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.