Please Others First
This morning we are going to study Romans 15:1-4. In keeping with our theme of the year; Romans Backwards, we are going to do these four verses backwards.
“That sounds confusing, Tim”. Well, it may be. But it will leave the Big Point till the end of the sermon. Maybe, a little suspense might help you stay awake. “What is the Big Point at the end?” We are going to have to wait and see.
Let’s start in Romans 15:4.
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Wow, what a beautiful nugget. In the midst of Paul telling the church in Rome how to have genuine fellowship, we find this little tidbit about how we are to use the Bible. I like the New Living Translation of this verse…
NLT Romans 15:4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. They give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God's promises.
The Scriptures which were written in former days, before Paul, are there to teach us. If we have the endurance to work our way through the Old Scriptures, we learn that God is faithful! We learn to be patient in hope of all of God’s promises!
Understand Paul is talking about, what we call, the Old Testament. As he is writing, in what we call the New Testament, only a few of the NT books have been written. But Paul says we get hope when we study the Old Scriptures.
This is a little surprising. Remember, last week, Paul told the Romans that the old laws about food no longer applied. Kosher was not something you had to do anymore. Kosher goes through all the Old Testament. From Noah through Malachi, the people of God were expected to eat Kosher. You would expect Paul to kind of blow off the Old Book… “It doesn’t apply anymore.” But no! Paul says the Old Scriptures teach us… hope in God.
The scriptures teach us about a faithful God who keeps his promises!
Let’s see how this works, as we work backwards to verse 3, and as we get closer to the Big Point.
Romans 15:3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me."
It is written, in the Old Scriptures which teach us hope, that the Christ took on the reproaches that should have fell on God. “What?” This is from the Old Book… Psalm 69. In Psalm 69 David is feeling discouraged. David feels that his good is being mocked. David feels he is bearing shame for his God. Listen to David’s heart. Remember this is Jesus, as well.
Psalm 69:1-9 Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother's sons. For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
This last verse is the prophecy of Christ in verse 15:3. The zeal that Christ has for serving the Lord gets him crucified. The reproaches, the spite, the rejection, the dishonor dripping off his face, this nastiness… sent Jesus to the cross.
Here is the point, not the Big Point, but the point of verse 3… Jesus was willing to endure the reproach of the cross for others. Along with the pain of the cross was the shame. Jesus suffered pain on the cross, no doubt. But to be hung naked on the cross for everyone to make fun of, to mock, to feel smug about, to spit on… is unthinkable. Jesus was willing to be reproached… not please himself. Instead, he bore the reproach for us.
I have to sneak to the end of Psalm 69. Old Scriptures are written for hope to those who keep on reading. Let’s keep reading.
Psalm 69:13-18, 33-36 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me. Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies! 33 For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.
David knows, Jesus knows the LORD will rescue them. Jesus will be risen from the dead and all the earth shall dwell in Zion! Old Scripture… Read to the end… Find Hope… Jesus did not please himself but bore the shame of the LORD and was then saved!
Let’s keep going backwards towards the Big Point. This Big Point is the fourth solution to Church fellowship.
Paul is teaching the Romans, and us, how to have fellowship in church. The church in Rome was on the edge of blowing up. Racial conflict, ethnic divisions, differing customs, all pressed the church to divide up into denominations. Paul says no… here is how you stay together…
--Live and Let Die – Everyone can offer their living or their dying to the Lord in glory.
--Nudge. Don’t Judge! – Don’t write off our siblings as worthless. We gently nudge.
--Understand the Limits of Liberty is Love. – We can exercise our freedom to the point of not discouraging others.
Check the rubber on your tires. We were keeping our mouths shut this week. We were not to criticize last week. Criticism is hurtful. Criticism is discouraging. Criticism is a show-stopper for church fellowship. “Those others do church wrong. Their music is too loud. Their prayers are too long. Their actions are all hooky. I don’t get Lent?” …on and on the criticism goes. It is divisive.
Sometimes, the limits of our liberty, is learning to keep our mouths shut. Did we? Anyone not criticize last week? Who thought about it?
But that was last week, today, in Romans 15:1-4, Paul adds a fourth solution to church fellowship which is our Big Point for this morning… drum roll…
“Please Others First”
“That’s the Big Point?” It is. No Judging or Criticism.
Moving backwards to verse 2.
Romans 15:2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
We learn hope from the Old Testament which tells us Jesus did not please himself. Instead, he went to the cross, bearing the shame for us. Therefore, we immolate Jesus by pleasing our neighbor in order to build up that neighbor; that other; that sibling in Christ. If we want to have church fellowship, we must seek to please our siblings before pleasing ourselves.
The word, “Please” is fascinating. It depends on the tone of voice as to what it means…
“Pretty Please with a cherry on top.” – Please is begging.
“Well, Yes, please, I would like another helping.” - Please is accepting an offer graciously.
“Please and thank you.” – Being Polite.
“You look pleasing, today.” – Pleasing is synonymous with nice.
“Please…” – Annoyed.
“Attention, please, to the following announcement.” – Gets attention.
“We aim to please.” – Helpful.
None of those meanings are what we are to do for our siblings. Please is placing the good of the “other” first. We are to prioritize the others’ needs before our own. We are to seek to meet the other’s needs before we met our own.
This is opposite thinking. This backwards day in the Kingdom. It runs in the face of the Roman culture of Paul’s time. Everyone was out for the glory and power and prestige. But it is just as powerfully opposite to our culture today. For example…
--Sometimes you have to be selfish, if you can’t put yourself first, you can’t expect anyone else to.
--Sometimes I forget putting myself first isn’t selfish but necessary.
--And now, I’ll do what’s best for me.
--It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, & to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.
--You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.
--Please, God, Not People.
--You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself, first.
Wow, the wisdom of our times is to take care of yourself, first. Then, perhaps, you can help others if you can. But Paul says…
Romans 15:2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
This is hard, because we are talking about people. But if we want genuine church fellowship we respond to “people” like Christ did, who bore the reproaches of the others, who bore the shame. We endeavor to please the other to build them up.
This is the hope of the Old Testament… “others” living in harmony in his church. This is the model of Jesus. This is the fourth solution to church fellowship… Please Others First!
Bam! Big Point!
What that looks like is found in the first verse of Romans 15 as we move backwards, one more time.
Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
The powerful, the strong, the healthy, those in charge have an obligation to take on the problems of the weak.
In Rome, this was the Roman Gentiles who were in power at the church. It was their church, their city, their culture, their power. But Paul tells them to… bear with the failings of the weaker Jewish sibling. Be patient with the problems of their Jewish siblings. We don’t please ourselves rather we do whatever, anything, to be able to support the disadvantaged; the hurting; the broken.
It was Jewish Christians in Rome… but it could be, today…
--It could be racial…
--It could be the poor…
--It could be those who were neglected by their families/parents
--Those who have no spiritual strength… Damaged by hateful religions.
There are still plenty of people who Paul would call weak. We place them first. We don’t please ourselves. We help them meet their needs. We Please Others First.
Check out the Banner…Please, just the word “Please”.
Rubber meets the road challenge… Principle #25... When I think someone else is being selfish, it is typically because their “selfishness” is in conflict with what I want. Which brings up the question… Which one of us is being selfish? This week observe when you are thinking someone else is being selfish. Ask yourself, “Am I the one being selfish?” Then apply our Big Point… Please Others First.
Put it all together…
The hope of God keeping his promises, is found in following the example of Jesus to please the weak rather than ourselves.
Let’s read it forward…
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Let’s keep reading the next 3 verses; our theme verses. How cool is that?
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Los Alamos Church of Christ
March 1, 2019