The sermon: unity of worship

Hi, today my dad preached on Romans 15, here is his sermon:

Zechariah 9:9-12 9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’ 11 “As for you also, Because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to the stronghold, You prisoners of hope. Even today I declare That I will restore double to you. Let’s sing.
Second Scripture reading: Matthew 21:1-9 1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”
Let’s pray together: Our Father in heaven, we recognize we are in the presence of the Lord, the Almighty God. And You taught Moses that your presence is holy ground, and we so we come before you with deep reverence and awe this morning. You have taught us to tremble at your word, and to keep our words few for you are in heaven and we are on earth. You are the Great God, the Creator of all things, and by Your power all things hold together. And You sent Your Son to be our Redeemer, our Substitute, our Ransom payment, Who set us free, Who made us whole and blesses our lives. We praise you oh God for Your Spirit Who convicts us of sin. We do ask for forgiveness of our sins, though they are many, and we do thank you for forgiving us afresh. Lord our thoughts turn just now to Don and Crystal Morgan and our hearts cry out for your healing touch. Lord we thank You for their sweet and humble and gracious spirit, and we ask that you please don’t allow Don or Crystal to lose hope, or to turn aside, or to give in to bitterness, and oh Lord, if they feel overwhelmed please lead them to the Rock that is higher than them. And we find ourselves continually praying for Margie Smallman that you would heal her body and encourage her heart, and give her grace and perseverance. Now be with us as we open Your Word, and bless us for Jesus sake.
And now let’s read our passage of study for today, the first 6 verses of Romans 15.
Romans 15:1-6 1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Well I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered, what is the big picture as to what God is doing in the world? What is the big plan, the Master Plan? The Scriptures peel back the curtain to show us what God is doing; to show us God’s eternal plan. It’s a big plan: it includes people from all nations, all languages, all ages, and all walks of life. This plan paints a picture for us of all God’s people, joining hands together, worshipping God in perfect unity.
And this plan reveals the reason why all these people are worshipping: it’s because Jesus Christ died in our place, to take our punishment, and to bring us to God. Revelation 5:9 shows people worshipping Jesus and they say to Him, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain (notice, he opens the book of life by His death), and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” This tells us the cross was a purchase transaction, where Jesus came to this earth to buy us for Himself, like someone would go to the store and make a purchase. He is worthy because He died for us, to forgive our sins and to open up eternal life for us, and to bring us to God. And so God’s eternal plan is revealed: unity of worship through the gospel.
Now we can even see this same plan of God in our passage today simply by comparing two verses in Romans 15. Verse 3 and verse 6: Romans 15:3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” This is a direct reference to His death where He was insulted and mocked and crucified to save us. And notice the expected result of Jesus death: Romans 15:6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unity of worship through the gospel!
Think of it like this for a moment: let’s say that you and your family are driving along the road at night and you slow down because up ahead are some train tracks and you look out to your right and you see a train coming, but there seems to be enough time to make it across, so you begin to move forward, but something has gone wrong and your call has stalled right on the tracks. You see the train coming closer now and you’re trying to start the car but it won’t start. You think of jumping out and running but all your family is in the car. It seems that you’re doomed. But then all of a sudden a pickup truck behind you has noticed your predicament and has begun pushing you off the tracks; and he just barely gets you free of the tracks when the train slams into it, and with shock and horror you realize that the driver that just saved your life could not survive that impact. It’s clear that he gave his life in saving you. And what would your response be? Wouldn’t you be grateful, and in your hearts thank God for that driver? Wouldn’t everybody in the family with one heart and one mouth express deep appreciation for him? See that’s God’s design for us today. He saved us from eternal destruction, much worse than a train, and so we are to have unity of worship, through the gospel.
Well then the question comes, how do we cooperate with God’s plan? How do we achieve this unity of worship? Well first I think we can all admit this is no small task. I mean look at all the denominations that were formed based on their own distinctives. A recent search on Wikipedia lists 3800 different Christian denominations. Picture a person who God begins to work in; they will find a strange desire to go to church, because God is drawing them to Himself. But now they’re in quite a quandary. Which church is right? Is it the Baptist, the Lutheran, the Methodist, the Presbyterians or the Church of Christ? What happened to unity? Something’s wrong.
But we can do something about it, and align ourselves with God’s plan. This passage gives us four things that God expects all Christians to do to further His plan:
Love each other (vss. 1-2)
Learn from the Bible (vss. 3-4)
Live in unity (vss. 5-6)
Lift up the Savior (vs. 6)
So we see first of all that we are to love each other. Romans 15:1-2 1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. This tells us that we are to love each other. And so we are to love each other in very specific ways:
Bear with each other
Build each other up
Bless each other
To love someone is to bear with them; this word actually means to carry them. To carry their burdens with love and gentleness. Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Now here it is important to remember Palm Sunday, where people spread palm branches on the path and Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey. Now think about why He chose a donkey to ride on. Wouldn’t a king ride in on a great white stallion? Or a royal chariot with speeding horses? But here Jesus lumbers along on a donkey?
Yes, because a donkey is not only a sign of humility but a donkey is a burden bearer. You’ll remember that a donkey’s nickname is “beast of burden” because they carried the bags and supplies of people as they moved around. What a fitting representation of Jesus’ Himself, Who, one week later, would bear their burden of sin. What love for Him to take this burden off of you and to carry it Himself, all the way to the cross.
Oh don’t you remember what a burden sin was? As an unbeliever we were strapped down with a backpack full of sin like bricks. We were weighed down by it and sank under the weight. And then we heard one of the great benefits of becoming a believer was that Jesus would take our burden from us and carry it for us and dispose of it at the cross. One of our Christian songs says “He took my sins and my sorrows, He made them His very own. He bore the burden to Calv’ry. And suffered and died alone.”
And likewise we are to carry each other’s burdens out of love. The strong are to bear the failings of the weak so that the weak can grow strong. This tells us to consider people, not trample on them, but encourage them, and bear with their weaknesses. We must learn to sympathize with them, be concerned for them, minister strength to them when we can. This is bearing one another’s burdens.
And to love someone is to build them up. Vs. 2: edification. To build up. One of the greatest ways to do this is to give them the good news. Sin tears down but the gospel builds up. Husbands are you in the habit of building up your wife? Do you teach her the gospel? Forgive her when she needs it? Wives, do you build up your husbands to their face and in the presence of others. Parents, are you building up our children? Do we all share the gospel every day with people we meet?
And we build people up by refusing to ever say a bad word about them. James 4:11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. And a church that bears with each other’s weaknesses and builds each other up is a worshipping church because love is flowing. This is how we cooperate with God’s eternal plan.
And love blesses other people. It pleases others. “let each of us please his neighbor for his good.” I have to tell you that I have seen this principle being followed over and over in the Fountain of Grace church. The bringing of meals to people who are sick, the ongoing visitations, the numerous helping hands when someone is moving, the love you share when someone is in need. Over and over I see you pleasing your neighbor, blessing your neighbor for their good.
You see a church that loves each other like this is a unified force. A church that bears each other’s burdens and builds each other up and blesses each other is a worshipping church.
And then Paul is going us an example of this kind of love. It’s as if Paul said, “Just look what Jesus did for you. Notice verse 3: Romans 15:3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me.” Notice the self-denial of Christ. Christ did not please Himself. He did not consider His own safety or comfort or pleasure; when He came to earth He was born in a manger, had no place to lay his head, lived with the same status as a beggar, refused to be made a king, He washed his disciples’ dirty feet, did not live for His own honor; He emptied himself, and made himself nothing: and all this for our sake, to make us righteous. His whole life was self-denying and it took Him straight to a cross where He denied Himself His very life’s blood for you. Think of this for a moment: He preferred your eternal benefit over His own ease and comfort. He took your curse that You might have His blessing. He pleased His neighbor, not Himself.
He even chose to receive insults rather than compliments. Who would choose that? He chose to have the insults that were directed at God fall on Him. At the cross we see a crowd of God-haters; they hate His God’s Law and God’s righteousness. They were pounding nails into God’s flesh, jabbing a sword into God’s heart. Jesus willingly took these insults, nails and sword, choosing not to please Himself but rather God and you.
And likewise, we are not to live self-pleasing lives, but rather please one another. 1 Corinthians 10:24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Philippians 2:4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. That’s how God will have a unified church, a worshipping church where we all live to please others. And so believers are to constantly think, who can I please today? How could I bless them for their good? What burden can I carry, how can I show love to someone?
Secondly, we are not only to love each other, but we are to learn from the Scriptures. Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning.” Certainly we are to learn from all Scriptures, but what he is referring to here is the Old Testament. Paul just quoted from Psalm 69, and showed how it pointed forward to Christ and the cross. And we are to learn from them, that’s why they were written. Men here today, are you learning from the Scriptures? Do you set aside time each day to study them, to gain knowledge, to go deep into them? Ladies, do you learn from the Scriptures? 2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
According to verse 4, we learn patience from the Scriptures and we receive comfort and hope. We learn about the lives of Daniel and David, and Joseph and Job, and we see they learned patience and perseverance, they just continued on through all their hardships and they were rewarded with comfort and hope. And we’re led by their example to press on in faith, to not turn back or turn aside to sin but persevere.
And if we persevere God will comfort us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 tells us that God “comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” God is a God of comfort and the Scriptures are real comfort food.
And the Scriptures give us hope. Maybe you remember life before you were a Christian and you had no lasting hope. We were without God and without hope. All hope for the unbeliever dies with them, there is no hope beyond the grave. We might have searched the world over but we would not have found any lasting hope. There is none whatsoever. Without Christ our world is dark and dismal. Depression and despondency characterize our world today. The only place you can find real hope is in the Word of God. To become a believer is to become a prisoner of hope. Hope is one of the first things we experience when we become born again. 1 Peter 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” He does this through the Bible. If you’re depressed or discouraged the Scriptures are the answer. Get in to them and see that God calls you up above the darkness into the sun of hope.
I remember one time here in the Cleveland area it had been a long, dark winter, and the spring rains were lasting forever. Rain, rain rain. And one morning we went to the airport and took off and climbed out and about 18,000 feet we broke out into the clear and the sun was shining bright. And my co-pilot said, “tower, we’d like to report an unidentified orange ball in the Eastern sky.” Everybody laughed. We hadn’t seen it for so long. Here we were living like gophers down here when it was all bright above. And God calls us in the Scriptures to come up into the sunshine of hope. It tells us that on the cross Christ entered the darkness for you Colossians 1:13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. But some Christians still live as if they have not been rescued from darkness because they are not studying the Scriptures.
A church that loves each other and learns from the Scriptures is a unified church and a worshipping church.
And that brings us to point three, that we are to live in unity. Romans 15:5 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”
Think of these amazing words, “a spirit of unity among yourselves.” We should not have our little pet teachings, or our little thing that everybody knows us for. We ought to all be like-minded around the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul’s praying for their unity. He’s just following in Jesus footsteps who prayed in John 17:11 “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one” and in verse 23, “may they be brought to complete unity.”
J. Vernon McGee talks about growing up in a small town in West Texas and as a boy he was walking along the road and there’s a Baptist church on this corner, a Lutheran church on that corner and a Methodist church across it on the other corner. And he paused because they were all 3 singing. The Baptists were singing “will I have any stars in my crown” and the Lutheran’s were singing “no not one, no not one” while the Baptists were singing, “oh that will be glory for me, glory for me.” I’m quite sure that’s just a story, but the point is that they all should have been singing the doxology “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Philippians 1:27 Whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel. If we ever content with anybody it needs to be only for the gospel! 1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
Finally, we are to lift up the Savior. That just means that we are to glorify the Lord. To lift Him up in praise. Romans 15:6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Well if God lifted up His Son for us, shouldn’t we lift up our praise to Him? If you’ve ever wanted to know the main thing that God wants of you, it is to praise Him. If you’ve ever wanted to know where God lives, Psalm 22:3 says God lives in the praises of His people. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to suffer, how to face hardship and trials, like Job who lost all his children in one day and it says, “then he fell to the ground and worshipped.” If you’ve ever wanted to know what you’ll be doing throughout all eternity, it will be to praise the One Who gave His Son for you to bring you out of the darkness of unbelief into the Light of faith.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
God has a master plan of the universe. He sent His Son to die and rise again, that we might love each other, learn from the Word, live in unity and lift up the Savior. That we might all have unity of worship through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.

Grace and truth, Charity Cleveland.


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