I hate shopping for groceries, I really do! There are too many choices. I don’t feel confident when I shop that I will pick the right brand, the right size and get it at the right price. Honestly, shopping is my wife Dottie’s domain.
If she sends me to get something at the store, I have to remind her that I am not native to that environment. I don’t intuitively know where the cheaper nuts can be found on the inner racks of the store, so I will probably buy the more accessible (and more expensive) ones from the obvious end cap rack next to the fresh fruits and veggies. I know they have another shelf somewhere with them, but I don’t know where it is, and I don’t want to waste a half hour searching for it. I will just buy the more expensive and console myself at the amount of time I saved doing it
My chief problem when I am charged with shopping is that I have to think like Dottie if I am to have any hope of choosing the right things. I have to ask “Which of these would Dottie buy in all these choices?” I have to search my mind for the few times I may have paid any attention at all to the brand of the item that she normally brings home.
The fact is, I am not buying these things for myself – I am bringing home what I buy – and the choices will be inspected. I don’t mind shopping for tools, because I don’t have this problem. She doesn’t care what tool I buy, as long as it helps me more rapidly complete the list of repairs she wants done.
Here’s my point: When you are making choices for someone else, you have to learn to think like them. You have to see with their eyes, and learn to perceive what they value. You have to choose with the knowledge that your choice will be judged as adequate or lacking. This isn’t a silly story of an inept Pastor trying to pick up a few groceries, there is a spiritual principle to consider…
One of the easiest things to say as a Christian, but hardest things to do is to really surrender my daily choices to my Savior.
In a culture that prizes personal freedoms and individual choices, it is quite easy to forget that surrender is not an optional aspect of our faith; it is at the very heart of it. My choices will, one day, be inspected by Jesus as I watch. I am not ignorant of the fact that even now, I am to make each with HIS DESIRES first in mind.
In fact, in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul told openly mentioned that Jesus would measure our choices, when he wrote (writing to believers):
2 Corinthians 5: 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
The word “bad” is the common Greek word for “worthless.” Paul suggests that we will have things in our lives that are worthless, even though we chose them and cherished them.
Let me ask you something. If Paul really believed that, what do you suppose drove his daily choices? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess. He reviewed his decision-making priority with some simple but penetrating words from the same chapter. Listen to what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:
2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf… 20b “… we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Paul began by saying Jesus’ love controls him, and therefore his choices. He responds in his choices to knowing the love of Jesus. As a result, his choices reflected Jesus’ character, the Savior’s chief passion and His most excellent joy. Paul was a CONTROLLED man – and it was by his choice the surrender of control became real.
Why did he give up making choices solely on the basis of what he felt, what pleased him and what he thought would gain him personally? The end of verse fourteen explained that Jesus died for all and in response each of us must die to self for Him. In case that was a bit cryptic, look very closely at the simple wording of 2 Corinthians 5:15:
“He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again…”
Did you catch those words? Jesus died for me, and His expectation is that I would fully comprehend that as a follower of Him, my choices are NOT MY OWN. Let’s say it this way:
Key Principle: When it is all said and done, our salvation is “lived out” in choices surrendered to Jesus’ direction and approval.
With that in mind, flip back for a moment to Romans 12 as we continue our study.
As you may recall, the Roman Epistle was designed to answer five big questions:
What happened to mankind? Why is sin rampant and why is the world full of troubles. Paul answered with essentially one word: mutiny. Man’s rebellion caused his troubles (cp. Romans 1-3).
What did God do about man’s rebellious and languishing state? The second question was answered by a single word as well: gift. God gave His Son to remedy sin’s hold on man (cp. Romans 4-5).
How can I cast off sin’s hold on my life as a follower of Jesus? Through Paul’s quill, God instructed Jesus followers that the prison doors of sinful behavior have been unlocked by God, and we can be free to walk in God’s Spirit (cp. Romans 6-8).
Is God really trustworthy in keeping His promises? A large part of the Epistle deals specifically with the history of God and His promises to Israel, as a case study in Hi trustworthiness (cp. Romans 9-11).
What should a healthy walk with Jesus look like in practical and daily lifestyle? This is the section we begin in our study today.
Walking back into the dialogue of Romans 12, we looked last time at three statements that Paul made to set the stage for walking in health. We noted:
• A healthy Christian regularly seeks a heart inspection by Jesus (12:1). His intense gaze helps me remember that I need to be careful how I allow my heart to entertain itself.
• Second, we learned that a healthy Christian learns to think differently than the fallen world from which they emerge (12:2). It is easy to get pressed into the mold the world tries to impose when it comes to moral thinking and values systems.
• Third, a healthy Christian thinks accurately about self (12:3). We may be tempted, because we have a relationship with God, to think WE are more than others around us. We aren’t – HE is.
• Fourth, a healthy Christian recognizes the value of others in the body and tries to get connected to them (12:4-5).
• Fifth, a healthy Christian desires to understand and operate in their gifting, using it to the fullest for the body’s good (12:6-8).
Let’s move on with our list from this chapter in today’s lesson… Go to verse 9 and pick up reading where we left off last time.
Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Sixth, a healthy Christian knows how to treat people in a God honoring way (12:9-20).
In short order, Paul offers a whole list of practical ways we can treat each other in a godly way.
He began his list in Romans 12:9:
Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy.
First, he said, our surrendered choice of ceding life to the goals of Jesus should be seen in HOW WE LOVE PEOPLE. That is where the life turn of surrender meets the road of life. The term an-ypókritos simply means “not phony” or “put on, describing sincere and authentic love free from hidden agendas and selfish motives.
Don’t you get tired of all the phony pitches you hear in a week? Between advertisers and a flood of heavily editorialized “news” accounts, it get sickening trying to get to the truth. You watch your boss talk to a customer one way to their face, and use the opposite terms behind their back. You really like your neighbor, but you have learned she is a gossip peddler in spite of the fact that she seems to be nice face to face.
God starts His control in our lives with a demand for authentic relationship. Stop faking it.
People in the world are desperate to encounter an authentically loving person today. Since the days of “How to win friends and influence people” (Dale Carnegie) salesmen have feigned care for us – when they honestly wanted to profit from us.
I believe AUTHENTICITY is one of the greatest gifts you can develop in yourself for other people.
It truly seems to me that we are tempted to put on a mask because of some very basic fears:
• We fear that people will be able to peer inside us and expose the truth about who we are – with all our faults, foibles and failures.
• We fear when we are exposed for who we truly are, people will reject us and walk away because we aren’t as good as they thought before.
• We fear we will face intense pain and hurt out of that rejection.
All three fears drive us to a hidden hypocrisy. Paul said love – but make it AUTHENTIC love. Stop faking it.
If you don’t care as you should, it isn’t a personality flaw; it is SIN. Ask God to help you deal with your cold heart toward other people.
Next, Paul said:
Romans 12:9b “…Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
“Abhor” is actually the term apos-toog-eh’-o, which is to detest, and the term for “evil” is ponērós, which is an unusual word derived from the term for “pains of arduous labor.” The idea isn’t just “doing bad things” as it seems to be the inevitable agonies and miseries that accompany evil. In an ethical sense the words mean “Shun evil, that brings miseries in the results.”
Think about that! Do you recall a moment in your life when you KNEW what you were choosing was WRONG – but you did it anyway? Do you recall thinking, “But that will hurt so and so” but that didn’t stop your desire for momentary satisfaction? Did you ever say something to deliberately hurt another because you were hurt?
Paul wrote: Detest selections in your choices that will bring misery to you and those around you. Just walk away… You can find that satisfaction without compromising values and hurting people in your life. You don’t need to cheat. You don’t have to lie. Don’t entertain your heart in these things, or the detesting will fade away.
We MUST grow to be REPULSED by the conniving behaviors that create pain.
Watch five movies about someone who cheats on their spouse, and you may well start to think it is normal. It may be, but in a fallen world, so is DEATH. Because it is common doesn’t mean you are going to really have a good experience. He continued…
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;
It is likely if we were honest, that some would get off the merry-go-round at this point. Our lives are busy. We have way too many commitments to come to church today and get a long list of people we should be devoted to. After all, some of them, no matter how you cut it, will take more from us than they could ever give back. C’mon Pastor, how am I supposed to take care of ME and still “be devoted” to this whole room of people?
That’s a fair question, albeit a rather blunt one! Let’s put the words in context.
First, they aren’t an opinion or an optional appeal. This is a command. We can obey it or not, but it is a command.
Second, remember 2 Corinthians 5:15? We weren’t saved to live for self, but to serve the interests and desires of the Savior. Paul commanded them to philó-storgos “Foster the special affection shared between family members!”
You can choose to try to be a church without family affection, but on the authority of the Word I will flatly tell you it will not work. A church that is healthy is filled with people who put others and their needs ahead of their own. Oh that we believed the verse enough to do it! Oh that we truly tried to foster a bond with one another that intentionally pushes past our petty differences and temporal fussiness! Paul was “on a roll” and kept pressing…
Romans 12:10b “…give preference to one another in honor;
How can I be devoted to the others in the body? I can pro-ēgéomai (from pró, “before” and hēgéomai, “lead to an important conclusion”). Put the idea together. We are to lead the way, modeling the right example of gracious and proper behavior, i.e. so others can follow the one “going first.”
We are to put others first with what the text calls “honor.” The word timḗ (from tiō, “accord due respect”) means we are to treat others with a true perceived value; we handle them as something precious. The text says we must put others ahead because we think they are worth so much to God, we don’t want to handle them improperly.
Love is about valuing others. Humility is about seeing them as of greater worth than your cherished opinion, your deep desire or your personal reputation. Don’t forget:
Love drove Jesus to spend time with people other religious leaders thought would ruin their reputation and waste their time.
God took time with people who were broken. Should I do less? Not according to the Word! Paul added more texture to these commands. He wrote about the quality of my labor in loving, helping and caring with these words:
Romans 12:11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
My caring, loving and serving is to be an energetic work,, not a resistant one. The word ok-nērós is from oknéō, “to delay”. I am to “get to it” and not dawdle. I must intentionally invite God to warm my heart toward people, so that I don’t “drag my feet” when it comes to showing love.I have to drop my reluctant attitude, and stop being secretly unwilling to act, protecting some kind of “spiritual disinterest” as a good thing.
Honestly, let me plead with you to put away the excuses about “I just didn’t grow up that way” or “my personality doesn’t express love.” Frankly, if I preach the truth, none of that matters. You live for Jesus. You serve Jesus. You do, as much as is within you, what He commands, what He desires, what He says. We don’t get a special pass because we had a dad who didn’t tell us he loved us – because we have a Heavenly Father that has made that point clear.
He told us to do something: serve without dragging our feet. Love with gusto and help with vigor.
We will never grow to be healthy is we try to avoid the exercise God prescribed… Let me remind you that Scripture makes the point that people with many problems are a gift to the church – not a problem. They are like the hill you climb to keep you fit. They force the church into learning and practicing being helpful.
At the same time, I am not licensing those who would perpetually need help because of their own laziness. There are other passages that address them as well.
What kind of people ought believers to be?
First, we aren’t just hopeful, we are noisy about hope. Paul offered this in Romans 12:12 “rejoicing in hope.”
We are to be a people of HOPE, an OPTIMISTIC bunch.
The word “rejoicing is “xaírō” and “favorably disposed, leaning towards” and its cognate is xáris, “grace.” We LEAN INTO the gift God gave us in this life – the gift of HOPE (certainty of a promised future). Hope is the word HOPE is elpís from the word “to anticipate or to be prepared to welcome.” This is a word for excited expectation of what is certain to follow. That is the chief reason verse twelve offers for the next phrase:
Romans 12:12b “…persevering in tribulation…
How can we endure times of throbbing pain or angry persecution? We do it with the anticipation that the same God who created clouds and stars, the God who sculpted canyons – He has a plan that goes beyond the now. We are excited at the anticipation of what will happen when time surrenders to eternity. How do we keep THAT perspective? Keep reading… We are to become a people…
Romans 12:12b “…devoted to prayer,
We actively, intentionally, moment by moment are trading our sorrows and fears with God’s peace and purposes by handing them to Him. We work at prayer. We lean on Him in prayer. We seek His face in prayer. When we leave the huddle and move into the world, we START by looking squarely at the needs of the team God can use us to meet. Paul went on and share that believers are:
Romans 12:13 contributing to the needs of the saints…
We are looking for ways to meet the needs of the others in the body. We WANT to SEEK their needs and meet them, not flee their needs and use the time for ourselves. One of those needs is OTHER PEOPLE. Paul reminds believers are:
Romans 12: 13b “…practicing hospitality.
Together they face hurt. Together they pray. Together they encourage one another. They don’t lash out, because they have the Spirit, the Word and the support of brothers and sisters. That is why they can:
Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
That is why they learn to:
Romans 12:5 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
That is how they maintain the unity of the Spirit and meet the words of this command:
Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
The key is that last phrase. Don’t be too important to care. You aren’t and I am not either. We need each other, and we prove we believe that when we take time for one another. Love will keep me looking for other’s needs. Humility will help me hold back “lashing out” when people do wrong to me. It will build respect for others and help me do what helps them. It will build peace between people. A humble spirit is the antithesis of a vengeful one. It feeds the hungry – even when they don’t deserve it.
Finally, a healthy Christian knows how to get beyond defense (12:21).
Let me finish the words of this chapter with one thought. There is endurance in the healthy.
Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Healthy, mature Jesus followers can take a punch without running to the corner and sobbing. Why?
First, they have resources. The others on the team are fast to rally and protect them when they are under attack. The Spirit of God will bolster them when they cry out to Him.
Second, they know that no injustice in this life has the final word. There is a future. It is certain. God knows what we face and He is prepared to wipe the tears from our eyes. He doesn’t promise to deliver us from the tears HERE, but He does promise to set things in order in the end.
Rejoice in that realization. Make noise about that hope! Let this life become Hi opportunity to direct your steps and walk with you all through the journey. Don’t resist Him. Don’t lead Him. Don’t try to bargain obedience. He wants to dance; but only if He leads.