4 “Don’t Stops”
The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday October 10, at our West U Baptist Church campus. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTube page.
When you think of goodbye songs, what comes to your mind? Does a song pop in your head?
- So Long Farewell – Sound of Music
- Good Riddance – Green Day
- Bye Bye Bye – NSYNC
- The Dance – Garth Brooks
- Wiz Khalifa – See You Again
We’ve been in Romans 40 weeks today. Paul is saying his goodbyes in his letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome.
We began to unpack this last week, so listen to the podcast or check it out on our YouTube Channel to catch up if you weren’t with us. The landing gear is down and locked and he is getting personal and affectionate at the end here.
Let’s read the portion today.
This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected,[b] I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing[c] of Christ.
30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
4 Don’t Stops: In closing this letter we see 4 Don’t Stops from Paul to this church. These are some intentional words for us all, not just the Christians in Rome, but for us as well. And I think what we are going to see is that these words are just as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. Check these out with me.
- Don’t Stop gathering together.
There Is something profound about gathering together, especially after being prevented from doing so. I’m sure you have seen many of the clips of reunion…you may have even experienced It during this pandemic … these moments of reunion where a grown daughter Is reunited with her mother In the nursing home…or, where a soldier comes home from active duty.
There Is this deep connection when they were reunited. This reunion, this gathering together Is refreshing to the soul.
Look with me at Romans 15:22-24, 29, 32 –
22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.
Slide: Romans 15:29
29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.
Paul has been hindered in coming to Rome to visit these followers of Jesus. In fact, he’s yet to visit these believers. But do you hear him? He desperately wants to visit them, to gather together with them, to do life with them.
He says, “I have longed for many years to come to you.”
He says, “I hope to see you as I go to Spain. I can’t wait to enjoy your company for a while. I know when I’m with you I’ll be refreshed in your company. And that as I’m with you, I will be a blessing to you too!”
Interestingly, the word refreshed used in verse 32 is the only time mentioned in the NT, and it signifies a proximity.
Can you hear his heart here? Here’s Paul, essentially saying when I’m gathered with believers, my heart is refreshed. In other words, for Paul:
- Sunday isn’t a day that depletes him, but a day that replenishes him.
- Being together with followers of Jesus is not a drain on him, it’s something pivotal that fills him up.
- When he’s gathered together in worship, he’s encouraged.
- When he’s in a community group, he’s loved, he’s loving others.
- In other words, church isn’t only about coming into a big room, hearing some good music and an amazing message. It’s far more than this.
Let me ask this:
- Is this true for you?
- Is coming here refreshing to you?
- Do you long to come here? To your group?
- To be with God’s people?
- To be with your bros & sisters?
Listen to what Mark Dever says:
I see Martina, whose husband recently passed away. She tears up while we sing “It Is Well with My Soul.” I see Jared, the successful banker in the back row who is being discipled by Ben, an unemployed guy sitting in the balcony. I see John, a Jewish man who came to faith a few years ago while listening to a sermon here on the parable of the Prodigal Son. His father opposes his trust in Christ, yet he gathers here with his new spiritual family every Lord’s Day. Are these folks ever at home sick or away on vacation? Sure. But basically, I can expect to see them here every week. As I look across the gathering, I see believers who are helping one another follow Christ through persecution, cancer, miscarriage, addiction, depression, and more. And they’ve committed to do that, in part, by assembling here together. They’re singing the same songs, confessing the same faith in the same creed, hearing the same scriptures read and the same sermon preached, sharing the same bread and the same cup. Just as the sight of his bride makes a groom’s heart swell with love, church members should overflow with affection for one another when they behold the assembly. This is the people whom Jesus bought with his own blood. This is the people who have committed to care for me, put up with my faults, and point me to Christ again and again.
The past 18 months has been difficult. Gathering together has been crazy walking through COVID.
Yet, Paul’s words ring so true for us today: Don’t stop gathering together. There’s a refreshment that is experienced and needed for each of us.
Listen to Hebrews 10:24-25.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Now, let me follow up from an announcement I made a few weeks back. We will launch a series at the first of the year called, Fight For It. And our hope is to launch 50 new groups:
- in homes
- on campus
- at your office
- over zoom
We want everyone gathering together and going through this special study of Ezra and Nehemiah. It’s going to be an awesome experience as we share our fight stories with one another and learn about these 4 Fights in this amazing rebuilding story.
We want to deepen our connections and make new ones. Keep your eyes and ears open for our Fight For It Campaign.
That’s the first Don’t Stop. What’s the second?
The second Is…
- Don’t stop serving each other.
Look at verses 25-28.
At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you.
He says, I am coming to you but first I need to go to Jerusalem. Now, he’s writing this from Corinth telling them I’m currently about to journey to Jerusalem to serve those who have needs in Jerusalem.
Keep this In mind…Paul Is modeling for them what he wants to see lived out In them.
Remember all of the challenges he Is sharing to the Jewish crowd In this church and all of the Instructions he Is giving to the Gentiles In this church. The Apostle Paul Is modeling for them what he wants to see lived out In their lives.
And what Is that? DON’T STOP SERVING EACH OTHER!
In verse 25, “bringing aid” is the same word in the Greek that we have for “serve” or “deacon.”
Paul is saying, I’m doing this. I’m serving. There are needs in Jerusalem with the Jewish Christians who are being persecuted — they are struggling…they have needs.
So, what does Paul do?
Paul takes up an offering. He goes to the churches he had planted…these churches full of Gentile believers and he asks them to contribute to their physical needs.
Remember, these Gentiles who have been grafted in…Paul indicates that they have an obligation to serve these Jewish believers in Jerusalem who are being persecuted.
And Paul is modeling this extravagant, generous service. He is showing God’s generosity…
Because even though he is in Corinth…and could make his way to Rome and then on to Spain…Paul is going to travel 2000 miles in the opposite direction to seek to meet these needs. And what’s so great, is that he doesn’t do it alone. He includes and involves others to join him in this generous journey.
Notice how the early church served each other in Acts 2 and in Acts 4 –
“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
So, consider this for a moment…
The church in Jerusalem had embodied Generosity. And they did this that they might meet needs and then funded the work of the Apostles. This work then spread through Paul and Silas and Barnabas as they went to the Gentiles with the gospel.
And last week we saw that the work of God was so profound that Paul was saying, “Okay, my work here In Asia Minor Is complete…time to take this offering home and get the good news to Spain, because as far as I know, It hasn’t made It there yet.”
And now, the very people who benefited from the generosity of the Church In Jerusalem are the people who are now getting to return this spirit of Generosity to the people they received It from.
One of the burdens I had when I became pastor was the desire to see generosity flow through this church out to the city.
As a matter of fact, It’s one of our values…
We are Extravagantly Generous
And the word Generosity Is In our vision statement…
To lift our city and the world by GENEROUSLY giving the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And you have embodied that In so many wonderful ways. I can’t even begin to recount them all…I hear of generous good deeds on a weekly basis!
But one of the most profound moments was when you served Dan and Hazel Hall.
Dan was my executive coach and when we hired him, he worked for a group called GENEROUS CHURCH. Dan was discipling me In how to cultivate generosity In the church.
But, when Dan collapsed and fell…when Dan had his accident, you were so Incredible. I asked you to help meet their needs. Beyond our annual missions offerings, this was probably the last time we took up an extra offering…5 years ago.
But, you gave generously to meet their needs. It was so humbling to watch.
And the very person who came to teach us generosity…he and his wife were the recipients of our generosity. It’s so profound.
And It’s one of the most beautiful pictures of the Good News lived out…where we mutually give to and receive generous love from one another.
So, Paul Is saying, “Don’t Stop Gathering Together” and “Don’t Stop Serving One Another.”
What’s the 3rd, Don’t Stop?
- Don’t stop telling people about Jesus.
Look at Romans 15:19 and 22.
Romans 15:19, 22
…so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;
22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you.
Why did Paul experience a delay in coming to the church at Rome?
Because he has been spending his life taking the gospel and sharing Jesus and planting churches from the Southeast to the Northwest. He’s prioritized telling people about Jesus. And he’s also planning on going to Spain (vs. 24, 28).
Remember his thesis of the entire book…Romans 1:16 and 17.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
We can take from Paul’s words an encouragement to burn with evangelistic intensity.
We need to have a deep concern for those who don’t know Jesus, in our neighborhoods and across all nations. From Missouri City to the Med Center to the Masses.
Who has God positioned around you who needs Jesus? Who is God calling you to share Jesus?
Hopelessness Is so prevalent today. But the Gospel produces hope.
Who Is God calling you to share Jesus with?
Don’t stop telling people about Jesus!
Don’t stop praying for each other.
Notice how Paul closes this chapter. Verse 30-32.
“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.”
I beg you to strive together with me in your prayers. I beg you to pray strenuously (The Message)…to wrestle or fight for me. On my behalf.
Paul’s prayers can be broken Into two topics…one relates to believers and the other to unbelievers.
The first request Is about the unbelievers who oppose him. Paul Is aware that he has many enemies among the Jews who don’t believe In Jesus — these are plotting his downfall, and will ultimately lead to Paul’s Imprisonment In Rome as he will appeal to Ceasar after his arrest.
He knows In his spirit that he Is In danger. Yet he asks the Romans to pray that he might be…”Delivered from the unbelievers In Judea.”
And notice how this Investment here In writing this lengthy letter on the theology of salvation will ultimately serve him as he will be Imprisoned In Rome.
Don’t underestimate how your service In places will ultimately refresh you one day.
Proverbs 11:25, NIV
A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
Paul is asking that they invest their hearts with him that when he goes to Judea he will be spared persecution. And this investment he has just made in them through this letter will turn out to bring about a refreshing in his imprisonment in Rome when he appeals to Ceasar.
His second prayer is that the Jewish Christian leaders in Jerusalem accept this gift from the Gentile believers – as accepting the gift would appear to be an endorsement from them of Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles. If the gift was rejected, it would lead to a great rift…so Paul asked them to pray that the gift would be acceptable.
He says… and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints…
You know, there is so much that can disrupt unity in the body of Christ. There is are so many risks leaders take to serve and minister and make things better. Yet not everyone appreciates the effort. I can’t imagine the saints in Jerusalem rejecting a gift from a man who travels 2,000 miles to give these things to them, but what is in the heart of man is often a mystery.
Paul was asking the church to PRAY as he understood that only God can move the hearts of mankind.
In the first Lord of the Rings Movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, someone must take the dreaded ring, this burden, to Mordor and destroy it.
All the characters are arguing about it, until:
- Frodo steps up and says, “I will take the ring to Mordor, but I do not know the way.”
- Gandalf steps up and says, “I will help you bear this burden, as long as it is yours to bear.”
- Aragorn is next and he says, “If by life or by death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword.”
- Legolas is next and he says, “And you have my bow.”
- And Gimli steps up next and says, “And my Axe.”
- Samwise is next and he says, “Frodo is not going anywhere without me.”
- 9 People in all come to his side as he carries this burden.
Frodo has people striving together with him, fighting for him, helping him carry burdens and challenges and helping him navigate life.
Do you have a group of people in your life who do this for you? They strive together in prayer for you? Are you doing this for others? We want to help you find that so you can give and receive that In a Community Group.
May we be a people who:
- Won’t stop Praying for each other
- Won’t stop Telling others about Jesus
- Won’t stop Serving each other
- Won’t stop Gathering Together