Good Is Greater Than Evil
Good morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Romans chapter 12.
We will be also spending quite a bit of time in Matthew chapter 5, if you want to put your finger there as a bookmark
Now, as usual, if you do not have a Bible, or if you do not own a Bible, please take one-off the back table as our gift to you.
Now, we have been going line by line, verse by verse through Paul’s letter to the early churches in Rome, and, believe it or not, we are over ¾ of the way through it. I think we can all agree that Paul has had some hard truths to share with that church, some hard truths for us today to hear as well.
And I don’t know about you, but I tend to respond one of two ways when I hear something like that. Of the two, hopefully I respond with the first I will share with you. I hear it, I don’t want to hear it, so I reject it. Or I justify why I’m not doing it, or I lash out at it, claiming its wrong. But in the end, I knows it’s the truth and hopefully I make any changes that need to be made.
But there’s another way that I might react, a way that occurs much to often. A way that I think is much more in line with, unfortunately, how the typical American churchgoers responds. You hear the truth, you affirm your belief that this is, in fact the truth, and you continue on in life with no change, no adhering to that truth, and no acknowledgment that you are not adhering to the truth.
As we move into the section of scripture we are going to read this morning, I ask that you look inside yourself and don’t respond with the second one I mentioned. This passage, I think, requires a lot of introspection and soul-searching. Because this is one of the passages that directs us the most against what our natural human sinful instincts are. It is some of, if not the hardest commands tat are found in the New Testament, commands we are required, as followers of Christ to follow.
So, with your curiosities piqued, let’s go ahead and read this weeks passage. Paul is writing in Romans chapter 12, and we will read verses 14-21. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your Bibles.
Romans 12:14-21, Paul writes:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[h] Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Well, that’s super easy to follow, right? One of the first things that is interesting to me when I read this passage is that it sounds so much like Jesus. Paul is borrowing heavily from Jesus teachings in this passage. Now, to be sure, all of Paul’s words that we have in scripture are inspired and inerrant. They were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and as we see in John 1, Jesus is the Word. So all the words that Paul has written in scripture are the words of Jesus.
But Paul will be the first to mention at times, that during Jesus physical, earthly ministry, we don’t have a record of him having addressed everything that we would want him to, or everything that the other New Testament writers make mention of.
But this passage here is heavily influenced by Jesus words during his earthly ministry, namely the Sermon on the Mount. The first couple of verses that Paul writes here, for example, sound an awful like an abbreviated version of the Beatitudes. Jesus speaks in Matthew 5:3-12:
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Paul starts by saying, Bless those who persecute you. Jesus made it clear, that if we follow him, we will face opposition, we will face hate and we will face persecution. And the natural way of responding to that is to fight back. To treat those who are persecuting us as evil. To use the same standard in who we act towards them as they use in how they treat us.
But we are not called to the same standard. I said this recently as well. To clarify, the standard by which God will judge us is the same across the board, for each and every single human being. God’s holiness is the standard by which we will be judged. But the World has one standard of behaviour, one standard of right and wrong, one standard of morality, and the Bible has another standard. Our responsibility is to strive to live up to the bibles standard.
And so, we do not answer persecution with persecution, but instead, we bless those who persecute us. We treat them better than they treat us. Dr Martin Luther JR has a famous saying, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” (https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/martin_luther_king_jr_101472)
And so, we are to bless, to love, to think of others as higher than ourselves and we respond to their mistreatment of us. Ah, but we are Americans and Americans have rights. Its my right to retaliate, its my right to fight back. Its my right! Oswald Chambers summarizes one key aspect of the Christian life. He says, The only right a Christian has is the right to give up his rights.
Wow. Thats hard to hear. Thats even harder to do. Now, I am tempted to put in some qualifiers here. Well, except for this situation, or except for this person. And some of those qualifiers may even exist, if you think so, we can talk later. But, as I was preparing to do that, I realized that Paul doesn’t put any qualifiers on that statement. And I reread the Beatitudes, and Jesus doesn’t put any qualifiers on his statements. And so, were I to put any qualifiers on this, I would be taking away from the words of Paul and Jesus.
So, no qualifiers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. We take to scripture and we look at the examples of Jesus as the Sanhedrin, as Herod and as Pilate put him on trial and sentenced him to death. Jesus had a lot of right sin that situation. Those were not, strictly speaking, legal trials. Jesus could have pointed that out, could have defended himself in the trials, refuted the charges. And yet, he didnt. He gave up his rights in that situation. Even more of an example, Jesus gave up his divine rights, as God, when he came down, born as a human baby.
Paul as well, often set aside his rights when, after his conversion by Jesus, he himself was being persecuted by the Romans and Jews. Pauls was often preaching the Gospel to the guards and Jailers, to the judges, to the governors and rulers who were to decide on his fate. But he set aside actual legal defenses to serve what ever punishment would be put in front of him.
Peter and john do the same thing in Acts chapter 4. They were submitting to the punishment of the council they were brought before. Now, this is an important distinction. This is an important part as we move forward and more and more about biblical actions and biblical beliefs become, not only frowned upon, not only unpopular, but as certain things will become illegal.
Peter and John set aside some of their rights, and they submit themselves to the punishment, but they also are very clear that they will continue to do what God told them to do, to speak on what they have seen. (Acts 4:13-22) We are actually going to look more at things like that in the next section of scripture.
But, instead of being a curse to those who persecute us, we are to be blessings. Peter writes, in 1 Peter 3:9: Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
In a way, Peters verse there helps draw what Paul said and what Jesus said even closer together. And, I think, the biggest aspect of this, the biggest motivation for doing blessing those who persecute you is because our reward is not of this world, but is in the next. Our blessing, our reward is in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus even blesses Paul, who he confronted for persecuting him. Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9) And Jesus then brings Paul into clear knowledge that Jesus was exactly who the early church was claiming him to be, The Son of God, the Forgiver of Sins, the Messiah and Savior. The ultimate blessing.
Paul says next that we are to have sympathy, empathy and compassion. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. We are to share in each others victories. We encourage others to do and be better. We celebrate the wins in their lives. We take pleasure in their highs and build each other up. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 12:26, of the body of Christ, If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Right now, we all are grieving with Cindy and Randy and their family as we mourn OUR loss, as Gerri is now at home, at peace, fully healthy with Jesus. We grieve as a family. They know they are not alone, but that we are here with them. The same happens on the other end of the spectrum.
Hope and I feel from you all, our church family, the rejoicing in upcoming birth of Malachi. When one of us suffers, we all suffer together. One one of us rejoices, we all rejoice together.
Jesus, again, if we read the Beatitudes, we see he says two things, both, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. And he also says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
And so, if you are morning, if you are suffering, if you are struggling, Jesus says, that followers of christ will be comforted. Jesus is our comforter. And he tells us followers to follow his lead as comforters. Comforter those who mourn. And those who are merciful, those who comfort, those who have empathy, sympathy, and compassion will receive mercy.
Here’s how this happens. The things that Paul is talking about, the things that he is saying should be evident in a Christians life, are not our natural, instinctual normal abilities and nature.
And so it takes the change of heart, mind and soul that comes by grace alone through faith alone in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone. Jesus Christ is the one and only who can change our bondage to sin, who can break our sin nature and the Holy Spirit comes in and changes our heart of stone into a heart of flesh. It is the continual work of sanctification in us that allows us to reject what the world, and what our nature is telling us and it grows in us a new nature that helps us to set aside our rights, to bless those who persecute us, to rejoice with those who rejoice, no matter what we think of them, and to mourn with those who mourn, no matter what we think. It is what allows us to do the rest of what we are going to look at this morning, because we can’t and wont do it on our own, but only through the strength and love of Jesus Christ.
And Paul tells us, in verse 16, Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. This harkens back to what Paul said in this very same chapter, in verse 3, For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment,
Conflict comes when we each think of ourselves as better, or more important or having a higher status than each other, than those around us. When many of us have that conceit, we clash, because only we can be right. But when we think of ourselves as better than us, when we are not haughty, then we know that others can be right too, that others can have other lives, opinions, and gifts. They can do things differently than we do. And that s ok. They are not automatically trying to be better than or more important than us. Where there would otherwise be conflict and anger, now, we can let it slide. Love covers a multitude of sin. (1 Peter 4:8)
RC Sproul says that “One manifestation of this will be an absence of conceit and pride in worldly position.” I think of the letter that James wrote. Much of it deals with not treating people different ly because of perceived status or wealth. Not to treat some as better than others. And not to exclude or assume, not to look down on others because of anything.
That includes how they treat us. Verses 17-21, Paul tells us, Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In Essence, this is how we react as Christians, to a non-Christian world. We don’t respond to others the same we they respond to us. We dont repay evil with evil, but we overcome evil with good.
Again, looking back at Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:38-48:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[h] let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Paul is simplifying and summarizing what Jesus said, so to truly understand wha the passage is telling us, we need to dig into what Jesus said, so that’s where the main focus of the rest of the sermon will be.
Right off the bat, Jesus acknowledges that a common saying that the Jews had heard was from the Torah, from the Old Testament Scriptures. Most of our Bibles will have the references there, showing Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20 & Deuteronomy 19:21 as where this statement is made.
But instead of looking at the context and the true meaning, The Jews made this a literal statement about karma. What you do to me, I’ll do right back to you. It reminds of a quote from a TV show, if any of you have seen Firefly, where the Captain of the ship tells the stowaway, “If someone tries to kill you, you kill them right back.”
That sounds real good doesn’t it? That sounds fair, that sounds like justice will be done. But here’s the problem. This line of thinking, this interpretation makes our behavior, our morals and our ethics very situational. It means that we can justify whatever behavior we want because the other person or other side did something first. It’s the theological version of the playground argument, “He started it!”
We see this every day in our own lives, but we don’t want to recognize it there. We see it every day in politics. Both sides. How often do we see someone taken to task for something stupid, something wrong or something evil. That persons party comes to their defense, not arguing what they did was right, but that the others side’s guy did the same thing, or something similar and the other side wasn’t bothered by it then. And while we do see the hypocrisy there on the other side, we don’t see our own hypocrisy of we had an issue with it when the other sides person did, but we don’t have an issue when our guy does it. Our behavior and our ethics and morals change based on whether it suits us or not.
And Jesus is going to point out that is missing the original point of the text and the whole of what God has taught us by a long mile. The original intent of the text is not individual retaliation, not modes of procedure in person to person conflict. Its not for if Me and one of you have an issue. But instead, if you go read those original verses in context, its about the civil justice system, administered by the government or leadership of the community or country. And the point of that text, quite simply is that the punishment should fit the crime. This is a mandate to not have excessive penalties for crimes committed or for personal retribution to pay a role in the punishment being administered.
RC Sproul writes, “Jesus opposition to the misuse of this verse involved, not the abrogation of the principle of equivalence, but a call to temper it’s application in light of the love commandment, in the interests of the Kingdom, and in the knowledge of Gods coming wrath.”
Each time this phrasing happens in the Old Testament, it is used in a legal context. It is used for the justice system and we need to remember that. We are not to seek personal retribution in place of or on top of what the legal system will bring. And, within the legal system, we are not to promote, or to enact different penalties for different groups of people; this means different social classes, this means different races and this means different nationalities, just to name a few that we see happen in today’s world. We are imperfect people, running imperfect social systems and giving imperfect justice.
God is a perfect God and he gives perfect justice. Scripture says that is we see injustices happen, first, we try to right them, but second, we rest in the knowledge that His perfect justice, will be administered, in his time. Thats what Paul is saying here.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Jesus goes on to give a couple examples that the people of those days would have clearly understood but may need a bit of context thrown in. To start, Jesus acknowledges that people with power will not always be fair to you. And there will always be someone with more power than you. They will unfairly exert power over you. At the time, Roman soldiers could come and grab, basically anyone they wanted and tell them to carry their gear, and the like for a mile so the soldier didn’t have to wear himself out doing it. We know that in the American Colonies, British soldiers could make any one give them quarter, house them for a time and feed them, just by showing up. That’s why we have our 3rd Amendment in the Bill of rights, was to prevent these abuses of power.
But, even in those situations, where you do have to go along with what someone says, say at work, is unfairly divvying up the assignments, or at school, if the teacher is giving you more work than the others, Jesus says there is still a way you can respond, that is obeying when you need to obey, but also takes away the power of the person ordering you around. Gladly do more. Go above and beyond.
People with power or influence, whether or not they are trying to use it wrong, but especially if they are, they can make you follow an order, especially if its not you doing something against Gods laws, but they can never make you do just enough. They can never prevent you from going above and beyond. It not only kills them with love and kindness but it takes the power out of their hands as well, and shows your strength and your freedom.
Then Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
So, a couple of immediate things on this statement. First, While some of the things that Jesus is telling them that they heard wrong are misunderstandings of things found in scriptures, this is one where this statement is not found in scripture. Nor, if read in context, is anything that can be misconstrued as that.
But it was. It was a misunderstanding, possibly purposefully, at least at first, of who is my neighbor. The Jewish people thought that it was only those in the Abrahamic covenant, circumcised Jews. The ones who had the most open view, thought that it pertained to all of Israel, but no further. It was a very limited view. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but Jesus makes it quite clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan that our definition of neighbor is not to be limited.
But it sounds so inviting, doesn’t it? Love your neighbor, but hate your enemy. It just makes sense. It’s easy to see, to feel and to understand. It’s what we all want to do. There is nothing else that makes sense to do except hate your enemies. Its hard enough sometimes to love those close to us. Why should we have to do it to those that hate us, fear us, sin against us, those that don’t love us? We deserve to be able to hate those people. And we limit our definition of neighbor is limited because its easier to live life with a limited definition. It limits who we have to love.
Jesus says NO. We don’t get to take the easy way out. We don’t get to live the easy life, our best life now. We don’t get to hate our enemies. We don’t get to just feel animosity to those who hate us. But we are to love our enemies. Whether or not they love us. And we are to pray for those who persecute us. That’s the definition of the hard way. That is Jesus raising the bar well above, both what we thought it was and what we are comfortable living.
What’s interesting is that Jesus uses a little bit of continuity here when we tells us why we are to live by this higher standard. He says so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. Now, remember back to the Beatitudes. Remember the 7th one? Verse 9, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
This is not optional, this is a necessary result of being called a child of God. And if we are saved, if we have trusted in Jesus Christ as our LORD, as our Savior, if we have been transformed by the Holy Spirit, then we are told that we need to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Again, that’s Paul’s big point here in this section of Romans, that these are signs and evidences of our salvation.
But, again, we don’t get to take the easy road. Jesus continues on by making sure that we understand that he is raising the bar. He wants us to have no mistake that we are expected to be better, to live up to a higher standard. He says its easy to love those who love us. Everyone does that.
Jesus picks maybe the two groups of people who the Jews had the lowest opinion of. Tax Collectors, Jewish people who have turned on their people, went to work for the Romans to raise money for the Roman Army to continue to occupy and oppress the Jewish people. They were not well liked. And then also the Gentiles. Those who were not a part of the covenant Jewish people. Those who did not know God.
Jesus picked those two groups and said that if all you do is love those who love you and hate those who hate you, you are no better than those who you have such a poor opinion of. Your no better than those who you look down on.
He has raised the bar. The standard that God has is perfection. What the scriptures do, what Jesus does, what we are to do is to show, both, the impossible standard that is to live up to, and the wholly undeserved grace that is poured out on all who believe and follow Christ.
And how we treat others is one of the ways that we show that. We show the love of Christ by the way we love others. The parallel, the correlation is clear. The way we treat others is not dependent on how they treat us. Just as, the way that God treats us, the love that he shows us, the grace he pours out in us is not dependent on how we treat him. Because if it were, we would all be in hell. Not destined for hell, but upon our first sin, we would be immediately sent there. We are in constant rebellion against Gods sovereign reign over his creation. God says, I love you anyway, here is grace.
The choice we have to make is whether we settle for common grace, and often if we choose this, we will raise the things that God has graced us with, we will raise them up as idols. We can settle for common grace or we can accept his true loving, sacrificial saving grace. And when we choose that path, Gods saving grace, we need to remember that it was while we were unlovable, while we were yet sinners, that Christ dies for us.
Living the Christian Life pt 2
Good Morning! Please go ahead and grab your Bibles and turn to Romans chapter 12 with me. As usual, I you do not have or own a Bible, please grab one off the back table as a gift, from our church to you.
So, today, we are going to continue to look at this bullet points list that Paul has laid out in Romans chapter 12. Again, as a quick recap, Paul has written this letter to the early churches in Rome. And he starts out with a kind of systematic theology, through the first 11 chapters. In chapter 12, he shifts the direction from knowledge to application. But it’s not as big of a shift as it may seem. Part of Paul’s point is that we need the first, we need right knowledge of what Paul writes about in Chapters 1-11 in order to live out, with the right heart and the right motivation what he is laying out starting in chapter 12. If you remember last week, I likened it to an addition problem. We add the knowledge of why we need salvation (Romans 1:18-32, & 3:23), we add to it who does the saving, (Romans 5:12-21) and how we are saved (Romans 1:16, Romans 4, Romans 10:9-17) and that equals what our lives should look like, our growing sanctification (Romans 12-14). In others words, right biblical knowledge and understanding necessarily leads to right biblical application and action.
And so, last week, we started looking at Romans 12, verses 9-13. Like I said earlier, this list that Paul writes in verses 9-13, they are basically bullet points. There is not a lot of exposition or explanation to them, but what we see is that they are thoroughly scriptural. Paul talk more about each one in different letters and the scriptures speak to these in many different areas.
So we are going to continue our list this morning, and we will read the whole bullet point list, Romans 12:9-13. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version and I greatly encourage you to follow along in your Bibles.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[g] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
So, we looked last week at verses 9 and 10, looking at 5 of the 13 actions listed here by Paul. And what Paul is stressing here is the love and the unity of the diversity of the body of Christ. We saw that these 13 things are practical outpourings, physical signs of our justification, or our salvation, and our ongoing sanctification, or growth and maturity in our walk with Christ.
And so we are to let our love be genuine and to love one another. Not fake love, not pretend love, not hypocritical love, but to genuinely, sincerely, love one another. We are to abhor what is evil. We are to recognize sin, we are to grow to hate our sin and we are to repent and turn from our sin. We are to hold fast to what is Good, which is Gos himself. Cling tightly to him and all that he teaches, His Word to us. Read your Bible, as it is the most important physical thing we have in this world and it is the thing that God has stated he uses to draw us close to him. And lastly, we are to outdo one another in honor, thinking of others as better than ourselves.
Thats what we looked at last week. This week we jump off with Paul telling us #6, not to be slothful in our zeal. One commentator said that this was to show “no hesitation or sloth in Christian living.” Paul refers back to verse 8, where he said, the one who leads, with zeal; With passion, with enthusiasm, with zeal. Striving after, giving all diligence.
There is a reason that the term, “Christian work ethic,” exists. We should work hard and we should work to the very best of our abilities. We should be the first to get to work and the last to leave.
Gotquestions.org has this to say:
Christians should work hard. Work is integral to life, and approaching work as God-given will give us more pleasure in it. We can work cheerfully and without complaint because we are working for the Lord who loves us and has redeemed us. A good work ethic can also be a witness to others (Matthew 5:16). The world takes notice of our efforts and wonders why we do what we do.
Paul not only tells us that we are to work hard and serve the LORD, but he also tells us in Colossians 3 why, what should be behind it. Colossians 3:23&24, he writes:
We have a reason to work hard, because we are to do it for the LORD. WE are to have passion and zeal for the work that we do and we are to find purpose and meaning in our work for the LORD and for serving others. Thats when and where we find our passion and purpose.
When we serve the Church. When we serve our church family. When we serve our spouse and our kids. When we serve our parents and family. When we serve our coworkers or our clients.
We are to be enthusiastic, passionate and hardworking in our work and our service. Do not be slothful in zeal. But, #7, Be fervent in Spirit. Be boiling in your Spirit. The passion and the fervor that he need to have in our spirit to work hard. We cant do it out of compunction, out of obligation, instead, Paul tells us that we need to have in our spirit a desire and a passion to serve.
And the other aspect to this is that, not only do we have to have passion and desire to work and serve, but our passion and enthusiasm has to be submitted under the authority of the Holy Spirit. It needs to be directed by the Holy Spirit.
Paul knew what he was talking about in this case, for two reasons. In Acts chapter 18, verse 25, Luke, who wrote Acts as he traveled with Paul, wrote that Apollos was fervent in Spirit. The same expression, the same phrasing as here in Romans 11. Apollos was passionate and doing good work for the LORD, but there were some aspects he had to be guided in and corrected. And in both cases, there is a vagueness in the translation, whether the spirit that is mentioned is our spirit or the Holy Spirit. Both are biblical and that’s why I’m addressing both.
The second way that Paul is intimately aware of this is that he himself led a life of zeal & passion that was not directed by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s life before his conversion by Christ on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9?) was one where he was dedicated 110% do doing the will of God. He had the entirety of the scriptures, what we have as the Old Testament, he had the whole thing completely memorized.
He was zealous in defending the Jewish faith and way of life. He chased after, hunted down, arrested and murdered Christians, doing what he thought he had to do to be a Good Jewish leader. And he was wrong.
Jesus Christ appeared to him, and Paul saw the truth, saw who Christ was, had his heart changed. And from there, he still had that same zealousness, that same passion, the same enthusiasm, but instead he submitted that zeal to the Holy Spirit and went where and did what God actually had for him. If notice, there are a few times in the book of Acts that Paul says they tried to go somewhere but the Holy Spirit restrained them.
Paul knew first hand about not being slothful in zeal, and to be fervent in spirit and as he says, #8, to serve the LORD. We talked about this some over the last couple weeks and these three really do blend and merge together.
Paul says to serve the LORD. And we are to do it with all our mind, soul and strength. We are to use the gifts and talents that God gave us, and use them with passion to serve him. There is a key distinction I want to point out here. We are not called to follow our passions, or to use our passions. We are to use our gifts WITH passion.
One of the biggest meta narratives in our culture today is that of follow your heart, find what your passion is, do what makes you happy. This is simply and clearly anti biblical. Of course Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9), but we also are born with a natural, human sin nature. What we want and we desire is not what Paul says in verse 9. He says to abhor evil and cling to what is good. Look at the world around us. Remember if you can, who you were before christ. We abhor what the Bible says is good and cling to what the Bible says is evil.
Our passion is for ourselves and our benefit and our glory, our comfort. The things that we place ahead of God. Instead Christ says to follow him. Do what he tells you to. The gifts and talents, the job that he calls you to might not be what you are passionate about. That doesn’t matter.
Mike Rowe, who hosted the TV show, Dirty Jobs, gave a commencement speech in 2016 and, without knowing it, made this Biblical point, while giving advice to graduates. He advised them not to follow their dreams, their passions, but to follow opportunity. He talked about one guy, who started a septic tank cleaning business. This guy made himself into a millionaire by doing this dirty job. When asked about the how and the why, he said, “I looked around to see where everyone else was headed and I went the opposite way. Then I got good at my work. Then I began to prosper. The one day, I realized I was passionate about other people s crap.”
The principle there is what I want to focus on. You wont always be called to do what your passionate about. But if you submit to the Holy Spirit, do what you are called to do and do it joyfully, with the right heart, you will develop a passion for it.
If you would have talked to me 10 years ago, you would not recognize me. I was a newer Christian. I had almost not graduated High School because of the senior speech I needed to do, almost didn’t do and did so poorly at. I broke out in shakes and sweat speaking to more than 2 or 3 people at a time. As I was trying to figure out what God had for me, the one thing I knew was that it wasnt going to be a preaching or teaching position. God loved me too much to put me through that. He would use me in some behind the scenes way. He would use me somewhere where I didn’t have to be known or pointed out or in front of anybody. And yet, I am following Gods call and did, and still does sometimes, scare the living daylights out of me, I have developed a passion for sharing the truths of the Gospel to people, whether it be one on one or to small groups or to an entire congregation like now. I still get nervous and sweaty every time I get up here, but God has grown the passion and zeal inside of me so that there is no option of saying no.
And yes, some of you, in how God calls you to serve him, it will have been your passion before as well. But for most of us, the passion will follow the obedience instead of the other way around.
Next, number 9, Paul says that we are to rejoice in Hope! This is not the first time he has said this in this letter either. Earlier on, in Romans 5:1&2, he goes into more detail, writing:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God.
Our hope is in the grace of God alone. Which is obtained by faith alone. Our faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross alone. It is in that, It is in the promise that God made us regarding his grace, our faith and the free gift of salvation that we rejoice.
The writer of Hebrews assures of the promise of God, writing in chapter 10, verse 36, For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. We will receive what God has promised. That is guaranteed. What is promised is based on the aforementioned faith. When we the gift of faith (Eph 2:8) we have secured the promise.
Biblical hope is not the same as how we use the word in English today. Hope, as used in the bible is defined as to wait for salvation with joy and full confidence (www.blbclassic.org)
It’s not that I hope the rain will start, or that I hope the kids behave, or that I hope we have steak for dinner. It is a hope that is already paid for, that is promised by the one who can make those promises and guarantee his faithfulness in keeping them. It is a hope that is seeing its fulfillment even though we have not yet obtained it. But rejoice in that hope, and we rejoice with full confidence.
And that’s what allows us to do the next in this list, number 10, to be patient in tribulation. We know that, despite the hope and promises that we have, that we are still living in fallen world full of sin. We know that one day, all this will pass away, that all things will become new again. When Jesus Christ comes back, the scriptures say that this world will pass away and the new heaven and new earth will come down. In that new world there will no more sin.
But sin is here and sin is now. There are trials and tribulations. And they are real. Nothing the scriptures say is meant to lessen the pain that we feel as we go through, or to negate the difficulty of the tribulations we will feel. But because of the hope we rejoice in, because of the promise, we can be patient in tribulation. James 5:7&8, he writes:
Be patient, therefore, brothers,[a] until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
The other part, what scripture does make clear is there is reason and purpose to the things that we go through. God is in control and he has every speck of dust, every moment in history, every event, every hair on our head under his true and good and sovereign control.
James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds. James makes it clear that we will meet trials. There is no getting around that and not all circumstances warrant praise. But because of the hope that we rejoice in, we do count it all joy. We praise him in the storm, and we remember what Gods Word says.
Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verse 17 &18: Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Paul was telling them that no matter what happened to him, no matter if he was put death, no matter what, he was doing and going through what God had determined for him and he was proud to be of service to the LORD. And for that same reason, we should rejoice with him. Paul says later in the same letter, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Phil 4:4)
The writer of Hebrews also makes it clear some of the reasons that we go through some of the things that we do. Some of it is to grow us, to sanctify us. Proverbs tells us that Iron sharpens Iron. (Proverbs 27:17) Our human sin nature means that we don’t change unless we need to. Thats a part of the reason that the Holy Spirit needs to change our hearts, because we can’t and wont on our own.
And so God puts us through some of these things to grow us into the people that he has for us to be. Hebrews 12 talks about the discipline that comes from God. If you read that chapter, that word discipline can be applied two ways.
Discipline can be the negative consequences of decisions we make and actions we take. But it is also in the form of being disciplined. Being trained and disciplined to do whats right and to do the things that God has for us. We go through these trials and tribulations and we are patient with them, knowing that God has a plan.
One of the ways that we are able to stay patient through tribulations is number 11, Be constant in prayer. Prayer is a vital part of our spiritual life. It can take the form of formal, group prayer, like we do here multiple times throughout the service, but it is also what we do all day every day. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians that we are to Pray without Ceasing.
One of the problems, as Paul wrote in Romans 8, he says in verse 26, For we do not know what to pray for as we ought. So we do what we can. We throw little prayers up throughout the day, what ever come into our minds. We spend intentional and specific time in pray, lifting up petitions, praising God, letting him know whats going on in our lives, whats on our hearts and minds. Prayer is us communicating with God. It’s what grows our relationship with him. The Bible is Gods way of talking to us, and prayer is our way of talking to God.
And because we do not know what to pray for as we ought, Jesus gave us a prime example of how to pray. In Matthew 6:7-15, he tells his followers:
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.[d]
Best advice I can give you in regards to prayer is to just do it. Whatever comes into your mind. Whatever is on your heart. Pray the words of God right back to him, pray the scriptures. In all things, what ever you pray, pray without ceasing and be constant in prayer.
Number 12, Paul says to Contribute to the needs of the saints. We are a family. If one of is struggling, if one of us is suffering, if one f us is going through things, we need to come together and help. In Galatians 6:2, Paul tells us to Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
This, of course, ties directly into what we looked at last week, to love each other with sincere love. And we need to be open with each other about our struggles and sufferings. If we need help, we need to ask. And if we see that someone needs help, we need to act.
Jesus tells us the two greatest commandments. In Mark 12, starting in verse 29, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We love our neighbor as ourself. We love each other with sincere love. We show the love of Christ with each other. We use our gifts to serve each other as the body of Christ. Hebrews 13:16, Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
This isn’t just about material goods either, as is the easiest way to think about it. We share what we have. WE have much to share. We have our gifts and talents to share. We have opinions and insight to share. We have knowledge and experience to share. We have love and, maybe the thing that costs the most, we have time & our lives to share.
Lastly, number 13, Paul tells us, Seek to show Hospitality. Hospitality as the Bible uses it is showing love to strangers. This, again, can mean many things based on the context of our interaction with people and what their needs are. It depends on the context of what we have to give, as we just talked about. Strangers can be anyone we meet on the street. It can be visitors that come in here Sunday mornings. It can be anyone and everyone.
Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-40:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’
Hospitality is of course, at the same time, both incredibly simple and can be complicated, mostly in discerning what it means right then and there. The simple part, be loving, welcoming, treat all with the dignity and respect that comes with being made in Gods image. (Gen 1:27) Showing the love to strangers.
The hard part is what knowing or seeing what is needed to be loving, welcoming at the moment or to that individual. Is it food, is it visiting, is it encouragement, is it a smile? What is it? Only way to know is to start with the simple and discern what comes from that.
As Paul listed these 13 things, these ways that we can show love to each other and to show that we love Christ, he isnt just listing a check list of things we need to do. Instead he is again focusing on what should be pouring out of us when God gets ahold of our hearts. Paul tells us that faith, hope and love are the Good things God gave us. And the greatest is love. (1 Cor 13:13)
This list here and what Paul is going to continue to write, it’s not just what we are supposed to do, it’s what love looks like. What true biblical love, love that God defines, what that love looks like. And is what we need ot be continually challenging ourselves with. Are we listening to Gods Word? Are we showing His love? Are growing and progressing? Has the grace of God, received through faith alone in Christ alone overtaken us and as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, does the love of Christ control us?
God has given us this list for a reason and we need to make sure that we are listening to him.
Living the Christian Life
(Editors Note: I have been creating a bulletin insert recently, listing the scripture references that I use in the sermon that morning. Its kind of a quick, Go-to guide that you can either refer back to or follow along with. I am going to try to add it to the manuscript as it gets posted moving forward. My ultimate Hope is that it comes through as the podcast notes on iTunes and is a usable resource here on the blog.)
1 John 4:19
1 Timothy 1:5
1 Thessalonians 5:21&22
1 Peter 4:8
Good Morning! Go ahead and grab your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 12. If you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.
We continue through the section of Romans this morning where Paul is teaching, or commanding on the practical living out of the theological truths he has laid out in Romans chapters 1-11.
And Paul makes a few things clear as he goes into this section of his letter. First, in the first two verse, he shows that the application of what we read earlier in the letter can only come with a transformed heart and mind, which can only be given by God. Second, as we looked at last week, that the basis for all of our actions, all of our works, all of our life that we are living for God should be based on love.
And so in verses 3-8, which we looked at last week, Paul showed how we should be serving and using our gifts to love God, love the Church and to love one another.
And then here in the 5 verses we will look at this morning, Paul gives, kind of a bullet point list of things that we are to do in showing our transformed hearts and love for God.
Lets go ahead and read Romans 12, verses 9-13. I will be reading out of the English Standard version. Paul writes:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[g] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
These here are 13 commands that Paul gives to true believers. These are d-signs, or fruit that show the transformed heart that God has given us. And that leads to something I want us to remember. We cannot expect people who don’t know God, who don’t know his commands, who don’t have a transformed heart to show the signs the Paul lays out here of a person who is a follower of Christ.
The standard in regards to judgment is the same, don’t get me wrong. We will all be judged by the same standard. However, Paul talks in Romans 7, how he would not have know what sin was if he had not known the law. We cannot meet someone and expect that they will be following the law if they do not know the law or if they do not know the one who is the reason to follow the law. Instead, what we need to do is show them what the law is, why it needs to be followed and who is the reason for following it. As we remind ourselves each and every week, we follow the law, not to earn salvation, not to show that we are a good person. We cannot follow the law enough to do either of those things. Instead we follow the law because we have been delivered from the consequences of not following the law and we have had grace and mercy poured out on us. Jesus tells us, If you love me, follow my commands. (John 14:15)
And so what Paul lists here are 13 physical, visible evidences of what true saving faith looks like. He gives a list, a very different list, but with the same baseline idea, in Galatians 5. There, he lists the fruit of the spirit. The list there is more characteristics or qualities that we will see progression with when we are walking and growing with the spirit. This list here in Romans 12 is more of the activities and actions that we can look and see progress as we walk and grow with the Holy Spirit.
And again, Paul has given us, like an addition problem, how we get to these actions. We have the Why we need to be saved, plus who it is that saves us, plus how we are saved, equals what we do after we are saved. Good, clear Biblical theology necessarily leads to good, clear biblical application. Remember what James says in his letter, that so-called faith, if not accompanied by physical evidence of that faith, what he calls works, then it is truly no faith at all. That faith is dead. (James 2:14-26)
So we are going to briefly look at these 13 things Paul lists and make sure we understand what is expected of us as followers of Christ.
First, Let Love Be Genuine. The NASB translates it, Let Love be without hypocrisy. And the greek uses the root word from which we get hypocrite. Originally, it was used for actors who would wear masks for their different roles and the parts they play. The point is that we should not be playing a role. We should not “act” loving towards one another, but actually love them. Let your love be sincere. Not superficial.
Casting Crowns have a song called, Stained Glass Masquerade. The point of the song is that there is a church culture that is killing us. We come in, and we put up walls and we fake our way through, hiding our love, hiding our pain, hiding our lives. We ask, “How are you doing?” and we don’t listen to the answer. Our someone asks us, “How are you?” and, no matter what we are going through, no matter how we are feeling, no matter the truth, we say, “Fine.” Dont be Fine. “Fine,” is an answer that kills relationships, kills families and would eventually kill a church. Don’t be fine, be honest and open.
Pour into each other so that they are willing and feel safe to open up and be honest. Be honest and sincere first, so that others see and can reciprocate. We are here as a family, One body in Christ. We are not a social club or a gathering of strangers. We are a family. We are to love God and love each other God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) They will know we are Christians by our love. (John 13:35)
Heres the other thing. People, each and every one of us, its incredibly difficult to see the hypocrisy in our own hearts and in our own actions. But we can see it in others very easily. And they can see it in us. If our love is not true and sincere, people will know. Either the person we are interacting with, or the people observing us, or, more likely, both. That kind of fake love is what causes people to not want to come to church. That idea that we need to be all buttoned up, that we need to be on top of out game to come to church. And if not then we need to look the part, act the role.
It also affects more than our personal interactions with each other. If we, purposely or not, are putting out the message that we need to be ok in order to come in Sunday mornings, that expands outward to another wrong idea. This idea that goes around in our communities that we need to clean ourselves up in order for God to accept us and to love us. People think this because that’s what they see from us.
Heres something we need to constantly remember, People who don’t know God get their ideas and beliefs about what God is like and what he expects by watching those of us who say we know God. You ever wonder how culture, how TVs movies and such get such wrong impressions and ideas about what Christianity is, about what the Bible says and means? It’s because they watch us Christians and how we act and what we show them.
So People, if they see us showing insincere lover, if they see us showing conditional love, if they see us being fake with each other, they are going to assume that they will not be accepted or lived until they look just like us. This, again, is that idea that we all need to be the same. They will all look-alike, have the same personalities, same interests, same preferences, and all that. Its simply not true.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:5: The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Paul is going to re-emphasize this with a similar but different command in the next verse, saying to Love each other with brotherly affection. We will come back to the differences in those two similar sayings after finishing up verse 9.
But first, lets finish up this command. Paul’s point here is repeating commands from Jesus. During the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew chapter 5, verses 43-48, Jesus said:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
One of Jesus’ points throughout the Sermon on the Mount is that we, as Christians, as followers of Christ, we don’t get to take the easy way. We don’t get to be just like everyone else. We know that we are held to a standard, as we mentioned earlier, and we know it, unlike unbelievers who either do not realize or do not recognize the standard that they will be held to. And the common sense, human mind natural will of people is to love those who love you and hate those who hate you. Without the Holy Spirit renewing our mind, that just feels right and it is instinctive. But that’s not what we are called to and it’s not what Gods standard is.
Gods standard is to love even those who are not lovable. To love even those who are not worthy of love. To love even those who we can find no reason to love. Because, guess what? Thats what God did to us. We were not lovable. We were not worthy of love. There was no reason for him to love us. And yet, as Paul wrote earlier in this letter, Romans 5:8, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Let that love be genuine, without hypocrisy. Let us not just play a role, to act a part, to pretend to love But let it be genuine.
Now, command number two, continuing in verse 9, Paul says, abhor what is evil. This word, abhor, is an interesting word. It is defined as “to have a horror of,” or “to detest utterly.” Thats a very strong statement. God standard, his perfect standard, what he says is good. And not only good, but perfectly good. He sets that standard. And so what goes against or falls short of that standard is, by definition, not good. And not like it’s on a spectrum and it’s just not as good. It’s not good, there is no good in it. It is evil. And it is called sin. Anything that goes against what God says or falls short if his holy standard is sin. And God calls it evil.
Do you believe that about sin? About all sin? Do you abhor sin? Do you think it is all evil? Or is some sin, just sort of ok? Do you think of ALL sin as evil? Even YOUR sins? Even the little sins? Even the sins that you don’t think will hurt any one? Even the sins that you don’t think any one will find out about? Even the sins that you don’t think are sins? Even the sins that you justify?
It’s all still sin. And Its all evil.
RC Sproul, in his classic book, The Holiness of God, describes sin in this way:
“Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgement is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.”
Sin is evil. We are to abhor sin, to be horrified by it, to utterly detest it. Most especially, the sin that’s in us, the sins that we ourselves commit. Its real easy to hate the sins of others, especially if they are different sins than we struggle with. But its a lot harder to abhor the sins that we commit and struggle with. And even the sins of others, we don’t hate until God gets ahold if us. The last part of Romans 1 shows this. We are not going to read through it, except for 1 verse, verse 32, which reads: Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
The only way for us to understand the power and magnitude of sin, even little sin, or even what sin is, is for God to reveal it to us. Romans 1 also mentions that we all know the truth but we suppress it. God lifts the veil from our eyes and with a transformed heart, the Holy Spirit can reveal the truth of our sin to us and, as we grow in repentance and sanctification, we then grow in our hatred for sin and in our view of God grows higher. And the reverse is true too, as our view of God grows higher, our hatred and abhorrence for sin grows as well.
Third, as we detest utterly evil and sin, we Hold Fast to what is good, the last command in verse 9. The word in the King James is cleave to what is good, meaning to stick like adhesive tape, to be welded or cemented together.
Again, this is not simply to like good, or to enjoy good things, but to cling, to cleave, to be inseparable from that which is good. Paul writes to the church at Thessolonica, and tells them, but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
It is the absence of evil that is good. And the absence of good that is evil. And yet, good is such an ambiguous word, especially in English. But this is the word the Jesus used when he said, in Mark 10:18, No one is good except God alone.
God alone is Good. We are to cleave to, to cling fast to what is Good. So he hold fast to God, to Jesus Christ his son. He grab hold of him with all we have and learn from him, the one who is good, what is good.
And we have his recorded word to us to guide us. We are going through Psalm 119 in our scripture reading here in Sunday Mornings. We are a number of weeks away, but we will read in verse 105, the psalmist writes Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
We know what is good because God tells us. We have Gods Word. We have what he tells us. We have his good and perfect standard right here in our hands. As we grow in him, as we walk in Christ, we read his Word, we will grow in wisdom and knowledge. As we grow in Wisdom and knowledge, we will learn more about what is good and what is evil. We will learn what is sin and what is right. We will progress in learning about the theology and the application of the Bible.
Salvation comes through repentance and belief, that’s what faith is. The faith that is given to us by God through grace and received by the hearing of the Word. (Rom 10:17) Thats what salvation entails. Correct and perfect theology is not required for salvation. Immediately living a sinless and perfect life is, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, not required for salvation It would be if we did not have Jesus. But those things are not required for the moment of salvation ot occur.
The aftereffects of salvation however, will cause us to grow in those areas. We will learn more about what the truth of Gods Word says and means. To use an example I have used before; For me, I was saved and I still believed in evolution and whats called the Day Age Theory or gap theory. Those are two theories about the creation account in Genesis that try to reconcile the creation account with what todays science says is true. But as I grow, as I read the Bible, as I become sanctified and grow in wisdom and knowledge, I came to see and believe in 6 literal day creation account just as it is plainly read in Genesis 1. Is that required for you to become a Christian? No. Do I think it’s highly likely that, if you are a Christian for long enough, actively reading the bible and following God that you will come to see and believe this? I do.
The same goes for our life and our actions. Are we to immediately, upon salvation, to know everything we do that is sin and to immediately stop it cold turkey? God will convict you of your sin. Some of it he will do immediately, some may not happen immediately.
Now, I want to be careful here. Some things the Bible is crystal clear and very strong on. For example, if you are sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend, and you get saved, you need to stop that immediately. There is not grey area, there is no ambiguity there. Scripture is clear on sexual sin and the devastating effects that it will have. But again, using my experiences as an example. I was a smoker when I got saved. It was a number of years, three years , I think, before God convicted me to quit. Now, it’s also possible, likely probable that he was convicting me of that earlier and I was able to suppress it, but again, this shows the growth that we are to be having in our walks and in our lives over time with Jesus Christ and his word.
We grow in sanctification, we become purer and holier. As we grow, we learn more about our sins and we have a heart to sop sinning. We have a desire to hold fast to what is good, even when it goes against our natural desires and instincts. We become transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:8&9: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Keep your minds on the things of God. Learn the things of God. Practice the things of God. This is how you hold fast to what is good.
The last one we are going to look at this morning, is the one I mentioned earlier this morning. Number 4 in the list of evidences and commands of a Christian Life is to Love one another with brotherly affection.
As I said, this one especially touches on what we looked at a lot last week. And it sounds very similar to the first one we saw this morning, Let love be genuine. But this one is focused, not one how you and I treat and act towards everybody, but specifically how you and I treat and act to you and I. This is how we are to be with each other, our church family, fellow members of the body of Christ.
We are to pray for each other and with each other. This is vital to our body growing together. We are to serve each other and alongside each other. What better way to get to know someone than to work right along side them. We are to genuinely, sincerely and without hypocrisy, love each other. Hebrews 13:1 reads: Let brotherly love continue.
Again, I want to emphasize what this does not mean. This does not mean that we are all going to be best friends. You can love people with out be close friends with them. This does not mean that we will not end up doing something that will grate on or hurt someone else in here. Unfortunately, due to sin in this world, that’s inevitable. This does not mean that we will or even should have the same talents, callings or personalities. We are all different.
But we who are in christ are one family, one body. And We are to go out of our way to make things right with each other if we happen to sin against another, or even if we didn’t but we hurt someone anyway. Remember Jesus says that we are to leave our offering on the altar and go and make amends with our brothers before coming back and continuing our offering.
Sometimes, sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if you were right in your words or actions or if the other person is right in their hurt. We will get into this a little more later in this chapter, but Pul says in this chapter, Romans 12, verse 18: If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Now, this is not the immediate context of verse 18, but it does fit together. And in this context, we should be doing more than living peaceably with each other. We should be actively making things right, treating each other as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 1 Peter 4:8, Peter writes: Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
If we all are quick to forgive and even quicker to apologize, then we will treat each other as family, loving each other with brotherly affection. We will actually touch quickly on the last phrase in verse 10, command number 5. Paul says to Out do one another with honor. And this could easily be combined with “love one another with brotherly affection,” But again, tis just a slightly different angle.
Paul writes in Philippians 2:3, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Jesus was much more than this, but he was also our example. He told his disciples in Matthew 20:28 that he did not come to be served, but to serve. And that’s how we are to show love to each other. And that’s Paul’s big point in all of this. Love. And not just feeling love, but acting on it. And not acting a role, but with genuineness and sincerity.
Ligon Duncan sums these two verses up this way:
Paul is interested in showing you what Christian love looks like in order to move you to display that kind of Christian love. Not simply to stand back and admire, “Oh, that’s what love looks like,” and not only simple to aspire to it, “I’d like to be like that some day,” but actually to act that way, especially in the context of the church, the communion of the saints.
Gifts of God’s Grace
Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and open them to Romans chapter 12. If you do not have a Bible, please help yourself to a Bible from the back table there as our gift to you. One of our convictions here at Bangor Community Church is to get the Bible , Gods Word in to as many hands as possible.
Romans chapter 12 marks a change in tone, a change in direction of what Paul is writing in this letter. He has focused, mostly, in the first 11 chapters on why we need saving, (All have sinned, Romans 3:23), who does the saving, (Christ alone, Romans 6:23) and how we are saved, (by grace through faith, through the hearing of the Word, Romans 10:17). Now Paul shifts a bit and focuses on what we do, how we act and how we live AFTER we are saved.
I was talking to a friend this week. He was struggling with something and he asked me for some scripture. I recommended a portion of this beginning section in Romans chapter 12. He read it and made me so proud when we wrote this back to me. He said: “But then, because context, I read all of Romans 12, and that is like a step action plan for being a good Christian.” Ahhh, context. And he is right of course.
For the most part, the rest of Paul’s letter to the Romans is the practical, everyday living, how to guide for living a Christian life. But its important to remember the context as well, both immediate and big picture. As we get ready to look at Romans 12:3-8, I’m going to read it with verses 1& 2 as well, because its important to remember the immediacy of what Paul is writing. No scripture exists in a vacuum.
So without further ado, lets read the text this morning. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, Romans 12, and reading verses 1-8. Paul writes:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members,[e] and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,[f] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Paul lays out a lot here, but real quick, I want to emphasis that Paul doesn’t just put his letters into two parts; Theology and Application. Instead, He puts them in that order on purpose. Because one flows from another. Paul is saying that the Christian life is dependent on the great Christian doctrines.” (Morris) A changed heart, changed from stone to flesh by the Holy Spirit is the only way that we can do the things that Paul is telling us about.
John the Baptist told his followers in John 3:27, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” Paul was quite clear earlier in Romans that this included our changed heart. This includes the renewal by the transforming of our mind mentioned in v 2. Paul is showing us in verse 3 that his entire ministry, but in and of itself, but also because of the change that had to occur in him, his entire ministry is due to Gods grace. And from that, all that he is going to be talking about going forward is due fully and solely to Gods grace.
Paul’s words to us in this letter and his others that we have collected in the Bible are given to us by the grace of God; inspired, inerrant and sufficient. And it its interesting to me that we start this section, by guidance from the Holy Spirit, where Paul, by guidance from the Holy Spirit, talks about the practical how to, he talks about things that we either should already be doing or need to start doing and we come upon this at the beginning of a new year when many people are trying to reset, where many people make resolutions, where we are focused on what we can do better in 2019 than we did in 2018.
And Paul starts that off with looking to God, his grace and his mercy. From that, he challenges us and the first one is pretty difficult. V 3, he writes to each of us, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
The focus here is that none of us are better than any of the others. Thats hard to admit sometimes. None of us are better than those sitting around us. None of us are better than those who are not here. Especially in the context of what Paul has established. We didnt and can’t do anything to merit, to warrant or to get Gods grace and mercy.
Paul established early on in chapter 1 (18-32) of Romans, what our natural sinful condition is without Christ. In chapter 2, (v 11) he says, God shows no partiality. Chapter 3 (v23) he makes it clear that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And as we have seen emphasized over the last couple of chapters, we also see that no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no matter your sins, your previous lifestyle, your ethnicity, your race, your social and economic standing, that all who repent and believe the Gospel are welcomed and adopted into Gods Family.
We also see Paul writing to the Ephesians (2:1-10) that one of the points of grace and salvation being a free gift is so that no one may boast, or using the language here in Romans, the point is so that we may not think too highly of ourselves.
And so, don’t think too highly of your self. Look with sober judgment. Think with clear thought. You are no better than I. You are no better than the person sitting next to you. You are no better than the person sitting at a bar right now, or a strip club, or even one working in them. Neither am I. I’m not better than anyone. I don’t deserve anything that God has gifted me with and none of the rest of us do either. We have all sinned, all committed cosmic treason against the universal, all-knowing, all-powerful, Holy God. None of us deserve anything other than eternity of Gods wrath being poured out on us.
But that’s not the only side to this. But think with sober judgment. What else does the Bible say about you. You are an image bearer of God. (Gen 1:27) There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1) You are a forgiven sinner (1 John 1:9) You are an adopted son (or daughter) of God (Galatians 2:26). You are being conformed in to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). You are a saint (1 Corinthians 1:2) and God loved you enough that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16).
So we think with sober judgment. We are no better than each other. Do not think of yourself as higher than you ought. And to back this up and to give a practical example, Paul start talking about some of the gifts in the church. And remember, he is talking about these gifts and the body of Christ in the context of humility and thinking soberly.
There is one body of Christ. That is the Church. There are many members of that body. Each and every one of us individually who are in Christ. There is one body and many body parts, each with various and different gifts and purposes. We are different. We are not uniform. We are not Stepford. We are not all the same. Even in this room, how many different spiritual and religious backgrounds? How many different ethnicities within our blood? How many different careers and economic background and situations?
We are not all the same. God likes diversity. He is a creative God. But though we are all different in just about every way possible. We are all one under the cross of Jesus Christ. We are all different members of this one body. We are all vital to the cause of a mission of the body. None of us earned our spot, but we were all chosen, and all for different reasons and purposes.
And Paul says so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. We have a responsibility to each other. We have a responsibility to use the gifts we have. We have a responsibility to serve the church and each other. We have a responsibility not to do what someone else is gifted in and we are not. We have a responsibility to show grace to each other just as God showed grace to us.
John Wesley said that “Gifts are many, grace is one.” And the gifts that we are given and have a responsibility to use are given for the purpose of helping the body of Christ, the Church, helping it function the way God desires. And they are given and are to be used, not to promote ourselves, because again, as Paul writes in Philippians 2:3, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Using whatever gifts we were given by God is one of the ways that we can show love to each other and how we can show love to God. AS I was preparing this sermon, it dawned on me that the 5 Love Languages might be a good analogy here. DO you know what those are?
It was from a gentleman named Gary Chapman and he wrote a book, appropriately named, The 5 Love Languages. And what it is, essentially is that each of us naturally show love to those around us in certain ways. We tend to do it in one of the 5 ways. These 5 Love Languages are Words of Affirmation, Service, Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Each of us is stronger at showing love to others in one of those ways. But that’s not always the same way that you receive love the best. If you, for example, receive love, if you feel loved if someone spends quality time with you, but someone else, shows love the best by giving words of affirmation, then you both need to work on that.
These things are extremely helpful if you are able to recognize which ways you show love and receive love. And it’s also helpful to get to know those around you enough to know how they show and receive love.
God has given us gifts to use to show love to each other and to God Himself. We show love to God by obeying his commands and following what he tells us. (1 John 5:3) And so, we show our love to God, in one way, by using our gifts that he gave and using them for the purposes that he gave them to us for.
And we use our gifts to love each other around us as well. And in so doing, we need to be sober-minded and clear thinking about not only our own gifts, but on what each others gifts both are and are not.
We have to be careful not to assign to much to certain people. We have to be careful not to assume that some have a certain gifting because they have another gifting. Our human brains like to catalog and categorize what we see as similar things and put them together. Lets use preaching and teaching as an example. In our human minds, those are tied together. If you have one, you will have the other. And often, if you have the gift of preaching, you will also have the gift of teaching. But not always, and not necessarily so. We have to be careful not to assume because one has one gift, that they automatically have another that is closely related. If we make those assumptions and we are wrong, we fail to love that person and we put them, not in a position to do good for God and the Body of Christ, but they will actually do harm. Be sober-minded about your own gifts and about the gifts of those around us as well.
But the other thing that we see Paul saying here, in some of his language, is that, while we are to be sober-minded about our gifts, we should grab hold of them and embrace them, dive in whole heartedly.
Generosity, Zeal, Cheerfulness. According to your faith. Now, I don’t think that term is in reference to the amount of faith that you have, as it can be read. It’s possible it could refer to the ever-growing, deepening of our faith, our continual growth whereby we grow from infants feeding on milk and we mature to feeding on meat. Thats possible, but I think it refers to just our faith. Use your gift according to you faith. If you have faith, then use the gift God gave you in his grace and mercy. If you believe, use your gifts. Thats how I read that phrase.
And we see too, that using our gifts is, in fact, one of the ways that we present ourselves as living sacrifices (12:2) We live out his will for us. This is his perfect will.
And that takes discerning, both figuring out our gifts and how to use them and figuring our Gods Will. But his will is that we figure it out and we use them.
I want you to notice that this list of gifts here are not an exhaustive list. There are numerous lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament and none of them are exhaustive. They, just like all the rest of scripture need to be looked at in context.
Paul is laying out how we work and live together in humility, in love and in unity. And he tells us to do it all the way. The principle he is laying out here is the same as he mentions in 2 Corinthians, that God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
How you discern your gifts, how you discern how to use them, what attitude and personality you use them with, these are marks of spiritual growth and of sanctification. The point of this passage here, what Paul is writing, is not to make you ask what your spiritual gift is, though that is something that you need to be considering.
The point of this passage, instead is to pursue love, humility and unity. The point of this passage is serve others and to serve the church. The point of this passage is to serve God, with all your soul strength and mind (Luke 10:27).
It is with those motivations, those desires, it is by doing that that God will reveal your gifts and that you will find what it is that God has given you. You may or may not consciously realize what they are. Sooner or later, growing in Christ and growing in sanctification, whether you realize it or not, you will be using your gifts.
You may not know what your gifts are and still might be already using them. There was one lady I knew, she was constantly worried because she didn’t know what her gifting was. She was worried that she was not doing what God had for her. She was worried she wasnt obeying God. But she was. She was serving the church and she was decorating, she was crafting, she was making gifts, organizing the potlucks. She contributed in generosity and she served according to the faith God graced her with. You may not now what your gifts are, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t already serving in the way that God has called you.
Hers the bottom line in what Paul is writing here. Give your all to God. Serve him and his church in what ever way you can. It is your spiritual worship. Do it for the right reasons. Do it for God, giving yourself as a living sacrifice. Do it with humility and compassion, with a transformed mind. Try different methods of service, different areas. Not all will pan out, but it will help discern the will of God for you. And lastly, remember, always and foremost;
It’s all given by God, by the grace of God, by the mercies of God. It’s all from him. Not one of us, not one of our gifts are above another. And we do all that we do in pursuance of love and unity.
The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we come together to celebrate that unity. To pursue by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.