Why are We Here, Where are We Going, How Do You Find Hope

Steve Viars January 3, 2009 Romans 15:2

- On the first Sunday of each year, we spend time as a church family talking about Why are We Here, Where are We Going, and How Do You Fit In?...

- it’s a discussion about our mission…

- and where we believe we stand in the accomplishment of that purpose…

- and what we hope to do in the coming year to gain more ground in what God has given us to achieve  in His name and for His glory…

- and perhaps most importantly, to help you think about where you fit in…

- I’m hoping that when we leave today, that every person here will have a crystal clear understanding of why this church exists…

- and what we believe the state of our church family is at this point in our history…

- along with our specific planning initiatives for this coming year if Christ tarries His coming…

- and I hope that every person here will be motivated to spend some time in the next few days, if you haven’t already…writing out your spiritual goals for this coming year…

- what you hope to see happen in your relationship with God, and your service for Him…

- now, when it comes to the question of “Why are we here?”…the answer to that is fundamentally going to stay the same…

- that doesn’t mean we can’t do some tweaking or minor wordsmithing to our mission statement, but basically this never changes…

- The mission of Faith Baptist Church is to glorify God by winning people to Jesus Christ and equipping them to be more faithful disciples.

- those concepts come directly from the Word of God…

- there really isn’t anything man-made about that at all…

- I’m thinking about verses like…

- 1 Corinthians 10:31 - Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

- we’ll see this concept again very clearly emphasized in the passage we’re going to study together…

- along with the Great Commission…

Matthew 28:19-20 - Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

- or Acts 1:8 - But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

- as an aside, we have had folks from time to time tell us that they were uncomfortable with the phrase “winning people to Jesus Christ” as if it’s some sort of contest…and I understand where they’re coming from…but that terminology too is taken directly from Scripture…

- here’s a great example of the way Paul thought about life and ministry…

- 1 Corinthians 9:19-24 - For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

- apparently Paul was fairly comfortable with this terminology…

- Jesus Himself also told His disciples that He would make them “fishers of men”…I love that metaphor…

- so churches, and church members have to be about winning people to Christ…

- and, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times recently…God has blessed our efforts in that regard in this past year like never before…

- more people publically demonstrated their faith in Christ here last year than any other year in our church’s history…

- and we thank God for that…because we set out to develop more of a community based approach to outreach the last few years…

- and many in this church family gave sacrificially to make the community center a reality…

- we wanted to obey Christ command to Matthew 5:16 - Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

- and the Lord has seen fit to bless our efforts with a significant number of people here who are new to faith in Christ --- and we see that as a marvelous blessing and a significant trust…

- but that’s where the second half of the mission fits in…”and equip them to be more faithful disciples…”

- we have the privilege and the responsibility to do everything in our power to be sure that every last one of us are growing spiritually in our relationship with Christ…and in our ability to faithfully serve Him…

- that’s part of the great commission that is sometimes neglected…Matthew 28:19-20 - … teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…

- and the key words in that phrase are “to observe…”

- we not teaching lectures…we’re not imparting facts…

- in God’s economy, a person doesn’t know something until they are putting it into practice…

- every couple of years we hear a horrifying story of a young mother who gives birth to a baby and then abandons it in a dumpster and walks away…

- and I understand that’s a terrible image…but it helps us understand the horror that ought to come to the minds of every child of God who is not on a purposeful track of spiritual growth themselves and also organizing their life and schedule in such a way that shows that they care about the spiritual growth and development of others…

- Paul taught that the reason God gave the church pastors was…Ephesians 4:12-13 - for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

- because of what is occurring statistically right now, we would be nothing short of negligent if we did not place a high amount of emphasis on being a church committed to helping every person in the family take meaningful and significant steps of spiritual growth this year…we simply have to get that done…(and when I say “we”…I really do mean “we”…)

- the overall point is this, churches ought to be a lot about winning, and a lot about equipping because equipped followers of Christ bring great glory to God.

- now, to help us understand the importance of our annual theme, let me ask you to open your Bible to Romans chapter 15…[page 128 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…]…

- to set this up, let me tell you a story that I mentioned to those who were at our 8:00 service last week…

- my son in law is a policeman and he was working on Christmas Eve where a family got into a scuffle that was so out of control it became public knowledge…otherwise I wouldn’t use it as an illustration…

- I’m not sure if this man and woman were married but they were living in the same house with some children…

- and the woman had asked the man to assemble a bicycle for one of the children on Christmas Eve night after the children had gone to bed…

- if you’ve ever had that responsibility before, you know how challenging that can be…

- but eventually the man put the bike together, put it under the Christmas tree and went to bed…

- apparently the woman had asked him to put a bow on the bike and he had forgotten that detail…

- so she came into the room and started fussing at him about forgetting the bow…

- they got into such a heated argument that the police were called…

- at one point, she attempted to throw him out of the house…

- his response was to take the bike from under the Christmas tree and throw it through their picture window…

- now, you can examine that from a lot of different perspectives…but think about it from the perspective of the child who was to be the recipient of the bike…

- you know, when I was growing up, my parents weren’t rich by any means…but they were careful with their money and they did their best to make Christmas special for their kids…and there were two Christmases that stand out in my mind because they were the two times that I got a new bike for Christmas…

- and to have the security of a mom and dad who loved me and provided for me like that was a wonderful provision…

- but I would ask all of us this morning – do we understand how many people do not have that?...

- and can you imagine the hopelessness of a child being awaken in the middle of the night to screams and yells from their parents or whatever the relationship was, and then to hear glass breaking, and to find out that your new bike was what was just thrown through the window…what a metaphor of hopelessness…

- This year we want to focus on Finding Hope

- let’s let this passage begin to help us understand what that looks like…

- read Romans 15:1-13

- in the time we have remaining, let’s think about3 foundational principles about the hope available in Christ.

I. Hope Comes From Being Part of a Unified Family – vv. 15:1-6.

- now, it is important for every believer to have a working knowledge of the book of Romans because it is the most comprehensive book theologically in the entire NT…

- and what’s being taught in chapter 15 will come into clearer focus when viewed through the lens of its context…

- a simple outline of the book is sin, salvation, sanctification, sovereignty, and service…

A. The background of this passage.

1. Sin – 1:18-3:20

2. Salvation – 3:21-5

3. Sanctification – 6- 8

4. Sovereignty – 9-11

5. Service 12-15 -- in other words, the book is explaining that there really is hope…

- one key passage is Romans 5:1-2 - Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

- that’s what the family of God ought to be like…(rejoicing in hope)…

- because if Christ has truly paid for our sin and made it possible for us to have a relationship with Him…(salvation)

- and if people like you and me can really change…(sanctification)

- and if men and women from a variety of different backgrounds, ethnic groups, economic conditions can achieve relationships of unity and love together…(sovereignty and service)

- that will scream a message to the world around us about the power of God…in whom they too can potentially find their hope…

- now, how do you get on board with that plan…you have to decide if you agree with the apostle Paul…

- do you believe that hope (both for you and for others) comes from being part of a unified family…and have you taken steps that are consistent with that belief?…

- so, what does that look like?...do you see the emphasis of the first 2 verses…?

- it’s recognizing that…

B. Life is not about pleasing ourselves.

- one of the greatest thieves of hope is selfishness…

- with all due respect, you are a bottomless pit…

- and you, trying to please you, will be both impossible and depressing…

- Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is contrary to the gospel…

- you were not created to worship you…or to organize your life around what pleases you…but this calls you to something higher, and something better…

C. We can/must seek to be part of the spiritual development of our neighbors.

- “neighbors” defined as the people God has placed around us…

- did you see that emphasis in verse 2?...Romans 15:2 - Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.

- now, let’s just stop right there and start tying some of this together…

- let’s say that the little boy and his mom and dad or whatever their relationship was (the bike through the window people) lived in this town… and they were so distraught over what happened on Christmas they decided, as a last ditch effort, to come to church today…to see if there were any answers anywhere…to see if there was any love anywhere…to see if people could really change, could really get along with each other…

- and let’s say they walked into the doors of this church…and here’s one more critical component…let’s say every person in our church that morning was just like you…

- especially as it relates to the amount of emphasis you place on being part of a unified family here…

- would those people walk away from church this morning with more or less…hope.

- and secondarily…can I just ask you straight up – and do you care?...(repeat v. 2)

- now, before we go any further, let me raise a subject I hinted at earlier…

- I want to challenge you to make a specific list of spiritual goals that you hope to accomplish this year…

- by the way, if you wonder – well, do our pastors and other church staff do that?...

- yes, and you can go on line today and see exactly what we think God wants each of us to do – because we don’t believe in asking people to do something we won’t do…and we are more than happy to have you hold us accountable…

- but let’s just talk practically about what it looks like to be part of the spiritual development of those the Lord has placed around us…

1. be sure you know Christ yourself.

- If you have been putting off making the decision to become a follower of Christ, I challenge you to make that decision today…

- there are too many kids and too many families out there who need what God wants to do through you for you to put that decision off…

- and if nothing else, decide right not that you are going to place a call, send an e-mail, and set up a meeting to get your questions answers…

- you can’t lead someone else to a place you’ve never been…

2. Demonstrate your allegiance to Christ publically…

- you may have noticed earlier when we read the Great Commission that Jesus spoke specifically about the importance of being baptized…of publically demonstrating that you’ve trusted Christ as your Savior…doing so will give others hope…

3. If you’re not a member of our church, sign up for the Intro to Faith class that begins this Wednesday…

4. Consider becoming a member of the family…

- the Bible does not recognize the legitimacy of a person who on the one hand says he/she knows Christ but who does not have a formal relationship with a local body of believers

5. [Now let’s make this even more immediate] Attend events like our church family night tonight…

- you have a decision to make tonight…

- and I want to urge you to start the year off by saying….this year isn’t going to be all about me, it’s going to be about others…

- building friendships and relationships where we can stimulate one another to love and good deeds…

6. Maybe for you it’s a matter of hospitality…taking the risk of inviting someone for lunch, or coffee, or dessert, or having them in your home…

- I would just ask you this morning – what evidence is there that you are living in Romans 15:2?...and what specific planning initiatives should you write down to take the next step in that aspect of your journey?...

- we will not get the job done this year of helping every person God has brought into our family grow in the practical areas of everyday life He desires (and therefore have the hope that only comes from Him) unless all of us make this a high priority…are you willing to make plans right now to do that?...

- now, let’s bring verse 4 into the discussion…

D. What ties our church family together, in part, is our commitment to Scripture.

- I say “in part” because certainly we could say the same thing about our common bond in Christ, etc…but think about the argument of this passage…

- Romans 15:4 - For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

- now I realize you might be here and would say – but PV, that’s my problem…I don’t know the Bible very well---so I don’t even have much hope myself as we move into the new year with all its possible challenges…and I certainly wouldn’t know how to give hope to someone else…

- listen, there’s nothing wrong with being in a position where you don’t know much about the Bible – there’s something very wrong with not intending to do something about that…

- I want to encourage you to plan to faithfully attend our church services…some folks are so hit and miss that they are not learning God’s Word in a systematic way…

- starting next week we plan to do a verse by verse study of the book of Hebrews…because ultimately our hope in found in our Savior who is sufficient

- then after Easter we plan to do an outreach series on how to overcome worry…

- then in the summer we’re going to study how to handle your past biblically…

- then Lord willing in the fall we plan to work through the life of King David in the OT…which proves that even imperfect people can make a difference for God…

- why not plan right now to be as faithful to those studies as possible…

- and do you see how the argument develops in verses 5-6…

- this is what helps us…15:5 - to be of the same mind with one another…

- or 15:6 with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

- that kind of common hope comes through a growing knowledge of and commitment to the Word of God…

- perhaps one of your initiatives should be to plan to read through the Bible this year [mention the Read through the Bible plans – for beginners, just do the NT]

- perhaps you should commit yourself to faithful attendance this year…

- I also want to challenge you to join an Adult Bible Fellowship if you haven’t already…

- that’s a place where you can study Scripture is a less formal setting…

- it’s also far more conducive to building the kind of relationships we’re studying…

- there may be somebody in that class that God has prepared to really give you hope this year…or there may be somebody in that class that really needs hope that your friendship can provide…

- the same is true with some of our small group ministries like point man groups and ladies Bible studies…

- I would just ask you this morning – what evidence is there that you are taking steps toward being part of a unified family...and what specific planning initiatives should you write down to make progress in this aspect of your journey this year?...

- now, what does Paul bring into the discussion next?...

II. Hope is a Commodity that Ought to be Shared with Others – vv. 15:7-12.

- the argument of verses 7-12 deserve a lot more time than we are able to give them this morning…but here’s the short version…

- these verses were not given in a vacuum…the entire previous chapter was all about judging one another…legalism…elevating your preferences to the level of Scriptural authority and then imposing them on others as a test of their salvation of spirituality…

- and if you glance over the highlights of chapter 14, you’ll see that uses the examples of food, and special days as common ways people in Bible times judge one another…

- today, that could be replaced by the subjects of educational options for your children, entertainment choices, music preferences, standards of dress…the kind of things that people in churches argue about and divide up over…

- and you can just feel the hope being sucked out of the room…

-  and the watching world sees Christians continually fighting about such non-essential matters and shakes its head and walks away from the claims of Christ and the hope available in Him…

- that is what Paul means in verse 7…Romans 15:7 - Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

- shorthand for that today might be…

A. Learn to major on the majors.

- it’s not that we don’t have all sorts of personal standards and preferences for ourselves, but we don’t insist that everyone has to be exactly like us…

- [could go through the list you mentioned in the 8 o’clock service about the difference between being preference driven, or mission driven…]

- [could also talk about the unfortunate event of the person running to chair the RNC sending a racially offensive song about our president around to his supporters…]

- now, why?...

- that’s where verses 9-12 fit into this…these are quotes from the OT, one from the law, one from the prophets, and two from the Psalms…

- and please follow the argument carefully in verse 8…Romans 15:8-9 - For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised[who’s that? – Jewish persons] to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy…

- here’s the point…

B. Understand that what we are involved in is part of God’s eternal plan.

- it was always God’s plan to bring a diverse group of people together who would find their hope…

- not in stroking their own selfishness…

- not in satisfying all their preferences…

- not in only being around people just like them…

- not when the economy is going their way…

- and when their candidate was elected…and on and on…

- God’s plan is to bring a diverse group of people together who would find their hope in their sufficient Savior…and they would unite around Him in worship and service because of the delight they have in His name…and the point of this text is – that kind of focus is infectious…

C. A central part of our/your mission should be seeing others find their hope in Christ.

- v. 12 – In Him the Gentiles hope.

- here’s a companion text to that…1 Peter 3:15 - but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

- why in the world would anyone ever ask you of the reason for the hope that is in you…

- if you’re familiar with that book, what has Peter already discussed?...

- living under a tyrannical government…

- working for a tyrannical employer…

- submitting to an imperfect husband…

- loving a wife who is hard to understand…

- and when a person says, my hope is in Christ…not in getting my way at work…

- my joy is in the Lord, not in whether all my political beliefs are being implemented…

- my hope is in Christ, not in what I want from my spouse…

- it’s like the writer of Psalm 62:5 - For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
- and when you get a group of people like that together…several things happen…

- their corporate worship is sweet…

- their unity and mutual love is real…

- and their service is effective because their hope is so attractive…

- I won’t take time to read over the specific planning initiatives for this year because these are the very things we just adopted a church family a few months ago…

- but you could summarize much of this year with the words…finding hope…

- helping all of us grow in our walk with Christ…where He really is our hope…

- and then taking steps to more effectively share that hope with others…

III. Hope is Available from an All Sufficient Source – 5:13.

A. What a great name for God.

- “the God of Hope…”

B. He wants you to be full and abounding with hope.

C. The power of the Holy Spirit is available to help you accomplish this goal.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video