Sun, Jan 29, 2017

The Constitution Of Christianity

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39 mins 36 secs
Pastor Anthony starts the book of Romans.
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“The Constitution of Christianity” - Romans 1:1-7

By Pastor Anthony DeChristopher of Calvary Chapel Redmond, Oregon

 

I titled the message 'The Constitution of Christianity.' Unlike man's Constitution, the Bible isn't for private interpretation - it's not to be subjected to amending.

It tells us in II Peter 1:19-20:

“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will

of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

Also, in II Timothy 2:15 it says:

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

When we come to Scripture, it's important to know that there is a right way to divide it. It isn't up for

popular opinion or cultural persuasion. We know that this book of Romans was written by the apostle Paul - but we know God is the author. Paul is the penman inspired by the Lord.

As it says in II Timothy 3:16-17:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

You might say the penman is like the stenographer, where the word 'inspired' in that particular verse means God breathed it. So, the penman is hearing from the Lord, inspired by the Holy Spirit, penning the words that he hears. The Bible is different than any other writing there ever has been and that's why the Bible could be written over a 1500 year period by forty different penmen. Many people have tried to undermine or disprove it, yet they haven't been able to do it. The Bible is prophetic. It's been proven to be true and there's a supernatural cohesiveness to the Scriptures. Paul quotes more from the Old Testament in the book of Romans (especially from the books of Isaiah and Psalms) than in all of his other epistles combined. In Romans, just about every doctrine of the Christian faith is put forth; so, when we get to those particular major doctrines, we're not just going to blow by them. We'll spend a little bit of time looking at them - that's why we can spend so much time in the book of Romans. In Romans there's well over 200 words that Paul uses that are not found in any of his other letters; and there are 100 words that are unique to the New Testament. The keywords Paul uses are: (1) - law - used 78 times; (2) - righteousness - used 66 times; and (3) - faith - used 62 times.

Last Wednesday, we looked at the message on recounting grace. It's not a negative to look back on testimonies or to look back in the Scriptures, as some might say 'don't live in the past,' but the Bible would say we look back because the Word will reinforce where we are presently and encourage us in our faith. As we look through the book of Romans, Paul will look back to Adam, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Esau, Rebecca, David and others. So, there's a principle there: when we look back, we can learn, even in our own experience.

We recall, in our Wednesday's text, Psalm 44:1:

“We have heard with our ears, O God,

Our fathers have told us,

The deeds You did in their days,

In days of old;”

We can have first-hand experience by the things that we know, and that we share, and that we learn. As we look back into the scriptures, it's the same thing.

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So, here in Romans 1:1-7:

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 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.”

That's his greeting. I'd like to make note that he first says his name, Paul. He's saying 'first things first.' Paul is writing to the church in Rome that he's never met. This letter is going forth as an introduction to himself but also to the doctrines of the church. The first thing he wants you to know is his name is Paul, which means small. He's stressing that and the thing about the apostle Paul is that he kept that attitude all the way through his ministry.

In I Corinthians 15:9-10 Paul says:

“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Paul stresses 'I am not worthy to be an apostle, but I am what I am;'

then he says in I Timothy 1:15:

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

He said that 14 years after he became a believer! Paul didn't hesitate to say, 'Hey, here I am. This is who I am.' So, we have to be really careful the way we think in terms of ourselves. Do we want to make other people feel inferior or less than we are or rather do we want to hold up Jesus Christ and say 'none of us are worthy, yet we've received that forgiveness and that grace and so I am what I am. I'm forgiven and I'm a believer!' That's what love does because knowledge puffs up apart from love.  

I Corinthians 8:1 talks about that:

“... Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”

So, we're responding in love! We're going to be building people up not putting them down, not making ourselves better than they are. It's very significant and I think it's important to point out that when Paul was converted, his name originally was Saul, which meant 'the requested one.' When he was converted, at a certain point, as he's serving the Lord and on the move,

the Scriptures in Acts 13:9 states:

“Then Saul, who also is called Paul” (now that's the first time Paul's name is mentioned, but there's a switch going on here and it's the Holy Spirit) “filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him...”

I read that verse for this reason: from this point on Saul was never called anything but Paul. The rule of first mention in connection with Paul being filled with the Holy Spirit when his name is changed in the Scripture to be small. Now, it's Paul filled with the Holy Spirit; so anybody who's walking filled with the Holy Spirit, you become small because you're in the presence of mighty God Who is working through your life.  

That's why Galatians 6:3 tells us:

“For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

Take heed because we're really nothing - it's Christ in us the hope of glory.

In Philippians 2:4 it says:

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

This is in the letters of the apostle Paul keeping that attitude through his entire ministry.

In Matthew 16:24:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'” - that denial of self.

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The Bible says in Proverbs 3:4 and James 4:6:

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

So, this attitude is huge and in the beginning of this book it's especially noteworthy because Paul says this is what I want you to know first, hanging on every word of Scripture. He says Paul, a bondservant. I want you to know Paul first and then I want you to know I'm a bondservant. The King James says servant and it's speaking of being a slave of Jesus Christ. You might say in the calling or the job description it means devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests. So, when you're serving the Lord and things get kind of tough, don't be one of these people that have the attitude - 'I didn't sign up for this.' If you're a servant of Jesus Christ, know that you did sign up for this and you need to know it in your heart, because sometimes things do get tough.

The consistent message that Paul was putting out for example in I Corinthians 6:20 he says:

“For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's”  

Remember, I was bought with a price and my life is not my own. There's a place where Paul uses a Greek word for himself that talks about an 'under-rower' which describes his service to Jesus Christ as one who is on the lowest deck of the galley of a Roman warship going to battle, rowing, out of sight and chained to the benches. When those ships would get rammed and sink, they're chained right to their workplace. He described himself as being in that place.

In Philippians 3:10 Paul describes himself as follows:

“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

He talks about wanting to know the power of the resurrection but not to the exclusion of his sufferings.

Paul wants the church in Rome to know who he is and to have an accurate understanding that he's a bondservant of Jesus Christ. That's the main thing: that we're a servant, a slave to Jesus Christ! There's where the greatest freedom lies, the greatest power to live this life and to enjoy it and have confidence in hope; it is to be that servant of Jesus Christ - not just a servant but it's who you're a servant of.

Then he says called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God. [Romans 1:1] Paul expresses the fact that he is called which means divinely selected.

Saul's conversion is brand new in Acts 9:15-16 where Jesus is talking to Ananias:

“But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for

My name's sake.'”  

Even though Paul, in his calling, gets the message that 'I'm going to show you how difficult it's going to be - the calling that you're called to.' Even though that message was sent to Paul specifically, it's not to the exclusion of us, because when you realize you're called, then you're called to the will of Jesus Christ - not called to your own will and your own purposes, but rather to discover His purpose and to fulfill that in your life. The Bible tells us that “all those who live godly shall suffer persecution” [IITimothy 3:12] that's one of those promises that you don't necessarily want to put at the top of the list to remember. You sort of want to put them to the side and think, well, I hope I can escape that. The bottom line is: when you're living for Jesus Christ, you might find a persecution that comes in the workplace or wherever in society, but the point is: when you're standing for Jesus Christ you're standing out and it's going against the grain of things that happen in the world around us and so he was called to be that apostle.

My name is Paul, I'm just a small guy, and I'm a servant - that's who I am. I'm an apostle and that's my calling and my title, but the word apostle means one sent. In a general sense, apostle would be simply that but for the apostle Paul, in a very specific way, he's one of the team of the 12. He's one of the ones that were eyewitnesses to the Lord Jesus Christ, one of the guys that had hands on, the ones that had a unique work, the ones that would die for their faith, the ones who were called to lead the initial work of the Holy Spirit on planet Earth. Paul was one of those. Too many times people claim that title (apostle). You have to watch out for those who do. I had a run-in with one and he demanded all these things from us and said

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'I'm an apostle and if you don't listen to me I'm going to call curses down upon you.' and I thought well, see you later. It was a sad scenario.

There were those that were called that had a particular work that they were called to and Paul was one of those. It's interesting because he wasn't like the others who walked with Jesus in his public ministry,

but he did say in I Corinthians 15:8:

“Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”

So, it was almost like Paul was added to the list last. He had that unique calling separated to the gospel. When you ask people, 'Do you know what the gospel is? They say, Yeah, it's a style of music.' I say 'first it speaks of that saving message of Jesus Christ.' I was so blessed with Franklin Graham at the inaugural address; because that brother stood before maybe a hundred million people and nailed it.

He shared from I Timothy 2:1-6:

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,”

I about fell over, because these kinds of things have to be approved and I thought, man, there's a change in our administration. No sooner is the president inaugurated and the gospel goes forth through the airwaves? Oh my goodness! What can we expect next? So, we have to keep praying because what took place was an answer to prayer! The church was praying and fasting and it was amazing work and I really was totally pessimistic. I had no faith to believe that was going to happen. I was hoping, but I thought it was wishful thinking. There's been so many changes already that are saving lives, coming against evil in the world, calling evil for what it is. But you know, he (Franklin Graham) just separated all religions from Christianity by choosing those verses. It wasn't either or - it was Jesus. That brother did well! And so, that's the gospel which He promised before through His prophets. Those were the penmen of the Old Testament and in the Holy Scriptures, which is the Old Testament concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness by the resurrection from the dead. Jesus is both God and man. All the way through the Scriptures you'll see that there is a scarlet thread. That scarlet thread speaks of Jesus Christ in the gospel from Genesis all the way through to Revelation: very clear, not a new message, by the power of the Spirit, and by the resurrection from the dead. Without the resurrection, Christianity would join all the dead religions of the world.

Paul goes on record by saying in I Corinthians 15:14, 20:

“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Paul makes that clear and really this (the resurrection) was the turning point for the first disciples of Christ. Remember, they were all in hiding and they were emboldened when Jesus raised from the dead, because now, suddenly, they didn't have to fear death because Jesus defeated that last enemy of death. Jesus even said to them earlier - but now I think that they were understanding when He raised from the dead –

in Matthew 10:28:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

They realized that they no longer had to fear death and they could trust Him and His promises.

John 14:3 says I'm coming back to get you:

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, you may be also.”

They believed Him and presently all those that did are in the presence of the Lord in heaven,

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II Corinthians 5:8 tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord:

“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

So their spirit is with the Lord, but what do we hope for? That resurrection. What's going to happen at the resurrection?

Well, it tells us in I Thessalonians 4:16-18:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

Jesus raised from the dead. Can I trust that He's going to come back for me? Can I trust that when I'm absent from this body that I'm going to be present with Him? Absolutely! Are we promised tomorrow? No, but that doesn't matter. We have hope for today and hope forever! When He chooses to take me, He takes me. But what a wonderful hope we have! Why? Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ who defeated that last enemy, death, which we all dread. I mean let's face it, every single one of us probably have the following death wish: 'when I get older, before I get sick, let me go to sleep and wake up in heaven.' That would be a good death wish. I don't want any of that pain and suffering and all that, but it can get difficult. The Gospel message is going through that pain and suffering so that others end up in heaven and sometimes that's God's call. That's why we can explain suffering and pain, because God always has eternity in mind and if eternity is not going to be affected by it, it's not going to happen; that's the character of God, because he is a God of love.

So, then we look at Romans 1:5:

“Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;”

So, it's through Him; it's not by our own efforts. I like Jesus' response to those who are asking about earning their way to heaven. They're talking about accomplishing the works of God and Jesus corrects them

in John 6:27. He says:

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him. Then they said to Him, 'What shall we do that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work (singular) of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

He corrected them. Sure, we're created in Christ Jesus unto good works (plural) but before that there's only one work: it's the work of Jesus Christ unto salvation. It's through Him we have received (the word received means 'to take, to have, to catch, take in hand or in heart, to make it one's own') grace.

Ephesians 2:8,9 says by grace you have been saved, a verse everybody should memorize:

“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.”

It's the idea that we're saved by grace, we have received it. It is a gift of God. When something's offered to you as a gift, then you receive it or you don't. We're saved by grace through faith. Faith is receiving that grace offered to us by God Who presents it to us. He (Paul) was called to that apostleship to communicate this message for obedience to the faith. He was called to be obedient to those things that he was shown to do. Obedience means to comply, submit, to observe (in our case); in his (Paul's) case, to communicate the directives of Jesus to his ministry to the church.

Then, “...among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ” [Romans 1:6]. Now, this turns it right around to us. “you also are the called (same word used in verse 1) of Jesus Christ 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.” [Romans 1:7]

And so the word for the called means the invited, the divinely selected. We all are called to that station of life as saints to the obedience of the faith.

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That's what's tied in here: and we are the saints or the hagios (Greek) or the Holy Ones. The idea there is God's work of grace in us that then sets us apart unto Jesus Christ. Realize that Paul was no more privileged in his calling than we are. That's key! With the right attitude of humility, God can use us in a very powerful way and can fill us up with the Holy Spirit; but we have to get out of ourselves, get over ourselves, and trust the Lord. It's by that grace (I like to use the letters God's Riches At Christ's Expense: GRACE) we receive it, there's no way to earn it. It is unmerited favor with God. Then to have that peace from God downloaded in us. I like what a bumper sticker reads:

 No God → No Peace  

Know God → Know Peace

The idea is that we submit our lives unto the Lord. I have never met a person who did not want peace, no matter who they are. Atheists and everybody else wants peace. In the world there's not going to be that peace. The world hopes for world peace yet the Bible is clear: in this world there will be no peace. For the Christian, we can have peace with God, be saved and no longer at war with God and we can have peace also regarding our future hope. We can also have peace circumstantially with the Lord, but whenever the world is the source, there will be no peace. It's only when our source comes from the Lord there's peace.

Jesus said in John 16:33:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Jesus offers us that peace. In the world there is no peace. Even as we follow the Lord and walk with the Lord we're going to have war with the world. Jesus said they will hate you because they've hated Me first. It's not like we go out of our way to be hated, but they hate God, so, because we love God, there's that warfare that goes on. Don't be discouraged when that happens, just love the Lord. None of us are looking for a fight, but we do fight the good fight of faith. That means we're going to be challenged to trust the Lord to move forward when maybe everybody else is against us. 'Though none go with me, still I will follow,' should be the motto of our heart. No matter how difficult it gets, know that this is what we did sign up for,

(if you're a Christian, you signed up for that). I don't say go out looking for trouble, but know that when you're serving the Lord, there will be trouble. Also know that greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Stand up for your faith. Every day is a new day, it never existed before and never will exist again. Give God all the glory for that sunrise, knowing that He has blessed you with it. Remember, that's just a reminder that when we get to heaven there's not going to be any need for the sun because God's presence will illuminate heaven. That's the hope we have. Amen

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