Thursday, September 03, 2015

Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue



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Resisting Gossip was released on September 3, 2013 by CLC Publications.

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Preview, download, and read the endorsements, table of contents, foreword by Ed Welch of CCEF, introduction, and first chapter here.

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Go deeper into Resisting Gossip with the new participant's guide and Bible study Resisting Gossip Together, the corresponding video teaching series, and the Spanish version, Resistiendo el Chisme.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "What Time Is It?"

“What Time Is It?”
All Roads Lead to Romans
June 28, 2015 :: Romans 13:8-14 

If you remember, two weeks ago, we looked at verses 1 through 7 where Paul, as part of his call on us to live our lives in total dedication to Christ unconformed to the world and transformed by the renewing of our minds–asked us to be submissive to the governing authorities because they are God's servants.

And we said two weeks ago that that is not always easy to do, to be submissive to the powers-that-be. Especially when that speed limit sign says “25 miles per hour.”

And after the week our nation has just had, it’s become much harder for me personally to live out those verses.

But live them out, we must! I’m sure that it was much harder for Paul to live out verses 1 through 7 living under the Roman Emperor Nero than it is for us here today.

Paul ended (v.7) by saying, “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

That’s not how the world operates, but it is how transformed disciples operate. Those with a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now, in verse 8, Paul picks up on that language of “owing” something to someone, but he then takes it in a different direction.

“What Time Is It?”

That’s the title of today’s message. Not a request to look at your watch.

“What Time Is It?”

In verse 11, Paul says that we are to do the things he’s saying, “understanding the present time.”

King James puts it, “...knowing the time.”

Heather and I experienced a good bit of jet lag and time disorientation last week when we traveled to California.

That first day, we were so mixed up because nothing worked according to plan (or at least according to the airlines’ plan). We hardly knew what time it was.

We got there to San Diego at 11pm. We had expected to get in at 5pm, but it was 11pm. But it was 11pm Pacific Time.

Anybody know what time that is here?

Yes, two o’clock in the morning.

And we still had to get a rental car and then drive an hour north to Carlsbad!

So, it was like 3:30am here when we tumbled into our bed at the hotel.

But it was only 12:30am there.

And then it was fall asleep and wake up and try to figure out, what?

“What Time Is It?”

What time is it here? What time do we need to leave to go to the conference?

Where’s the coffee?

We got up, and it was time for breakfast in California, but you all here were having lunch. And we were still tired!

And it was like that a bit all week and then we came back, and we lost 3 hours on the way. We were in Phoenix, and I thought that would be Mountain Time, but it turned out to be still Pacific Time so we got on a flight that took about 4 hours in the air, but when we landed it was 7 hours later.

“What Time Is It?”

And all of this last week, we’ve been readjusting and getting back on this time zone.

In Romans 13, Paul is reminding us what time it is and how we should live in view of that time. What moment are we in God’s plan for human history?

We, as Christians, need to know what time it is and act accordingly.

I have three points this morning, and they are all applicational.

The first is this.

#1. IT IS TIME TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR.

Christian, it is time (it’s always time) to love your neighbor.

That’s what Paul is saying in verse 8.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”

Now, Paul is not forbidding the borrowing of money. He’s not saying that we can’t ever take a loan.

He is saying that if we take a loan, that we must repay the loan. We must fulfill our obligation to pay our debt.

But, he also says that there is debt we owe that we never stop paying on.

It’s the debt to love one another as Christians.

That debt is never ending. That debt never goes away.

We always owe LOVE.

Why? I think it’s because of how deeply we’ve been loved by God.

Remember the first sermon in this series on Romans and how we learned that we are BELOVED of God?

You are loved by God.

And because of that, you are called to love others. And not stop.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” v.9 “The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Do you see what Paul is doing there?

Paul quotes four of the commandments that we might call the “horizontal commandments” the ones often called the second table of the law.

These are the commandments of the 10 commandments on how to treat other humans.

“‘Do not commit adultery,' ‘Do not murder,' ‘Do not steal,' ‘Do not covet,'...and whatever other commandment there may be...” I think that means whatever other laws there are in the Old Testament or anywhere if they are just laws that govern our relationships with other people.

The apostle says that they call be summed up with one rule. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Who does Paul sound like?

Jesus, right? Remember when the expert in the law asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was? And he answered:
“'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Paul is echoing Jesus.

Do you want to fulfill the law? Here is the goal of the law, the focus of the law, the heart of the law, the full measure of the law, the thread that runs through all good laws: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

V.10 “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

It’s always time to love your neighbor.

And if we ask “Who is my neighbor,” then we hear Jesus’ voice again telling us the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Our neighbor is the one near us whom we might have nothing in common with and might naturally despise but has a need that we can fill.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

How are we doing that today?

How did you do this week at loving the people around you?

Not loving your brother, here, but loving your neighbor.

Not just the people in your neighborhood, but the people who crossed your path like that Jewish man who was robbed and the Samaritan took care of?

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

How are you doing at that?

Loving ourselves comes easily, but loving as we love ourselves is not natural. It’s supernatural. It takes the grace of God.

Is there someone in your life right now that you need to show some love to?

Who is it? And what does love look like right now in that relationship?

It’s time to love your neighbor.

Looking back over last week’s Supreme Court decision about same-sex marriage, it struck me that if we had done a better job twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more years ago at genuinely loving our neighbors who had same-sex attraction, we might not be in the situation we are now.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that and there have always been some Christians who did show genuine love to people with those attractions. And no matter how loving we are, there will always be people who are mad at us for proclaiming the truth about God’s good design for sexuality.

But still. The most heart-wrenching things I read this weekend about same-sex marriage was how many people finally felt loved and affirmed and accepted.

What if we, as Christians, had consistently sent the message that those folks, our neighbors, were loved and affirmed and wanted even if they were different? Perhaps some of them, more of them, wouldn’t have made the errors they did in following their confusion and wrong desires and built their lives around a mistaken identity and twisting of God’s design.

Instead of being bullied and ignored and shunned and made-fun of and blamed for everything bad that ever happened. “It’s because of those gays!”

And now it’s going to be much harder to reach them and those who have developed sympathy for them.

It’s past time to love our neighbors. Not just in words but in actions.

“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Who is the neighbor that God is calling you to love right now?

#2. IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP FROM YOUR SLUMBER. V.11

“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

Paul says that it’s time to wake up from your slumber.

I think that the “and do this” is not just “and love your neighbor” but doing all of chapters 12 and 13. All of that stuff we’ve been learning about as being a transformed people.

Do all of this transformed living in view of what time it is. “Understanding the present time.”

What time is it exactly?

It’s time to wake up.

“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

What kind of sleep do you think Paul is talking about?

All of the commentators that I studied this week about this verse agree that the slumber is “moral drowsiness” (Tom Schreiner’s phrase). It’s Christians who are lazy about living the Christian life. Christians who claim to know Jesus but haven’t let Him change them very much at all.

Spiritual lethargy.

People who claim to be followers of Jesus but are asleep at the wheel of their lives.

Paul says, “Wake up!

Hey, you!

What are you doing?

What do you think you are doing?

You say you love Jesus, but you keep living like this?”

The King James says, “...it is high time to awake out of sleep.”

I like that. “It’s high time to get up!”

"Let’s get going, soldier.

Because your commanding officer is on the way."

“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

That’s what time it is. It is almost time for the return of Christ.

And if that was true for Paul 2,000 years ago, how much more true is it for us today?

Your salvation is nearer now than when you first believed.

So wake up and live the life you’re called to live right now. V.12

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

He’s using the categories of night and day to refer to two different epoch or eras.

The present evil age in which we now live is almost over. The day of the Lord when Christ returns and begins to make all things new again is almost upon us.

That’s what time it is. So how should you and I live?

Like the night or the day?

Like the day, right?

“So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Wake up from our spiritual sleepyheadedness and put off and put off.

Put off the deeds darkness (the night) and put on the armor of light.

What’s that?

It’s the weapons we need to fight the ongoing battle we have with sin.

This is call to live out our Christianity.

Yesterday, we had the Membership Seminar here at the church, and we have 6 people take the seminar.

And we studied our EFCA Statement of Faith. Article 9 says this on the return of Christ:
We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission. 
"Godly living, sacrificial service, and energetic mission!"

Paul said, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Are you doing that? Are you awake?  V.13

“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime [there he goes again], not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.”

He’s giving us some categories to put to the “deeds of darkness.”

Orgies or rioting and drunkeness, getting out-of-control with alcohol.
Sexual immorality and debauchery. That’s all sex outside of God’s design for marriage. It includes homosexuality but also sex between a boyfriend and girlfriend or sex between two people who are married to others, that is adultery. All sex outside of God’s good design.
Dissension and jealousy, quarelling and envy.

These are not how disciples of Jesus Christ are supposed to live.

Not because we are perfect but because we belong to the world that is to come.

“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime...”

What time is it?

Is the daytime here yet?

It’s not actually here yet, but we are supposed to live like is.

You and are called to live out the values of the world to come while we live in the world that is.

Wake up from your slumber.

Do you need to hear that today?

Some of you probably don’t. Some of you have tender consciences and you feel every little thing that you do wrong and hate it and regret it and want to change and repent and confess and need to be reminded of Romans 8:1. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

But a lot of “Christians” do need a wake-up call.

They need to be reminded that their life is not about them.

That they are saved by grace and by grace are called to CHANGE.

Do you see how this is another call to be transformed?

We used to be one way, conformed to the world.

But because of the mercy of God, because of the gospel of grace, we are called to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

So we live differently now. We put aside our old lives and we live out the new ones.

If you aren’t, it’s time to start.

It’s time to wake up from your slumber.

And #3. IT’S TIME TO BE CLOTHED WITH YOUR SAVIOR. V.14

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

It’s time to wake up, and it’s time to get dressed.

And what clothes we have to put on!

Not just “the armor of light,” though that sounds really good.

But Paul actually says, “...clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
What does that mean?

It means to become like Him, I’m sure.
It means to live like Him, I’m certain.

It also means to remind yourself of who your Savior is.

Put Him on each day.

Wrap your mind with Jesus.
Wrap your heart with Christ.

Immerse yourself in your relationship with Him.

So that when people look at you and the way you act, they get a glimpse of Jesus.

Do you see the opposite? It’s not Satan. It’s the flesh. V.14 again.

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not [even] think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

Don’t go there. Don’t go to where you flesh wants to go.

Put on Jesus.

The old you has to go. Jesus has to come.

This is another way of saying Romans 12:1-2, isn’t it?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world [take it off, that’s the night!], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind [put on Christ, the day is coming].”

Are you clothed with your Savior?

To be so, you first need a Savior.

Do you have Savior?

Have you come to trust in Jesus Christ and what He did for you on the Cross?

All of you sin, all of your shame, loaded down on Him.

The penalty paid so that you could go free.

Not so that you could feed your flesh what it wants.

But so that you could be freed from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and someday soon even the presence of sin.

I invite you to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior.

And then to put Him on. Not just once but continually.

Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Fight the flesh by knowing yourself to be clothed with Christ and choosing yourself to be clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ who is coming soon and bringing the day with Him.

That’s what time it is.

***

Messages in this Series:

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel
03. The Bad News
04. Hope for Holy Sexuality
05. The Even Worse News
06. The Worst News
07. Justified
08. Father Abraham
09. The Blessings of Justification
10. How Much More
11. New You
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ
14. No Condemnation
15. If the Spirit Lives in You
16. The Spirit of Sonship
17. We Know
18. For Us
19. Who?
20. God's Word Has Not Failed
21. Israel Stumbled
22. God Raised Him From the Dead
23. God Always Keeps His Promises
24. Therefore
25. How to Think of Yourself
26. A Transformed People (Part One)
27. A Transformed People (Part Two)
28. A Transformed People (Part Three)
30. A Transformed People (Part Four)
31. God's Servants

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

#13. What hinders prayer?

Christian Prayer Catechism: Question #13

Q. What hinders prayer?

A. A problem in my relationship with God or with others will hinder my prayers.

If I harbor unconfessed sin or live in disobedience, I cannot expect God to bless my prayers (Psalm 66:18-20, Matt 6:12, Psalm 19:12, etc). The same is true if I am not living a life of love for those around me, especially those in covenant with me (ex. 1 Peter 3:7).

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Twenty One Years of Treasure and Favor

"The man who finds a wife finds a treasure and receives favor from the LORD." 
Proverbs 18:22 (NLT)

Happy anniversary to my treasure and delight. You have been God's undeserved favor to me.

Photo by Isaac Mitchell. I love how he captured the light.


The Happy Husband

Oft, oft, methinks, the while with thee
I breathe, as from the heart, thy dear
And dedicated name, I hear
A promise and a mystery,
A pledge of more than passing life,
Yea, in that very name of wife!

A pulse of love that ne'er can sleep!
A feeling that upbraids the heart
With happiness beyond desert,
That gladness half requests to weep!
Nor bless I not the keener sense
And unalarming turbulence.

Of transient joys, that ask no sting
From jealous fears, or coy denying;
But born beneath Love's brooding wing,
And into tenderness soon dying.
Wheel out their giddy moment, then
Resign the soul to love again;

A more precipitated vein
Of notes that eddy in the flow
Of smoothest song, they come, they go,
And leave their sweeter understrain
Its own sweet self-a love of thee
That seems, yet cannot greater be!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge [poemhunter.com]

#12. Why are some prayers unanswered?

Christian Prayer Catechism: Question #12

Q. Why are some prayers unanswered?

A. No prayers are unanswered; God always answers, “Yes, No, or Wait.”

In this sense, Christian prayers are always answered every time. In another sense, of course, we don’t always know what the answers are or when the “Yeses” will come. Waiting on God for these is a big part of how God uses prayer in our sanctification (Ps. 130:5-6, Isa. 38:9-20). One purpose of so-called “unanswered prayer” is how it motivates us to persevere in prayer. W. Bingham Hunter says, “Unanswered prayer may be God’s way of staying in touch with you” (Class Notes).

Sunday, June 14, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "God's Servants"

“God’s Servants”
All Roads Lead to Romans
June 14, 2015 :: Romans 13:1-7 

The last 6 messages in Romans were all about how God is in the business of changing us. We surrender our whole selves to Him. He transforms us into the people He wants us to be.

And the last message was about what I think might be the hardest change for us to undergo: God’s transformed people love...their enemies.

We don’t repay evil for evil. Instead, we overcome evil with good.

How did you do on that this last week?

Today’s message flows out of that but also onto a different subject.

I’m going to call it, “God’s Servants.”

And if you haven’t read ahead, you might be surprised to find out who Paul says are God’s servants in Romans 13.

It’s not most of us, here, but another group.  “God’s Servants.”

So, in Romans 13, who are the servants of God?

It’s the government, isn’t it?

It’s the “governing authorities” (in v.1) or the “rulers” in verse 3 or just “the authorities” in verse 5.

Paul calls these governing authorities “God’s servant(s)” in verse 4, twice. And again  in verse 6. Did you catch that? There are different Greek words for “servant” in verse 4 and in verse 6, but the general idea is the same.

These folks are the government.

In Paul’s day, they were the Caesar, the Proconsuls, the Senators, the Governors, Tribunes, Magistrates, and many other lower level government authorities.

In our time and place, they are the state and federal lawmakers, the judges and magistrates of the justice system, and those that enforce the law, the executive branch of government, the police, and so on.

The governing authorities.

Paul says that those folks, whether they know it or not, are servants of God.

So if last week’s passage was about how transformed followers of Christ are to relate to their enemies, this week’s passage is about how transformed followers of Jesus are to relate to their rulers, to those that govern them.

And to do so, remembering that God calls them His own servants.

I’m going to draw three main points from these seven verses. All of them are applicational.

#1. SUBMIT TO THE AUTHORITIES.

Submit to the governing authorities. Verse 1.

“Everyone [including Christians] must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Submit to the authorities.
Image Credit
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always feel like doing that.

Let me tell you one of the times when I least feel like it.

When I see one of these!

Man, 25 is so slooow.

I don’t always feel like submitting myself to the governing authorities.

I think that’s one of the reasons why Paul includes this paragraph in his application section on the gospel.

Remember, chapters 12 through 15 are the application of the gospel of grace that Paul has been teaching since chapter 1.

And it’s possible that believers who have received this gospel of grace might get the mistaken idea that they are now above or beyond human authorities.

“I don’t have to obey the law, I’m a believer in Jesus.

I live under grace, not under law. I don’t have to listen to the police or the magistrate or the President of the United States.

I only listen to Jesus! He’s my Commanding Officer.”

Amen, to Jesus being our Lord.

But our Lord has temporarily delegated some authority to other humans.

Yes, sinful humans. Imperfect humans. Often foolish humans.

But, placed by God in positions of authority and calling for our submission. Verse 1 again.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Paul says it twice so that we get it.

The authorities over us are placed there by God.

Now, they don’t always know that, but we now do.

And it’s not just the good authorities that are placed over us by God, but also the not-so-good authorities.

Does anybody know who was the Caesar when Paul probably wrote this letter to the Romans?

It was an evil man named “Nero.”

Someone once pointed out that these days we name our sons “Paul” but our dogs “Nero.”

Now, this was probably written during the relatively good part of Nero’s reign. That was the part where he was still somewhat popular and had not yet set his city on fire nor killed Christians for sport nor hung them up as human torches to light the city and make an example.

This was before that, but he was still an oppressive ruler before that who demanded high taxes and was power-hungry and attention-hungry. He was a tyrant.

I just read a chapter about Nero in a book on church history that I’m reading. He might not have been insane like Caligula was, but he was incredibly dangerous to everyone that wasn’t him. He probably had his mother and stepbrother killed. When he died, the Roman Senate proclaimed him an enemy of Rome.


But Paul says that he was God’s Servant.

Well, Paul isn’t saying that Nero was a particularly good servant of God.

Just that he was in a position established by God and called by God to rule.

Whether he knew it or not. Whether he acknowledged it or not. Whether he did it well or not.

The rest of the Bible tells the same story. Pagan kings like Nebuchadnezzar are told that they are in the position they are in because it is God’s will.

Our Lord Jesus told that same thing to Pontius Pilate at his trial.

“The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

And we, as Christians, are called to submit to them.

Now, what does that mean?

To submit means to place yourself under someone else. It’s a posture. It’s an attitude. Most of the time, it issues into obedience, but it’s more the step before obedience where you recognize that someone else is in authority and you place yourself under their authority.

And not because you feel like. Sometimes you won’t. But because “the authorities that exist have been established by God.”

And God is your ultimate authority!

Now, I think it’s important to say here that human authorities are only temporary and never absolute in their authority.

This is not calling us to do absolutely whatever a human government might ask us to do.
The Bible is clear that when there is a true conflict between human law and God’s law, that Christians are to disobey that human law and obey God’s law.

The apostles were told in Acts chapter 5 by the authorities, to stop preaching the
Word of God.

But they went on preaching the Word of God!

And when they were confronted with their rebellion, Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).

So, there is a higher authority that we must obey when the two authorities are in conflict.

But when they are not in conflict, the higher authority says that we should submit to the lesser authority. (And be ready to bear the consequences.)

Whether we feel like it or not.

Because if we rebel against their authority, we are rebelling against God’s. v.2

“Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

That follows, doesn’t it? If God has placed this authority over you, then to rebel against it, is to rebel against God.

Submit to the authorities.

Don’t commit crimes.

Now, you might hope that we shouldn’t have to say that here at church, but Paul is saying it to the Roman Christians so we probably need to hear it, too.

Don’t commit crimes.

Find out what the law is and follow it.

That’s the general stance, posture, attitude, approach that we ought to have.

Christ-followers should be some of the best citizens in any country we live in.

It’s part of our witness.

The Apostle Peter said in his first letter, “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:13-15).

They are watching us.

People are watching us Christians and watching to see if we follow the law or try to get away with stuff.

If we submit to the authorities, we can silence the ignorant talk of foolish men and maybe lead some of them to Christ!

Don’t commit crimes.

#2. DO WHAT IS RIGHT. V.3

“For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

Now the point here is that Paul is calling Christians like us to do what is right.

When the government is working the way it should (and Paul knows that it doesn’t always work the way it should, but when it does), then you won’t be scared of the authorities because they are concerned with lawbreakers, with criminals.

The government “bears the sword,” that is has the power of coercive weapons, for a reason–to bring wrath and justice on the wrongdoer.

Now, here’s where I think this intersects with last week’s passage.

Last week, we learned that we are not to become vigilantes and pursue our own justice.

We don’t become Avengers for ourselves.

And someone might come to the conclusion that this means that evildoers can just get away with whatever they want to in this world, at least as far as injustice against Christians is concerned.

“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

But you’ll have to wait until eternity for that.

No. That’s not how it works.

God’s justice does come, however imperfectly, in this world, as well.

He has servants to bring that justice. V.4 again.

“For [the governing authority] is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment [or vengeance] on the wrongdoer.”

What is the application, again?

Do what is right.

You’ve got nothing to fear if you do what is right.

That’s what God is after here. He’s not actually explaining everything we might want to know about government and how it’s supposed to work and how it actually does function.

I wish He did! I have a lot of lingering questions after studying this passage this week. I wish it said more about what to do when the government does the opposite of verses 3 and 4.
What do Christians do when the government punishes those who do right and commends those who do evil?

What do you do if you live in Nazi Germany, for example?

Paul is not naive. He knows that government doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to. He knows what the governing authorities did to Jesus!

But he’s not teaching on that right here. He’s teaching on how we are, as Christians, to follow our rulers when they are not asking us to do something wrong.

He’s telling us to do the right thing.

And not just because we can get into trouble if we don’t. V.5

“Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment [wrath] but also because of conscience.”

Because it’s the right thing to do.

And we know it.

Do what is right.

And you can do that no matter who your rulers are.

Paul is calling these Christians to do it under Nero.

You and I can certainly do it under elected leaders in our democratic republic.

It’s really nice to live in the United States of America where our government is largely elected through democracy. We have a lot more say in who our governing authorities are than Paul and the Roman Christians did.

That means, of course, that we also have a lot less to grumble about.

And it should be much easier for us to live out Romans 13 than someone in a more difficult political system.

It doesn’t matter who the rulers are, we as Christians, are called to do what is right.

And here is what Paul says is right:

#3. GIVE WHAT YOU OWE. V.6

“This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Paying our taxes is one of the chief ways that we show that we are submissive to our governing authorities.

Paul say that we should pay our taxes, not only because of possible punishment but also because of our consciences.

We know that paying our taxes is the right thing to do.

But it’s not very fun, is it?

Anybody here love April 15th?

It might be somebody’s birthday, but the for most part, we all dread Tax Day.

Even tax-preparers who make their living off of it, tend to hate Tax Day!

But when we pay our taxes, we are funding God’s servants to do their ministry.

We are paying the public officials to carry out their God-given tasks.

Now, you and I might be unhappy with how they use our tax-money. And amazingly, we actually have a say in that in our democratic society. Paul couldn’t imagine having a say in what was done with his taxes!

We might be unhappy with how they use our tax-money, but the real question is how will God feel about how they use our tax-money?

I wouldn’t want to be in some authorities’ shoes when they have to given an account to our Lord for how they used the tax-money!

If you are God’s servant, you will have to give an accounting for what you did with the authority God granted you.

That’s true of church leaders, and it’s true of parents. And it’s true of police officers and it’s true of judges, and lawmakers, and presidents.

Those with delegated authority will have to answer for what they did with that authority.

Our job, if we are under authority is to give them what is due them. V.7 again.

“Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

The “revenue” here, from what I understand, is indirect taxes. There are direct taxes like property taxes and income taxes. Revenue would be like sales taxes and excise taxes and tolls, that sort of thing. If you owe them, pay them.

Christians should not be delinquent in paying our taxes.

Our Lord taught us that, didn’t He?  I think that Paul is echoing him here from when Jesus said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

Christians should be quick to pay our taxes.

But it’s more than that isn’t it?

We are called to show respect and honor to those in authority over us.

Whether we feel like it or not.

For some reason, we tend to think that public officials are fair game for our disrespect and dishonor and that simply is not true.

The world does that!

The world calls leaders names.

The world shows as much disrespect for anyone they don’t like and especially those in authority.

But we are not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing our minds.

“Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

I know that for many of you, it was difficult for you to respect and honor President Bush when he was in the White House.

For many others of you, it has been difficult for you to respect and honor President Obama while he occupies that role.

It doesn’t matter who is in the chair. We, as Christians, should render our respect and honor to the chairholder.

I am ashamed of some of the things I’ve heard and seen supposed Christians say about our president.

It’s destructive to our witness.

That doesn’t mean that you have to agree or like whoever is in that chair.

But we are called to respect and honor and pray for our leaders, whether we chose them or not.

We owe them that.

Not because they are so great in and of themselves, but because they are God’s servants.  Give what you owe.

That’s as far as we’re going to get today. You can see that in verse 8, Paul takes this idea of owing in another direction. He calls us, again, to love.

We’ll get to that next time.

But this time, I want to circle back to that one little word in verse 5 that begins with a “c.”

Conscience.

What does your conscience say today?

Is your conscience clear?

Or is your conscience pointing something out to you that needs repenting of?

Is there some way that you need to change in your submission to the governing authorities?

Is there some area where you know that you are not doing what is right?

Is there something you owe that you have not been paying?

What does your conscience say?

We could do the right thing just out of fear of punishment, but Christians have a higher motivation. We want to please our Lord.

And our Lord loves to work through our consciences to show us where we are in the right and where we need to change.

Where might you need to change?

Is there a dishonoring statement on your social media that you need to repent of and take down?

Is there a bit of taxes that you’ve been evading?

Is there an attitude of unholy rebellion that needs to be turned away from?

We believe in grace.

We preach grace here.

We only get grace through what Jesus did for us on the Cross.

And we invite everyone to come get that grace!

But that grace doesn’t make us lawless. It actually helps us to submit to authority.

To submit to God’s Servants who are here to do us good.

Let us both receive that grace and use it to fuel our obedience to do what is right and give what we owe to everyone.

***

Messages in this Series:

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel
03. The Bad News
04. Hope for Holy Sexuality
05. The Even Worse News
06. The Worst News
07. Justified
08. Father Abraham
09. The Blessings of Justification
10. How Much More
11. New You
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ
14. No Condemnation
15. If the Spirit Lives in You
16. The Spirit of Sonship
17. We Know
18. For Us
19. Who?
20. God's Word Has Not Failed
21. Israel Stumbled
22. God Raised Him From the Dead
23. God Always Keeps His Promises
24. Therefore
25. How to Think of Yourself
26. A Transformed People (Part One)
27. A Transformed People (Part Two)
28. A Transformed People (Part Three)
30. A Transformed People (Part Four)

Saturday, June 13, 2015