Romans Lesson 129 - Every Christian a Cheerleader
It's easy to make a routine of church, isn't it? Every Sunday we might help in the nursery, lead a bible study, go to a service, and sing in the choir, and while these are good things, they sometimes cause us to view Church as a series of programs rather than an assembly of people. In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul interrupts our Christian routines to remind us what 'Church' is really all about.
Every Christian a Cheerleader
In our last session, we began to unpack some inspired advice. Spiritual direction, from the Apostle Paul on life, liberty and the pursuit of godliness.
Real life . . . genuine liberty . . . authentic godliness.
And this is where Paul’s zest for living becomes contagious. He tumbles over himself with one statement after another on what it’s like to experience this kind of Christianity.
Here’s what it looks like . . . here’s what it sounds like . . . here’s how it acts.
This is life! This is true liberty! This is the genuine item of discovering god-likeness.
Listen to Paul’s enthusiasm for cheering on people in verse 10. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11. not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.
The Apostle Paul is like a member of a cheerleading squad who stands on the sidelines of a football field with a megaphone in his hands. He’s waving his arms at the crowd and leading them in chants.
This is so like Paul. He was probably the kid in Gamaliel’s class who could never sit still. He probably wore his mother out . . . and now he’s carried that enthusiasm, which once pursued Christians, into becoming a passionate cheerleader for the believers . . . urging them and us on for Christ.
ESPN ran an article some time ago about the rivalry we all know a little something about. The basketball rivalry between Duke University and the University of North Carolina. These campuses are only 8 miles apart. Both teams have different shades of blue for their primary color, so North Carolinians are told, “Choose your blue.” There are many, of course who prefer Red!
No matter who you pull for, you have to admit that Duke fans take their task seriously. Every fan is a cheerleader. When the games between these two teams are held in Duke’s Cameron Arena, home fans, known appropriately as “Cameron crazies” are actually given instructions.
ESPN got a hold of a sheet of instructions last season – it was called a Duke Cheer Sheet.” Here’s what it said; “This is the game you’ve been waiting for. No excuses. Give everything you’ve got and we will walk away the victors. Cameron should never be less than painfully loud tonight. Please, focus on our team. Better to bring our team up than put their down. Especially coming out of timeouts, we need to be incredibly loud. During their free throws in the second half, forget the novelty stuff, just be unbelievably loud. This is a huge game. Stay in the bleachers, but go nuts.
Citation: “Duke-Carolina Cheer Sheet,” ESPN.com
I remember being invited to a game by a man who had some connections with the staff. We were 4 feet away from the out of bounds line, on the gym floor, in folding chairs just behind the backboard.
Painfully loud is no understatement. By the fourth quarter I was plugging my ears, as discreetly as I could, which was impossible.
But was it thrilling. Every positive move . . . every dive toward the ball, every pass was applauded. And every basket
by Duke brought a roar so great you could not think.
It was bedlam . . . and it was just a game.
I am convinced that Paul is urging the church on to cheer a little more like that.
Every positive move . . . every act of service . . . every sacrifice of time and effort . . . should be backed by the love and admiration and encouragement of the body.
This is life . . . this is liberty . . . this is the pursuit of godliness.
Look at verse 10 again. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
That’s like saying, “cheer one another along as if you were in the same family!”
The word for brotherly love is Philadelphia. A combination of phileo for love and adelphos for brother.
The word translated be devoted is also a compound word phileo for love and storge for parent.
Paul doesn’t leave any loophole for the believer.
Love one another like brothers and be devoted to one another as parents to a child.
This isn’t an option for the believer. One author said it is actually inescapable . . . for “Whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him” (I John 5:1).
In fact, John already made it clear, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (I John 4:20)
To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote about the undeniable responsibility of the believer to love the body of Christ – he wrote, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. (1 Thessalonians 4:9)
It is the nature of the believer to cheer on another believer, just as a brother cheers on his brother and a parent cheers on his child.
You know my wife doesn’t like to travel all that much . . . and she really doesn’t like to travel without me.
But in a few weeks, she’ll be on a 10-11 hour one way journey to Pennsylvania because our sons are playing in their soccer homecoming game.
If they lived closer, she’d be at all their games.
Our boys started playing soccer in CASL when they were 5. One year, the team gave my wife a special prize for being the best screamer.
Any of you other Mom’s out there like that?
When our sons graduated from High School, at the awards banquet, to our surprise, they called Marsha up on the platform and gave her an award for faithfully and enthusiastically cheering from the sidelines.
So, whether I can come along to PA for homecoming or not – she’s going.
She’ll put some food in the frig for me. . .cut up some vegetables . . . make sure I’m taken care of . . . doesn’t matter, I’m gonna eat at Bojangles anyway.
Our dog, Patches, likes vegetables . . . you might wonder how I know that.
I think the Apostle Paul is encouraging us to develop the art of doing several things in this paragraph.
Five of them, in these five phrases.
In this first phrase, he is encouraging us to develop the art of cheering on the family.
John would add his amen to Paul’s challenge to love the body like a brother loves his brother and a parent is devoted to their child – he writes in I John 3:14. We know that we have passed out of death into life . . . how . . . because we love the brethren.
When’s the last time you cheered someone else along in their faith?
When’s the last time you slapped somebody on the back, or gave someone a hug and said, “I’m so grateful for you” or, “I saw what you did . . . I’m proud of you,” or, “I want you to know that your life is bringing God glory.”
We are not commanded to be cheered . . . we are commanded to cheer.
Develop the art of cheering the body of Christ.
Secondly, develop the art of giving the right-of-way to others.
Paul writes further in verse 10. Give preference to one another in honor.
Taking the verb in it’s basic sense, you could understand Paul to be saying, “surpass or lead one another in showing honor to others.”
(NICNT) Douglas Moo, Romans, (Eerdmans, 1996), p. 777
It’s as if Paul is calling the Christian to outdo each other in bestowing honor on one another . . . to race to be last. To desire to defer to one another.
Man, is this the opposite of what the world considers the pursuit of life and liberty and happiness.
The top of the food chain is when you command the attention of others; when you give the orders; when you are the one receiving honor, right?
Not many packed more living into his life, before his martyrdom than John the Baptizer. A man who commanded attention. A man who single-handedly began the reformation within the nation Israel.
He was the most soft after speaker; the prophet of God who was front page news in Israel.
Shortly after baptizing Jesus, the Gospel writer lets us in on a private conversation with John and his key leaders.
They came to John and said to him, “Teacher, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, look . . . all are coming to Him!
In other words, “He’s taking your place . . . he’s taking the spotlight . . . He’s attracting our crowd.”
And John delivered those incredibly mature words that signal true greatness and true godliness . . . “He just increase, but I must, what? . . . decrease.” (John 3:30)
Paul says, true living . . . true godliness . . . is “descending rather than ascending.” True greatness is “vacating rather than occupying.”
Roy L. Laurin, Romans: Where Life Begins (Kregel, 1988), p. 427
I finished reading a few months ago a book detailing the home-life of Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards was the spiritual leader of the Great Awakening in New England in the early 1700’s.
This book was an insight into the home of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. The title of the book was, “Marriage to a Difficult Man.” That’s right, “Marriage to a Difficult Man.”
How many of you women think that’s a great title?
How many of you men think so? No one? That’s because we’re difficult.
One chapter tells the story of one Sunday morning, just as Jonathan Edwards began his sermon, the balcony collapsed.
Fortunately, no one was hurt. The church was considered unsafe and a new building was soon under construction.
Here’s the point I wanted to highlight.
The deacons and other officials of the church were mired down with the touchy matter of who was to sit where. Evidently, everyone had assigned seating, much like their counterparts in England.
They fit 6 people to a pew on the ground floor which was preferred, and 9 people to a row in the balcony.
And get this, the closer the seat was to the pulpit the more prestigious the seat was considered.
The coveted seats were in the very front . . . have things ever changed.
If you’ve been to some of the cathedrals in London you’ve seen the Queen’s seat just below the pulpit.
So here they are, in New England, mired down in agony, trying to determine who was more important than whom.
Edwards recorded the fact that Elihu Parsons, John Stoddard, Colonel Dwight and Seth Pomeroy toiled for hours upon hours over the seating charts and finally this harassed committee worked out a plan that seemed to ruffle the least feathers.
Adapted from Elizabeth D. Dodds, Marriage to a Difficult Man, p. 80
This is exactly the opposite of Paul’s passionate plea to the church. “Look for someone else to honor.” “Outdo, one another in honoring each other.”
James Boice wrote, “Instead of thinking about other Christians and appreciating other Christians and what they are doing, our minds are usually on ourselves, and we are resentful that we are not sufficiently recognized or appreciated. Therefore we are jealous other Christians. J Great harm has been done by such jealousy. Ministries have been seriously weakened, churches have been split; valuable causes have been set back for generations and sometimes set back for good.”
James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume 4 (Baker, 1995), p. 1599
The solution? Paul gave it again to the Philippian church when he wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
That’s another way of saying, practice the art of giving the right-of-way to others!
The church should be as one described her as being “the noblest school of courtesy.”
W. H. Griffith Thomas, Romans, A Devotional Commentary (Eerdmans, 1974), p. 339
Practice the art of cheering on the family.
Practice the art of deferring to others the right-of-way.
Third, practice the art of excelling in your own place.
Cheering . . . deferring . . . excelling.
Paul writes in verse 11. not lagging behind in diligence.
Literally, don’t be sluggish in your work. Don’t shrink back from doing whatever you do . . .
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. (Eccles. 9:10)
Whatever is worth doing is worth doing right.
Within this context, Paul could very well be encouraging the believer to make sure they don’t hesitate to fulfill all these distinctives.
You can read this text and say, I agree with what Paul is saying. I need to learn the art of cheering on the family of God; I need to practice the art of giving the right-of-way in honoring others. Yes I agree with all of that!
It’s possible for a Christian to be moved to agreement without every being moved to action.
In a broader context, Paul would be cheering on the believer to pursue diligence in dedication to whatever they happen to be gifted or talented in doing.
There’s a young man in our church who is a trained mechanic – he wants to own his own shop one day . . . in the meantime, he’s gone through special automotive schooling, learning every aspect of the automotive engine.
My truck had been pronounced near the end of the goal line. It was coughing and sputtering . . . I couldn’t get it past 42 miles an hour and hills were a major challenge – I would slow down to around 30 as it knocked terribly . . . people backing up behind me. I was told by others that at 198,000 miles, the engine was about gone. It was only a matter of days.
That’s when I called Daniel and asked if he’d take a look at a desperate case. He came over to the house – climbed under that hood and discovered two spark plugs were completely shot and two other spark plug wires, by contact with each other, their protective coating of the wire had burned away – they were actually sparking, and draining the engine of power. 4 of my 8 cylinders were not even firing.
Yesterday, he replaced the plugs and wires and told me to start the engine. It was amazing . . . steady, powerful. We were so excited . . . we were high-fiving each other in the driveway – he had discovered the problem and was thrilled to have helped me get back on the road. This morning, I made it to church this morning in record time . . . within limits.
Daniel’s skill and diligence did nothing less than cheer me on!
That’s what he’s good at . . . and he fulfilled Paul’s challenge, “Let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
What are you doing these days! What are you occupied with?
Do it with excellence.
Do it with all your might . . . which is another way of saying, “Do it with everything you’ve got.”
Practice the art of excelling in your place.
Fourth; practice the art of cultivating enthusiasm for the things of God.
Notice what Paul says in the middle of verse 11, “fervent in spirit.”
Fervent is from the root verb zeo – which refers to heat . . . to something that is boiling . . .”
It carries the idea of having your spirit on fire for the things of God.
One translation reads, “having your spirit aglow.”
The dative case would indicate Paul is not referring to the Holy Spirit; but to your spirit.
This verse is a challenge for the believer to pursue everything and practice everything that keeps himself hot for the things of God.
And as a zealous believer, you become are a powerful advertisement for Christ and His church.
Vance Havner used to say, “one Christian with a genuine glowing experience with God is worth a library full of arguments.”
Maybe you’re thinking, I’m not an enthusiastic personality – that’s not me. Well, Paul is not talking about your personality, he’s talking about your spirit.
That spiritual nature within you that connects with the Spirit of God and develops a hunger for spiritual things and a delight in spiritual things.
That connection creates enthusiasm for Christ.
I’ll tell you one way this works.
Have you ever gone out on evangelism visits. . . knocking on doors . . . inviting people to church . . . asking them about their relationship with God?
Perhaps you’ve been trained in our Evangelism Explosion classes – you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Our teenagers who just came back from New York’s gospel outreach will understand what I’m talking about.
When you start out that morning or evening, you’re a little timid . . . perhaps afraid of being stumped, or mocked, or rejected.
But then you start talking to people – even complete strangers – and time begins to fly; adrenalin begins to pump in a way you’ve never felt before . . . you know what’s happening?
Paul would say, “your spirit is on fire!”
And before you know it, it’s time to stop and you don’t want to stop, right?
Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t know . . . I think I’ll wait till God makes me feel passionate about something for Him and then I’ll do it.
It doesn’t work that way.
That kind of excitement only comes with the exercise.
You see, you have to practice the art of cultivating enthusiasm.
Practice the art of excelling in your place.
Practice the art of deferring or giving the right-of-way.
One more: we need to practice the art of focusing upward.
Paul ends this phrase just long enough to take a breath before he moves on – with the words, serving the Lord.
Excelling in our work – that’s outward.
Fervent in our spirit – that’s inward
Serving the Lord – that’s upward.
John Phillips, Exploring Romans (Moody, 1969), p. 199
You could literally render this phrase, “As it relates to the Lord, slaving.” Doulouo – to serve as a slave.
To the English mind, the idea of slaving is a negative connotation. We talk about slaving over our work, which usually means we work without a break . . . without proper pay . . . it’s a drudgery. We’re slaving away all the live-long day.
But to the Greek mind, this was nothing more than the idea of a slave who’s entire work was directly related to his master’s will.
If a servant was slaving, he was doing exactly as his master wanted.
So we as slaves of Christ, directly and fully and obediently agree with the will of our Master.
This is our upward focus.
Paul is cheering us on:
To do more than belong; but to participate.
To do more than sympathize, but help;
To do more than believe, but behave;
To do more than be fair, but be kind;
To do more than be kind, but to love;
To do more than perform, but excel;
To do more than challenge, but encourage;
To do more than earn, but enrich;
To do more than talk, but serve;
And to do more than live, but grow.
Only fanatics want to live like that.
We live like this and we will become cheerleaders like Paul.
Wouldn’t it be something if we were known as those Colonial crazies . . . or better yet, those Christian crazies . . . those fanatical fans . . . who with all that they have and are, cheer on the things of God; cheer on the work of God; and cheer on the people of God . . . for the glory of God.
Every Christian is a cheerleader . . . and here is the inspired cheer sheet. Here are the instructions:
- Practice the art of focusing upward;
- Practice the art of excelling in your place;
- Practice the art of enthusiasm for the things of God;
- Practice the art of giving the right-of-way to others;
- And Practice the art of cheering on the family of God.
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