Love's Convictions Romans 15:1-13

Text: “...Be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 15:5-6.

Good morning, Spirit-led Christian!  Because Christ has loved you - with all your weaknesses, faults, and failings - and loved you enough to lay down His very life for you upon the Cross; you are led by the Holy Spirit within you to love others who seem, perhaps, even weaker in faith than yourself.  This is what I call Love’s Convictions: a love within which reveals a strong outer conviction to love others as Christ loves us.  This could also be referred to as Spiritual love in action.  (James 2:26)  (John 13:34-35)

It is every true Christian’s reasonable duty and God-given responsibility to exercise a love towards weaker, more apparently vulnerable, brothers/sisters in any given Church group.  There is indeed one way of ensuring that we are consistently trying to exercise this true Christ like love.  (James 1:22)

This method entails a simple reminding oneself of one’s own personal weaknesses, faults and, if we are honest, frequent failings when compared - not to the local Pastor, not to a respected and otherwise Godly elder; nor to the Sunday-school teacher - but to the altogether Holy and truly perfect, Christ Himself.  (1 Peter 1:15-16)

Christ is God’s standard for us in all things, but especially in the area of righteousness - an asset of which we mere mortals are completely devoid.  (Romans 3:10) (Isaiah 64:6)

Therefore, when we are honest with ourselves as to our own personal and utter failure to match up to Christ’s perfection, we shall be more ready to receive the weaker, more apparently vulnerable, believers into our fellowship and to encourage them to be strong in the Lord.  (Matthew 7:1-5) (Galatians 6:2)

The Lord is bigger that all our pathetic problems, faults, and shortcomings; His grace is indeed all sufficient for us.  Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!  Amen.  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

However, with the above concept in mind, there is one thing we must not forget.  The Lord cannot abide blatant hypocrisy!  We must, therefore, be sure to follow closely the revealed instruction given to us in verse seven of this morning’s Bible reading.  We must be gracious in receiving other born again believers, knowing how gracious the Lord Jesus has been in receiving weak, Hell-deserving, sinners such as we.  (Romans 6:23)

If we can comprehend this concept more fully, and put it into practice as it pertains to other ‘weaker’ brothers/sisters, we shall in fact prove to ourselves that we possess a love which convicts.  A love which does not convict us into practical action is a love which is selfish, and useless as a means of bringing glory to the Lord God.  (1 John 4:7-8;21)

True convicting love is also exercised in plainly spoken rebukes to those who are seen to be either flaunting obvious weaknesses before a fault-finding world, or persisting in sin which is clearly open to the fellowship group and thus a hindrance to younger believers in the faith. (i.e. cigarette smoking!)  (1 Corinthians 6:12) 

Yet, convicting love rebukes, corrects in a spirit of Christ like meekness, and such corrective rebuke is given at all times in order to restore the offender to close fellowship with God and with the Church group.  It cannot be criticism for criticism’s sake!  (Galatians 6:1) (Romans 3:22-23)

With the present lesson in mind, let us therefore love on with convicting love, yet, ‘be there’ at great personal depth for each other, and for all those of ‘ precious faith...’ in Christ Jesus.  Amen!  So be it, Lord.

Thought:  When searching for faults - search FIRST for your own!

Stumbling-Blocks? Romans 14:1-23

Text:  “...But judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”
Romans 14:13.

Good morning, potential Christian stumbling-block!  Everyone who professes the Name of Christ Jesus as Saviour and Lord - the writer included - can be a potential ‘stumbling-block’ to other believers.

“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  (Matthew 26:41)

Disputes and bickerings within the universal Body of Christ, the true Church, are one of the greatest causes of Spiritual hindrance today.  The Church desires to do great things in the service of our Redeemer King, Jesus the risen Christ, yet we find our power coming in short bursts instead of a steady flow of world-shaking energy which might threaten to turn the world upside down.

“And if a house (i.e. the Church) be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”  (Mark 3:25)

One section of the Church, the universal Body of Christ - all those truly born again of the Spirit of God; by grace alone; through faith alone; in the Cross of Christ Jesus alone - believes fervently in speaking in other tongues, while another believes Biblical ‘tongues’ are proper languages. 

One demands that women wear hats, and forbids females wearing ‘...clothes pertaining to the male...’.  The other welcomes women wearing trousers and devoid of any head-covering – believing that the woman’s hair is her ‘covering’. (Deuteronomy 22:5)     
(1 Corinthians 11:5-6)

One believes that The Lord’s Table should be administered every Lord’s Day, while another disagrees and administers The Lord’s Table once per month. 

Both believing groups of Christians reckon these differences in doctrinal interpretation to be serious issues of separation, and thus, the Body of Christ is divided over secondary doctrines, and consequently weakened against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Each group of believers pray fervently, but their prayers may well be hindered, according to the Word of God.

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go  thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”  (Matthew 5:23-24)

“Likewise ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.  (1 Peter 3:7)

Anything that hinders the prayers of God’s people needs to be dealt with immediately, that the Church may go forth in God’s full strength and not in the strength of our own fallible flesh.

I believe today’s Bible passage deals with the need to have mutual respect for another Christian’s sincerely held beliefs - as long as that belief is not recognized heresy, or a denial of a fundamental doctrine of “...the faith once delivered unto the saints...”.  (Jude 3)

As our passage today clearly teaches: “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” (V.19)

It is so easy to be a serious stumbling-block to Christian power and the vibrant growth of the universal Church.  It is much more difficult to build up than to tear down a believer’s faith in an unseen Lord God - for “ is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

However, as our selected text from Romans 14: instructs us, the Lord thinks it a serious matter when we, as Christians, “...put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in a brother/sister’s way.” (V.13)

With the above lesson in mind, therefore, let us seek to encourage each other in the Body of Christ, and pray unhindered prayers to God.  Let us pray unhindered prayers that we might all be built up in our God-given faith, by the Word of God, and by sound Christian support for each other in Christ’s Body, the Church.  Let us go forth in unified power and claim all for the glory of Christ Jesus.  (Romans 10:17) (Romans 16:27)

Thought: Are you a stumbling-block or a stepping-stone to faith?

Love's Conscience Romans 13:8-14

Text: “Owe to no man anything, but to love one another; for he/she that loveth another hath fulfilled the Law.”
Romans 13:8.

Good morning, loving Christian!  Your Christian love towards all men, no matter if they be friends or strangers, has been much noticed; and being noticed, has brought great glory to the Saviour’s holy Name.  Love on, beloved, fulfil the Law.  
(1 John 4:7-21)

In what way might the Christian fulfil God’s law by his/her practical loving?  What law exactly might be fulfilled?  To more fully comprehend our daily Bible readings it is very healthy to ask oneself such relevant questions as one goes along.  “Ask, and ye shall receive...” (Matthew 7:7-11)

The law spoken of here in Romans 13: is, of course, God’s Ten Commandments to us.  These Ten Commandments can be found in the book of Exodus, chapter 20:1-17.

It is only through Spiritually imparted love that a person can even attempt to keep these Commandments.  In fact, I believe God gave them to Moses in the first place to prove to mankind the fact that he/she was incapable of keeping them; even while being implored of God the Holy Spirit to do so!  (John 15:4-5) (Ephesians 4:30-32)

The natural (unregenerate) man/woman loves not his/her Creator Lord, and is naturally disobedient to Him.  (1 Corinthians 2:12-16) (Job 14:4) (Romans 7:24-25) (Romans 8:7)

That is why we must, of an absolute necessity, be born again of God the Holy Spirit.  We MUST receive God the Spirit within us - otherwise we can never hope to really love our friends, never mind our enemies!  (Matthew 5:44-48)

Therefore, the primary step to successfully fulfilling God’s law is the new birth, Spiritual Regeneration; being ‘...born again...’ of God.  Then, and only then, can we begin to love God, and learn to love one another with purity of motive and purpose. (John 3:3-8)              (1 Corinthians 13:)

Christ summed up His way of fulfilling God’s Commandments by condensing the Ten Commandments into Two Commandments, as it were; Two Commandments which are based on this morning’s Bible theme of Spiritual love.  (Matthew 22:36-40)

To even try to be faithful in obeying these Two Commandments, is to manifest a Supernatural nature which has its conscience rooted firmly in love.

Look again at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17.  The first four Commandments are primarily directed towards love for God, and instruct us in the manner we must worship Him if, indeed, we truly love Him   (i.e. His Way!)  Christ simply teaches us to love the Lord our God with our all. (Exodus 20:3-11) (John 14:6)

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”  (Matthew 22:37) (Psalm 32:11)

There then follows six further Commandments which are all directed towards our fellow man/woman.  We are to have a conscience towards all others grounded firmly in unselfish love for them. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”(Matthew 22:39) (1 John 4:20-21)

If we truly love our neighbours, we will not steal their possessions; take away their lives; covet their wives; be envious of their achievements, etc., etc.

True Spiritual love fulfils all these God-given Commandments (to the very best of one’s abilities) - and, in this Spiritual manner, fulfils God’s Law.

“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:40)  (Galatians 6:2)

Love on then, Christian!  God, the Holy Spirit, within you IS love’s conscience.

Thought:  She/he loves the best, who loves Love the most - for God is Love.

The Marks of Godly Government Romans 13:7

Text: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man (i.e. civil laws) for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to King...or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by Him (i.e. the Lord) for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”

1 Peter 2:13-14.

Good morning, law-abiding Christian!  Because you love the Lord Jesus, you are always conscientious to abide by the laws of the land, the legal ordinances of the elected government of the day.  You see your obedience to such government as your Christian duty which, of course, it certainly is and therefore, we do well to obey it.

However, there are marks by which we can recognize God’s ordained governments, and unless these marks are obvious in the government in power, then the Christian is in no way morally obliged to submit to, or be obedient to, such rules or laws such an ungodly government legislates.  God’s ordained governments are clearly recognized by their description from Holy Scripture.

Our passage today, in its opening verses, teaches us that we are indeed to be legally submissive to government agencies which are clearly ordained by God.  To resist the laws of such government is to sin gravely against the Lord God.

The ideology known as Anarchy promotes a society which runs without State agencies; a society without an established government; a society which is especially marked by the complete absence of either a standing army or any semblance of, otherwise essential, State force such as a police force or a judicial system.

Now in an ideal world, this type of ideology would be absolutely lovely.  But, we do not live in an ideal world, human nature and the sin stains within it, make some sort of government and state security forces, necessary.  Otherwise it would be a case of the survival of the strongest; what the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes described as’...the law of all men for all men...’ - which naturally evolves into a type of ‘law of the jungle...’.  In such a practiced ideology, might and power would appear to be right, and the weak would go as natural victims to the proverbial wall.

Without a degree of central government control, such anarchist ideology deteriorates into social chaos, and disorder soon rules the realm.  Old Testament times were often described in such chaotic terms of lawlessness.  All doing what was ’right in their own eyes...’(Judges 21:25)

Verses three and four of Romans 13: contain the marks of a God-fearing, God glorifying,  government; and these characteristics must be manifested by a government, if it is to receive the Christian’s  full allegiance and support.  Our subjection, therefore, must be qualified by these marks before our electoral consent can be given to the State government.

First, a Godly government must fulfil two important functions: it must punish evildoers and, at the same time, reward well doers.  That way evil works are curtailed, and good works are encouraged and, as a direct consequences, further promoted. Basically, this is the main function of a God-ordained government - social and legal order.

Government agencies wield power - and power is very prone to corrupt those continually wielding it.  Individuals covet power for power’s sake, and thus State tyrannies are created. (Proverbs 29:2)

Therefore, every government must be made accountable to the people or the society which elects it to office.  If the Christian recognizes an ungodly government, he/she must vote against it, and speak out against it without hesitation.  To do otherwise is to place man-ordained civil powers above God-ordained human government, which is of course gross sin.  (Genesis 20:1-17) 

Thus, we commit ourselves as Christians to the democratically elected government and its laws - just as long as that government submits itself to God’s Commandments and seeks to govern in the spirit of His revealed instructions.  (John 3:3-8) 

To do this is to be a law-abiding citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven; submitting ourselves willingly to the ‘...higher powers...’ that the Lord has Himself ordained to govern.  Amen, so be it, Lord.

Thought:    For the Christian, it’s God first, governments second. 

Practical Christianity Romans 12:9-21

Text: “But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."
James 1:22.  

Good morning, practical Christian!  Your God-given faith has saved you, but your practical Christian works are what proves to a sceptical world the positive fact of your faith.  Your faith is a quality which cannot be seen, tasted, touched, etc., but you practical works soon reveal the faith that is within your Christian heart.  Shine on then, beloved, glorify God.  (Matthew 5:16)

This morning’s passage is probably the most often used passage from Scriptures to promote the practical nature of true Christian faith.  If one can even get close to practicing his/her faith in the spirit of these Bible verses, then, one will very quickly find joy in the Christian life, and be more easily recognized as a GENUINE Christian believer.  God’s Word is quite clear on this important matter of genuine Christian witness.  (James 2:14-26)

These verses from Romans chapter twelve, reveal the true revolutionary nature of Christianity.  The concepts of practice set forth here, if closely followed, would bring about a vast, radical, change in life as we know it now in the 21st Century - a revolution of goodness and love.  Yes indeed, my friends, think about it!  A full blown Christian revolution would turn the world upside down!  And nothing less than that is required today.  (Acts 17:6b)

Police forces would be made redundant; evil would be totally abhorred; and goodness would be promoted diligently.  Lawyers would be reduced in numbers by two thirds, for two thirds of legal business is concerned with criminal defence and prosecution!

Firms making money from selling burglar alarms, bolts, and locks, would have no business either - for mutual trust would reign supreme in cities, towns, and villages.

The perpetration of evil deeds costs societies billions of pounds per day.  those billions could be put to an alternative better use in providing for the necessities of all classes of people all around the world.  In fact, a truly classless society would very soon emerge from the practice of genuine selfless Christianity.

The Casualty Department in local hospitals would find quite a relief in their work load - due to people treating others with our passage’s prescribed practice of kindly affection and brotherly love. 
(1 John 4:7-8)

Churches would be filled to capacity each Lord’s Day with folk seeking to fervently serve the Lord God.  Honesty and peace would pervade the world, instead of current social trends of fraud and criminal chaos. What a world this would be!

However, while this utopia will never be realized until the Lord returns, we Christians are still under obligation to TRY to practice these Christ like qualities and, therefore, be salt and light for the Lord amid so much that is negative and filled with darkness.

Christian faith in action is what we recognize as practical Christianity.

Thought:  A practical Christian revolution begins with ME!