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.