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The Cure for "I" Disease - Romans 15:1-6

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Selfishness is part of our basic human nature. It is the default position for every human being. Left unchecked, everybody would focus on himself and live only to please himself. But redemption brings with it a different lifestyle—one that is focused on others, patient with faults, and motivated by a sense of unity in the church. Let’s consider a fourfold strategy to counteract selfishness and promote harmonious living.

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2/16/2020
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The Cure for "I" Disease
Romans 15:1-6
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Selfishness is part of our basic human nature. It is the default position for every human being. Left unchecked, everybody would focus on himself and live only to please himself. But redemption brings with it a different lifestyle—one that is focused on others, patient with faults, and motivated by a sense of unity in the church. Let’s consider a fourfold strategy to counteract selfishness and promote harmonious living.
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Heart & Soul: A Study through Romans

Heart & Soul: A Study through Romans

When the wrath of God meets the righteousness of God, where does that leave us? The apostle Paul says that we are marked by sin at birth but marked righteous at salvation. In this series through Romans, Skip Heitzig explains the essentials of Christian doctrine that can transform your thoughts, words, and actions. Move from sinner to saint, and from saved to Spirit-filled as you inscribe the essence of the gospel onto your heart and soul.

Outline

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  1. Patient Activity (vv. 1-2)

  2. Personal Conformity (v. 3)

  3. Purposeful Study (v. 4)

  4. Practical Harmony (vv. 5-6)

Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: February 16, 2020
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "The Cure for 'I' Disease"
Text: Romans 15:1-6

Path

Selfishness is part of our basic human nature. It is the default position for every human being. Left unchecked, everybody would focus on himself and live only to please himself. But redemption brings with it a different lifestyle—one that is focused on others, patient with faults, and motivated by a sense of unity in the church. In this teaching, Pastor Skip considers a fourfold strategy to counteract selfishness and promote harmonious living.
  1. Patient Activity (vv. 1-2)
  2. Personal Conformity (v. 3)
  3. Purposeful Study (v. 4)
  4. Practical Harmony (vv. 5-6)
Points

Patient Activity (vv. 1-2)
  • Our society glorifies self-focus. Three in five study participants said the purpose of life is enjoyment and fulfillment. Even 50 percent of Christians say life is about enjoyment and self-satisfaction.1 Paul outlined the first cure for I disease in Romans 15:1-2.
  • Paul used the Greek word bastazo, which means "to pick up and carry a burden."Mature Christians pick up those who are weaker, showing them love (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-21 and Philippians 2:3-4). Some say love is blind, but it should be open-eyed, knowing the faults, sins, and scruples of others, yet still loving them and seeing the best.
  • Christian liberty has three parameters (see 1 Corinthians 10:23): Is it helpful?Is it addictive?Is it loving?
Personal Conformity (v. 3)
  • The second cure is conformity to Christ. Jesus' life was marked by selfless love as He sought to please the Father. Jesus spent His entire life serving others.
    • He was born in the lower class so anyone could come to Him and relate to Him
    • He washed the feet of His disciples at the last supper, though He was suffering
    • He focused on the needs of others while on the cross (see Luke 23:34, 43 and John 19:26)
  • We must conform ourselves not to the culture but to Christ (see Philippians 2:5). We are never more like Satan than when we are selfish, and never more like Jesus than when we serve others.
Purposeful Study (v. 4)
  • "Whatever things were written before were written for our learning" (v. 4). Paul quoted Psalm 69 in verse 3, spring-boarding to a principle he later spoke about in 2 Timothy 3:16: Scripture was written to guide us in godly living.
  • The early church was devoted to the "apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42), which included principles taken from the Old Testament, and later, the New Testament. If we don't know what the Bible says, we'll be prone to believe anything.
  • Study reprograms us from self-focus to being focused on God and others; daily doses of Scripture help us see clearly; and studying the Word re-focuses our vision, helping us to prioritize God's desires, rather than what society deems important.
  • We study the Bible that we "might have hope" (v. 4). When we study God's love, patience, and work in our lives, it gives us hope and reminds us of Jeremiah 29:11.
Practical Harmony (vv. 5-6)
  • Paul concluded with a prayer, showing us the final cure: harmony. There are many things Christians don't agree on, but we must agree on the essential components of the faith (as outlined in the early statements of faith, known as the creeds).
  • In this passage, Paul stated that He is the "God of patience," or steadfast endurance (v. 5).We need to stick to Christ and His people until we get to heaven, and the characterizing factor of both relationships is love (see Mark 30-31).
  • As Jesus prayed for harmony in John 17:20-23, ("that they may be one even as We are one"), we should pray to be "like-minded toward one another…[that we] may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 5-6).
Practice

Connect Up: The expectations of God for His people derive from His character. Because God is love (see 1 John 4:7), He yearns for His people to love (see Mark 12:30).  Because God is peace (see 1 Corinthians 14:33), He yearns for His people to live peaceably with others (see Romans 12:18). The same holds true for unity. Because God is One (see Deuteronomy 6:4), He yearns for His people to be one in mind and heart. Theologically, the unity of God is known as simplicity. Simplicity means "without parts" and "indivisible." There are no seams; He is absolutely unified. The Trinity (God's tri-unity) does not go against the nature of God's unity but reinforces the relationship and equal nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—unchangeable and inseparable, a mutual exchange of love and will within the Godhead. Look up the following texts and discuss God's unity: Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 37:16-20, Isaiah 45:18, Mark 12:29, Romans 3:30, 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:5, and James 2:19.

Connect In: Expand upon Pastor Skip's four main points. Why are patience, conformity to Christ, study of Scripture, and harmony essential for the church in our day and age? How are all four elements being attacked by outside forces (e.g., culture calls for people to conform to it, rather than to Christ)? What practical steps can you take to ensure you are abiding by the teaching of Romans 15:1-6?

Connect Out: How would you reach out to a person with the I disease? Here are four areas to discuss: First, the Christian must preach Christ—His love and grace—to someone. Second, the Christian must practice Christian behavior (conformity to His person), showing them Christ's love. Third, be patient with the person. Four, pray for the person. Take time to pray for people with I disease (perhaps starting with yourself), asking God to intervene.


1 Josh McDowell, "Parenting," 2005, https://s3.amazonaws.com/jmm.us.media/Parenting+-+Research+2005+and+prior.pdf?iframe=true&width=100%&height=100%, accessed 2/17/20.

Transcript

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The Cure for "I" Disease - Romans 15:1-6 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Good morning.

[APPLAUSE]

You know what I like about this service? You're the noisiest.

[CHEERING]

You're the rowdiest. I actually like that. It's called feedback. All speakers love feedback. So--

We missed you!

So thank you. What's that?

We missed you.

Oh, I appreciate it. Trust me. I missed you, as well. I do want to thank you for last week's generosity with Reload Love. Just such a mind blowing thing. And we will be giving you updates as we dispatch those pastors and evangelists and build those buildings. We'll show you what you have done as it happens.

This coming Wednesday night, we're in the Bible from 30,000 feet. The books on the docket will be the book of 1 and 2 Timothy. You can read through those before Wednesday night. And then next weekend, you know who's going to speak here?

Raul Ries.

Raul Ries. Anybody remember Raul Reese?

[APPLAUSE]

So as Raul would say, it's neat.

[LAUGHTER]

It's heavy, man. It's so neat.

[LAUGHTER]

I'm an equal opportunity mocker.

[LAUGHTER]

I've mocked Raul since I've known him, and I've known him a long time. When we started this church, he came out here and helped out and did some events and stuff on the radio. So I have a great admiration and love for Raul. He's passionate about Jesus, about preaching the gospel. He's never veered from that. He's a Great Bible teacher, and he's also really neat. So come out next week and hear Raul.

Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Romans chapter 15? Chapter 15. It's been a long haul in Romans. And I've loved every minute of it. Today we're in Romans chapter 15.

The message that I want to bring today, based on our text, is the cure for "I" disease. Not vision, I'm talking about us, ourselves. I, me, mine. A cure for "I" disease. Somebody once said that a man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package. There are millions of such packages everywhere we look.

I came across an article, a study in the Journal for Social Psychology and Personality Science. And it was an article on clinical narcissism. You know what narcissism is. This is clinical narcissism defined by heightened feelings of entitlement, decreased morality, and a dog-eat-dog mentality. Sort of sounds like politics, doesn't it?

But according to this article, this condition has increased by 30% in the past 20 years. What really got my attention is it said toward the end of this article two out of every three people now measure high for the disorder. Two out of three. If you have two out of three people living for themselves all together in a society, not going to be pretty.

There is even a book put out about four years ago called The Narcissism Epidemic, written by two psychologists, Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell. But here's the takeaway statement. As they explore narcissism in America, they said, "We live in a culture that not only tolerates narcissism, it encourages narcissism."

Now the book cites several examples, and I'm not going to divulge everything in the book. We're not here for that. But they give some examples. One example is on a reality TV show, a girl planning her 16th birthday party wants a major road in town blocked off so that a marching band can precede her grand entrance onto the red carpet.

OK. This is living with a heightened or an exaggerated idea of one's own importance. Now it is also possible, according to this book, to hire fake paparazzi to follow you around, snap photographs of you when you go out at night, so that you can even take home a faux celebrity magazine cover featuring all the pictures of you.

Our society has "I" disease. It's all about I, it's all about me, it's all about my. That's not even a coincidence, I think, that we have devices like iPhone, iPad, iMac. Because that's really what it's about.

[AUDIO OUT]

[LAUGHTER]

--batteries out. Thank you. Is this better?

Yes.

OK. Let's try this. I've told you before, and it bears repeating, that this age has been called the age of the selfie. We all know what selfies are. We all have the phones that take selfies. According to Google, 93 million selfies are taken every single day, 93 million selfies.

Every third photo taken by those age 18 to 24-- I don't want to disparage any age group here. This is Google, after all. Every third photo taken by those ages 18 to 24 is a selfie. That's a preoccupation with oneself.

Age 16 to 25-year-old women will spend 16 minutes taking an average of three selfies per day, which totals up to be five hours a week spent on this endeavor. Now where does this all come from? How did this all come about? It's simply the result of a culture who asks and answers the question, what is the meaning of life. Why am I here?

Everybody asks that question, what is the purpose of life. 61% of Americans, that's three out of five Americans, say the main purpose of life is enjoyment and personal fulfillment. Now that probably doesn't shock you. And it perhaps doesn't shock us because 50%-- that's 61% of Americans. 50% of those who call themselves Born Again Christians say life's purpose is about enjoyment and self-satisfaction.

So essentially, when you have God's people trying to be like all the rest of the people-- because, after all, we want the rest of the people to think we're as cool as they are. They're cool. We just want them to think we're as cool as they are. Whenever hipness is more important to us than holiness, this becomes the result.

The church, though we're part of our society, is anything but like the society. We are, in fact, to be counter-cultural, counter-cultural. We are the antithesis of everything the world thinks is important. GK Chesterton wrote, "We do not want a church that will move with the world. We want a church that will move the world."

Now the last time we were together in Romans 14, my son Nate closed with an illustration of four chairs that were up here, and gave practical tips of discerning God's will in the gray areas of life. I want to take it a step further, because Paul does in Romans chapter 15, and give to us the cure for "I" disease, "I" disease, selfish living. These are practical steps to overcome selfish living.

Romans 15:1. "We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please himself. But as it is written, the reproaches of those who reproach you fell on me. For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Therefore, receive one another, just as Christ also received us to the glory of God."

I'm going to give you four steps to overcoming selfishness. They're written for you in your worship folder, but I'll announce them. Patient activity is the first. Personal conformity is the second. That is, we are to conform to an ultimate example. Purposeful study, that is study of the scriptures. And then fourth is practical harmony. I'm going to explain each of those four.

But let's begin with the first, patient activity. Now you'll notice verse one says, "We then, who are strong." I wonder if you are evaluating yourself, and maybe your coming out the other end of that evaluation saying, yep, yep, that's me. I'm strong. I'm mature. I'm an older believer. I've walked with the Lord for some time.

Awesome. Good. We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples, the sensitivities, the taboos of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. Now the entire tone of the paragraph that we're considering-- the entire theme is one of patience. We're to be patient with people.

In fact, did you notice verse four? "Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Notice what God has called in verse five. "Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus."

We who are more mature ought to have a greater level of patience than someone else. It is sometimes, I'll grant you, hard to be patient, especially with more legalistic people, people that are described in these chapters, a weak brother. But that is exactly what we are called to do.

Now the weak Christian has certain convictions, strong convictions. Paul calls them scruples of what is allowable and what is not allowable. Now they may not be right, biblically speaking. And you who are mature, you know that. You go, gosh. This person is so hung up on that, and it's not a big deal.

But it is a big deal to the weak brother. So what are we to do with him? Well, it says that we are to bear with the scruples of the weak. Now let me tell you what that doesn't mean. It doesn't just mean to put up with. OK, I'll put up with you. Man, I got to put up with you.

The idea means to bear up alongside. It means to carry a burden with. This poor brother is burdened by what he can or cannot do. It's such a hang up. He's so legalistic about it. So come up under him and carry that load, and help him or her work through that to where it's no longer a burden. That's the idea of bearing up.

So it doesn't mean if you have a friend who thinks as a Christian you shouldn't listen to certain types of music, especially that loud rock and roll music. You shouldn't listen to that. You're a Christian. That doesn't mean you invite them over, turn your stereo up to 10, put on a loud rock song and start doing a dance next to your weak friend. That's not going to help him or her. Really, it's not going to help anybody.

If you have a believing friend who's a vegetarian, you bring him over and you cook yourself a big steak and you're just sort of smacking in their face. Man, I wish you had the liberty to eat this. That's not love.

[LAUGHTER]

If you have a friend who thinks Christians shouldn't drink alcohol, you opening up a six pack and downing that in front of him is not showing love to the weaker brother. But often, our attitude can be, well, I'm more mature. And thus, I need to be around people who are more mature, like me. No. You need to be able to hang out with a weaker brother or sister and bear up with them, and love them.

If you are more mature, you will do that. By the way, this is a theme throughout all of the New Testament. Philippians 2, Paul writes, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in loneliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."

Then, in 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul talks all about eating meat sacrificed idols and certain activities like that, he says, "Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more. To the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some."

Some people say love is blind. No, it's not. Love is fully aware. It is open-eyed. It's open-eyed to people's faults, to people's sins, to their weaknesses, to their phobias, to their hang ups, to their scruples. They're aware of not only theirs, but our own.

But then love comes alongside and his patient. 1 Corinthians 13-- love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. So that's patient activity, bearing up. Patient activity.

I've always loved Mark Twain. I've loved the way he can turn A phrase. I loved the way he looked at things, loved his writings. Especially when he went to Israel for the first time and only time, and he wrote about it. It's so humorous.

But if you know Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens the author, you know that he had a problem with God. He had a problem with Christianity. He was turned off by Christianity. You know why? He was turned off by Christianity because he was turned off by Christians, especially Christian leaders.

So when you read his writings, you pick up on this. And here's the back story. As he grew up, he knew elders in the church and deacons in the church who owned slaves and abused those slaves. He heard some of the church leaders use foul language, saw them practice dishonesty during the week, while speaking so piously on the weekend.

It just turned him off. It's not that he didn't see real Christians in action. He did. His mother was a strong, devout believer. His wife was also a strong believer. But what bothered Mark Twain was the bad teaching along with the poor example of church leaders, that eventually he became bitter toward the things of God.

So Christian liberty, your ability to do whatever you feel like doing-- after all, you're an American. You should be able to just do whatever you want. Don't judge me, bro. Right? Your freedom-- our freedom is curtailed by three basic things. They're all written about in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 and chapter 10.

I won't have you turn there, but let me just say what they are. According to Paul, the Apostle, you can do anything you want. But whatever you want to do, that is curtailed by three things. Number one, is it helpful? Number two, is it addictive? And number three, is it loving?

Is it helpful? Is it addictive? Is it loving? Paul said, "All things are lawful for me." Loosely translated, I can do anything I want. But then he said, "But not all things are helpful." One translation says expedient.

I may have the freedom to do this. But if I do this, will this push me forward, onward to be more like Christ? Is it helpful for me to reach my goal? So number one, is it helpful?

Number two, is it addictive? Paul said, "All things are lawful for me," this is 1 Corinthians chapter 6, "but I will not be brought under the power of any." So you might feel the freedom to do that. But if that thing you feel the freedom to do starts to control you instead of you controlling it, don't do it. Is it helpful? Is it addictive? Third, is it loving. And that that goes to this point here.

Is it loving? 1 Corinthians 10, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things edify," build up. So is this activity showing love to somebody else? So first, then, the first cure according to Paul in this paragraph, to the "I" disease, selfish living, is patient activity. Be patient with those who are weaker.

The second step is personal conformity. Now what Paul does is he gets off of them an off of himself, and onto the ultimate example. And who is the ultimate example? Jesus Christ, verse 3. "For even Christ did not please himself. But as it is written, the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." He's quoting Psalm 69:9.

And he's quoting that to simply prove the point that Jesus whole life was marked by selflessness. Not selfishness, selflessness. He wasn't selfish at all. Selfless living. Jesus, at one point said, "I always do those things that please the Father." Every time I read that verse I think, I wish I could say that. I can't.

I can't, in all honesty, say I always do those things that please God. Frankly, I probably won't be able to do that driving home today. But I want to. I aim to. That is my desire. He is our example. Jesus said, "I always do those things that please the Father."

But then he said this. You'll remember this. He said, "For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." In other words, Jesus entire life was not a selfish life, but a selfless life. Here's a little bit of a background, a couple examples.

When Jesus was born he was not born into an upper class family, but a really poor, lower class family. Why is that important? It means anybody can come to him. He wouldn't intimidate anyone. It didn't matter what background you are from. Anyone can come to and relate to him.

Second, Jesus was lost at age 12 in the temple, not because he was being bad, not to dishonor his parents. But in his own words, "I must be about my Father's business." It was all about serving the Lord. On the hills around the Sea of Galilee, he taught people long into the day, served them long into the day, even fed 5,000. They didn't pack their lunch, so he served them there.

At the Last Supper, he got up from the supper and he washed his disciples' what?

Feet.

Feet. Who does that? Servants do that. People who care about others do that. He washed their feet, even though he was the one who was about to suffer. Then, after the Last Supper, you know the rest of the story. He paid the ultimate sacrifice, performed the ultimate service alluded to here, quoting Psalm 69:9, the cross.

Then, when Jesus was on the cross, remember what he said? Did he say things like, you creeps! Why would you do this to me? This hurts. Ouch! I'm coming back. I'm going to get you.

No. His words were things like this. Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing. His words were like what he said to the insurrectionist to one side. Today you will be with me in paradise. He just took a little modicum of believing faith that man had and said, it's enough to get you to Heaven. I'm taking you with me.

He said things like looking at his mother and John the Apostle, "Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother." In other words, here I am suffering on a cross, but I care more about my mother's future than my own personal pain.

So while performing the ultimate act of love for salvation, he thought of others. If Jesus would have only thought about himself, he never would have gone to the cross. Heck, he never would have come to the Earth. I'll take a pass, Father. I don't want to go down there.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, "If it is possible, Father, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." Remember that next time you take communion. Whenever you crush the communion bread in your teeth and you put that juice up to your lips, you and I we are celebrating and remembering the one who did not please himself.

Now if you and I want to be cured of "I" disease, of selfish living, we cannot conform to our culture. We must conform to our Christ. We must conform to our Christ. Remember Philippians chapter 2? You'll remembered as I say it, verse 5. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, thought it not robbery or thing to be grasped to be equal with God. But he poured himself out. He divested himself. He made himself of no reputation, and he became a servant. Let this mind be in you."

Have the same attitude toward other people, in pleasing other people that Jesus had. I've said this before. It. Bears repeating you and I, we are never more like Satan than we live to serve ourselves. Easiest thing in the world, the default position of a human being, to serve yourself. Look out for number one. It's all about me.

We are never more like Satan than when we serve ourselves. We are never more like Jesus than when we serve others. His whole life was marked by that, serving the Father and serving others. Do you know what these letters mean, WWJD? What do they mean?

What would Jesus do?

What would Jesus do? Now most people know that as a movement that began back in the 1990s by a youth pastor in Michigan who came up with these little bracelets, what would Jesus-- WWJD. But it actually started about 100 years before that, in the 1890s with a little book that was published called In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. In His Steps, subtitled What Would Jesus Do?

It's the story-- by the way, this book sold about 50 million copies. It's one of the best selling books of all time. In his steps is a story of a pastor in Illinois, I think Raymond, Illinois, outside of Chicago, who started challenging his own congregation with this thought. What would Jesus do?

And he said, tell you what. For the next year, I'm going to challenge you. We're going to challenge each other to think like this. What would Jesus do? So before you do anything, before you go on any vacation or make any choice in your business, in your family, just ask yourself the question what would Jesus do. That's the theme of the book.

Well, the story goes on to share how this whole congregation, in asking that question and applying that question in every area of life, the whole church got changed. The whole community eventually got changed. What would Jesus do? It's a great thought.

It's a great story. But anybody who has actually tried to do what Jesus would do will tell you that's so hard. Because it is so against human nature. A story about a mom making pancakes for her boys on a Saturday morning-- she had two boys. Kevin was five years old, Ryan was three years old. She's making pancakes.

These kids start arguing about who's going to get the first pancake. You've got kids, grandkids? You know what this is like, right? You've lived this before. They start argue about who's going to get the first pancake. She thought, perfect. Perfect opportunity. Perfect teaching moment.

So she bent over and she goes, "Boys, you've heard me teach on this before. If Jesus were here, what would he do?" Before they could answer, she said, "Jesus would say, I'm going to let my brother have the first pancake." Well, Kevin, being a little bit older, turned to his younger brother Ryan and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus."

[LAUGHTER]

If the hero of the story is Jesus and he gets pancakes second, that means you be Jesus. Because I want them first. It is hard to do. It's what we are called to do. And we have the example in Jesus.

So patient activity followed by personal conformity, number three, followed by purposeful study. And I want you to look with me at verse 4. After quoting Psalm 69, notice how he writes this. "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." OK.

In quoting Psalm 69:9, he now takes the quote, springboards into this principle. And he talks about the scriptures and the purpose of the scriptures, that we might have hope. Question-- what scriptures was Paul referring to in this verse?

Not the Gospel of Matthew. Not the Book of Revelation. They weren't written as we know them. He is specifically referring to the Old Testament scriptures and its place in the life of the Christian. So when Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for reproof, correction, instruction, and righteousness," et cetera, for us we understand that means all of the Bible, Old and New Testament. But when Paul wrote that, it specifically referred to the Old Testament, the very part of scripture many Christians never read. The Old Testament is what he's quoting out of.

The early church was a learning church. When they got together, that was front and center for them. They needed to learn what the Bible said. So acts 2:42, you know it well. They devoted themselves to the Apostles' doctrine. Fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. Right? You know that verse.

What a list. First on their list was the Apostles' doctrine, the Apostles' doctrine. I think if the modern Christian were to come up with a list of the most important values that they would devote themselves to, it probably wouldn't include that. It might include things like we devote ourselves to love, we devote ourselves to singing, we devote ourselves to service, we devote ourselves to mission.

I mean, how many people, Christians, do you know that are devoted to doctrine? In fact, ask your Christian friend that this week. Go up and say, hey, are you devoted to doctrine? You're going to look at you like you are from Mars.

[LAUGHTER]

What, doctrine? Doctrine isn't important. Jesus is important, not doctrine. You'd never know about Jesus unless you had doctrine. Doctrine just means good, solid, real wholesome teaching. That's what doctrine means.

But I will say-- and it's sad, but in the average Christian bookstore-- and there's not even many of those left anymore. The best selling books are not books on doctrine. They are books on personal lifestyle or marriage or a number of other things, but not doctrine.

"But they," Acts 2:42, "devoted themselves to the Apostles' doctrine." John Stock put it this way. One might say that the Holy Spirit opened a school in Jerusalem that day. The school teachers were the apostles, whom Jesus had appointed and trained. And there were 3,000 pupils in kindergarten. It was a learning church.

Being devoted to the Apostles' doctrine simply meant the Old Testament as now interpreted by the apostles, the earliest followers of Jesus. First on their list, they were devoted to that. What the Bible does predict at the same time is that the time is coming when men will not endure sound doctrine.

Question-- why is this-- why is studying the scriptures so important to overcome selfishness, this "I" disease? Here's the answer. Because it reprograms us, that's why. As I read the Bible, and I do most every day, my mind, my thinking gets reprogrammed. I move from my default mode, which is selfish thinking, selfish orientation, thinking about just myself, my needs, me, planet me. And I start thinking about what God wants and how to please others.

I become God oriented and others oriented. It reprograms me. Daily doses of this scripture help us see clearly. You need the Bible in order to see clearly. Because your vision and mind will get fuzzy and foggy if we just watch TV and stare at that stupid little Instagram feed. If that's all we do, our thinking is going to get foggy and fuzzy.

CS Lewis said, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." Through the scriptures I can see everything else. It becomes for me a lens by which I view all of life. My world view is formed by the lens of scripture. That's why I say purposeful study. All these things were written for us.

And notice how he ends that verse. That we, through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have what? Hope. Here's what I think it means. When I read those stories in the Bible, I walk away with a God who is incredibly patient with people. And that gives me great hope.

I go, man, God is long-suffering. Man, he endures. Man, he puts up with me. It gives me hope. An easy verse, an obvious verse, Jeremiah 29:11, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord. Thoughts of peace not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." He was saying that to people who were suffering a captivity, but he was giving them hope.

So patient activity, personal conformity, purposeful study-- let me give you a fourth and a final thought in this paragraph to overcome selfishness, "I" disease. Practical harmony. I'll explain that, practical harmony. Look at verse 5.

"Now may the God of patience or endurance and comfort grant you to be like minded, that is patient, toward one another according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, receive one another just as Christ also received us to the glory of God." You know, there will be in this life lots of things that you and I will not agree on, even as brothers and sisters in the same family. I want you to know, that's OK.

It's OK because at the end of the day, you and I, we agree on the essentials. That's what makes us brother and sister. We all agree in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. We all agree in the physical bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We all agree that God reveals himself and three persons, a Trinitarian God. We all agree on that.

We agree on the virgin birth. We agree on the essentials that make us all essentially Christian. There's a lot of other things we disagree on. That's OK. We can still, at the end of the day, high five brother, sister. Because there is a practical unity.

Unity does not mean uniformity. It does not mean we're going to see eye to eye on every topic, every subject, every issue. That is impossible. Christians who are brothers and sisters in the same family will disagree on doctrine. Not a central doctrine, but doctrine nonetheless. They will disagree on styles of worship. They will disagree on days of the week to worship.

Some people say, well, I'm a sabbatarian. I worship on Saturday. Great. We have a Saturday night service. Yeah, but you also have a Sunday service. That's bad. Well, don't go. Go to the Saturday service. Be happy.

[LAUGHTER]

Others say, I only worship on Sunday, first day of the week, resurrection day. Good. We have Sunday services, three of them. Paul says, some people will say all days are the like. That's me. I like to worship Jesus Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then keep doing it every day.

Let each be persuaded in his own mind. But Christians will disagree. For example, some of us-- I'm including myself-- I am pre-tribulational. That is my doctrinal position when it comes to eschatology. I believe that the Lord is coming. I believe that he's going to take his church off the Earth before the rapture. Not everybody believes that. Some are staunchly mid-tribulational. Then there's even a third. I call them post-toasties.

[LAUGHTER]

They're post-tribulation. They believe that he's going to let us go through the tribulation, then rapture us up, then bring us right back. Which is to me, it's like the what's the point position. But nonetheless, there are some who disagree with that. That's OK with me. I want to give people the freedom to be wrong.

[LAUGHTER]

I hope you will give me the same freedom. Some in the church are staunchly Calvinistic. That is, they follow the teachings of John Calvin, in my view, too much. Others swing the opposite direction and side with the theological constructs of Jacobus Arminius. They're called Arminians.

Some like stained glass windows and robes and candles and liturgy and high church music. Others of us prefer a more contemporary feel. But there are others even who like it wilder and looser than that. And I will tell you, I am so glad that our community has churches to fit them all. Because I wouldn't want them all coming here.

[LAUGHTER]

I love them in Christ. You're my brother sister. But hey, me tell you about this church I think you might like.

[LAUGHTER]

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is Jesus, the biblical Jesus.

Amen!

He is God. He is the second person of the Trinity. He came to die on a cross. He rose from the dead. He is coming again. There are some points of essential doctrine. If you're good with that, I'm good with you.

Because verse 6 and 7 says, "That you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, receive one another just as Christ also received us to the glory of God." The greatest form of harmony is when we look past our differences and we glorify God.

And notice what God is called. It's one of the great titles. He is called the God of patience. Now, verse 5. "May the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like minded." God puts up with a lot of our nonsense, lots of our foolishness. So because he's the God of all patience and we follow God, and we have Jesus as the example and the scripture as our guide-- you see the point. You, too, make a decision to be patient. You likewise do that.

Our world, for a long time, has discussed and sang about love. We'll put this up here on the screen. Love equals what? How do you define love? People have tried for a long time to define love. Now I'll say this. The world they don't sing it like this. They wouldn't sing it this way. But the basic default human position of this world, governed by the God of this world, Satan, is this. Love equals me before you.

It is. It's like, oh. OK. I'm glad you're here. You have an opinion. But I'm here now. You know what I think? You know what I want? You know what we ought to do because I'm me. Right? It's all about me.

The easiest way to live is me before you. Because I'll walk away happy. However, the Christian definition of love, the Jesus definition of love, true love looks like this. You before me. It's harder to do. Feels a lot better, though, when you do it.

Because if you really want to glorify God, this is how you live. You before me. I'm going to close with an example. Example of a little boy named Chad. Chad was a shy, quiet, young fellow. One day, he came home and told his mom that he'd like to make Valentines for everyone in his class.

Her heart sank. She thought, I wish she wouldn't do that. Because she had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung onto each other. But Chad was never included.

Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 Valentines. Valentines Day dawned, and Chad was beside himself with excitement.

He carefully stacked them up, and put them in a bag and bolted out the door. His mom decided to bake him his favorite cookies, and serve them up warm and nice with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew how disappointed he would be. Maybe that would ease the pain a little.

It hurt her to think that he wouldn't get many Valentines, maybe none at all. That afternoon, she had the cookies and the milk out on the table. When she heard the children outside, she looked out the window. Sure enough, here they came, laughing and having the best time.

And as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he walked-- as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty. She noticed when the door opened, he came in, and she choked back the tears.

Mommy had some nice warm cookies and milk for you. But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face aglow. And all he could say was, not a one, not a one. Her heart sank. And then he added, I didn't forget a one, not a single one.

Did you hear that? That little boy was not thinking how many Valentines he got. He was rejoicing in the fact that there wasn't a single other child in that class that he had forgotten to give a Valentine to. That illustrates what this is all about.

It's not how many I get, it's how many I give. It's not how many people love me, it's how many do I love. That's how he measured it. He measured it by the very rule that is written here in this text. When Jesus prayed for harmony in John chapter 17, he said to his father, "That they may be one even as we are one. That the world may believe that you sent me."

Our harmony, our willingness to overlook pettiness, and our willingness to grab a hold of what is essential and move forward is the key to strength. The default position is "I" disease. It's who we are as humans. Me before you. I before you.

The Jesus position is you before me. That's love. Let this mind be in us. Let's pray about that. We need to.

Father, as we close a very, very powerful section of the book of Romans, where Paul is writing specifically to those who are learned and educated and mature, strong in Christ, he sees the need of the strong to come along side and bear up with those who are weak, who have certain scruples and convictions that may not be biblically balanced. But nonetheless, they're personally held.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

And to measure what we do by what is helpful, what is addictive, but more to the point here what is edifying, what is loving. Lord, would you help us, especially those of us who are more mature-- maybe we're getting a little crusty around the edges. We need to be tenderized by your spirit to be able to bear and to disciple those who are weaker. Not for any other reason than to give glory to you in Jesus' name. Amen.

How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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5/5/2019
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The Heart and Soul of the Gospel
Romans 1:1-7
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Today we embark on a thirty-two-week journey through the book of Romans. Considered to be Paul the apostle’s magnum opus, this book is largely responsible for igniting the fires of the Protestant Reformation and the Wesleyan Revival. As Paul introduced himself to the church at Rome, he got right to the heart and soul of the matter—the gospel—the good news that presents Jesus Christ as God’s great answer to the pressing need of the human race.
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5/19/2019
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Unashamed!
Romans 1:16-17
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Standing up for and speaking out about our faith in Jesus Christ can sometimes feel awkward and intimidating. Often our message is not received with glad faces or with open arms by the people we work with and live next to. As Paul was planning to visit Rome, he expressed eagerness rather than hesitation to herald this message. Why was that? The apostle gives us five reasons for his readiness and enthusiasm.
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5/26/2019
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Is God Mad?
Romans 1:18-32
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The Wrath of God Is Revealed God is full of love, right? Right! That’s the good news. And Paul gets back to that theme and develops it fully in the chapters ahead. But first, there’s some bad news. Like a powerful prosecuting attorney, Paul made the case as to why we need the good news of Christ. God’s grace is necessary because of our guilt. In this section, we learn about the wrath of God—an attribute that many people can’t wrap their heads (and hearts) around.
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7/7/2019
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Four Mistakes Religious People Make
Romans 2:1-11
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Jesus was not a religious leader. He was a righteous leader. And He was often confronting the religious leaders of His day. Likewise Paul found many enemies among the religious elite of his day, among both Jews and Gentiles. After announcing his theme of good news in Jesus, Paul promptly plunged into the bad news of God’s wrath—a subject that religious people sometimes love (but for all the wrong reasons). Paul tells us some of their most common mistakes.
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7/14/2019
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Hypocrisy Gets an Audit
Romans 2:17-29
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All businesses, corporations, and individuals have blind spots. Auditors can help by giving a clear and unbiased reading of practices and procedures, and then give appropriate recommendations for change. Here, Paul played the role of auditing the hypocrite—the one who has spiritual style but no substance. Let’s consider the assets, the deficits, and the net appraisal of the one who wears a spiritual disguise.
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7/28/2019
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The Advantage of Having the Bible
Romans 3:1-8
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Those who have been raised in a home with spiritual foundations and the teaching of Scripture have an edge over those who were never exposed to such benefits. The advantage of having access to the Bible is enormous, but it is not a fail-safe. Paul addressed the Jews who were caretakers of God’s own words, and much can be applied to anyone who has the advantage of revealed truth but fails to take it to heart.
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8/4/2019
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How Prisoners Go Free
Romans 3:9-26
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Freedom is a huge word for the Christian believer. Picture yourself nervously standing in a courtroom before a judge who has just read the pile of evidence against you. Just before the gavel strikes the bench proclaiming your guilt, a piece of evidence strikes his gaze and he unexpectedly announces your innocence. You can now go free! Here Paul explains how any person anywhere can find hope and freedom because of the gospel.
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8/11/2019
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Old Age; Young Faith
Romans 4
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Our skin may wrinkle but our faith never has to. Abraham’s faith was vibrant and youthful even when he was nearing one hundred years of age. As Paul points to the patriarch Abraham as an example for justification by faith, we can learn what it means to believe God through all the ages of life. How vibrant is your Christian faith? Have you let cynicism and doubt choke out your confidence in God?
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8/18/2019
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Our Benefits Package
Romans 5:1-5
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Why is being a Christian so great? Every unbeliever you meet is asking that question as they observe your life. What are the benefits of living with a committed faith in Jesus? After explaining what it means to be right with God by believing in Christ, and after illustrating that principle with Abraham, Paul gives a short list of some of the benefits of a saved life.
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8/25/2019
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Unrivaled Love
Romans 5:6-11
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Modern wisdom continually tells us, “Love is a verb,” rather than a sentimental feeling. Love is a commitment that involves action. For the first time in the letter to the Romans, Paul introduced the word love and a very singular kind of love—God’s love for us. Wanting to show how secure we are in this salvation, he described the greatest demonstration of love—its proof, its provision, and its product.
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9/1/2019
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A One-Man Show
Romans 5:12-21
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Just one person can do a lot of damage, and conversely just one person can do a lot of good. Paul here showed the effect that Adam brought on by his rebellion and the effect that Jesus bought with His blood on the cross. One caused death. One conveys life. One brought guilt. One bought the gift of grace. The big question is, have you received the gift?
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9/8/2019
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Don’t Look Back
Romans 6:1-7
Nate Heitzig
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9/15/2019
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Winning the War with Sin
Romans 6:11-14
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There is not a person I know who doesn’t struggle with sin. Evil thoughts, bad habits, immoral impulses, and recurring temptations all rear their ugly heads, leaving us exhausted and disappointed in ourselves and wondering if any deliverance is possible. This struggle is real. The war can be fierce. How can we believers (who still have our old natures) win in these battles? Consider this four-step strategy.
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9/22/2019
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The Struggle Is Real
Romans 7:14-25
Nate Heitzig
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9/29/2019
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Safe and Secure
Romans 8:1-11
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As the old saying goes, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” That’s certainly true of Paul’s authorship of this book. He closes chapter 7 on a low note, only to crescendo to a swelling high point in chapter 8. “Don’t despair! You’re in secure hands and you’re safe,” Paul tells us. He reminds us of four facts that should settle every heart.
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10/6/2019
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The New You
Romans 8:12-18
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Most people love new stuff: a new car, a new set of clothes, a new puppy, a new haircut, a new adventure. But the best new thing you could have is a new you! Being a Christian isn’t a temporary reformation but a total transformation. When the Holy Spirit gets hold of a person’s life, He begins the process of a total makeover—changing you from the inside out. As a Christian believer these are among the changes you can expect to see.
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10/13/2019
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The Steady Hand of a Caring God
Romans 8:28-30
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The world to many people seems to be a random place where anything can happen. But a believer can (and should) step firmly onto the soil of life. Why? Not just because God exists, but also because God cares! There is not a single atom nor molecule out of place in God’s universe; His hands and heart are steadily controlling your every breath. Let’s examine some of the richest truths about the quality of care from a loving God.
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10/20/2019
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A Midterm Exam: Five Questions to Test Your Understanding
Romans 8:31-34
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In the middle of any given course or semester, a test consisting of questions is given. This does two things: it measures the student’s grasp of the course materials, and it helps identify any areas that need work. Right in the middle of his sixteen-chapter book, Paul gives his readers a series of questions to jog our spiritual memory and face some wonderful realities about the love of God. Let’s consider five questions in these verses.
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10/27/2019
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For the Love of God
Romans 8:35-39
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Can anyone really comprehend unconditional love? Perhaps the love that parents have for their children is the closest to unconditional love from a human point of view. But life’s circumstances certainly can challenge the idea that God loves us unconditionally. We’ve all heard about God’s love, we’ve sung about it, and we’ve affirmed it with our “Amens!” But as Paul closes out this section of Romans, he moves us into a fixed and secure confession that no matter what life can throw at us, we need never doubt God’s love for us.
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11/10/2019
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God, the Jew, and You
Romans 9:1-26
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We now come to the third major section of Paul’s letter to the Romans that reveals God’s plan for Jew and Gentile. The early church in Jerusalem was entirely Jewish, but by this point, in most other parts of the world, it had become predominantly non-Jewish. But if God made so many promises to the Jewish nation, does that mean those promises are all now annulled? How does Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah fit into God’s sovereign strategy, and where do we fit in?
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11/17/2019
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Salvation: Reverse Engineered
Romans 10:1, 14-17
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Right in the middle of Paul’s great trilogy about Israel (Romans 9, 10, and 11), he gave an expanded view of how salvation operates. These are the seven components that make up the journey for anyone (Jew or Gentile) who comes to know Christ. Evangelism always begins with God’s sovereign election, but it also involves human cooperation. It takes both someone who will transmit the gospel and someone who will receive it.
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11/24/2019
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God’s Plan for Israel—and the World
Romans 11:25-27
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Can God be trusted? More to the point, can God’s promises be trusted? If He promised to the Jews a kingdom, won’t their rejection of Christ cancel out His promises to them? Wouldn’t that mean that God is finished with Israel as a nation? Does their blindness forfeit God’s blessing? Today we’ll get the big-picture view of Israel, the church, and the kingdom age, and I think you will have a few loose ends tied up about God’s future plan for the world.
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12/8/2019
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Now It’s Your Turn
Romans 12:1-2
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The blessings of God and the work of Christ have been flowing like a dynamic stream for eleven chapters so far. He saves, He justifies, He promises, He gives peace, He works everything together for good in our lives, and He plans an epic eternity for us. So how should we respond to all of this? What is our part? That’s what the next five chapters of Romans are all about. The thrust of this next section is: Based on all that God has done for you, now it’s your turn!
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12/15/2019
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Made for Purpose
Romans 12:3-8
Nate Heitzig
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The beauty of God's creation is evident all around us, yet nature is not God's greatest work; mankind is God's greatest masterpiece. It's estimated that to write down one person's DNA blueprint would require 200,000 pages. And God knows every sentence on every page. For the Christian, there's a custom design—a purpose in life to partner with God through gifts from the Holy Spirit. Pastor Nate Heitzig explains how believers can find their purpose in Christ in this message from Romans 12:3-8.
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12/22/2019
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Exercise for Your Soul
Romans 12:6-8
Nate Heitzig
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Americans seem obsessed with fitness and exercise, yet the U.S. is one of the most obese nations in the world. It’s similar in the body of Christ—many Christians are idle, preferring to sit around rather than exercise our spiritual gifts. The key to both spiritual and physical health is balancing exercise and rest. In this teaching, Pastor Nate Heitzig discusses why God gives certain gifts to each member of the body of Christ as well as how those gifts are given so that the entire body might grow and be strong.
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1/5/2020
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Love Is a Verb
Romans 12:9-21
Skip Heitzig
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Perhaps the most overused (but under-practiced) word in human language is the word love. We use the word for everything that includes a mild liking of a meal to having intense affection for another human. Paul is far more practical, knowing that love will show itself in the form of action. Love is a verb. He shows us how the hallmark virtue of Christianity, love, is shown among other believers and in the world, even when they hate us.
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1/12/2020
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The Christian and Government
Romans 13:1-7
Skip Heitzig
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There has always existed a tension between God’s people and human government, especially when we are not in favor of those who are in power. We may find it hard to “render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21) while being faithful to God. The Christians in Rome were no different when Paul wrote this letter. Let’s consider five principles that form a practical theology for Christian believers in relationship to secular human government.
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1/26/2020
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Wake Up Call
Romans 13:11-14
Nate Heitzig
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We are a fallen people living in a fallen world. Romans 3:10 says "none is righteous." There is evidence all around us that Jesus is setting the scene for His return, and Romans 13 is Paul’s call for the church to prepare for that event. Jesus Himself told us to "occupy till [He] comes" (Luke 19:13, KJV). In this message, Pastor Nate Heitzig explores the apostle's wake-up call to believers and helps us understand how we can effectively occupy until Jesus returns.
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2/2/2020
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Acceptance, Judgment, and the Essential Point of Nonessential Points
Romans 14:1-6
Nate Heitzig
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Today it seems that the church has become known for being judgmental and critical, not just toward unbelievers but even among fellow Christians. That's why we must focus on our commonality in Christ alone. In Romans 14, Paul addressed two groups of Christians—Gentile believers and legalistic Jews—who were causing division and friction among the early church. In this teaching, Nate Heitzig shares how to navigate the nonessential points of our faith while embracing unity in the essentials.
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3/15/2020
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How to Treat Your Family
Romans 16:1-24
Skip Heitzig
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I am so honored and thankful to be part of this spiritual family. You are one of God’s greatest gifts in my life! In this last chapter of Romans, Paul’s tone and subject matter is familial—he approaches them not as Paul the theologian, but Paul their brother in Christ. It’s unfortunate that many believers don’t pay much attention to chapter 16 because in it we get a great example of how to treat our own spiritual family.
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There are 30 additional messages in this series.