[Romans 12 presents the transition from the doctrine of salvation by grace to living by faith. Romans 12 begins with the plea to be a living sacrifice, a walking transformation from what you were as a servant of sin, to what you are because of your conversion. Last week began with the renewal of the mind, the attitudes of service that allows a common faith to bind us together in one body.
Without the renewing of your mind the gifts of the Holy Spirit cause Christians to become puffed up in their own conceit, worship their gifts to glorify themselves, instead of worshiping the Lord and glorifying him in the use of those gifts. Even the unredeemed expect that Christians should be different. The fact that they see so many professing Christians, who are not behaving Christians, may be the greatest hindrance to the gospel today.
I think a lot of people are nominal Christians, skeptics or even unbelievers; yet they all want to know what born again looks like. Last week we talked about the new attitudes of humility, unity, and diversity. This week we will look at the new behaviors that follow those new attitudes.
Behave Like a Christian
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
[Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hypocritical love makes a show, and then vanishes, because what it really loves is attention. Real love doesn't need attention it only needs opportunity to be expressed in actions that make a difference.
In the contemporary world we are told not to judge, to be tolerant of everything, sometimes they even invoke Jesus as an example of this behavior. But they forget that even when Jesus forgave he called for change, "go and sin no more". Abhor evil, this exact form of the Greek word is used only once in the Bible and it means to completely separate yourself from the things that defile you. And in contrast we are to firmly attach ourselves to the things which are good or godly.]
10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
[In terms of behavior these 4 verses are packed, but it is really one sentence and one continuous thought and that is how Christ's followers should love and show affection to each other.
I've always loved the old Christian practice of referring to each other as brother and sister; reinforcing the idea of a Christian family. Why this matters is that in this world we are strangers and pilgrims, but in the church we belong to God and to one another. What this looks like begins with honoring one another, pay attention to each other; don't come to church with a self-serving attitude but rather take delight in being together for God's glory.
The next we way show our love for each other is in service. Being diligent never lazy, not waiting for someone else to serve, or dreading your turn, but having a zeal or enthusiasm, a willing spirit for serving God and each other.
Verses 11-12 talk about what love looks like in times of trouble. The clear meaning is that when we face adversity, we are supposed to face it together with the love and help of our church family. Begin with hope, we know that no trial last forever but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this, so we don't act like hard times are the end of the world. Patience and prayer are the correct ways to respond to the difficulties of life.
But sometimes as we are praying we also need to add tangible physical help. It may be money or meals or visits. Sometimes younger couples need a night off from their kids, or someone older might need help cleaning their house. If we esteem each other highly and are humble ourselves, the other things should flow naturally. Finally hospitality, you can really encourage someone who is struggling by inviting them over for a meal and a time of fellowship, sadly sometimes it seems that hospitality is becoming rare in our culture.]
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
[This is a hard one for many people; even if we have a natural affection for God's elect we don't feel the same about those who treat us badly. I don't think this means only religious persecution, but can be applied to anyone who makes life difficult. Bless them don't ever curse people, but remember Jesus on the cross saying "father forgive them". Often people who abuse others have been abused themselves. You can be their epiphany of a better way in Christ when you refuse to return a curse for a curse.]
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
[Now some of you will see this a common sense but when you see someone crying you don't say "hey beautiful day isn't it". You need to sit down and find out what is troubling them. Likewise when someone is rejoicing over good news, take the time to rejoice with them. When we do this we make life richer for ourselves and for each other.
To be like-minded means living in harmony, not being contentious or easily drawn into conflict. Don't be too proud, understand the Jesus hung out with the humblest of the humble, the people that no one else would touch. Enjoy the company or ordinary people. And finally don't be wise in your own opinion. Some people are really quick to offer an opinion but far too slow to lend a hand.
So chapter 12 is all about living out the renewal of salvation; being a walking a talking object lesson of spiritual regeneration. In my opinion, this is what the world is waiting to see from those who claim the name of Jesus. Recently there was a story in the news that illustrated this point.]
By Jeff Schapiro , Christian Post Reporter
April 4, 2012|2:31 pm
A few months ago Patrick Greene was an atheist who was threatening to sue Henderson County, Texas, if the county didn't remove a Nativity scene from its courthouse lawn. Today he is a believer in Christ who underwent a radical change of heart that was catalyzed by the compassion of one Christian woman.
In late 2011, Greene joined the fight against a Nativity scene that had been set up outside the courthouse in the town of Athens, Texas, threatening to file a lawsuit over it. Shortly after he made his threat, however, he discovered that his ability to see was rapidly deteriorating and he would soon be blind, so he withdrew his threats and left the Nativity alone.
That's when Jessica Crye, a Christian woman from Athens, asked her pastor, Erick Graham of Sand Springs Baptist Church, if they could help Greene. As a result of her kindness, thousands of dollars in donations have gone toward helping Greene, who has reconsidered his view of God as a result.
"There's been one lingering thought in the back of my head my entire life, and it's one thought that I've never been able to reconcile, and that is the vast difference between all the animals and us," Greene told The Christian Post on Tuesday, as he began to explain his recent transformation from atheist to Christian. The theory of evolution didn't answer his questions, he says, so he just set those questions aside and didn't think about them anymore.
But when the Christians in a town that had reason to be angry with him showed him a gesture of love, he began reconsidering his beliefs altogether. He eventually began to realize that evolution would never have the answer to his questions, he says, and it was at that time he began to believe in God.
"I kind of realized that the questions I [was] asking you just had to accept on faith without doubting every period and every comma," he said. He later began studying the Bible, both the Old Testament and the Gospels, and also discovered his belief that Jesus is the Son of God.
- What is the difference between real love and hypocritical love?
- What should brotherly love look like in the church?
- How is a living renewal different from a social gospel?