They Are Not Your Enemies

Sermon Text – 01.26.2020
 
[Romans 11]
 

          Long time ago there were two famous preachers, Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker. They both had churches in London, back in the 19th century. On one occasion Park commented on the poor condition of the children admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. Charles Spurgeon was running and orphanage, and the kids coming to him were really beat up by the world. But what Spurgeon heard from the gossip grapevine was that Parker was criticizing the orphanage itself. So that Sunday, from the pulpit, Spurgeon blasted Parker. The attack was actually printed in the newspapers and became the talk of the town. People flocked to Parker’s church the next Sunday to hear his rebuttal. What’s he gonna do? How is he going to respond and attack Spurgeon? Joseph Parker got up in front of his congregation, which was larger than usual and he said, “I understand that Dr. Spurgeon is not in his pulpit today, and today is the Sunday they usually take an offering for the orphanage. So I suggest we take a love offering here instead.” The crowd was delighted. The ushers had to empty the collection plates three times – so much was given. Later that week there was a knock at Parker’s study, Spurgeon came in. He said, “You know Parker, you have practiced grace on me. You have given me not what I deserved, you have given me what I needed.” [1]

        
  Today is the third sermon in our series Road to Rome, Part 3. If you’re just joining us, we’ve been working our way through the book of Romans, and we’re all the way up to Chapter 11.

 

         
One of the big things we have seen as we move through the book of Romans is that Paul has this thing in his writing style where he asks a lot of questions and then answers those questions. And what we find is that Paul is dealing with a specific problem with the church in Rome, but his questions often apply directly to our lives. Remember Paul has been focusing on explaining Jesus to Jewish people in Rome for this past few chapters, but the questions that come out of that apply to more than just that one situation.  It starts with, [read v.1-2]. So let’s stop there for a second. Did God reject his people? The Jewish people are being confronted with new information – their sacrifices are not enough. They need a relationship with Jesus. They need Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to wash away their sin. They thought they were all set with God, but then they found out they’re not – so they ask: Did God reject us? And what I want you to see this morning is that this is the response of every single human being when we find out about sin in our life. Sometimes truth can feel like rejection, if we forget love. Let me say that again – sometimes truth can feel like rejection, if we forget love. For example, let’s say hypothetically you didn’t know stealing was wrong. All your life you’ve been stealing and you thought you were good with God. Then one day the rules change – you find out stealing is actually wrong in God’s eyes. It feels like God has rejected you, but he didn’t, he just doesn’t want you to steal. As you grow and learn in your faith, sometimes we find that our life does not line up with God’s plan. So did God reject us? No, of course not, God loves you – he does not reject you. No, he rejects your stealing. Grace is still available through Jesus Christ. If you give up your stealing, and give your life to Jesus you receive grace. Paul says, Did God reject Jews? No! I’m Jewish, but you have new information now. You need Jesus. You have to give up the Jewish sacrifices and put your trust in the sacrifice of Jesus. It’s all about grace. It’s all about Jesus. Verse 4 [read v.5-6]. This is the hard part. It says grace is for the remnant. Grace for those who give their life to Jesus, not for all Jewish people. Some people will reject Jesus, and so they’re rejecting God. When we find out the truth, if we cling to the old way, to the sin in our life – we miss out on grace. When you find out stealing is wrong, you have to give it up. When Jewish people found out that their sacrifices were nothing and that Jesus’ sacrifice was everything – they have to give it up. You can reject God if you cling to the old way of living. God does not reject his people, but when you see the truth – like stealing is bad – you reject God if you cling to the old falsehood. You gotta give up sin to experience grace.
      
    Then we get to verse 11, and it says [read v.11]. This might be the most beautiful verse in the entire book of Romans – let me show you how. Again we start by realizing that Paul is not just talking to Jewish people in Rome thousands of years ago. When we are confronted with sin we all ask this question. When we read the teachings of Jesus and we see how God wants us to live our life – and we know we’re not doing it – we all wonder, Did I stumble too far? Does God reject me? Am I too far gone? Two steps. Step 1 – Paul says “not at all.” No matter how far you go, no matter how much you screw up, no matter how deep into the darkest pit, not matter how far you tumble into the valley of life – you did not go too far. Your sin cannot outrun God’s grace. Your sin CANNOT outrun God’s grace. YOUR SIN CANNOT OUTRUN GOD’S GRACE. Step 1 – not at all. Step 2, check this out, [read v.11b]. Let me show you a little something about redemption. When we mess up, God doesn’t just fix things. God doesn’t put things back together. God makes things stronger. Redemption lifts us higher than we were originally. When God forgives us, we are better off than we were if nothing had happened. Paul says, “because Israel messed up, God brought salvation to the entire world.” God used their mistake for good. He takes our brokenness, and uses it for his ultimate purpose. Verse 12, [read it]. If God can do good things with our mistakes, how much better would it be if we left our sin behind and found full inclusion through forgiveness.
     
     Then we get to verse 13, where Paul takes a break and starts talking to the non-Jewish people of the church. He kinda pauses to say, “alright look – I’ve been ragging on the Jewish people trying to set them straight – but don’t get arrogant. You need God’s grace too. He starts with this metaphor. Imagine a tree with lots of branches. It has deep roots that are strong and hold the tree up. The branches are the people of Israel, and some of them – because they don’t believe in Jesus – have broken off the tree. And so God grafted on new branches – non-Jewish people like us – onto the tree. [read v.18-21]. Unbelief breaks us away from God’s family tree. But with Jesus we are grafted into the family. It is our faith in Jesus that holds us to God’s family. The big thing here is that Paul doesn’t want us to be arrogant. I know about Jesus and you don’t, so I’m better than you. Paul’s warning them, get that outa your head. The root supports you, you don’t support the root. God supports you, because of Jesus. Because Jesus has grafted us into the family – we are not better than those who fall away.
    
      Verse 22, [read 22]. Consider the kindness and the sternness of God. I love that phrasing, because another way to look at it is consider the mercy and the justice of God. On the one hand sternness, justice, because God is not going to let you hang on to your sin. If you have sin in your life, you gotta leave that behind if you want to follow Jesus. And remember – truth can feel like rejection if you forget love. There is right and wrong and as a follower of Jesus we have to do what is right. But also consider the kindness of God. Yes, God will rid us of sin – but he will also show us kindness. The jewish people broke away from God because they did not believe in Jesus. We can be cut off if we do not abandon our sin and follow Jesus, but – [read v.23]. If you don’t have faith, you fall away from the family of God, but EVEN THEN it is not too late. If you do not persist in unbelief, that’s a double negative which means – if you believe, you are welcome back to the family tree. Consider the kindness and the sternness of God. If you are going through a season of unbelief, or you have someone in your family who is taking a detour in life away from God – do not give up hope. Paul is handing you hope in Romans 11.
     
     Verse 28 [read v.28-29]. It’s sort of a tricky thing to understand but here it is. If someone rejects Jesus, as far as the gospel is concerned they are your enemy – but you don’t know how God might work in their life. You don’t know, they may still be called – they may find their way back to God. They may be your enemy, but they are still loved by God. Now that that concept and apply it to literally any time you disagree with another human being. They may be your enemy, but they are still loved by God. It keeps going, [read v.30-31]. Paul is teaching us very simple truths today. If you’ve got people around you who are far away from God, they are living a life that so far from what God wants for them, remember – you used to be there too. We were all far away from God at one point, and Jesus brought us close. Jesus may be working in their life too. Actually, I have to admit something. I think I came up with the wrong title for my sermon. I read it through and came up with a brief outline, and I thought – the point is that people who disagree with us are not our enemies. Something like that, but when I look closer I realized it says, “No, they are your enemies, they are against you right now – but you still have to love them. Because you don’t know where they’ll be tomorrow. You still have to treat them as beloved by God. It wasn’t too late for you, so it’s not too late for them either. And then the chapter ends with this big, look how awesome God is thing, [read v.33-36].

 

          The good news this morning is that God grafts us into the family. All of us, like a tree whose branches have broken, God heals us back to the family. Even if in your unbelief you have broken away, you can come back to God through Jesus. When we are confronted with the truth of our sin, when we look at our life and we see that we are not perfect – we are far away from God – we reach for his grace. Does God reject you? No – he offers you grace. Can you stumble beyond recovery? No – in fact, God’s redemption works to take the brokenness of our life and make it stronger than it was before. Through grace you are welcomed into the family of God.

  
        God grafts us into the family, and so our response is to consider the kindness and the sternness of God. Consider his justice and his mercy. First, consider his justice. God teaches us the differences between right and wrong, and when we see that we are doing wrong – it’s not God rejecting us, it’s God teaching us the way He wants us to live. When I teach my son that no – you cannot climb the bookcase like a ladder because it will fall on you and you will die. That’s not me rejecting my son – that’s me teaching him the way to live. All seriousness though, it can be really hard to look at the truth God teaches us. Sometimes justice seems mean.  Sometimes God’s way feels like rejection, but it’s actually an invitation to a fuller life. Consider his justice, and also consider his mercy.  I don’t know about you, but when I read, “God is able to graft them in again” it took all of my self control to not jump up in the coffee shop where I was writing this and do a happy dance. In the face of our sin, God offers us mercy – and it’s so simple, and I say it all the time but I just can’t get over how beautiful that is. Consider the kindness and the sternness of God – and celebrate them both.

    
      There’s two pieces of application and then we’re done. Number 1.) In the face of the sternness of God, accept the kindness of God. When you find sin in your life. When you realize that you are not living the right way – leave your sin behind and accept the gift of God’s grace. Be grafted into the family of God. Accept the invitation and the mercy that God is offering to you. Follow Jesus with your life. Look, some of you this morning – you see church as self-help, self-improvement. I’m here to be a better version of me. You do a couple of churchy things and it makes you feel good and you like the music and that’s it. But you’ve never gone all in. You’ve never given your entire life over to Jesus. So let me challenge you this morning. You don’t “Sort of” give up sin. You don’t “maybe” follow Jesus. You make a decision. Get off the fence.  You call on the Holy Spirit and you say, “I’m done. I’m done with my sin. I want it out of my life. I want nothing but Jesus.” Accept the kindness of God, step into grace. In the face of the truth about sin, accept the kindness of God.
    
      Number 2.) offer that kindness to your enemies. You being grafted into the family of God does not make you better than those who have fallen away. If anything – you know what they’ve been through, so you should be more understanding! One of my favorite examples of this is parenting. Since we started having kids I have found so much solidarity in parents who don’t judge other parents. Because you know how it is, before you have kids. I’m never going to yell at my kid. I will never be that dad who’s kids are freaking out in the grocery store. Sara and I used to have conversations, when we have children, it’ll be different. But then we went through it. And we have succeeded and we have failed. And so when I see another parent going through the same thing – I don’t judge them. I used to be them! I still am them! I know what they have been through, and so I offer them the same kindness other parents offered to me. God sees you in your mistakes. He points them out so we can grow and do better. And when we have grown, we need to turn around and offer that same kindness to your enemies. As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies, but as far as God is concerned they are loved.

 

    
      Charles Spurgeon attacked a fellow preacher from the pulpit, and that preacher responded with grace. That preacher, Joseph Parker, he knew what it meant to mess up. God gave him grace, so he gave grace to Spurgeon. So let me leave you with this. May you consider the kindness and the sternness of God. May you look at the truth, and let go of the lies. And finally may you accept the kindness of God, and then offer that kindness to your enemies. Amen.

[1] Moody Monthly, December, 1983,. P81


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