Romans – Week 41 Sermon Notes

By October 29, 2017Sermon Notes

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  1. INTRO:

“Survival of the fittest” was a term coined by an English philosopher/biologist named Herbert Spencer.

Darwin originally called his theory “natural selection” but changed to Spencer’s “Survival of the fittest,” because I suppose he thought it sounded cooler.

Spencer was the most famous European intellectual at the end of the 19th century(everyone knew his name)…but a few years after his death he was “Spencer who?”

Karl Marx (along with Joseph Engels) developed the philosophy of Communism.

Marx applied the “survival of the fittest” concept to societies.

For Marx there was no ultimate purpose in the natural world…including the world of humans…it was all unguided, random forces…brute forces…competing for survival.

Lenin, and then Stalin took these ideas and turned them into action…as in the murder of over 140 million people.

Undesirables of all kinds (certain races, those with disabilities, or people who just stand in the way of progress)…were ruthlessly sacrificed.

Stalin murdered for two main reasons:

  1. They were threats to him (his power)
  2. They were threats to progress…evolution to a sort of earthly paradise.

So where are Spencer, Marx, Lenin, Stalin…well, they are dead…none of them survived.

In the now former Soviet Union there were statues of Lenin and Stalin all over the place…most have been taken down…the ones that are left…are a sort of joke.

Remnants of the old days…they are considered kitschy (kitch)…objects appreciated in an ironic way…redneck, cheesy.

Imagine men who struck fear in the hearts of everyone…who could send you to your death with a look…who ruled this vast empire…now their images are Kitsch.

They were the fittest…then they were not.

I think the prevailing undercurrent in our culture is survival of the fittest.

It is believed (consciously or subconsciously) to be both a description of how we got to where we are as humans.

As well as a prescription for how to move through life successfully…you must figure out how to win.

Its a dog eat dog world…make sure you are the eater not the eaten

Survival is the highest good…only the fittest survive…so you must prove yourself to be the fittest…you must figure out how to win.

We have laws to set the limits on how far you can go in trying to win.

There are laws that prohibit certain business practices

Laws that prohibit you from killing your neighbor if he disagrees with you or taking his stuff if you want it.

But these laws are pushed, and broken.

New laws are forever being written trying to stop people who find new ways to harm or rip others off.

In ruined countries, without the rule of law or with lawless rulers…the survival of the fittest is the norm…despots kill and take because they are at the top of the food chain…until they are not.

Because eventually the fittest become unfit…they die or are killed (as has happened many times in history).

The whole thing is a demonic lie…no one is fit and no one survives…that is the big joke, and that joke is on us.

The whole push out to win at all costs…there is sheer madness…so lets take a deep breath of sanity this morning…

Rom. 15:1   We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5   May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is sacrifice of the fittest…the strong are to bear with the weak…because this is how Christ did it.

He knows how life is supposed to be lived…he designed it, not the random unguided forces of evolution.

Do you think society is really that dark? It is a dog eat dog world?

On the whole it is…there are good people doing lots of good things.

But read the news in a single day…its all the verification you need to see how dark the world of men is.

Remember where we started back in January…Paul was setting up the need; then he gave the solution, then the application.

We are in application…look back at the need.

Rom. 1:28   Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil;

This is an apt description of Paul’s time and ours…long before Darwin, people have lived like dogs eating dogs.

The reason why “survival of the fittest” was so compelling as a philosophy was that it just made sense to our sin nature.

It was said to give people a way to be intellectually fulfilled atheists…they could do away with the troubling concept of God and final accountability.

This means you can live like a dog…because in your essence you are not different than a dog.

Life is not about God, his glory and loving others because he loves us.

Life is a competition…in the end there are only winners and losers.

Most relationships are a zero sum game…win/lose not win/win…so it makes sense to try and win.

Years ago I spent time with a man who had not lived in Christian community…I tried to get to know him by asking him normal questions.

He was guarded…at first.

After a couple of meals together he told me “I finally figured out why you are asking me these questions.”

I said, “Oh yea, why?”

He said, “You want to get to know me.”

I was surprised that he thought there was any news value in his conclusion.

So I asked him what other reason would I have?

He said, “In my world the only reason you ask those kinds of questions is to get an advantage over others.”

I felt sad for him and for his world.

The gospel is the antidote to the madness and the darkness of the world.

Let’s walk through these 6 verses together.

  1. We who are strong must bear with the weak and not live to please self:

-Paul is for the first time including himself in the “strong”…”We”

-He is not agreeing with the attitude and all of the actions they demonstrated…but he was with them in their understanding of gospel liberty.

-He knows that there is no need to earn God’s favor through certain foods and special days.

-But those with fuller knowledge (the strong) must not use that knowledge to serve self but to serve others.

-Knowledge is a vehicle to get you where you need to be…the place where you can intelligently love God and others.

This is the sacrifice of the fittest…the strong, using their position of strength not to win…but to love.

The men in history who have consistently held to upside down worldviews, views that are in opposition to the gospel…have lived wretched lives…the outcomes of their lives were ruin.

What you believe…becomes what you value…becomes how you live.

Believing the facts of the gospel means we will value what God values…and those values will shape how we live our lives.

We will value the good of others, not just our own…relationships will increasingly become win/win scenarios…or at least we will look for those scenarios.

If I am the strong…I yield…I am willing to lose…because in my losing…it is “win/win”

I win…I have glorified God

AND

You win…you have been loved and have a chance to experience God.

It becomes about Unity, for the glory of God.

Not winning, for the sake of my own ego.

After all, in the end it is those who make God’s glory their highest good…that do actually survive.

Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

  1. We are to do to others as we would have them do to us.

Remember the silver rule is a negative “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.”

Its a moderated version of the survival of the fittest…not as overtly wicked.

I won’t help you lose, but I certainly won’t help you win.

I won’t do anything bad to you…but I’m not going out of way for you either.

Jesus said we are to do to others, as we would have them do to us.

We are to actively pursue the good of others.

Why?…because this is how he lived.

  1. Even Christ did not live to please himself…but instead took abuse and suffering from others for their own good.

Even Christ the most powerful one, the only “fit” one did not live to please self.

He rightfully could have…but he didn’t.

Paul then quotes Ps. 69 “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

This passage was used often in the New Testament to describe the suffering of Jesus.

So even as Jesus served those who were insulting him, and attacking him…the strong should be willing to serve in love even those who insult, and attack them.

  1. Everything written in the past was written to teach us: so that through the endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

This is injected here to explain his use of the Psalms to apply to their current situation.

The OT, though not laws that the Christian is bound to…demonstrates the will and ways of God.

God does not change in who he is…he does not grow, or improve…or age and decrease.

So what you read of God in all of Scriptures has application for your life now…the same God then is alive and active now.

I can see, from what God has done in the past that his will and his ways lead to good outcomes…I need to continue in this direction.

The endurance and encouragement of the bible are fuel for hope.

Hope is not “I wish it could be true.”

Hope here is “expectation”

Paul wrote “I eagerly hope and expect that I will have sufficient courage so that Christ will be glorified through me…whatever happens to me.” (Phil. 1:20)

This was a declaration of belief…not “I hope, but don’t really expect it will happen.”

But…”I hope in God and therefore fully expect it will be so”

5,6. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is a prayer for them and us.

The same God who has and continues to give endurance and encouragement leading to hope…stands ready to give you unity as you follow Jesus.

Unity is not the end…it serves a higher purpose…the purpose of unity, is God being glorified through his people.

Unity is what enables God’s people to stop quarreling and getting sidetracked by things that don’t matter so that we can do what ultimately matters most.

Glorify God through our lives together.

CONCLUSION:

If the fit survive…who is fit?

Who wins?

I know this is not the application Darwin had in mind…but it is how the principle has been applied in human relationships.

You must win! You must not lose! 

I am not talking about sports and other healthy competitions.

I am talking about the basic approach to life that is about winning…as in putting my needs and wants first.

Winning arguments, winning sympathy, winning others to my cause, winning in getting my way and making life about me, winning in business even if it means harming others, winning by shading the truth.

This trying to “Win” is really about weakness not strength.

It is very young children…who cannot bear to be wrong…can’t lose.

Children will deny, whine, wail and lie if caught doing something wrong, or don’t get their way.

Playing a game with a child can be fun and the child is sweet…until he loses…oh boy.

I’m amazed at how often I’ve heard it said of grown men as a compliment to their character “He’s a competitor, he hates to lose.”

Its would not be compliment to say someone loves to lose…but what this often means is…everyone knows when he loses…they are not fun to be around…when they do.

That means that in this area at least…they are childish.

And people who move through life “hating to lose” are childish…they are not the strong.

Again, its okay to enjoy winning…but this is about a heart set on self not the good of others.

It is in your heart and in mine…This need to have my way

You say, “This doesn’t apply to me, I’m not competitive.”

What about when people ignore you, or you don’t get your way…how do you react?

With love, with faith, with patience?

Or ever with anger, sulking, or complaining, or feeling sorry for yourself, or hiding?

We all struggle with this.

How do you win? What does it even mean?

Let’s listen to the “fittest” man of his time…Solomon…one of histories greatest “winners” by the normal standards of measurement.

He was a polymath (a person of wide ranging knowledge)…sometimes called a “renaissance man” but predated the renaissance.

Listen to how at one point in his life his philosophy was agreement with others who would come after him…like Marx, or Stalin.

Eccl. 1:1   The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: 2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” 3 What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. 8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say.

Wow, how did that get in the Bible anyway…pretty dark stuff?

He then gives his resume:

-He was king…he had amazing wealth

-He studied everything he could, and became good at them

-He was famous…people traveled from other countries to learn from him.

-He then pursued pleasure…wine, women…as a sort of science experiment…trying to see if there was meaning it. (there wasn’t by the way)

-He undertook great projects…world-renowned projects…to see if meaning could be found there (it couldn’t)

His initial conclusion:

Eccl. 2:17   So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Okay, so he pretty much tried everything that is supposed to work for people…he was no doubt the top of the food chain at his time…and he was suicidal…he hated his life.

Then he moved to a settled conclusion…after a largely wasted life…here’s his advanced conclusion…as an older man.

12:12″Remember your creator in the days of your youth…”13 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing.”

Whole reason to exist…is to align yourself with God’s will and his ways for your life.

God judges winning and losing…he will get it exactly right…he knows with perfection what is valuable and good to do with your life.

No one is “fit” and no one survives.

APPLICATION:

Be the stronger brother or sister more…become the mature one.

See your selfishness and take decisive action against it.

See your demanding tendencies…your tendency to make life about yourself and take decisive action against this.

See your pettiness, your childishness, your deceit, your judging…take decisive action against these things.

What are some decisive actions?

  1. Pray for change

Ask fervently and consistently for God to change you.

He is all for this…so you can ask this with confidence…he wants you to become increasingly Christlike.

  1. Judge your judgments

Who do you want to be?

Is that action, attitude, word in line with who you really want to be?

No? Then judge it as wrong.

As you make judgments about others, yourself, what you believe, feel to be true, about what you believe you should say or do or think.

Then then realize those are wrong…judge them.

Don’t excuse, don’t ignore, don’t blame shift…just look at “it” and if it is not representative of who you really want to be…then pass judgment on it…without mercy.

That attitude…that was wrong.

That word…wrong

What I just did…wrong

What I feel…wrong

Don’t wallow in guilt…mess up, fess up, move on.

If it is wrong…agree with God regarding it…don’t embrace, nourish, cherish, protect…those attitudes, actions and words that really need to be judged…judge them.

This is important if you actually want to be different.

Pray for growth…God is all for it.

Move into growth…God will not push you there

  1. Starts in your thinking/perspective: Get perspective sooner rather than later about these things.

How often have you responded to someone in a certain way and then days, weeks, longer…regretted it?

Realized you were foolish, or just silly or wrong.

It seemed so important…so worth the fight…at the time…but now…not so much.

If you haven’t yet…you will.

Everyone is going to see things that way…everyone will see with clarity where they valued what was not valuable and failed to value what was.

How do I know this?

Because everyone will die and at that point everyone will see clearly.

  1. So that would be the worse case scenario: to realize what matters most after death.
  2. A better but not still not good option…you realize what matters most at the end of your life…you are able to ask for forgiveness, but not actually able to change the way you live your life.

*Like the thief on the cross…forgiven…but lots of regret…and no opportunity to do anything about it.

  1. Good but not still best…continually realize what is valuable and reorient to it…after you mess up…ideally do this more quickly over time.

-Less of a gap between “mess up and fess up”

*”That was dumb, I should have valued her over myself…wish I would not have said, done that.”

*Good…lots of asking for forgiveness…and lots of damage done.

  1. Best…realize what is valuable before you act or speak.

*”That is dumb thinking, she is more important than winning here…I’ll not say that, I’ll do this instead.”

Not realistic? Who can live that way?

Actually it is the right goal…whether we hit the bulls eye everytime or not…we must always aim for it.

2Cor. 13:11   Finally, brothers, Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.

Aim for perfection and you will hit it some times…and more and more over time.

This is closing the gap on when you see what is valuable so that it will shape your thoughts, words, and actions.

The more you take on this perspective…the more it will shape who you are and how you behave.

The way to be proactive in this is to continually give thought to what you want to be, to judge whenever you think, act, speak contrary to this vision.

Phil. 4:8   Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

This verse is not about warm, fuzzy feelings…think happy thoughts…it is about choosing your thinking (judging wrong thoughts) in order to shape your life choices…your living flows from your thinking.

It doesn’t matter that you will fail at times…it matters that you resolutely head this direction.

Phil. 3:12   Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Paul said this “one thing I do”…but that looks like three things, but it is three parts of a single movement: mess up/fess up/move on.

It is a dog eat dog world…a world where winning is the highest value.

And it is a conflicted, unhappy, neurotic, dark world.

Because the way people are trying to live is not in line with the way God has designed life.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give us a spirit of unity among ourselves as we follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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