Influencing Others for Good

Title: Influencing Others for Good

Text: Romans 1:8-17

Time: June 4th, 2006

Last week I just started a new teaching series in the Book of Romans. Why teach out of the Book of Romans in the New Testament? Because it teaches us the Gospel in the simplest terms, the clearest terms. And the Gospel is what the church is all about, and it’s what saves our lives from sin, judgment, and eternal death. So the more we can know and understand about the Gospel, the better we can understand God and everything else, or in other words, we can live life fully awake, aware of what is going on around us. The problem with most people is that they are asleep even when they are awake. What I mean is that there is God, but most people are not aware of him. There is a coming Judgment Day, but most people are unaware of it. There is eternal life for those who believe, but most people are too spiritually asleep to think much about eternal life. There is the Bible, but most people are too distracted to read much of it, and when they do read it, their mind wanders so much they don’t get hardly anything out of it. There is prayer, but most people don’t pray much, and when they do, again, their mind wanders so that not much is accomplished. Most people have heard the Gospel, but they don’t reflect on it seriously enough to grasp it, or get excited about it, or get motivated enough to understand it really, and of course, not understanding it, or grasping it’s meaning, they aren’t able to share it with others. Most of us are spiritually dull, slow, almost spiritually dead, and mostly spiritually asleep. But what the Book of Romans does is wake us up, if, again, we can pay close enough attention to it to understand what it is saying. Wouldn’t you like to be fully awake in life? Wouldn’t you like to comprehend what it is that you are asked by God to believe, what believing does for you, and how it changes your life? Wouldn’t you like to be excited about the next life waiting for you? Wouldn’t you like to grasp spiritual reality so that the worldly and material things of this life aren’t so dominating in your life, crowding out all thoughts of God and spiritual reality? I don’t know about you, but I want to be fully awake in my life, instead of being half asleep most of the time. So let’s pay close attention to the Book of Romans, because if we can understand it correctly, it will wake us up. Have you ever seen the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, with Jimmy Stewart? It shows how our lives all connect with other people’s lives, how our lives influence others even if we don’t know it. That’s why Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome, because they lived in such an influential city that their Christian faith would influence many other people all throughout the Roman Empire. Paul is writing to them, and planning to visit them in order to help this church be a good influence on others. Are you a good spiritual influence on other people? If people copied your Christian life, would it help them or hurt them? If people prayed like you pray, or read the Bible like you do, would that be a good thing or a bad thing? How does you Christian faith influence others, for good or ill? Are you a good example of a Christian or are you a bad example? Paul is worried about this issue, so he writes to the Roman Christians. Romans 1:8-17 (read). I see five things Paul says here:

First, how you believe and live your faith effects others. V. 8, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire. It was the most famous and influential city in the whole world because the Roman Empire was the greatest political power in the whole world. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t places that didn’t know of Rome, but not many. So naturally what went on in Rome spread to all the other places through the Roman roads and the trade routes and Roman culture. And since the Christian faith had reached the capital city of Rome, it was now in a position to spread to all the different parts of the world, which is exactly what happened in history. Through the Roman Empire, Christianity spread all over the then known world. Now the Apostle Paul could see this even before it happened, which is why he was so eager to influence the Roman Christians, because he knew as Rome went so went the world. He wanted to make sure that the Roman Christians had the true Gospel and had the right foundation to build on. Now we can understand his concern that Christianity spread in its true form. We know how people can influence other people as to how they believe. For example, in your own life, you have influenced other people in their faith, even if you haven’t ever though about it. The most easily to see is parents to children. If you are a strong Christian and take your faith seriously, your children will usually pick that up. But if you neglect God, hardly ever read the Bible, hardly ever pray seriously, don’t go to church regularly, and live as if the Christian faith were not something important, the children will pick that attitude up and start following that pattern usually. I’ve seen married couples influence each other in faith. If one is strong and the other is weak, usually one or the other wins out. The strong one either starts falling back into weakness or the weak one starts getting strong commitment to God. What effect has your life been on people who know you? Do you inspire them to faith in God? Do you inspire them to pray, to read the Bible, to take these things seriously, or is your faith so casual, so loose and sloppy that people are actually discouraged to believe by seeing you? Think about that, your faith influences people, either for good or ill. Let’s make up our minds that we will be a good influence on others — that we will be a good role model for others who might look at us for guidance, for example.

Second, whole-hearted service is the only acceptable way to live the faith. V. 9-10, “God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.” Since Rome was such an influential city, and since Roman Christians would be such influential Christians in the world in years to come, Paul wanted to not only help them to have correct truth about God, he also wanted them to serve the Lord correctly, from the heart. He tries to model for them whole-hearted service to God, that is, putting everything into it. Not half-hearted. Do you know what it means to do something half-hearted? It means to do it sloppy, casually, lazily, half-awake, not seriously, not paying much attention. Have you ever been working a job and working half-hearted? I’m afraid that I have worked jobs before that I’ve worked half-hearted, especially some job I wasn’t really interested in much. I was a pastor in Colorado and I had to take a part-time job at a resort in Colorado Springs to pay my bills, and I found myself working at a job sometimes I wasn’t interested in too much. One time the boss had to ask me to pick up the pace, so I agreed to work faster and with more enthusiasm. But that just showed that I wanted to be some place else doing something else. But in the Christian life, because of the blessings God has given us, we should be very enthused to serve God with our lives. Are you excited about serving God? If not, why not? Would you rather serve the Devil? Most people like to serve themselves, but that leads to destruction, sorrow, and ruin, because that is the sin of the Devil — he refused to serve God and wanted to serve himself. Well, God granted him that request and he’ll spend all eternity in hell with himself, just like anyone else who wants to serve themselves instead of God. Think of the prodigal son, he wanted to serve himself too, and see where that ended him. No, serving self is a lie. Only serving God with our whole heart brings a blessing. And it’s the only kind of faith that will influence others for the good. How would you like the reputation as a Christian who only does just enough to get by, only doing enough to do the bare minimum? Your heart isn’t in it, so you just do a little prayer, a little Bible, attend church a little, put just a little money in the plate, just enough to say you did? That’s not a good example for others, let’s pray they don’t copy the pattern they see in you. But if we give it our best, and try our best, then we don’t have to feel bad about others following our example, at least it’s our best.

Third, ministry is essential to living the true Christian life. V. 11-13, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.” Paul didn’t just want to model prayer, but he also wanted to model ministry, action, helping others who need help. Now Paul was famous for starting churches in different locations. He would come into a city and find some people who believed in Jesus and start building a church there. He’d stay a little while until they got things going and then leave and do the same thing at another location. The first order of business was the gospel. Next, the basic spiritual disciplines. Did you know that the word discipline and disciple all have the same root word? It’s true. In order to be a true disciple or follower of Jesus, you have to have enough discipline to follow the steps. Prayer, is one. Study of the Word of God is another. Sharing the faith is another. Financial giving is another, and so on. And one of the steps is ministry or helping others. Paul wanted to let the Roman Christians know that he wanted to come and visit them and minister or help them become strong Christians. Do you have a ministry? Do you have a form of ministry as a Christian where you give your time and energy in helping someone in Jesus name? Helping at a soup kitchen is a ministry. Praying with people is a ministry. Or do you serve yourself 24/7? That’s not ministry. A lot of people today do no outside ministry, they only help themselves, they serve themselves. They don’t try to help anyone, only themselves. That’s not the Christian faith. That’s not right. Paul wants to be a good example for the Roman Christians in ministry, so that they will be a helping church. We all have areas we can help in. We all have abilities, experience, skill, gifts that can help us help others. Do you have a ministry? Why not try to always be helping people, always have a ministry activity in your life. That way you can be a good example of helping others, instead of being a role model of selfishness.

Fourth, witnessing is essential to living the true Christian life. Vv. 14-15, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.” Here Paul models an eagerness to spread the gospel to others. Now bear in mind that the gospel is something that we should all be excited about because if we are Christians then the gospel is that which has saved us from God’s anger and wrath at Judgment Day. When you were a child, did you ever get a spanking? Have you ever seen your parents mad at you? I have. I’ve been spanked by both my mother and father (not at the same time, thank God), but on different occasions. And it’s not pleasant, but it’s really traumatic. It hurts emotionally and physically. I tried to avoid it as much as possible. Now imagine you are standing before God on Judgment Day, that is the day where everything we’ve ever done is presented and we are judged on our deeds. Imagine you don’t have the blood of Jesus covering your sins. Imagine that the cross of Jesus isn’t where Jesus paid for your sins. Imagine you did not ever trust Jesus for salvation. Imagine you come to the Judge with your sins and nothing but faith in yourself or some of your own puny good works. If so, you won’t make it past Judgment Day. God, your heavenly father with tears in his eyes will send you to hell as punishment. Now the gospel says that doesn’t have to happen because you can have your sins taken care of before Judgment Day, through repenting of them and trusting Jesus to remove them by faith. That’s the gospel. That’s the good news. We don’t have to meet God as judge. The righteousness of Christ is applied to our lives and when we die we stand in the righteousness of Christ, and that’s perfect righteousness — that passes us in to heaven. Not through our own right living, but through the righteousness of Christ. Now that message must be told to others so that they might have what we have. Aren’t you glad somebody told that to you? Well, why not tell it to somebody else? People are in the same spot as you before you knew, so why not try to rescue them like somebody rescued you? Especially our family members, our relatives, our friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. How about people in this city? Do you care for their souls?

Fifth, the gospel message should be our main message. Vv. 16-17, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Now why would Paul say he isn’t ashamed of the gospel? Because there is the temptation to be ashamed of it. Why? Because it has some parts that are hard for people. Consider the different parts of the gospel. Adam and Eve are created by God in a perfect world, but they disobey God and fall into sin. Sin and death spreads to all people, even to us. Without blood to cover sins, the sinner is judged, condemned, and sentenced to eternal damnation. Some people object to these ideas of sin, blood atonement, judgment, hell, etc. Paul says that he’s not ashamed of these things because they are part of the gospel that saves us to heaven. And then there is the cross of Jesus, he dies on the cross, takes our sins upon himself, his blood covers our sins, if we place our absolute trust in him to save us. We are forgiven, and given eternal life. Now there are enough parts of the gospel that somebody at some point will object to it, or laugh at it, or disbelieve it. “You believe that?” So we have to ask ourselves, are we willing to share the gospel proudly or with shame shrink back and keep our mouths shut? A lot of people are too ashamed of the gospel to even speak it. I hope that isn’t you. Are you ashamed of the gospel? If not, why don’t you talk about it more? Or maybe you don’t understand it yourself. That’s possible. Paul says that he is eager to preach the gospel to the Romans, but if he’s talking to the Christians, don’t they already know it, that’s why they are Chrsitians, right? They may know enough of it to be saved, but Paul wants to preach it in its fullness to them so that they don’t just believe it in a vague and general way, but that they appreciate it in its fullness. Do you understand the gospel? Do you understand that you were scheduled for judgment and damnation, and that if you hadn’t repented of your sins and trusted Jesus you would go to hell? But now you have been saved from all that by the blood of Jesus.

Whether we realize it our not our life and faith does influence other people. We just have to ask ourselves, is it influencing people for the good or for the bad? If we are sinning and living in disobedience, that’s a bad influence. Lots of people are not Christian because they see so-called Christians living for sin and the devil and say, “If that’s what Christianity is like I want no part of it.” Are you one of the ones that people get turned off from Jesus by your poor example of faith? And what about little children and teenagers? When children and teens see your life and faith, does it make them want to believe in God or disbelieve in God? Or when they look at you do they ever see you praying or reading the Bible, or do they never see you doing these things and conclude it must all be a lie because Christians like you don’t ever take their own faith seriously. Let’s make up our minds to be good role models for people who see us in life. Let’s be the kind of Christians who inspire people to put their faith and in Jesus.

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