In the first 11 chapters of Romans the Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, presented a powerful body of work. A careful study of those chapters, combined with submission to God’s direction, equips the believer for the task of being a living sacrifice. Chapter 12 begins with a “therefore” clause. Anytime you are reading the Bible and you see the word “therefore” you need to ask yourself, “What is the word “therefore” there for? Ordinarily, and in this passage, the word means “since these things are true”. What things? Everything in Romans up until that time. So much for a quick study! Too often believers want to grab a few verses and call it Bible study. Friends we need to get into the word and let the Holy Spirit instruct us.
Since the preceding material is true —chapters 1-11-- we can offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. This is to be a dedication with our total purpose being living for God’s glory and honor. We are instructed to renew, or change, our minds. How do we do this? We meditate on the Word, spend time in prayer and praise and we begin the process. Based on those activities the Holy Spirit will become our day-to-day teacher. As Paul told Timothy, our goal is love flowing from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5).
The Spirit gifts listed in Romans 12:3-8 will influence our thinking and allow us to fit into the body of Christ as a useful member. We’re not going to take the time to go through this list right now. However we need to recognize that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are essential to spiritual growth.
I have often had people say to me something like, “I don’t have any gifts”! If a person is born again, having put their faith in the work of Christ on their behalf, the Holy Spirit has come to live in that believer. Anything God asks us to do He equips us to do! Why do I say this? We need to keep in the front of our mind every true believer has the Gift Giver resident within them. He will give the resources, or gifts, necessary to meet the need. We should recognize the Resident as the President of our lives!
What I want to do in this sermon is to pick up at Romans 12 verse 9 and consider what it means to be a real Christian. We certainly will not have time to go over all of the short exhortations Paul has laid out for us today. The list goes on through verse 21 and beyond. Over the next few weeks, whenever I preach, I will probably be working from this list.
Romans 12:9-13, 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, 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.
Since the Father has assigned us a measure of faith we are granted gifts to use for others. The spiritual gifts God gives are not intended to be consumed on ourselves. The qualities listed in the 12th chapter of Romans can, and should be, carried out by every believer. You do not have to be a miracle worker in order to please God or to be real in your faith. For example, Jesus once said that no one, up until that time, was greater than John the Baptist. Yet, it was said of him that, “John did no sign, (miracle) but everything John said about this man (Jesus) was true”!
All John had to do was speak the truth about Jesus. As result, every Christian believer can do the work that John the Baptist did.
Let’s start into the list and see how it works in our lives.
First, we are to love one another. Jesus put this in the form of a command, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). What is the meaning of loving one another? As you can see, it was the apostle John who remembered Jesus’ command. So let’s look at his little letter over in the back of your Bible to see what “love” means. I chose 1 John because the word “love” appears 46 times in 26 verses of the letter.
Turn to the book of first John we will walk through it beginning in the second chapter. Verse five tells us that the love of God is perfected by keeping his word. Verse 10 tells us that loving your brothers and sisters is evidence that you are walking in the light. Verse 15, tells us not to love the world or the things in the world if we do, the love of the Father is not in us.
Chapter 3 verse one, tells us the Father gives us His love by calling us the children of God. Verse 10 tells us, if a person is a child of God he will love his brother. Verse 11, adds that this is the message, “we should love one another”. Verse 14, loving our brothers and sisters is evidence that we have passed out of death into life. In verse 16 Jesus laid down his life for us giving us the supreme example of real love. We should lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Verse 17, God’s love is not in the person who fails to meet the needs of the household of faith! Verse 18, love is not what we say — it is what we do. Verse 23, if we believe in Christ we are to love one another.
Chapter 4, verse seven, God is the source of our love for one another and that love is evidence of our new birth. Verse eight, lack of love is evidence that one does not know God. Verse nine, God’s love is seen in his sending His Son into the world to give us life. Verse 10 the very definition of love is the fact that He sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. Verse 11, God’s love should inspire us to love one another. Verse 12, our love for one another is evidence of the existence of God. Verse 16, abiding in love is abiding in God and also evidence that God is abiding in us. Verse 17, love will give us confidence when we face the judgment. Verse 18, perfect love casts out all fear. Verse 19, his love for us teaches us how to love. Verse 20, hatred towards a brother or sister is evidence that the person who hates does not love God. Verse 21, love for God reflects the love we have for one another.
Chapter 5 verse 1, loving the Father is evidence we love those who have been born of Him. Verse 2, God’s love empowers us to keep His commandments.
For those who believe it is impossible to measure up. I hope Romans 6:14 gives you as much encouragement as it does me. Here it is, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
We participate in the process by following the admonition to refuse to let sin reign in our body — obeying its passions! (Romans 6:12).
The Bible tells us that there are pleasures in sin. However, we, like Moses, need to choose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (Hebrews 11:25).
By the way, for those who think the churches are filled with “good” people we need to look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Before you rush to judgment, realize that this is only a partial list of the evidences of sin in our lives. Also, realize that much of the list is made up of socially acceptable sin. Jesus pointed out, in the Sermon on the Mount, that anger is as guilty as murder and lust is simply adultery in the mind. (Matthew 5:21-30). You think of sin and are guilty. Not as much as when you act it out!
Back to Romans 12, we are told to detest evil. What does that mean? In the 97th Psalm verse 10, we are told, “O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”
Proverbs 8:13 speaks of wisdom, “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”
Here we find Old Testament examples. Those who love God must hate evil! And hatred of evil is truly the fear of the Lord! Of course, this hatred of evil is a reverential respect to choose love and righteousness and avoid evil.
In holding fast to the good we should remember the passage I read from 1 Corinthians 6:11. Although some of the Corinthians had, in the past, harbored all sorts of evil in their hearts that ended when they came to Christ. They were washed, they were sanctified and they were justified by the Spirit of God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rather than resenting other believers we are told to, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” These are Paul’s words to the Philippians found in chapter 2: 3-4. I love the word of God and the way it is consistently self-instructing and self-supporting. If you have trouble understanding a passage of Scripture and the immediate context does not solve the problem then ask the Holy Spirit, who breathed it in the beginning, to guide you in finding the passages that will interpret the scripture you are struggling with.
So, rather than resenting others we must actively seek to honor one another. Paul seems to advocate having a contest to see who can honor others most. We are not to be lazy or indifferent instead we are to be eagerly zealous. This can be the highest level of love that we have for one another.
In the process of honoring others we should do so as a reflection of our love for God. We are to serve the Lord! I am reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Matthew records these words towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount. These are the most sobering words in the Bible as far as I’m concerned. These words are more frightful than any of the commandments.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Serve the Lord takes on a whole new meaning in the light of Jesus’ statement. Imagine Jesus seated on the throne with a vast crowd of people in front of him. There is no problem with dealing with those who are publicly sinning. It is easy for us to understand the murderer, the liar, the thief, the sexually immoral, and the list goes on. But he’s not dealing here with those who are publicly living in sin. He is dealing with people who appear to believe they were serving him. They are deceived and deceiving! I think of the Mormon missionaries or the Jehovah’s Witnesses going door-to-door. These are obviously false religions. The Mormons do not hold any of the major Christian doctrines concerning salvation, the person of God, or the person and work of Christ. The Jehovah’s Witnesses openly teach salvation by works and have rewritten the Bible to teach their false doctrines. Jesus may well have been speaking of these kind of people. However, we need to search our own hearts and minds.
I am reminded of an event in the last days of William Carey’s life. He was the father of modern missions. One of his fellow missionaries was visiting with him. The visitor began with the question.
What are your feelings in the immediate prospect of death?' The question roused him from his apparent stupor, and opening his languid eyes, he earnestly replied, 'As far as my personal salvation is concerned, I have not the shadow of a doubt; I know in Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day; but when I think that I am about to appear in the presence of a holy God, and remember all my sins and manifold imperfections—I tremble.' He could say no more. Smith, George. Life of William Carey . Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.
When I think of the arrogance of some who would say that Jesus’ words “I never knew you” could not apply to them, or to me, I join William Carey — I tremble.
Be real! What does it mean?
The Bible is very clear. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The pay for our sin is spiritual death and separation from God forever (Romans 6:23). While we had no strength to save ourselves God demonstrated his love for us! Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8). If you have any doubt about your salvation you need to examine yourself. If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. You will be saved! (Romans 10:9). You might ask, “How can I get faith to do this thing?” The Bible tells us, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Please contact me either through Facebook, Stamford Baptist Church or www.sbchurch.org. I will be glad to help you.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.