August 9, 2010

Like Jesus

Three times, in the first nine verses of Romans 15, Paul exhorts us to love and serve our brethren – not just because they are made in God’s image; not just because they, as believers, are God’s children; not just as a good testimony to outsiders; and not just because to do so strengthens one another’s faith. All those things are true! But three times in the first few verses of this chapter, Paul exhorts us to bear with one another, love one another, serve one another, and so on … based on the example of Jesus!

Isn’t that what we are aiming for – to be like Christ? And isn’t that one of the big reasons why God saved us in the first place (Romans 8.29) – to be conformed to the image of Jesus? Of course it is! And, if we are serious about being like Jesus, we will be serious about loving and serving the brothers! Notice how Paul puts it …

First he says that “each of us is to please his neighbor … for even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’” (vv.2-3). In other words, when Jesus went to that cross and bore the stripes that we deserve for having reproached our Maker … He did not do so to please Himself! O yes, I know that there was “joy set before Him” and that, in one sense, He was glad to accomplish the purpose for which His Father had sent Him. But, at the same time, there could have been nothing in His human flesh that relished the thought of dying like that – in shame and humiliation; in excruciating pain; forsaken by His Father. It was a terrible thing – something no one would volunteer for excitedly. And yet Christ went through with it, choosing not to please Himself, but to love sinners! And that is how we ought to relate to our brothers and sisters in Jesus, and even to unbelieving neighbors. We ought to be willing, for God’s sake, not to please ourselves, but others. Are you willing?

To help you become so, notice verse 7 as well. Paul writes that we should “accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” In other words, if you are tempted to turn away from someone in disgust (whether because of their sin, or their skin color, or their hygiene, or their accent, or their denominational affiliation, or their __________); I say, if you are tempted to keep your distance from another believer in Jesus, remember well that this is not how Christ treated you! Our sins, and foibles, and worldliness are far more shocking to Jesus than the most cocky, out of line person’s could ever be to us. And yet He accepted us. He accepted me … the snobby, selfish pastor who gets irritated when things don’t go his way. And He accepted you, warts and all. So doesn’t it just make common sense that people who have been so welcomed would bend over backwards to welcome others? But will you bend over backwards? And will I?

Finally, notice what Paul says in verse 9: “Christ has become a servant to the circumcision”. Have you ever read the gospels and been amazed that Jesus could do all that He did without having a physical or emotional breakdown? He seemed always surrounded by crowds. Always answering someone’s questions; or dealing with someone’s objections; or healing someone’s body; or meeting someone’s needs; or counseling someone’s soul. How did He not wear out? First, because He was continually filled with the Holy Spirit, and that without measure! But also because He had made up His mind that this was why He came – not to have a nice, middle class existence; but to serve other people! Have you made up your mind that, as a follower of Jesus, that is your role, too?

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