Unity In Times of DisagreementWe hear a lot of talk today about setting goals. Goals are important, but it is important that we set the right kind of goals and know what it is going to take to realize those goals. Most people want to achieve something, but they want to experience the thrill of accomplishing something without paying the heavy price that is always involved. It doesn’t matter whether you are a young athlete who has a desire to experience success in athletics, an aspiring entrepreneur who has a dream about starting a new business, or a brand new follower of Jesus who desires to know God’s Word—there is a price to be paid if you are ever going to realize your goal.
A few years ago I heard about a young Filipino girl named Charice Pempengco. Charice was born on May 10, 1992 in the Philippines. Her mother raised Charice and her brother by herself after she left her abusive husband. From a young age Charice had a beautiful voice. To help support her mother and brother, Charice, began singing when she was seven years old. She entered between 80 and 100 singing contests during the next few years. When she was thirteen, Charice entered Little Big Star, a talent show in the Philippines like American Idol, and was eliminated after her first song. They brought her back as a wildcard later in the show and she went on win third place.
A fan began posting videos of Charice singing on YouTube and people began to take notice. Charice has appeared on Oprah and Ellen, she has sung with Celine Dion, Josh Groban, and many other huge stars. David Foster, the renowned producer, musician, song writer, and star maker, took Charice under his wing and he has helped her put together an album.
When Charice appeared on Oprah, back in 2010, Oprah asked Charice, “What’s the greatest lesson David has taught you?” Charice said, “David has taught me that good is the enemy of great.” I remember watching the episode that Connie had recorded for me. After I heard Charice make the statement I pushed “pause.” I wanted it to set in. What a message for you and me in our walk with the Lord, in our calling from God to serve Him with all of our hearts. “Good is the enemy of great.”
I don’t know if you are like me, but I can easily settle for good. All you have to do is find someone who is not as “good” as you in whatever endeavor you are attempting and then you can feel really good about yourself. I may not be the best, I may not be great, but I’m better than him or her. Don’t push yourself to rise to the next level. Don’t inconvenience yourself by giving up your leisure or pleasure activities so that you can continue to grow and get better. Most are willing to just settle for good rather than pay the price to aspire to greatness. I want to encourage us this morning, whether you are young or old, whether you are a mom, dad, business owner or employee, athlete or academic, never settle for good—aspire to greatness for the glory of God.
If the Apostle Paul were with us this morning he would say, “Amen!” He would shake this building with his “Amen!” Paul aspired to give it all in what he was doing to glorify God. Let me show you what I mean. Paul wrote the letter to the church in Rome while he was in Corinth. Paul had spent years traveling, sharing the Gospel with anyone who would listen, and oftentimes being ridiculed and run out of town. He had spent over ten years traveling on three missionary journeys when he took three months in Corinth to prepare for his journey to Jerusalem, a journey of over 800 miles. Paul’s plans didn’t end in Jerusalem. Paul told the folks in Rome that he planned on coming to see them after he had delivered the offering to the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. That trip in all would be approximately 2000 miles!
He was in Corinth when he wrote the letter to the church in Rome about 57 A.D. Paul didn’t know it at the time, but in a little more than ten years, May or June of 68 A.D., his life would be over. His trip to Jerusalem, to deliver an offering for the poor, would result in his arrest and eventually his execution under Emperor Nero. Paul told the people of Rome that he wanted to visit them, but he had no idea that his two visits to Rome would be in shackles. His second visit to Rome would bring an end to his life. During his first imprisonment Paul wrote a letter to the people of Philippi. Listen to his words.
10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14 NIV)
“Good is the enemy of great.” Do you hear any settling for “good” in Paul’s words? He is “pressing on,” he is “straining toward what is ahead,” and he is in no way settling for second best. Paul wants to know Christ!
During his second imprisonment in Rome, awaiting his execution, Paul wrote a young pastor named Timothy. Listen to Paul’s words.
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV)
Paul’s not looking back, he’s not mired in his unfortunate circumstances, and neither is he throwing himself a pity party. Paul is proclaiming the truths and standing on the promises that he had shared with countless thousands of people throughout the years.
Let’s read our Scripture for today found in Romans 15:14-21. It is my prayer that as we study these verses that we will not only come to better understand Paul’s passion for the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the followers of Jesus, but that we will also come to better understand that this is God’s desire for each and every one of us. Let’s read together.
14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done– 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” (Romans 15:14-21 NIV)
It is interesting that Paul is now ending his letter to the people of Rome in a very similar way to how he began the letter. The letter began with Paul’s introduction in Romans 1:1-17, but I want to read you Romans 1:8-13.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. 11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong– 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. (Romans 1:8-13 NIV)
The people in Rome are people of faith—their faith is “being reported all over the world.” What is it about the faith of the people of Rome that is so attractive that it is being reported all over the world? Well, in Romans 15:14 Paul gives us some insight. He writes,
14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. (Romans 15:14 NIV)
Paul lists three things that make the believers in Rome stand out among the followers of Jesus. It is well worth our time to take a deeper look at each of these three so that we might gain some insight into how we, as the followers of Jesus at Britton Christian Church, might stand out among the followers of Jesus in our own day.
First of all, the believers in Rome are “full of goodness.”
“Full” does not mean “perfect,” but it means filled to overflowing. The Greek word that Paul uses for “goodness” is the word, “?????????” (agathosune) and it describes moral and ethical purity. It includes kindness and thoughtfulness as well as charity towards those in need. Where does this goodness come from? Are the people of Rome just a different breed of cat—somehow better than believers in other parts of the world? Do they have the benefit of a better pedigree than other believers? Not at all. You have to remember that these are the same folks that Paul wrote in Romans 3:9-12 and said,
9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12 NIV)
If “there is no one righteous, not even one…” then that means that this goodness which Paul praises concerning the people of Rome must have come from somewhere or someone else. Is that fair to say? Sure it is.
The goodness Paul has heard about in the lives of the people of Rome has been imparted to them as a result of their turning to Jesus. Once a person turns from their sin and embraces Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives, then goodness should be an apparent character trait of the person’s life. What was previously absent is supposed to become normative in the transformed life.
In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists “goodness” as part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in our lives then His desire is for His characteristics to become part of our character. Listen to Galatians 5:22-23.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)
Another example of how “goodness” is the work of God in our lives and not an expression of our own goodness is found in Ephesians 2:10. Paul writes,
10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
The believers in Rome were simply being and doing what they were created in Christ to do and be. Their heart’s desire was for the goodness of God to overflow from their hearts and mind into the living of their lives.
What a great challenge for us, the followers of Jesus at Britton Christian Church. How are we doing? How am I doing? Is the goodness of God flowing “out of” as well as “into” our lives? Would someone who knows our church say of us that we are “filled with goodness?” To be more specific, would others say of me that I am “filled with goodness” or of you that you are “filled with goodness?” Don’t seek to just be “good” when it comes to living out the goodness of God, aspire to greatness.
Secondly, Paul says of the believers of Rome that they are “complete in knowledge.”
Boy, that sounds like a pretty lofty statement doesn’t it? How in the world, with all of the knowledge available about so many things, can a person be “complete in knowledge?” Well, Paul isn’t speaking about having an encyclopedic knowledge about all things. He is impressed with the believers in Rome because of their knowledge of the Christian faith. How we live flows from what we know. There is no way that you are going to be able to live out the Christian life without an understanding of God’s Word. Do you remember the Scripture we read in Romans 12:2? Let me refresh your mind. Paul writes,
2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 NIV)
You and I both know folks who profess to be Christians, but there is really no evidence that they are followers of Jesus as you watch them live their life. They talk just like non-Christians, they live just like unbelievers, and even when you try to have a conversation with them about the things of God they are not really interested. What is it that sets these folks apart from those who profess to be Christians and you knew it before they ever told you? There may be several answers to that question, but I will tell you one that I believe is foundational—they are experiencing the transformation of their minds and lives through time spent in the Word of God. As we spend time in God’s Word each day God does an amazing job of sanctifying us, molding us more and more into the image of His Son, convicting us of things that He wants to rid us of in our lives, and so much more. Paul wrote to Timothy about the Word of God in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)
God’s Word and God’s Spirit work in our lives in a way that nothing else can if you want to grow in your walk with the Lord and in the knowledge of godliness. Once again I have to ask, “How are we doing?” Is Britton Christian Church known as a gathering of believers that are full of knowledge when it comes to the Word of God and the living out of His Word? More specifically, do people know me as a person who knows God’s Word? How about you, when your name is mentioned do people think about your knowledge of God’s Word? Those are great questions for us to ask and they should be asked regularly.
I want you to know that it is my heart’s desire that people know us as a people who are full of knowledge concerning the Word of God. For that to happen we have to be willing to pay the price so that we might continually know God’s Word more and more with each passing day.
Thirdly, the believers in Rome were “competent to instruct one another.”
They were able to admonish, teach, or instruct one another. Paul uses a very interesting word that is translated “competent” in the New International Version of the Bible. In the King James and New American Standard Versions they use the word, “able” to translate, “???????” (dunamai) which means, “to be able, to be capable, strong, effective, and powerful.” Let me show you some examples of this very descriptive word. Turn with me to Ephesians 3:20-21 and let’s read together.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)
God is able. He is able to do more than we can even imagine. Now if you will turn with me to Ephesians 6:13 so that we can see this word in action again.
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13 NIV)
We are to put on the full armor of God so that we might be able… It is only reasonable to conclude that if we do not put on the full armor of God that…what? We will not be able to stand our ground right? Right. Let’s take a look at one more instance of the appearance of this word that Paul uses in Romans 15:14. Turn with me to 2 Timothy 3:14-15.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15 NIV)
Paul tells Timothy that the Holy Scriptures are able to make him wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. This word that Paul uses in Romans 15:14 is a strong word, it is a capable word. It’s not wishy washy, it’s not a word that you would use to describe “maybe” or “I hope so,” it is a “most definitely” kind of word isn’t it? You bet it is!
Now, let’s go back to what Paul said about the folks in Rome. He said they were able to admonish, instruct, and teach one another. Chuck Swindoll writes,
The word ‘admonish’ comes from a compound of the two Greek words for ‘mind’ and ‘to place.’ The idea of placing something in the mind of another was how the Greeks understood the process of education. The Roman Christians are able to ‘to impart understanding,’ ‘to set right,’ ‘to lay hold on the heart’ in such a way as to influence not merely the intellect, but the will and disposition as well. (Chuck Swindoll, Swindoll’s New Testament Insights: Insights on Romans. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 2010. Pg. 314-315)
The believers in Rome are putting their knowledge to good use. They are using their knowledge of God’s Word and their experience of living the Christian life to teach, instruct, correct, and encourage the other believers in Rome. What an expression of the goodness of God’s grace that was working in them! Paul was commending the brothers and sisters in Rome because they had been busy learning God’s Word, living out what they had learned in all goodness, and using the knowledge they had gained to help build up their brothers and sisters in Christ.
How are we doing? Are we, as a church, known for our godly counsel regarding all matters of living? Do we seek God’s Word for answers to the questions that perplex us in life? When others come to us with their problems do we offer biblical counsel to our friends or do we simply offer them the best advice that we can come up with? When one of our brothers or sisters is living in sin, making decisions that are destructive in their life, do we go to them in love and encourage them to reconsider the decisions they are making? Do we warn them of the consequences of living apart from God? When our friends or family members are suffering do we share God’s Word with them, pray with them, and nudge them into the arms of the Father or do we simply remain silent because we don’t know what to say?
Paul was praising the believers in Rome because they were living out God’s will for their lives. As I’ve studied this verse this past week it has come to me that these three attributes of the men and women of Rome are really inseparable. If we turn from our sin and surrender our lives to Jesus, He will give us His Holy Spirit to indwell us, begin to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit within us, give us a hunger and yearning for the Word of God, and a passion to interact and influence those around us.
I don’t want to mislead you into believing that all you have to do is pray a simple prayer and all of these wonderful changes take place. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, said,
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV)
Paul was comparing himself to the other apostles of Jesus and he said that he was the least of all of them, but that didn’t stop him from working harder than all of them. Yet, when he really thought about all of his hard work he said, “yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” And so it is with you and me. God is the Initiator, He is the Source, and He is the Power for you and me to set our sights on greatness, the giving of our all to Him in service.
Before we get out of here I’ve got to ask you, “Where have you set your sights?” Are you simply ambling through life with no real direction or purpose? If that is the case then simply admit it to God and ask Him for help. Confess that you need Jesus as Lord of your life and watch Him go to work as you go to work setting your sights on gaining an understanding of His Word and using that understanding to bless others.
There may be some here today who have direction in life, but you are misguided. You are passionate, but it’s not about the things of God. Solomon said that pursuing anything above pursuing God is like “chasing after the wind.” I pray that this morning the Lord has shown you that you are off track, your passion is misguided. If He has shown you this truth today then I want to urge you to confess your waywardness to Him and ask Him to set your sights on knowing Him like you’ve never known Him before. I will promise you that He will go to work as you go to work in spending time with Him each day in His Word. God will not only begin to transform your life, but He will use you to touch the lives of many others. What a great new beginning it will be!
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 25, 2014