Michael Youssef - From Valley to Victory - Part 21
A story I read many, many years ago that took place back in the late 1800s in the county of Mayfield, Kentucky. And it was there a small church at that time, very small. In fact, it was so small they only had two deacons in that church, but those two deacons really hated each other. I mean, they always opposed each other. These two deacons always fought with each other. And one particular Sunday, one of those deacons decided that he is gonna put on the back wall a wooden peg on which the pastor, when he comes in, he can hang his hat.
Well, when the other deacon found that out, he was completely bent out of shape. "How can this happen without my being consulted? How can it"? And then the whole congregation, tiny as it was, got all bent out of shape and they took sides, and that led to a church split. The new church that was formed, the departing church, called themselves the Anti-Peg Baptist Church. In fact, this is more real than you think. In Romans 14, we saw together how the Apostle Paul warns us against being bent out of shape and get all hot and bothered over non-essentials, over things unnecessary for salvation.
And so, he comes to Romans 16 and he says, in effect, that while you should not get distracted, don't get bent out of shape, don't waste your time, don't waste your life on things that are not necessary for salvation, but instead, what you really should do, you should guard against false teaching. And that's exactly what he said, verse 17. Look at verse 17 with me. "I urge you, brethren, to watch out for those who cause division and hold contrary teaching to the truth of the gospel".
Now, here's a Youssef interpretation. Not translation, but interpretation. He's saying if you're gonna get bent out of shape and if you're gonna get hot and bothered about something, do it over serious matters. Do it over very important issues for the gospel, and for Christ, and for his Word, and for biblical truth. I want to show you from this chapter three very important characteristics for everyone who is serious about being the disciple of Jesus. First of all, we see in verses 1 to 16 that a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ has to have a loving heart. And then, in verses 17 to verse 20, he says that disciple has to have a protective heart. And thirdly, in verses 21 to 27, he says that disciple of Jesus Christ has to have a grateful heart, a thankful heart.
Let's look at these very quickly. Having a loving heart. Now, this long of list of names Paul mentions here, particularly the first 16 verses, and then he mentions more later, this is a clear indication that Paul cared deeply about each individual person, not just as a group. No doubt Paul prayed for these believers by name and in the cities that he has been to, and this one actually he hasn't been to yet. Paul did not fall in the trap of saying, "God bless everyone everywhere". He focuses on individuals within the churches, even the ones he hasn't been to yet, like Rome.
Now, here in this chapter, he names 33 names and two households. Twenty-four of these are in Rome, the church he hasn't visited. In the last message, Paul, we saw it clearly, while he is so grateful to the Lord for using him and yet he gave all of the glory to whom? Christ. He gave all of the credit to Christ. Sure, God helped him accomplish so many things, and yet, he comes here to chapter 16 almost without even taking a breath from chapter 15. And then he says, "Guess what? While all of the credit goes to the Lord, while all of the glory goes to the Lord, while God did it all, and yet, and yet I could not have done it without all these people, all the partners in the ministry, these wonderful fellow believers".
And he was in a sense overwhelmed, not only with the grace of God, but with the commitment and the loving dedication of the believers in every city. To be effective in the work of God in the ministry in any church, the church has to have a loving heart. A loving heart. Secondly, having a protective heart. In our 21st century church, most people are fine with that loving heart bit. I'm gonna explain to you why. But they balk at this thought of having a protective heart, that it's just... they don't like that bit, why? Because they have lowered the meaning of the word "love" to the point where it's just mere sentimentality. It doesn't mean much. Everything goes type thing. That's what they mean by love.
By love, they don't mean agape, the purest form of biblical love. No, no, no, no, because agape love includes warning people, includes exhorting people, it includes correcting people. But that's not what they mean by love. To them, love means live and let live. It means no wrong, no sin. It means no falsehoods and not biblical immorality. Beloved, this is a totally total contradiction of biblical truth. Look at verse 17 with me again of Romans 16. "I urge you, brethren, to watch out for those who cause division," why?
By preaching falsehoods, by not telling the truth, the full truth, as it's found in the gospels. By embracing things that are contrary to biblical truth. By winking at teachings that causes many in the pews to be lulled into sin without conviction. And they call that love. Now beloved, it is the nature of biblical love, it is the nature of biblical love to warn against harm to those whom they love. But what is that greatest harm that you warn people against? The undermining of God's truth. That's the greatest warning you can give somebody.
Hear me right. Love always, listen, always, always, always forgives all evil. I don't care what it is, forgives all evil. But love does not ignore or condone evil, especially inside the family of God, inside the church of Jesus. The mark of maturity in the Christian faith is to discern the mind of the Holy Spirit, who authored the Bible. It's to discern the mind of the Holy Spirit, not one's own fancy, one's own ideas. No, why? Because this is his business. We are workers for him. We are not in business for ourselves. This is God's business. The church is God's business. In days gone by, we used to exhort pastors protect the flock of God, protect them from falsehoods, protect the people of God. And we would say that even like... even Paul himself, in Acts chapter 20, when he was saying goodbye to the elders in Ephesus and he warned them, he exhorted them. He said, "Protect the flock of God. Protect the people of God".
Question, why does Paul say that these false teachers divide? Beloved, I'm gonna answer that. Listen carefully. Because in the church of Jesus Christ, we have only one true bond. We come from different backgrounds. We are young, and old, and everything in between. We come from different ethnic backgrounds. Only one bond we have and that is the truth of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit who wrote the Word of God. The Spirit of Jesus and the Word of Jesus, Word of God, is what binds us together as a church. You know, not to be alert to the falsehoods and warning others against these falsehoods would be like a shepherd who watches the wolves coming in, devouring his sheep, and he says and does nothing. It would be a builder who worked hard to build a building and then he sees somebody tearing that building apart and he says and does nothing.
So, what are we supposed to do? Verse 18. Thank God I don't have to answer that. The Bible does. We are to withhold fellowship from such individuals who divide us by false teaching. Listen, there are some Christians who think that we should not have anything to do with non-believing people. That is utter falsehood. It's not in the Scripture. You read the Corinthian passage, you read here, no. Otherwise how is the world going to know Jesus and come to believe in him other than through us? So, that's not whom we're supposed to break fellowship with. We should be in the world, but not of it. We are to witness. We are the light. We are the salt.
Look at verse 18 again. "For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites," their own fancies. "Smooth talking, flattery, they deceive the mind of the naive people". They make their own rules as they go along. They make their own principles. They place their own interpretation above the Word of God itself. They use their own rationale and go against the Word of God. Look at verse 19, "Be wise in what is good, but innocent in what is evil".
What's that mean? What's that mean? Listen carefully. It means that you are so familiar with the truth of the Word of God that you know what is good and what is true. And you get to know it so much and so well that, as soon as you see a falsehood, you recognize it immediately. And you immediately not only recognize it, but abhor it, not wink at it, and not accommodate to it, not pretend that it's not there. No, why? Because when alert believers get united together under the Word of God, you know what they are doing? They are trampling Satan under foot. That's what they do. That's the Word of God here. Ah, but the day is coming when Satan completely gonna be trampled under our feet.
You see, when Jesus went to the cross, he crushed his head. When Jesus died on that cross, he crushed Satan's head. And now Jesus gives power to the believers to defeat him. But we also look forward longingly to the day when our spiritual war is over, when those who are instruments of Satan, who disseminating falsehood will be judged, when faithful believers are gonna be rewarded. Listen to me, so don't be discouraged, my beloved friends. Don't be discouraged. Don't give up, for soon and very soon, and maybe sooner than any of us think, we are going to see our victorious Jesus and he's gonna be crushing Satan under our feet. Having a loving heart, having a protective heart, finally having a grateful heart.
You know, one of the saddest things I see across the world actually, not just in the West, is that gratitude and thankfulness is becoming a rare species. Let's look at verse 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 long past, 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". Question, what is that mystery? What is that mystery that Paul is talking about? He talked about it in Ephesians as well. What was kept secret long ago, now manifest? Well, actually it's two-fold. It's like two-edged sword. One side is the fact that God became man. That's the mystery. And the second part of that mystery is the fact that the Gentiles are gonna come in the new covenant and be equal to the Jews in the sense they both are gonna come under the covenant of grace as one unit. That's the mystery.
Even the disciples had a hard time in the early days of Acts. The Gentiles coming in and becoming equal to us? You see, that wall of hostility has been destroyed, has been removed. Actually, in reality, it wasn't really a mystery. I'm gonna explain that to you. Because some, very few, read about it in the Old Testament, and they understood it, and they comprehend it. So, it wasn't mysterious to some, but it was to many. You see, from God's point of view, this again, and again, and again was repeated in the Old Testament, but the people would not believe it. They would not understand it. It's repeated in Isaiah 53:11, Jeremiah 31:31-33, and Ezekiel 11:19, just to give you a few samples. It's all over the Old Testament. But their spiritual blindness, they did not want to believe it. They did not want to believe that the Gentiles are gonna be recipients of grace just like they are.
Now, you cannot read the Epistles of Paul without recognizing that Paul was one grateful dude. You really, really, I mean, he would talk about all the torture, and the stoning, and the belting, and the whipping, and everything else, that he'd been through the shipwreck, then, "I'm grateful to the Lord". He is one grateful dude. He was not only grateful for his salvation, but he's also grateful for his sanctification. He was not only grateful for his redemption, but he also was grateful for the sustaining power of God during that time, earthly life. Paul repeatedly taught that our God does not only save us, but he sustains us in that salvation. Our God not only cleanses us when we come to him, but he continues on cleansing us day by day. Our God not only calls us, but he keeps us from permanently falling away. How do you know that?
Again, thank God it's not up to me to give you the answer. Next verse, 'cause the Word established here, God establishes you being standing firm. I mean, absolutely firm, immovable. You're standing firm. He's the one establishing you. He's holding you firm on the rock of ages. Those who are united in the truth of Jesus Christ and the Word of God are people who are always firm in their faith. The wind will blow, and the wind will howl, and the wind will threaten, but they are immovable. They are firm. Those who have no foundation will crumble every time there's a crisis. Paul said, "My gospel". A lot of people really stumble over that. What's that mean, "My gospel"? Is this his private gospel, his own private interpretation of the gospels? No, he's saying, "I'm preaching the same gospel that Peter preached. I'm preaching the same gospel that James preached. I am preaching the same gospel that John preached. I am preaching the same gospel that Jude preached". And he is saying here that, "That's exactly the gospel that I'm preaching".
When you and I heard the gospel for the first time... remember that time? I'm not gonna ask you to raise your hand. I remember that day like yesterday. The first time when Christ brought us to himself and we responded to his invitation, God called fallen, corrupt, vacillating, drifting, insecure, uncertain, confused minds like mine and he established us. Not for a day or two, but for all of eternity. God bless you. God took doomed souls and firmly established them on the truth. Established, again, what does it mean? Listen carefully. It means to stand firm against the temptation to drift and wander. And temptations are all around us.
Beloved, listen to me. They are all around us. It means you have solid footing when everything and every other person that you know is drifting. It means that you are firm in your convictions and you refuse to be dragged into silly, self-serving arguments. Having a loving heart, having a protective heart, having a grateful heart. Beloved, that's my prayer for me and it's my prayer for you. My daily prayer for each of you. So, as I conclude this series from one of the greatest epistles in the New Testament, I couldn't think of better words. I could never improve on the Word of God, so I'm gonna conclude with the Word that Paul concludes the epistle with. "To the only wise God be glory forever, and ever, and ever through Jesus Christ".