Sun, Feb 12, 2017

Keep It Simple

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44 mins 17 secs
Pastor Anthony teaches from Romans 1
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“Keep It Simple” - Romans 1:8-15
By Pastor Anthony DeChristopher of Calvary Chapel Redmond, Oregon

Let's begin with prayer: Lord, thank You so much for loving us and for Your Word that's a lamp to our feet and a light to our past. Lord, You're so good and we pray now that You would speak to our hearts as we would have a hearing ear to hear what You'd have to say to us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Romans 1:8-15 -

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, Whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established - that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Now I do not want you to be unaware brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.”

The apostle Paul in the very first verse, says, 'First of all I want to thank my God.' Make note, in this passage we're given a peek into a godly man's heart. Regarding a heart that God has His hand upon, we're given insight into a man who's tapped into the Spirit of God. We can glean things for our own lives as we go through this. Paul is a man (in our last study in Romans) who starts off the letter (remember, Paul is going to be writing a comprehensive letter to the church in Rome) the first thing he makes mention of in his introduction of himself: he doesn't give a great list of all his accomplishments, which were many. He didn't mention all the great things God had done through his life, which were many; but remember, what he mentions first: Paul, a bondservant. A bondservant declares one who has no rights to himself, one who's committed to another Who is Jesus Christ the Son of God. Paul was a mighty man of God who had never met this young church set in a pagan culture in Roman society. They worshiped many false gods, with all the allurement and entitlements that come with that kind of a culture. Ancient Rome, like modern America, worshiped many gods, striving to have more stuff, they were taught to be successful. This meant demanding your own rights, pursuing more things, insisting on your way and to be enriched materially, and to be more important. Those are all keys to, what would be the worldly message and there is no way that should be adopted by the church. Yet, the church in America are steeped in that philosophy, in that teaching and in that social system. Yes, it's sad to say, the church is affected by it. Yet, to go on record to say 'we don't have to be.' So, my prayer is that we - this church - would yield to the Spirit of God and not that message that is given by the world. The message in Scripture is that we should be in the world but not of the world, so that we can faithfully follow Jesus Christ and have success on the battlefield, because we are in a battlefield. We don't want to lose ground, it's good to hold ground, but most importantly we want to push forward in the Lord. The only way to do that is by His strength and the endorsement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Wednesday, I made reference to a passage in Galatians 5:15 where Paul was dealing with a problem that existed in the first church in Galatia. He said “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another.” This is speaking about the law of love that we're supposed to aspire to as a church, and in obedience to follow Jesus Christ. Those not acting in love but coming from more of a selfish motivation are going to be those who bite and devour one another. When you look up those words in the Greek, Paul uses bite which means with teeth to wound the soul. That's the outcome of biting. To devour means to waste and destroy the consumption of the strength of the body and mind by strong emotion. That's speaking of a result that hits somebody so hard that they can't get over it.

If that happens within a church you'll hear people say, 'I used to go to church but I'm done with that.'

Because there's so much abuse and selfishness in the church, people want for themselves, then they bite and devour each other. People say 'well, I'm going to go over there, I'm going to try another church.' This should not be, because the end result is that you are consumed by one another. If you don't act in love, you'll have cannibalistic tendencies. Now, I've been around long enough that I have seen this. I was in a meeting one time and the men and women in a church were talking about different issues and problems. They started a little bit of bickering between two women. The pastor never stepped up and dealt with it or headed it off. It got so bad that all of a sudden the women stood up in the room (about a half a dozen women out of ten) and they began to sob so profusely that they couldn't stop themselves. Their emotions got so bad because of the biting that was going on that they went out of the room into a bathroom to gain control and they never came back to that church. Seriously? Now tell me that wasn't building up. Could that possibly have happened? I witnessed it.

Now that's why, when we study the Word, and we see an example like this in Romans, let me tell you, this is a template. The order of the apostle Paul's letter is and should be and set a precedence in our heart. This is not a little thing. In our own lives we are servants first, foremost and always, and we need to have that right commitment. Now this message is supported through the scriptures and Jesus says to us in Matthew's Gospel 10:38-39 -

“He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life

will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
In other words, he who lives for himself and is self-seeking is the one that is going to lose his life. That's what Jesus says. The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth says in
I Corinthians 6:19-20 -

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's.”

Then he says in I Corinthians 7:20-24 -
“Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. (He's talking about those being enslaved in the first church in Corinth there that were slaves as Christians) Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord's freedman. Likewise, he who is called while free is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.”

What does that have to say about entitlement? Do you realize in whatever place you are God has you? We are to be content because the Bible says in I Timothy 6:6 “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” Unless we understand and embrace that and break free from all that we've been taught as Americans and settle in our place in Christ, we will never be settled and content. When we do settle, then we'll be at that place where we're not searching, we're not striving, we're not confused, we're not discontent, where we're feeling like somehow our life is passing us by and we're missing out, like we're grasping for something that we're not able to get ahold of. That's a lie and guess where it's from: the pit of hell! But we're so steeped in that kind of a mindset, we break free by studying the scriptures then yielding to what God has to say. The reason why we can be settled is because Jesus gives us our worth. What circumstances need to change in our life where we're worth more than the worth that Jesus gives us by dying for us and promising us everlasting life? So, we know that life is not confined to these bodies and short-lived. We understand that insight comes from the Lord. In other words, by following His example, we're given the insight to be content. When Jesus was speaking about John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11, He says:

“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John

the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
In other words, among men, none lived greater than John the Baptist, and yet the least of us who are in heaven has ended up in a greater place than anything that John the Baptist accomplished on earth.

Jesus is saying that if any of us end up in heaven, why is it that we're greater than all that John the Baptist accomplished here on earth? Why is that? (Of course John the Baptist would have been included in heaven too.) But why is that? Because the only way you ended up in heaven was on the merit and finished work of Jesus Christ. That's why the least in heaven is greater than any accomp- lishments upon this earth. When we know that's a promise to us, how could we sit and say our life is being wasted in whatever place we find ourselves and whatever status we're in, no matter what you do for work, or don't do, or your present situation, how can we not be content with that promise and that hope, knowing that it is God Who is allowing us to be where we're at. There's true contentment that comes with that.

After Paul introduces himself as a committed slave of Jesus, as God's Spirit directs him to do, his life, being set apart to communicate the gospel, Paul declares Jesus, the Son of God Who was affirmed through the Old Testament. Then he says to the church in Romans 1:7 -

“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God

our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I want you to know that you're loved by God, that you're set apart and that you have the grace and the peace of God. I want you to know that! Paul is speaking to this very young church in Rome that are taking baby steps in their faith, still steeped in Roman philosophy and a society where changes need to take place. Paul says I want you to know this verse: you're loved by God and set apart as saints.
You are loved by God! Paul declares that. With letters, he gives us insight into his prayer life because he was a man of prayer. In beginning this comprehensive letter - although they have much to learn and many changes need to take place - he begins this prayer by saying with thanksgiving. Now Paul first lets them know where he's at, then he says that he has this heart: I thank my God through Jesus Christ. Can I go on record to say that unless we have a heart of thanksgiving we cannot be successful in work or ministry(?)! We will not be successful, but we will fail in work and ministry, even when we continue to do work in ministry. Just because we're going through the motions, God knows the heart. We can go through the motions. The reason we won't be successful, even in continuing the work, is because in order to be fruitful (which Paul makes reference to later) we depend upon the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Jesus makes it clear that fruit is expected. Jesus says to us in Matthew 13:8 -

“But others fell on good ground (referring to the seed that was planted) and yielded a crop:

some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
So, the Word goes out, the seed fell on good ground and that good ground produced fruit. Then He says in
John 15:5,8 -

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

That is what's expected of a disciple. But how do we bear fruit? We abide in the Vine. How do we do that? We're following Jesus Christ. We have to be connected to the Lord!

Paul tells them he was first and foremost a servant and they will learn through this process that it's not belittling to be a servant. Jesus, teaching the twelve disciples, tells us that this battles the philosophy in the world where Jesus would say in Mark 9:35 -

“He sat down, called the twelve, said to them, 'If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of

all and servant of all.'”
In God's economy and in His estimation, it's the servants that He raises up to be what? Fruitful. We look for that in the sensitivity of serving the Lord by His direction because there's only 24 hours in a day, so we have to ask the Lord for that wisdom; but to follow His example.
Jesus said in
Matthew 20:27, 28 -

“And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave - just as the Son of Man did

not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Is that belittling to follow the example of Jesus Christ? Absolutely Not! But we have to understand that

that's the way it is. So, before Paul addresses doctrine, (which there is a lot of it coming) and before he talks about theology, first, he tells us 'this is how I think regarding myself: I'm a bondservant.' This is how I think regarding others: 'Whether they be Christians, Greeks, barbarians or unbelievers, to let them know in Rome, I'm coming here and this is how I think. I'm not prejudiced or high-minded.' That's what's usually an underlying message in a place like this. Make note this also is a condition of a heart that will be fruitful. Prejudice should have no place in that heart.

Paul, continuing in Romans 1:8 -
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”

'Your faith' is referring to salvation faith because God did a work in Rome where the message of salvation went.
Ephesians 2:8-9 -

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of

God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
That saving faith is being spoken of throughout the whole world, in other words, there was no small thing that was happening in Rome. Everybody was hearing about it; but it is never a small thing when the Spirit of God is moving, even if it's just in your world. People in your world should be able to spot salvation by faith. People would talk about you regarding the faith that you have, maybe in a negative way; but they're still talking because it's not hidden. When I first became a Christian all my buddies were just drinking buddies. We played football, we partied hard on Friday nights, we would drink and play cards and gamble. Everything I did was revolved around that. So, after I got saved and I started to change, pretty soon I started losing my friends. Oh my goodness, I guess that's part of it. Some of my friends became believers so that was good. Do people know that you have faith in Christ?

Continuing with Paul in Romans 1:9 -
“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,”

You see the spiritual man prior to Christ is dead but now we serve Him with our spirit in the gospel of a Son, the good news of Jesus Christ being raised from the dead. Well, how do you pray without ceasing? We're instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.” How do you do that? It's an attitude of heart. You can be working hard, be about doing other things and yet have a heart connected with the Lord. Prayer is just talking with the Lord. It's not kneeling down, it's not any particular posture, except for the heart - and that is a posture of thanks-giving. You can be constantly talking to the Lord and that's what he's talking about. Paul's heart, always praying, (he hadn't even met them yet, but he's so excited about what he's hearing); so you can pray for strangers, you can pray for work, you can pray for things like that besides people that have been put into your life.

Romans 1:10-12 - “ . . . making requests if by some means now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.”

Paul's requesting from the Lord to work this out so that he can go to Rome. I often go on record to say that I'll often pray God's will regarding something but where I'll miss it is the timing. That's where Paul was. He didn't know how it was going to happen and he had been waiting a long time. He had a heart to go to Rome. He was a Roman citizen. He wanted to go to Rome with the gospel. Paul had that ambition as he says 'by some means' so he didn't even know how that would happen. He's waiting for more information. Then he says, “for I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift so that you may be established.” He wanted to share the gifts that he had with them. Notice, once again, the heart of a fruitful man of God. We've been given gifts. Do we desire to share those gifts? In order to share those gifts, you have to be around those you want to share them with.

Romans 1:11,12 -

“so that you may be established - that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the

mutual faith both of you and me.”
Thus, there is a boomerang effect: as you would have a heart to share, guess what, it comes back at you; because there's a mutual encouragement that Paul's talking about that we can very easily miss out on if we hold back our own lives and we don't share ourselves. We need to share ourselves because that is what Jesus did. He shared Himself. Paul wants to share himself. He has this longing to share himself and he makes mention of that mutual benefit because there's a codependency and that's okay. That's not a weakness, to be codependent! You know us guys, 'I can do it' and 'I don't need anyone.' In actuality, this is counter to how God made us. We can generate an attitude of independence and work our way through, but that's not how God intended it. As a matter of fact, that could be connected with pride real easily. There's no weakness in depending on one another spiritually. When you look at the example of scripture, the Apostle Paul needed it and I know as an example I need it desperately. I totally rely upon my brothers and sisters. I know why believers will have problems following the Lord if they're out of fellowship, because it's required of us to fellowship. It's also, once again, where we get that endorsement from the Holy Spirit. If you're out of fellowship and you feel deprived or confused or unsettled in your walk with the Lord, that's the reason, because we're not meant to be that way.
Matthew's Gospel 26:36-38 -

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane and said to the disciples 'Sit here while I go and pray over there.' And He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.'”

Jesus Himself longed for that company and through His entire ministry He sought out fellowship, first with His Father and then with flesh and blood, people that He could handle: John laid his head on His breast; going to Mary, Martha and Lazarus' house to hang out, eat and just enjoy their fellowship. Jesus needed that. Who am I to say that I don't? No, I desperately need it and I desperately long for that fellowship.

In Romans 1:13 -
“Now I do not want you to be unaware brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.”

This is a huge point, right here, and one that you need to tuck under your hat. We need to grab ahold of this one because it's where the devil has a lot of leverage in the lives of many believers. First, Paul would say it is important that you know this. He knows the devil lurks in the shadows. God is not the author of confusion, but we know who is. The devil is always trying to work his way in, even from the beginning, in the garden, the first temptation of man was 'Did God indeed say?' to try and undermine the Word of God. He has never changed his strategy. Why? Because it works so well. If he can get Christians to believe a lie or even respond the wrong way to truth, he's got them. Paul is making sure that he's letting truth be known and he clears the air here. Why? Because the devil is the prince of the power of air. Paul's giving information that is important. The devil would have a field day with this young church if these things weren't brought out initially; because if the young church would think for a minute that these leaders, these apostles that I hear about, they're just a bunch of prima donnas. Do they really care about us? So, Paul is making sure that they know what is true - not that people always believed God's Word. It's something he wants them to be aware of because not knowing would lead to sin. Why? Because, if they begin to ponder in their mind things (they don't know) they could begin to judge Paul and make the wrong assessment. Paul is saying, 'I really long to be there.' We have to beware of that, because we can end up judging others if we don't have enough information.

Paul says in Romans 1:13 - “I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now),” When you pray and things don't work out, don't think this is God being against you. If we ask 'why

won't God let this happen?' We need to get over it. Because we need to wait on the Lord and His timing. I have learned that oftentimes God is leading, we don't know the details. The details, once they're worked out, you can look back and say 'oh my goodness, I wish I would have known that.' So, we need to rest in the Lord because He does know, but waiting upon the Lord is always part of the equation and have your sleeves rolled up. Too many times I've heard people say 'oh we're praying about this and I know the Lord is calling us to this mission field' or 'I know the Lord's going to . . .' or 'we're just waiting on the Lord.' So, what are you doing? We knew something that even though where we thought God was sending us didn't happen, we knew we were supposed to have our sleeves rolled up, otherwise, how are you to be fruitful and how's God's plan going to continue in our lives? The apostle Paul was hindered because it wasn't God's timing. We know that his heart was right to head towards Rome, but he was going to be going to Rome and end up a martyr. Before he could be sent to Rome, he had so many people to bring the gospel to on his missionary journeys, and it wasn't until towards the end of his ministry that he would head to Rome, spend a couple years there and then later, as church history tells us, be beheaded in Rome. The conclusion is the apostle Paul had a desire. His desire was not only to build the church up, but to bring the gospel to the unbelievers in Rome, because he makes a point in Romans 1:14-15 - where he says,

“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is

in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.”
We know that is God's heart for the unsaved. God is not slack concerning His promise as some count slackness but is long-suffering towards those that are without, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. That's God's heart. That's the heart of a man of God tracking with the Lord and to bring forth the gospel. Paul's intentions were to pray and wait with anticipation. He
was praying correctly. The timing he didn't know or how it was going to work out. God ended up having the Romans bring Paul to Rome providing for everything because Rome was a long ways away. Yet, he was just a man. He could only be in one place at one time. Don't complicate that. You're just a man, you're just a woman. You live in one place and you've been given so much. Consider these. Be content as Paul said to the slave in Rome. 'Be content' because if you don't get that, how are you going to serve the Lord? Yet all around us, we're steeped in the philosophy: 'you need more' 'you're not successful until you get this.' But the Bible says just the opposite. Don't complicate it. Serve the Lord every day. Get up, do all things and as
Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or device or

knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”
What does that mean? You have a little window of opportunity in these bodies. Once these bodies are gone in the grave, they're done. In the resurrection we're going to receive a new, glorified body. God has given us a little window with these physical bodies to serve Him and we need to look for opportunity. I believe it's been given to me at times by the Holy Spirit and I hear it loud, clear and often. Counsel to self: I think it's a good one: keep it simple stupid. Amen.

Lord Jesus, thank You again for Your Word and thank You for blessing us with family and friends. Lord, thank You that we can have that relationship because You died to make us blood brothers and sisters and these relationships will last forever. Thank You for that and I pray for my brothers and sisters who are struggling with situations, trials and temptations or anything, Lord. You know what they're dealing with. I pray that Your Spirit would minister to the deepest places of their hearts and I ask for the strength that only comes from You. Lord, that we would be those with thankful hearts and that we would experience contentment in every situation, knowing that You are with us and that You have promised never to leave us or forsake us. And Lord, You promised to come back and get us. Strengthen us with the promises of Your Word and do the supernatural, Lord. We trust in You so, bless our day, bless all those that are here, God, we pray in Jesus' Name, Amen. God bless you.

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