Gardendale Nazarene

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Archives for January 2019 | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

Righteousness, Peace, and Joy

Last week’s devotional ended with the statement, “The cross is always and essentially the embodiment of love. If we have experienced this kind of love poured out by the Holy Spirit into our hearts, then we must join with Paul in putting others before ourselves. It is the way of the cross. It is the way of Christ.”

This statement flowed from Paul’s writings to the church in Corinth. The essential argument is putting others before ourselves for the sake of Christ. This argument is not confined Corinthians. Matter of fact, it enhances the way we read Romans 13 and 14.

Let me give you some quick context of Romans. The church in Rome was a divided church like many of the New Testament churches. This division fell along the lines of Jewish and Gentile believers. The disagreements usually centered on three primary issues- heritage, circumcision, and dietary laws. Paul speaks directly to these issues throughout Romans.

As Paul brings Romans to a close, he deals with the dietary issues similarly to the arguments in Corinthians. Look at a few excerpts from Romans 13 and 14:
  • Romans 13:8-10 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
  • Romans 14:7-8 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 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.
  • Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
  • Romans 14:17-19 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building.

All of these passages are pointing in the same direction and Paul summarizes it all for us at the beginning of chapter 15- “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself…” (vss 1-3a).

As we will see on Sunday, Cross-Shaped Faith is a faith of sacrifice and suffering. This is in the pattern of Christ himself. I hope that as you prepare for worship; you read through John 13. It is a powerful story of Christ placing Himself before His apostles as He washes their feet.

“Lord, help me embody these words of Paul. Give me patience to bear with the weak, knowing that I too am weak. May peace mark my life and may I build up my brothers and sisters. Help me see that your Kingdom is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Sprit. And, Lord, remove anything in my life that is a stumbling block to another. In your precious name, Amen.”

Living for the Benefit of Others

I shared with the church a couple weeks ago about a journey I have been on in my faith. This journey has led me to a deeper exploration of Paul’s theology of the cross. Our current sermon series, “Cross-Shaped Faith,” reflects what God has been doing in my life during this journey.

In the first sermon of the series, I used an example from 1 Corinthians 13. Most refer to this chapter as the ‘love chapter.’ Paul makes a statement in the fifth verse that is often overlooked- “[Love] does not insist on its own way.” I pointed out in this sermon that Paul is referencing statements he made in earlier chapters (8-10) on meat offered to idols. If we translate this verse considering the statements on meat from chapter 10, the verse reads, “Love does not insist on its own __________.”

What do I mean by this? The issue Paul was addressing was meat offered to idols. He was saying to them, “If eating meat that was originally offered in idol worship causes someone to turn to idol worship, then don‘t consume that meat.” To put this into our world, Paul would say to us, “If you are doing something that is leading people away from Christ, then you must stop- even if you have the right to do it.”

Look at how Paul states this in Chapter 8, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble,” (vs. 13).

Paul’s new ethic of the cross is love expressed in concern for others and the building up of others. We usually look to our own freedom and rights, but Paul is bringing us to a new way of living under the cross. This new way of living points us away from self and toward others. This new orientation is not just seen in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Next week, we will look at similar arguments he makes towards the end of Romans.

Let me wrap up this week with this- the cross is always and essentially the embodiment of love. If we have experienced this kind of love poured out by the Holy Spirit into our hearts, then we must join with Paul in putting others before ourselves. It is the way of the cross. It is the way of Christ.

“Lord, what is it in my life that is leading people away from You instead of towards You? May Your love be poured into my heart. Holy Spirit, bring me a renewed love for those whom You have placed in my life. May I continually point them to my Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.”