We have an insight into the heart of an irrepressible Christian.
Everything is thrown at the apostle Paul:
Tortured by men (2 Co11:23ff)
Troubled by deep emotions (Rom 9:1ff)
Taunted by skeptics (Rom 11:1ff)
Tested by the Devil (Eph 6:10ff; 1 Thess 2:18)
Physical battles (2 Co11:23ff)
Emotional battles (Rom 9:1ff)
Psychological battles (Rom 11:1ff) – you're all alone
Spiritual battles (Eph 6:10ff; 1 Thess 2:18)
Yet true salvation is secure salvation
The genuine believer is finally triumphant in Christ
This is Irrepressible Christianity
Christ triumphant, ever reigning
Saviour, Master, King
Lord of heaven, our lives sustaining
Hear us as we sing
Yours the glory and the crown
The high renown, the eternal name
Out of these trials Paul triumphs because Christ triumphs
This is the Gospel of the Christ of the Cross!
Qualifications for perseverance in the service of God:
Can I rejoice in disappointment? (11:1ff)
Can I see a future when other can only see an end (11:1,3)?
Am I alert when others slumber (11:8)?
Can I stand when others stumble (11:9)?
Can I make big what others make small (11:12)?
Can I give when others take (11:14)?
Do I maintain a vision for God even when it lies beyond the visible horizon (11:13-14)?
Can I rejoice in disappointment?
Able to rejoice in disappointment?
That ultimately and finally God and His purposes in Christ will be fulfilled, for this is the only reason God perceivers with us in grace!
So out of the disappointments, disasters and discouragement something new and great emerges from God.
Paul is a master of that kind of teaching (Roms 5:1-5; Rom 8:18ff; 2Co 1:4)
God is able even to make the wrath of man praise Him!
Delilahs treachery ultimately brought Samson back to the Lord!
Elijahs disappointment ultimately brought him to Mt Horeb, the cave and the still small voice
The turning of God to the gentile and Israels rejection would ultimately work to the provocation of Israel (Rom 11:11)
This section is founded upon the example and experience of Elijah in 1 Kings 18 + 19.
The principle that where God maintains 1 preacher, 1 prophet or 1 apostle, it may only be one but He has maintained a purpose and a people!
Elijah was unable to see this in 1 Kings 18 + 19, but unknown to Elijah, God had used the dark canvas of disappointment, discouragement and disaster to paint His picture of revival, in the bold colours of commitment and consecration.
The whole nation could see the bankruptcy of Baal worship in 1 Kings 18, and out of that failure, arise 7000 men who refuse to continue with a mere show, a mere form, who refuse to pursue a god on holiday, who never replies and who is unable to respond to the sacrifices of his worshipers.
Here was a religion that even the Devil couldn't get to work!
Out of the decline, disaster and disappointment come 7000, who hunger and thirst after the Living God, who need the Living bread of heaven, the Living water, who expect reality and will be satisfied with nothing less than an experience of the Living God of heaven!
From this Paul draws his encouragement, there may only be Paul (11:1) but where God has maintained a prophet, an apostle, or a preacher, He has maintained a purpose and people.
The rejection by the nation of Israel, of Christ was a major disappointment for Paul, who expresses his deep burden for his own people in 9:1-5; 10:1-4; 11:1ff.
Out of that rejection by Israel, Paul is given a vision of overflowing blessing to others (Rom 11:11ff)
Paul is able to take encouragement from where it comes (11:13), rather than from where he would desire it to come?
Can I see a future when others can only see an end? (11:1,3)
To be unable to discern with distinction the difference between what merely 'remains' and what is 'reserved'.
This failing is nothing new:
Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:11-12) – all that is left, it is the end
Even Elijah doesn't learn the lesson he taught the widow! 1 Kings 19:10 “I only am left...” - you mean Elijah – just like the handful of meal and the little oil in the cruse? You need to take on board your own ministry Elijah!
Luke 24 – the 2 on the road to Emmaus – is it the end? It is the beginning!
'It is for us the end, but for me the beginning' Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Be careful about seeing what remains as the end – that kind of thinking is often simply repackaged unbelief.
Are you able to stand alone against the world and say:
“I also” (11:1)
or do I say:
“I alone” (11:3)?
Am I able to look further than is visible with the naked eye, to the things that are unseen (11:5,8)
Do I look around and am I only able to see what remains of better days gone by?
All that is left: 'a remnant' (11:5) and that spells the end?
This remnant is not what God has been left with from better days gone by!
This group has been reserved “according to the election of grace” (11:5) – chosen by God and therefore with a future and a purpose!
Gods purposes for Israel didn't end in 1 Kings 19 with a remnant!
Gods purposes continued with the remnant!
Am I alert when others slumber? (11:8)
Many causes of spiritual slumber:
Sin - Samson – Sin that ultimately led him to slumber
4 times in Judges 16 Samson slept!
He got away with it on 3 occasions!
It was all just a joke (16:10,13) – a game.
Samson was just winding Delilah up and she was just trying to wind him up!
With all this talk of: 'the Philistines are upon you Samson' – as if he would have fallen for that one!
Whilst Samson slept on those first 3 occasions he was oblivious to at least 3 facts:
The enemy had valued his soul: 1100 pieces of silver – Samson didn't know about that! Well he wouldn't – he was asleep.
The woman he loved was a traitor: she was waiting to take the silver – Samson didn't know about that! Well he wouldn't – he was asleep!
Every time that Delilah had said: “the Philistines be upon thee Samson” (16:9, 12, 14) there were hiding in the chamber a gang of cut throats waiting to take take his eyes out. He didn't know that! Well he wouldn't would he? He was asleep! By the time he could see it, it was too late, they were taking his eyes out!
Slothfulness - (Matt 25:5) – the 10 virgins – 5 seem to have got fed up waiting
Apathy makes us slumber, Bible remains closed, Prayer we rarely do, We lose interest, Maybe nothing actively sinful
Self – Disciples (Peter, James and John) in the garden of Gethsemane
Sovereign judgment of God
Romans 11:8 – Judicial slumber
God shuts them off to themselves
cf. Roms 1 – 'God gave them up'
Can I stand when others stumble (11:9)?
They fell where they fed:
“snare” : Planning : 'pagis' – to set up, to fix, cf. 1 Tim 3:7; 2 Tim 2:26 – deliberately set up to catch us out
That snare is peculiar to each individual: Samson - it was Delilah, Lots wife – family, Judas – money, Demas – this present world, 2 Tim 4:3 – preachers in the last days – popularity.
“trap” : Person: 'ther' – wild beast, thinking about creature in the trap, thinking of you as the target
“stumbling block” : Purpose: 'skandalon' : the trigger of the trap, what does the trap need me to do to trigger it? What action / activity is it I am meant to be enticed to do in order to ruin me?
“recompense” : Product: the reward from the trap, what are the consequences?
cf. Numbers 25 : enticing Gods people into sexual immorality, idolatry and this bringing upon themselves the judgment of God. All part of a definite plan (Rev 2:14; Num 31:16)
Can I make big what others make small? (11:13)
Cf. 2 Sam 23:11-12 – defending the field of lentils
Am I able to see the work which God has given me to do as great work?
Pauls great burden was for his own people (9:1-5; 10:1-4; 11:1ff).
When given the commission to take the gospel to the gentiles he doesn't take the huff, feel that he has drawn the short straw, or grumble that his exercise was for someone else, somewhere else and somehow else!
He is given the grace to hear the call of God even if it is not to where he would chose to be!
Can God only call me to:
Where I want to be?
What I want to be?
When I wish to do it?
Paul is able to see Gods appointments in his deep and bitter disappointments – here is grace indeed!
Paul “magnifies” : 'doxazo' : glorifies his 'office' : diakonia : service
Paul has grace to glory in the service God has given him today
For the service of God to be effective, each servant needs to 'make big' or 'make much' or 'magnify' that service which God has given them to do.
The visitation work, praying with the bereaved opens doors that never shut, work with the children, teen club, Sunday school and preaching. I say preaching because it is possible to loose momentum, to fail in that spiritual diligence and exercise so much needed in preaching and to become routine, repetitive and to lack earnestness, passion, zeal, burden and freshness, and instead just to repeat one I prepared earlier.
Are we in danger today of moving from one error to another error?
From the error of:
Church centered Christianity
If it isn't done collectively, it isn't done at all
Self centered Christianity
Do our own thing
Cherry picking, what suites me, taking out what I want and with no real commitment to put back in.
A Sunday morning here, a praise night there, a favourite preacher somewhere else
Commitments dropped when it suites me
'well it's THEIR meeting isn't it?'
There may soon be few cherries left to pick
Christ centered Christianity
One of the many problems of self-centered Christianity is that the 'magnify' is dropped from 'service' – big groups, occasional attendance, where are the workers?
Can I give when others take (11:14)
Do I desire others to have as much zeal as me?
What would the collective company be like if everyone had the same zeal as me?
Do I see myself as an encourager?
“provoke to emulation” : 'parazeloo' – to stimulate alongside – to excite!
Do I maintain a vision for God even when it lies beyond the horizon (11:13-14)?
Part of our bible study teaching series of messages preached through Paul's letter to the Romans. Free to download audio mp3 recordings of this sermon and other sermons are available at the end of this blog and on the website page.
Yours by Grace in Christ
Dr J Stewart Gillespie