In the mind of the Apostle Paul and evidently the Holy Spirit of God, the really priceless treasure on planet Earth is the Bride of Christ.
Titus 2.14 and 1 Peter 2.9 all speak of believers as God's special possession. So the point would be if we so carefully guard violins and cars and jewelry and art with such passion and expense and concern, how should the believer handle the masterpiece of God who is sitting around you this morning? What's your most prized possession? How do you care for it? You probably handle objects that are precious to you with care.
You use caution to make sure you protect it and keep it safe. Well, every person you encounter is precious in the eyes of God. God wants the way you treat other people to reflect the value He places on them. That's our topic today here on Wisdom for the Heart.
Stephen's in a series from Romans on the gray matters of life. Today, he shares another principle to guide you, the principle of consideration. This message is called Guarding Stradivarius. A framed masterpiece can now hang in a gallery linked to a wireless network that can instantly alert security if someone tries to lift it from the wall or even touch it or even spray something on the face of the canvas. A tiny sensor attached to the frame also sends out hourly reports on the temperature and relative humidity of the room. Several well-known museums, including a pair of Harvard University's museums, have already adopted this growing technology for monitoring valuable works of art. It can be used for sculptures, of course, for furniture. One museum has already seen it pay off. They have a tiny sensor on a Louis XIV chest of drawers that I read in the Boston Globe recently came back from a $10,000 restoration. I don't know about you, but all of my furniture costs $10,000, so they have one piece that's that. Well, every night around 830, the alarm would go off and tell security that somebody was touching the object, even though the museum was closed.
They investigated, and the security staff discovered that the culprit was just a member of the cleaning crew who thought she was only doing her duty by wiping down the antique chest with her dirty rag and a spritz of Pledge, which they weren't too happy about. I also learned there are about 600 authentic Stradivarius violins in the world today, expensive pieces of equipment. Many of them are never used at all for fear of being stolen, while others play them only in special performances. Antonio Stradivari, the 17th century violin maker from Cremona, Italy, died without leaving anybody his secrets of how he made these special, unique violins, each of them bearing his name and bearing another pet name he gave to each of them, like the Duke of Alicantra and other names. His methods, though, remain a mystery to this day. But people have analyzed these expensive violins made of 70 separate pieces of fine maple, perhaps. That's what produces the tones. Some think it was his three layers of varnish.
They have been chemically analyzed, don't seem to be all that significant. Some have even tested the water from his local village that went into the varnish. Others say it was the way he carved the violin. No one knows for sure what makes a Stradivarius violin a class all its own with its crystal pure sounds. But if you'd like one for yourself, chances are no one will even sell it to you because of its signature and its rarity. One did sell some time ago for $3.2 million. But then again, if you had a Stradivarius, you'd probably stay up at night worried that someone would steal it. Some have been stolen over the years.
So many of these 600 violins are safely hidden away in bank vaults and private safes, highly insured, well-guarded, priceless possessions of a handful of people. Someone from our church sent me this email a few weeks ago that tells the funny story of how one woman acted regarding this issue. The article read she walked into a bank in New York City and asked to speak with a loan officer. She explained that she had traveled to New York to meet with friends but now had to leave somewhat unexpectedly for Europe and needed to borrow $5,000. The bank officer informed her that they would need some form of security for her loan. She had driven to the bank in her new Rolls Royce and she asked if they would accept that as collateral for the loan. She even had with her the title and everything checked out. She was indeed the owner. The bank agreed.
They had one of the bank employees drive the Rolls into the bank's underground garage with all its security cameras. Two weeks later, the woman returned as promised, repaid the $5,000 loan and the interest which came to $15.41. The loan officer and others gathered around her before she left and the president just sort of chuckled condescendingly out loud and said, ma'am, we were happy to have had your business but we were a little puzzled while you were away. We did a little more checking with your hometown bank and found out that you're a very wealthy woman. Why would you need to borrow $5,000? And she laughed as she responded, oh, I didn't need the money but where else in New York City can you safely park your car for $15.41 and have it waiting for you when you return?
She said, now have a nice day. Well, without a doubt, we come up with some rather ingenious, sometimes creative but certainly complex ways to protect our prized possessions. If the world with such great care and caution and tenderness, not to mention expense, protects and guards its valuable possessions like cars that will one day rust and masterpieces that will eventually fade and furniture that will crumble away, how should we care for the people of God who will last forever? Well, in Romans chapter 14, Paul is giving us instructions on how to take care of people in the family of God, specifically people who have different views than us on gray areas of life, areas where the scriptures are either silent or inconclusive.
And thus far, we've discovered two principles here, the principle of protection and the principle of reputation. Now Paul will go further and give his instruction and practical advice and I've sort of bundled it all together under this third principle I'm calling the principle of consideration. Before we dive in too closely to the text, I want to take you to one particular phrase right in the middle of this text in verse 20 where Paul makes an interesting connection. Notice where he says, do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food.
Follow this. So far in this chapter, Paul has been talking about accepting your brother who views life differently than you in verses one through three. He's told us not to condemn other believers or treat them with contempt, verses four to 13. He's told us not to put up an obstacle or a stumbling block in the way of another believer, verse 13.
He warns us not to hurt other Christians, verse 15, nor to destroy your brother with your food, verse 15 of the latter part. But now, for the first time in verse 20, in fact, the only time ever in any of Paul's letters does he refer to a Christian with this fascinating phrase, they are the work of God, the ergon, the enterprise, the effort of God's design. Literally, they are God's project.
Another use of this root word could be translated God's business or even God's performance. He's saying, don't tear down the business, the craft, the masterpiece, the detailed effort and work of God's own design. He is, in effect, saying Christians are the masterpiece of God. The care and effort put into making a Stradivarius is nothing compared to the care and effort that God puts into crafting his saints. In the mind of the apostle Paul and evidently the Holy Spirit of God, the really priceless treasure on planet earth is the bride of Christ.
He does hint at it, Ephesians 1.14, Titus 2.14 and 1 Peter 2.9 all speak of believers as God's special possession. So the point would be if we so carefully guard violins and cars and jewelry and art with such passion and expense and concern, how should the believer handle the masterpiece of God who is sitting around you this morning? Well, in the next few verses in Romans 14, Paul will answer that question and give us what I'd like to call three ways to handle the priceless work of God.
The first way is this. Number one, handle other Christians with a spirit of surrender. Let's go back and get a running start with verse 16. Therefore, do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way, that is with peace and joy and righteousness, serves Christ, he's pleasing to God and approved by men, that is proven to be authentic and genuine by men. So then let us pursue the things which make for peace.
There it is. It's a strong, wonderful word, this word pursue. It's a passionate word and it can be translated to hunt down, to follow hard after. He uses the word in Philippians chapter 3 verse 14 when he says, I am pressing towards, same word, I am hunting down the mark, the prize of the high calling. I'm pursuing the goal. Paul's picture in that text is of a runner who's turned the corner or he's passed the final post and now he is heading down the home stretch where he can see the finish line.
He is pursuing the goal and every ounce of strength goes into that last dash. Paul tells the Roman church and our church, pursue the things like that, hunt down the things that will bring peace between you and other believers. Surrender whatever necessary to capture, to win, to achieve peace. Don't surrender doctrinal purity of course or moral purity.
The context is the area of gray issues and this muddle of gray, live with a desire and a passion. You will run down peace and catch it if you can. The truth is we typically accept peace when someone else offers it to us. He says, no, you become the one who offers it. You be the one who carries around in your back pocket the peace treaty and have it ready as you deal with other Christians.
In fact, you already have your signature affixed at the bottom of the last page. One author put it this way, he wrote, the only people you should ever try to get even with are the ones who have been kind to you. Hunting down peace is another way of not getting even, only perhaps with those who treat us well, which is another way of saying we are to surrender our desire that comes naturally to get even, to get back, to have the last word, right? One of the things that we struggle with is this idea of surrender. It's hard to surrender. We live to stay even. We have a mental balance that goes on in our minds, a scale, and we weigh it all out how convicting this text is in large ways and in little ways.
We like to get even and we like to even the score. I've read over 2,000 testimonies of current active members of this church, adults, who've officially joined our fellowship. It's one of the delights of my ministry and yet it is so moving and extremely humbling. Some of your stories are filled with minor and major offenses against you. Some of you have been betrayed, abandoned, robbed, misused, abused, and even raped by others who call themselves Christians.
What do you do? Paul tells us whether it's a small hurt or a large offense, pursue this, follow hard after the things which make for peace. You can't turn the clock back, but you can turn your heart forward. Treating other Christians with a spirit of surrender releases you from being hemmed in, waiting for an opportunity to get back, which just further makes you that much more of a victim. Those who do the offending are really the only truly lasting victims of your story. Surrendering to the hand of God and the work of God and the path that God designed has a way of releasing you to this thing called peace on the inside and just maybe, just maybe to those on the outside. Secondly, handle people with spiritual reinforcement. Look further in verse 19, he says, then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Now what might sound to us at this stage in our study as repetition is actually introducing for us for the very first time in this letter a new concept. This is the first time Paul uses the word building up.
Later translated in chapter 15 verse 2 is edified or edification. It comes from two words, oikos for house and demo for build. It refers to the process of building. Put them together and you have the idea of building up a believer as you would build up a house. If you want the right kind of house, what do you have to do? We have to start with the right blueprints. You have to lay a good foundation. You have to use good materials.
You have to follow the best schedule and you have to pursue the right goal and every little thing matters. You have to have detailed plans if you want to end up with the right building. Paul loved to refer to the church as the building of God. In 1 Corinthians 3 9 he wrote, but you, believer, are God's building. In Ephesians 2 he becomes even more explicit as he writes, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone in whom the whole building being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the spirit. In Romans 14, Paul wants to remind us all that the believer is, in a sense, the building project of God.
Friends, edification doesn't mean we all try to make each other just feel better. It means that we are committed to helping one another live better. We are either in the business of construction or destruction. Third, not only should we handle people with a spirit of surrender and with spiritual reinforcement, but we should handle people with a sense of caution. Notice what he says in verse 20. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the one who eats and gives offense. In other words, be careful. Don't tear someone apart that God is in the process of putting together over something as insignificant as a gray area where the Scriptures are basically not really that clear.
All things are clean, that is, in this area of gray. All things are permissible, but all things are not necessarily constructive. Some things can hurt. Some things can destroy, confuse. Paul writes here, offend another believer. Well, the opposite enterprise of building is demolition, right? The Christian is to be careful with others.
He is not in the process of spiritual demolition. If you can imagine it, the wrecking ball in this context would be labeled liberty. Have you ever seen one of those things at work?
I have as a young boy. Imagine the thought here of a Christian swinging around his liberty, flaunting his freedom, and with the wrecking ball labeled liberty, he's just bowling people over. He's tearing down the building that God is building up. Paul writes in verse 21, look there, it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.
These weaker believers are a work in progress. Be careful. Treat them like an antique piece of furniture or a brand new car, which for the first few months, you don't even want to drive to church because of the crowded parking lot.
You don't want any dings in the doors, right? You don't buy a Rembrandt and toss it to the back seat of your car. You treat it carefully.
This is the principle of consideration. Handle people with a sense of caution. Don't put something in their way that could hurt them. Be like a wise parent who doesn't leave a pair of scissors on the seat of a chair around their two-year-old or on the floor where they're playing. In fact, you've probably child-proofed your living room. Your coffee table has absolutely nothing on it, right?
There's nothing three feet and down in your home that can't withstand hurricane force winds. You have established the residence with that child in mind. You don't give your child a box of crayons and say, hey, the house is yours all day. No, you have guidelines and cautions. You put censors on rare items. You protect your valuables. You watch out for precious things. Will we treat the precious treasure of Christ carelessly? As I thought about this text, it occurred to me that in order to treat other believers with caution, it's going to require the element of patience.
That's not any easier, is it? You're willing to wait, though, while your brother or sister grows up. In fact, you might even be willing to adjust your own life so they will. See, in this chapter, remember Paul is writing to the strong because the strong can get frustrated and impatient with what they already know is acceptable. And maybe there were some in the church who were muttering under their breath, I'm tired of playing it cautious. I'm weary of reinforcing their lives. Give me 10 minutes and let me stuff some biblical knowledge into their noggin.
Maybe you're sitting there thinking, you know, yeah, I got a weaker brother, but give me 15 minutes. I'll teach them where they're immature. I'll show them the light. Just give me 10 minutes with them and the word and the knowledge and that'll fix it. Warren Wiersbe in his comments on this text challenged my thinking when he wrote that children who are afraid of the dark are never helped by more knowledge. I thought that is so true. Paul never tells the stronger brother in Romans 14 to take his Jewish friends on a crash course on dispensationalism. That's the old covenant. Those are all the customs and the diets and the regulations of the old covenant.
You're now in this new era of grace and joy. No, the answer isn't knowledge. How many of us dads ever tried to solve being afraid of the dark with our children with a lecture? You went into your child's room when they're crying and saying, Daddy, I'm scared of the dark. You sat down on the edge of their bed and you said, listen, sweetheart, the absence of light doesn't necessarily mean the imminent presence of danger.
It's pretty good, isn't it? Why don't you write that down on your etch-a-sketch here? The absence of light. Has your child ever said, Daddy, I never thought about the truth of that before? Now that you've expanded my thinking, you can turn the light on. I turn my nightlight. I shut the door.
I'm safe. Thank you, Dad, so much. No, you can't take a young believer and say, come on, let me give you the facts. Write them down. They do need knowledge, but they also need time.
It will take time with a lot of reinforcement and a lot of love. It's the principle of consideration. Handling people with a spirit of surrender, handling people with spiritual reinforcement, handling people with a sense of caution. Pateriewski, the world-renowned pianist, was to play in a piano concert in America. He was both a respected statesman. In fact, he was the prime minister of Poland and a famous master pianist.
He died in the mid-1940s. The magnificent concert hall that night was packed and everybody was waiting in anticipation. One particular mother wishing to encourage her young son's progress at the piano had sacrificed dearly and had purchased a couple of tickets for them to attend the performance.
They had found their seats down near the front of the concert hall and they were waiting along with several thousand others for the start of the concert. And this little boy was just awed, you know. The size of this magnificent hall and the crowd and the stage and he could clearly see this 12-foot grand piano.
He'd never seen anything like it in his life. During the wait, the boy's mother was engaged in conversation with those around her and while she was talking, the boy slipped away. Suddenly, to the surprise of everyone, the sound of piano playing was heard. The audience immediately hushed and when they looked toward the stage, it was this little boy sitting on the bench.
His feet couldn't even hit the ground and he was plunking out, twinkle, twinkle, little star. The crowd laughed at first, although the mother nearly fainted, of course. The crowd went along with it but then recognizing the possible disturbance to the piano or what could the boy do with the keys or who knew what all. They began to grow somewhat agitated and somebody hollered, get that kid off the stage. Pateruski was backstage and he heard what was going on and he appeared on stage and quickly walked toward the little boy and while many thought the boy would be soundly rebuked and the mother as well, instead he leaned over the boy's shoulder and whispered, don't stop, keep playing. And then he reached around with his left hand and he began to fill in a bass part and then his right arm reached around the other side encircling the little boy and he began to add running oblongatos of great beauty. Beautiful music filled the hall, all spontaneously composed. Together the old concert master and the young boy held the crowd mesmerized.
The people jumped to their feet with a long-standing ovation. All the while, Pateruski had been whispering, don't stop, son, keep playing. What so moved this audience was not so much how the old man handled the piano but how much this old master handled the boy. Ladies and gentlemen, you happen to be the priceless enterprise of God, his own unique original composition. Accepting the fact that we are a masterpiece in the making, each one of us under the direction and energy and craft and effort and careful control of the Holy Spirit of God, who I want you to hear whisper to you this morning, don't stop, don't stop, keep going, don't quit.
Even if all you can do is plunk out, twinkle twinkle little star. And he asks all the rest of us to gather around as it were and add to the reinforcement and help one another along as we grow up in Christ and learn to sing the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. As God builds each of us into his masterpiece, he wants us to learn to treat each other with consideration recognizing the great value he places on each person we encounter.
And don't forget that includes you. You are God's masterpiece as well and people should treat you that way. I'm glad you joined us today and I hope this message was a blessing to you. This is Wisdom for the Heart. Steven Davies' message today is called Guarding Stradivarius.
It comes from a series called Gray Matters. We have this series available as a set of compact discs if you'd like to own a copy of it for yourself or if there's someone in your life that you'd like to share it with. Call us at 866-48-BIBLE and we can give you the information you need. That number once again is 866-48-BIBLE. It would encourage us to hear from you. Write to info at wisdomonline.org and then join us next time for more Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-29 01:16:13 / 2023-11-29 01:26:00 / 10