namely, living the Christina life in love.
Paul starts here, saying, “Besides this…” Explicitly and Purposely linking this passage with the previous passage instructing us to love our neighbor. The New American Standard translates it stronger and more connectivity, saying, “Do This…” again, referring to the Love your neighbor as the fulfillment of the law.
So, the question we ask, to see what Paul is saying, and what the Holy Spirit is inspiring him to say, is with the things it says in this passage, in these four verses, What does it mean to love your neighbor in light of these statements.
So, first off, what does it mean for us to love our neighbors knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now [g]salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.
Paul’s point here is simple, We don’t have much time left, and more specifically, we don’t know how much time we have left. Jesus tells us continually that when he comes back, it will be sudden. (Matthew 24, Mark 13, etc) We are not going to see him coming back and then choose to be on his side, but we make a choice now and become ready for the day of his appearing.
And one aspect of loving our neighbors are to give them the chance to make that choice before it’s too late. Because, as Paul writes in Philippians 2:10 & 11: at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And that’s the great news! All will recognize God’s Glory and Jesus’ divinity. Every knee and every tongue. But look at the other part of what Paul says there. All who are in heaven or on earth or under earth. If we do not bow our knee and confess Jesus as LORD here in this life, we wont get a second chance in the next life.
And so our opportunity to love our neighbors is not timeless. The time is now. Our neighbors time is short. A huge part of loving them is sharing the truth of God Word with them. Paul wrote back in Romans 10, that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. (Romans 10:17) So, there wont be a chance for our neighbor to know salvation, unless someone shares the Word of God with them. Thats what we call evangelism. And Evangelism is one of the ways that we love our neighbors. My late uncle used to say that God has continually promised forgiveness if we ask, but he has never promised us tomorrow.
Our salvation is nearer to us today than it was when we first believed. Our final, full salvation, the fullness of salvation, our final, perfect sanctification is coming. And this is important for us to remember, for us to meditate on. Judgment is coming. All will be judged at the end. We will be separated into wheat or chaff. We will be separated as sheep or goats. We will be judged with perfect and righteous judgment as we stand before Christ on that last day.
And those who are wheat, those who are sheep, those who are in Christ, we will be judged not in our own righteousness, we will not be judged based on our own works or standing. Instead, we will be judged based on Christs righteousness, the love and forgiveness that he has graced us with. And, we are to take that love in from Christ and flow it out towards our neighbors.
It is said that Jonathon Edwards spent 20 minutes each morning meditating on heaven. The reason given is that it was so that he could root his present actions in the reality of that coming event. (https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/a-call-to-live-in-light-of-the-coming-end)
The essence of sharing our faith, of evangelizing is love. It is wanting to see as many people as possible see the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is wanting to see as many people as possible see the forgiveness of sins. It is wanting to see as many people as possible saved from Gods wrath poured out on their sins. The first and greatest way we can love our neighbors is to let them know of the Hope that we have in Christ.
Penn Jillette is the talking half of Penn and Teller, the comedic magician duo. Jillette has shared a story of a man in Las Vegas who was a fan, sharing the Gospel with him. Im quoting from one of the news stories written about this:
The man walked over to Jillette, complimented him on the show and handed him a Gideons New Testament.
“And he said, ‘I wrote in the front of it, and I wanted you to have this. I’m kind of proselytizing,'” Jillette said. “And then he said, ‘I’m a businessman. I’m sane. I’m not crazy.’ And he looked me right in the eyes.
“It was really wonderful. I believe he knew that I was an atheist. But he was not defensive, and he looked me right in the eyes,” Jillette said. “And he was truly complimentary. It didn’t seem like empty flattery. He was really kind and nice and sane and looked me in the eyes and talked to me and then gave me this Bible.”
Jillette then stated he doesn’t respect people who don’t proselytize.
“I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward, and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize — ‘Just leave me alone, keep your religion to yourself.’
“How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?” Jillette asked. “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
He gets it. Love does not always fit the little square, the little box of what we want or what we expect. It can and often will be uncomfortable. Both for us to go and do the loving, but also for the one being loved.
And that means that there will be push back. There will be rejection and fight back. That means that we will face spiritual warfare. We show love to our neighbors by fighting that warfare. Paul uses familiar wording, giving us the imagery of putting on armor and contrast light and darkness.
Of Course, Ephesians 6 talks of putting on the Armor of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:10-20:
0 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Now, of course, there are many sermons that we could preach based on those 10 verses right there, and I encourage you, read this passge purposely this week. All of it. From the first words of verse 10, through the last words of verse 20. We are in a spiritual battle, and it is not with our neighbors. It is not with our enemies. It is not with our fellow human beings, made in the image of God, deceived, unsaved and doing works of darkness. Instead, we are fighting against the rulers and authorities, or powers and principalities as some translations have it, against the spiritual forces of evil.
` And Jesus gives us some defenses listed here, to protect us in this unseen, but very real fight that we are in. And he gives us one offensive weapon, His Word, the Bible. We use what God has said to combat evil, to combat sin, to combat spiritual forces, and to combat anything else that comes between God and his image bearers.
And that last thing he says here too, praying in the spirit at ALL times, with ALL prayer and supplication, with ALL perseverance, for ALL saints, and also for me. And so, in that, also for you, for each and every one of us. So that we may speak tha truth of the Gospel boldly as we ought.
And as we put on the armor of light, we do so in order to cast off the works of darkness. We see numerous times in Paul’s letters that he lists a variety and partial list if sins that are committed. We saw one in Romans chapter 1, we see a couple mentioned in this passage here that we will touch on in a moment. We see another in 1 Corinthians chapter 6. And we see one in Galatians chapter 5.
Galatians chapter 5 is better known for the fruit of the Spirit in verses 22 & 23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. But sometimes we forget what I call the anti-fruit, or the vegetables of the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do[e] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
These various lists and especially what Paul mentions here in Romans 13:13 , are the works of darkness. And as is Paul’s general pattern, and as we just saw in Galatians 5, Paul often says, don’t do this, but he doesn’t end there. He then goes on to say, Instead, go do this. Not only lay aside the works of darkness, but instead, put on the armor of light.
Light and darkness are often contrasted in the scriptures. And most often, specifically, the light that is referenced is Jesus. When we shine our light (Matthew 5) we are showing the light of Jesus. John writes in his Gospel, chapter 1, verses 5 and then 9: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. & The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
With this, the armor of light would be the armor of Jesus, or the armor of God, the way, Paul phrases it back in Ephesians 6. And this light, Jesus does and will shine out the darkness. Darkness does not drive out light, but instead light drives out the darkness. There is no question about who the winner is or will be. Jesus, the light, wins over sin and darkness. We love our neighbors by fighting the spiritual warfare and putting on the armor of God, shining light into the darkness and sharing the Good News of Christ with them.
We also show them love, not just by telling them, but also by showing them. Verse 13 & 14 here: Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
So, verse 13 here is the one that hit Augustine. Here is a recounting of his story:
Augustine then retires to his garden with his friend Alypius under a crushing shame stemming from his inability to overcome his fleshly desires.11 A fight between two wills is then discussed by Augustine; however, he claims both contrary wills as his own, as opposed to the Manichaean doctrine that espouses a good will and a bad will.12 Finally, a broken Augustine landed under a fig tree in tears begging God to intervene.13 Through the sounds of his weeping heart, he heard a child’s voice from a neighbor’s house saying, “Take up and read; take up and read.”14 Interpreting the voice as a message from God, Augustine quickly retrieved his letters of St. Paul and started reading where his “eyes first fell.”15 Romans 13:13-14 immediately vanquished Augustine’s fears and he informed Alypius of his decision, who in turn, upon reading further to Romans 14:1 joined Augustine in his decision.16 (https://www.livestransforming.com/augustine-conversion/)
One of the ways that we love our neighbors is by willing to show them when their actions and behaviors are contrary to Gods Word. This also means that others show love to us by pointing out when our actions are contrary to the word of God.
And the Word of God calls us to live as if we were already standing in front of God in judgment. We are to walk as if in the day. We are to be Holy as our father in heaven is holy. (1 Peter 1:15) And that means repenting. It means turning away from our sins. It means casting aside the works and deeds of the flesh, and walking in the light, as he is in the light.
I say it every week, and I say it again, because its vital and important. We don’t earn any grace or favor with God by our actions. We don’t earn or achieve our salvation because we are in any way, shape or form good enough. We are sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. He has stepped in, sent Jesus Christ, God the Son to be the perfect substitute for our sins, allowing us forgiveness of sins and giving us his righteousness when the Holy spirit makes us a new creation. Salvation is wholly from God and in no part from ourselves. But, God calls us to do something in response ot our salvation. In order to access it, as Jesus tells us at the start of his ministry in Marks gospel, we are to Repent and believe.
If we get the order wrong, where we think that if we just stop sinning, God will love us, or if we are good enough, we wont need him, then someone needs to loving come and show us that we are wrong.
But one of the things that Paul is showing us is that we are to not be like everyone else around us. I saw a John MacArthur quote yesterday, A church that’s just like the world has nothing to offer the world. And that goes not only for the church as a body, but for all of us individually.
If there is not need to change our lives, to change our behaviors once we belong to Christ, than there is no reason for us to be Christians at all. There would be no hope in Christ, because we wouldn’t need him. And there would be nothing to offer our neighbors to show them love.
So often, as I said earlier, love doesn’t fit into the boxes that we want it too. Too often today, people want love to mean that all of our choices are affirmed. That we follow our bliss and our passion no matter what. That we are supported and encouraged and not held responsible for whatever we feel like doing right then. Paul says no!
No more orgies, no more drunkenness, no more fighting, no more jealousy, and no more sexual immorality of ANY kind. Stop! Those things go against Gods Word, they go against the way that God created things. They are sins. Paul says stop doing them.
Instead of clothing ourselves in these sins, we are to clothe ourselves in Christ. And we love our neighbor by telling them this. These actions are wrong. They are sin. And they are enough to damn you to hell.
Often, when we talk about repentance, and turning away from sin, we will qualify things by saying, “we are not going to be perfect, we will still sin, we will still slip.” And that is true in a sense. We will not be perfect in this lifetime. We will not see perfection til after the judgment when we get our heavenly bodies and see him face to face. This is true.
However, too often, by saying this, we are excusing those slips. And just by using that langues, slips, trips, falls, we deny the seriousness of our sins. We make them no big deal. But they are a very big deal. We are called to stop sinning. We are to make no provisions for the flesh. We are not to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Jesus, during his earthly ministry, would often confront sinful people, and show the love and grace and mercy but would always tell them to God and sin no more (John 4, John 8, etc.) Once we become a child of God, we are no longer bound by the chains of sin. We are no longer not able to not sin. Now, we have been freed and we do not have to give in to the desires that we are so used to giving in to. Way back in Genesis 4, in verse 7, God tells Cain, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to[c] you, but you must rule over it.”
By repenting, by living by a different standard, by separating not ourselves, but the way we live our lives from the world around us, we show the better way. We show the Holy way and we show the light of Jesus Christ. We show love.
Now of course, you have to use discernment and sense to determine how strongly, how often, how privately or publicly, how phrased, we tell this to those around us, but we need to tell them.
We cannot fall for the narrative of the world, where is crouched as Us vs Them. We just saw a few moments ago, that it isn’t, our battles are not with flesh and blood. So, instead of Us vs Them, but instead its Us For Them. Again, if we do ot show the world, if we do not show our neighbors that we are different, that there is something different about us, if they do not see the light of Christ shining through us and out from us, then what point is there to change what they are doing? What point is there to repent? What point is there to believe?
We are to love God with all our Heart, mind, soul and strength, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Luke 10:27) And some of the biggest and lovingest ways we can love our neighbor is to share the Gospel, the Word of God with them, to give them a chance to make a decision to be with Christ for eternity. We shine light into the darkness, showing Christ in all that we do. We fight the spiritual warfare going on around us, praying for them and using the Bible against sin and falsehoods. We remember that our fight in that battle is not our neighbors, but Satan and his fallen angels. We call them to repent of their sins, even as we continually repent of our sins and continue to fight against the desires of our flesh. We show them their sins nd offer the forgiveness of Christ, who, if we put him on, we are clothed in his righteousness, and that, And that is what allows us to pass through the judgement of God without incurring his wrath and we get to join him for eternity future in the Kingdom of Heaven, worshipping him and basking in his glory forever and ever. Amen.