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Three Radical Refusals

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
December 26, 2023 12:00 am

Three Radical Refusals

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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December 26, 2023 12:00 am

The life of the apostle Paul was indeed an extraordinary one, but what was so extraordinary was not his natural gifts and abilities; it was his whole-hearted devotion to God. In Paul's letter to the Romans, we get a glimpse of his commitment to holy living and discover that holiness demands that we are willing to say "no" as often as we say "yes." Listen to all of the full-length sermons in this series here:



He commends them for refusing lethargy spiritually, refusing the urge to examine the truth without ever executing the truth, to analyze the Bible but never apply the Bible, to read the Word without ever reproducing the Word in life. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, go deep, deeply into the Word of God in your study, but it's good to make sure you surface because people don't care how deeply you go into the Word if you're not demonstrating what you are learning from the Word. Have you ever sat through a church service, listened to a sermon podcast, or studied the Bible at your kitchen table, but what you read or heard didn't translate into obedience? You spent time in the Scripture, but you didn't practice what it said.

Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey will help you. We begin a series called Holy Obsession. You're going to learn that being obsessed with Bible knowledge is not enough. You need to be obsessed with holy living. But how does that work, and how do you do that?

Well, you're going to see during this series, so stay with us. One hundred and seventy years ago, there lived briefly in Scotland a man that is considered to this day a bright, shining light for the glory of God. His name was Robert Murray McShane. He entered the pastorate in 1836 at the age of 23.

He would only serve six years before he passed away. He died in a typhus epidemic when he was 29 years old. Even still, his passion for the Lord had made its mark, and his lifestyle and discipline for Christ became almost legendary. His sermons and writings were read throughout Scotland and in other parts of the United Kingdom. He influenced untold thousands to give their lives and surrender to the Lord. He was obsessed with the glory of God. He was obsessed with the preaching of the Gospel.

He was obsessed with the grace of Christ. He wrote these words in an address challenging believers to live a similar life obsessed with Godly priorities. And I quote him, Remember, you are God's sword, his instrument, a chosen vessel unto him to bear his name.

Now follow these words. In great measure, according to the purity of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talent that God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus Christ. A holy Christian is an awesome weapon in the hand of God.

If there was a word to describe McShane, it would be this phrase, holy obsession. I believe it could be applied as well to the Apostle Paul, who was also obsessed with the glory of God and the grace of God and the Gospel of God. Paul was always challenging the believer, provoking and prodding us along, speaking of our potential and the providence of God and the purpose of God and the life of the believer who is an instrument in the hand of God.

Now in Romans chapter 15, in the middle part, Paul makes a shift in his writing. He's going to inform us that in his way that he is now in the process of wrapping up his letter with the words that he uses beginning in verse 14. Now he actually has a lot more to say, even though he indicates he's wrapping it up. He's like preachers who say, now finally.

And you know there's no finality anywhere in sight. I don't think for a moment Paul is finished and neither am I. But verse 14 is where he begins to turn the corner and most agree that chapter 16 is a rather unfortunate notation because from verse 14 of chapter 15 all the way to the end of the letter it will be personal, warm comments that will reflect his heart on a personal level found nowhere else in this letter. So let's pick our study back up with verse 14 where we left off. And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another. Now you need to understand that Paul is doing a rare thing here. He's commending this church.

In fact, nowhere in this letter will you find a rebuke, which is highly unusual. He writes to the Corinthians and he calls them immature babies. The writer of Hebrews writes to his scattered audience and he says, you aren't listening well.

I'm having to repeat myself over and over again. And Paul will often rebuke and reprove his audience but you do not find it anywhere in this letter to these Roman believers. He is writing that he is grateful and convinced that they are people of character, full of goodness. They are people of conviction. They are filled with all knowledge. They are people that are competent.

They are able to counsel. What I want to do in our study today as we start this series of studies is turn these phrases around, at least in this particular verse, to give us all a different perspective of this text. What I want to do is present to you three refusals in the life of every believer who desires to be an awesome weapon in the hand of God. You see, a person who is good is a person who is choosing not to be bad. A person who is a person of conviction is choosing not to float downstream. A person who is competent to admonish others is choosing not to ignore other people. And for those who are truly obsessed with holy living, your life will say no as much as it says yes.

A holy life is a life of refusing the wrong things as much as it is in accepting the right things. If there was ever a need for radical refusals, it would be in the generation that Paul was living in as much as it is today. If I could digress for a moment, the Roman believers were living in what Seneca, the first century playwright, referred to as the cesspool of iniquity.

He was the one that originated that phrase, speaking of this capital city where Paul was mailing this letter. This cesspool of iniquity was almost beyond description. Everything from bisexuality to bestiality were applauded. The highest political leader of Rome was a known pedophile. Abortion was commonplace.

Unwanted children were left on the doorsteps at night to be carried away by wild animals or worse yet, if there could be a worse yet, they were taken by human predators who would raise the children and turn them out as child prostitutes. A man or a woman in Paul's day who married and remained faithful were mocked by the Roman philosophers as prudes and as simpletons. The religions of Paul's day were a pantheon to gods who were as corrupt and evil as the humans who worshipped them.

In fact, they really worshipped above all things the human body. Drug abuse was so widespread that one time when Paul preached in Ephesus, the people gave up their mind-altering drugs, they dragged out and loaded up in the street their pharmacia, which gives us our word pharmacy, their mind-altering drugs in their repentance to following Christ. There were radical refusals needed in the lives of believers living in Rome, and they're certainly needed today. If a Christian is to have these holy obsessions, that is to be passionate, to be gripped, to be fixated, to be preoccupied, to be fanatical, as it were, or any other synonym you can uncover in your thesaurus over holy things, there must be these radical refusals in the life of the believer in order to see it happen. Let's go back to this verse and take them one at a time.

First, you must radically refuse mediocrity. If you want to put it in a positive light, a Christian should be characterized by this commendation of Paul as someone who is filled with acts of goodness. He says, I myself am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness.

The original word translated full refers to a sponge that is filled with a liquid, and you know as well as I do that whatever is inside the sponge, as soon as somebody squeezes it, whatever is inside of it comes out of it. Paul says, in effect, when life squeezes you, when the pressures come, what comes out is goodness. It's interesting to me in studying this word through the text and other texts that this is the word articulated as one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, that singular quality. When a believer surrenders to the internal working of God the Spirit, this reforming work, fruit emerges. The fruit of the Spirit is love and joy, patience, kindness, and among other things, he mentions this word, goodness, Galatians 5-22.

Since God is the summation and the entirety of all that is good, he is good, Matthew 19-17. When we grow into the likeness of Christ, we also grow into being people who are good. It is the work of Christ through his Spirit, which means then that goodness is not something you drum up. Goodness is not necessarily a New Year's resolution. It isn't something you get by attending church three out of four Sundays a month. It is the process of reformation. It is the making of a holy heart.

To use a popular expression, it is an extreme makeover where the Spirit of God bulldozes everything to the ground and begins from scratch as you surrender to him. And when you do, every once in a while somebody might notice and say of you, there is a good man. She is a good woman. Not perfect, but progressing. That is becoming a more and more rare commendation, isn't it? She's a good man. She's a good woman. Probably that's what led Mark Twain to say with cynical grin on his face a number of years ago, always do good things.

It will gratify some people and astonish everybody else. The Daily Herald in Chicago ran an article a couple of years ago about two newlyweds who lost all their money. The couple had left a black zippered case the size of a personal calendar on the roof of their car as they sped away after the wedding reception to begin their honeymoon. And the case had all of their wedding cash gifts zipped up tight inside and every bit of it was gone, cash gifts from their parents and all those who had attended the wedding that had given them gifts of money, a total of $12,000 zipped inside.

I didn't have any of those people come to my wedding evidently. David Yee, however, picked up this case. The newspaper, first of all, had ran the story of this couple's loss, all of their money gone. And two days later, the same newspaper, the Daily Herald in Chicago, ran the headline, Article Finders Keepers?

Not everyone believes so. Then it went on to talk about David Yee, who was an unemployed suburban resident who found the black zippered case and returned every penny of it as he tracked this couple down. Even though as they sort of entered his life, he had mounting bills, he was unemployed and in need. The kind of person who might say, well, thank you, Lord.

Wow, what an answer to prayer here in this zippered case. After he returned it, he was inundated with job offers. You can imagine why. Everybody would like to have an honest man working for them, wouldn't they?

And he refused any job, which he was not apparently qualified for. The truth is you run an article like that which reveals what kind of culture we have that an article like that would ever have any interest. It's so rare. Can you believe that?

Headlines. He gave it back. He's a good man.

How rare is that? Paul gave sort of a talk to the Galatians on a personal side and wrote in Galatians chapter six, he said, don't lose heart in doing good. Now, why do you think Paul had to write that?

He had to write that because he knows that we lose heart when we are in the middle of doing good. You might be overlooked. You might be the guy next to you who's conniving and lazy who gets employee of the month. And you think, what is your boss thinking? You've even spent time helping that person get their job done.

And you have felt the discouragement and perhaps resentment when it is that employee while you have been sweating it out who gets the commendation. How do you keep from losing heart when you're made fun of for your purity? How do you not lose heart when you're the guy studying in class in that classroom and you're not the one cheating and the other kids are getting better grades than you?

How do you not lose heart when you lose a relationship because you will not loosen up? The rest of Paul's statement to the Galatians prophesies don't lose heart in doing good. Why? Because in due time we shall all reap. In other words, it's one day going to be made right. It probably won't be on earth. It won't be at your job. It won't be the result of something you did. The boss had this awakening and observation and wow!

No, probably there. Don't lose heart. Here's the standard. It is Jesus Christ, Luke wrote, who went about everywhere doing good. Acts 10 38. We know now that when He made a plow, He made a good one. When He made a yoke for the oxen, He did it right.

You could use it 75 years later. And by the way, He will be the one we as Christians stand before and He will say to those deserving, well done, thou good and faithful servant. Becoming a person obsessed with holy living means to radically and entirely refuse mediocrity. The second phrase Paul delivers indicates that the Christian must also refuse lethargy. Notice verse 14 again, I am fully convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness filled with all knowledge.

If a refusal of mediocrity means you're marked by character, this phrase means you are marked by conviction. Now don't misunderstand Paul here. When he says that the Roman believers are filled with all knowledge, he doesn't mean that they have all knowledge, that they're now omniscient.

Nor does he mean they don't have anything more they ought to learn. What he means is that they have all the knowledge they need to proceed forward in their walk with Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul will say in the very next phrase that all he has to do is remind them of these things, which indicates that they had already received apostolic instruction, probably through some of Paul's own disciples. But Paul is commending them for their openness and their teachability and their passion to learn the things of God. They were likewise obsessed with the truth of God's Word.

And imagine it, they're surrounded by paganism and relativism and corruption and immorality and idolatry and drug addiction and all of it. And they have one primary question on their minds, which is indicated by the fact that if you squeezed them, they would come out with scripture. What does the Word of God say? No wonder Paul would open his letter in the first chapter by writing this amazing compliment. I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. Imagine being a member of that assembly and having the apostles say that of us.

Oh, it would be like the Romans. If there's ever a need for the clarity of the gospel, it is today. If there's ever a need for the clarity of truth to be full of the truth of God, it is today. In a journal that arrived at my home, in fact, this week, which I thought was timely, another survey was taken by the Harris organization that found that 96 percent of the adults who identified themselves as born-again Christians, which was encouraging, but only 96 percent of them believed that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. I often think, what about the other 4 percent? How can you be a born-again Christian and deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ? But 96 of them who identified themselves as born-again said they believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Before you get too enthralled or excited about that statistic, 50 percent of the same group of people believed in the existence of ghosts. Twenty-seven percent of the same people read the horoscope for daily direction.

And 21 percent believe they were someone or something else in a prior life before being reincarnated. No wonder Paul wrote, study to show yourselves approved to God. Workmen in the Word, know what the Word of God says.

It's all profitable. It is the breath of God. It is inspired by God to equip you for every good work. Now I have to quickly add here that when Paul talks about filled with all knowledge, you might think, okay, this means the smartest person is being commended, those who have all of the intellectual capacity to memorize the Book of Romans or whatever. Well, that isn't exactly the word he uses. The word he uses for knowledge, gnosis or gnosko, to know, he means it in this respect, it is applying what you do know. He is commending them for living out what they have learned. There are a couple of words for knowledge. One is to know simply by memorizing two plus two equals four.

That's oida. Gnosko means that you learn something by means of experience. You learn the value and the truth of something because you live it.

And when you see it lived, you come to that aha moment. That's what God meant when he gave me that verse, because now I see it in applied form. It is propositional truth lived out through personal testing. That's what Paul used when he said, I want to know Christ, I want to know him, the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings.

He used the word gnosko. I want to know Christ. Didn't he know him? Wasn't he already a believer? Yes, but he wanted to know through personal testing what the life of Jesus Christ was really like.

He wanted to see it in his own life. This is the book of the believer who looks into the word and is not a hearer only, but a what? But a doer of the word. James 1 22, James goes on to say, this is the one who is not a forgetful hearer, but an effectual doer.

This man shall be blessed in whatever he does. It is the word at work. Paul is commending the Roman believers for refusing that kind of dichotomy, that kind of contradiction. He commends them for refusing lethargy spiritually, refusing the urge to examine the truth without ever executing the truth. To analyze the Bible, but never apply the Bible. To read the word without ever reproducing the word in life. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, go deep, deeply into the word of God in your study, but it's good to make sure you surface because people don't care how deeply you go into the word if you're not demonstrating what you are learning from the word.

Refuse mediocrity, refuse lethargy. One more, the Christian who is obsessed with the pursuit of holy living will refuse apathy. Go back to verse 14 once more, and concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another. The word admonish is from nutheto, which gives us our transliterated word nuthetic. Jay Adams, a Christian counselor, popularized the concept of nuthetic counseling in his book that he took right from this phrase, competent to counsel, which you could literally translate from this text, taken directly from here. The word is a compound word, the word nous, which has to do with mind, and the word tithémi, which means to put or to place in. You put them together and you have the idea then of conveying something to someone's mind. We use a similar expression today when we say, hey, I just want to lay something on your mind to think about.

That's this word here. The words teaching and admonishing are used by Paul often in the New Testament. They appear together in Colossians 3.16 where he tells the believers to teach and admonish, same word here, one another. It seems that the word teach has to do with the positive contribution of content, and admonishing has to do with the correcting, perhaps rebuking or refuting, perhaps challenging other believers. Teach one another. Paul says, I want to commend you that you are competent to counsel one another. Of course, they're filled with the knowledge of the word, which is the basic source of counseling. They are committed in their walk with Jesus Christ, and convictions flow out of that good life, and now they're able to challenge one another. Literally, this word has the idea of stirring one another up, provoking one another unto love and what? Good works, which is the purpose of the assembly. Why do we need that?

We need that because we have the tendency to settle down and sort of float along in these self-made ruts. We are creatures of habit. We wear the same things. We eat the same things. We drive home from work the same way. And when we come to church, we sit in the same seats, don't we?

I'm not condemning you. I stand in the same place every time I come as well. When we were young, it was opposite of that, wasn't it?

Everything's new and everything's different. I used to think that my name must have been settled down. Because every time my teacher would look at me in first grade, it would be, Stephen, settle down.

That must be my name. Settle down. Problem is, you grow up and you start to take that advice.

You not only settle down, you sort of check out. Yet the Christian life is called a race, a war, a match. I challenge you to read the life of Paul even in his later years.

You don't see someone reaching for the chair, reaching for the sidelines. You know, I've done my duty. I've done my thing. And you know, I'm old enough now and all the rest of you young guys and gals, you take it from here, not Paul.

I'm going all the way to the tape. One of the greatest challenges we have in this church is to get older women to teach younger women how to love their husbands. One of the greatest challenges we have is to get older women who've raised children to even work with children.

One of the greatest challenges is with men who will turn around and pour their lives into young men. We need one another. We need the prodding. We need the stirring up.

We need the admonishing because we tend to float. I received a letter this week from a young lady who listens to Wisdom for the Heart in another part of our state. She thanked us for the book that she had received.

She finished it in just a few days. Every time the program comes on the air, she wrote that she pulls out her Bible and notebook and takes as many notes as she can. She asked several questions of me, and I don't read all the letters and don't respond to all the letters, but I will this one. She asked questions about how to discover the will of God and how to walk with God. If you were to read that letter, you could easily tell that she was passionate about living for Christ. I got this particular letter from her, which was actually her second or third just a couple of days ago, and she writes these words, I will do anything God tells me to do. I often tell the Lord, Lord, show me what to do.

I am totally open to you. What challenged me most about this letter is that this young lady is in middle school, not even a teenager yet. She signed her letter, your friend in the Lord, and I want you to know that prodded me on. That challenged me. Paul would say of her, as he said of the Romans, and I trust he would say of you and me, as we prod one another on today, we will refuse mediocrity.

What does that mean? We will not settle for second class workmanship. If our hand touches it, it will pursue excellence.

We will refuse lethargy. That means we will not stop learning the word without living the word. We will refuse apathy, which means we will care enough to cheer one another along in this race we call the Christian life. Whether it's through a phone conversation or an arm around the shoulder or conversation in a hallway or next to your cubicle or maybe a letter like this one that you sign, your friend in the Lord.

It is true, my friends, what Robert Murray McShane once wrote, it isn't great talent. I would add even great experience that God blesses, but great likeness to Jesus Christ. A holy Christian is an awesome weapon, an awesome tool, an awesome encouragement in the hand of God. This is Wisdom for the Heart and with this lesson, your Bible teacher, Stephen Davey, begins a series called Holy Obsession. We have a companion resource, a booklet entitled Holy Obsession. We're making that booklet available at a specially discounted price during this series. Call us today at 866-48-BIBLE. That's 866-48-BIBLE. You can also find Holy Obsession on our website, so visit to place your order online. On our next broadcast, Stephen will bring you part two of this series. I hope you'll be back with us then to discover more Wisdom for the Hearts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-26 00:08:21 / 2023-12-26 00:18:36 / 10

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