Embrace the saints as Christ has embraced you.
And if that sounds to you like hard work, it is. Anybody would embrace the ideal church. The challenge of Paul is for us to embrace the real church filled with needs, a place of rescue and design and development that takes every one of us wherever we are by faith in Christ and says, okay, there, now, here, let's grow up together. God calls you as a Christian to love other people, even when you disagree with them. That's not always easy.
Have you noticed that many of your disagreements are not over clear biblical teaching? Quite often, the disagreements you have are over what we sometimes call gray matters, matters that are neither black nor white. In our current series, Stephen Davey has been showing you the principles that should guide you in dealing properly with life's gray matters. Today, there's one more principle for you to learn. This message is called Decorating with Stars.
Here's Stephen. In April of 1940, German tanks rumbled across the borders of yet another peaceful European country. Hitler's voracious appetite had created a feeding frenzy and the German forces were attempting to both conquer all of Europe and also kill all of the Jews.
Hitler already possessed Austria and Czechoslovakia and Poland, but now they were rumbling into Denmark, a relatively small nation which could never stand up to the war machine of the Nazis. As part of their systematic intimidation and depression, the Germans announced that every Dane of Jewish descent would be required to present themselves wearing that yellow Star of David. The Star of David, a symbol of their faith, would be used to mark them so that they could be robbed, carted away, perhaps even executed. If they complied to wear that star, they were told they would be executed on the spot. The Danish government and its people were in no position to battle the Nazis, but their leader King Christian X made a rather bold request. He called for every one of his subjects to begin wearing the Star of David. Every one of them were asked to pin on their shirt sleeve or coat or blouse the star.
Can you imagine that kind of request? They all knew of the concentration camps. They knew the Germans were intoxicated by hatred for the Jew. They had heard, no doubt, of the lyrics Hitler's troops would chant as they went from city to city. Translated rather roughly into English, they would chant this, sharpen the long knives on the pavement stone, sink the knives into Jewish flesh and bone, let the blood flow freely.
In spite of the tremendous fear that would have gripped their hearts to take such a stand, on the morning when they were to venture from their homes and be accounted for, what the German troops saw was almost too hard to believe. There were stars of David everywhere. Black-headed, brown-headed, Gentiles, red-headed alike, all wearing the star on their clothing. They all claimed to be of Jewish origin. The Jews, of course, among them wept openly by this show of self-sacrifice and potential loss of life. I have read accounts that this act by the Danes was legend. I have read accounts that it actually happened. But as I did my research, I found this amazing statistic as a result of the resistance of the Danish citizens to the German army and their insistence that Jews were equal to Gentiles while six million Jews died in the Holocaust.
Only 51 of them were Danes. In Romans 14 and 15, Paul is making an appeal much like King Christian X for the church to be bound up as one people, that everyone should stand as it were decorated with the emblem of unity and faith and truth. The enemy is on the move, is he not? He is in fact to this day marching from house to house and from church to church seeking someone to devour and his appetite is insatiable.
His hatred for the people of God has no limit. And one of the greatest defenses against the enemy of the church is the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The declaration of our mouths and the demonstration of our lives that the ground at the foot of the cross is in fact level, that we are one people, that we are God's precious possession declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now it would be hard for us to imagine how difficult it would be in the first century for the Jew to stand next to the Gentile or the Gentile to stand and worship next to the Jew. No wonder that in the center of these 36 verses we have been studying is the cry of the apostle. You find it in verse 7 of chapter 15 where Paul says, Wherefore accept one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. That's his theme.
That's his priority here. But wouldn't that be difficult. In fact in the first century you would have the clash of culture between the Jewish way of life and the Gentile way of life. You would have the differing of opinions within any church even to this day. How would you live. How would you treat. How would you act around those who are different from you in this thing we call the church. How do you treat people with differing opinions. That's been our subject now for several weeks and we have discovered that we are to live by the principle of protection by the principle of reputation by the principle of consideration by the principle of conviction by the principle of imitation. Finally the last of the principles that I find in this text as we wrap up our study in gray matters is the principle of reception.
Webster defined receive or reception as to take into one's possession to accept as we take one final look at this text and its theme. Paul is going to encourage the Christian in any century to receive to take into one's possession. You could even say to embrace one another and several other critical things.
First of all if we want to know how to get along even when we are from differing cultures and have differing opinions we have to first embrace the scriptures. And before we look at the text I want you to know that when you and I embrace the scriptures you will discover that your life is not hopeless. Let's go back up to verse 4 where we left off in Chapter 15 for whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction that through perseverance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have what we might have hope. Now for Paul's audience who read this this would primarily refer to the Old Testament the scriptures that they had.
In fact that was all they had. Paul was already made clear that the ceremonial law the dietary restrictions the festivals and Sabbaths of the old covenant are no longer requirements for the believer in this new covenant we call grace that was taught clearly in Romans 14. However all of God's revelation Paul wrote is profitable for the believer literally to load himself down with supplies for the journey. Second Timothy 3 17 Paul wrote to the Corinthians as it relates to the Old Testament scriptures. He said that their exodus from Egypt was written down so that we would have their example and for the most part not follow it. He wrote in First Corinthians 10 verse 6 and these words Now these things happened as examples for us that we should not crave evil things as they crave. Later in verse 11 Now these things happened to them as an example and they were written for our instruction. He's talking about the Old Testament. Study the exodus of the Israelites if you want to know how to live.
I don't know what to avoid. Read the challenges of Daniel. Feel the loss of Job. Watch Hosea respond to the unfaithfulness of his wife. Stand by Gideon as he trembles at the first step of faith. Join in the Israelites as they sing encircling the city of Jericho. Feel the agony in the heart of Nehemiah for his beloved city.
Listen in as Joseph refuses his employer's wife. The living word himself quoted the written word three times when he was tempted by the devil himself and all three temptations found our Lord quoting all three times from the book of Deuteronomy. Can you imagine how would we do if that was the only book that we had and the devil came knocking. The Old Testament has great tremendous value. I had a radio listener recently write me complaining that I was preaching out of the Old Testament which is on the radio and he said this.
I thought you were a Christian and I thought you were a Baptist. What are you doing preaching out of the Old Testament. I thought of you only knew the message of Paul to the Romans and us is clear both New Testament and Old Testament are the words of God.
They are all profitable and together they offer hope to the student of the word of God. David sang in the Psalms of Old Testament scripture with these lyrics My soul cleaves to the dust. Revive me according to thy word.
My soul weeps because of grief. Strengthen me according to thy word. All found within this one hundred and nineteenth song you want hope take scripture to heart. He says I will speak of thy testimonies before kings and shall not be ashamed and I shall delight in thy commandments which I love and I shall lift up my hands to thy commandments which I love. Remember the word to thy servant in which thou hast made me hope.
You want to know how to live. Embrace the scriptures. Paul says Do you want to know how to get along with one another. Even in the New Testament church go back to the Old Testament and study and learn and grow. Is it any wonder then that the enemy of the church hates the words of God.
Is it any wonder that he so attacks relentlessly attacks. Has God said. That's why our faith and our Lord means we have faith in his preserved word. It is his truth.
Even for today. Rich Tatum told the story of the faith of one little girl in the truth of the word of God. In spite of her pastor who was feeling a little mischievous one Sunday he saw her standing.
Tatum wrote outside the preschool Sunday school classroom between Sunday school and worship waiting for her parents to come and pick her up for big church. The pastor noticed that she was clutching a big storybook under her arm and he knelt beside her and asked her What's that you have in your hand. She answered This is my storybook about Jonah and the whale. Well tell me something. He asked Do you really believe that story about Jonah and the whale.
I sure do. He went on. You mean to tell me that you believe a man can be swallowed by a big whale stay inside him all that time and come out alive.
She declared Yes sir I do. This story is in the Bible and we talked about it in Sunday school today. The pastor said Can you prove to me this story is true. She thought for a moment and bit her lip and then said Well when I get to heaven I'll ask Jonah for myself. And the pastor asked What if Jonah is not in heaven.
And she said Then you can ask him he deserved that. Did he not testing the faith of a little one. This is God's instruction manual for life.
The Greek word Paul uses in verse 4 translated in my text instruction is did ask Ali it literally refers to the scriptures as the teaching instrument which reveal both the action and the content of our faith. This is what we believe but we don't stop there. This is then how we behave and we need to be reminded as the world watches us the proof of Christianity is not in what we believe it is in how we behave.
They could care less what we believe in. This book is one of many that claim to be sacred. The convincing testimony of Christianity is not this book.
It is this book lived through our lives. It is not in our creed. It is in our character. That's what they say.
That's what they watch. So embrace the scripture. Secondly we are not only to embrace the scripture we are to embrace the saint and discover our hearts are never homeless. Look at verse 5. Paul writes Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus that with one accord you may with one voice to get the repetition of the word one glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ where for except one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. When you embrace the scriptures you discover that your life will never be hopeless.
When you embrace the saints you discover that your heart will never be homeless. Paul is not calling for us to simply accept new believers into our fellowship which it certainly would include that but he is calling on all Christians to accept one another in the fullest and deepest sense to accept to ourselves as it were to possess as our own to embrace as Christ embraced us. In the immediate context the Jew was to move past and beyond his prejudice. The Gentile was to move past his disdain of the Jew and they were to with one voice one mind one heart glorify God together.
That's difficult isn't it to move past our prejudice and our bigotry and our partiality. That's our nature in any century. The Jews had believed they were not just a group they were the group. The Gentiles now hearing the gospel believe well it's all about us we are the group we're in. That is our nature. James says you're holding an assembly in the New Testament church and a man walks in and he's got on gold jewelry and fine clothing and you say hey here take the special seat which for us would be the back row back there that's packed today as always.
And a poor man walks in and you say here sit on the floor. Have you not made James writes a distinction to groups. It's us and them.
That is not wise but it's our nature. No wonder we need a new one where we discover that the ground is level where we discover a brotherhood in the saving grace of Jesus Christ a unity based not on Adam's blood but Christ's blood not of flesh but of faith a unity not by our first birth but by our second birth into the family of God. This is what the church is to be. This is a healthy church to go back and begin at Chapter 15 as I did you could even in these first eight verses develop a profile of a healthy church. In verse 1 it's a place that offers refuge and strength for needy people. In verse 2 it's a place of instruction where our lives are built up in verse 3 it's a place focused on the glory and sacrifice of our Lord on our behalf. In verse 4 it's a place of encouragement where the scriptures are taught in verse 5 it's a place of unity in verse 6 it's a place of worship where we glorify God in unison. In verse 7 it's a place of acceptance where the pattern of Christ becomes our model. In verse 8 it's a place of humility where we like our servant Lord serve one another. And if that sounds to you like hard work it is. That's why if you're looking for some ideal church you need to keep visiting around.
You won't find it here. Anybody would embrace the ideal church. The challenge of Paul is for us to embrace the real church filled with needs a place of rescue and design and development that takes every one of us wherever we are by faith in Christ and says OK there now here let's grow up together. Embrace the saints as Christ has embraced you. Paul writes it's as if he wants us to remember that Christ accepted us. Do you think for a moment we deserved it.
Were we a special catch. Grace is undeserved kindness. Grace is wearing a star and standing next to your brother. Part of our problem with not willingly embracing the saints is we just happen to have a higher opinion of ourselves than we ought to have. Mark McKinn in his book Why Sin Matters makes this analogy that each of us as believers is a light bulb. One shines with 50 watts of holy living. Another newer believer perhaps has 25 watts. Maybe the most stellar Christian among us has 200 watts.
But these foolish comparisons are meaningless in the presence of the sun 50 watts 200 watts in the presence of the sun. Who cares. Paul is making one last appeal here that of God the glorious son has shown his grace to needy polluted self seeking self serving self interested egotistic depraved arrogant perverted wandering wretched sinners like us and I hope I made the list long enough. How can we not show grace. How can we not embrace those like us who have been redeemed by blood birth and belief. Embrace the scriptures embrace the saints.
Third embrace the sovereign. If the church is to be a unified body if we're all as it were to decorate our clothing with stars indicating we are one new race together in unison glorifying God. If there really isn't first class or coach seating in the church with the scriptures back this up.
This is all to them so radically new. It is no surprise then that Paul ends this theme by quoting from each of the three major divisions of the Old Testament. He just selects from each of those three from the law the prophets and the Psalms the first quote look here in your text at verse 9 says Therefore I will give praise to thee among the Gentiles. This is from Second Samuel Chapter 22 verse 50 where David sings of his deliverance from King Saul and he says My singing is going to be heard among the Gentiles of how great God is. The second quote in verse 10 where Paul writes rejoice so Gentiles with his people is a quote from Deuteronomy Chapter 32 verse 43 where Moses calls on the Gentiles to do the praising of God. The third quote delivered in verse 11 notice there where Paul writes Praise the Lord all you Gentiles and let all the Gentiles praise him. This is from Psalm 117 where Jews and Gentiles alike are asked to praise God in the final quote. And it is from Isaiah. Paul writes here in verse 12. There shall come the root of Jesse that is the Messiah and he who arises to rule over the Gentiles in him shall the Gentiles hope.
In other words the Messiah will come from the Jewish people Jesse the father of David the messianic line. But follow this progression in verse 9 you have Jews praising God among the Gentiles in verse 10 you have Gentiles praising God among the Jews in verse 11 you have Jews and Gentiles praising God together. And in verse 12 you have the sovereign Christ reigning over both Jew and Gentile who have embraced him by faith.
Wonderful progression and what tremendous hope this engendered. Can you imagine this news in the first century church. Hey there's room in the Gentile family for the Messiah.
There is a way for you Gentile to be included in the royal family. Hey those of Jewish origin there is room for you in the bride of Christ. This church this message of grace is true today. We have in this assembly both the Gentile and Jew praising God.
As I watched the brief vignette on the video screen about our hearing impaired ministry I saw one gentleman who was signing hearing impaired man who is a Jewish man who's come to faith in Jesus Christ. And I think how great is the joy of our Lord. No wonder Paul ends this section with the benediction of verse 13.
Look there now. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace and believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul just ends this section by bursting into this exuberant prayer. Look at verse 13 again. You are not hopeless. That's his point for the God of hope has filled you with joy and peace.
You are not homeless. He says for in believing that is by believing you have entered into the everlasting family of God and you are not helpless for you abound in hope he wrote not by your power but notice by the power of the Holy Spirit embrace the scriptures and discover your life is not hopeless. Embrace the saints and discover your heart will never be homeless. Embrace the sovereign and in the strength of his spirit discover you will never be helpless. All of that is bound up in the message of grace to us.
And there we have it. Our journey has taken us now through 36 verses and it struck me that it basically ends where it began with more choices. Will we choose to embrace the scriptures? Will we choose to embrace the saints?
Will we choose to embrace the sovereign? This is the way we build our lives together building together on the solid foundation of the grace of God. And by the way let's not forget while we shine with our little 50 watt bulbs and 25 watt bulbs and maybe even 100 and maybe even 200 that we belong to our glorious Lord the brilliant resplendent son of God who embraced us by his grace which means he has already made his choice.
He chose you and he chose me and he will never let us go. Well your choice is clear today if you decide that you're going to put this principle into practice. If you do you'll choose to embrace the scriptures. You'll choose to embrace the saints.
You'll choose to embrace the sovereign. With that truth in your mind we conclude not only this lesson but this series. This is Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen Davey has been teaching a series entitled Gray Matters. It's been a very practical look at the principles you can rely on to help you live wisely when your choices are not black and white.
Sometimes the issues you face are unclear and the nine lessons in this series will help you face those choices wisely. If you missed any of the messages in this series we can help you. You can find them on our website which is wisdomonline.org. They're also on the Wisdom International smartphone app. And finally we have them as a set of CDs if you'd like to own them that way. Call us at 866-48-BIBLE for information. Next time we begin a Christmas series called Christmas Cousins. Join us here on Wisdom for the Heart.
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