There is a way we serve Jesus that pleases God. Therefore, the Kingdom of God is not based upon my preferences or choices, but The Kingdom of God is the reality that I belong to and is led by Jesus.
May 4, 2023
Speaker: Greg Sanders
Passage: Romans 14:17-23
I want to pick this back up in our Romans study. We’re going to be in chapter 14, verses 17 through 19. But I want to do it a little differently than we’ve done it in some weeks. Some weeks we take a big chunk of Scripture and we distill it down to a few points. When Belinda and I lived in Canada — we were going to Bible college up there — we went to a Vineyard on Sunday mornings and Calvary Chapel on Sunday nights. Calvary Chapel did a teaching style that I loved. It was just verse by verse. They would just read a single verse at a time, and then talk about what was in there.
What I fell in love with was how much depth would come out of the scriptures just by doing that instead of trying to figure out how to weave a line through it all. So I want to do that with this portion. Because I think there’s so much hidden here that if we don’t do that, we’re going to be remiss.
For background, Romans 13:13 through 14:16 would be great reading. I don’t want to take our time today to do that. Because that’s about a five-minute out loud read and I only have 11 minutes and 40 seconds left.
What Paul’s communicating in this entire passage is about carrying the image of Jesus. He’s challenging how we reveal Jesus in the way we handle each other. That’s really what this overarching area is about. I think we have lost sight of that as believers — that every interaction in our daily lives actually reveals something about what we understand about carrying His image.
If you and I as believers are marked by His name and we say, “I belong to Him,” then we have been invited into this incredible idea that we’re going to carry His image and we’re not just going to belong to Him, we’re going to look like Him. We’re going to act like Him. We’re going to speak like Him. That when the rest of the world sees us, they’re going to see Him.
How many are with me and already feel convicted? But in context, what Paul’s really working on is addressing the tendency in humanity to disconnect our beliefs from our behavior.
He’s challenging this young Roman culture not to do that. Don’t disconnect your belief from your behavior. Be diligent to choose the nature of Jesus.
I love this about the Lord. We’re all called into the kingdom through the same process: the cross. We came in through His death and His resurrection. But the nature of Christ that He longs for us to carry, He’s laid it out for us to choose. He won’t force it upon us.
It’d be great — I think — if it was an invisible suit of armor that forced us to only make the right decisions. I don’t know about you, but I would sign up for that. Lord, you just gave me an invisible suit of armor that I can’t be an idiot in. But it’s not like that. He forces us to choose.
So verse 17 picks up, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink.” Now, why was Paul talking about that? He’s talking about eating and drinking because, at this time, there was an argument happening around pagan temples. There were some believers saying, “Everything is lawful. It’s legal. It’s no big deal. He died for freedom. Christ set us free. Don’t put the law on me.:
So why did that matter? Because they could go to the market and buy animals that had been sacrificed in pagan temples cheaper. Same beef, less price. And if they wanted a pure animal or an animal that hadn’t been used in animal sacrifice, it came at a premium. So there were some people looking at it going, this just makes good sense. Let’s just spend less money. And there were others saying, you can’t do that you’re partnering with the demonic.
There was a fission in the church. Over preference. Over what somebody thought versus another.
So Paul says the kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. And if you serve Christ with this attitude, you’ll please God.
I don’t know about you. But the moment I see this “if then you will,” it concerns me. Because some of us wake up thinking the moment we open our eyes, He’s pleased with us. I don’t know if that’s true. I think He loves us. But His pleasure, according to what Paul writes here, comes as a response to us carrying the nature of His son.
If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God and other people will approve of you, too. So what Paul does is state what the Kingdom is not. And I think that’s a really important idea. What he’s talking about here is about our preferences and our choices, not just about what we eat or drink.
Paul will say in other places, preach the word, honor the blood, and lift up Jesus. Keep the main thing the main thing. The kingdom is about the reality that you and I belong to Him and we’re being led by Him. It’s that simple.
Have you ever wondered why the Holy Spirit stays so quiet on so much stupidity? You get around people and you’re like, I can’t believe the Lord didn’t just tell them how stupid they are. But he doesn’t. He’s incredibly gracious. He takes His time.
We have become a culture that wants to offer our convictions to others instead of making space for them to be led by the Holy Spirit. The problem is, if I offer my conviction to you, it’s my faith that’s leading you instead of yours, and there’s no pleasure from God in my faith for you.
According to Paul, the Kingdom of God is learning to live in goodness and peace and joy. So maybe there’s a thought here — that we could invert this idea and say that we find the right kingdom answer and perspective to almost any issue in our life at the places that we have to choose loving joy or the places that we want to leave goodness, peace, and joy.
For example, if you find yourself getting pretty riled up and want to superimpose your opinion on somebody, you probably left goodness, peace, and joy.
For the last three years, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, there’s been a ton of division in the church over ridiculous issues. The church is divided over vaccine or no vaccine, mask or no mask, red or blue. It’s ridiculous.
Because we’ve allowed things that were always to be a preference to become divisive. That’s what Paul’s talking about here. And if you have ever divided over a non-Kingdom issue, here’s a newsflash, the King wasn’t in it. And if the King wasn’t in it, He isn’t in it.
A lot of us need to go back and do some repentance work, some forgiveness work, some apologizing work over allowing ourselves to divide over non-Kingdom issues.
Paul goes on and says, “So then, let’s aim for harmony in the church. And let’s try to build each other up.” Let’s aim for harmony in the church. And try to build each other up.
There are three phrases in this verse that I want to look at. The first phrase is “aim.” It means to chase after with swift pursuit. It’s the idea of having a goal on the horizon. How many understand the first principle of driving is to keep your eyes forward?
When I was 16 years old, I learned a really painful lesson. There’s a golf course to the right of where I drove to get to my house. There was a girl in the car. I have to confess that. But there was something happening on the golf course and it was pretty funny. And I’m watching the golf course and we’re talking about it. The next thing I know I took out 52 feet of fence. I jumped the curb in my mom and dad’s Blazer and wiped out the side of the car. Because my eyes weren’t on the horizon. Painful lesson.
Could I submit to you a simple idea? When you take your eyes off the horizon, the same thing happens in your life. He says let’s aim for harmony. The word “harmony” here means peace tranquility, quietness, rest. It’s got a lot of chill in it. It’s got a lot of mellow in it. There are no words in here that are really riled up and intense. That’s hard for me because I’m a riled up, intense guy by nature.
Paul says, I want you to set this thing called harmony on your horizon. I want you to work towards peace. I want you to work towards tranquility. I want you to work towards quietness and rest. Why? Because when you do that, it allows you to get about the business of building people up around you.
And all of a sudden, I realized something. Sometimes the enemy loves to bring distractions to us, not because he really cares about the distraction, but because he knows it becomes a place for us to get riled up and upset and irritated, and we lose our tranquility, we lose our peace, we lose our rest, and we lose our ability to build people up.
I was watching Ted Lasso yesterday. It makes me want to grow a mustache so bad. In the episode I’m watching, there’s a father who comes in and he says to his son, “Hey, anger makes you weak. Don’t fight behind, fight forward.”
And I was thinking about this Romans teaching, I was like, whoa. You see, when we take the bait of the enemy, it makes us weak. When we’re weak, everybody’s weak because we can’t do our job of building them up. See the word “build up” here. It’s the act of adding to or promoting growth. There’s an intentionality of adding what is missing.
We are supposed to be putting our energies towards peace, tranquility, and quietness. We should be working to try to create a system of rest around us.
How many chemistry buffs do we have in here? There are like three of us good for you. In chemistry, to bring a system to rest, we’re moving it from a dynamic position to a static position. This is done generally by adding something or removing something. We’re killing off the equation, we’re getting the volatility out of it. That’s Paul’s idea here is to take the volatility out of the relationships around you and work to add what is necessary so they come to rest.
So apply this to our lives. We’re to put peace on the horizon of our minds as people in our relationships. We choose to run towards the words, the deeds, and the attitudes in ourselves that will bring growth and support and add to others.
Paul seems to identify this as a counter-behavior to the danger of condemning each other. That’s how he starts 14. Why are you condemning another believer? Why are you criticizing him? Why are you coming at them?
I would just love to offer that we need to repent of our judgments and our criticisms. Get over our personal opinions and perspectives and put on love. Actually put it on. I think this simple idea is incredibly difficult. I think it’s going to require most of our attention. It’s going to require a lot of discipline and focus to actually carry the nature of Jesus correctly.
If you think about the cross, you think about how incredibly painstaking His death was. It was for this purpose. He died so we would have the opportunity to carry His nature. He redeemed us, transformed us, and translated us from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light so that we would have the ability and the opportunity to carry and choose His nature.
So we all have that opportunity. The question is, will we make the choice to honor the cross and choose to carry His nature? It’s tough because this becomes a really big, existential idea. But let’s talk about the grassroots reality.
In your homes, will you choose to carry His nature? At work, will you choose to carry His nature? When you drive, will you choose to carry His nature?
It was for freedom that Christ set us free, no longer to be subjected to sin and to that yoke. I would love to suggest that until we learn to carry the nature of Christ, we’re still subject to that yoke because we’re still living in our nature.
I love the kindness of God — that He saves us and He translates us from darkness into light. But He doesn’t force His nature upon us. He lays it in front of us and says, if you want, you can live like Me. You can choose to look like Me, you can choose to act like Me. I don’t think the nature of Jesus is a salvation issue. I think it’s a reward issue. I think this is why Paul talks about the judgment seat in this passage.
So if you’re worried about whether you are saved, I think the work of Jesus is so far-reaching that we’re all going to be surprised at how far-reaching it is. I think the understanding of God looking at the heart in a way that we don’t understand is going to be so didactic, that it’s going to surprise some of us.
I don’t think we should even begin to step into the other side and try to determine His perspective. I think we should live what He gave us. I think when He says, “Put on My nature,” our answer should be, “Yes, sir. I’ll put on Your nature.” When He says, “Take off your nature,” our answer should be, “Yes, sir. I’ll lay aside my nature. All the places that I choose me over You, I lay those down.”
I want to invite you to stand with me. We’re going to take bread and cup and then we’re going to head back into worship and we’re going to baptize some people and we’re going to cheer them out of the water.
I want you to take bread and cup with this question on your heart: where am I not carrying the nature of Jesus? Where do I need to lay down? Where do I need to invite His nature? What do I need to confess?
Just do the work with me. Looking at what Paul says in the Scriptures and saying to yourself, “Lord, I have allowed criticism and preference and my opinion to get in the way. I just lay it down again.”
Jesus, we love You and we honor You. Lord, as we step into bread and cup. We would ask that You would bring illumination, wisdom, and understanding to every place we need it. Lord, this is a strong word for us as a family to lay down our own nature and choose You. As we remember Your body and Your blood, we do this today, just with our eyes on the way You went to the cross, totally surrendered, totally submitted, and never fighting the Father. We want that to be our story, that we’ve lived our lives totally surrendered and completely submitted to You, never fighting You in our life.
Holy Spirit, we welcome You in this time. Bring conviction, bring restoration. Let’s take bread and cup, amen.
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