Hope; Spiritual Service
I was surfing the Internet the other day and ran across something that I have not heard in a long time. I heard this the first time from a pastor in the pulpit. He could hardly read this thing without, well, he just lost it, uncontrollably laughing several times. I think I'll get past it. It's humorous and I thought I would read this to you to share a little humor with you before I get into the lesson tonight. This is an accident report. It was allegedly submitted and reported at the Oxford Union in 1958. This bricklayer had an accident. This is his report:
"Dear Sir, I'm writing in response to your request for additional information in block 3 in the reporting form. I put "poor planning" as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation. I trust the following details will be sufficient. I'm a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident I was working alone on the roof of a new 6-story building. When I completed my work I found I had some bricks left over which when weighed later were found to weigh 240 lbs. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which was attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground level I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out, and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to assure a slow descent of the 240 lbs. of bricks.
"You will note on the accident form that my weight is 135 lbs. Due to my surprise of being jerked off the ground so suddenly I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor I met the barrel, which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explains the fractured skull, minor abrasions and broken collarbone as listed in section 3 of the accident reporting form.
"Slowed only slightly I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley which I mentioned in paragraph 2 of this form. Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold the rope in spite of the excruciating pain I was now beginning to experience. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. It was now devoid of the weight of the bricks the barrel weighed approximately 50 pounds. I refer you again to my weight.
As you might imagine I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth, and severe lacerations on my legs and lower body. Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately, only three vertebrae were cracked. I'm sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the pile of bricks in pain, unable to move, and watching the empty barrel six stories above me, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope."
Oh well, that gave everyone a good chuckle. Let's open our Bibles now to Romans 15. Last time we wrapped up this paragraph dealing with all these various quotes from the Old Testament related to God's inclusion of Gentiles in His plan of salvation. They'd always been in God's plan of salvation. The point from these quotes was to demonstrate that the inclusion of Gentiles in the body of Christ was not unforeseen. Although the concept of the Church and the body of Christ was not predicted in the Old Testament, the salvation of the Gentiles was not unforeseen.
In looking at this last part of Romans 15:12, there is a quote from Isaiah 11:1 and 11:10. The concept of hope is mentioned. In Isaiah 11:10, "There shall be a root of Jesse and He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles. In Him, the Gentiles will have hope." That word takes us into the key thought that sets up the final benediction in Romans 15:13 as Paul ends the main body of the epistle before he gets into the conclusion. He writes in Romans 15:13, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
A couple of things we ought to note here as we look at this verse. The first thing we ought to note is that God is referred to as the God of hope. The topic of the verse is on the doctrine of hope. Now we've studied hope many times. Hope means a confident expectation. For the believer, for the use of hope in the Bible, hope is a certainty based upon faith. Faith in the Scripture is a way of knowing truth. It is not, as it's used so often in modern language, faith that is apart from evidence. Or you believe in spite in evidence. Or you believe just because you wish it to be true. Faith in the Bible is something that is based upon knowledge, something that is certain, something where you have assurance of its veracity. Hope is built on that faith. The faith points us to a certain direction. Hope, in turn, takes that direction and fixes its attention and just locks on that in the future. It's a certain expectation that no matter what else happens we have absolute, unbending confidence that this is what's going to take place in the future. Now that hope that we're talking about, Biblical hope, is a hope that derives from God. The "of hope" there represents a genitive of source in the Greek; it means the God who gives hope or the hope that comes from God fills us with something.
So what comes first? The hope or what it fills with? The hope, of course. What's the hope based on? Faith. So we see that hope builds on faith and then hope produces joy and peace. Then we have the phrase "in believing", which is by believing, so the means by which we have this hope is on believing. /We start with faith, then we build hope on that and joy and peace eventually result from that. So Paul is saying, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace."
The word for "fill" is the same word we have in Ephesians 5:18, "Be filled by means of the Spirit." I've taught this many times but in the Greek language if you have a coffee cup, I don't have one up here so I'll just use this water bottle, and you're going to fill it up with something, you're talking about content. You're talking about what you're going to put into the cup or into the bottle. You would use a genitive construction. If you're talking about what you're filling it with, such as the content of that bottle or from that pitcher or from that carafe, the instrument that you're using to fill it is going to be stated with a dative case grammatically. Now when we come to Ephesians 5:18 and people read that as being filled with the Spirit, they think that what they're being filled with in terms of content is more of the Spirit. That's not what it means because it's not a genitive construction. It's a dative construction. It's that the Spirit is going to be filling us with something.
We're filled by means of the Spirit. The Spirit is the One who already indwells us. We can't get any more of the Spirit. But the Spirit is going to fill us with something. There's a parallel passage in Colossians 3:16 where Paul says, "Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you." So what's the content according to that verse? It's the Word of Christ. It's Bible doctrine. It's the Word of God. It's the instruction from Scripture. So it's the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5:18 who fills us with the Word.
The by-product of being filled with the Word when we are obeying the Lord and walking by the Spirit is that the Spirit produces in us joy and peace. Both of these are stated as fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. So we have, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace." He does this through God the Holy Spirit which is what's clarified in this last clause. "That you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
God gives us this hope so that we can abound in hope by the power of God the Holy Spirit. I want to look at both the concept of hope and the phrase here, "joy and peace". This is where believers have stability. This is what gives us joy in the midst of trauma, in the midst of crisis, and in the midst of chaos. Now that doesn't mean that we become emotionally disengaged from what's going on around us. Our emotions aren't controlling us. Our emotions aren't dominating us. We remain in control rather than becoming emotional. We don't panic. We don't give in to fear and worry and anxiety and excitement and all of these other things. We have a calm and a tranquility even in the midst of crisis because our focus is on the Lord and He's the One who sustains us.
In the past I've talked about this in terms of different spiritual skills. These spiritual skills are how we stay in fellowship because every crisis, every external adversity, every difficulty, whether it's because we're dealing with someone who's just decimal points away from being an imbecile or we're dealing with someone who's just too, too caught up in legalism or we're dealing with the wonderful flexibility of the government or some bureaucracy or the structures of our employer or whatever they may be or we're dealing with other crises that come along. Maybe all of a sudden we have health problems. We have financial problems or all of a sudden a hurricane starts barreling up the Gulf to hit the upper Texas coast and we have to figure out how we're going to solve whatever happens as a result. Our lives turn into turmoil. What should we do?
The first thing we have to do is we have to make sure we're in fellowship. We have to confess our sins which simply means to admit or acknowledge our sins. That makes it sure we're back in fellowship. We're enjoying our relationship with God. We're abiding in Christ and we're walking by means of the Spirit. That's the second area. We have to maintain that walk by the Spirit. That's another term for walking in the light and abiding in Christ. It really describes the core dynamic of fellowship. It is enjoying that on-going relationship with God. This is talked about in passages like Ephesians 5:18 and Galatians 5:16.
Three things that we do help keep us enjoying that fellowship. We trust in God, which is the Faith-rest drill stated in 2 Peter 1:3-4. God has given us these rich and magnificent promises and we claim those promises. We're oriented to God's grace. We grow by the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ which is 2 Peter 3:18. That's also doctrinal orientation. These are the three basic skills we have to implement day in and day out as we face these challenges.
Then as we mature we begin to understand that we're not just living for today. We're living for eternity. I think one of the hardest things I see people dealing with is that this life is preparing us for eternity. We know it in an academic sense but it needs to become a normative part of our soul and that's so challenging. We have to accept that whatever happens in life is simply preparing us for eternity. We need to think in terms of the end game and not just what's going on right now.
We all have our plans, our hopes and our dreams for the next week, the next year, the next decade, or whatever it might be. These things hit our lives and all of a sudden those hopes and dreams and plans just disappear. We get so caught up in grief and introspection and self-absorption that we overlook that this was under God's control and God put it there for a reason. It's to get our attention to focus on His plan and not our plan.
The end game is that it's not about what we want. It's not about the direction we have planned out for our lives. It's all about serving Him and focusing on Him in terms of those priorities. So we have to develop that personal sense of destiny, not in light of our retirement, not in light of what we're going to do when the kids finally grow up and they leave the house, not in light of what we finally do when we get out of school and get a job. Instead, we're living today in light of what is going to count for eternity and what's going to be there at the judgment seat of Christ. We need to pass this stage which is like adolescence.
If you watch young people when they grow up they move from a time when they're about nine years old and they're really self-absorbed until they're fifteen or sixteen when they're absolutely and totally self-absorbed until they're about twenty-three or twenty-four, maybe even older now such as twenty-eight or twenty-nine, and they begin to realize that there are other people in the world who may know a little bit more than they do. They begin to focus on something outside themselves. That's what happens spiritually with a personal sense of our eternal destiny.
At that point we really begin to mature in love. It's not that it's not there before but now it begins to become mature. It begins to mature and really take root. So there again, just like in the infancy stage with its three key skills, faith-rest drill, grace orientation, and doctrinal orientation, in the adult or mature stage you have three skills that go together: a personal love for God, impersonal love for all mankind, and occupation with Christ.
A lot of people have problems with that term, impersonal love for all mankind, because they think it makes it robotic; it's not personal. What we mean by personal is that you have a personal knowledge or personal relationship with the person you are loving. A lot of time we don't have any kind of personal relationship with the people around us. The checkers at the grocery store, the customer service people on the telephone, other drivers on the highway, and all kinds of people around us that we have little or no personal relationship with. We need to love them just as much as someone we know and care about, that's intimately involved in our lives. That's why we call it impersonal love.
Another good term for it is unconditional love. It's not based on that person's behavior. It's not based on that person's personality. It's based upon God's character and the character of Christ. So that's our impersonal love or unconditional love for all mankind. We're to love one another. Galatians 5:14, "We're to love our neighbor as our self."
Then there's occupation with Christ. We focus on Christ. We keep our eyes focused on Him. We are to live like Christ. As trivial a cliché as it became with the little saying WWJD, "What would Jesus do", it encapsulates an important principle. That we should be thinking, what would Jesus do in this situation? What is the Christ-like response?
The last thing that closes out the circle is inner peace, inner joy, inner happiness, and this happiness that comes from God and is a fruit of the Spirit. It enables us to stay strong in the midst of crisis. That describes a circle. We've built a wall. That wall surrounds our soul. As long as we're walking by the Spirit, as long as we're enjoying that fellowship with God, we stay inside that circle and we're growing and maturing and we're operating on the power of the Spirit and the Word of God.
The Bible uses different terms to describe this. One is the term "abiding in Christ" coming out of John 15:1-7. Other terms that are used are "walking in the light" and "walking by means of the Spirit." Walking is a picturesque term used in the Bible that always refers to your lifestyle. Are you carrying out your lifestyle in the light of God's Word and in the light of God's righteousness or are you walking in darkness? Are you abiding in Christ or are you staying in the world? The issue is always our volition. At any given moment we can decide, "Okay, I'm going to take this back. I'm going to handle the problem my way. I'm going to use anger or intimidation or worry or anxiety or panic or anything else that comes along to solve my problem." Then instantly we're outside of this circle and we're vulnerable spiritually to failure and self-destruction. The only way to get back in is to enter through confession or naming of our sins.
Several years ago we had our first attempt at drawing this and it came out more of a castle than a fortification. We have a gateway as a drawbridge. The entry is 1 John 1:9. This was an attempt to express this in a dynamic way. We don't build this fortification and put up these bricks in a static fashion. One day we're in Bible class and we're learning about the faith-rest drill. The next day we're learning about unconditional love for all mankind. A couple of years later we're learning other things related to doctrinal orientation and we grow in terms of whatever we're studying and whatever it is we're being taught. It doesn't always just grow one level at a time.
The reason I emphasize that is that a lot of people got the idea that first of all they had to get the faith-rest drill down. Once they got that down, they thought they could move on to grace orientation. After they accomplished that, they thought they could move on to doctrinal orientation. That's not how that works. That's just a graphic demonstration demonstrating the logical relationship between these various spiritual skills.
Another attempt was made which I thought was much more illustrious and graphic. This is actually a painting that is outside in the entry hall of the church. (Shows picture of castle.) This represents the fortification in the midst of the storms of life. Each brick in this painting is labeled with one of the different spiritual skills, demonstrating that the only way to survive the storm is to be inside the fortification and utilizing these spiritual skills.
Here's the logical progression. We start off in spiritual childhood. As long as we're mastering these skills we're growing and we're maturing. At some stage we begin to get a glimmer of our personal sense of eternal destiny. All of those first five spiritual skills are exemplified by the concept of faith. We're learning to trust God. Even when we're confessing sin, we're claiming the promise of 1 John 1:9 which gives a condition, "If we do X…" Then the promise comes, "Then God will do Y…" "If we confess our sin, God will forgive us and cleanse us." The implication is that if we don't confess our sins then we're in a state of unforgiveness and we're not walking by the light or walking by the Holy Spirit. So this is building our faith, which is the application of what we believe in our life.
As we go through the next level, spiritual adolescence begins to develop with our personal sense of destiny and then we come to the upper level of spiritual adulthood. Now the adolescent level is hope. So we have to learn to really trust God. As we grow in our faith, what develops is that certain expectation of the future which is our hope. As that is secured then we can begin to love. It's interesting an observation from numerous psychologists, not that I'm looking there for validation, but it's interesting that a stopped watch is right twice a day. And even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then. So psychologists recognize that people can't love if they're not secure. 1 John 4 says that "perfect love casts out fear."
The basic problem that people have is fear and anxiety and worry. That was the first emotion stated in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned, then God came looking for them in the Garden. Adam said, "Well we heard the sound of your voice in the Garden and we were naked and afraid." That's the first emotion related to sin. You can't love if you're afraid. Hope gives us that confident expectation and security so that we can fully develop in the area of love: personal love for God, personal love for all mankind, and occupation with Christ. The result of this is joy and peace as we experience the perfect happiness of God. That's almost a consequence of doing the other things.
The reason I'm giving this to you and reminding you of these things is that when we get into Romans 15:13 it's helpful to think through what Paul is saying, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…" The word here for being filled is that same word that used for God the Holy Spirit. So as we're filled up with God's Word the end result is that we have this supernatural joy and peace in our life that gets us through almost any kind of crisis…not almost any kind, it's any kind of crisis.
Romans 15:13 goes on to say, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace by believing…" See that takes us down to the ground floor, these initial steps of faith. Notice we have faith, hope, and love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:13 where faith, hope, and love are what continue in this Church Age. "…That you may abound in hope…" That's more than you have at first. It's where your personal sense of eternal destiny is full and dominates your thinking. That's what's going on here.
This takes us back to a lot of passages in the Old Testament that are promises that focus on these aspects of hope, peace, and joy. In Psalm 39:7 we read, "And now, Lord, what do I wait for?" He's waiting and waiting in Scripture is always this idea of trusting in God for something that's not coming right away. It has this idea of resting in God such as the verse that says, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint." [Isaiah 40:31] So again in Psalm 39:7, "And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You."
What enables us to wait and to rest is our hope, our confident expectation that God is in control and God's going to provide for us. Psalm 42:11 where the psalmist is obviously struggling with emotional responses to the external adversities of life. He says, "Why are you cast down, O my soul?" He's asking himself why he's depressed, why he's feeling sad, why he's down, why he's disappointed. "Why are you disquieted within me?" He's having a little self-talk here. "Why are you cast down, why are you disquieted?"
The Psalmist tells himself to "hope in God." That's what we should tell ourselves. Don't hope in your circumstances. Don't hope in your plans. Don't hope in what you can see and touch. We like to know that things are going to turn out a certain way. We like certainty that our plans will work and yet when we're walking by faith, we may not see where things are going to go. Trust me. It's only an illusion that we think we know where things are going to go a certain way. God has a way of surprising us. The instruction that the psalmist gives himself is to hope in God and his conclusion is, "For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God."
One of the things that we have to develop is that when we are studying the Word and claiming promises, we should not only look at the context but think through what's going on inside that verse. What's the thought process of the writer of that verse? What's the rationale that's embedded in that verse? We have this question that's being addressed to the depressed soul. Then we have a command to hope in God, which is the solution. Then the conclusion that is reached is because of the hope in God, which is basically an essence of God rationale where we focus on who God is. Remember that He is worthy of hope. Then there's a conclusion that comes from focusing on the character of God, "For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God." See, all that's embedded in just one verse.
If you are prone to depression or worry or anxiety, that's a great verse to memorize. Ask yourself why you're depressed. Instead, hope in God. Direct your attention away from the problem and on to the solution. Psalm 62:5 says the same thing, "My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation [same word in the Hebrew for hope] is from Him." Are we expecting something else to provide for us? Something that can come from our job, something that can come from friends, something that can come from success, something that can come from money or the things that money can buy? If so, we're putting our hope in the details of life. Here our expectation, according to the psalmist, is in God.
Then Psalm 199:166 says, "Lord, I hope [a confident expectation] for Your salvation and I do Your commandments." The second line flows out of the first. Because of that hope, I am obedient. Jesus says to His disciples the same thing that Moses said to the Jews that if you love God you will obey Him. Hope leads to loving God. The barometer for knowing if we really love God is our obedience to Him.
Another great passage is Lamentations 3:21-24, written by Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem in 586. It's a lament. He's expressing his sorrow, his grief, over the destruction of the First Temple and the destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. I want you to notice how he starts off. Often we quote verses 22 and 23 but verses 22 and 23 are bracketed by verses 21 and 24. What's the key word in verse 21? It's hope. What's the key word in verses 24? It's hope. So what encapsulates this promise is hope, the confident expectation in God.
The writer of Jeremiah begins, "This I recall to mind; therefore, I have hope." What he's calling to mind is the doctrinal principles of verses 22 and 23. He's remembering the essence of God. He's focused on the grace of God and the mercy of God. That's what we call the Essence of God rationale. Years ago when I was a young believer I read through the psalms and was impressed that every time the psalmist starts whining about a problem he's facing, he turns to some aspect of God's essence and the result of focusing on God's essence is that he comes out of the mire of depression into the light of hope and confidence in his future. This is what Jeremiah is reminding us.
You can just imagine what this must have been like. The people of Judah had just lost everything they had. They lost their homes, their fortunes, in many cases they lost their children who were marched off to Babylon. They lost everything. Some of them left and went into exile down in Egypt. Others tried to stay in the land. Others were hauled off to Babylon and it looked hopeless. Every day when they woke up, they were still alive. As long as they were still alive, they knew God still had a plan for their life. As long as God still had a plan for their life, they knew they could be confident in Him and God would provide for them.
It wouldn't be in a day. It wouldn't be in a week. It wouldn't necessarily be in a year or two but eventually they would re-establish themselves and God would provide for them. Jeremiah focuses on the key issue, which is the character of God. "It is through the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed." The dead people back in Jerusalem were consumed. They were destroyed in the fifth cycle of discipline but the ones who survived were not consumed. God's grace kept them alive.
Now they may say, "Why did God keep me alive? I don't have anything. I lost everything. I don't know where my next meal is coming from." But it's the mercies of God that they still had an opportunity to survive and go forward no matter what has happened. They focused on the fact that "His compassions fail not." God's character is immutable. It never changes. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will never disappoint us. He will always sustain us. So because His compassions fail not, "they are new every morning." That's new in the sense of fresh. Each day God provides for us and sustains us.
Jeremiah may have been thinking about God's provision for the Israelites in the wilderness when God gave them manna from heaven every morning. Manna was a type of bread, something like that, that appeared every day with the mist on the ground. It tasted like coriander seed, according to the Scripture. I always thought it tasted more like a Shipley donut but that's just my preference. Or maybe it was like Blue Belle, whatever you like. It had all the nutrients in it that you could ever hope for. And it sustained the Israelites for forty years in the desert. God's faithfulness never failed. It was new every morning.
Then he breaks out in a statement of praise saying, "Great is Your faithfulness." His conclusion that he reaches is that the Lord is his portion. He's his share. He's his inheritance. Jeremiah is saying that the Lord belongs to him and so therefore he was okay. "The Lord is my portion says my soul. Therefore I hope. I have confidence in Him."
Paul talks a lot about hope in Romans. In Romans 4:18 it's connected to faith. He talks about Abraham who "in hope" and "against hope". What he means is that "in hope" is hope in God and against every kind of human expectation, Abraham believed. It resulted in Abraham becoming the father of many nations. This is in reference to Abraham's belief that God would give him a son through Whom the blessing would flow. Abraham saw the promise of God. He mixed that with faith, trusting in that. That gave him confidence in God that God would do what He promised at some time in the future and God eventually fulfilled that.
Again we see that development of faith first, then hope, and then followed love, and peace and joy. Romans 5:1-2, "Therefore because we have been justified by faith [a causal participle] we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." That is the reality of our fellowship. We have that peace as a result of justification. "Through Whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand." That's the position inside the wall. Standing inside the wall protected by those spiritual skills. We're abiding in Christ. Walking by the Holy Spirit. The result is that we "rejoice in hope." We have joy. We have these same ideas of peace and joy all tied together.
In Romans 5:3 Paul says, "Not only that but we also glory in tribulation." We boast in tribulation. We face adversity and we're not saying to bring it on simply because we love adversity for the sake of adversity but because we understand that whatever the adversity we're facing it's going to take us into greater maturity and give us a greater opportunity to see God fulfill His promises to us. So we glory in tribulation or adversity because we know that "tribulation produces perseverance and perseverance character and character hope." There's the path. That's the outline. That's the roadmap to maturity.
You can't get to hope and maturity unless you go through adversity and you persevere. As you persevere, it builds character. What comes out of that is that confident expectation. That's the path through infancy and beyond. That's why a lot of Christians don't even make it to spiritual adolescence because they cave in to those adversities in childhood. They just can't trust the Lord. They're overwhelmed by the circumstances of life. They don't have any doctrine and they don't know how to trust God.
Then in Romans 5:5 Paul says, "Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who was given to us." Again this emphasis is that the Holy Spirit is the power source. He's the dynamic. He is the One who enables us to live the spiritual life. Romans 12:10, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another." What's that? That's impersonal love for all mankind. That is unconditional love giving preference to one another so this is what we need to master in terms of spiritual maturity.
"Not lagging in diligence." This means not just doing it now and then when it's convenient but all the time. "Fervent in spirit" means being passionate about growing spiritually; "serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing steadfastly in prayer." So this is how hope thinks within that same pattern that we saw in Romans 5:5.
Now back to Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace." So the God of hope is filling us with joy and peace that we may abound in hope. So how does He do this? John 15:11, Jesus told his disciples, "These things I have spoken to you that my joy may remain in you." This isn't just normal happiness. Don't mistake this for giddiness. Don't mistake this for some kind of emotional experience. Don't ever mistake this for someone's personality trait.
I had a professor at Dallas Seminary by the name of Ron Blue. If they'd had the category of ADHD when Ron Blue was a kid he would have been classified as ADHD and he would have probably been overdosed on Ritalin just to keep him under control. He was just one of those people who is naturally exuberant all the time. I had him come and speak at my first church at a mission's conference. We had one guy in the church that really wanted the church to be charismatic. No matter what he was taught he wouldn't listen and he was mystical. After hearing Ron he said, "Wasn't that great to see the joy of the Lord in him?" I said, "That's his personality. That has nothing to do with God the Holy Spirit." You have to understand that there are a lot of people who are naturally exuberant and happy. That's their personality. That is not what the Bible is talking about.
Joy in the Bible is a production of God the Holy Spirit as a result of your study of the Word. It may or not be expressed overtly by someone's enthusiasm. It may be that someone is very quiet and very serious and very sober minded and very focused; yet in their soul they have great tranquility and joy. To confuse that with some kind of external expression of personality is going to lead you in the totally wrong way when you're studying the Word. Just before Jesus went to the cross in the context of abiding in Christ, Jesus said, "These things I've spoken to you [abide in Christ] that My joy may abide [remain] in you." He is connecting joy with abiding and staying in fellowship with God. "And that your joy may be brought to completion."
In John 16:20 He says, "Most assuredly I say to you that you will weep and lament…" Before that night was over with Jesus would weep and lament in the Garden of Gethsemane. He would be under so much pressure that blood would ooze from the capillaries just under his skin out through His skin so it looked like He was sweating blood. The terms that are used in the Scripture is that He had great emotional turmoil. But he didn't let that put Him in a position of sin. Just because you feel bad, doesn't mean you sin. If you feel bad and you do something wrong to assuage that bad feeling, that's when you've sinned.
What Jesus is saying here to His disciples is that a time will come when you will weep and lament. I talked about this on Tuesday night. Christians know we're going to go through tribulations and adversity and we may not get out of that adversity alive. The Lord may not save us through it. He may save us by taking us out of it in death. And it may be a long, slow, miserable, painful death. Think about the Christians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood up against the Nazis in World War II. He was put into a concentration camp where he died just weeks before the war was over. Just because he was a faithful believer didn't mean that he would die a calm, quiet death but he had peace in his soul from dying grace. His circumstances were horrendous.
This has happened to numerous believers down through the ages. Jesus faces the reality of our living in the devil's world. He says, "You will weep and lament but the world will rejoice [because of the pain we're going through] and you will be sorrowful." It's not wrong to be sorrowful. It's the same words used of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Those emotions are typical. If someone in your family dies, if you wife dies, if your child dies, if your parent dies, you are sorrowful. The Bible says we grieve but "not like those who have no hope." It doesn't say, "No, no, no. You're a believer. You don't grieve. You never are sad or sorrowful." The Bible recognizes that yes we will grieve. That's a reality but don't act on that in terms of your sin nature.
That's a reality of living in the world where we face death, pain, disappointment, and sorrow. Jesus says you will be sorrowful but "your sorrow will be turned into joy." Jesus had perfect happiness. He was immutable. Did Jesus ever lose His maximum joy? Not at all. Was Jesus sorrowful? Yes. Did He grieve? Yes. He did both at the same time. We think of these as mutually exclusive. You can have sorrow and grief but not like those who have no hope. You can have sorrow but at the same time you can have peace and tranquility and stability because of your relationship with the Lord. That makes Christians different. It doesn't mean we deny being sorrowful or grieving.
Jesus says He's the One who supplies this joy. It's the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…" Joy is number two. Love is mentioned first because the command that got Paul into this section was in Galatians 5:14 that you are to love your neighbor as yourself. In the fruit of the Spirit, the first one is love, then joy and then peace. That's what we're talking about in Romans 5:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace by believing."
I Thessalonians 1:6, "You became followers of us and the Lord, having received the Word in much affliction." There was a lot of opposition from the Jewish community that was turned into opposition from the civic, Gentile community who were opposed to them. He continues, "You received the Word with joy from the Holy Spirit." It only comes from God the Holy Spirit.
James summarizes everything at the beginning of his book saying "We're to count it all joy when we encounter various trials." So all of this is what Paul is bringing together in one very succinct statement, "And now may the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace by believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." We can't do this on our own. We can't gin it up. We can't make ourselves happy. It only comes as a by-product of being in the Word. If we're not in the Word and growing in the Word, then that's not going to be the by-product.
When you hit those adversities and you need it, it's too late to develop it. That's why it takes mental discipline every day in your Christian life to study the Word, to read the Word, to be reminded of the promises of God, utilizing those promises every single day so that as you grow and mature when you face these crises in life, you can rest and relax in the Word of God in hope.
Now we have a few minutes left. What I want to do is introduce you to the conclusion to this epistle. It begins in the next verse, Romans 15:14 and extends down to the end of the chapter. Just like the opening introduction, it reviews some basic themes and basic ideas that are stated in the opening introduction. If you turn back to Romans 1 Paul gives a salutation in verse one and then from Romans 1:2-17 we have the introduction.
There are several key things that Paul introduces in the introduction that—surprise, surprise—are restated in the conclusion. That's called good writing and good literature. He ties it together. So I want to go through six of these. We'll start tonight and we'll just get into the first one a little bit. This is application. Like Paul we should have serving the gospel as the central priority of our life.
Paul says in these verses that he is here as a minister of the gospel to serve the gospel. That's why he's on the earth. He's not here for any other reason. He's not here to become a success at his job, not that there's anything wrong with being a success and pursuing a great deal of success. But if you pursue success at the expense of doctrine, for you, for your family, for your spiritual growth, then that's going to be a sacrifice that will come back and haunt you the rest of your life. If you pursue any of the details of life, hobbies, your career, money, the things that money can buy, where the details of life consume you so that you cannot invest time in your spiritual life and the spiritual life of your family, then you will regret that day the rest of your life.
Paul says that our priority is serving the gospel. It's really interesting how he states this. I want to contrast the beginning of Romans with this. In Romans 1:1 Paul says that he was called to be an apostle separated to the gospel of God. In Romans 1:9, he says he served the gospel of His Son. In Romans 1:15 he says that he is ready to preach the gospel. And in Romans 1:16 he says he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
We ought to ask ourselves, "How true are these statements of us?" You're thinking, "Well, that can be true of Paul because he was an apostle." What's true of Paul here as an apostle should also be true of every single believer. We are all called to different ministries but we're all called to serving the gospel. We'll get into this in more detail next time but Paul recognizes that his focus is to minister the gospel of God. In Romans 15:20 he says, "And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel." It uses the Greek word EUAGGELIZO where we get our word evangelism. It means to give the good news to someone. It's doesn't mean to proclaim it but it's a synonym. It's emphasizing giving the good news with that particular word.
In Romans 16:15 he says, "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel." So in Paul's life the gospel is front and center. That should be true for every one of us. Like Paul, we should direct our lives toward a proclamation of the good news of the gospels. That can be done with our actions as well as our lips. A lot of times we're going to gain a greater hearing with some people by not running over them with the gospel and by not pulling out our gospel gun and shooting them. I've had to learn that the hard way just like everybody else.
There are times when we just have to keep our mouths shut about the gospel and we have to develop a relationship with someone. Sometimes it may take five, fifteen, twenty years. Sometimes we may never get the opportunity to really sit down and clarify the gospel. A lot of times we may be involved more in what is called today "pre-evangelism" rather than actually getting to the gospel. Some people have so suppressed the truth in unrighteousness that they've just created this whole thick veneer around themselves that you have to pierce because they don't want you to talk to them about the gospel. That's the last thing they want to hear. So we have to build that and peel away that veneer over time before they'll be willing to listen. A lot of that just comes with time and experience. So we work through that.
The first thing we learn from this is that we should direct our lives toward the proclamation of the gospel. The gospel is good news; a good proclamation. That's what it means. How many of us have forgotten have exciting it was when we realized we had eternal life and when we died we were going to go to heaven? And the good news is that God has solved all the problems for us. We want to tell people that good news.
Most Christians by the time they've been saved two or three years are a little bit embarrassed. They don't want to get into an argument. They don't want people to think that they are somehow backward or some sort of fundamentalist or whatever the word is. Satan has created the world system to create such negative images of Christians so we don't want to be associated with that. We want to be popular. We don't want to be unpopular. What we want to do is we're so busy avoiding that and being careful that we get to where we're so shy and timid about that that we don't want to give anyone the gospel.
We should be positive about giving people the gospel. Paul was very excited. He was not ashamed of the gospel. Our fear borders on fear of the gospel. In Romans 1:9 Paul says, "For God is my witness whom I serve with my spirit for the gospel." He serves the gospel. This is an interesting set of words. I want to end with this and let you hear it again the next time. He uses the word LEITOURGOS, which is an interesting word. Service is often DIAKONOS or DIAKONIA or some form of that word. But here it is a word that specifically is associated with priestly service. It has to do with our relationship to God. We serve the gospel of God's Son.
This word is used in Romans 1 to show that everyone gives religious service to someone. Everybody. Whether they're a Buddhist, an atheist, whether they're a secularist, a Muslim or whatever they all serve some religion. This is Romans 1:25. The unbeliever is the one who has "exchanged the truth of God for a lie." It's talking about the atheist. "And worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever."
In Romans 12:1, which is the beginning of this last section, Paul says, "I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice." This is a priestly concept. The term sacrifice and offering are used almost interchangeably. Here it focuses on the idea of a sacrifice "holy and acceptable to God which is your reasonable service." It's priestly service to God. It's part of your role as a priest in the royal family of God.
In Romans 15:16 Paul is saying, "That I might be a minister of Jesus Christ." It's not the word DIAKONOS. It's the word LEITOURGOS where we get our word liturgy. It's a word that focuses on priestly service. He's casting our service to the gospel in a very strong religious terminology but it has nothing to do with ritual. It has to do with the gospel, proclaiming the gospel. So this is his focal point. We see some other passages like in Hebrews 8:2 where this word LEITOURGOS is applied to Jesus as a minister in the temple and it's applied to Epaphroditus in his ministry to Paul's need. So in Romans 15:16 it emphasizes this.
Then we get to the next word "ministering the gospel of God", it's HIEURGOS, which means to serve as a priest. So what's the "ritual" of the Church Age? It's serving God day to day. It's Romans 12:1-2, "I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service." This is focal point of understanding the spiritual life. We'll start off with that next time to get it back into our heads. It should revolutionize your understanding of your Christian life.