BEAR ONE ANOTHER’S WEAKNESSES

Rom.15:1,3 – Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “THE REPROACHES OF THOSE WHO REPROACHED YOU FELL ON ME.”

At first glance it seems strange that Paul quoted this prophetic passage about the suffering of Christ from the Psalms. We all know that Christ bore our sin and our sicknesses in His body on the cross suffering in a way we never can. After looking carefully at Paul’s argument, it becomes clear what he is getting at. We are to identify with the suffering of Christ by bearing the weight of the struggles and trials other Christians are going through. Grabbing hold of someone who is struggling through sickness or facing death and carrying the load with them is what Paul is talking about. As we help someone through their struggles by bearing their weaknesses and troubles three things happen. The hurting brother or sister is helped, the Lord Jesus is glorified, and finally we are filled with joy. This is describing real ministry. Being used by the Lord in this way brings us into a sharing of the joy of the Lord. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on this passage.

“We must please our neighbor, for the good of his soul; not by serving his wicked will, and humoring him in a sinful way; if we thus seek to please men, we are not the servants of Christ. Christ’s whole life was a self-denying, self-displeasing life. And he is the most advanced Christian, who is the most conformed to Christ. Considering his spotless purity and holiness, nothing could be more contrary to him, than to be made sin and a curse for us, and to have the reproaches of God fall upon him; the just for the unjust. He bore the guilt of sin, and the curse for it; we are only called to bear a little of the trouble of it. He bore the presumptuous sins of the wicked; we are called only to bear the failings of the weak. And should not we be humble, self-denying, and ready to consider one another, who are members one of another? The great end in all our actions must be, that God may be glorified; nothing more forwards this, than the mutual love and kindness of those who profess religion.”

The Lord places all of us in strategic places to minister to hurting people. Jesus spoke of this in the gospels. He said when we have ministered to the least of these we have ministered to Him.

LIVING CHRIST

Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God—Romans 15:7

Many religions have high standards, Christianity has impossible standards. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who use you. Turn the other cheek. Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Without divine intervention living the Christian life is unthinkable. Only one has accomplished it, no one else even came close. Augustine had come to the same conclusion, that living the high standards of the Christian faith was beyond the realm of human possibility. Augustine’s solution? “Lord, command what you will, but give what you command”. Did you get that? The only way for us to follow the Lord fully is Christ Himself living and doing it inside of us. It’s is not us but Christ in us that lives that incredible life. That’s why Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” A. B. Simpson spoke about this high calling with Christ living the life in us, check Simpson’s thoughts out.

“Our text (today’s verse) sets forth a sublime principle, and it will give sublimity to all of life. It is stated elsewhere in similar language, ‘Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus’. Col.3:17 This is our high calling, to represent Christ and act in His behalf and in His character and spirit under all circumstances and toward all persons. “What would Jesus do?” is a simple question which will settle every difficulty, and always settle it on the side of love. But we cannot answer this question rightly without having Jesus Himself in our hearts. We cannot act Christ. This is too grave a matter for acting. We must have Christ and simply be natural and true to the life within us. Then that life within us will act itself out. How easy it is to love everyone and see nothing but loveliness, when our hearts are filled with Christ. How every difficulty melts away and everyone we meet seems clothed with the Spirit within us when we are filled with His presence.”

This teaching is actually very practical. Christ in us is a better parent, a better student, a better teacher, a better spouse, a better employee; He lives the standard in us that His word requires. What an amazing God. I have to agree with Augustine. Lord, require anything at all of me but you must fulfill that requirement in me.

STRENGTHENED BY JOY

Rom.15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,

so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

One thing I really love about the Holy Spirit, He is with us in our day to day life. He is not only there for ministry but also our source of joy in whatever our hand finds to do. Whether you are a student, an office worker, a gardener or a cashier; it makes no difference. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Often times we can tend to categorize our lives. We have our work part, family part, recreation part, and our spiritual part. The beauty of the work of the Spirit is He is involved in all of it. He is our life and source of joy in whatever arena we find ourselves in. Here is how Andrew Murray describes it.

“Shortly after his conversion a man said to me, “I always thought that if I became religious it would become impossible for me to run my business. The two things just seemed too diverse to me. It seemed to me like a man trying to dig a vineyard with a bag of sand upon his shoulders. However, when I found the Lord, I was so filled with joy that I could cheerfully do my work from morning till night. The bag of sand was gone! The joy in the Lord was my strength and power. This is an important lesson. Many Christians do not understand that the joy of the Lord equips them for their task….Today’s text testifies to the joy and peace available to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So what kind of adventure does today hold for you? The Lord will be with you satisfying, directing, empowering, and strengthening you for the task. He will be your word in season, wisdom to make right decisions, love to love the unlovely, and will strengthen you physically and emotionally for all of your labor. He has already gone before you so there is absolutely nothing for us to worry about. As a matter of fact He can make the most miserable circumstances and challenges an absolute delight. So take some extra time to stir yourself up in the Spirit before you head off today; after all, the joy of the Lord is your strength.

SURPRISED BY JOY

Rom. 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.

I can remember the moment my second conversion experience began and I stepped into the joy of heaven. ‘My second conversion’, you may wonder? That’s what I like to call what happened to me in August of 1994, twenty-one years after I had been born again. By that time I had pastored Victory Fellowship in New Orleans for sixteen years and I was experiencing the backlash of the pressure of ministry. What was that special moment? It was in those Rodney Howard Browne meetings in Rockwall, Texas; in a moment of time it was as if a switch of faith turned on inside of me. I can’t really explain it, but suddenly faith was awakened, and I was introduced to God’s world of joy. It was strangely similar to what happened to me when I was first born again, everything in my life was suddenly alive again. I was bubbling over with unspeakable, supernatural joy. That was how it started in me, but it didn’t stop there. It spread like a fire in our congregation in NOLA. That has been twenty two years ago, that joy is still bubbling up in my soul. Here is how Matthew Henry described this joy in his commentary released in 1729.

“It is vain, and flashy, and transient joy, that is the product of fancy; true substantial joy is the fruit of faith. Believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable, 1 Pet. 1:8. It is owing to the weakness of our faith that we are so much wanting in joy and peace. Only believe; believe the goodness of Christ, the love of Christ, the promises of the covenant, and the joys and glories of heaven; let faith be the substance and evidence of these things, and the result must needs be joy and peace. Observe, It is all joy and peace—all sorts of true joy and peace. When we come to God by prayer we must enlarge our desires; we are not straitened in him, why should we be straitened in ourselves? Ask for all joy; open thy mouth wide, and he will fill it.”
Henry described the difference between earthly joy and heavenly joy; there is really no comparison. If you feel a little depressed or even overwhelmed there is a solution, look to the Lord, I mean really get hold of Him. Just one touch and you too can be swept into the joy of the Lord.

JOY AND PEACE

Rom. 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.

I love this verse, Paul connects joy and peace to the God of Hope. If you really think about it, joy is the fountain from which all of our actions spring. We go on vacations in pursuit of joy, we look forward to the football game in pursuit of joy, we look to the end of the work day for the joy of rest after a hard day’s work. We even do the unlovely things, like cleaning up our house after a flood, in hope of the joy of having your home back again.

Real joy, the joy of the Lord, is supernatural. This joy is the very substance and nature of heaven. This is the joy that our hearts were created for and the only joy that will ultimately satisfy. This joy that comes from the Lord replaces the hopelessness that fills our hearts. Today’s verse says that the God of hope fills us with joy and peace as we believe in the Lord. How does He do this? The verse also says He does it through the power of the Holy Spirit. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on this joy and peace from the Lord.
“Joy and peace are two of those things in which the kingdom of God consists, Rom.15:17. Joy in God, peace of conscience, both arising from a sense of our justification. Joy and peace in our own bosoms would promote a cheerful unity and unanimity with our brethren. Observe, how desirable this joy and peace are: they are filling. Carnal joy puffs up the soul, but cannot fill it; therefore in laughter the heart is sad. True, heavenly, spiritual joy is filling to the soul; it has a satisfaction in it, answerable to the soul’s vast and just desires. Thus does God satiate and replenish the weary soul. Nothing more than this joy, only more of it, even the perfection of it in glory, is the desire of the soul that hath it.”
Once you have experienced forgiveness that comes from the blood of the cross, peace and joy become part of our lives. As we taste this new kind of joy the result is; we want more. As Henry says, “Thus does God satiate and replenish the weary soul.” Satiate is a good word, it means to completely satisfy yourself or a need, especially with food or pleasure, so that you could not have any more. So go ahead, get satiated; then you will know the joy and peace of God.

THE GOD OF HOPE

Rom. 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.

If you focus on the stuff happening all around us, hopelessness is the result. All of human promises and expectations ultimately fall miserably short. Humans have a tendency to put their hope in something. For example, some put their future hope of happiness in the spouse that will make all their dreams come true. Others may put their hope in a political party or candidate to bring hope and security into their future. Still others set their hope in their career or their own talents to be able to steer the course of their life into that harbor of hope. Regrettably these hopes are all doomed to failure. Humans and human institutions do not have the power or authority to secure your future, that falls into the hands of God. Our God is the God of hope, Jesus is the anchor of hope that has entered into heaven for us, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Hope that fills our heart with assurance and confidence that our life lies in His hands. He not only fills our hearts with hope, He Himself is our hope. Here are some words from Matthew Henry on our God of hope.
“Observe how he addresses himself to God, as the God of hope. It is good in prayer to fasten upon those names, titles, and attributes of God, which are most suitable to the errand we come upon, and will best serve to encourage our faith concerning it. Every word in the prayer should be a plea. Thus should the cause be skillfully ordered, and the mouth filled with arguments. God is the God of hope. He is the foundation on which our hope is built, and he is the builder that doth himself raise it: he is both the object of our hope, and the author of it. That hope is but fancy, and will deceive us, which is not fastened upon God (as the goodness hoped for, and the truth hoped in), and which is not of his working in us. We have both together. Thy word—there is God the object; on which thou hast caused me to hope—there is God the author of our hope,”
So, as Henry suggested, fasten upon this name of our God, the God of Hope. When you pray and look to Jesus, our anchor within the veil, He will fill our hearts with His hope.

THE GOODNESS OF GOD

2Chr. 5:13 indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud,

The Lord is good, everything about Him is perfect. His being radiates this goodness, this is what we call His presence. As Solomon and the priests worshipped the Lord at the dedication of the temple it was His goodness that was so striking. As they sang the Davidic Psalm the glory of His presence filled the temple. It was so thick that they couldn’t stand up. In Kings it says they weren’t even able to enter the building. Goodness was overwhelming the atmosphere. Have you ever felt the goodness of God? There is nothing in this world that comes anywhere close to this uncommon love. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this goodness.

“The goodness of God was the cause and the beginning of His Creation. God can communicate nothing but goodness. He made man to receive His goodness. As the sun can only give light, so the holy triune God can give nothing but the riches and goodness of His divine perfection to all those who are capable of receiving them. This is the amiable nature of God: He is everything that is good. He is love itself—pure immeasurable love, doing nothing but from love, giving nothing but gifts of love to everything that He has made, requiring nothing of all His creatures but the spirit and fruit of that Love who brought them into being. What great motivation for man to return love for love! View every part of our redemption, from Adam’s first sin to the resurrection of the dead, and you will find nothing but successive mysteries of that first Love that created angels and men.”
What a great picture of God’s goodness; the sun can only give light, the Lord can only radiate goodness. After all; it is His goodness, or kindness, that leads us to repentance. When the lost are confronted with that distinct, unmistakeable atmosphere of the holy presence of God only two things can happen. First, repentance. Repentance that leads to drinking in His goodness and following in this new way of life. The other option, to slink back into the darkness and act as if He isn’t really real.

LIVING CHRIST

Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God—Romans 15:7

Many religions have high standards, Christianity has impossible standards. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who use you. Turn the other cheek. Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Without divine intervention living the Christian life is unthinkable. Only one has accomplished it, no one else even came close. Augustine had come to the same conclusion, that living the high standards of the Christian faith was beyond the realm of human possibility. Augustine’s solution? “Lord, command what you will, but give what you command”. Did you get that? The only way for us to follow the Lord fully is Christ Himself living and doing it inside of us. It’s is not us but Christ in us that lives that incredible life. That’s why Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” A. B. Simpson spoke about this high calling with Christ living the life in us, check Simpson’s thoughts out.
“Our text (today’s verse) sets forth a sublime principle, and it will give sublimity to all of life. It is stated elsewhere in similar language, ‘Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus’. Col.3:17 This is our high calling, to represent Christ and act in His behalf and in His character and spirit under all circumstances and toward all persons. “What would Jesus do?” is a simple question which will settle every difficulty, and always settle it on the side of love. But we cannot answer this question rightly without having Jesus Himself in our hearts. We cannot act Christ. This is too grave a matter for acting. We must have Christ and simply be natural and true to the life within us. Then that life within us will act itself out. How easy it is to love everyone and see nothing but loveliness, when our hearts are filled with Christ. How every difficulty melts away and everyone we meet seems clothed with the Spirit within us when we are filled with His presence.”
This teaching is actually very practical. Christ in us is a better parent, a better student, a better teacher, a better spouse, a better employee; He lives the standard in us that His word requires. What an amazing God. I have to agree with Augustine. Lord, require anything at all of me but you must fulfill that requirement in me.

SCHOOL OF JOY

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
ROMANS 15:13

The Lord has an amazing sense of humor; after all, He invented humor. I have to chuckle about how The Lord worked in my life as a new Christian. I was witnessing to someone on the street one Saturday morning and I said the most random thing, “as a Christian, you could be happy doing anything, even if your job was shoveling manure”. Actually God was speaking to me out of my own mouth. Within a matter of days after this comment I landed a new job. Yep, you guessed it. It was at B & C egg ranch shoveling chicken manure. When I made that bold declaration while witnessing, I had no idea a job like that existed. The Lord was actually speaking to me out of my own mouth. For the. Next year I entered the Lord’s school of joy. Not the kind of joy that comes from our possessions, position, accomplishments or any earthly satisfaction. I was entering the school of the joy of The Lord. The kind of joy that fills and satisfies our hungry hearts in whatever the circumstances may be. God’s joy flows from Him, earthly joy flows from physical things. Here are some powerful comments from Andrew Murray on this reality.

“Shortly after his conversion a man said to me, “I always thought that if I became religious it would become impossible for me to run my business. The two things just seemed too diverse to me. It seemed to me like a man trying to dig a vineyard with a bag of sand upon his shoulders. However, when I found the Lord, I was so filled with joy that I could cheerfully do my work from morning till night. The bag of sand was gone! The joy in the Lord was my strength and power.”
This is an important lesson. Many Christians do not understand that the joy of the Lord equips them for their task. Even subordinates, when filled with the love of God, can testify to this truth.
Today’s text testifies to the joy and peace available to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. For many the thought of the Holy Spirit may mean heartache, regret, disappointment, or disappointment, or something too distant and too “holy.” But this is a foolish thought! This great gift of the Father, which was meant to keep us in the joy and peace of Christ, should never be a source of self-reproach and worry!”

The joy of The Lord is spiritual, it flows from God’s happiness and satisfaction in Himself. This is available to us in Christ. Actually it is the fruit of intimacy with God. So maybe you are in a pit like I was. Maybe, just maybe, you are actually in the Lord’s school of joy.

GOD OF ALL HOPE

GOD OF ALL HOPE

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Sometimes, living in this world can bring us to a place of hopelessness. Looking at the deterioration of society and the apathetic attitudes toward spirituality that seem to prevail can bring us to a low place pretty quickly. As a Christian we do have a distinct advantage. Our hope is not in this world. Our hope is actually a person, The Lord Jesus Christ, and He is the God of all hope who orchestrates all things for His ultimate glory and our ultimate pleasure. While we are in this temporary world our job is to effect people and bring them to the saving knowledge of Christ. This becomes our primary work as we recognize the value of eternity. Martin Luther was always quite straight to the point in his messages. Here is something he had to say about hope and our influence on the lost.

“The only reason we are living on earth is to help other people. Otherwise, it would be best if God choked us and let us die as soon as we were baptized and began to believe. But he allows us to live here so that we will bring other people to faith, just as he has done for us. Meanwhile, because we are still on earth, we must live with a confident hope. Although we know that we possess God’s treasures through faith—for faith gives us the new birth, our standing as children of God, and the inheritance that comes with it—we don’t see them yet. They are still in the future, like something put off to the side, hidden from our eyes. Peter calls this a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). We have God’s treasures, but they are still concealed. They can be grasped only with the heart and through faith.”

I can actually remember having discussions in Bible College with fellow students about how we thought it would be better for new believers to die instantly after conversion to avoid the temptations and trials associated with the Christian life. We were saying that this would avoid the possibility of falling away and avoid all the problems in this life. That whole thought pattern misses the point of our conversion. Our conversion is actually about Him, we live to display the testimony of Jesus. We are chosen by God strategically, He has a plan to use you to bring others into the kingdom of God.
This changes everything! We don’t exist just for holidays, vacations, and weekends. Our life is not designed just to store up possessions here in this life. We were born again to be part of extending the kingdom of God. One of the greatest ways to increase your joy and strengthen your hope is to get involved in a ministry that is engaged in bringing souls to Christ. God will be glorified and you will be filled with joy and your cup of hope will overflow.