- Jim Hughes’ life in time has concluded…his life in eternity has begun.
Yesterday was his memorial service.
His life is worth being remembered
But it is noteworthy that Jim (and his family) wanted the service to be gospel focused
Jim’s life was not about Jim…if it was, then all that would be left now is loss, past tense, mere memory.
But since his life was about Jesus, then his death is his gain, and his life has a present tense and a future tense…not merely a past tense.
Celebrations of life have become very popular replacements for traditional funerals.
In come cases its just semantics (a different name for a funeral)…but in many cases it is a definitive change in the entire thinking about what the end of a human life means…and these kinds of ceremonies demonstrate this change.
A celebration of life (as is often practiced) is focused on the person who has died…therefore by definition…it is all past tense.
Any “future tense” or even present tense is merely in our brains…as we “remember.”
But the ongoing “reality” of this person as a person is gone.
However, with Jim…we get to continue with him as a living being…he has a past, but he also has a present, and a future.
So the funeral service(when done in line with the gospel)…unlike a “celebration of life”…has a past tense (a life to remember), a present tense (mourning and grieving to be done in community) and there is a future tense (the gospel hope)
All these tenses are more than mere memory.
Jim is alive…right now…we will enjoy him again someday.
There are several problems with the “celebration of life” perspective
- They do not have a gospel hope in them.
-We do, rightly so, celebrate a life…well lived.
-However, the focus is not on the life of the deceased but on the hope of the deceased…Jesus.
Hope flows not from how well we live our lives but from the fact that Jesus gave his life.
-A funeral (in Christian worldview) is to remember the past, mourn in the present…but look with gospel hope to the future.
- They fail to take death seriously.
So when people say “We will only focus on his life not his death. We will not mourn, only celebrate.”
They are trying to avoid the “sting of death” by merely focusing on the past.
Jesus mourned at the grave of his friend (Lazarus)…even though he knew he was going to live again.
We do mourn…death is bad…it not natural…it is the result of sin.
But as Paul said, we do not mourn like those without hope.
The gospel turns mourning into hope.
Our culture turns mourning into denial.
To live without a future hope…turns life into meaninglessness
To die without a future hope…turns death into emptiness.
A funeral, ideally, is a celebration of gospel hope…because in the end, it will not be about you or me…it will be about God
Look around the room…everyone here, will die. (unless the Lord returns).
It’s not a probability, it is a certainty.
That certainty influences how people live (whether they know it or not)…it makes some more foolish, others more wise in their life choices.
Look around the room again…all here who are in Christ, will live forever.
That future reality also has real life implications now.
Today we finish our year in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.
1-11: The facts of the gospel : vertical transformation
12-15: The acts of the gospel : horizontal transformation
16: His conclusion…Paul’s personal life revealed.
This final chapter, that at first seems to be mostly specific to Paul’s situation we will see that it has a lot to encourage and teach us.
Here’s a basic outline of this chapter:
- Commendation of Phoebe…a friend who is going to travel to Rome and likely deliver this letter.
- Greetings to lots of Christians in Rome…26 different people
- Then he gives a warning about false teachers.
- Then a promise of victory…over Satan
- Greetings directed from people outside of Rome.
- Then a summary doxology
- Commendation of Phoebe.
Phoebe was a servant in the church at a city about 7 miles from Corinth where Paul was staying and writing this letter.
She had stopped to see Paul on her way to Rome
People traveled more than you might expect…it was a unique time in history that allowed the gospel to spread quickly.
Roman peace/Romans roads/Common language (Greek)
It is safe to assume she was going to deliver Paul’s letter to Rome.
Since they didn’t know her…Paul was writing her a note of commendation.
- Greetings to lots of Christians in Rome.
Next 14 verses Paul sends greetings to 26 people.
How could he know so many people in a church he had never visited?
As I said, people traveled a great deal and he could have met them while they were away from the city.
For example Paul got to know Aquila and Priscilla when they were expelled from Rome (with all the other Jews) in AD 49 by the Emperor Claudius.
Acts 18:1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them
In AD 54, Claudius died and the Jews were allowed to return.
Others he met in different places in different circumstances…two of them were his relatives who had been in the same prison as he had.
Some he may not have met but just knew about through mutual friends.
What stands out is how many people he personally greeted…and that he had specific things to say about them.
These were the people he would have been trying to imprison and kill before his conversion.
Now he loved them deeply.
It is interesting how diverse the church was and is.
We can know some things about the people Paul greeted from their names.
We tend to choose names because we like the way they sound.
At that time your name said something about your origin, profession or even social class.
-Some were Jewish
-Many were Gentiles (Hermes and Olympas, Greek mythology)
-Some were people who had been released from slavery
-Some were slaves still (belong to a “household”)
-Women were prominent, 10 of the 27 he greets were women.
-This is different than the modern image of Paul as a chauvinist.
-Many, or most would have been lower not middle or upper class.
-However, some were upper class…Like Priscilla and Aquila who had a home large enough to host the church.
Diversity in the body of Christ is not just about color or language…it is about diverse pasts, diverse vocations, diverse interests, diverse social status, different ages, as well as sex, native tongues, and race.
This room is full of people who apart from Christ would likely not know each other, let alone be friends.
My closest friends have been people who were very different from me.
When I picked my friends…I tried to pick people like me.
When God picked friends for me…he picked people very different than me.
- Next Paul gives a warning about false teachers.
Rom. 16:17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
It might seem out of place for Paul to throw a warning in at this point in his letter.
But as he was thinking about their lives and what makes the church the church he felt compelled to warn them away from people who might look and sound good…but who could destroy what God had done…people who might bring division.
He gave a similar warning to Titus
Titus 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
Here is the type of person he was warning against:
- They caused divisions between believers and put obstacles in the way of the plain truth of the gospel.
- They did this through smooth talk and flattery.
-They tell people things that sound important but are not
-They tell people what they want to hear in order to manipulate those people.
- Through this smooth talk and flattery…they deceive the minds of the naive, the spiritually gullible.
- The reason they do this is because they are self-serving (they serve their own appetites)…appetites for drama, for self-exaltation, for power.
The gospel is the grace of God transforming individual lives that leads to transformed communities.
In contrast these smooth-tongued teachers were teaching what was contrary to the gospel and it led to division in the church.
I had a friend in FW who had once been a part of a controlling religious community
He loved to play the guitar and was good at it…so the leaders told him to stop.
They encouraged breaking away from family and friends who disagreed with them.
He was a good guy, and had a heart to please God but was susceptible to these confident, and controlling people with their religious talk
Their teaching was contrary to the liberty of the gospel…and it was all about controlling and dividing people.
He did get free from them…but after they had done a lot of harm.
The gospel does not make people less free and more unhappy and it certainly does not try to disconnect people from relationships with others.
These people who cause divisions have to be told that their divisiveness will not be tolerated…we are not playing their game.
The best way to prevent these kinds of people from having divisive influence is by having a clear picture of what biblical maturity and leadership looks like.
They would never be allowed to have influence if we understood what Christian maturity looks like.
What is notably present in Paul’s commendations of people?
-Phoebe “servant”, great help to many people
Priscilla and Aquila…risked their lives for me.
Mary…who worked hard for you.
Trypena and Tryphosa…who worked hard. (for others)
Rufus…who has been a mother to me.
Others who shared homes, hospitality.
What do you see in the lives of these people?
Phil. 2…they put the interests of others first.
What is notable absent?
How much they knew, how gifted they were, their doctrinal pedigree.
It is not that this didn’t matter to Paul
But what a person actually believes shows up in how they actually live.
Gal. 5:6 “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.”
1Tim. 1:5 The goal of this instruction is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Biblical maturity and leadership looks like truth in practice…know what is true, do what is true.
If knowledge of God does not lead to love for God that leads to love for people…it is not knowledge of God.
When people are allowed to have influence and leadership because of what they know (and not what they live) or how gifted they are…you have a situation where smooth talk and flattery can lead to division.
So one thing that can be easily missed…but must not be…as you read this list of names is who Paul pointed out as worthy of commendation and why.
“I commend Phoebe…she is a servant.”
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila…they risked their lives for me.”
In Phil. 2 Paul commended a man named Epaphroditus.
2:29 “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.”
Our culture tends to honor people who are good at talking, acting, singing, playing games(athletes), and making money .
The church has historically been impressed with the same things…plus those who have certain sets of knowledge.
But the model for ones to emulate are the servants, the ones who lay down their lives for others.
Jim Hughes for example, Paul Comegys, Sara Williams…all three finished well…all lived to lay down their lives.
Of course Jesus was always the smartest guy in any room he was in…he knew the most…was the most gifted…and the most powerful.
But the set he pace was to model love through self-sacrifice.
1John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
- He quickly shifts from warning back to encouragement and a promise of victory.
19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you
They have a reputation for wanting to please God…and Paul loves this about them.
So they should continue on this path…full of understanding about what is good and novices about what is evil.
Not that they are unaware of what it is…but that they should be unpracticed in it.
He understands that the animating force behind the divisive teachers is Satan.
Satan is a word that means “adversary”
He opposes the gospel and its transformation in individual lives.
He opposed the gospel and the way it transforms relationships.
So these divisive teachers:
-Put obstacles in the way of the truth of the gospel
-And they divide people.
They are animated by the adversary…and his defeat is a settled outcome.
- The next section of Paul’s letter includes some greetings sent back to Rome
-First Timothy who had been traveling with Paul for 8 years.
-And then he allows his scribe, Tertius, the man who was dictating this letter to add his greeting.
This chapter demonstrates how the gospel unites people across all sorts of boundaries…these diverse people, from different places and backgrounds…have a common bond because of the gospel.
You really don’t have to have anything in common other than Jesus to be able to get along…at least at an initial level.
Once you accept one another as Christ has accepted you…you find that you have all kinds of things in common…or that the differences don’t matter as much as what you hold dear.
During WWII British army officer Eric Lomax became a Japanese POW.
-He was put to work building the death railway…a railroad between Burma and Thailand that Japan built using slave and POW labor.
-83,000 died building it.
It was there Lomax met Nagase Takashi. (nah gah see Tah kah see)
Nagase was an interpreter so he was in on much of the torture Lomax endured.
After the war an angry and traumatized Lomax helped hunt down his torturers…but he could not find Nagase.
Finally in 1993 he found him and arranged a meeting…Lomax intended to kill Nagase (50 years and still full of rage).
But when Nagase saw Lomax he unleashed a torrent of tears and apologies.
And It turns out they got along and had a lot in common.
After the war Nagase was so plagued with guilt…he helped the allies find the mass graves along the railroad…then he dedicated his life to charity.
Lomax and Nagase had the same hobbies and both suffered PTSD induced nightmares…they were alike in so many ways.
They stayed friends for the last 18 years of their lives.
I don’t know if they were believers or not…but it shows that when people do connect at a basic level…they often find many other points of common contact.
The problem is that this happens so very rarely…except when the gospel is involved.
The gospel does frequently what rarely happens without it…it unites people who are very different…even former enemies.
A focus on diversity highlights the differences between people.
In the gospel the focus is on who unifies.
Gal. 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Then a summary doxology…concluding praise to God.
Rom. 16:25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him — 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
This is an appropriate way to end his letter and our study of Romans.
It is a summary of all he has said in his letter.
*God is able(dunamis) to establish you by my gospel.
Not “my” as in he made it up…but as in he has personalized it.
Earlier Paul said the gospel is the power (dunamis) of God to save all who believe.
Here God is able to “establish” those he saves…he has the power to save and has the power to keep…you can live in security.
Are you secure in the gospel?
Christ is the unveiling of the mystery of the age…who are we, why are we here, what is our problem, what is the solution?
What the OT spoke of is fulfilled in Christ.
Human history is all about him.
You hear frequently that someone is on “The wrong side of history” on some issue.
Usually some social trend.
But the fact is that all who do not trust Christ are going to be on the wrong side of history.
But the offer of good news is all inclusive.
So…this is either real or it is not real…you may not be a Christ follower, but are contemplating all this.
I’m happy you are here.
Seminary Class: guy had been hiding in plain sight for years.
Please think seriously about whether you believe or not.
This cannot be sort of real, or kind of true…it is completely real and true…or completely false.
There are two ways to live…this is real or it is not.
You will die…this is a certainty.
In the meantime you will live…for what? Why? How?
Two ways: Trace summary of reality. Two views of it.
Invitation: Rodney follow with an invitation to make a choice.