MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson
This morning’s message is part one of a two-part miniseries titled “MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH.” Many churches promise the right hand of fellowship but what you end up getting is the right knee of fellowship.
Romans 14:10-13 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
Overall Background: We have come to the final pages of Paul’s letter to the Romans. He began this letter with doctrine and then transitioned into application but he is not through. There’s something else on his heart. Just like a father writing to his children on his deathbed, Paul’s last words are not just fillers but I think they are some of the most important words in the letter. Paul through the Holy Spirit is reminded the Christians to be steadfast in unity and love towards each other. A church can be orthodox, gifted, and financially stable, but without love, it will fall apart.
Both the OT and the NT emphasize unity and love among God’s people:
– David wrote in Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
– II Chronicles 30:12 “…the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.”
– Jesus told his disciples in John 13:34-34 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
– Jesus prayed for His disciples – John 17:21 “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. The proof of the incarnation of Jesus is unity!
Sadly, many churches are straight in doctrine, loaded in gifts and talents, and abundant in financial resources but have failed in love. By our lack of unity and love we are destroying our witness and failing the Great Commission.
This morning we will learn 4 important marks of an encouraging church:
I. NONJUDGMENTAL OVER PERSONAL CONVICTIONS
Romans 14:1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. There are some things over which the Bible is clear and straightforward. Then there are some things where the Bible leaves room for interpretation. There we shouldn’t get into heated debates. Augustine once said – “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Sadly in many churches the nonessentials become the focus.
Background: Among the Roman Christians, there were 2 groups of people: those who were ‘weak in faith’ and those who were ‘strong in faith.’ The weak were those Jewish Christians who felt that they had to refrain from certain foods and observe certain days out of loyalty to the Law of Moses. There were 2 questions that divided them – First, should we eat meat? Romans 14:2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Isn’t that amazing that most church conflicts happen over food?!! “Who brought the food? Who didn’t bring the food? Who got in line first? Who stayed around and helped clean up?
Second, should we celebrate the Jewish holy days? Romans 14:5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Again, isn’t that amazing that not much has changed today?!! What day is sacred? Sunday or Saturday. My answer – Everyday!
How should we respond to these differences? Recognize that there is a difference between biblical convictions and personal convictions. Romans 14:3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. Meaning: I’m not called to sit in judgment over your convictions and you are not called to sit in judgment over my convictions. Keep in mind – this is not regarding sin. Paul covered that already when he said in Romans 13:13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
For e.g. Some people think that social media like Facebook and Twitter are of the Devil. That’s your personal conviction. Just like when radio first came, some people opposed it saying, “Satan is the prince of the power of the air.”
Romans 14:10 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
II. NON-OFFENSIVE TOWARDS THOSE WHO STRUGGLE.
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
Background: Just because you are entitled to live by your personal convictions or the lack thereof, you are still obligated to be sensitive to those who are weaker. Don’t put a stumbling block and cause your brother or sister to fall.
Romans 14:14-18 14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;
I often hear – I can do this because the Bible doesn’t say anything against it or I can do this because David did this or Jesus did that. We can argue ad infinitum and it doesn’t matter. Is it going to make you son or daughter stumble in their spiritual life? Is going to make a weak brother/sister fall in their spiritual growth? Then you are obligated to stop.
Someone might say – “Well, that’s his or her problem. I am not responsible for their actions and choices.” The last time someone said that was in Genesis 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Romans 14:17-18 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Paul is talking to those with personal convictions – don’t put others in a bind by your personal convictions because of your preferences. It’s not about food and drink anyways.
18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.
Bottom Line: Christian life is not about my rights. It is about my obligations.
III. BUILDING ONE ANOTHER LIKE JESUS
Rom. 14:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
Background: The word for edify is the Greek word ‘oikadomei’ which is literally ‘building something.’ Meaning: We are God’s co-laborers in building each other spiritually.
Now, Paul is talking to both the ‘weak in faith’ and ‘strong in faith.’ Romans 14:20-21 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.
Romans 15:1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”
Meaning: Our example in all this is Jesus Himself. Just like He gave His life for His sheep, we are to lay down our lives for each other.
Application: Whose example are you emulating this morning? It should be Jesus.
What will be the result? Romans 15:5-6 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”
IV. FILLED WITH HOPE BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
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.
Hope means something better is on the way. Don’t get caught up in the here and now but realize that we are simply passing through. Only the Holy Spirit can help us see that.
Do you have Him? Through Jesus as your Savior you can.
Does He have you? Let Him control your life completely.
Does our church have Him? We have constantly pray for that.