************ Sermon on Romans 12:15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 9, 2015
"Rejoicing with Others"
In our culture, joy is most often reserved for sporting events. For instance, a month ago when the U.S. women's soccer team soundly beat the Japanese team for the 2015 world cup championship, there was a large, collective expression of joy. Fans of all ages were shown waving flags and crying tears and shouting "We won" even though they contributed nothing to the championship. The TV cameras also gave us a glimpse of the defeated Japanese team. Neither they nor their fans were rejoicing. Instead, what we saw were looks of disappointment and sadness, maybe even despair.
Something similar happens when a team wins the Super Bowl or the World Series. Fans of the winning team start partying in the streets and in bars and restaurants. At the same time, many of the fans of the losing team are not happy at all. Some of them even get depressed because their team did not win.
I Our Difficulty as Sinners
A "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" says our text (Rom 12:15). But, as illustrated by my opening examples, many people have a hard time taking joy in the success of other people. I dare say we have an easier time mourning with those who mourn than rejoicing with those who rejoice.
B Why is it that we find it easier to mourn with someone than to rejoice with someone? Our fallen human nature is to blame. We envy someone's success. We are jealous. We are angry that someone got the position we were hoping for. We are upset that a coworker received the promotion we wanted. We are not happy that someone has been given something we have always wanted.
Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other's business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival.Isn't this an absolutely awful story of human depravity? It is a mark of our fallenness when we cannot rejoice with those who rejoice. It is a mark of our sin that we find it easier to envy the prosperity of someone than to be joyful about their circumstances.
One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?"
The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, "Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!"
C We who are transformed children of God (cf Rom 12:2) are called to rejoice when things are going well for others, even if they are not going well for us. We are called to rejoice when a neighbor or a friend or a church member gains something we have always wanted -- whether it is a dairy, a wife, a husband, a child, a car, a promotion, a big raise, a beautiful home, a sport trophy. We are to rejoice in the talents, gifts, and opportunities God has given to others. We must look for opportunities to enter into the joy of others. This is part of God's good, pleasing, and perfect will for us who have been saved by grace through faith (cf Rom 12:2).
If you believe in Jesus, if He is your Savior and Lord, then you rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (cf Rom 12:15).
D We have name, a psychiatric title, for those who are not able to do this. They are called Narcissists. I have met a number of Narcissists throughout the years. They are totally unable to enter into the joys and hurts of others. As far as a Narcissist is concerned, there is only one person on planet earth who counts -- themselves. A Narcissist wants to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. He or she has to be the center of attention. His wants and desires, her plans and dreams, are the only ones that count. You get the picture: they are self-centered, self-serving, ego-driven. Everyone and everything is measured and weighed in terms of what they get out of it. A husband or a wife is not looked at in terms of their own qualities but in terms of how do they make me look. A grandchild is not someone to love but someone to feed my need to be wanted and adored. A new car is chosen because of the image it gives the world about me.
II Mourn with those who Mourn
A "Mourn with those who mourn" says our text. We usually associate mourning with death. So Abraham, for instance, mourned at the death of his wife Sarah (Gen 23:2). When Jacob was told that his beloved son Joseph was dead, he mourned many days (Gen 37:34). And, when Jacob died, Joseph and his brothers observed seventy-seven days of mourning (Gen 50:3,10). The widow of Nain lost her only son and she was in mourning (Lk 7:12-13). Mary and Martha went into mourning when their brother Lazarus died (Jn 11).
But death is not the only time people mourn. The people of Israel mourned when God told them He was not going with them to the Promised Land because they were a stiff-necked people and He might destroy them on the way (Ex 33:3,4).
Do you see when there is mourning? Mourning happens when mankind experiences the brokenness of life. Mourning happens when man experiences loss. Mourning happens because of sin and its consequences. So we mourn the loss of loved ones. We mourn when someone becomes disabled because they have been hit by a drunk driver. We mourn when a woman is brutally raped and is unable to bear children. We mourn when a marriage ends in divorce. We mourn when a godly couple have wayward children. We mourn when a business goes bankrupt, jobs are lost, and a family loses their house to foreclosure. We mourn when someone gets bad tests results from the doctor. We mourn as aging parents lose their independence and their health. We mourn when someone becomes an alcoholic or drug addict. We mourn when someone dies without knowing Christ and therefore enters the eternity of hell. We mourn that so many in our land deliberately live in disobedience to God and His commandments. We mourn that our inner cities have been taken over by gangs and violence and drugs. We mourn that the governing authorities allow the abortion of babies and the marriage of gay couples. We mourn that we no longer act like one nation under God.
B "Mourn with those who mourn" says our text. Enter into the pain and hurt of those who mourn. Feel for them. Cry with them. Comfort them. Surround them. We see this when Jacob died. The heathen Egyptians, of all people, mourned for him seventy days (Gen 50:3). Jacob didn't mean anything to them. But they mourned out of respect for Joseph. They entered into the pain and hurt of this son of Jacob.
We see this again with the widow of Nain. Her only son had died. When she went to bury her son "a large crowd from the town was with her" (Lk 7:12). Why? Some, I am sure, were just curious onlookers. Others showed up because it was good for business. But the majority were there to mourn with this poor widow who was now all alone.
Have you ever thought of the story of Lazarus from this perspective? We are told that "many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother" (Jn 11:19). And, when Mary went to meet Jesus, the Jews "followed her supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there" (Jn 11:31). We are told that Mary was "weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her [were] also weeping" (Jn 11:33). Mourn with those who mourn.
Do you remember Jesus' response to the death of Lazarus? "He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled" (Jn 11:33). The word "troubled" indicates His outrage. And, in the Bible's shortest verse, we are told "Jesus wept." Isn't this amazing? Jesus wept. Jesus wept even though He knew He shortly would call Lazarus to rise from the grave. Jesus wept even though He knew Lazarus was going to rise from the dead. Jesus wept. Why? He mourned with those who mourn. He entered into the pain and hurt and sorrow of Martha and Mary. But He also wept over their unbelief because they acted as if they had no hope. And He was troubled. He was troubled -- outraged -- at the sin, death, and unbelief to be found in a world that God pronounced to be good. Jesus, don't forget, is the Man of Sorrows Who was also familiar with suffering (Is 53:3).
Like the Egyptians, like the friends and neighbors of the widow of Nain, like the Jews who knew Martha and Mary, like Jesus, we are to mourn with those who mourn. We are called to enter into the hurt and pain and sorrow and grief of those who mourn as they experience the brokenness of life.
C "Mourn with those who mourn." Jesus shows us how: We are to be there for those who mourn. Sometimes people are embarrassed. Or, they don't know what to say. All we have to do is join someone in their sorrow. We weep and cry. We are troubled and outraged by sin and unbelief. The Jews also show us how to mourn. Their mourning was something done in public: with wailing, lamentation, sackcloth, ashes, and fasting.
"Mourn with those who mourn." Enter into the hurt and pain that shows up all too often in this fallen world in the lives of those around us. Show empathy. Do not be a Narcissist who thinks only of self and cannot see the hurt and pain caused by sin.
III Rejoice with those who Rejoice
A This brings us to the rest of the text: "Rejoice with those who rejoice." As I already indicated, because of our fallen nature many people have a harder time rejoicing with others than mourning with others.
In the Bible, there is joy at the birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:58). There was great joy when Jacob and Joseph were reunited after a twenty year separation; Scripture tells us they wept tears of joy for a long time (Gen 46:29).
We see joy when the Israelites safely crossed the Red Sea on dry ground while Pharaoh and all his hosts were drowned (Ex 15). We hear the joyful sounds of trumpets when the walls of Jericho come crashing down (Josh 6). There is joy when God saves His people and defeats His enemies.
Scripture tells us there is joy in heaven and on earth at the birth of Jesus (Lk 2:19). Likewise, there is joy at His resurrection (Mt 28:8). And, an unborn John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother's womb when a Mary pregnant with Jesus came to visit (Lk 1:44).
Do you remember the ministry and mission of the seventy-two? Jesus sent them out two-by-two to preach the Gospel and heal the sick (Lk 10:1-12). They returned overjoyed at the success of their ministry and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (Lk 10:16). By way of response, Jesus pointed them to a higher joy:
(Lk 10:20) However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.Rejoice in the forgiveness of your sins and the removal of your guilt.
Do you see all the reasons for joy? Births, weddings, conversions, salvation, the incarnation and resurrection of Christ, victory over enemies, salvation and forgiveness and life everlasting.
B "Rejoice with those who rejoice." The shepherd who found his lost sheep and the woman who found her lost coin called friends and neighbors together saying, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep/lost coin" (Lk 15:6,9). Similarly, the father of the prodigal son called for a feast of celebration on the part of family and friends when his lost son returned home (Lk 15:22-24). And, in the same way, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Lk 15:7,10).
Now, by way of contrast, look at the Pharisees. We are given no indication that they rejoiced with Martha and Mary when Lazarus was raised from the dead. Instead, they plotted to take Jesus' life (Jn 11:45-56). Similarly, the older brother of the prodigal son does not rejoice that his younger brother has returned home; instead, he sulks and cries and refuses to participate in the festivities (Lk 15:25-32).
"Rejoice with those who rejoice." Enter into the joys and celebrations that God allows in the lives of those around you. Don't be envious. Don't be jealous. Don't sulk. Don't throw a hissy fit that someone other than you has been blessed by God.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice." Be like Jesus and His angels and rejoice over every sinner who repents and believes. Rejoice at every birth and baptism. Rejoice at every profession of faith. Rejoice at every engagement and every Christian home that is established. Rejoice in answered prayer and healing. Rejoice in good test results from the doctor. And rejoice with all of God's people that your name is written in the Lamb's book of life.
C "Rejoice with those who rejoice." Jesus shows us how. In Cana, Jesus participated in the joy of the wedding of what was either a family friend or relative. And, He added to the joy when He turned water into the best quality wine (Jn 2:1-11).
Israel also shows us how to rejoice. They danced and celebrated when they saw the death of Pharaoh and his hosts. And, they made the joyful sounds of trumpets when the walls of Jericho came crashing down.
We see that joy, like sorrow, is meant to be shared. Joy, like sorrow, is meant to be public. Joy, like sorrow, is not meant to be private and hidden. We acknowledge publicly the terrible effects of the Fall into sin. And, we acknowledge publicly the wonderful blessings of God's grace towards us in Christ.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." We aren't Narcissists who cannot enter into the hurt or the joys of others. Instead, we are to be like Jesus.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Built into this text is an assumption: namely, our emotions don't control us; rather, in the power of the Spirit we control them. So, as I said last time, to rejoice is a choice. And, to mourn is a choice.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." We know that these are our instructions only for this life and on this earth and in this body. Because we look forward to the time when there is no more mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Rev 21:4). And, we look forward to that time when our joy is complete because we see Jesus face-to-face.
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