Closing the Gap – Week 20 Notes

Intro:

Prov. 13:15 Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.

Wait a minute…I was under the impression that obedience was hard…but Proverbs says it is the way of unfaithfulness that is hard.

Actually Prov. 13 tells us what we can learn personally through careful and honest observation of the world of people and of our lives.

Namely that it is the way of the faithless not the faithful…that is the hard life

Most of Proverbs, a part of Scripture called wisdom literature, records the observations of life that leads to this same conclusion over and over…

The life apart from God is the hard, ultimately “unlivable” life.

To not walk with God is to live a life of “crushing burdens, failures, and disappointments, a life caught in the toils of endless problems that are never resolved.” Willard

This is true for the Christian as well as the non-Christian.

The Christian can fail to walk in the way of Christ and therefore fail to experience the life of Christ in this life.

We are spending the spring season looking at 7 of “one anothers” from Scripture.

One of the things we have discussed at length is the need and opportunity for change in our core…our hearts.

So rather than these relationship expressions of the gospel (the one anothers) being merely a “to-do” list.

They are meant to be a “become this” list.

They are to be external expressions in relationships with others of the internal transformation that is ongoing because of our relationship with Christ.

This entire year the theme is closing the gap on faith and love.

This is just another way of expressing the same idea.

We are “becoming” a certain kind of person over time…everyone, everywhere is.

And it is our privilege and responsibility to intentionally decide to “be becoming” a Christ-like person.

This becoming, or the sanctification part of our salvation is the life-long process where we are being shaped into the image of Christ.

This shaping requires both the grace of God and our own ongoing deliberate choices.

Example:

Let’s say you admire a great pianist or track athlete.

You go to a concert and hear this expert play and determine…you too will play like that someday.

Or you go to the track meet and determine…you will run with that same speed and endurance someday.

Then…you wait, and hope, and pray that you will have that ability at some point…to play like or run like that.

What is missing?

Practice, self-discipline…training.

What if after years of hoping to become a great pianist or runner but failing to consistently train you find yourself at the starting line of a race or on a stage…what will be the results?

Failure of course…it would be ridiculous to expect success without training.

Is it any less ridiculous to expect to act in the manner of Christ when put to the test without having trained in godliness prior to the test?

We are saved by grace alone and not because we deserve it.

This is the basis of God’s acceptance of us.

But grace does not mean that God will automatically give us whatever we need whenever we need it…regardless of whether we have trained or not.

In relationships with others…if we have not trained to “put in” the life of Christ, then when it is time to “run the race” or to “play the music” there is no life of Christ there to come out of us.

There are too many examples of this in Scripture to begin to mention them all…let me give a couple.

2Pet. 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

Make every effort to add to your faith…what?

Look at that list.

This is training.

Listen to the Psalmist outlining the way that purity will “come out of young man’s life.”

Psa. 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

Okay, this seems like circular reasoning…”How do I obey you…by obeying you.”

“How do I live pure as you word demands…by living as your word demands”

But that’s not the full story…look at the next verses.

10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.

Seek is a discipline…a following after him and his commands…how specifically does he seek God

Is it with his emotions?

No he seeks God through discipline…here’s how he seeks God with all his heart…he uses his mind to memorize scripture.

11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Hidden your word in my heart means…memorize and think a lot about.

How does purity “come out”…by training…”truth going in.”

Memorize is training, doing mental hard work, discipline…effort.

Look at this excellent diagram of what human resiliency looks like in practice.

  1. Build resiliency skills (physical, social, mental, spiritual)

*Left of the bang

*The “bang” is the event or circumstances where those skills are needed.

*It’s too late to acquire them when you actually need them…at least for that particular “bang”

  1. Exercise those skills

*During the “bang”…the event or circumstances where they are needed

  1. Means you are able to perform or do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

*You can run the race well because you have trained to run.

*You can love people well, because you have trained to be like Christ.

When you really need to demonstrate Faith and Love…you can and do…because you have trained in Christlikeness.

  1. Growth follows the exercising of those skills…

-Ongoing growth, post event growth.

-Then you cycle back into the “build” stage. (training)

This is how spiritual growth, spiritual resilience happens in our lives.

This is an ongoing process…spiritual resiliency is a perishable skill…you must continually train…stay in this process.

God’s grace infuses the entire process…he gives opportunity, desire, help, direction.

But we must choose, decide, determine…do…this is clear from Scripture, this is clear from life experience.

To “become” people for whom the “one anothers” flow we must continually train to close the gap on where we are and where we can be.

Again…as I stated at the beginning…do not be fooled into thinking “this is too hard, too much work.”

The real hard, the real work…is dealing with the outcomes of a life NOT lived God’s way.

Is it harder to change your oil…or to have a ruined engine?

Changing the oil can be inconvienent…a blown engine…we you will be walking…or spending a lot of money.

1John 5:3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,

“They aren’t?” “The seem like it.”

That’s because we don’t think clearly…we don’t do the math on obedience vs disobedience.

Faithfulness vs. faithlessness.

No, they are burdensome…because they lead to life and freedom…life outside his commands are the real burden.

Psa. 119:32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

How is that keeping “commands” equals freedom?

Aren’t keep commands…limits?

How is that freedom?

Is the pianist who disciplines herself to practice instead of watching TV free or not free?

What about the runner who endures training, when he could just sit…free or not free?

How do you define freedom?

She is free to play the piano with skill for her joy and the joy of others.

He is free to run with health and joy and freedom.

Because they limited themselves…controlled themselves…I would say “lead themselves” (self control is self leadership)

They are free to experience and enjoy what others who failed to lead themselves cannot enjoy.

Consider your own life for a moment…think of when it has been hard in a “not good way”

Perhaps right now.

It’s hard in a “not good” way…when we are not going God’s way.

Consider when it may have been hard as in challenging…but in a “good way”

Where you would say as a friend did to me this past week “I’m in a good place.”

He didn’t say easy place, he’s not in easy…but he’s in a good place…why?

He has been running in path of God’s commands.

What has been true about your own lifestyle, your day to day inner and external choices…when it has been “hard/good?”

It likely you were pursuing a Christlike life.

I’ve talked to hundreds of people over the years…and this has without exception proven to be true.

Life confirms what Scripture declares…I’ll blend two of them together…”His commands are not burdensome…but it is the way of the unfaithful that is hard.” 

Two principles
1. Faithful is the hard/good life…faithless is the hard/bad life.

  1. Faithful is the hard/good life that requires training…training is freedom to become like Christ.

The hard bad…of living faithlessly.

The hard good…of living faithfully.

With this in mind let’s look at today’s one another…accept one another.

Rom. 15:1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.

The background for this verse goes back to chapter 14.

In that chapter Paul discusses what he calls “disputable matters.”

Things that are not clearly right or wrong, not issues of major importance but things that committed Christians can agree to disagree on.

Specifically there he addresses food and religious observances or rituals.

He gives three main principles in regards to these kinds of issues:

  1. 14:1: “Accept” the one whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters.

-Accept is not merely “put up with”…it is “befriend” “embrace”

-Do not be divided by minor issues…but united by the major issues.

  1. 14:12: Each one will give account personally to God. Pay the most attention to your own faithfulness rather than trying to compel others to obey what you believe they should be doing.

-Or in this case you are not to try to get another believer to “lighten up”…”Its okay to eat or do this.”

-No, it’s not okay for them if they believe it is not ok.

  1. 14:22: Whatever you believe…do, and don’t pressure others to betray their conscience…if it doesn’t come from faith, its sin.

So the “weak” Paul is referring to is the one whose faith will not allow him or her to eat certain kinds of foods or they felt strongly about certain faith rituals…because they believed a certain diet and certain days were more “spiritual” or “obedient” than others.

Paul said…diet/days makes no difference in terms of pleasing God…but the overriding principle to pay attention to is…unity, love.

Not at the expense of vital truth…hold fast to important truth…but do not sacrifice unity for minor issues.

2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

Don’t misunderstand this to mean becoming a “people pleaser.”

It is not always doing whatever people want you to do for them.

Paul used this same word “please” elsewhere to say that we should not be people pleasers (Gal. 1:10)

The important qualifier here is “for their good, to build them up.”

The goal is not appeasement but to build others up in their faith.

He then uses the example of Christ.

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.

Christ certainly did not tell people what they wanted to hear, or do what people wanted him to do.

He lived a well-differentiated life…a life with the set purpose of pleasing God and loving others.

So he, suffered insult and death for the good of others.

Amazing example of how to live life

He absolutely refused to do what others wanted him to do (if it was not good for them)…but he resolutely did what others needed him to do for you.

We too are to look to this example as a way of knowing how we are to navigate life together in community.

Then we read Paul’s prayer for them…directly tied, of course, to this unity.

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.

We learn a lot from listening to seasoned believers pray.

What’s in Paul’s prayer here?

  1. He acknowledges that God gives endurance and encouragement:

-Both will be needed.

-This is, after all, the “good/hard” life

-It will require a lot of endurance and encouragement…to live in community…we can all be exasperating and exasperated at times.

  1. From this endurance and encouragement we will be able to live in unity or harmony with one another.

-Harmony/unity means to be together rather than out of sync or in a state of discord.

It doesn’t mean we are all to live in lockstep…without variety…but that in our many differences we are committed to each other for a common purpose.

That purpose is that from our hearts and through our mouths…God will glorified.

Then, finally verse 7

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

We went through Romans last year we saw this general outline:

1-11: the facts of the gospel

-What the gospel means for individuals

12-15:13: the acts of the gospel

-What the gospel means for communities of transformed individuals

15:7 sums up both the facts of the gospel and the acts of the gospel.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

Christ accepted you, now you are to accept one another.

With the ultimate purpose being to bring praise to God.

“Accept” one another has also been translated “welcome” one another.

Welcome one another just as Christ welcomed you.

So to get some idea of how we are to welcome one another…let’s think about how Christ welcomed us.

Two stories…then one principle.

Luke 7:37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner.”

He did, of course, know exactly who this woman was.

Luke 19:5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’”

Rom. 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The most important application then is that Christ has “welcomed us” into his friendship…into his life, just as we were.

This doesn’t mean he then leaves us there.

The good news of the gospel is that Christ accepts us as we are and he doesn’t leave us as we were.

There is great confusion about this in our culture:

Either you accept me as I am (love me) or want me to change (don’t love me)

Of course this is a false dichotomy…it is not either or.

It is both/and

I both need people to welcome me into their lives in my current condition and I need people to help to change…to want me to change…I need to change.

This is part of the larger confusion in the culture as to whether people can or should actually change and if so how do they.

In the judgment that is currently and rightly raining down on well-known men and their companies who have abused women, children, other men…I read over and over how people are saying that people don’t really change…people “like this” don’t change.

Of course the one’s who have been caught and are experiencing judgment are telling everyone they can and they will change.

But for the most part, they are not believed…I can understand why they are not.

Because they often being dragged into the light rather than stepping there on their own.

Then there are the laws that are being passed to make it a crime for someone who is paid as a therapist or counselor to counsel anyone to change their stated sexual orientation.

In this case “change,” at least change in one direction, is not just believed to be impossible, but to be wrong.

But then billions of dollars are spent on trying to help people change…change their addictive patterns, change their spending patterns, change their political and social positions, change their minds regarding any number of issues.

Change is said to be impossible or wrong…then we are told change is required and demanded.

I know I’ve mixed categories in my examples…but that is what is being done out there in the wider cultures…categories are constantly being confused…and that’s why it is so confusing.

You must welcome me OR you can want me to change…it cannot be both.

But Christ has welcomed us as we are because he loves us AND he wants us to change because he loves us.

Its not supposed to be confusing…it is humbling.

Conclusion:

We began with a discussion of training versus merely trying.

To think you could just step to a piano and “try” hard enough to play well without prior training is silly.

The same is true in living a life that reveals faith and love.

In all the “one anothers”…we will relate to each other most consistently out of how we are training ourselves to respond.

If you find yourself struggling with loving people that’s normal…but if we truly are not progressing…not closing the gap…then we must ask why?

To use the resiliency model.

If the “bang” happens and you find that you are consistently not responding to people well.

Then look at your training prior to the event…have you trained to respond well?

Or do you just hope it happens?…do you see the problem with that approach?

It has been said when you shake a cup what is inside is what comes out…what comes out is what you put in.

Luke 6:45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

So what would it look like to “train” to welcome one another, or to train to love and accept one another?

Application:

What might be the difference between training and trying?

Let’s use our track analogy:

Trying: you show up at the starting line, you haven’t trained…take off…grow tired, fall behind, stop…fail

-Tried/failed

Training: you run today in line with your current fitness level.

-You don’t wait for perfect conditions, you just enter into training.

-You get tired, you are slower than other runners.

-You sometimes don’t train well, or some days at all

-But you have entered into a life of training and you keep at it.

You will close the gap over time.

Because the only way to fail in training is to stop training.

LOOK AT TRAINING PLAN: SIMPLE VERSION

In every good endeavor there are means, ways and ends.

Means: are resources

Track, track coach, teammates, meals, Gatorade

Ways: are tactics, strategies, actions

-Stretching, lifting, running smart, watching other good runners

End: your ultimate goal or objective

-Run successful race…win.

Look at our passage from this perspective: Means, ways, ends.

Start with the end:

15:7: Bring praise to God (this is the end or objective of everything)

Means: What resources has he given us to accomplish this end?

15:4,5, 7: The endurance and encouragement that come directly from God and from Scriptures and from one another.

-The example and the power of Christ.

Ways: What application or tactics are we to use to accomplish this end?

15:2: Put the interests of others first, welcome one another in each other’s lives.

*we are to train in a way where this truth gets into our hearts…walk with the wise, think deeply about truth, practice humility and service, discipline our minds.

So a very simplified training process:

  1. Keep the end in mind: you exist for God’s glory.

*This is the good/hard life

  1. Use the means(resources) he has given you: Endurance and encouragement from Scripture, God himself and others.
  2. Ways: Choose to put others first, choose to accept people in their messes…without believing that they must stay there.

-Train your mind, train your mouth…train to apply truth.

*Train this way…everyday…for the glory of God, the good of others, and for your own joy.

This is the hard/good life.

Pray: specific application

-Accept one another as we are…and yet we all want to change.

-People who are far from God…we would not keep them far from us.

-Will you allow them into your life and your home…even though they can be messy?

-Are you waiting for people who need the gospel to clean up their acts…before you will accept them?

This is not how Christ treated you.

This is not how Christ has welcomed you and how he continues to welcome you.

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