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15 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them 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.” (Psalm 69: 9) 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
What? The Instruction
Why? The Purpose
When? The Timing
How? The Examples
WHAT? THE INSTRUCTION
To Bear With Each Other
v.1 “Bear with the failings of the weak…….”
What does that mean? be patient with; show forbearance towards; make allowances for.
We have this saying in our language – “bear with me” but so often we are not so quick to bear with others!
Other synonyms are Tolerate, put up with, endure or suffer – something Christ was familiar with.
To Be Christlike
Christ suffered and endured for us, we are called to do likewise.
We have another expression – he/she does not suffer fools gladly! Heard that one before?
That is the way of the world, we are instructed to bear with them, to suffer them gladly.
v.5 – Paul asks that we are given the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.
We are to demonstrate that same ENCOURAGING attitude of Christ.
ALL OF US TO EACH OTHER, NOT JUST TOWARD THE WEAK.
WE ALL NEED ENCOURAGEMENT. EVERYONE!
Look around you. There isn’t one person in your line of sight who is as confident as they seem. We’re all one failure, one snide comment, one sarcastic comment, or one bad hair day away from self-doubt.
That great leader Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the USA – even he needed regular encouragement.
Do you know that on the night he was assassinated his pockets contained the following: two spectacles, a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch, a handkerchief, a leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate bill, and eight newspaper clippings that praised him and his policies. I have no idea what the Confederate money was doing in his pocket, but I am pretty sure he used the glowing news stories as encouragement.
Everyone needs encouragement, even a great leader like Lincoln!
To Accept One Another
v.7 also instructs us to “Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you”.
This means not only must those who are strong receive and accept those who are weak, but the weak must also receive and accept the strong.
Also, the insecurities of the weak should not cause them to feel inferior to the strong, just as the pride of the strong should not make them feel superior to the weak.
WHY? THE PURPOSE
To Build Each Other Up
v.2 makes quite clear what our motivation must be – not to please ourselves, but to please them, for their good, to build them up.
It is not to get bragging rights!
2 Corinthians 1: 3 to 5 tells us that God is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.
Think about the times of trials and hardship in your own life and how those have better equipped you to encourage and support others going through the same types of trials?
When nobody suffers, nobody cares. When we suffer we learn to care. When we care, we build people up, we encourage them.
To Provide Hope
v.4 Tells us that the word of God has been given to us to teach us patience and endurance, and to give us encouragement that we might have hope.
Being a Christian in this world is hard enough.
We need to encourage each other to endure in this faith, to continue the race, not to give up. We are to encourage each other with scripture, to build us up and give us that hope we need to endure the race till the end.
To Foster Unity
v.6 ………with one mind and one voice.
When we are encouraging one another with the good news of the bible, we are sharing the word of God, that is God speaking to us, we are one with each other and we are one with God, both in voice and in mind.
When we are like-minded, we will have one voice and there is unity.
To Glorify God
v.6 With that one mind and one voice we are to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is through our Lord Jesus Christ that God has revealed Himself to us, Christ is the conduit – the pipeline through which we glorify God.
We do this through our actions, those activities we’ve just been talking about:
When we follow the example of Jesus, when we bear with each other and build each other up, when we accept one another and encourage each other with the scripture, with the words of the bible, we fill each other with hope, when we are like-minded and speak with one voice, it brings glory to God.
And the only reason we can do all of these things is as a consequence of God’s great Mercy.
Which brings us to the final purpose…
To Bring Praise To God
v.7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
v.9 tells us that it is by God’s MERCY that we are saved, by His GRACE, UNDERSERVED MERCY.
“that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.”
Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we who are not Jews, can enter into the family of God and be His sons and daughters, His children, and so we glorify and praise God the father.
WHEN? THE TIMING
The text is always present continuous tense, that is: right now, and ongoing – NOW AND ALWAYS
“ to build them up”; “Accept one another”; “have hope”; “accept one another”
That means if we are not doing it already – we need to start – right now!
Union strike mantra or war cry
What do we want? Fair Pay!
When do we want it? Right Now!
What do we want? Encouragement!
When do we want it? Right Now!
HOW? THE EXAMPLES
The example of Christ
The example of the Pharisees
THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST
Philippians 2: 5 – 8
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
THE EXAMPLE OF THE PHARISEES
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
HOW? BE A BUILDER NOT A BULLDOZER
I want you to get two images in your mind:
- A BUILDING team building an amazing new superstructure. GRAND DESIGNS
- A BULLDOZER destroying a building/home, knocking over walls, etc.
To help get those pictures, lets look at three short U-tube clips.
ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER – BE A BUILDER NOT A BULLDOZER
The Pharisees were like that second image – bulldozers. They intimidated and bullied people. They were arrogant and demeaning toward others.
But God is calling us, His children, to be builders. God’s desire is for us to be builders of people – our family, fellow church members, co-workers, spouse, and children.
There is a great word for this – “edify.” It carries the idea of building something. The word “edifice” means a large and usually impressive building, like we saw in the clip.
Paul said to the Corinthians 2 Corinthians 13: 10 that the Lord had given him authority for building them up (EDIFICATION), not for tearing them down (DEMOLITION).
How can we be builders? Let’s look at the negative example of the Pharisees and turn it into some positive principles.
FIRST: SEEK PEACE NOT PREFERENCES
Pharisees were all worked up about washing hands, cups, tables, pots and so on. It was one of their petty preferences. What did Jesus say in response to them: their teaching was merely human rules, they had let go of the commands of God and were holding on to human traditions.
The Pharisees knew about the true God and they knew the Scriptures, they appeared to be very good people with high religious standards.
They looked a lot like some churchgoers we find today – good, God-loving people, with the gift of DISCOURAGEMENT. They are critical of others and generally, their glass is always half empty.
Sometimes we can allow our preferences to cause conflict in our relationships with others.
Conflict over all sorts of non-critical issues. Old hymns or repetitive modern songs? Is the rapture a literal physical event, or merely a metaphor? The timing of the return of Jesus, pre-tribulation; mid-tribulation or post-tribulation. Jesus himself said only the Father knows, so why argue about it? Good healthy discussion in the context of bible study is good, but we should not let these differences of opinion cause conflict.
Let us not demolish the work of God over our preferences. This happens when we seek uniformity, wanting everyone to think the same way as me, over unity, where we are united on the essentials of our faith.
As followers of Christ, we must seek peace over preferences.
2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
SECOND, GIVE GRACE NOT GRUMBLE
The Pharisees grumbled about everything! They were experts at finding fault. They found fault in everything and everyone, even the Lord Jesus Christ. They were a constant thorn in Jesus’ side.
Jesus would reach out to the lost – they condemned Him for keeping company with sinners. Jesus would heal a crippled person – He did it on the wrong day.
Jesus forgave somebody of their sins – they said He was blaspheming.
Even when He would cast out devils, they managed to find fault.
The really sad part is they failed to realize that their critical spirit was actually killing them. They were blind but didn’t even realize it.
Jesus said about the Pharisees in Matthew 15:14; “ Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
When finding fault with others, we typically have a huge blind spot – our own faults! Often when we find fault with others, it leads to an over-inflated opinion of ourselves that is not based in reality.
When this happens, instead of giving people grace, we find fault. Why do we become this way? It is because we are blinded to the condition of our own heart. The only way to give grace to others is to grow in grace in our own heart. When we are constantly finding fault with others, we demonstrate a lack of personal growth in our own lives.
If we truly are growing in the grace of Christ, we should have that Philippians 2:3 mindset, Doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but, in humility valuing others above ourselves.
When we are constantly examining our own heart, we become experts at spotting our own sin and imperfections and we fail to see those in others. We are too busy with our own issues to worry about someone else’s. When we are more focussed on our own imperfections rather than someone else’ it comes quite naturally to honour others more than ourselves.
When we have this mindset, our words come from a heart of humility, allowing us to minister grace with our words. We become grace-givers instead of fault-finders.
When we truly grow in grace, we expect more from ourselves and less from others. We begin to see people for who they are capable of being in Christ. We see the good in others and commend it. We think the best of others, giving them the benefit of the doubt, instead of thinking the worst. We become a builder of people, not a bulldozer.
What if we all obeyed God’s command to “please our neighbours for their good, to build them up”?
What if we determined only to speak “gracious words” that are “sweet to the soul and healing to the bones”? Proverbs 16:24
What if we wrote these words down, so friends could reread and savour them? Then we’d all have notes in our pockets (or on our phones!). And we’d be more like Jesus, who “did not please himself” but lived for others.
As you go out from this service, may the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had
- An attitude to seek peace over preferences; and
- To give grace rather than to grumble
so that with one mind and one voice we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.