There once were two math teachers working in the same high school.
One teacher was clearly very gifted at math. The whole education process
for this teacher was easy. In fact, she got a doctorate in record time. It was
unusual for a high school teacher to have a doctorate but she had one. Who
knows perhaps she was waiting to be called by a university. The second
teacher was certified as a high school mathematics teacher but she struggled
to gain control of the subject matter. It wasn't easy for her.
Interestingly, the brilliant math teacher was not the best teacher of the
two. She simply didn't have the patience to help the students who didn't get
math right away. She couldn't understand why it was so hard for them. The
other teacher understood why some of her students didn't get it right away.
She knew how to help those students learn without getting discouraged.
This story is probably repeated in many schools. I can witness to that
fact because I was in a high school who had similar two teachers. I had them
both. The first teacher so turned me off to math so badly I never came to the
point I even like math. The second teacher was able to teach me what I
needed to know to pass my math requirements for high school.
Why am I telling you these stories about math teachers? Leading
people to grow and learn is important. Guiding people in any field takes
patience and understand. In fact, a good teacher knows we learn as much
from our mistakes as we learn from what comes easy. Ridicule, arrogance,
and a lack of patience hinders a teacher from guiding their students.
What does this aft to do with our scripture today? Mature Christians
are called to help those who are weak in their faith. The letter to the Romans
was written by Paul to help the Christians in Rome to help each other grow
in their faith. If you have a strong faith you are called by Christ Jesus
himself to "Make disciples for the transformation of the world," but you must
be patient with those you are showing the way to Christ. Every Christian is
called to help others grow in the faith. When we help others grow we help
ourselves grow in faith. Paul teaches us, "Welcome the one who is weak in
faith but not in order to argue about the differences of opinion." --Romans 14:1
Know-it-all Christians turn people off more than they help people.
Mature Christians are in danger scaring weaker Christians away with
arrogance or judgment. We can't bring anyone to Christ by looking down
our noses at the people around us.
Truth be known most of us have experienced the arrogance or judgment
of some who think of themselves as "correct" Christians. They know which
translation is the correct one. They know which church is the best church.
They know how we must be baptized, take Communion and believe the right
way. We've all known people who have been turned away from Christ
because of people who think they know everything about Christ.
Last week I attended the PTL service at 9:00 AM. The preacher, for
which I have forgotten his name, preached a good sermon on anger. He
pointed Jesus got angry. He got angry at the money changers, and even at
Peter. What surprised me during his sermon he said, "Paul wrote, "These
three, Faith, Hope, and Being Right." I knew he was wrong, and his
congregation yelled out he was wrong. What was he wrong about? Yes,
these three, faith, hope, and love.
I firmly believe we are called to stand up for what we believe in. I love
being a Jeremiah and standing up for Christianity and other things I believe
are right. I appreciate Nancy celebrating our constitution. Three Cs are
under attack, Capitalism, Christianity, and the Constitution. I believe I am
right about that statement, but what I forgot is to speak out in love. Hate, in
any form is a tool of the Enemy.
Years before Paul wrote the letter to the Romans he wrote several
letters to the Corinthians. Paul saw the congregations there dividing up
fighting over who was better than each other. He wrote, "When jealousy and
fighting exist between you, aren't you unspiritual and living by earthly
standards? When someone says I belong to Paul, and some else says, "I
belong to Apollos," aren't you acting like people without the Spirit?"
--I Corinthians 3:3-4
Even Jesus' disciples struggled with who is right in the faith and who is
not. One day John came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, we saw someone
casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was
not following us." Jesus replied, "Do not stop him, for no one who does a
mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.
FOR ONE WHO IS NOT AGAINST US IS FOR US." --Romans 9:39
Thermopolis is a small town and even here the Christian community is
divided among several faith communities. Having a variety of churches is a
good thing, but judging other in our believes is a mistake. We should go to
the church that helps us grow in our faith the most, but looking down our
noises at other Christians is a sin. Judgment is the work of Christ not ours.
Look at the life of Paul. Once a judgmental Pharisee Christ himself
helped him become a mature Christian. Christ called him to be an apostle.
The book of Acts reveals how Paul was knocked off his arrogance by Christ.
Following that life changing experience Paul spent three difficult years
preparing himself for his ministry with the Gentiles. He knew his stuff, but
he learned how to be as patient with new and weak Christians as Jesus was
with his disciples and all the people who were listening to him.
In fact, In Paul made this point in his letter to the Corinthians, "As a
matter of fact I could not talk to you as I talk to people who have the Spirit. I
have talked to you as though you belonged to this world as children in the
Christian faith. I had to feed you milk not solid food, because you were not
ready for it." --I Corinthians 3:1-2
Paul knew what it was like to get it wrong, but he also knew what it
meant to open himself up to the Spirit of Christ to grow in his faith. He knew
Listen! The only way for us to avoid becoming an arrogant Christians is
to humble ourselves before the Lord. As Isaiah predicted it and as Paul
quoted, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every
tongue will give praise to the Lord." --Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11 This is the only
way. We must take a knee in front of Christ.
Yes, Paul knew what it meant to take a knee. Like I said he had been an
arrogant Pharisee. He knew all the rules that made him a good rule giver.
In fact, he was so dedicated with his cause he made it his mission to go out
and get rid of those incorrect the Christians.
But the road to Damascus was not the beginning of his road to be a
Christian. I believe his life began to change as he watched Stephen stoned to
death. He watched as Stephen faithfully look up to the heavens and say what
Jesus had said on the cross, "Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they
are doing." Soon Jesus struck him down making him one of the greatest
Gentile evangelists in history. Paul, not only took a knee, he praised the Lord
for changing his heart.
Paul knew what it meant to take a knee before his savor, and to praise
him as the Lord of his life. The letter to the Roman Christians speaks to us as
well. We are called to be witnesses our faith with mercy and love. Paul was
teaching us not to get distracted by lessor concerns, but to focus on bringing
people to an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savor.
Let me make this point. Paul wasn't saying it doesn't matter what we
believe. The basic teachings of the Christian faith are eternal. Living by the
great commandments to love God, neighbor and self does matter. Believing
that Christ Jesus was raised from the dead and believing this saves us from
eternal death does matter. But much of what separates modern Christians
from each other distracts us and those looking to us. How we take
communion or how we are baptized or which translation we read isn't central
to being a Christian. If one style of church brings you closer to Christ stay
with it, but we must not judge people who don't do these our way.
It's not our task to judge other Christians. What matters is we listen for
the Holy Spirit as we grow in our faith. Our heavenly Father is far more
concerned about our heart and faith, then some of things we focus on.
It just doesn't matter what kind of food we eat, or how we take
communion, or how we baptized as long as we our heart is right with the
Lord of our lives, Christ Jesus. The Pharisees missed the point about the
Sabbath and so do we. The Pharisees forgot why they did ritual hand-
washing. It was about coming before our Heavenly Father with the right
"Every knee will bow. Every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord at
the name of Jesus." This phrase is repeated twice in the Old Testament
[Isaiah 45:23; Psalm 95:6] and three times in the New Testament [Romans
14:12; Philippians 2:10-11; Ephesians 3:14]. "Every knee shall bow; every
tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Our Heavenly Father wants us to
humble ourselves so the Holy Spirit can speak to us. I want to thank you
because I believe most of you in this church get it, although I believe we
need to be reminded from time to time. "Every knee shall bow; every tongue
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."
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Pastor Paul Grossman