A warning against spiritual pride and prejudice.

                                                                                                                                                              A Warning Against Spiritual Pride and Spiritual Prejudice

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship 

Romans 11:17-20 (NLT)
17  But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.
18  But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.
19  “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.”
20  Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen.

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of his holy and mighty word.

When we were last here together in the study of the epistle written to the church at ROME, we examined a lesson on the salvic future of the nation of Israel.

Paul in the portion of the letter we looked at, asked the question HAS GOD rejected the nation of Israel?

And the answer that was given was a firm absolutely not, for God himself, in spite of the fact that the majority of Jews have rejected Christ, had reserved a remnant for himself.

In that teaching Paul gave 4 powerful examples and proofs that God has not rejected the nation of Israel.

Firstly he spoke of the grace and kindness of God as evidenced in HIS own life, as an example of that.

Paul also taught us about the fact that God foreordained that there would be exceptional people, who would believe in him and have faith in him.

Our faithful God, demonstrated his continued kindness and the keeping of his promises, showing us that God’s grace and salvation through faith is still active and present in the lives of Jews and Gentiles today.

If you want to study more about that, you’ll find some interesting and very deeply complex readings in chapter 11: verses 1-16.

You can also find the sermon on our website at mysccf.com; just click on the sermons tab and scroll through the video listings.

Today, the sermon switches gears a bit, as Paul in verses 18-24 of chapter 11, gives a little warning to Gentile believers.

In this warning Paul reminds us, to make sure that we as born again Gentile children of God, keep our heads on right.

Watch your attitude, check yourself, be careful that you as a believer don’t get a big head, or start acting as if you are all that…because you now flow in the blessings of God, while Israel stumbled.

 Over the past few sermons as we’ve gone through the letter to the church at ROME, we’ve learned some pretty tough things about the nation of Israel.

We shared a sermon on how the nation of Israel actually missed connecting with God because they failed to accept that the way to connect with God was through faith, rather than works.

Israel missed it because they were determined to approach God in their own way.

They missed God, but the gentles, who were outside of the family of God….. GOT IN, because we came into the family by faith….and that was a great blessing.

But you and I understand too well, as does Paul that people because they are people, can easily take the blessings of God and turn them into a problem.

So Paul here warns the gentile nations, not to become arrogant, or to began to look down their noses at the nation of Israel but instead to remember that they are wild olive branches who have been grafted in.

In other words, Paul here is dealing with spiritual pride and prejudice.

Now this might not be an issue in your life, but the truth of the matter is that there are many in the body of Christ, who struggle with pride and spiritual prejudice.

We see that kind of problem evidencing itself, in the form of academic snobbery.

Sometimes when a person takes a couple of classes or becomes degreed (and again there is nothing wrong with that, I am a great believer in studying to show yourself approved, as a minister of the Gospel you have to study and learn) BUT you sometimes find, that there is a haughtiness or a bit of puffery if you please, in which one Christian begins to look down upon another brother or Sister who hasn’t studied or become conversant in Hebrew or Greek.

Spiritual pride and prejudice.

We see that kind of problem evidencing itself, in terms of one’s spiritual giftedness or the perception of the lack there of.

Folks who have the gift of “X” can began to become prideful and or prejudiced against those who are perceived as being less gifted, because they don’t flow in the spectacular expressions that characterize your life.

Spiritual arrogance and uppity-ness..

We see that kind of problem evidencing itself in terms of those who have been saved for a long time and that length of salvivic experience, becomes not a tool to help those who are new, but rather a measuring device, which separates and dismisses and marginalizes those who are new to the body of Christ.

Here in the passage we are examining today we are addressing those Gentles within-the-body of Christ who look down their noses at the Jewish people.

You may not have this problem, or you may not be aware of it; but the issue was important enough for Paul to write to the church about it, so let’s embrace and be open to what the Spirit says to us, in these four points of admonition and warning…

If you are ready to get going say AMEN

The Gentile Church is warned concerning our attitude towards the Jewish people.

  1. Not to fall into the human tendency to be boastful and arrogant regarding the current spiritual state of the Jews.

Romans 11:18 (NLT)
18  But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.

 Romans 11:17-18 (MSG)
17  Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root
18  gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.

Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)
18  Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18 (MSG)
18  First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.

John 4:22 (MSG)
22  You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews.

I found this first point to be a very interesting one, in that it was a struggle for me to embrace the applicability of this until I thought about and explored what Paul is teaching here, more deeply.

Remember now that Paul in this letter has previously outlined and highlighted the struggles of the people of Israel and he has taught us much about the wonder and blessing of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

I believe that Paul pivots here to give the reader a word of warning because he understands how easily people can take something that is a blessing and make it into a problem, especially when it comes to looking at the mistakes of others and comparing ourselves in a slanted and distorted way.

Thought:

Some times when we read about how rebellious the people of Israel were and how they turned on God and how they worshipped Baal; you look and think WOW, what were they thinking.

I would never do that.

Church folk look at what Israel did and think to themselves, no way that I would ever sacrifice my children to molech, I would never reject God if I saw him open the red sea and do all of those miracles….

Thought:

When I delivered the first part of this sermon three weeks ago, I recall the reaction that many of us had when I told you that modern day Israel was recognized by Out Magazine as the gay capital of the Middle East.

There were more than a couple of humrumps in the room and the shaking of heads as though the gentile world is NOT mired in the same thing.

Anti-Jewish prejudice. Bigotry against Jews, it’s out there in the unsaved world, but you’d be surprised that anti-Jewishness exist in the modern church.

We find Christians who don’t like the Jews, or even worse those who consider themselves superior because “we know and except Jesus and “they don’t.

Paul cautions and speaks directly to this reality and here is what he says

“You must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off”

The fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches.

Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.

Thought:

We should never treat our Jewish brothers and sisters, as though they are inferior because they have not YET accepted Christ.

We should never harbor anti-Semitic thoughts.

Some of the most prejudice people you will find in the world today, base their hatred of the Jews on an inward pride, that considers the Jewish nation as rejected people…..

And that wrong minded thinking is completely off base AND it is an offense to God himself.

  • If it were not for the Jews being broken off, we as Gentiles would have not been brought in.
  • If it were not for the Jews, we wouldn’t have the gospel.
  • And just in case you forgot it, Jesus the Christ came through the JEWS..

Thought:

Every Gentile owes a debt to the Jewish people.

We must never project an air of superiority over the gift of grace we have received, but instead every Christian should think soberly, giving honor to God who made a place for us, thanking HIM that he has saw fit to deal us a measure of soul saving faith.

The Gentile Church is warned concerning our attitude towards the Jewish people…

  1. Not be become hard headed and self-satisfied; we must remember the lesson of Israel’s past.

Romans 11:19-21 (NKJV)
19  You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”
20  Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.

Do not be haughty, but fear.
21  For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

Hebrews 3:12 (NKJV)
12  Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;

Hebrews 12:25 (NLT)
25  Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! 

Hebrews 2:2-3 (NKJV)
2  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
3  how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

We touched upon this briefly in point number one when we spoke about the idea that Christians can sometimes be guilty of thinking of themselves as spiritually superior, because we as Christians have accepted Christ and the Jewish nation has not.

Paul here admonishes Gentile believers to make sure that they don’t become arrogant and self satisfied because of the tremendous gift of salvation through grace.

Thought:

Israel was not broken off, because God decided to replace the Jewish people with Christians.

Christians are not the NEW JEWS and there are some crazy folks out there who are teaching people that..

Christians are wild olive branches that have been grafted into the tree because one branch was broken off, because of un-belief.

Thought:

You and I as Christians have something that is absolutely fantastic, but it was undeserved on every level you could imagine.

The Jewish people had a history with God and they were given the words and commandments of God, directly to them; our ancestors and forefathers were heathens who were steeped in idol worship and spiritual debauchery.

  • We were the unnatural branches, who through faith have become acceptable to God and have been adopted into HIS family and that feels wonderful.

But we are people. And like all people, we can very easily fall into complacency.

This is a problem in every church, including this one.

The modern church today is confident. Happy. Easy going. Self Satisfied. And ………….Unconcerned.

Thought:

This is at the core of what Paul is trying to communicate to us in this second point.

You see we feel safe in the beauty and simplicity of Grace.

We’ve become dull and self satisfied in our-selves, even to the point of becoming people who are merely listeners of the word and not doers.

We can begin to abuse the grace of God, by allowing sinfulness to take over our lives.

And so the modern church as become a church of lazy and listless people who don’t heed the word of God, who don’t respond to sound doctrine, who’s ears are always itching, and who’s ears are dull.

Like ancient Israel, who responded to the challenge of Jesus by declaring their Abrahamic pedigree, we too can fall into the trap of feeling safe and secure in our superior Christianity.

Yet, hear the caution my friends, YES fear if you have the sense enough to do so.

For the word of God says

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;

“Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.

For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven!
For if the word spoken through Angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

We must learn from Israel’s past

For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

The Gentile Church is warned concerning our attitude towards the Jewish people…

  1. Not to forget that there are two sides to God: do not forget the lesson of Israel who failed to abide in God’s goodness.

Romans 11:22 (NKJV)
22  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Romans 11:22 (NLT)
22  Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. 

Romans 11:22 (MSG)
22  Make sure you stay alert to these qualities of gentle kindness and ruthless severity that exist side by side in God—ruthless with the deadwood, gentle with the grafted shoot. But don’t presume on this gentleness. The moment you become deadwood, you’re out of there.

2 John 1:8-9 (NKJV)
8  Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
9  Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.

In this third point we want to focus on the concept of abiding and the lesson that we as Christians must learn, as we look at and remember what happened to Israel.

Now in point number two we spoke about the danger of arrogantly becoming self-satisfied; this third point is somewhat related to that.

We in the modern Christian church, sometimes think that we have it better in terms of the simplicity and gift of the gospel regarding salvation through faith in Jesus Christ…and I believe that too…yes.

But we also sometimes have a wrong-minded notion concerning the God of the    “Old testament” versus the “God of the New” testament”

There are even some places where the Old Testament isn’t read because folks don’t like to think about that Old Testament God.

And here is what we need to understand my friends; Listen closely now; are you ready.

The God of the Old Testament and God of the New Testament is exactly the same God.

The God who opened up the earth and swallowed people alive.

The God who burned up people with fire that came down from heaven.

The God who sent the children of Israel into 70 years of captivity because they disobeyed him; IS the same God who said that you had better follow all of my commandments.

That God is the same God, who says “ I’ll accept you and declare you to be in right standing with me, not because of your works but because of your faith in my Son Jesus Christ.

The same God who burned folks alive is the same God who grafted us in with loving-kindness.

…..but you need to understand that God STILL expects us to continue.

Thought:

Make sure you get this, because this was one of the problems with Israel.

They were given the relationship, they were given a special connection with God, but they failed to abide in his goodness, by keeping his commandments and honoring him as God.

Thought:

Now I know that I am rocking some folks in terms of your personal theology; you’d like to think that God doesn’t expect a child of God to live like a child of God and to obey his commandments.

And you can reject what the word says here if you want, but I believe that we have got to remember that God is NOT A TOY.

The scriptures teaches us, that we must remain, we must abide, or we too can be cut off.

Now you can go ahead and find yourself a different translation if you want to, but my bible says, you’d better consider both his goodness AND his severity.

The Gentile Church is warned concerning our attitude towards the Jewish people…4th and finally..

  1. Not to count Israel out, for the same God who grafted in the wild branch is able to graft in, the natural branch.

Romans 11:23 (NKJV)
23  And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

Romans 11:24 (NLT)
24  You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.

Jeremiah 3:22 (NLT)
22  “My wayward children,” says the LORD, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” “Yes, we’re coming,” the people reply, “for you are the LORD our God. 

Romans 11:25-26 (MSG)
25  I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what’s going on and arrogantly assume that you’re royalty and they’re just rabble, out on their ears for good. But that’s not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the outsiders so that we end up with a full house.
26  Before it’s all over, there will be a complete Israel. As it is written, A champion will stride down from the mountain of Zion; he’ll clean house in Jacob.

Wow….God has a master plan, to fill up his house and the house will be comprised of Jews and Gentiles.

God has always reserved a remnant for himself and his grace and mercy will be seen, in the reality, that he is able to graft in the natural branch.

As we learned in a lesson earlier, this does not mean that everyone who is born Jewish will automatically get into heaven, but what it does mean is that in the future there will be a tremendous turning that will take place in the hearts of many, many Jewish people.

John 3:16 said that God so loved the world; don’t think for a moment that his love does not extend without reservation to the people of the covenant.

God is able because he is God.

He knows the heart of man. He knows the longing need of man. He knows that the power of the cross and the message of salvation through faith in his beloved Son.

The Gospel might sound like foolishness to some folks today.

But that word is going to find it’s mark and many JEWISH people will turn TO CHRIST and be grafted in once again, where they belong.

God can make it happen.

He can change hearts just as he changed your heart and gave you who are in the church today; the ability to respond in faith to HIS son.

AMEN.

Today we’ve shared a sermon about the nation of Israel and God has spoken to us through this word, concerning the wonder and blessings of what we have been provided in HIM and through the Jewish people.

This book is full of lessons to be learned about God, especially if you look back at the Old Testament.

Earlier in the sermon, I made a point of telling you that The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament is exactly the same God.

God is a HOLY God.

He’s a righteous judge.

He’s merciful and he is kind.

But he is also an executer of punishment on those who disobey and reject him.

Reading through the book of Leviticus and many writings contained in the law, is something that I personally found to be overwhelming.

I couldn’t get it right. We couldn’t get it right. Every single day we’d be guilty of offending God and therefore would ultimately be condemned to eternal death.

I’m glad that today, we live under the dispensation of Grace, where we have an opportunity to come in relationship with God, through Jesus his Son who paid the price for our sins.

Through faith in his Son who suffered, bled and died for our sins, we who cannot qualify on our own can be accepted into God’s family.

The good news is that Christ came to this earth, that he died on the cross and rose again, so that you by believing in him as Lord of your life, can be saved and thereby grafted into the family of God.

To you my dear friend, the question simply is this….do you know this reality for your self.

Have you come into the forgiven family of God by faith in Jesus Christ?

Have you been born again?

If the answer is no and you want it to be YES, then the Spirit of God is calling you to come.

WHILE ALL HEADS ARE BOWED AND EYES ARE CLOSED AND CHRISTANS ARE PRAYING.

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