Letter to Christians in Rome: Chapter 1 (pt 7 of 10)

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I ended the last post with a teaser, saying we would look at Paul’s comments in the eleventh chapter of II Corinthians. So let’s look at it:

“I hope you will put up with a little more of my foolishness. Please bear with me. For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things. I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way.

Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be. As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, no one in all of Greece will ever stop me from boasting about this. Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows that I do.

But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours. These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.

Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little. Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool. And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too. After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that!

But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?

If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him” (II Corinthians 11)

Previously, I was going to only highlight verses 23-38 where he begins:

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again . . .

But instead I gave you the entire chapter for a reason: I want you to see the passion, the drive of a true pastor. I want you to understand what makes him “tick.” He is describing a man in whom the power of self has been broken. He doesn’t care what happens to him, he is ready to risk anything, hazard anything, whatever it takes to pay his debt to “barbarian and to Greek” alike.

Now do you understand what I meant when I said that we read Paul’s message incorrectly? He wasn’t moved by the need of the Greeks and the barbarians. I freely confess that I can read the most heart-rending stories of need and remain calloused and unmoved. I can watch those late-night shows showing children dying, and remain unmoved. That is the way our selfish hearts work. Well okay, maybe it is just me and I need to repent of it, but I can be exposed to terrible needs, and if it makes too much demand on me, my temptation is to turn and look the other way, to pretend it isn’t there, instead of responding.

Okay, so what do we do about it? Well, we are not going to be moved just because we see pictures of tremendous need, or the hideous suffering of humanity. If we are moved, it is only a humanistic impulse for the moment. This selfish-side of ours can only be broken when we feel the heart of Jesus Christ. The love that awakens in our spirits for him actually creates a desire to satisfy His hunger to have all men brought to him (Greek and barbarian alike). This is what our Lord wants. There is only one thing that will melt the hardness and selfishness of our hearts, and that is our love for Jesus Christ. When you fall in love with Him, your heart is transformed and it brings out this love for the needs of others. Falling in love with our Savior will do that in our lives!

I don’t know who it was, but one Pastor explained:

“When I teach from the pulpit about adultery, I don’t hate adulterers. Just as we have people attending our local church that are engaging in homosexual activity, we have people attending our church who are engaging in adultery. I don’t hate those people when I speak about adultery. I am just, hopefully, loving them enough to speak the truth about what God desires for the best for that person”

I agree with John R.W. Stott who said that the primary motive for evangelism is not the need of men, but a spirit of jealousy for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, a hunger that he might have all that is rightfully His. That is what jealousy is, an intolerance of rivals..

When a wife and husband give themselves to one another, they have established a righteous relationship. If a rival intrudes into that relationship, the wife or husband has every right to be jealous. This is the kind of jealousy Paul is talking about when he says he is jealous for Christ. These believers in Corinth were being corrupted, “just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.” They were  happily being pulled away from True Faith in the Messiah and tolerating whatever anyone told them, even when they taught a different Jesus than the one Paul was teaching, or a different kind of Spirit than the one they had received, or a different kind of gospel than the one they first believed.

He wrote that his desire was that Christ could have whatever belonged to Him, which is His by right of sacrifice. When a believer—a true disciple—sees the face of Jesus Christ and His hunger to have every tribe and nation come to Him, Paul says, “I don’t care how dirty they are, how filthy they may be, how proud or arrogant they may be in their intellectual conceit, I want to reach them for Christ’s sake, so he can be satisfied and have that which belongs to him.”

Rick Warren has been under fire recently for pushing Chrislam (which uses both the Bible and Quran and views them both as holy texts). This all stems from an Islamic conference where Warren was a speaker two years ago. I cannot say whether he is or not. I am neither supporting Warren, nor condemning him. However, he did respond to the charges:

Several of the above comments are completely incorrect, based on believing 2nd hand false rumors instead of finding out the facts before speaking up. “Only a fool believes all he hears” Proverbs 14:15

The so-called “Chrislam” rumor is 100% false. If the guy who started this libelous myth, or anyone else who passed it on, had obeyed our Lord’s command (Matt. 18:18-20) to come directly to me, and then asked what I actually believed – they would have been embarrassed to learn that I believe the exact opposite. As a 4th generation Christian pastor, my life & ministry is built on the truth that Jesus is the only way, and our inerrant Bible is our only true authority.

As an evangelist, I spend much of my time speaking to non-Christian groups. You cannot win your enemies to Christ; only your friends, so we must build bridges of friendship and love to those who believe differently so Jesus can walk across that bridge into their hearts. Besides, it is not a sin, but rather COMMANDED by Jesus that we love our enemies. In the past 10 years, Saddleback Church has baptized over 22,000 new adult believers – simply because we express love to those who don’t know Christ yet.

It is nonsense to believe that you must compromise your beliefs, or water down your convictions in order to love someone, or even just treat them with dignity.

Jesus was called “the friend of sinners” by the legalistic Pharisees because he hung out with (and clearly loved) unbelievers. I HOPE YOU will 1) Always believe that EVERYONE needs Jesus as their Lord & Savior. 2) Have the courage to associate with nonbelievers in order to love them and bring them to the Savior. 3) Consider being called “a friend of sinners” a Christ-like compliment. 4) Refuse to pass on rumors until you’ve checked for the truth with the person accused. The false statements above should be removed.

God bless you.

Rick Warren

My only concern is what does he teach in his pulpit? Also, what did he mean in his book, “Purpose Driven Church,” where he said that we should remove the crosses from our churches because they may offend the “Unchurched”?

If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome

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