Romans – “Therefore…”
Be careful when you hear words like, “I have been going to this church since my parents and grandparents, it is my church.” “No, I don’t attend, but my parents were Baptist, so I’m Baptist.” “We will not consider moving the building or us, it’s always been here and always will be.” “We should call all the people who left our church and beg them to come back.” “We will consider those for office in the church who have proven themselves to follow all our rules and have become like us.” “Come to our church, we have the greatest band in the community.” “Come and see what we have done to improve our building and parking lot.” “I attend every chance I get because my mom goes there, it’s our family church.” “We send money to poor people in third world countries…after the church bills are paid.” “Let’s send those worn out resources we don’t use anymore to the mission field, I bet they could use them, then our mission outreach is checked off our list for this year.”
Be cautiously wondering when your hear board members’ comments concerning finances or the work of the church…”We made a profit this year, look at our bottom line! We made money.” “Our pastor deserves a boost in income, let’s send him to a workshop.” “Why doesn’t our pastor visit more? I have a cousin in the hospital and he didn’t know to visit her.” “Pastor, you need to speak on the topic of tithes, we need to raise funds for new carpet and windows.” “When are we going to pave the parking lot?” “My family has gone here for three generation, no we are not going to repaint the youth room. It was good enough for our kids, it’s good enough for your kids.” “It’s too costly to raise money to send people to build something on foreign soil when we need to keep up the building here.” “No, just no.” “If others want to come, they know we are here.”
Be prayerfully evaluating a pastor who makes comments about church. “Wow, we fooled them again! We raised enough money to pay off the van we already purchased. Thanks for hiding it in your garage, Steve, until the church came through with the funds!” “Tell the band to rev it up when I walk on stage.” “Make sure the plants don’t hide the view of the worship leader or me.” “Follow the script and say what I told you to say or you’re out.” “We are good at smoke and mirrors.” “What a performance, band!” “Don’t look better than me!” “My sermon is the main event, don’t forget that.” (Yes, yikes!, but I’ve heard all of these statements and more in God’s church at some point in my life.)
Paul reminds the religious elite, the Jews, that their religion won’t save them, either. Let’s listen in…
Romans 2, The Message
Religion Can’t Save You
17-24 If you’re brought up Jewish, don’t assume that you can lean back in the arms of your religion and take it easy, feeling smug because you’re an insider to God’s revelation, a connoisseur of the best things of God, informed on the latest doctrines! I have a special word of caution for you who are sure that you have it all together yourselves and, because you know God’s revealed Word inside and out, feel qualified to guide others through their blind alleys and dark nights and confused emotions to God. While you are guiding others, who is going to guide you? I’m quite serious. While preaching “Don’t steal!” are you going to rob people blind? Who would suspect you? The same with adultery. The same with idolatry. You can get by with almost anything if you front it with eloquent talk about God and his law. The line from Scripture, “It’s because of you Jews that the outsiders are down on God,” shows it’s an old problem that isn’t going to go away.
25-29 Circumcision, the surgical ritual that marks you as a Jew, is great if you live in accord with God’s law. But if you don’t, it’s worse than not being circumcised. The reverse is also true: The uncircumcised who keep God’s ways are as good as the circumcised—in fact, better. Better to keep God’s law uncircumcised than break it circumcised. Don’t you see: It’s not the cut of a knife that makes a Jew. You become a Jew by who you are. It’s the mark of God on your heart, not of a knife on your skin, that makes a Jew. And recognition comes from God, not legalistic critics.
What do we learn?
–It’s because of us, as God’s church, that others are down on coming to worship with us. Many are not down on God…just His church. We are judgmental, unholy and sometimes unkind.
–Motivations of our hearts is key and must be evaluated daily. WHY do we do what we do? WHO are we in Christ? WHAT are we doing when He asks us to join Him in His work? Do we respond quickly or wait for a committee meeting?
–Are we tired OF the work or IN the work? Are we giving up? If we are, we are probably doing the work on our own steam.
–Do we do what we do because it makes us feel good? Is God’s work done so others will think more highly of us as a noble people?
–Be the church God requires of us as individuals with his mark on our hearts. Then do what He asks when His invitation to join Him in His work is given. We will only hear His invitation when we first spend time being with Him. Ask, what do YOU want, Lord.
–Do we have the mark of God on our hearts?
Dear Heavenly Father,
We repent of times when it was all about us not all about You. Being the church means being with You first, understanding Your love, then acting on that love. Our hearts ache for those who say hurtful, unkind things in Your church as we strive to be Your church. Help us to quickly see the danger from the evil one who plants evil thoughts of selfish indignation in church people who have missed the mark…the mark of You on their hearts. Help us to see when it is us and repent quickly. Thank you, Lord for inviting us to BE your church before doing anything of value or significance as Your church. Do not let us become complacent or habitual doing church. What a sin that is! You have made that clear throughout the ages! Help us, Lord.
In Jesus Name, Amen.