Pleasing One Another

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Today’s post is taken from this message from Dr. John MacArthurPleasing One Another For the Sake of Christ

Do you profess to know Christ intimately? Do you profess to desire nothing more than to live a life in display of Christ? Do you profess to actually be born again? Having had your heart regenerated by God’s irresistible grace? If you profess these things, then this message by Dr. John MacArthur can be used by the Holy Spirit to convict and inspire you in living a life pleasing one another for the sake of Christ.

CLICK  HERE for the full audio recording of this timely and beautiful message.

Below is only an excerpt taken from the PDF transcript of his message – the full transcript can be found here.

“Discord strikes a deadly blow at the work of God in the church.  Chaos, confusion, strife, envy, jealousy, anger, bitterness, dissension, fighting, hatred, indifference to the needs of others, selfishness, a lack of sacrificial love, all of these things violate the unity of the church and therefore they violate the will of God and they cripple His testimony in the world.  The loving harmony and unity of the church is of grave concern to God.  And I want to see if I can’t point that out to you as we begin our study.

It’s obvious in the church that we have to be concerned with pleasing others, not ourselves, to make this unity a reality, right?  If everybody is designing his life and his attitudes and actions and responses only to please himself, we will have chaos.  And so it is incumbent upon the strong believer to adjust himself to the weak that he may seek to please him rather than to please himself.  That’s bottom line.

Now to do this, to please others instead of ourselves, requires several high spiritual motives.  And I’ve listed six of them that take us through the text. Let’s move rapidly; six spiritual motives. Let me say this, if you don’t have these, you’re not going to be able to succeed at this.  And if you don’t succeed at this, you violate a very grave concern to God and that is the unity of His church.  But with these motives, there will be unity among the strong and the weak.

The first motive, very simple: consideration of others, consideration of others.  You can look along your outline as we go.  Now consideration of others simply speaks in this regard, “Seeking to serve others with love rather than attack them with criticism.”  That’s just basic.  We know that.  I’m not telling you what… I feel like I’m taking ice to Eskimos because you have more of this than you can possible use. You know this.  This is by way of reminder.  And it is not only by way of reminder because I assume you have forgotten it, but frankly, folks, I know you have forgotten it because I hear things and I know that there are very inconsiderate things said and I know there are people who seek not to serve others with love but to attack them with criticism.  I mean, this is just how it is.

In recent days, one of the pastors of our church came to me and said, “I think we’re going to be in grave trouble in the future if we don’t stop some of these personal attacks that are going on within our church fellowship.”  This is not something we don’t know, it’s something that we don’t apply.

Now what do we have in verse 1?  “We then that are strong ought to bear the weaknesses” or infirmities “of the weak,” we’ll stop at that point.  Now the statement here is made to those that are strong, and here in verse 1 Paul summarizes everything he’s been saying in chapter 14.  He sums it all up.  He already said in verses 1 to 12, “Receive one another with understanding.”  And you remember his points?  Because the Lord receives each, because the Lord sustains each, because the Lord is sovereign over each, and because the Lord will judge each.  So you need to receive each.  Then in verses 13 to 23, he said to build up one another without offending.  And he went through a little list.  Don’t cause them to stumble, don’t grieve them, don’t devastate them, don’t cause the witness of Christ to be forfeited, don’t pull down the work of God and don’t flaunt your liberty.  Alright, he says in summary in verse 1, then we that are strong ought to bear with the weaknesses of the weak.

Now who is he talking about when he talks about weak and strong?  Let me just give you a brief review, we’ve done this several times, but just for those who may not have been here.  A strong believer… It’s not talking so much about just spiritual growth, although that’s part of it. A strong believer is a believer who understands his liberty.  He understands what he is free to do.  For example, in that culture he understands he’s free to eat pork, even though the Mosaic law forbid it because in Christ that law is set aside.  He’s free to do whatever he wants to do any day of the week. He isn’t bound by Sabbath law.  He no longer has to be controlled and all of his life charted by the course of the tradition of the Jews, or by the Old Testament ritual and ceremonies.  He no longer has to observe feasts and new moons and Sabbaths and dietary laws and clothing laws and all those external things. They’re all gone.

If he’s a Gentile, he knows that it doesn’t matter if he eats meat that was once offered to an idol because an idol is nothing anyway. He’s completely free to do that.  Anything that is a thing, he is free to use, he is free to be blessed by.  Things are not a problem.  There’s nothing forbidden anymore in that sense.

So the strong believer, he can have a ham sandwich, he can eat a pork chop, he can eat meat offered to idols, he can take a long hike with his family on the Sabbath and it doesn’t bother his conscience at all.  But a weak believer is one who, having come out of those kinds of backgrounds, doesn’t yet feel the liberty to do that.  He may be a Jew who doesn’t feel the liberty to violate the Sabbath, he doesn’t feel the liberty to eat certain meats, he doesn’t feel the liberty to break some festival or feast day.  Or maybe he’s a Gentile who doesn’t feel the liberty to eat meat that was once offered to an idol and is now sold in the marketplace.  He can’t handle that because it conjures up all the past.  And so he doesn’t understand that liberty and the problem in the church comes when the strong believers who understand their freedom flaunt that freedom to the abuse of a weak believer who does not yet understand that freedom.  And consequently we devastate them, we grieve them, we make them stumble, we forfeit our witness, we pull down the work of God because they go backwards not forward in their spiritual growth when we flaunt our liberty.

So the injunction comes to the strong believer to set aside his liberty and bear with the weakness of the weak.  And do so with love as a privilege.  Now we know there are no religious taboos, we know that, we don’t have to fear that.  We don’t have to pay any attention to old religious ceremonies. But some people are still bound by that.  And we need to be patient until they can grow away from those taboos.  And this is the attitude of consideration of others.  And this is the first attitude that we must have if we are going to please someone else.  We consider them before ourselves.  To put it in Philippians 2 language, “Let each man look not on his own things, but on the things of others.”  Let us be preoccupied with those things which would distress others.  When someone struggles with something that you feel is right but they feel is wrong, unless they are wrong in a biblical sense, unless they are violating a biblical truth and they need direct instruction, and by the way, don’t let anybody bind on you something that is forbidden in the Scripture, but if it’s a neutral thing, be patient that they might grow to understand their freedom.  And we’ve been through that in great detail. That’s just by way of reminder.

So the word “ought” here is a very strong word. It means to be a debtor. It is used in Romans 14 where Paul says I’m a debtor to the Jew and the Greek and so forth in preaching the gospel.  So we have a debt and our debt is to bear. Bastaz is used 25 times in the New Testament, and I want you to get the meaning ‘cause it can be missed.  I’ve heard more people say, “Well, we’ll bear with you,” which means we’ll sort of impatiently endure your inadequacy.  But it is not the idea of intolerance, or even tolerance. It is not the idea of just sort of bearing along with someone’s infirmity. It is the word which means to get under and carry the load.  It is used of carrying something, shouldering a burden.  In Galatians chapter 6 it talks about bearing one another’s burden. It means to get underneath and put it on your shoulders.

For example, the same term, bastaz, is used in Mark 14:13 and in Luke 22 of carrying a stone water jar or a pottery jar.  In Luke 7:14 it’s used of carrying a stretcher.  In John 10:31 of carrying stones.  In John 12:6, of carrying a bag of money.  In Acts 15:10, carrying a yoke.  In Acts 21:35, carrying a man.  And in Revelation 17:7, carrying a woman.  So it means to shoulder a burden.  The point is, you don’t just bear with them in some sort of intolerant tolerance, but you get under the load and you say, “I’ll come right under there with you. I’ll come right under your weakness and I’ll walk along with you in this weakness until you grow to understand your freedom. I will not abuse you. I will consider you and I’ll get under your weakness and I’ll carry it with you.”  The prejudices and the errors and the taboos of certain people, we need to carry.  We need to come alongside and nurture them along.

That’s what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians, in part of course, in 1 Corinthians 9 when he said, “I am free from all men. I know my freedoms, but I made myself servant to all that I might gain the more.”  And in verse 22, “To the weak I became as weak that I might gain the weak.”  And the principle there, although that is in a different context, is the same.  If we’re going to gain the weak it is by getting under their load and saying I’ll live under that load with you and we’ll carry it together until you’re free to drop that burden.

It’s kind of like Romans 13:8, the debt of love is never paid.  Owe no man anything but to love, and that’s a debt you’ll never fully pay because you’ll always owe it no matter how much you pay on it.

Now somebody’s going to say, “Does this mean we’re to be men pleasers?”  And there are going to be some sort of macho spiritualists who are going to come along and say, “Hey, I’m no man pleaser. I know my liberty and I’m going to live my liberty to the hilt.”  I’m not asking you to be a man pleaser, not in the sense of Galatians 1:10 where Paul says, “Are we men pleasers?  Of course not.”  What he means by that, a man pleaser is one who adjusts the gospel to fit what people want, one who backs away from the sinfulness of sin so as not to offend.  We’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about compromise. We’re not talking about Absalom in 2 Samuel 15.  You remember that account?  What Absalom did, it serves as a good illustration.  Let me just take a brief moment to read it to you.  Second Samuel 15:2, “Absalom rose up early, the son of David,” who wanted, you know, to take over and dethrone his own father.  “He stood beside the way of the gate,” got in the city gate “and it was that when any man who had a controversy came to the king for judgment, Absalom called to him and said, of what city are you?  He said the servant is one of the tribes of Israel.”  In other words, where are you from, and so forth.  “Then Absalom said, see thy matters are good and right, but there’s no man appointed of the king to hear you.”

Here come these people with their grievances to the king.  He stops them in the gate, pulls them over and, of course, he’s the king’s son.  Boy, who wouldn’t want to get an audience with the king’s son as access to the king?  And he sympathizes and he said, “Moreover, oh, that I were made judge in the land that every man who has any suit or cause might come to me and I would do him justice.”  Boy, that sounds like every politician’s speech you ever heard, right?  “And it was that when any man came near to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand and took him and kissed him.  And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment, so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.”  He had an ulterior motive; he was a men pleaser for his own gains.  That’s not what we’re talking about.

We’re not talking about pleasing men by adjusting the gospel so that they want to hear it.  We’re not talking about pleasing men by ignoring their sin.  We’re not talking about pleasing men like Absalom in a self-centered way to attract them to us. We’re talking about pleasing them in the sense of helping them carry a load of bondage they do not yet feel free to unload until we can walk long enough with them to convince them they ought to dump the pack.  You understand?  That’s consideration.  We’re talking about non-essentials, taboos and scruples and preferences that are not necessary.  So, the first thing is consideration of others.

The second motive that we have to have is disregard for self, disregard for self.  And these are very parallel.  This is to say seeking to please others rather than me.  Very basic, the end of verse 15…verse 1 chapter 15, “And not to please ourselves.”  In other words, we don’t use our liberty because it pleases us.  I’m free to do this, I’m free to do that, I’ll do exactly what I want to do.  I’ll flaunt that liberty.  The criterion for what we do is not our own pleasure.  That’s not a spiritual approach.

I always think of the words of Paul that are so sad in Philippians 2.  He says in verse 19, I’m going to send Timothy, then in verse 20, I have no man who is like him who will naturally care for your state.  Then verse 21, “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”  That is a sad commentary.  What an aching heart Paul must have had to realize that people in whom he had made such a great investment were now out seeking their own and not the things of Christ.  That’s not what God desires.

Now the bottom line, then, in Christian liberty is “I don’t seek to use my liberty.  I don’t seek to flaunt my liberty.  I don’t seek to please myself though I may have a right to do that.  I may be free to do many things, but I won’t do them if they’ll cause you to be offended and stumble and be made weak.”  Rather, verse 2 says, “Let every one of us please his neighbor,” that is a fellow Christian who is close by, “for his good to build him up.”  And again we can see that he’s picking up some of the same concepts that he had in chapter 14.  “Let every one of us” is very emphatically stated, without exception. Nobody gets off the hook, but “every one of us please his neighbor.”  What for?  “For his edification,” that is the goal to build him up.  And that’s why back in verse 19 of chapter 14 he said we want to…we want to follow after things that make for peace and things with which one may build up another.

Now listen, folks, the obligation in the church is for the strong to understand their liberty to come in and get underneath the load of the weak and help to strengthen them, to help to build them up.  We are responsible, who are strong, for the spiritual growth of the weak.  Now I’m not saying that we sacrifice God’s truth for the sake of harmony.  But I am saying that in these neutral things we seek to build the weak by setting apart our own liberty for the sake of strengthening them.  The point is, if you flaunt your liberty, they’ll be even weaker.  They’ll run the other way.  The offense will drive them deeper into their own little ceremonial taboos.  In order to bring them out of that, we need to be sure that we carefully and cautiously do what pleases them.

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful, all things do not build up, so let no man seek his own but every man another’s.”  Same principle. Same principle.  Apparently some of the Philippians needed exhortation along this line and that’s why Philippians 2, which I mentioned to you a moment ago, was written.  It says, “If there’s any consolation in Christ, any comfort of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, any tender mercies, or compassions, fulfill my joy and be like-minded,” and he describes that.  Verse 4…or verse 3 he says, “Each of us in lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than themselves.”  And then he describes Christ as the illustration. Have the mind of Christ who though equal with God with liberties and freedoms that are inconceivable to us set them aside, became a man that He might gain men.  And so we have that same attitude.

So, first of all, the motive then is the motive of consideration of others.  And secondly is disregard for self.  Look at the third motive, it comes in verse 3.  It’s one that’s very obvious, conformity to Christ, conformity to Christ.  That is to say seeking to be like the Lord rather than demanding that others be like me Seeking to be like the Lord rather than demanding others be like me.  For even Christ, verse 3 says, pleased not Himself, but as it is written, or it’s adversative, rather as it is written, the approaches of them that reproach Thee fell on me.  Christ did not please Himself. Christ took the reproach of God.  Christ suffered.  He did not please Himself.  He is the example.  Even Christ pleased not Himself.

Beloved, that’s an important thought and we could take a long time developing the theology of that statement, but that would not be the intent of the text. Christ was not in the world to please Himself.  If He had really wanted to please Himself and Himself alone, He would have stayed in glory and never showed up down here.  That’s why in John 17 He says, “Father,” the first five verses of that chapter, “return Me to the glory I had with You before the world.” Take Me back.”  Verse 5: “Glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world began.”  Christ did not come to please Himself.

Just to track that thought, the gospel of John is perhaps as good a place as any and no doubt the best place.  In John chapter 4, verse 34 we read, “Jesus said unto them, My meat” or food “is to do the will of Him that sent Me and finish His work.”  He came not to please Himself but to please His Father.  Chapter 5 verse 30, He says, “Because I seek not My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”  Chapter 6 verse 38, “For I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me.”  In chapter 8, I think it’s verse 25, they said to Him, “Who are You?  Jesus said, Even the same that I said to you from the beginning. I have many things to say and judge of you but He that sent Me is true, I speak to the world those things which I have heard of Him.  They understood not that He spoke to them of the Father.  Then said Jesus to them, when you lifted up the Son of Man then shall you know that I am He and that I do nothing of Myself but as My Father hath taught Me I speak these things, and He that sent Me is with Me, the Father hath not left Me alone.” Here it is, “I do always those things that (What?) please Him.”  Now that’s the bottom line in the life of Christ.  He did the things that pleased the Father.

And so, it is right to say that Jesus pleased not Himself.  Christ pleased not Himself.  In John 14:31 He says, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do.”  I do what the Father told Me that the world may know I love Him.  Yes, He came to do the Father’s pleasure.

The writer of Hebrews seems to want to make a major point of this.  In Hebrews 3:2 it speaks of Christ Jesus who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, faithful to Him that appointed Him.  In chapter 5 verse 7 it says of His agony in the garden, that in the days of His flesh when He had offered up prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death and was heard in that He feared, though He were a Son yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.”  He called out to the Father, cried out for deliverance, cried out that the Father might remove the cup from Him.  The Father chose not to do that.  And Christ was perfectly content to resign to the Father’s will.  In fact, Luke 22:42, I think it is, He said, “Father, not My will but (What?) Thine be done.”  So He came not to please Himself but to please His Father.  And He is our pattern.  He bore so much for the sake of the Father.  He bore so much for the sake even of the elect.

He also claimed to have come that ultimately in pleasing the Father He would also please us and bless us.  No one compelled Jesus.  He says in John 10:17 and 18, “No man takes My life from Me, I lie…I lay it down by Myself.  I have power to lay it down. I have power to take it up.”

So, the example, beloved, that we have as Christians in this matter of maintaining the unity of the church is that each of us is to be concerned with conformity to Christ.  And conformity to Christ means we seek to be like Him rather than to make everyone be like us.  And being like Him means that we do not do that which pleases us, but rather we do that which pleases others.

Look for a moment at Psalm 69 because that’s what he quotes in this verse.  “The reproaches that fall on Thee fall on Me.” That’s from Psalm 69.  And just briefly to draw it to your attention.  Psalm 69:9, he says… And this is a Messianic Psalm. Much of it touches on the Messiah and His agony.  Back in verse 4, “They that hate Me without a cause,” no doubt speaks of the hatred of the Lord Jesus Christ.  “A stranger to My brethren,” verse 8 and “an alien to My mother’s children.”  “He came unto His own and His own received Him not,” and so forth.  It speaks about even the betrayal of Christ in this particular passage.  It talks about His agony.  It talks about, I believe, His trial in the garden, verse 16 down through maybe verse 20 or so.  It talks in verse 21, they gave Me vinegar for My food and in My thirst…gall for My food and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.  Now there were… There are many aspects of the Messiah here.

But one of them in verse 9 is that the reproaches that were given to God are also fallen on Him.  In other words, in pleasing the Father, Christ receives reproach. That is slander, that is false accusation. That is to suffer insults.  And He suffered the same insults God suffered because He represented God.  Because men hate God, they hated the one who revealed God.  Because they hated the holiness of God, they hated the holiness of Jesus Christ.

Now this willingness to please God even though it meant reproach and suffering and insult and slander and death is the key to the Christian’s attitude.  Christ was willing to endure all of this, even the reproaches that fell on God Himself. He bore those reproaches for the sake of doing the Father’s will.  He was really indifferent to His own deprivation.  He was indifferent to His own pain.  He was indifferent to His own agony.  And He who bears all of this pain for the sake of pleasing the Father is our example.  Rather than running out to please ourselves, we should follow the pattern of Christ and be willing to suffer anything in pleasing another.  He set aside all of His divine rights to be subject to the Father and to suffer for the sake of sinners to bring us to God.  Can we do less for a fellow Christian?  Back to 1 John 2:6, “If we say we abide in Him, we ought to walk as He walked.”  If you say you’re a Christian, you ought to have the attitude Christ had.

So, the right motives then are consideration for others, disregard of self and conformity to Christ.  Then notice this, and these are very simple ones: Fourthly, submission to Scripture, submission to Scripture And he makes an interesting transition here. Quoting Psalm 69 he then sort of justifies that quote by saying, “For whatever things were written in earlier times,” that is a reference to the Old Testament, “whatever things were written in earlier times were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”  And this is to say that we are to be seeking to find fulfillment in the Word of God rather than personal aims.  We ought to conform to what the Word of God teaches.

In this brief justification for using the Old Testament Psalm, Paul gives the value of the Scripture, the value of the Scripture.  Whatever things were written in earlier times is a reference to the Old Testament.  “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,” and so forth.  You know it in 2 Peter 1:21, the Old Testament.  Whatever was written in the Old Testament was written for our learning.  Now listen carefully.  Old Testament scripture was written for New Testament people.  It is not a dead book.  It is a book that is written for our learning.  First Corinthians 10 verses 6 and 11 say it is to provide examples for us, examples for us, patterns for us.  Paul said to Timothy, “All Scripture,” and he referred to the Old Testament, “is given by inspiration of God and is profitable.”  And he listed some of the things it profits for, “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.”

Listen, the Old Testament is profitable, it is for our learning.  And what does it teach us?  That we through endurance, hupomon, endurance and encouragement from the Scriptures might have what?  Hope. Hope.  I believe that man needs hope more than he needs anything else.  The goal of the Scripture is to give hope, hope for the future, hope for life eternal, hope for forgiveness from sin, meaning to life.  God is called in Jeremiah 14:8 “The hope of Israel.”  God is the giver of hope.  Psalm 119 says at least three times, “I have hope in Thy Word.”  Psalm 130, verse 5, the same thing, “I have hope in Thy Word.”  The reason we have hope is because of what the Bible reveals.  Is that not so?  Would you have hope in life to come if you’d never read the Scripture?  Would you have hope?  No, no hope at all.  That’s why in Ephesians 4 it says the Gentiles who have not the Scripture are without hope in the world.  They are without hope in the world.  Hope comes from the Word of God.  Without it we have no hope.  We don’t know about heaven.  We don’t know about Christ and His Kingdom.  We don’t know about the glorious reward that lies ahead.  We don’t know that without the Scripture.  There’s no revelation of that apart from Scripture.

But Scripture gives us hope.  And this comes to us through two great spiritual realities, endurance and encouragement.  Scripture tells us that we can endure any trial, that we can make it through any difficulty, any vicissitude, any struggle, any anxiety.  And James, you remember chapter 5 there, verses 7 to 11, “Be patient therefore, brethren,” or be enduring, brethren, “to the coming of the Lord.”  And he goes on to talk about the farmer waiting for the precious fruit of the earth has long patience for it until he received the early, latter rain, be also enduring, establish your hearts, the coming of the Lord is near.  Now that comes from the confidence of the Scripture.  Scripture tells us that we have a hope and that we have the power to endure.  The teaching of the Word of God allows us to patiently endure in this life, waiting for the hope that is set before us.  We could not patiently endure the trials of life if we didn’t know…if we had no word from God about how to endure, about how to be secure.  If we didn’t know that we were secure, every time a trouble came along we might think we were thrown out of God’s kingdom.  But Scripture tells us we’re secure and Scripture tells us we have the power to endure and Scripture tells us why we are to endure, to be strengthened, to develop patience so that patience, James 1 says, can have a perfecting work so that we can be more useful to God and more effective in winning others.  So Scripture gives us endurance to the hope.

And then along the way also encouragement, he says, paraklsis which is paraclete, one who comes alongside to encourage.  It is the Word of God that not only tells us how to endure, but encourages us in the process.

So, the Scripture teaches endurance and the Scripture teaches patience.  And those two things lead us to hold fast the hope that is in God and in Christ.  We have that hope and that hope is anchored in the Word of God.

And Paul’s point here is simply that we need to learn from the Scriptures. We need to learn from the Scriptures.  I think this is one thing that we can draw right into our little outline here and say that a biblical mindset is the key to right behavior to the weaker brother.  We need to know that everything written in the Scripture is written for our learning.  It’s all part of teaching us endurance and encouragement.  Let me tell you something.  One part of learning patience and encouragement is learning to tolerate weaker brothers.  Those words are chosen carefully.  We learn through that to be patient.  We learn through that the encouragement of one who has to wait.  And that’s what the Word of God provides.

So, we would say then, fourthly, we not only have the attitude of consideration of others, disregard for self, conformity to Christ, but fourthly, submission to Scripture.  We have an attitude of submission to Scripture.  And we say to ourselves, “Boy, I want to use my liberty, I want to get on with my liberty, man, I want to use my freedom.  Life’s going to be over and I’m going to be inhibited by all you weaker people.”  And he says, “Look, haven’t you learned through the Scripture that you wait for that hope with patience and encouragement as you endure?  Learn patience.”

Fifthly, another essential attitude is dependence on divine power, verse 5, dependence on divine power.  Now the God of patience…and this comes sort of like a wish.  I guess we would be safe in saying it is a prayer, though its form is a little bit shy of that.  I’d like to call it a prayer.  It’s a prayer sort of in the form of a longing that rises out of the heart.  Now the God of — and he uses the same two words — the God who teaches you patience, because He’s the source of patience, the God who teaches you encouragement, because He’s the source of encouragement, may He grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus.  And what he’s saying here is I realize that you have to do this in the power of God.  May God grant you this because you can’t do it on your own.  And, beloved, if the prior point has to do with studying the Word of God, then this has to do with its companion, prayer.  And this is to say seeking the strength of God rather than human resources, dependence on God.

How are we going to be what we ought to be to a weaker brother?  How are we going to build the unity of the church?  How are we going to bear one another’s burdens?  How are we going to please each other?  By consideration of others, disregard of self, conformity to Christ, submission to Scripture and then dependence on divine power.  If we depend on human resources we’ll be impatient.  If we depend on human resources we’re going to find ourselves too weak, and so in prayer we depend on God.  The God of endurance and the God of encouragement will allow us to endure those deprivations of our liberty and will encourage us even in the process.  And may He grant you to be like-minded toward one another.  What that is to say is just to treat everyone the same, to be considerate of others, to mind… Literally it says to mind the same thing among one another, to be concerned about each other.  This is harmony and this is love and this is care and this brings unity.

And may I add here, as a footnote, that the issue here is not doctrinal unity.  That’s not the issue in this whole passage.  It’s not doctrinal unity.  We assume that we have disagreement on doctrines.  Some think this is wrong and some know it isn’t.  You have a doctrinal disagreement, but in spite of that, we’re talking about harmony in relationships in spite of disagreement.  So he’s not asking here for a uniform belief because he knows that’s the problem.  There is not uniform belief.  And where there is discord at the level of doctrine, then the strong — when you’re dealing with neutral things — need to come alongside and in patience and endurance given them from the Word of God and sustained and operated in them through the power of God are able to bring unity even where there is difference of opinion.  Only God can produce that.  That’s why we… Folks, we go back to the same thing in the church.  The apostles gave themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.  It wasn’t because they weren’t sophisticated enough to know anything else to do, it was because those are the things that have always been the most essential things.

What about your prayer life?  When did you last pray for the unity of the church?  When did you last pray that God would make you to be one who as a strong believer could sustain the weak?  It’s a matter of prayer and submission to the Word and conformity to Christ and disregard of self and concern for others.

And then a final point, and this one a great and glorious way to climax; the last attitude is glory to God.  We should be controlled by a consuming desire that God be glorified.  And this is to seek the glory of God rather than self-glory.  Verse 6, considering others, disregarding self, conforming to Christ, submitting to Scripture, depending on divine power for the purpose that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify God.  You see that?  That’s the point, that you may glorify God corporately, both inwardly and outwardly.  And in case you need to know what God, glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  That is such a great statement.

Do you understand what that is saying?  Jesus, every time He spoke to the Father, every time He spoke to God called Him Father except on the cross when He was separated and said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  We covered this in our series on worship, but I just remind you of it.  Every time He spoke to God He called Him Father.  And when you read in the Bible about God as Father, sometimes, but it is the minority, sometimes it is referring to Him as our Father, like in the disciples prayer of Matthew 6, “Our Father who art in heaven,” sometimes in a minority.  The majority of times that God is called Father, He is not our Father, He’s the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And the reason that is used to refer to God is to point up the nature of Jesus Christ.  When he says, Paul does, “God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he is linking Christ in essential nature to God, therefore proclaiming the deity of Jesus Christ, the deity of Jesus Christ.  Jesus repeatedly in John’s gospel refers to His Father, refers over and over to His Father.  John 5:17: “My Father works and I work,” and the Jews sought to kill Him because He was making Himself equal with God.  That’s what He was doing.  When He talked about God as His Father and He as the Son, He was saying we have the same essence.  And so, whenever we have reference to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is a statement emphasizing that God, the true God, is the God who is one with His Son, Jesus Christ.  That is to say no man comes unto God but by Christ.

Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God,” what God?  “Even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  That God.  That is the only true God.  Verse 17, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.”  Second Corinthians chapter 1, “Blessed be God.”  What God?  “Even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  And it’s not just in those places, those are only samples.

So, the point is this, God is the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And that is to say that God and Christ are one.  The only true God is the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and that is to say that no man comes unto God, Jesus said, but by…by Me.  There is no worship of God unless there is also a worship of the God who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And so he says the purpose of all of this is your unity so that with one mind, that’s internally, and one mouth, that’s externally, you would glorify God.  What God?  The God who is one with His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Summing it up in verse 7: “Wherefore,” or consequently, “receive one another as Christ also received us.”  Why?  Why?  What’s the reason?  To the glory of God.  Listen, why did Christ receive you?  As a vile lost sinner.  Why did Christ receive me?  Because He knew when we were redeemed it would be to the what?  To the glory of God.  And as Christ received us, so are we to receive each other.  He received us to the glory of God.  We receive each other to the glory of God.  Shall we not follow His example?

And what are the right attitudes if the strong and the weak are to please each other?  Consideration of others, disregard for self, conformity to Christ, submission to Scripture, dependence on divine power and a consuming desire to glorify God, not myself.  Those are essential if we’re to manifest and live out and enjoy and glorify God by the unity which is His concern.  Let’s bow together in prayer.

Our Father, we believe in all…with all of our hearts that we have stood on holy ground as always when we open the pages of Holy Scripture.  We thank You for teaching us again and reminding us of things we have known before.  And we thank You for the privilege of living to the glory of God, we who are so ignoble, so inglorious, so unworthy to have the privilege of living to the glory of God.  It’s a great, marvelous, and wonderful thought.  And, Lord, help us to know that glorifying You is not something mystical, it’s something very practical.  It comes down to how we treat each other and how careful we are not to use our liberty but to set it aside that we may please one another with Christ as our example. Christ accepted us for Your glory and we must receive each other for Your glory.  Teach us that, Lord, daily, that we indeed may live to Your glory and not our own, for Christ’s sake.  Amen.”





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lisa rippy

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