Romans Lesson 11 - Beyond Christmas and Birthdays
Besides toys, jewelry, education, sports fees, food, clothing and shelter, are you giving your family the gift that matters most?
In our last discussion, I said some things about women that I thought were funny – boy did I get educated this past week. Not from church members but from my own three girls. The one I married, and the two we brought home from the hospital. My oldest girl informed me this past week as we were riding in the truck along with her little sister, that scientists have discovered that men only use half of their minds. My 7 year old said, “Yea, Daddy, that’s why we have to call your name 3 or 4 times before you finally answer, ‘cause you’re only listening with half your brain.” They thought that was just soooo funny. Frankly, I would like to know who those scientists were. Then my wife, a couple of days ago came home from shopping – finally. And she said, “Honey, you remember last Sunday saying those things about women?” I said, “I don’t remember anything a week old” – like one of our elders who told me some time ago that he had a memory like a steel bear trap – and anything that weighed less than 400 pounds slipped right on through. I said to my wife, “Uh huh, I remember.” She said, “Well, I saw a saying about men that was really funny – in fact, a lady standing there in the store was just laughing too – we were standing their laughing over this saying . . . you want to hear it? I said, “Sure”. She said, “It was a saying stitched into a pillow that read, “Give a man an inch, and he thinks he’s a ruler.” I didn’t think that was funny either. Who would buy a pillow like that?!
I just want all the women to know that I have paid the price.
In our current series of studies, directed primarily to men, we have been uncovering the affections of a godly man.
We have discovered that a godly man has affection first and foremost for God Himself; he has affection for God’s people and he has affection for God’s purposes.
Furthermore, a godly man is a man who struggles to kneel on behalf of the people in his world and beyond his world of influence.
We have discovered in the second paragraph of
Romans chapter 1
a godly man who speaks with tender words and affectionate, heartfelt longing toward people he has never met before. But in spite of that, he reveals that he has been praying for them, constantly.
We have discovered in Paul the truth that a godly man is deeply passionate about leaving behind a spiritual legacy. He is a man who defines success, not in terms of his resume, but in terms of his relationships.
The average man today would define success in terms of his financial portfolio – the kind of car he drives; the square footage of his house; the people that fall underneath his line of command.
The average father today would define successful parenting by the fact that his daughter made it through college without getting pregnant; that his son made it through school without getting somebody else’s daughter pregnant or getting arrested for drunk driving or for taking drugs. He’ll consider himself successful in that he put clothes on his family’s back and gas in their cars and food in their stomachs.
But I have news for you. If that’s all you’ve done for them, my friend, you have in fact, done little more than arrange the deck chairs on board the Titanic, when you should have been building a life boat.
If you think providing things for your loved ones only involves physical things, you’ve missed the most important things of life.
If, when you think of giving gifts, you think only of Christmas and birthdays, you have missed the most important gifts of all.
The gifts of a godly man go beyond Christmas and birthdays . . . his most important gifts last forever.
Think for a moment about the gift of God’s Son. God’s affection for the world is evidenced by His love for the world.
The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should never perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
That verse tells us at least three things about the gift of God.
- The gift of God was freely supplied.
“For God so loved the world that He gave.” Like a present under a Christmas tree or beside a birthday cake – there are no price tags for the receiver. There’s no mention of paying up later.
The gift of eternal life is free! Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
I have asked many people over the years, as I’ve explained to them the nature of a free gift, “Suppose I told you my Bible was a free gift to you – I wanted you to have it – it’s yours for the taking.” What would you have to do to receive it? You’d simply have to reach out and take it, right? But suppose, while you reached for my Bible, I added, “You know, my pickup truck could really use a good wash and wax job, whatdaya say?” Now, if you had to wash and wax my pickup – would this Bible be a free gift to you? No. You’d be my favorite church member, but the Bible would not be a free gift.
While going to the assembly or church is commanded in Hebrews 10:25; while giving money to the cause of Christ is commanded in I Corinthians 16:2 while getting baptized with water is a command for the church to fulfill in Matthew 28:19; while these are all things that you do for God because you are commanded to do them if you want to be obedient, salvation is offered not to those who first fulfill the demands of a Holy God but to those who can’t.
They are all wonderful things you do for God because you love Him and want to obey Him. They are evidences of salvation. But don’t confuse the evidences of salvation with some requirement for salvation.
The gift of God is free of any work on the part of man, because of the finished work on the part of Christ.
2) The gift of God was personally self-sacrificing
Eternal life is free to you because Jesus Christ paid everything for it. He took your place on the cross; he paid the penalty for your covetousness, for your lust, for your infidelities, for your selfishness, for your pride, for your dishonesty, for your rebellion, for your hypocrisy.
Peter wrote, “He bore our sins in His own body on the cross.” (I Peter 2:24)
The fact that Jesus Christ was born on earth – God in the flesh – was a statement that mankind was inadequate.
He came, the angel informed Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “. . . to save His people from their sins.”
In other words, mankind could not save itself from its sins.
The birth of baby Jesus was another way of announcing the absolute inability of man.
Oh, it announced that man in unable, but it also announced that God has intervened. He will personally give Himself on our behalf.
3) The third thing about God’s gift was that is was eternally significant.
“. . .whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
This is the way in which God gives gifts.
For the man who desires to be godly – or Godlike – his gift giving will mirror these characteristics.
In the Book of Romans chapter 1 we discover this same kind or concept of gift giving in the life of the Apostle Paul, who continues to model for us the affections of a godly man. He writes to the Roman believers, 1:11. “For I long to see you, in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established. 12. that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
Just as God desired to connect with those whom He loved, so a godly man will desire to make spiritual contact with others through the gifts that he gives.
You noticed perhaps Paul’s affectionate terms – “For I long to see you.” That’s another way of saying, “I am homesick for you.”
One author wrote that Paul didn’t long to come to Rome so that he could visit the imperial city – so that he could see the forum and the Coliseum – so he could take in a chariot race or two; no, he longed to be with them.
Why? He writes, “So that I may impart some spiritual gift to you.”
You could translate that, “some gift pertaining to your spirit.”
The word for gift is charisma. It’s the same word used by Paul in chapter 6:23 which I have already quoted, “The wages of sin is death but the charisma – the free gift – of God is eternal life.”
The charisma of God are used in the New Testament to speak of the gifts of Christ (such as eternal life); charisma is used to refer to general blessings given by God to his children and charisma is also used to refer to specific ways or gifts that God’s people serve one another and bring advancement to the church and glory to the name of Christ.
Paul says, “I have a free gift I want to give to you.”
We don’t really know which kind he is referring to.
I agree with one commentator that Paul is probably using the word “. . . in it’s largest possible sense. Paul may in effect be saying, “For some of you, I’d like you to receive Christ Himself [and the gift of salvation]; for others I’d like you to receive the blessings of God, and for still others, I’d like to minister my spiritual gifts among you. What Paul wanted to impart to them was not physical but spiritual.”
John MacArthur, Jr. Romans Study Guide, p. 92
And what would the lasting impact of Paul’s gifts be upon them? He says in the last part of verse 11b, “That you may
That’s a favorite word of Paul’s. It’s from the word “sterizo” – which gives us our word “steroids”. It means to strengthen, to build up, to fortify. Sometimes a medical doctor will prescribe steroids to help someone struggling with some disease or weakness; obviously, steroids have been dangerously misused by some who want to bulk up quickly.
Paul, in effect was telling them he wanted to put them on a spiritual weight program to add spiritual muscle to their faith.
He used the word in Romans 16:25 of the believer being established by the gospel; in I Thessalonians 3:13 of Christ establishing their hearts in holiness; in 2 Thessalonians 2:17 of the believer who is comforted and established in their hearts for every good work; Peter used the same word in I Peter 5:10 for the believer who was suffering for Christ but who, in light of their coming future in heaven, have their hearts strengthened and established; Peter used to the word again in 2 Peter 1:12 for the believer who is established in the truth and thus not deceived.
The Roman believers were famous for their faith, we have already learned from Romans 1:8, but their faith, while famous was not firm. That is, it wasn’t fully strong enough to handle persecution and stand against deception as well as enable spiritual strength for the hardships and challenges of life.
Paul knew they were in danger of slipping.
In 1988, Steve Farrar wrote in his book to men, entitled Anchor Man the story of . . .
READ STEVE FARRAR
That’s what Paul is doing here. He knows the Roman believers will face great danger, and he can’t personally reach them yet – so, until he can come to them he throws them a rope – in the form of a letter called Romans.
Paul knew that slippery rocks were directly in the path of these early believers.
You say, “Man, weren’t they lucky. It sure would be wonderful if I had the Apostle Paul come and throw a rope to me to keep me from slipping on the rocks and plunging into trouble.”
The truth is my friends, he has come to you – if you have a Bible, you’ve got his rope in your hands, right now. That letter was thrown to them, and, by God’s gracious design it has been thrown to you as well.
I suggest you tie it around your waist if need be – put it on your desk – keep it near you at all times. And don’t just keep it near you – read it – memorize parts of it – mediate on it – and it will have the same affect on you that it had on the Romans living in Italy 2,000 years ago.
You will be “sthrizwd” – strengthened. You’ll add bulk to your beliefs; you’ll add spiritual muscle to your manhood.
Paul goes on to say to them in verse 12, “That is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of
us by the other’s faith – both yours and mine.”
Can you imagine what this meant to the Romans. Let me put it into contemporary context for you. Imagine getting a letter from some spiritual leader you look up to; maybe you’ve listened to him teach on the radio – someone like David Jeremiah or Chuck Swindoll or John MacArthur or Tony Evans – imagine getting a personal letter from them saying to you, “I want to come and spend time with you because I need to be encouraged by your faith.”
What a compliment. And what incredible encouragement.
When the Duke of Wellington, the military leader who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, was nearing the end of his life, he was invited to a friend’s home for dinner. In the midst of their conversation, the friend asked the Duke of Wellington, who was known as a great and demanding leader, what he would do differently if he had life to live over again. The Duke pondered that for a minute and then responded, “I would have given more praise.”
Steve Farrar, Anchor Man, Nelson Publishers: 1998, p. 209.
A recent USA Today poll indicated that when teens are under stress or in a crisis, they turn first for comfort to their music, second to their friends and third to television. Fathers barely showed up somewhere down on the list at number forty-eight.
Steve Farrar, p. 215
Maybe that’s because we are prone to communicate with the attitude that we know everything and they don’t know anything.
J. Paul Getty Jr. had a father who was the richest man in the world. But he rarely saw his father. Paul was raised in California by his mother and saw his father only on rare occasions. When Paul was in high school, he wrote a very special letter to his father. He had wanted to say some things to his dad that were very important to him. A few weeks later he received back from his father that same letter, only his father had marked all the grammatical and spelling errors with a red pencil. There was absolutely no personal response attached from his father. Paul Getty said on one occasion, “I have never gotten over that letter.”
Paul, the one who probably did know just about everything related to the faith and the gospel; the one who could have pulled out a big red pen and marked up everything about the Romans as deficient and immature and needy, made it clear that he was going to come and teach them, but he was also going to come and learn from them.
He promised them this wonderful benefit of mutual encouragement and the blessing of meaningful edification.
Let me tie up the loose ends with four similarities between the gifts of Paul and the gifts of other godly men who follow in his footsteps:
First, your gifts will support the cause of Christ. This has a way of overcoming stinginess.
What have you given to something you don’t control? And just what does your giving reveal about your heart?
Americans, this past year, will have spent more than 1 billion dollars on their pets. As you look over your checkbook for the past year of 2000 AD, I wonder if you gave less to the cause of Christ than you spent on your cats and dogs. I dare you to find out.
The gifts of godly men will support the cause of Christ.
Secondly, the gift giving of a godly man will strengthen the spiritual walk of others. This has a way of overcoming self-centeredness
Third, the gifts of a godly man will speak encouragement to the hearts of others. This will overcome self-adulation/
You can’t talk about yourself and at the same time talk about someone else. You can’t praise yourself while truly praising someone else.
the gifts of a godly man will stretch the faith of others. This will overcome shortsightedness – that is, thee temptation to live only for the here and now.
A short sighted man sees only Christmas and birthdays. He sees only heating bills, school expenses and mortgage payments.
His gifts are temporary and impersonal. They don’t personally connect with the recipient.
The affections of a godly man create a desire for him to carve his name, not on marble, but on hearts. Not on brass door plates and lucrative bank accounts, but on lives.
That was Paul – “For I long to see you, in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established. . .that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist who died in 1895, was responsible for discovering the vaccines for several diseases including the dreaded rabies. During his day, thousands of people died annually from rabies. At one point he was so convinced that he had successfully formulated the vaccine for rabies that he was going to experiment on himself. But a young boy by the name of Joseph Meisner as bitten by a rabid dog and his mother convinced Pasteur to try his vaccine on the boy without any delay. For 10 days, Pastuer gave injections to young Joseph. And Joseph survived and was completely cured of rabies. Many years later, as he prepared for his own death, Pasteur was asked what he would like carved on his headstone. Pasteur had accumulated a lifetime of great accomplishments – many things could have identified him as a great scientist – a noble advancer of medicine. But he replied that he only wanted three words for his epitaph. And those three words were indeed inscribed on his headstone. They were the words, “Joseph Meisner Lived.”
What kind of gifts are you giving my friend?
The gifts of a godly man ultimately seek to impact lives; to advance the cause and gospel of Christ; to strengthen and encourage the lives of others in their faith and walk for Christ.
That goes way beyond Christmas and birthdays . . . those gifts, that are born out of the affections of a godly man, will truly last forever.
Jim Hayhurst and his 20 year-old son, Jimmy were part of the Canadian team that was making the long ascent up Mount Everest. As they were trekking across the Himalayas on the first stage of the climb, they had to cross one of the many rivers flowing down the lower part of Everest. That’s when Jimmy slipped on a rock and fell into the fast-rushing river. He feverishly twisted and tumbled as the river played with him like a rag doll. He tried to grab on to a rock, but the river was simply moving too fast. Suddenly, he stopped, his backpack had caught on a rock in the middle of the river. And just four feet away, the river tumbled over a cliff and dropped one thousand feet to the valley below. Jim wrote, ‘If I started toward him, I might dislodge another rock, I might change the direction or pressure of the water and he might slip off the rock that was holding him above the waterfall. I had to stand, twenty feet away from my son, and watch him hang at the edge of a 1,000-foot cliff.’ Jim recounts how Jimmy was able to shift his weight and reach for the rope they threw him – he was eventually pulled to safety by the rope.
Steve Farrar, Anchor Man, Nelson Publishers; 1998, p. 225
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