July 11, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 15)

Submitted by Lois B. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 15:1-3

  • Reflect on the fact that Christ “did not please himself.”  To what extent is “pleasing myself” the criterion by which I choose between options, and the motivating goal of my life? 

Christ “did not please himself” when he entered into a world of sin and went to the cross for others.  Christ, the blameless Son of God, willingly died a death He did not deserve for others’ sake, so that we could be counted righteous and live. He wasn’t forced to do this. He did this by his own will.  He shared in the Father’s heart for people who did not know God, and out of love and compassion for them, made Himself nothing and gave Himself up for them.  Although holy, sinless, the Son of the Almighty God, Jesus chose to descend into the mess of weak, sinful creatures like us, so that we could be saved.

How different this is from how the world operates.  When Apostle Paul says, “we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves,” he knew that bearing with the failings of the weak went against the desire to please ourselves.  If we fully followed our desire to please ourselves, we would probably stay far away from limiting ourselves to help the weak, since our desire is to feel strong, in control, and secure.

I remember a time in college when I lived completely to please myself.  I wanted to feel strong, in control, and secure, and so I made many decisions based on whether I would ultimately be pleased.  I tried my best to shut out anything and anyone that made me feel weak or insecure.  This included authority figures in my life, those who cared enough to speak the truth to me, or friends I felt intimidated or threatened by.  At almost any cost, I would avoid feeling diminished.  By the end of that semester of pleasing no one but me, though, it was very clear my life had become so small.  I had the independence I had wanted, but along with that came loneliness, lostness, lack of joy and love.  I knew then that a life of pleasing myself wouldn’t satisfy as I had hoped, and I needed another answer.

What about now, as someone who has received the Gospel and is called to live it out?  While pleasing myself is not something I would say is my deliberate goal in life, there are still ways that this attitude can easily creep into my decisions. For example, I am pleasing myself when I decide to be more efficient than more loving.  I tend to get lost in trying to get something done, even for ministry, and miss an opportunity to connect with someone or find out someone’s needs.  At that moment, it would really please me to cross off something on my list of to-dos, so that I can just move on to the next thing to do and finish the whole thing faster.  But if I kept on doing things like this in order to please myself, there would be no room in my mind and heart for the people God has placed in my life to love.  There would be no way I could grow in Christ-like character if I kept up this selfish pattern.  Maybe in the future I would get really good at getting things done efficiently, but what would really be the point of that if I forgot about the Gospel that should have compelled me to love those around me?  I would have missed so many opportunities where the Gospel could have come more alive in our community.  What if other people at our church followed the same pattern of making decisions to just please themselves?  Soon enough, it would be hard to find the Gospel embodied here.  It would be hard to see the difference between God’s church and the rest of the world.

  • What can I do to “please [my] neighbor for his good to build him up”?

I can think of the ways that others in the past have thought of my good to build me up, and I can actively look for opportunities to serve them in similar ways.  Even if it means limiting myself, and that I might feel a little weaker at that time by taking on more, I can count that a privilege to follow Christ’s example, and the examples of those who have gone before me.

  • Keep in touch with friends, encourage them, and pray for them as they serve God elsewhere under more difficult circumstances.
  • Speak the truth in love with people entrusted to me instead of shying away from uncomfortable conversations.
  • Ask how some friends have been doing after suffering a recent loss.
  • Cheerfully offer my time and help to older leaders who have families, children to take care of, and more responsibilities in ministry.
  • Take the time to pray for the various needs of people and ministries at our church and elsewhere.

Submitted by Richard T. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 15:1-3

·       Reflect on the fact that Christ “did not please himself.”  To what extent is “pleasing myself” the criterion by which I choose between options, and the motivating goal of my life? 

·       What can I do to “please [my] neighbor for his good to build him up”?

Apostle Paul’s exhortation is to be thoroughly other-centered as Christ was. Christ did not insist on his rights or even fair treatment under law and due process, but gave himself starting with his descending from heaven. In his ministry, he gave to those who had need and moved toward those who were harassed and helpless, the sick who needed a doctor and became a refuge for the persecuted and attacked. Christ is my Lord and the example for me to follow. To the extent that I make decisions based on my selfish desires or a false sense of entitlement, or I make decisions that are self-preserving, I am living to please myself, and following the world’s example of what life is to be like. The world’s notion of a proper life is to look out for oneself and to maximize ones’ options and entitlements. Yet this is contrary to the Bible’s description of a good life. I need to see through the lies of the world and refute notions that I deserve to live a certain kind of life–a comfortable life inwardly focused on my nuclear family, selfish pursuits to further my career or some hobby, and entitlement to leisure and material things. These are expected from a worldly perspective, yet to give my life to those things would be to forsake the Bible’s call for me to be a minister and to love others as God does. Another way that I can live just to please myself is to limit the sphere of my concern. As we’ve been hearing about in Moses’ life, God appeals to people and asks them to take up his concern for others. God hears the cries of the oppressed and invites me to participate in building the church to build a refuge for people battered and bruised by sin’s oppression in people’s lives. The challenge for me is to not steel my heart against the cries and needs of his people, but to open my heart to these needs and to bring my energy and character to bear on these needs. When I take on the needs and burdens of building the church in greater measure, I am able to subjugate my priorities for the sake of others and live in obedience to God’s call for my life. There are many needs that I encounter on a weekly basis–prayer requests, ministry needs, people issues, logistical issues–and I need to have an open and eager heart to meet those challenges. As I think more about the two options, that of pleasing myself and pleasing God, I am reminded that the former leads to a small, narrow life. Although a life full of others’ burdens seems oppressive from a worldly perspective, it’s really a blessing because it leads to a glorious life of love. By opening my heart, relinquishing my entitlements and refusing the temptation to live to please myself, I can live the best life that God has for me through taking on the burdens of others and building God’s church as a refuge from sin’s oppression in my life and for others.

Romans 15:4-11

·       What is the final goal that the Roman Christians could achieve if they (Gentile and Jew; the “strong” and the “weak”) learned to restrain their rights, and “accept one another”? 

They would create a remarkable counter-cultural community that would glorify God to the world.

·       In what way does a deep desire to, “with one heart and mouth…glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 6), push out the attitude of wanting to assert the rightness of my opinions, or engage in disputes over nonessential matters?

·       Is there some issue I am holding onto which has prevented me from joining with others “with one heart and mouth” to glorify God together in a unified voice?

Such a deep desire to create the remarkable counter-cultural community that would glorify God shifts one’s perspective away from self-justification or promoting oneself to the proper perspective of wanting to glorify God. Through this shift I am reminded of the bigger picture, that in the end, it’s not about petty differences but about the common mission of every Christian, which is to glorify God. I think about what it means to build a church and how I’ve experienced this in small measure amongst my peers. Among us, there is a diversity of interests, personalities and backgrounds, but as we grew and matured and replaced our desire for selfish things with desires for Christ and his kingdom, the differences between us became petty and insignificant. Although many of these guys would ordinarily have nothing to do with me, because of the gospel, my closest friends and I are together because of our shared purpose of living out the gospel and sharing the vision of building an Acts 2 church in every college town. Working with people and ministering to others, there are times that I think that differences in personality and character are too difficult to overcome, but I realize that the common purpose we have needs to push out the desire to be proven right in nonessential matters.

Submitted by Lawrence W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 15:1-3

  • Reflect on the fact that Christ “did not please himself.”  To what extent is “pleasing myself” the criterion by which I choose between options, and the motivating goal of my life? 

It is rather clear that Christ did not please himself. Rather, “the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” He laid down his life for the sake of others as he obediently went to the cross. Christ didn’t stand to gain much except a flogging, ridicule and a horrible death on a crucifix. The interesting thing though is in living not as a people-pleaser but as someone that lived to please others and not himself God was able to use him as His instrument of righteousness. For me, the way I choose to do things often is to please myself. Instinctively I choose do things that I think are comfortable and make me feel good about myself. For example when volunteering for different ministry tasks I tend to volunteer for things that I am capable at, giving me a higher chance of success versus volunteering wherever the need is and being okay if I fail or make mistakes in the process.

  • What can I do to “please [my] neighbor for his good to build him up”?

One thing I can do is to have that willingness to serve others no matter if I stand to gain. Now if there is a win-win situation and I do gain from helping others then that’s great. But in most situations I won’t. That can’t deter me from serving others though. Some examples of situations where I do not stand to gain much are maintaining contact with our Hsinchu church whether it was students I ministered to, staff I served alongside with or new staff that arrived. I remember when I was serving as a missionary out there how encouraging it was to receive words of encouragement from people in the states telling me that they were praying for me. Now that I am on the other side I can please my neighbor for his good to build him up by taking the time out to pen these words of encouragement letting these precious brothers know that they are not alone in this struggle. Honestly no one is going to know if I do this or not. But our unseen Heavenly Father sees what we do in secret.

Romans 15:14-21

  • What was Apostle Paul’s attitude towards his “priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God?”

Paul took his priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel very seriously. Why? He knew the consequences of what would happen if he didn’t fulfill his priestly duties. The consequences were grave. The goal of preaching the gospel after all is so that the “Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16) In other words Apostle Paul had this understanding that God wanted to use him as an instrument to reach the Gentiles, to share the full gospel with them, lead some through the steps of repentance and ultimately to Christ. Knowing how high the stakes were, eternal life and death, motivated Paul to not only take this role seriously but caused him to renounce his old Pharisaical life and fully devote his life to the cause of Christ.

  • What was Apostle Paul’s ambition?

Apostle Paul’s ambition was to “preach the gospel where Christ was not known.” Paul’s ambition wasn’t greatness, fame or financial gain. His ambition was to help those that haven’t heard about Jesus and to share with them the message that could change their lives forever. Paul wanted to fulfill that need and bring the good news to these people.

  • “From Jerusalem to Illyricum” is a vast territory covering Palestine all the way to Greece.  Reflect on the fact that in his lifetime Apostle Paul, either by direct personal evangelism, or through those who were converted through him, had caused “[t]he whole of that country [to be] more or less leavened with the savour of the gospel, churches being planted in the most considerable towns […]” so that there was “no more place for [him] to work.”  Further, Apostle Paul planned on going to Spain, the westernmost edge of the then known world.  Think about the impact of one person wholly obedient to God’s call.  In what ways can I share in Apostle Paul’s spirit?

Apostle Paul’s impact on the world was no doubt vast. The Gentiles, myself included, can count ourselves lucky that Paul decided to reach out to this group. It is rather shocking how powerfully God can work through one person’s obedience. This flies in the face of my expectation before I became Christian that God would just save people on his own. He didn’t need people. But as I see the gospel being transmitted through an unbroken chain of believers throughout history, it is clear that God longs to work through obedient people. God wants the believers of today to entrust the gospel to “reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim 2:2) Paul made this the chief aim of his life. Paul never got into a point in his life where he said, “I have given enough.” He knew the gospel was too important and there were still too many people that have yet to hear the gospel. For me as someone coming back from serving abroad in Taiwan for a year and a half, there is this temptation to pat myself on the back, celebrate what God did the year and a half I was there and be content and settle down into a comfortable life. But that’s just giving Satan the victory. Sharing in Apostle Paul’s spirit would mean keeping my eyes open to where the need is. As we’re planning on planting more Acts 2 churches, to share in Apostle Paul’s spirit, I need to have that willingness to go. Despite what I’ve sacrificed to God already in Taiwan, that willingness is so important. It’s not like I can honestly say to God I have given enough. Besides that, Taiwan is a place where 97% of the population do not know Christ. To share in Apostle Paul’s spirit I have to be willing to pick up again and go back there to serve if God calls me.

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