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God’s Advertising Agency

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 15:1–3, 8

God wants us to help out those who are weaker in the faith, or struggling. We can best do that by imitating Christ in four key ways: bearing patiently with the weak, acting selflessly, living sacrificially, and taking on the role of a servant.

Transcript

Advertising today is largely about the “power of the brand.” Advertisers will use a song, a famous person, a symbol, even an animal, to represent a product or service. The goal is to make the particular brand they are advertising immediately recognizable—and desirable—by way of the representative.

I have read that children can recognize dozens of brands by the time they are in first grade. And, of course, they ask their parents for that brand—whether it is a pair of shoes or the food they want for breakfast.

Have you ever considered that God’s advertising agency today employs you and me as His representatives? We are representing His brand, the gospel of Christ. The question is, How effective are we in the advertising agency of Heaven?

There is a convicting little poem I read many years ago that goes like this:

You are writing a gospel,
A chapter each day,
By the deeds that you do,
By the words that you say;
People read what you write,
Whether faithless or true,
So, what is the gospel according to you?[1]

As we sail into Romans 15, the apostle Paul is going to show us that the best way to represent God’s kingdom is to imitate Christ.

This passage continues the theme of gray areas in life—those issues that the Bible does not specifically address. How do we imitate Christ when we might disagree with one another on some of these matters?

Well, first, we are to imitate the supportiveness that Jesus displayed. Paul writes here in verse 1, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak.”

This is not a suggestion; this is an obligation. This is how mature, strong believers act toward those younger in their understanding. Paul says it is our obligation to them to imitate the patience Jesus has with us—and beloved, we are all weaker brothers compared to Him!

You might remember how Jesus handled the weakness of Peter after those three denials. You would think Jesus would have kicked Peter off the team and chosen someone else. Yet, Peter was forgiven, and he ended up preaching the first sermon in this dispensation of the church age, back in Acts 2.

You might remember how the Lord handled the proud ambition of James and John, who wanted to sit in the most prominent positions in the coming kingdom (Mark 10:35-45). You might remember how Jesus treated Thomas after he doubted the Lord’s resurrection (John 20:24-29).

This was the supportiveness of Jesus.

Second, we are to imitate Jesus in His selflessness. Paul writes in verse 1 that we are not to “please ourselves.” Then in he writes, Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself” (verses 2-3).

The word please appears three times in these verses. In the positive sense, this word (areskō) means to render service without giving attention to yourself; you are attempting to please someone else instead of yourself.[2] That is another way of saying we are to put others first as we imitate Christ.

Do you think Jesus pleased Himself when He came into this world, when He was born in a cattle stall and raised in the obscure village of Nazareth by poor peasant parents? You know, it is as if the Godhead held a meeting and planned every detail to make sure Jesus’ arrival was in no way pleasant, much less pleasing, to Him.

If you want to represent the kingdom of heaven, imitate the Lord’s supportiveness and selflessness!

Third, Paul encourages us to imitate Jesus’ sacrifice. He writes at the end of verse 3, “But as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’”

Paul is quoting here from Psalm 69, a messianic psalm that is filled with prophetic statements about the royal Messiah. These predictions include the following:

•     The King will be hated without just cause by His enemies (verse 4).

•     He will experience the deepest agony any soul could endure (verse 10).

•     He will be ridiculed, mocked, and made fun of (verses 11-12).

And Jesus fulfilled every one of those prophecies to the maximum degree. He had no illusions that His ministry would be comfortable, grand, and successful in the eyes of the world. In fact, to this day just look at His advertising agents—you and me. How ordinary can you get?

And what should we do as His agents? Imitate Him, which includes embracing His sufferings. This is what we should be saying:

•     “I will respond to my sorrows like He responded to His.”

•     “I will respond to the misunderstanding and hatred of people like He did.”

•     “I will carry my cross of suffering and difficulty like He did.”

Let me give you one final quality of Christ to imitate as we represent the brand of heaven.

Fourth, we are to imitate Jesus in His servanthood. Down in verse 8, Paul writes “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness.”

You might expect Paul to write, “For I tell you that Christ became the Lord and the King over His people.” No, not this time. He writes instead, “Christ became a servant.”

Now it is true that Jesus is Lord and Master and King—and He is not just our Lord, Master, and King but also the entire world’s. And one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is indeed Lord, the rightful King of the universe (Philippians 2:9-10).

But at this point we are imitating Him in His first coming. When He came to earth to live among His people, how did Christ come? He took on Himself the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7)

This was shocking news to people in the first century. It should grab our attention as well. In fact, it should take our breath away as we understand His descent from the glory of heaven to the gutter of humanity.

Do you really want to imitate your Savior? Are you willing to play the role of a servant?

You know how you can tell if you are imitating Christ by being a servant? It is by how you respond when you are treated like one. Then you will know.

I read some time ago about a wonderful advertising agent for Heaven. He imitated this spirit of selfless sacrifice. His name was Dawson Trotman.

Dawson Trotman was the founder of the Navigators, which became an internationally known ministry. And Dawson became a rather well-known Christian. On one occasion he was visiting Taiwan, and during the visit he hiked overland with a Taiwanese pastor back into one of the mountain villages to meet with believers. The trails were wet, and their boots became caked with mud. But they had wonderful meetings in the village.

After Dawson had returned to the States, someone asked this Taiwanese pastor what it was like to travel with this world-famous missionary pioneer. “What is it that you remember most about Dawson Trotman?” they asked him.

This pastor responded immediately and said, “The morning after we arrived at that remote village, we were so tired. The next morning, when I got up from bed to get dressed, I discovered that Dawson had awakened sometime earlier and had removed all the mud from my boots. What I remember most about him is this: Dawson Trotman cleaned my shoes.”[3]

This is the imitation of Christ, beloved; His supportiveness, selflessness, sacrifice, and servanthood.

Can you think of a better way to advertise the true brand of Christianity? This is what Christianity is supposed to be like. And our world needs to hear us and see us just like this.


[1] Robert Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 275.

[2] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nelson, 1985), New Testament, 474.

[3] Jerry Bridges, “Loving by Serving,” Discipleship Journal (May/June 1985).

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