Stephen Caswell © 2004
Giving Ourselves To God
In a church service one Sunday, the offering plate came to a little girl at the end of a row. She took the plate, put it down on the floor, and stood in it. When the usher asked her what she was doing, she responded, In Sunday school I learned that I was supposed to give myself to God. Romans 12:1-2 confirms that she had the right idea.
Last Sunday we saw that spiritual service involves presenting our bodies to God as Living Sacrifices. We then saw that spiritual service required 100% Dedication, and a Demonstration of Action. God has given a lot of Diversity in the ministries of His servants. Yet this great amount of diversity is needed because there are many ministries. In today’s passage Paul answers the question, How Do Living Sacrifices Live? Paul shares 3 things about the lives of Living Sacrifices; Loving, Serving, and Blessing.
1. Loving One Another
Romans 12:9: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
It shouldn’t surprise us that Paul starts with love; Love is the supreme virtue of all. When people make sacrifices, love motivates them. Romans 13:8-10: says to love another is to fulfill the law. It’s so important that Paul uses 3 different words for love in verses 9 & 10.
a. God’s Love
Firstly, Paul says to love without hypocrisy. The word love is ἀγάπη and refers to God’s unconditional love. The sacrificial love that God showed us when He sent Christ to die for us. This love is concerned about the needs of the one loved regardless of their response. Can we love people the way that God does? With the Holy Spirit’s help we can. Romans 5:5: Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Because God’s love is sincere, He doesn’t want us to pretend to love one another. He wants us to really mean it. Our love must be without hypocrisy. 1 John 3:16: We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. Firstly, love requires sacrifice. We must also hate every kind of evil because God’s love is pure. Love and truth go together.
I recently visited an older lady who had just had some painting done in her home. She needed a hand to move some furniture back. The storm had washed away some of her path and she was concerned about it. So I offered to fill it in with gravel. My simple deeds touched her as much as the Scriptures I shared and the prayers I said. Maybe more, she is not a Christian. 1 John 3:17-18: But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
b. Parental Love
Romans 12:10: Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
Secondly, Paul says to be kindly affectionate, φιλόστοργος, to one another. This refers to the tender, soft, love that parents have for their children. Parental love is expressed through affection and devotion. We hug and kiss our children and tell them we love them. This is the kind of patient love mother’s show for their children when they are sick. Parents work hard to care for their children. Yet it’s a service of love. God wants us to love each other in the same way, warts and all. John 13:34-35: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. Jesus said this after washing the disciple’s feet. Secondly, love requires service.
One day a single friend asked a father of four, why do you love your kids? The father thought for a minute, but the only answer he could come up with was, because they’re mine. The children had no need to do anything to prove themselves to this father. He took them just as they were, warts and all. We should love one another because we’re family.
c. Brotherly Love
Romans 12:10: Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
The third word that Paul uses is φιλαδελφία. It combines to Greek words, love and brother. It refers to fraternal affection or brotherly kindness. This is the love that should be shown between brothers and sisters in Christ. Family ties should be strong. They stick together when trials come. We should be concerned for our brethren. The Church at Philadelphia was commended for their faithful works and witness. It was motivated by love. Their love for Christ and one another spurred them onto greater service.
Showing God's Love
A Salvation Army worker found a derelict woman alone on the street and invited her to come into the chapel for help, but the woman refused to move. The worker assured her: We love you and want to help you. God loves you. Jesus died for you. But the woman did not budge. As if on divine impulse, the Army lassie leaned over and kissed the woman on the cheek, taking her into her arms. The woman began to sob, and like a child was led into the chapel, where she ultimately trusted Christ. You told me that God loved me, she said later, but it wasn’t till you showed me that God loved me that I wanted to be saved.
1 Thessalonians 4:9: But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. 14 Times in the N.T.
How can we know when we love our brethren? When we put them first. Paul says that we should honor others; let them have first place. Human nature says look after number one the most important person in the world. There are 31 one another commandments listed on the back of the bulletin. Philippians 2:3-4: Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
What is Love?
It’s silence when your words would hurt. It’s patience when your neighbor’s curt.
It’s deafness when the scandal flows. It’s thoughtfulness for another’s woes.
It’s promptness when duty calls. It’s courage when misfortune falls.
2. Serving The Lord
a. Fervency Romans 12:11: not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
Paul gives both negative and positive instruction concerning our Christian service. Firstly, Paul says not to lag in diligence. To lag in diligence is to be reluctant, idle and lazy. To hold back our service for the Lord. In modern terms we would say a slacker. Someone who withholds his labor from his boss. This is not a new problem in society or even in God’s work. Nehemiah had bludgers in his day. Nehemiah 3:5: Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord. God knows and keeps a record of when His people are slack.
Secondly, Paul says to be fervent in spirit. The word fervent, ζέω, means to be eager, excited, enthusiastic, to boil with heat. Have you heard the expression they’re on fire for Christ? You sense this in the Chinese Church. The Heavenly Man. God wants us to serve Him enthusiastically, not reluctantly. We must give God our best service. Some believers wing it. They come to a meeting having spent little or no time in preparation. The Lord knows. Acts 18:25: This man (Apollos) had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord.
Have you ever noticed how hot coals get in a fire? They glow because they’re red hot. But if you take one out of the fire it doesn’t take long before it goes cold. The coal draws heat from the others in the fire. Together they give off a lot of heat. This is true in the Christian life. When believers withdraw from the fellowship of other Christians their spark goes out. It isn’t long before they grow cold and withdraw from Christian service.
Matthew 22:36-37: Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. There is nothing half hearted about this commandment.
Finally, Paul says that we are serving, δουλεύω, the Lord. Even though we minister to people, we’re serving God. One day He will reward our service. Colossians 3:23-24: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Romans 12:12-13: rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. How can we serve the Lord fervently? Paul lists 5 practical ways in verses 12 and 13.
1. Rejoicing in Hope. Is it really possible to rejoice when our circumstances are difficult? Yes it is. Because our joy comes from knowing Jesus Christ. No matter what our present circumstances may be, we can and should rejoice in our hope — the coming of our Savior, the redemption of our bodies, and our eternal glory. Joyful Christians brighten up everyone’s life. We have more reasons to rejoice than anyone else.
2. Patient in Tribulation. We are exhorted to be patient in tribulation — that is, to bear up bravely under it. The word patient, ὑπομένω, means to endure, to bear bravely. Christians must expect opposition from the world. Satan will oppose God’s people and especially so if they are living sacrificially for Christ. We mustn’t quit. Let’s be patient.
3. Persevering in Prayer. The words continuing steadfastly, προσκαρτερέω, mean to be busily engaged in, to be devoted to, to persist in. It is through prayer that the work is done and victories are won. Prayer brings power into our lives and peace into our hearts. It is spiritual service. Prayer is the Church’s power room. Colossians 4:12: Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
4. Providing for Needy Saints. The word distributing, κοινωνέω, is usually translated fellowship. It means to have all things in common. Acts 2:44-45: Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. Needy saints are everywhere — the unemployed, those who have been drained by medical bills, missionaries in obscure places, and senior citizens whose resources have dwindled. True body-life means sharing with those who are in need.
5. Providing Hospitality. The word translated hospitality, Φιλοξενία, means a lover of strangers. Hebrews 13:2: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. To receive fellow Christians is to receive Christ Himself. Today hospitality is a lost art. In past years visitors were invited home for a meal. Sadly this has changed. Small homes are used as excuses for not receiving Christians who are passing through. Perhaps we don’t want to face the added work and inconvenience. Some practice hospitality. I am sure that many here have experienced the blessing of this ministry. We have enjoyed Christian fellowship with many here. Hosts are blessed too.
3 John 5-8: Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.
How can we serve the Lord? There are lots of ways to do this. Paul gives us 5 ways. Joyful Christians brighten up everyone’s life. God wants us to rejoice always. When believers show patience in trying circumstances they enhance the Christian life to the lost. Remember the patience of Job. He still touches people today. Prayer is a ministry for all of us. We can also help by meeting needs in the fellowship. Hospitality is a gift needed more than ever today. We need to open up our hearts and our homes.
3. Blessing Others
a. Bless and Don’t Curse
Romans 12:14: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
The way we respond in different situations shows whether or not we have God’s love in our hearts. We are called to show kindness toward our persecutors instead of trying to repay them in kind. It requires the divine life to repay unkindness and injury with a courtesy. The natural response is to curse and retaliate. Stephen and the Lord Jesus Christ both responded this way. They modeled these words and responded to persecution even to death by praying for God’s forgiveness of their persecutors. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
Sandwich Over Sentence
Clerk Donni LaSaw of the Mini Mart in Vancouver’s West End did just that on July 24 when a would-be bandit walked into the food store and ordered her to hand over the contents of the till. As she opened the till, she asked, Is $25 really worth a police record? When the young man replied that a man must eat, she suggested, Rather than me phoning the police over $25, I’ll give you a sandwich and a couple of apples. The man agreed that it sounded like a better idea and ate the goods.
Proverbs 15:1: A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. We can bless others in a number of ways. We can pray that God will bless our enemies. We can encourage them from God’s Word. We can meet their needs and show them we care. Returning good for evil can transform enemies into friends.
Romans 12:17-21: Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. Therefore If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Destroying Your Enemies
The Civil War had just ended, and some opportunistic folk were busy lording it over their fellow Southerners. A hot-blooded contingency of die-hard former rebels gained an audience with President Lincoln. His gentle, friendly manner soon thawed the ice, and the Southerners left with a new respect for their old foe. A northern congressman approached the president and criticized him for befriending the enemy, suggesting that instead of befriending them he should have had them shot for the traitors they were. Lincoln smiled and replied, Am I not destroying my enemies by making them my friends?
b. Rejoicing and Weeping
Romans 12:15a: Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Christians should be able to empathize with others, both believers and unbelievers. Such loving care blesses others. When our brothers or sisters have been blessed we can rejoice with them. Rejoice, χαίρω means to joy, be glad, to be delighted. We can enter into their celebrations with them. We should be happy when a brother is honored.
1 Corinthians 12:26: And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Likewise when a brother or sister is suffering we should feel for them. The word weep, κλαίω, means mourn, cry and lament. Those who are suffering need our support. A shoulder to cry on or a listening ear is often all that is needed; a meal or helping hand. Christian fellowship is much more than a pat on the back and a handshake. It means sharing the burdens and blessings of others so that we grow together and glorify the Lord.
c. Be Humble
Romans 12:16: 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.
To share the joys and pains of our brethren requires us to be humble. Proud people will never be glad when others are honored. Neither will they have time for those who are suffering. A humble attitude and a willingness to share are the marks of a Christian who truly ministers to the body. Our Lord ministered to the common people, and they heard Him gladly. When a local church decides it wants only a certain high class of people, it departs from the Christian ideal for ministry. We must follow Christ’s humble example.
James 2:1-4: My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, you sit here in a good place, and say to the poor man, you stand there, or, Sit here at my footstool, have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
God wants us to be a blessing to others. This is accomplished through our relationships with them. The way we respond in different situations shows whether or not we have God’s love in our hearts. Blessing when persecuted is God like. It’s easy to retaliate. To empathize with those suffering shows our concern. And we should rejoice with those who have been honored. We will need both love and humility to respond this way. Do we really love people the way Christ loved us? Or are we pretending? Love is spelt S.E.R.V.E. The 31 one another commandments emphasize this.
2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.