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Hospitality: A missing crown Jewel #2

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People like to create their own little broad-base religion of independence and self-sufficiency, such as is promoted through
the school system, pop-philosophy, advertising, and the general media.
We all are acquainted with its mantras:
“You need to be you.”
“You need to find yourself.”
“You need to be good to yourself.”
“You just need to forgive yourself.”
Then you begin to think of all your relationships in terms of cost.
Anything I don’t want becomes a cost, a demand, an “expense” of my time, energy
(because it takes me being out of the center).
I may still do it, because it’s the “right thing to do” but I’ll do it grudgingly,
under compulsion, and probably expect repayment.
You is the key word through which these modern proverbs enforce the blatant idolatry of self-worship and
has damaged our society more than we can know.
Self-love fractures the family, the basic unit of society.
Fathers care little for their children, and
husbands care little about their wives, except perhaps as household machines.
This uncaring lifestyle is consistent with the idea that
the self and its wants are of the highest importance.
A biblical church and her faithful people (which are few) stand in stark contradiction to this idea.
Unfortunately, the church at large has failed in her witness and has even led the rest of society down the path of self-love.
Ministers of Christ were the first ones to preach this new “gospel,” and now
only ministers of Christ can repudiate it and preach the true gospel.
I want to give you a few real accounts from local church pastors and members.
“While on vacation, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit a couple who had previously attended our church and home Bible studies but had since moved away. We were concerned about their spiritual welfare. We were delighted to learn that they were living for the Lord and were actively involved in a small local church. They had one complaint, however. During the past year that they had attended the church, not one person-not even one of the spiritual leaders-had invited them over for a meal or a time of fellowship. So, our friends still did not feel a part of the fellowship and were quite disheartened.”
“An elderly single woman, who now attends our church, related an experience to me that dramatically illustrate why we need fresh teaching on the subject of Christian hospitality. At one time in her life, she had to travel more than an hour by bus every Sunday to attend a small suburban church. Each week after the Sunday morning service, she would eat alone in a restaurant and then spend the entire afternoon in a park or library so that she could attend the evening service. She did this for four years. What left her with sour memories of this church was the fact that in four years no one invited her home to eat a Sunday afternoon meal or to rest. It wasn’t until she announced she was leaving that an elderly woman in the church invited her home for a meal on her final Sunday.”
At times I have traveled as long as two or three hours on a Sunday morning in order to preach at a church.
In some instances, when I finished preaching I was handed a check, invited to return, given many friendly handshakes, and bid a warm good-by.
But no one sought further fellowship with me after the Sunday morning service.
In everything a faithful church does, it must set its face against all forms of self-worship, warning of its destructiveness and eventual damnation.
The faithful church may proclaim this through the direct preaching of the gospel and
by simply living the gracious and holy life which God has called us to live—
a life of peace, true and principled love, real loyalty, and communion together.
Over the past couple of Sunday’s we’ve been speaking on certain biblical topics: discipleship, and fellowship between one another.
These topics are all inter-related. They all go together, and are wrapped up in one of the things that we want to do well at.
Loving one another. We are going to do small groups that we’re going to call “Care Groups” and have a place where biblical genuine fellowship and mutual care can occur.
When God’s people care for one another, it is a powerful testimony against the manifest selfishness and idolatry of the world,
and it is necessary in order to give credibility to the preached word.
So let’s examine one of the main New Testament commands concerning hospitality.

Devoted to the correct PRACTICE

In Romans, Paul exhorts the whole church at Rome to be “given to hospitality” ().
This is a good principle in itself, but we should be aware of the larger context to understand it fully.
Paul has just written eleven chapters explaining the wonderful and mysterious grace of God
and what that grace has accomplished for God’s people.
Through Christ we have been redeemed, saved, and justified, and we are now being sanctified.
Then in chapter twelve, Paul begins to give particular commands on the basis of what he’s taught about God and the doctrine of salvation, that he has just given.
If God has done this for us, how should we now live?
Notice his therefore (in v1)—he has laid out the premises; what follows?
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by [a Greek word that means of, on the basis of, through] the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (v. 12:1).
Giving oneself up to God body and soul, as a complete living sacrifice,
is the only proper response to the grace of God.
We must no longer live for ourselves but devoted to His glory.
On the basis of the mercies He has shown to us, we no longer belong to ourselves
but are devoted and set apart to Him,
obliged to do all and only what will bring Him glory.
That is what it means to be a living sacrifice.
We do this by conforming to the Word as the revealed, perfect will of God,
so that we no longer conform to the world but are transformed by the Word.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” ().
It is the best way to live, and, as deed joined to word, it is the only true testimony of God’s grace.
This general command forms the link between the earlier chapters of theology and the following passage of practical instruction.
What exactly does it mean, in real life and in definite actions,
to give oneself as a living sacrifice to Christ?
First of all, we should humble ourselves and think of others first.
v.For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
What else? (In v4) we should recognize that God has put us in bodies and given us different personalities and gifts, and
He has given us each a place in the body of Christ.
Therefore we may neither envy or disparage another’s gifts but
rejoice in every gift, whether it is our own or another’s.
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (vv4-5)
The church is a body, and each person uses his gifts to strengthen the body, and is in turn strengthened by it, so that everyone grows up together to their fullness—fullness as individuals and fullness as a community. Next, we are to love one another sincerely: “Let love be without hypocrisy” (v. 9).
The church is a body, and each person uses his gifts to strengthen the body, and
is in turn strengthened by it,
so that everyone grows up together to their fullness—fullness as individuals and fullness as a community.
Next, we are to love one another sincerely: “Let love be without hypocrisy” (v. 9).
In the remainder of the passage, Paul expounds the meaning of sincere love.
The renewed mind abhors what is evil and clings to what is good.
It honors others:
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (v. 10).
The renewed mind lives faithfully in every circumstance,
“rejoicing in hope, being patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer” (v. 12).
And finally, the renewed mind cares greatly for the saints,
“distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality” (v. 13).
Hospitality is the primary example of meeting the needs of fellow Christians.
Paul, interestingly, does not place hospitality on the periphery of essential godliness,
where the modern church tends to place it.
We tend to imagine it as a luxurious virtue, practiced by those who are willing and able and
not required for anyone else;
it is a luxury that we can occasionally afford.
We certainly do not think of it as a central expression of Christian holiness and the glory of God.
Paul corrects this notion. If we are not practicing hospitality, we are not loving, and
when we do not love, we cease to be a living church.
It is bound up with our profession of faith and our sacrifice of self to God.

Devoted to the correct PURSUIT

Let’s look at this word ‘given’ in “given to hospitality” means to
pursue tirelessly from place to place.
Classical Greek writers used this word in the context of hunting; for example,
it might be used to describe the attitude of a hound chasing a fox through the forest.
Perhaps a better picture for us, which most of us have seen on film, is that of a cheetah chasing a gazelle.
The hound is given to the fox, and the cheetah given to the gazelle, in the sense that
each is utterly devoted to the chase,
concentrating all of his strength and speed on a single object.
Thus when Paul says “given to hospitality,” he does not mean,
“Perhaps you should be open to the possibility of being hospitable; don’t refuse if you are asked.”
As Paul would say, may it never be! God forbid!!
The virtue of hospitality is far from being passive.
We had better
go after it,
chase it down, and
not stop
until we have wrestled it to the ground.
To try to just “let it happen” is to misunderstand and refuse to obey the command.
It requires zealous, vigorous, and strenuous effort.
This word for given is translated elsewhere as “persecute,” when Paul describes his former persecution of the church in .
He was zealous and “exceedingly enraged,” and he pursued the Christians even into foreign lands,
completely devoted to destroying them.
After conversion, he uses the same word for the constructive devotion to hospitality.
Paul did not mind the trouble of persecuting Christians;
it required inconvenience,
planning, time, and money.
But it had become his life,
because he believed it was necessary for the glory of God and
was willing to spend any expense in pursuit of it.
So often, those who do evil are more zealous for their own cause than those who do good.
Paul does not want this to happen to the church.
Only the active and ardent pursuit of hospitality is glorifying to God.
We begrudge hospitality more often than we would like to acknowledge.
Someone approaches you to come over after church to fellowship! What do you say?
The fact that God commands us, does that change anything?
One might see a new family in church and should feel some obligation to ask them into his home,
but he waits until the last possible moment,
hoping someone else will invite them first.
If no one does, and if he is still feeling up to it, he then reluctantly extends the invitation.
According to Paul, this “only when necessary” idea seriously misunderstands
the command,
the glorifying of Christ, and
the grace of God in general.
Does God extend his hospitality “only when necessary”?
Hasn’t he promised it to the whole world? “If you need me, call me” is not the spirit of Christianity.
We should be hosts who earnestly seek for opportunities to show love to the brethren, and
who are disappointed when not able to do so.
If we have love, we do not dread it or force ourselves into it.
There are two different spirits here; one of them Christian, and the other pagan.
One of them glorifies Christ, the other does not.
Hospitality is not an option but a holy obligation.
Each Christian should pursue it, even if he were the only one in an entire congregation to do so.

Devoted to the correct PICTURE.

God commands hospitality for our good, for the edification of the church, and most importantly, for His own glory!
The word “hospitality” in the NT actually means “love to strangers”.
Obviously, we are hospitable to our friends and family.
People in the church who are our own age, or those who have similar likes. etc.
But this word, pushes us outside that circle.
When the NT was written, strangers were mostly ethnic foreigners, and most cultures of the world viewed them as enemies.
A stranger was a threat; he had no protection under the law, and he had no legal rights.
Israel was, therefore, unique in the world, because God commanded them to treat strangers kindly.
“You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (). “And you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (). “The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” ().
With these laws, God set Israel apart from the nations of the world.
His people would show kindness to strangers in order to show forth His grace to sinners.
All men are strangers to God, being born far away from Him and cut off in their sins.
God treats strangers with
grace,
mercy, and
longsuffering, and
expected His people to do the same, thus revealing Himself in their daily actions.
Some people then become afraid to invite others into their home because they do not want the pressure of entertaining them.
They feel that they need to keep everyone singing and laughing and talking for an entire evening, and
many people just do not have that gift.
Fortunately for our sake, the biblical burden is much lighter and within everyone’s grasp.
Hospitality is not fulfilled by entertaining others, but rather
ministering to them, serving them, and meeting their needs.
Our object is not to overwhelm our guests with the magnificent food or the brilliant fun they are having or
to impress them with some self-glorifying show,
but rather our object is simply humble, sacrificial service designed to
encourage, build up, bless, and refresh them.
You don’t have to be a showman or have a gaudy stage to do this.
Some people avoid true hospitality because they have a false and exaggerated idea of what it is.
When hospitality is considered to be a show, excuses to avoid putting it on come easily.
“My house is just a mess, and it is not much of a house to begin with.”
“I’m not a chef, and can’t make fancy meals.”
What do those things have to do with hospitality? The concept has been radically misunderstood.
Hospitality is based upon the gracious nature of God.
He is a God who is good to strangers; because of this we are obliged to do the same.
Our hospitality is rooted in His goodness and grace.
We are by nature
strangers,
cut off from Him because of our sins,
helpless to provide for ourselves, and
He separated us for Himself,
initiated a saving relationship, and
clothed,
fed,
protected, and
housed us.
His people are thus commanded to follow His example and show hospitality to those who have no friends.
Notice how God identifies Himself and Israel, and His application of these facts, in
: “for the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Every time God commands His people to love strangers, He tells them the reason:
they themselves were in the same position once.
They were once strangers, and they received grace and hospitality from Him and even from others.
The Lord is the generous God who gives to all men graciously;
He is host to the world.
As Paul points out in Acts, God has always made a witness for Himself, in the rain from heaven and the fruitful seasons and in filling our hearts with food and gladness.
Now that is hospitality. “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!” ().
Now we, who have received His gracious benefits and His provisions, should also follow His example.
Paul tells the Galatians: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially those of the household of faith” ().
Throughout the Bible, God’s people are always very conspicuously hospitable people.
In Scripture, it is a common occurrence that when men are converted, they immediately begin to extend hospitality.
Jesus saw Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector who had climbed a tree trying to catch a glimpse of Him, and He said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I have to stay at your house” ().
Zacchaeus obeyed and received Him joyfully in his house.
Lydia, when the Lord opened her heart to believe the things spoken by Paul, made a similar show of love:
“And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’ And so she persuaded us” ().
The apostles could not refuse these first signs of Christian love.
Lydia had to show forth something of the grace that she had received, by ministering to those whom God had used to bring her to life.
Clearly, one of the foremost manifestations of God’s grace in the hearts of His people is their great desire to show hospitality.
All who receive the grace of God are provoked by the Spirit of God to follow His gracious example.
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