This is the fourth week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 4, this week, is titled "Life Under Temporal Law" and works with Romans 13:1-7 concerning the relationship of the Christian and government. This sermon was originally preached September 28th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.


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September 28st, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"Life Under Temporal Law"
Romans 13:1-7


Good morning. This is week 5 of our fall series, "Viva La Vida Christus." We're just about half way through the series.

Today's text, the next section in Romans is a "hot text." It's hot because it is all about politics. Nothing gets people's blood boiling more these days than politics. General election is coming up on November 4th…The first presidential debate took place the other night…this is a "hot text."

People right now are extremely passionate about what is happening in our political world. You guys all know they say there is one sure fire way to get a person or a group of people all riled up and that's, "religion and politics." That's why you're not supposed to talk about them if you want to make friends and keep peace. But we're taking on both this morning so oh well.

Have you ever wondered how the Bible views the Christian is supposed to relate to government? Are Christians supposed to care? Are they supposed to be involved? Are they supposed to vote? Be democrats, republicans? What does the Bible say about those who love and follow Jesus and what that means in regards to government? We'll try and answer some of those questions today.

Before I read our text for today and pray over it I think it would be very helpful for us all to take a quick look at the Bible's story of government and it's relationship to God's people. That will help us place this text a little bit into the grand scheme of things.

Politics in the Bible begin right off the bat in the garden of Eden. From the garden of Eden onward, through the law, the prophets, the psalms…the Bible universally pictures God as the King. Thus, those who believe in and love God are part of a theocracy where God is King and ruler over the earth and mankind ought to worship and serve him as the governing King over our lives, families, and societies.

Here's a key text. 1 Samuel 8. What happened is as God has called and gathered his people together, he's shown them he's a good and worthy king, he mightily led them out of Egypt showing his great and kingly power and rule, then he led them into the promised land and set up judges and prophets to care for the people under his rulership…but in 1 Samuel 8, the people come to him with a complaint. The elders of Israel get together and they come to God and they say this, "appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations…(we want) a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles (1 Sam 8:4,20)."

In response God tells them that if they have a human king, he will abuse his power and never be able to rule perfectly because he is a sinful human (which is exactly what we have seen throughout human history). The people still say, "No, we want a king." So God gives them what he want and says these key words, 1 Samuel 8:7, "they have rejected me from being king over them."

Two whole books of the Bible, 1 & 2 Kings gets devoted to seeing how every king, 44 of them in all, fail at being king. Only God is the perfect king. The prophets of God begin telling of a messiah, a Christ who would come, who would be God himself and rule as the perfect king once again.

Jesus comes on the scene several hundred years later. But in this first coming he doesn't come in all his heavenly garb, putting out on display for everyone that he is the divine king of heaven and earth. He comes first to show that he is the perfect and worthy king because he is humble and loves the people. Jesus was homeless. Jesus was a servant healing the people, feeding the people, teaching the people, and ministering to the people's spiritual needs. But he acknowledges that he is in fact the king of heaven.

Even right before his death, Pilate, the Roman governor asks him, "'So you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world (Jn 8:37)." And so Pilate hangs a plaque above Jesus' cross, saying "King of the Jews."

Jesus dies for the sins of his people, comes back to life from the dead three days later, showing himself to hundreds of people, and then he ascends on a cloud up into the sky. He tells his followers to go out into all the world and tell everyone who he is and what he is done and once everyone has heard, he'll come back on a cloud with the sound of a loud trumpet, with all his angels, in his full kingly divine glory, he'll destroy all who oppose him and set up his perfect rule and throne here on earth. That's going to be an amazing day.

Now, I tell that whole biblical story to help us get it firmly in place in our heads that the core government of the Christian, our core allegiance, is a theocratic loyalty and commitment to Jesus the King. We are part of what he called, "the kingdom of God." It's what Jesus preached about most, life under his rule in his kingdom. Jesus constantly preached about the kingdom of God, over a combined 121 times in the gospels, Jesus is talking about life in his kingdom, where he rules as King. That's the government Christian really belong to and are part of.

Okay, that's kind of a long introduction to our text but I think a necessary one. I've given today's message, the subtitle "Life Under Temporal Law." Because our text addresses how we are to live under temporary rulers until the permanent rule of Jesus comes. Next week's text will look at the "Life Under the Eternal Law" of love and the day when Jesus will return to ensure it.

So let's read and pray over our text that addresses how the Christian is to relate to these temporary governing rulers, the Christian and politics.

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Structurally there are three main parts to this text: [1] God Rules Government (vs 1). [2] God Repays Wrongdoing (vs 2-5). [3] God Records Money (vs 6-7).

God Rules Government (vs 1)

We start off with a command, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities." And then we get three reasons why. But notice a couple things first. First, look at those two words "every person." That means everyone, without exception. Christians are not to be anarchists or anti-governmentists. That's the wrong attitude. Much of this series, Viva La Vida, the texts this series covers concerns our attitude as Christians. We've talked about our attitude toward one another within the church in regards to our gifts, we've talked about our attitude toward our community, the city in which we live, we've talked about our attitude toward our enemies, those we don't get along with, and now we're being taught about our attitude toward our government, who temporarily (until Jesus comes again) physically rules over us.

Remember our very first sermon in this series began with the theme of "All of Life is Worship" from Romans 12:1-2 where we are told not to be conformed to the patterns of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Perhaps Paul, the human author here, is concerned that we might take that a little to far…that we might think, "Oh, well Jesus is king, so I don't have to listen to or abide by other governing authorities…I'm not going to conform to this world!" So he addresses that specifically here, how being transformed by the gospel effects how we relate to authorities or rulers in our land.

And this is for everyone. If you're wondering whether this text has anything to do with you today, you can be sure it does, because it clearly says right here that it is for "every person."

The second thing I want us to notice from this command is the words "be subject to" or it could be translated and some versions do translate it this way, "be submissive to." Submission, that is not easy for anyone. The reason is because of sin. As we've talked about, heavily caught up in the heart of sin are issues of pride, where we want to be the own ruler of our lives. We want to do what we want, when we want, how we want, with who we want, and we don't want anyone else to say anything about it.

The difference with being a Christian is that it changes you from being a rebellious person to be a submissive person. In large, much of the Christian life is about obedience, where being obedient becomes not something that is oppressive but something that is a joy. Where it makes you happy to obey and do what God tells you to.

So once we become a Christian our rebellious tendencies begin to get curbed and we become much more willing to submit. Here's a number of things the Bible says get affected by our new submissive attitude, places where this word "submit" gets used: As fellow Christians we joyfully submit to one another (Eph 5:21). As employees joyfully submit to master/bosses (Tit 2:9). Christian wives joyfully submit to their husbands (1 Cor 14:34; Eph 5:24; Col 3:18; Tit 2:5). And Christians are to joyfully submit to spiritual leaders, their pastors (Heb. 13:7).

Do you have a submissive attitude? How is your rebellion? Is it your joy to submit? Or does the sinful tendency to fight and do your own thing get the best of you most the time?

Okay, let's move on to the reasons why we are to submit. The first reason is God is the only real authority. Look at the rest of verse 1, "For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." That is a huge statement. Now I'm sure if you're like me you're automatically thinking, even evil rulers and government? We'll talk about that in a moment. But first let's get a hold of this and see what the Bible has to say about these temporal governments.

This idea that God rules over all governments is the universal agreement of all the biblical writers. The Bible views God as the only true sovereign. Sov, means all, reign means rule. God is the only one who has completely free reign. All other ruler's power and authority is limited. That is because they are not God. God is the author of all and thus he has all authority.

Let me give you some other verses to help you see what I am saying.

Psalm 22:8 "Kingship belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations."

Proverbs 8:15 "By me Kings reign (says the LORD)."

Proverbs 21:1 " The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will."

Daniel 4:17 "The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will."

GOD RULES GOVERNMENT. The universal picture of the Bible, is no matter who the king is, no matter who the ruler is, no matter who the president is, no matter whether it is a human theocracy, oligarchy, democracy, or communist government…GOD rules over every one of them no matter what who or what the government is!

You might ask, "How can that be, how does God do that?" This is what we have talked about before called compatibalism. Which means God is the only one who has a sovereign, free will, and all human have a compatible will that make real and meaningful decisions which are ultimately determined by God. God has an amazing ability to order a host of circumstances in such a way that certain things will happen and God also has an amazing ability to work deep in our heart in a way that no one else can. Through these means God accomplishes his ultimate will, especially with human rulers.

God rules over human rulers. They are placed and instituted by God. We might think it is because of our elections. We might think it is because of certain family traditions or power. But the Bible teaches us here that ultimately, whoever the ruler is and whatever the ruling system is, it is placed and instituted by God.

God Repays Wrongdoing

Which brings us to our second main point for today, "God Repays Wrongdoing," answering the question of what God's purpose is with temporal human rulers? I think on one hand God is trying to teach us something through history…that only a perfect sinless and divine ruler will ever be able to bring worldwide peace and life the way it should be. Until that time when God does that in Jesus, he chooses to use these temporal human governments as instruments of his justice.

Let's read the verses which say this. "2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience."

First let's look at what is obviously clear here. One of the best hermeneutical principles, hermeneutics means rules of interpretation, is that whatever the easiest reading is or whatever a text seems to be saying is most likely what it means.

So here's what's obvious. One, resisting or rebelling against authorities is really resisting or rebelling against God since he placed the authority. Two, if we don't rebel or resist them we should have any reason to be afraid of them and in fact the opposite, authorities will praise and reward us. And three, if we resist or rebel, God's gives rulers the right to judge and punish you even put you to death.

I'll say a couple things about each. First, rebelling against authorities…running from the cops. If we really believe that God places authorities in power as this text clearly states, then if we resist them, we are really resisting and rebelling against God. That's bad. Opposing God is not smart. It is so easy for us to depersonalize God as some sort of nebulous moral force.

Sometimes I've tried to draw this out by using an analogy addressing the personal nature of wronging a thing or a person. If I step on a spider (I've got a ton of them in my office, since it is really a garage!), it can't really do much back to me. If I miss it will just run away and maybe tell it's other little spider friends to come make more webs for me to get annoyed with and have to clean up. If I do something to a little bit bigger creature like say a dog, say I kick a dog. Well, if I wrong or hurt a dog, he might be able to bite me or lunge at me and hurt me back…but probably not kill me. Say I do something to wrong to a fellow human being. They could either do the same thing back to me or what happens most of the time is they tell other people and my name and reputation could get dragged through the mud. Say I do something to make a bear mad. Well, then I got a pretty good chance of getting mauled and dying. But say I offend God. The creator and source of the universe, I wrong him. That is a big deal. God is an eternal God. Then I've got an eternal issue on my hands.

Sin is serious. Rebellion is against God and wrongdoing is an eternal issue of the heart and it has eternal consequences if we don't get right with God. Sometimes our rebelliousness comes out in our attitude toward government.

What about the second thing? Not needing to be afraid but instead receive praise. It's funny. Working in the system as a social worker in our state I often get the chance to talk to teenagers who've been to Juvenile Hall before for various crimes. Sometimes I'll ask them, "Well did you learn you're lesson?" It's funny. Most of the time they say something like, "I learned not to get caught." Is that our attitude with God and/or government? Well, it's okay as long as I don't get caught. Then we live in fear in a constant state of us versus them. That's not the way it is supposed to be, we are to live in harmony receiving praise and approval for our quality of life as Christians in our city.

There is a great passage of the Bible on this. 1 Timothy 2:2 "(I urge you pray) for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." That is our goal, to live peaceful and quiet and godly dignified lives. We are to put the gospel, to put Jesus on display and show how great living for him in his kingdom is. That is one of the reasons our community groups are adopting a city mission project once every two months. So that people in our city will see our good deed and then turn and glorify our God and king, Jesus (1 Pet 2:2).

Look at verse 4, where it says, government is God's servant for your good. That is interesting because the word servant here is minister, a word that is usually only used in reference to Christians and their service to each other in the church. But here God calls government officials servants. And if you think about it, it is true. Governments by nature do not produce anything. They are a public service to the people meant for the people's good. We need to remember that.

Now the third thing, the sword. Government's right to put people to death. The sword in the time the book of Romans was written was the symbol and instrument of capital punishment…putting people to death for crimes punishable by death. For us in California, the equivalent would be an electric chair. In other states it could be lethal injection. The death penalty.

So many of you probably know this is a subject of debate in our country. Some don't believe we should have a death penalty because they say its either inhumane or because of the chance that the person was innocent. The way they curbed that in the Torah was by only convicting a person on the basis of two or more eyewitnesses and if it was discovered that an eyewitness lied, they were put to death (Deut 17:6-7).

But here is the reason why I believe God gives governments the right to put people to death. Genesis 9:6 "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." The reason is because murder assaults the very being of God, the life-giver. Humans are special because they are made in the image and likeness of God. Thus, to kill a human is a heinous thing in the sight of God.

So God gives governments the right to avenge and put to death. Last week we learned that as individuals we are to live according to love rather than justice. Here, regards to government, we learn that they are to exist according to justice rather than love. Last week we learned that we are not to repay evil, it is God's to repay. This week we learn that God repays evil through the government. The point we are to get is that government is God's servant of justice, to administer his wrath.

Wrath is ultimately the eternal judgment of hell which comes for the unrepentant when they die. Other times the word wrath is hellish things which happen here on earth leading up to that time. Here, judgment, the sword, is wrath. That most likely refers to the immediate physical death one experiences but we know from other Scriptures that then comes the spiritual and eternal experience of wrath. You don't want that. That's why verse 5 ends by saying, this is important not only for avoiding physical pain and suffering wrath, but because of conscience…because you also have the eternal God to deal with for wrongdoing.

Okay, let's talk about the big elephant here…what about evil governments and unjust leaders? The Hitlers, Stalins, Saddams? Are we to submit to them? Did God institute and establish them too? I mean Paul presents a pretty rosy view of government here, like they are always all good and nice. But that's rarely the case.

I'll try and be brief on this because we could really take a whole sermon addressing it, indeed there's really a whole book of the Bible written on this subject. I was reading from it the other day in my morning devotions, the book of Habakkuk. As far as Paul being ignorant or naïve of evil governments we know that is not true. Paul was a Christian, who loved and followed Jesus, who was unjustly killed. Paul himself was unjustly thrown into prison several times. In another of his books he says an evil ruler will arise. And Paul was ultimately beheaded by the Roman government. So Paul writes this being well aware of evil governments and rulers.

So to answer the first question, Does God institute and establish evil rulers? Yes God allows evil rulers to exist and appoints them. Why? What does the text say? Yes, all rulers are appointed by God and God appoints them as instruments of his justice. Well, sometimes they don't exercise justice, sometimes they are tyrannical. True. Three things.

One, quoting R.H. Stein, "Even oppressive governments by their very nature seek to prevent the evils of indiscriminate murder, riot, thievery, as well as general instability and chaos, and good acts do at times meet with its approval and praise."

Two, God's use of evil rulers could be an act of judgment against the world. In Romans 2, we learn that God's judgment is in part expressed by leaving to our sinful selves to see what happens without the intervention of his grace.

Three, sometimes God intentionally uses evil rulers to judge his people. This happened several times throughout the various stories of the Old Testament, it is the subject of much of the books in the Bible known as the Prophets. It ultimately culminates in the kingdom of Israel being destroyed and God's people taken off to Babylon. And God says he did this intentionally to judge Israel. Read the story of Habakkuk, that is what it is all about. God using evil, oppressive rulers to judge his people.

Then if that is true, then comes this question. Are we to just obey and submit to evil governments regardless of what they say or do. No. Two principles make our action clear. Principle number one is we are to obey and submit to God first and foremost, always. Principle number two is we are to obey and submit to governments. If principle number two clashes with principle number one, then we follow principle number one and obey God instead of the government.

Here is an example. Acts 5, Peter was in the city of Jerusalem. He was preaching the gospel, about who Jesus is and what he had done and calling people to put faith in Jesus. He and a few other of the apostles get thrown in prison. During the night, the story says an angel came and opened the prison doors and brought them out. So what does Peter and his friends do? Go into hiding? No, instead the next day they go back out into the public into the temple courts and start preaching about Jesus again. The law officers are furious, so they arrest them again and bring 'em to the court in front of all the people and they say, we arrested these men for preaching in the name of Jesus and we put them in prison, but this morning we went and the prison doors were locked and the guards were there but here these men are outside here preaching in this name, Jesus again.

Here are Peter's words, Acts 5:29-32, "We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

You see, principle number one, we obey God. Principle number two, we obey authorities. If authorities tell us we can't do something God has told us to do in his word, we obey God and not the authorities.

This is the way God's people have always handled government. In the book of Exodus, Pharaoh ordered all the newborns to be killed, but God's people would not obey. In the book of Daniel King Nebuchadnezzar commanded God's people to worship his golden image. But they refused and three dudes ended up getting thrown into a furnace of fire for it. Again in Daniel, another king named Darius commands God's people not to pray to God, but Daniel refuses and gets thrown into a lion's den for it. In Rome, one of the biggest problems the Roman government had with Christians was not following the Roman laws, but they refused to say "Caesar is Lord" when commanded to do so, because they believe only "Jesus is Lord." And the early Christians suffered much for it.

We must obey God rather than men if men tell us to disobey God…but other than that we should obey earthly rulers as much as possible so that we can peacefully be about spreading the mission of gospel.

God Records Money

Okay our last point for today is another main area that Christian submission to government plays out…money, God Record Money. God cares about what we do with our money. Why? Because money often very easily gets a grip on our heart and God wants to loosen that grip so that we hold on and trust in nothing but him.

Let's look at the text, verses 6-7 "6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed."

Taxes in a government go to financially enabling a government to function. Here two types of taxes are mentioned, "taxes" and "revenue." Those are technical terms. The first is direct taxes, translated "taxes" here. This included property tax for your land and poll tax for elections. The second is indirect taxes, translated "revenue" here. Revenue was tax on goods and tolls. We have sales tax which is tax on goods and if you ever take toll roads, they had tax on those too, like us.

Taxes were a big point of contention in Rome during the time this was written. The historian Seutonius records that taxes were exorbitantly high. Another historian named Tacitus records that there were a lot of complaints about the taxes and the extortion of tax collectors. Even the evil Emperor Nero considered repealing indirect taxes. Paul was probably undoubtedly aware of this and saw Christian submission in this area as a prime way of putting on display the peace and joyful obedience with God that comes from the gospel. Christian are commanded here to pay there taxes and not make a big stink about it. They are to honor and respect their government because they recognize that God has placed it.

Paul here carries on the same teaching of Jesus here. Often times when people ask me what I think about government I go to this story of Jesus because Jesus attitude toward government is so superbly displayed in it.

The Pharisees come to Jesus and ask him if they should pay taxes to Caesar, the Roman Emperor or not. They were essentially asking him how God's people are supposed to relate to government. Jesus does something interesting. He asks for a coin. Like our coins who have pictures of presidents on them, their coins had pictures of the Caesar on them. Jesus looks at the coin and asks, "Whose inscription is on this?" They say "Caesar's." And then Jesus replies, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's (Mk 12:17)."

You see here, Jesus attitude toward government is one of placation or appeasement. Jesus is about something different. He is about the kingdom of God. You do whatever you have to do to make the temporal government happy so you can be about the business of God. Jesus, with one sentence here, just dismisses getting all hyped up on the government and what it's doing.

Sometimes I get worried about Christians who get so hyped up and involved in politics and what is currently going on because the Christian's main goal is to be about the mission of Jesus. The mission is the gospel in the message of the kingdom of God. Jesus and the apostles both had an apolitical or non-political ministry method. If churches and Christians get too heavily into current politics it sends a mixed message to the individuals and cities Jesus' church is on mission for.

Christians must beware of getting distracted from putting a false hope for peace, joy, and justice in any other government but a theocracy where Jesus rules as King. All governments will fail and to become passionately devoted to a particular political party and/or system becomes spiritual treason to the theocracy of Christians who belong to the Kingdom of God.

God cares about what we do with our money and our attitude toward government with it. He keeps a record of whether we have a humble and submissive attitude or whether we treat our money as if it were our own. The Bible's perspective is that we are stewards. All the money we make is on loan to us from God and God wants us to use it wisely for his glory and fame.


Well, let's wrap up today's message. What I want to do is try my best to address a couple real practical application issues regarding Christians and politics and then address our heart.

This is my perspective, so you can take it or leave it...but after studying a text like this and considering what seems to me to be a widespread overemphasis in politics by Christian I feel impelled to say some things.

First on voting. The Bible nowhere commands Christians to vote and one is not required by law to vote. If we were, then according to Romans 13, we be disobeying God if we did not vote. Democratic systems like the U.S. and others did not exist in Bible times and therefore one cannot superimpose a democratic worldview onto the Bible and hypothesize what the Biblical writers would say about it. Building a theology based on speculation is never wise. Thus, it is wrong for Christians to put a moral obligation and/or ethical responsibility on other Christians to vote when the Bible (our base for ethics) is silent on the issue.

It may be wise for Christians to vote if the culture of the land they are living in is a voting culture and it will help to understand and build a bridge with the people we are living for. Yet this decision is up to the individual's choice and conscience as the Holy Spirit guides them in their incarnational evangelism. God may move upon certain individuals to try and reach people who are anarchists and it could be wise for them to dismiss voting in order to reach them to show them where their true allegiance is, to Jesus.

Christian involvement in other political sectors such as government, military, elections, etc. is acceptable as long as the main goal is to put the gospel on display to the people they work with. In addition, it is good for Christians to work to uphold universal moral law, as long as Christians are careful not to attempt to legislate particulary Christian beliefs and practice.

Christians should live their lives in light of the Bible regardless of wherever they live and whatever is happening within the political sphere of the country they live in. A real and lasting difference is made in a city by the quality of Christians' lifestyle before friends, neighbors and co-workers and not through political involvement and/or influence.

Christians are commanded by Scripture to abide by the laws of the land (Rom 13:1). Section 501(c)(3), Part VIII, of the Internal Revenue Code, forbids a Religious Non-Profit Organization, to "Support or oppose candidates in political campaigns in any way." OR "Attempt to influence legislation." Thus, it is illegal within the U.S. for a church to encourage its members to support or oppose elections or legislation in any way…so you will never hear me do that.

Okay, if I haven't offended a bunch of you let me end with the gospel and our hearts. The theme of this chunk of Scripture is submission. It is about humility. Part of living in this fallen, sinful world, is that we get hurt and wronged…sometimes by individuals and sometimes by the government.

The Christian response is peace and forgiveness, not retaliation and fighting back. Sometimes we think the only thing that will make us feel better is justice. Our name being cleared. Wrong being called out. Someone paying for what they've done. The truth is such response could never bring us the peace and the comfort we're looking for.

The truth is we are the ones who deserve justice, who deserve to pay, for we have all wronged and offended God and his glory. We don't want justice we want mercy. And as recipient of mercy and forgiveness in Jesus it's supposed to change us into merciful and forgiving people.

Maybe you have a deep seated resentment against a family member, a brother or a sister. Maybe you're mom or your dad. Maybe a friend who was once close. Maybe a government you once trusted. Lay it all down today and receive the healing of our Lord Jesus. All him to be king of your life. Serve and worship him only and put no trust in any other person or government.

Let's allow him to minister to us today. He's both a powerful king and merciful pastor.

Lately there has been a Television commercial airing quite frequently for Pepsi, picturing a number of people who are in a zombie like state until they get energized by the drink. Throughout the commercial the song, "What is Love?" by Haddaway is playing. Definitions for love these days usually only gets processed as a emotional feeling often accompanied with the particularly erotic feelings. English, unfortunately, only has one word for love. In Greek there are three main words for love: eros, philia, and agape. Eros is etroic, sexual, physical body attraction love. Philia is friendship or family love wherein there is distinct commonality. Agape love is distinctly sacrificial and committed through and through.

The first words of last Sunday's sermon text were, "Let love be genuine." The Greek word behind this love is agape, the sacrificial and committed kind. And here the Bible commands us to have that love be genuine. Today there is a lot of talk about being real, being authentic, or being honest. Sadly, that claim often really ends up being an excuse for people to be and behave as their sinful selves without having anybody say anything to them about it because if they did they would be disrespecting or violating their "honesty" or "realness" or "authenticity."

We learned on Sunday that this word genuine literally means without hypocrisy and that hypocrisy is playacting, like lovers in a movie who are not really in love in real life. Their love on the screen is a hypocrite love. One way the sin of hypocrisy (non-genuine love) comes out a lot in our lives is when we gossip.

1 Timothy 5:13 says "...idlers, (go) about from house to house, and (they are) not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not."

Gossip is essentially a sinful use of the tongue (James 3:5-8) to tear down and not build up people (Eph 4:29). To use a modern phrase, it's "talking about people behind their back" and is usually done to turn another's opinion against another person or situation. The motivations are usually a mix of pride, bitterness, hostility, anger, resentment, venting, low self-esteem, jealousy, and/or acceptance. And usually gossip lead to rebellion, disunity, dissention, and discord.

A good example of hypocrisy came up last week in our community group. One person was sharing their past experiences of community groups and confessed they were a bit nervous about joining our new group because they had witnessed a friend's parents when they were younger who would go to their church community group and then come home and talk bad about all the people they just saw. That is hypocrisy, gossip, and not real love.

Have you talked about another person negatively to someone else? What were your motivations? If you had a genuine grievance did you go to that person first and talk to them about it as Jesus tells us to do (Matt 18:15-18)?

Haddaway's song defines love as not hurting another person. That's actually not too bad of a definition. Yet, the truth is because of remaining sin in each of us and in those around us we are going to hurt one another. Bible Jesus-like love goes even a step further than just not hurting, it's loving another person even when they do hurt you. Agape sacrifices our own sense of pride and goes to that person with a heart of forgiveness, avoids gossiping to other about them, and expresses genuine, authentic, real Christ-like love.

Beloved friends and family, let us love one another.
- Pastor Duane
This is the third week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 3, this week, is titled "The Life of Genuine Love" and works with Romans 12:9-21 and issues of love, humility, authenticity and 16 characteristcs of of the Christian life and behavior. This sermon was originally preached September 21th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.


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September 21st, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"The Life of Genuine Love"
Romans 12:9-21


Good morning everyone. Today, we're three weeks into our fall series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ." It's our shameless attempt rip off Coldplay's new album for our own benefit. I talked to Chris Martin about it though and he said it's cool, so we're in the clear. J

Today's sermon is perhaps one of the clearest pictures in the New Testament describing the character of a Christian. You could look at it like a recipe for a great meal or a blueprint for a beautiful building. Good theology leads to good practice and this passage is teaching us how everything we have learned this far in Romans, the high heights of the doctrine of justification and divine sovereignty are to have this result in us. So let's read our text and pray over it.

Lord God thank you for Jesus. Thank you for a Bible which tells us about him and how he effects our lives. As we study what the genuine love of a Christian is like today, what you call us to and enable us to be…I pray you use your word today to would create a hunger within each of us to be more like this and enjoy living like this for your glory. In the name of Jesus our Lord, I pray, Amen.

There is a song some of you may know. Here are it's lyrics: Love, Love, Love. Love, Love, Love. Love, Love, Love. All you need is love. All you need is love. All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.

Love. Our passage today begins with a call for love. In many ways the whole passage is all about love. How to love and what love looks like. For the Christian love is central. The Christian gospel begins and ends with love. Jesus summarized the whole Old Testament as being about love and placed love as the central demand of the New Covenant in his blood. Love is preeminent. Verse 9 starts off with, "let love be genuine" and it could almost be considered a title to this whole section, "The Life of Genuine Love."

There is not a whole lot of structure to it, there's just one thing listed after another, the firing off of what love looks like once Jesus starts to really get a hold of your heart. Depending on how you put it together there's about 16 or so different injunctions here…descriptions and commands on how to have genuine, Jesus-like love.

But before we launch into those 16 things…first let me ask you the question raised here. What is the difference between love and genuine love? What makes love genuine?

The word here for "genuine" is literally without hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is playacting. The idea is that you are an actor like in a movie. Maybe you just saw some sappy love movie with your wife or your girlfriend. I intentionally Netflix love movies because if all we ever get is action movies my wife starts to get worried about me. When you watch a love movie, do the actor and the actress really love each other? No. Their acting. They might kiss and act like they do. But in real life they're often married to other people and have no affection for the people they act with whatsoever.

So to let love be genuine is to have real love for someone and not just act like it. 1 Peter 1:22 says to "love one another deeply, from the heart." Real love. It is so easy just to be "nice" but never have a real love for someone. Have you ever been truly loved? Loved like that? Have you ever given that kind of love? Deep love. Sincere love. Genuine love.

Here is what real love looks like and flows from. 16 characteristics of genuine love.

1. Clinging - v9b Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good.

This idea of holding fast is clinging, it's like glue. Real genuine love, clings to the good and abhors evil. It is interesting here that real love is abhorring. Abhorring is a strong word. It is a deep and intense hatred. Hating evil…loathing it. Having an affection toward sin and evil as being horror. That's intense. Real love fears anything else but what is good.

Here's a picture for you. A man is drowning in a shark infested ocean and a line is thrown out to him from a boat. With an intense fear of drowning and being eaten he clutches the rope, sets his grip on it and holds on for dear life. This is gospel love. Do you have a love for God and his goodness like that? Do you take sin and evil seriously or just sort of nonchalantly like it's no big deal? Do you regularly ask yourself the question, is this good or not? Do you love the things you know are good and pursue them diligently?

2. Family-ing - v10a Love one another with brotherly/sisterly affection

Genuine love is family love. That is this word here, family-love. Now, this text assumes that you have come from a good, loving, and caring family…because that is the way it is supposed to be. God wants us to have a good and loving family with godly Moms, Dads, Brothers and Sisters. But the reality is many of you have not come from good families huh? Perhaps some of you don't even have a brother or sister and you don't have a good relationship with your Dad or your Mom.

But just assume that you did and for those of you who do come from good families then think of how much your family loves you and how much you love them. The Bible here and in several other places says this is what a church is supposed to be like. In a unique way the Bible considers the church, which is people, not a Sunday service…to be family, as close as and even closer than your biological family.

This one of the many reasons we are trying so hard to shift our focus and get everyone involved and committed to a mid-week community group so we can eat at least one meal a week together as a family and talk, because just seeing each other once a week on Sunday doesn't cut it.

So what's it mean to love one another as family, with a brotherly or sisterly affection? It means you're committed to them and would do anything for them and you deeply and genuinely care for them. Big brothers know this. I'm a big brother and I would do anything for my sister. I love her and will always love her, we're blood. I don't know if I can say that I feel that way toward many of you. I need to love you more, more like that. Do you love each other like that? Family-ing one another.

3. Honoring - v10b Outdo one another in showing honor

This is a clever one. It takes the idea of competition, outdoing another person and flips it and applies it to showing honor. What's that mean? To honor someone is to recognize their good qualities and achievements. Last week we talked about pride and how is deviously works in all of us in different ways. Genuine love is humble and seeks not it's own interests but the interests of others and points them out.

In our fight against pride and strivings not to consider ourselves more highly than we ought, one of the chief weapons we can use is to try and see where God's grace is at work in another person's life. God pours out grace on everyone, the just and the unjust. It is so easy to be negative and critical. You'd be surprised if you stop and try and think about another person's good qualities.

The idea of outdoing one another in this is great. One of the best pieces of pre-marital counseling I got about 8 years ago now, that I have passed down to all the couple I marry, is to try and out serve one another in marriage. I tell them, whenever there are problems it is because one person or both persons have an "I" on the throne of their heart.

If you seek to out serve one another you will avoid that. It is the same thing here. Seek to honor one another. Regularly point out other people's good qualities. Thank them for what they are and what they do. Ask them questions about their life. Have you ever gone to dinner with a person and you try to express interest in their life by asking them questions, but they never ask you anything. It kind of sucks huh? Honor one another.

4. Boiling - v11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Boiling comes from this word "fervent" here which is the picture of a pot of water over a stove that is bubbling up because it is boiling. The idea with the Christian is that our hearts burn or boil within as it gets filled up with the Lord and his word. Jesus spent a number of hours with a couple of dudes once talking to them about the Bible and afterward, they said, did not our hearts burn within when he opened the Scriptures to us (Lk 24:32).

The Christian is to be a very motivated person. The gospel lights a fire under you as it were. It is a life meant to be lived with passion. The opposite of stoic ritual and fragility. We are to be zealous to serve the Lord Jesus. The great temptation is to be slothful, to be lazy, to be apathetic.

Do you ever find yourself lacking motivation? That is a common experience of Christians. Jean Calvin said God gave us this verse because our flesh is often like an ass/donkey that never wants to move. This torpid feeling is meant to draw us back to the Lord and his word. It happened for me just the other day. I confessed to my wife that I felt apathetic one morning. So she prayed out loud for me. Then I went and read my Bible and prayed and I was re-energized and excited to serve Jesus and his people that day.

5. Rejoicing - v12a Rejoice in hope

Contrary to what many have seemed to teach, that being a Christian is the boring life, filled with following a bunch of rules and restrictions…the Bible teaches that the Christian life is to be a happy life, one filled with joy and immense satisfaction.

It doesn't mean that life is easy and always goes well. But what gives us our joy is Jesus, that he really did something about the human race and it's future. We have a security from him for the future and it gives us a sure hope for a better and brighter tomorrow. And because of that we can experience the joy of the future in part, now! I know I am going to heaven and I know that Jesus is working in me and in all my junk and the more he works on me the happier I become.

6. Waiting - v12b Patient in affliction

This one is not easy by any means. Patience in affliction. Patience is one of the fruits of the spirits and I don't know if it's just me or if others of you struggle with patience like I do but I have a real hard time with it. I want what I want and I want it now. If the light turns green and the person in front of me doesn't step on the gas immediately I'm blasting my horn at 'em. I cannot even stand the microwave. I'll put something in there for like 20 seconds and stand in front of it waiting and it will seem like it is taking an hour just to heat up my freak'n coffee.

Patience. Waiting. Enduring affliction. And affliction here isn't silly things like traffic lights and microwaves. Affliction is pain and suffering. When you feel like you just can't take it anymore…what are you supposed to do. You wait patiently for the deliverance of the Lord. Ephesians 6:13 says this, "in the day of evil, after you have done everything (to withstand it…what do you do?) stand firm." After you have done everything you can to stand, stand. Don't give up. Don't bail out. Don't throw in the towel. Stand. Keep standing. Keep waiting. Jesus will come.

This is huge. I've been walking with Jesus seriously for about 12 years now. I'll be honest with you. There are a lot of ups and downs. Here is what I think my greatest spiritual accomplishment has been. By God's grace, not giving up. Just being faithful. To just keep going especially at the points when there wasn't a bone in my body that wanted to.

7. Praying - v12c Constant in Prayer

Praying continually. How do you do this? Praying without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). You might not have known it but there are all kinds of different ways of praying. There is simple prayer, prayer of examine, prayer of tears, prayer of release, covenant prayer, adoration prayer, public prayer, heart prayer, meditative prayer, questioning prayer, petitionary prayer, intercessory prayer, healing prayer, suffering prayer, authoritative prayer, and unceasing prayer. The best book I've seen over viewing them all is Richard Foster's book simply titled, "Prayer."

Being in constant prayer is learning how to develop a continual conversation that is going on with you and God throughout the whole day, no matter what you are doing. One way of doing this is to just be talking to God in your head constantly. The other way Christians have done this is to use what is called "breath prayers." They are simple prayers, two or three words that can be said in just a breath. Like "Jesus help me" "God I need you" "Lord you are good." You can make up your own. I use these all the time. You can ask my wife, she hears me saying breath prayers regularly.

A man named Brother Lawrence wrote a little book called "The Practice of the Presence of God" a long time ago. He used to work as a chef in a kitchen and he learned how to be in constant prayer even while busy doing a bunch of different things. He writes, "The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer. In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling on me for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament."

Being constant in prayer is being devoted to it. Praying about everything all the time. It is developing an inward awareness of God's continual presence. Breath prayers are simply the whispers which sometimes almost unknowingly escape from the flow of praise and petition in our hearts toward God.

8. Giving - v13a Contribute to the needs of the saints

First off, ever Christian, every believer in Jesus person and work is a saint. Saints are not just those the Catholic church has deemed saints. You are a saint. I am a saint. Saint means holy ones. We have been declared holy through Jesus perfect person and atoning work.

The word for contribute here is literally the word, "community." It just sounds awkward and confusing if you translate it that way which is probably why most versions don't. But it could literally be "community to the needs of the saints."

This is another reason why you all need to be in one of the mid-week community groups. Because how else are you going to get to know what people's needs are so that you can not only pray for one another in a fitting setting, but also have a place and time to make those needs known. There are always needs. Right now I know of two people in the church who need a car bad. Another of our members house had a plumbing problem and their house flooded making the place unlivable while its being repaired and they need a place to stay. Those are just three things I found out about this week! We have to care for one another. That is real Christian community.

9. Welcoming - v13b Seek to show hospitality

This one is huge for us. Really, really important. Hospitality is literally inviting people into your home and it usually means also feeding them. I quoted from Michael Green monumental work on "Evangelism in the Early Church" a number of weeks ago on this issue. It is worth repeating again. "(During the first century) the house [was] the fundamental unit of society. (It was) one of the most important methods of spreading the gospel in antiquity. It had positive advantages: the comparatively small numbers involved made real interchange of views and informed discussion among the participants possible…The sheer informality and relaxed atmosphere of the home, not to mention the hospitality which must often have gone with it, all helped to make this form of evangelism particularly successful." Successful? Yes. So much so that people said the world was being turned upside-down with it.

This is really huge for us as a church. A church plant in San Diego. A church seeking to be a city within a city. Here's why it's so important. There was a time during the last century when a certain type of evangelism, that's spreading the good news message of Jesus, was particularly successful. This type of evangelism focused primarily on two things. Big events and confronting strangers about truth issues.

Those types of evangelism were particularly successful because of a number of things. After two world wars, the great depression, a national sense of disillusionment and searching…there was a natural openness to the gospel. There no longer is. And we have to wake up to that fact. In the twentieth century, we saw the holocaust, the A-bomb, and civil slavery, we landed on the moon, we discovered rock and roll, medicine, and the computer!

Things are different now. We are living in a post-truth, post-religion, post-experimentation, post-hope, post-modern, post-everything world. We've got to wake up. We live in a pagan society and we cannot assume anything anymore. Your neighbor can very easily be as different from you as the person who's part of the Banpo clan living in South Africa. Nearly everyone is humanists, individualists, spiritualists, and consumer materialists.

The course of gospel history has tended to go like this. The gospel is a big message from a small band of people living in a hostile environment. Through gospel hospitality the message spreads and gains larger and larger hearings to the point where in several era a whole land or even nation almost in whole becomes Christian. But after time, it settles in and things change. Then God raises up a group of people to revive his church and start igniting the fire of the gospel once again. It happened during early church. It happened during The Reformation. It happened with the Puritans. And it can happen again.

Here is how. We have to start opening up our homes to strangers and friends and being hospitable to them…which means two things. Taking care of their basic needs like food and taking care of their spiritual needs, which is talking to them about Jesus. And we are commanded here to purse this. To make an effort to go out of our way and seek out ways to be hospitable. I mean you got to get intentional about this. Amy and I have specifically budgeted in our monthly budget a certain amount of money just to have people over for dinner and be hospitable to them. Who was the last person you had over for dinner in your home? Are you being hospitable?

10. Blessing - v14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them

This one is almost exactly Jesus famous word from the sermon on the mount. What is it to bless someone? Something interesting is that this word "bless" is actually eulogeo, which is where we get our English word "eulogy" from. What is a eulogy? A eulogy is usually that thing said during a funeral when someone shares all the best things about a person and their life. That's blessing them.

We commanded here to bless and not curse. To curse someone is actually a prayer. It is call or a wish upon God to damn . You are wanting God to inflict his wrath and hell upon a person for their wrong doing, usually that was against you. Cursing people happens all the time, whether it is "damn you" or "f you." The Bible here says we are never to curse someone but instead do the opposite. Bless them. I have a friend who lives up in Portland Oregon who I've known for many years now and one of the most interesting things about it is that in the entire time I've known him I've noticed this, I've never heard him say one bad thing about a single person. He never talks bad about anyone. Always sees the best in everyone. Never curses anyone…just constantly blesses them. It makes him one of the funnest people to be around.

11. Empathizing - v15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep

This too is part of considering others more important then yourself…that practice of humility and beating down pride. This is about being more concerned for others and what they are going through than what is going on with you. It is empathizing.

If someone is happy you enter into their joy with them and are happy for and along with them. You are happy because they are happy. With sadness it is the same. When one is down, you enter into their pain and their suffering with them. You hurt because they hurt. This is what happens when you are a real family a real community…you really care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, "If one member suffers, all the members suffer together and if one member is honored, all the members rejoice together."

Two occasions in the life and ministry of Jesus stand out to me. One was when he saw the crowds and they were hungry and lost and the Bible says he had "compassion" on them. That word compassion doesn't even come close to the Greek word, which is splanchna. To have splanchna is to hurt in your gut. To hurt in your gut for someone other than yourself. The other occasion is the occasion when Jesus wept. John 11:35, shortest verse in the Bible, two words, "Jesus wept." He wept because his friend Lazarus had died and everyone was broken-hearted about it. Jesus knew he was going to raise them from the dead, which he tells us. But when he saw how much everyone else was hurting it moved him and he wept. That's weeping with those who weep.

This is a lesson we must learn. When people are hurting, it is not the time when you give them a lesson on the Sovereignty of God and tell them it's all going to work out or their some sin in their life they need to repent of. This was the mistake of Job's friends in the Bible. When people are hurting there is one thing you do…you shut your mouth and you cry with them and tell them you love them.

12. One-anothering - v16 Live in harmony with one-another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

A strict literal translation of the first part of this verse is really interesting. It goes like this: "The self into one another be ones who are thinking." Think of yourselves as into one another. This is harmony. This is being of one mind together.

Haughty means thinking of yourself as superior. Some of you, there's a few of you out there, and whenever you talk to people, you talk down to them. Like you are the one who is always in the know and everyone else is just stupid. That's being haughty.

Associating with the lowly means having the same attitude toward everyone regardless of their educational, experiential, social or economic status. Do you think of yourself as better than a bum? Do you have any homeless friends, where you know their names? Or maybe not just homeless people but what about other people who are societal outcasts? Jesus was always fraternizing with the outcasts. What about gay people, they are somewhat outcasts today. Do you have gay friends? How about drug addicts? Or prostitutes? You have any of those kinds of friends? Never think of yourself as being too good or trying to protect yourself so much that you refuse to welcome those kinds of people into your life.

If we think we are too good we are just being wise in our own sight. It's pride and haughtiness coming up again not recognizing that God's grace may be at work in anyone if we are willing to be teachable and learn from them. You know you can learn something from almost anyone regardless of whether or not they are a Christian.

R.C. Sproul is phenomenal on this particular command, not to be wise in our own sight, to not be haughty, and to be of one mind…so I just want to quote a chunk of him here. He says this, "It is so easy to disagree and debate. There is no way we are always going to agree with everybody on everything. But if we do disagree we should have a certain attitude in the context of disagreement an attitude of charity. Disagreements can be over important issues. There is nothing wrong with a godly agrument..when it is to get at truth. But it is one things to have a good, healthy, positive argument. It is another to have an argumentative spirit that seems to thrive on disunity, discord, and conflict. Pride is seen where we are not interested in anybody else's opinion and where we just assume that anybody that disagrees with us must be wrong. Paul is saying we need to be teachable. convictions based on a humble heart and humble attitude. Humility is being able to listen to people and give an honest hearing and consideration to what they are saying."

13. Restraining - v17 Repay no one for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

With this we move to the last four injunction which all have to do with how you deal with people who are hostile to you or people you don't like or have a hard time getting along with. First is this one, restraining.

Not repaying evil for evil. So many people today are embroiled in resentment and hurt and they hold it in. Grudges. Maybe you know that phrase, "I don't get mad I get even." They have been so hurt and mistreated that the only possible way they can see of alleviating that pain is retaliating. It happens among people of all types and statuses. From the global level in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden to the personal level where there are particular people we may have deep seated grievances against.

At the group home I work at, I hear story after story of gang violence. What always happens is someone gets jumped by one gang and then that gang is waiting and looking to get back at them and jump one of their guys. It is just a cycle. I've seen some of the gnarlist stuff. One resident with scars from 7 different stab wounds in his back. He almost bled to death and had to have surgery and now has scars from his lower throat to his abdomen and from his peck to his back. Another resident who have scars on their cheek bones from being hit so many times in the face.

The Bible calls here for us not to hold grudges, but to restrain ourselves, to consider that we as Christians represent Jesus Christ and we are putting him on display. We must consider what is honorable in the sight of the world. The gospel norms, the gospel way, the gospel response will always be adorned and look beautiful to people. When we respond without vile when we are clearly mistreated, that says something to people.

14. Peacing - v18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

This one goes the next step. We are not only to not retaliate but we are to try and make peace as much as possible. The early Christians were pacifists. They did not pick up swords and fight, but prayed and laid down their human rights for the sake of the gospel. Paul wrote this command to the church in Rome. Shortly afterward a ruler came named Nero. Nero did crazy things to the Chrsitians, he hated them. One time he captured a bunch of them and tied them up, dipped them in oil and then lit them on fire to light up his garden. Did the Christians retaliate? No. But they did pray for Nero and for Rome and eventually one of Nero's successor's years later, Constantine, became a Christian and the whole nation ended up following suit.

Is there anyone you are not at peace with? Some with whom there is unsettled issues and you haven't really tried to work it out with them? We are call here to try and live peaceable with all. The truth is because of sin in us and in others, we are not always going to be at peace. And when conflict happens the Bible has a lot to say about how to handle it.

15. Entrusting - v19-20 Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."

Entrusting people to God. The consequences for sin are not ours to deal with or to hand out, they are God's alone. A second ago we talked about not retaliating. This one tells us another reason why…not just because we represent Jesus and the gospel in how we handle things, but also because we believe that God is the ultimate judge.

The Bible in unison teaches that God is a good and true and upright just judge and that at the end of everyone's life they will have to give an account to God. All of our accounts will be guilty. We are all guilty. Only those who have their guilt atoned and taken away by Jesus will escape the sentencing. For those who reject God's provision in Jesus their will be wrath and the vengeance of God.

Here, this verse tells us we need to remind people of that. Some have thought this burning coals thing is referring to an enemies repentance because how could we wish hell upon anyone. But that totally ignores the context of God's judgment and burning coals in the Old Testament is always a sign of that judgment. The idea, is that you ought to do good to your enemy. Meet his needs, show him love and forgiveness. His sin will become so plain and obvious that God's judgment will surely and swiftly come or he will repent turn toward God in need.

You can pray and act that way to the enemies of the gospel. There are a ton of Psalms in the Bible that have prayers like this. They're called imprecatory Psalms, where David prays and asks God to either kill or convert his enemies. God is a judge, it's okay to treat him like one and ask him to judge. That is entrusting people to him.

16. Overcoming - v21 Do not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good.

Lastly, overcoming. In a twist, we are reminded that life on this side of becoming a Christian is a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:12 says, "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." And the way we wrestle, the way we fight is the upside-down way. When evil befalls us we respond with the goodness of the Lord.

Our Lord Jesus is the clearest example. When he and his family were mocked. When he was illegally tried and sentenced. Rather than curse. Rather than retaliate. Rather than judging. He said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Jesus overcame and because he overcame all evil, we can too through him. Colossians 2:15 says Jesus disarmed the evil rulers and triumphed over them on the cross. It is the backwards way. For hate we give love. For anger we give forgiveness. For insults we give blessings. Instead of fighting we offer peace.


Let's conclude. That is a full full picture of real and true genuine love. Sixteen different aspects. Clinging, family-ing, honoring, boiling, rejoicing, waiting, praying, giving, welcoming, blessing, empathizing, one-anothering, restraining, peacing, entrusting, and overcoming.

Let me ask you one final question. In many ways as I have meditated on this all week, it has been inspiring. I have seen areas of sin in my life where I have not lived and loved like this and God has used this text to change my heart and help me try and make some repairs. But here's my question. For some of you does this whole picture of genuine love just seem overwhelming and impossible?

It should. And here is the secret. If you think you can do all of this and be all of this, the truth is we can't. We will fail miserably. But there is one who was exactly like this. I didn't do it with everyone but with several of them…but you could, with each one of these you could look to the life of Jesus and see how this is exactly who he was and what he did.

This is why the gospel is such good news. Because we know the good we ought to do and we fail miserably at it…but there is one who has not failed. There is one who loves perfectly. And his name is Jesus and Jesus offers himself, all of himself to us freely. In so far as we embrace and live in and through and for him, we will begin to see our lives shift and change and we will become more and more like this. More and more like him.

Let's go to Jesus today and ask for his help, his forgiveness, and his grace.

Girls Think Tank, headed up by our own Rachel Jensen, is putting on the second annual community picnic in Balboa Park addressing homelessness in San Diego. Along with several other organizations, The Resolved Church is helping to sponsor this event by donating hands, equipment and our hearts. The picnic is on October 4th from noon to 4pm. Read more from Rachel about this event...

Join us for a community picnic on Sunday, October 12, 2008, from Noon to 4 p.m. in Balboa Park in the Laurel Street North Mesa lawn (6th Ave north of Laurel Street). This year's theme is "Local Voices for Community Solutions" to poverty and homelessness.

At the picnic, we're bringing together a community of those who want to help and those less fortunate by gathering our members, families and friends to break bread with our homeless neighbors, hear great speakers like long-time homeless advocate Congressman Bob Filner and street guru "Waterman" David Ross, enjoy performances by local artists including our own Corina Rose and Terry Matsuoka. We'll also be registering voters for the upcoming elections to get out the "street vote", enjoy family games, raffles, small group "story circles" about the issues, and enjoy a warm fall afternoon in the park together for a great cause!

Your $10 donation will buy BBQ lunch for you and a person in need. Every penny raised will go directly toward keeping folks warm on San Diego's streets this winter. We're raising money for our winter survival backpacks, which will be loaded (as they have the past 2 winters) with sleeping bags or fleece blankets, knit caps, gloves, socks, ponchos, toiletries, water, non-perishable foods, and laminated resource and phone cards to put people on the streets in contact with people who can help them get back on their feet. This year, we are adding GTT baby bags — homemade bags with baby wipes, pacifiers, infant bibs, infant socks, receiving blanket, wash cloths, baby bottles, cream or ointment, baby wash/shampoo and onesies for expectant or new mothers.

Co-sponsoring organizations include Foundation for Change, Shakti Rising, Lotus Outreach, and The Resolved Church. We're looking for organizations that will help us get the word out on the streets and volunteers to help on the day of, whether it's flipping burgers (veggy too!), registering voters, or helping to clean up afterwards. Working together, we can create community-based solutions to poverty and homelessness!

- Rachel Jensen

This is the second week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 2, this week, is titled "Humility, our Gifts, and Real Life" and works with Romans 12:3-8 and issues of pride, humility, and our spiritual gifts. This sermon was originally preached September 14th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.


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September 14th, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"Humility, Our Gifts, and Real Life"
Romans 12:3-8


Good morning everyone. This is our second week in our new sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ." Today we're working with verses 3-8 of Romans 12. So we'll read the text and then get right into it. Read text and pray.

Lord God we thank you for your book the Bible. I pray you would use it's words and our study of them today to teach us, to humble us, to learn about ourselves and to grow up together into Jesus Christ our Lord who is our head. Jesus you promised to build your church and said the gates of hell would not overcome it. So bulid up up, teach us what it means to be a church and act like a church. Holy Spirit purify us and fill us that we might use our gifts for the glory of God. Amen.

For several weeks now a book titled "Devil Bones" by Kathy Reichs has been on the New York Times best seller list. It was made into a hit TV series called "Bones" which is now on its' third season. The book is about some human bones which were discovered accidently when a plumber was fixing something in a house and knocked a whole through the wall. The quest then becomes to try and unravel the mystery of who the killer is. As the story progresses several people become potential suspects. Is it the work of a devoted wiccan or voodoo artist? Or is it the evangelical preacher who is trying so hard to pin it on a wiccan or voodoo practicioner? Or is it the professor at the college who seemingly knows too much about these particular bones?

What you discover as the story progresses is that the real story isn't so much the bones themselves or even the murder itself but how each of the characters is deeply flawed and fully capable of doing such a horrible thing. The moral lesson the reader is to pick up on is that there is a devil in all of us, deep down we've got evil bones.

The origin of story of the devil in the Bible comes primarily from a few snapshots in Job and the description in the book of Isaiah, chapter 14, where God reveals the story of what happened in heaven. The devil or Satan is called the great "day star" or "son of dawn," an angel. One days this angels says, "I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God. I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."

This seems to be the earliest sin ever recorded in the Bible, going back even before the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. In it Satan, the prideful daystar, a bright, beautiful and powerful angel, surely far beyond any earthly glory we have encountered…did not consider that enough but wanted more. In arrogance he wanted recognition and status of God himself, he wanted the place where only God can sit, the supreme throne of heaven.

Pride. Many theologians have noted that pride is in many ways at the heart and essence of sin itself. Our contending for supremacy with God. C.S. Lewis said, "The essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison. It was through pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice. It is the complete anti-God state of mind."

Pride. Addressing it is perhaps the most fitting way that Paul, the human author, of Romans could introduce a section of Scripture which talks about the best parts of who we are as individuals, our gifts given to us from Jesus.

Verses 1-2 of Romans 12 address our attitude toward God after embracing the gospel, we are recipients of mercy and live a life of worship. Our verses for today address our attitude toward ourselves, we are conduits of humility and live a life of service.

There is a great reversal a sort of roller coaster of emotions that happen in the course of becoming a Christian. You become a Christian when you truly realize that you are helpless, only have made a mess of things, are crooked deep down, and truly deserve judgment from God for being a terrible person. If you don't think you're a terrible person deep down, then I dare say you may not yet truly be a Christian.

So on the roller coaster of emotions…we start out thinking we are really good people. But then we realize we're really not very good and in fact we are far worse of then we thought. Like the man who gets caught cheating on his wife. He feels terrible and pleads with her, "I'm sorry, just give me another chance, have mercy." But deep down he knows there is just something wrong with him and he knows even with another chance he will surely do it again. Knowing that, realizing that we will surely do it again, is that point when we realize we are far worse off then we previously thought.

Then we encounter the gospel which says not only my punishment gets taken care of by Jesus on the cross but real change in me becomes a reality and a real possibility for me. So we start feeling better about ourselves again on this side of Jesus. God starts working in you and showing you that you are not completely useless and in fact are useful to him and he has in fact given you gifts to help you in that…the next step is that we can easily start slipping back into that horrible pride we started out in, pride is sneaky and often subtle.

So Paul starts off this section with a warning for us. He's about to tell us that though were sinners, we've been given gifts by Jesus himself, but he must first warn us about pride. It truly is a roller coaster of emotions of sorts. It may take years sometimes to traverse all those stages where we go from thinking great about ourselves, to thinking horrible about ourselves, to thinking great about ourselves in Jesus, and then finally moving to thinking soberly or humbly about ourselves. But true humility and using our Jesus given gifts is where we want to go.

Godly Leadership Quelles Rebellion

So let's see how Scripture walks us through humilty and using our gifts. First, Paul re-asserts his apostolic authority. Here are the very first words of the book of Romans, " Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God." Here in Romans 12:3, he reminds of that, "By the grace given to me I say to (you)…" What is the grace given to Paul? That is an authortative leader in the church, so that when he says, "I say to you." That is significant.

Now, Paul was also a writer of Scripture, at the end of this book he says he was writing by the command of God (Rom 16:25-26), basically he says God told him to write this book. That's a big deal. Here in our verses for today, that surely applies, but I think there is also a principle of leadership at work here. He is about to talk about the graces or gifts given by Jesus to people and so he refers to his own gift first off as an example about how to be humble with it…"By the grace give to me I say to (you)."

Paul was a leader in the church and for leaders there are two side to this. One side is the lure and lust for power. Christian or non-Christian, president or citizen, business owner or business worker, pastor or parishoner…there is always a lure and lust to have more say, more influence, more control. Everybody wants things to go their way and wishes the world would bend and bow to their will.

Even if you are not a type A, overconfident, outgoing person…you still get frustrated when things don't go the way you want them to. As a Christian, you want or wish God would be this way or that way and do this thing for you. As a Californian, you want this person or that person to be president. At your job, you wish your boss would do things differently or if you are the boss you wish your employees would behave this way or do this for you. If you're a pastor you wish you could make people stop doing dumb things and if you're a parishoner, you wish you're pastor would get off your back.

Most people who become control-obsessed megalomaniacs do not start out that way. They usually start out with some natural talent or insight and become successful. But that success is like a drug and then they want it more and more. That's one side of this for leaders.

The other side is more subtle. It is the leader who is so afraid of those he is leading that he is afraid to speak. He doesn't want to be prideful or overbearing so he holds back. You may have a good idea but you afraid to speak because you're afraid of getting shut down. Or maybe you know God means you to be a leader but you are consumed with past faults or failures and so you hesitate and hold back from stepping forward and being who God has called you to be. This too is a prideful lust and lure, only this one is not so much for power but for approval, the approval of people.

The godly leader avoids both of these extremes and says, "by the grace of God I am what I am (1 Cor 15:10)" and then walks forward in that confidence. I think that is what is going on here. I think Paul is saying, "By the grace of God, I am what I am" so listen to me.

You see, as we'll learn today, God specifically gifts some people to be leaders and other people to be followers. And that is okay. It is good and healthy. Everyone is to be both a leader and a follower on some level, but some will primarily be leader and some will primarily be followers. And even ones who are primarily leaders need to be lead and need to be following someone. This is one of the principles of Christian living and Christian maturity.

We start out sinners in prideful rebellion against God. So when we embrace the gospel and become Christians one of the things God wants to teach us and do in us is make us humble and submissive to leaders he has placed over us. And that is not always very easy. To do something we don't really like because we recognize that God has placed someone over us. That is very humbling.

So for example, I am your pastor. That means God has called me and place me in this position to lead this church. That means you got to listen to me. I'm sorry. I don't know how you guys do it, listening to me preach week after week. You're crazy. But that's just the way it is. That's the way Jesus set it up. Hebrews 13:17 says "Obey your leaders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your souls." Unless I am in sin, you got to listen because otherwise you are rebelling against Jesus and the leaders and leadership he has put in place. The gifts God has given me put me in this position and by the grace of God I am what I am and so I say along with Paul, "I say to you…" listen up.

Humility is the Platform for Jesus' Gifts

Okay, now that sounds like a weird way to start out talking about all the gifts and using them humbly, but we're just following the text and that's what the text does so maybe it's better that way. Let's look at the next part…"I say to everyone among you not think of himself ore highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned."

How do you think of yourself? How do others think of you? If you asked your spouse, your friends, your co-workers…what would they say? What would they say you are like? Does your self-perception line up with how you really are? Do you think higher of yourself than you really are or ought to? Do you think lower of yourself than you really are or ought to? Who are you?

John Owen said, "There are two things suited to humble the souls of men…a due consideration of God and then of ourselves." Some of you may know that we have a leadership development group here at The Resolved Church as a way of raising up other pastors from within and attracting solid dudes from the outside. Currently, our group is working through an in-depth self-evaluation project.

The self-evaluation is about a 15 page packet with 22 main questions, and each question has like a paragraph of questions to stimulate thinking and self-reflection. Here's an example…

Do you serve willingly? Do you serve yourself or others primarily? Do you truly serve the well-being of others and shepherd them under the Lord? Do you strive for personal glory either aggressively (compulsively driven "on an ego trip") or passively (preoccupied with your "low self-esteem")? Do you manifest the combination of forcefulness and sensitivity, commitment and flexibility, which characterizes servants of the Lord's glory? Do you lord it over other people? Do you resist or avoid serving and loving others? Do you serve compulsively? Do you serve other people slavishly, kowtowing to their demands, expectations and whims. Do you let others lord it over you? Are you confused about what it means to serve and love others? Do you know how to say "No" realistically, firmly and graciously? Do you regularly rest and lay aside your work?

I share that with you as an example of one way you can work at having your self-perception line up with how you really are so that your not thinking of yourself more highly or lowly than you ought but with sober judgment. R.C. Sproul wisely points out that "our tendency is to see only the best of oursleves and only exalt our strengths as being the important ones."

Let's go back to our verse. We're told to think about ourselves humbly "according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." Now, just so you know there is some debate about this word measure. Some think measure means quantity, so that each has a different amount of faith that corresponds to their gift, so that some gifts require more faith than others. Others think meansure means quality, so that each has the same faith, the essential beliefs of Christianity, called the analogy of faith, by which we judge everything, especially ourselves.

There is good exegetical warrant for both views and there are good scholars on each side. Personally I think it is probably both because certainly we all have the same faith in Jesus and are to judge everything by those essential beliefs, but it also is true that within those essential beliefs we believe it is God who gives faith and certainly to people with their gifts for specific tasks (1 Cor 12:9) as we see throughout Scripture.

But I don't want to get into that too much for fear that we lose the main focus here which is any consideration of ourselves and our gifts must begin with humility, a sober self-estimation in light of God and his mercy.

Our Gifts Belong to One Another

My third point for today is, "Our Gifts Belong to One Another." It comes from verse 4-5, "For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we though many, are one body in Christ, and indivudally members of one another."

Okay, the body of Christ. We have learned here at The Resolved Church on several occassions that church is a group of people who believe in Jesus and are committed to each other. The church is not a building. The church is not a institution or a business. The church is not a Sunday service or gathering. The church is a body. It is a group of people who are members committed to one another.

That is one of the reasons why we have official church membership here. We have an eight-week membership class, we just had ten people take the class this summer and five have actually decided to sign our membership covenant and become a part of the church and we'll present them all to you next week. Some of you have yet to take that class or commit as a member. We'll offer the class again soon, we just chose not to do it this fall because we have so many new things going on.

Now, back to the idea of being a body. Obviously the idea of the church being a body is a metaphor for our personal human bodies. The metaphor is used several places in the Bible to talk about the church. Here's the analogy or the comparsion…it's simple. The body is composed of several parts, if certain parts are missing the body is not going to function correctly. With no mouth you couldn't eat or be fed. With no eyes, ears, or limbs you could not see or sense. With no heart there would be no blood or life flowing through you. And with no head you'd have no brain and not be able to do anything. The body is a diversity of unique parts which all work together in order to create this amazing result.

God looks at that, the body he made, and says that is what the church is like. There are all these unique parts that are intended to work together as one and when they do it is an amazing result. It is a beautiful and complex thing. Unity in diversity. This is what the Bible calls us to, this is what makes things truly amazing. Different people, different backgrounds, different interests, different gifts, coming together and working together and loving each other because of our common bond in Jesus. Revelation 5:9 pictures the church this way, people from every tribe and tongue.

I've said this before and I'll say it again today…but one of our problems is that often we only want to be around people who are like us, who have the same interests and background as we do. That is because of pride, because we love ourselves to much. The ironic thing is that the people who are most not like us are the one we need the most because they are the ones who truly end up helping us grow the most.

Look at the part where it says, "they do not all have the same function." One of the problems we sometimes face is where we think everybody ought to do or be the same way. Sometimes people falsly think, "Oh, if I'm going to be a real Christian or good Christian, then I should probably become a pastor." No, that's not true.

Or we're tempted to start resenting our gifting or area of service and think, "Well, somebody else should do this, or why doesn't that person ever do this or that." The thing is it may not be their gifting and you got to let them be free to be who they are. It can be so frustrating and devestating to try and force a person to perform in a way they are not gifted in, that can be crushing.

It has been a personal area of growth for me to let go of a lot of things. I used to think that because I am a pastor that I need to do everything. But that is not true and it's actually pride and actually hinders many of you from having an opportunity and area to serve. My gift is preaching. That is my area of service and I can be free to let others serve in the ways they are gifted.

One more thing on this part of the verse and then we'll move on to actually talking about the actual gifts. Look where it says, "(we are) indivudally members of one another." "We though many, are one body in Christ, and indivudally members of one another." This is a huge, paradigm worldview shaking statement…"we are members of one another." It's saying we belong to one another! You and I, if we are Christians and are committed to being members of the same church, then we belong to one another.

It's like in marriage. I had a pre-marital counseling session yesterday and I was explaining this to the couple that when you get married, that according to the Bible in 1 Corinthians 7, even the wife's physical body becomes the property of the husband and the husband's body becomes the property of the wife. They become one and belong to one another physicially and spiritually.

This is saying a similar things about the church as a whole. It is the same idea. The Bible often compares family and marriage relationships as being analogous to the church. We as the church are members of each other and we become one together. I'm not making this up. Look at it again, "We though many, are one body in Christ, and indivudally members of one another."

This is one of the reasons why we are trying to make a huge shift to focus on community groups this fall. It feels a little like pulling teeth or trying to turn a big freight ship with a tiny little rudder. But the thing is we cannot and will not experience oneness, being members of one another by only seeing each other once a week on a Sunday, we must get together in the middle of the week in a small group setting.

So again, I implore you. I say to you, do whatever you got to do to shift your priorities so that you can be a part of either the community group on Tuesday nights or the one on Thursday nights. Without being a part of one of those two groups you will really miss out one the heart of the life of this church…you will end up being like an outsider looking in on Sunday and you will not have a place to discover and use your Jesus given gift.

The Gifts

So let's actually talk about the gifts mentioned here in Romans. Let's re-read verses 6-8 and then go through it. "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy in proportion to our faith; If service, in our serving; The one who teaches, in his teaching; The one who exhorts, in his exhortation; The one who contributes, in generosity; The one who leads, with zeal; The one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."

Okay, we're finally there. Actually talking about the gifts. How many of you actually know what your spritual gift is or have thought about it? If you don't know you need to think about it.

First, know that Jesus does give us gifts. We have gifts, that are by grace, meaning we don't deserve them and definitely did not do anything to earn them, we have gifts and they are given. By who? Jesus. Ephesians 4 says the same thing it just exands a little. Ephesians 4:7 says, "Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift."

Think about that. Jesus not only gives us the greatest gift of all in coming into the world, becoming a man, living the life we've failed at, dying the death we deserve, and then rising again, but he also gifts us gifts on top of all of that! Jesus is really really good to us. You got to get ahold of this. If you are a Christian Jesus has personally given you a gift!

Next, what are the actual gifts? There are actually three main gift lists in the New Testament, one in 1 Corinthians, one in Ephesians, and this one here in Romans. If you combine them all together there are 22 gifts. But here is the thing, none of the lists are the same. There is definitely overlap where you see the same gifts listed but then there are gifts that are unique to each list. On top of it many of the gifts just seem like things that are basic to being a Christian. So what is the deal with that.

Here's the deal. Since non of the lists are the same and there is overlap, that leads us to believe that the gifts are not intended to be these tightly knit fixed categories like check boxes you either mark or leave blank. No single Christian has probably ever only had one spiritual gifts and probably no single Christian has had the same spiritual gift in the same degree. Gifts sets come in all different sizes and packages as it were.

In addition, it is true that many of these things are things that ought to be present in the life of every Christian, the point at which one realizes it is a gift is when you extraordinarily excel in that particular gift with an unusual joy and unusual effectiveness.

The gifts are divided into two main categories, as noted in 1 Peter 4:11, gifts of speaking and gifts of serving. The gifts of speaking here in Romans are: prophesying, teaching, and exhorting. The gifts of serving here in Romans are: contributing, leading, and mercy.

Let's talk briefly about each one. First the speaking gifts. Prophecy. Most people when they here the word "prophecy" they think of someone foretelling the future, like some spiritualist guru psychic palm reader or something. Prophecy in the Bible sometimes included foretelling, though not in the ecstatic hyper spiritual possession way, but in a plain and clear communication from God way. So sometimes prophecy included foretelling, but most of the time it was forth telling. Telling it like it is. Just being straight and cutting through all the layers and getting right to the heart of the issue. Most of the time that was prophecy, forth telling.

Today, there are no longer, capital "P" prophets. Now what I mean by that is that there were people who for a given period of time, had a gift of prophecy in an official way, that official way was the command of God for them to right Scripture. In Ephesians 2:20 we learn that the church is built on the foundational writings of the Apostles and Prophets. After the foundation was laid, there was no need for any additional books to be added to the Bible and so when John, the last of the apostle's died, the capital "P" position of prophet ended.

Now, I've been saying capital "P" intentionally…that is because I don't think that means people may not have a prophetic like gifting, like it's talking about here in Romans. They're not writers of Scripture and may not be gifted to supernaturally tell the future, but they may have a real gift at forth telling, telling it like it is and being straight with people. So, following Wayne Grudem, I use his distinction of capital "P" Prophet and little "p" prophet for the gift people in the church today may have. If you want to read up more on that check out is Ph.D. dissertation now in book form titled, "The Gift of Prophecy."

You'll notice that with each of the gifts there is an added qualification. Interestingly, each of the added qualifications seems to indicate a specific way of applying the command to be humble with the use of our gifting. Each gift comes with a specific way for us to use it with sober judgment, not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought.

We need that because you'll learn that the thing you are most gifted in will be the exact area you are most prone to sin in and usually because of pride. If happens for me all the time. The times I think I preached a really good sermon, nobody says anything and it just feels sort of dull. The times when I really think I bombed it or whatever, people are crying and coming up to me afterward telling me how great that was. Pride. It will attack your gift for sure. So having the specifically additive on how to use our gift humbly is much needed.

With prophecy, it is to be used in proportion to your faith. So for example, if you really believe you are supposed to say something to somebody about their life, be humble about it. Don't say, "The LORD says…" Because what you did then was just put your words on par with Scripture and you were not honest and humble about the potential for you to be wrong since you are sinner. Instead, say something like, "You know, I really feel like God wants me to tell you this and I could be wrong but…" That is using the gift of prophecy with humility.

The next speaking gift is "teaching." Teaching can include a whole host of things. There are many different types and ways of teaching. There are people who love learning and reading and going to school. You know those weirdoes. I'm one of them, I went to college full-time for eight straight years and loved every minute of it. I just wish I could figure out how to get back in! I love homework! Others of you can't stand school and learning and homework and teaching. It's not your gift.

The humility application that is added is to teach. If you're gifted to teach then use your gift to actually teach. You know there is a difference between actually teaching someone something and just imparting information. Just giving a lecture or a speech to someone is not teaching them. Teaching happens when learning happens, so make sure those you are teaching are actually learning and putting what you teach them into practice. Pride would make you think you are done at just saying what you were supposed to say. That's a lot easier but it falls short of teaching.

The final speaking gift mentioned here is "exhortation." This word can mean to encourage or use words to spur someone along. Barnabas, one of the disciples and apostles in the Bible, was called the Son of Encouragement. He had a unique gift of always seeing the best in people and situations, he could see potential and what could be. Some of you are like that, you are visionary and love to encourage others. This is the gift of exhortation. The humility application that is added is to be encouraging or exhorting. If your gift is exhortation/encouragement then use it to really encourage people, because you could easily use that to try and build yourself up rather than the other person.

The first serving gift is "serving." This word is a broad word meaning just service or ministering. In Acts its used of the people who took care of tables, set-up, tear-down, tending them while their up etc. Now everyone who is a Christian is called to serve others and be a servant like Christ Jesus. But someone who is gifted in serving is someone who particularly excels in serving. The don't like to talking in front of people, they enjoy doing the behind the scenes work, being a number 2 or number 3 person. And they are really good at it. They work hard and are reliable and consistent and think of good ways to handle practical details.

The humility application added to serving is to serve. If your gift is serving you will most likely hit a point where you feel burnt out and it starts to feel like a duty and like everything is just dumped on you and now you're just stuck with it and you keep doing it either out of guilt or just wanted to please somebody else. If you're gifted in serving in order to stay humble with this gift you have to have a sacrificial mentality where you are like water always being poured out for others to drink.

The second serving gift is "contributing" or "sharing." This gift is one where a person is uniquely enabled by God to give their time, treasure, and talent to anything that is needed. They are always looking and willing for a place to help out and lend a hand.

The humility application added to "contributing" is to do it generously. If you're gift is contributing there will be a temptation to at times be stingy and not want to help, or a withholding of something you know you could give or do.

The third serving gift is "leading." Leading is truly a serving gift, not a power play. You're a leader if you have people following you. If you think you're a leader but no one's following you, you're not leading you're just taking a walk. Leaders do everything for those who are following them. Interestingly, the word here is where we get our English word, "president" from. It means you are gifted in caring for others, watching out for others, and directing others to right paths.

The humility application added to leading is to lead with zeal or diligence. The temptations for leaders who have others under them is for them to then become slack in their work and not striving forward passionately with intent dedication. Those who are gifted to lead, must stay humble by working hard.

The last serving gift is "mercy." This word most likely has reference to ministering to the poor either in spirit or finances, to either the physically or emotionally sick. This gift is a particular gift where you excel in compassion and love giving aid to others. Some of you are so generous, you are just always giving and will help anyone out with anything they need. That's the gift of mercy.

The humility application added to the gift of mercy is to use it with "cheerfulness." The temptation with a gift of mercy will be to treat it just as if it were a duty or the right thing to do rather than being motivated by the massive joy there is in Christ in being a vessel of mercy to others.

That's the gifts. And they are so needed. Their use and activity is what makes a church strong and healthy. How do you know what gifts you have? How do you discover what Jesus has given you? Sometimes it is just trial and error, you have to try a few things before you find out what you really like. Sometimes is much more natural, you gifts will most likely go hand in hand with the things that you've naturally always been good at. That doesn't make it more or less spiritual. For the Christian, everything is spiritual as we learned last week, that all of life is worship.

Once you know what your gifts are then you have a responsibility before God to use them and use them humbly. I pray that going through these extremely practical things today will greatly enhance and help your walk with God. You see, you are meant by God to be using your gifts and if you're not using them, you have a sort of uncompleted lacking and sometimes aimless feeling. You will be most satisfied in life when you are using everything that you are for the glory of God alone.


Well, it's been a thick and long study today. Let me just wrap it up in a short review and then we'll close. We started off talking about pride and how we've all God devil's bones deep down. The beauty of the gospel is the Jesus has mercy on us and changes us. He takes out the dead man's bones and gives us a new heart. One that loves him, becomes okay and honest with ourselves, and then gives it's life away for others.

We learned first that God places leaders over us to help us with our natural tendencies to prideful rebellion. We learned that humility is the platform for the gifts Jesus gives us and is the only way to be happy and useful with them. Then we went through each of the gifts and learned what they are and how to use them.

Let's conclude this day with Jesus, the life of Christ. To have to true humility, to be able to truly use our gifts for God's glory, we need the death of Jesus. The disciples spent three years with Jesus. One time during the course of one of their journeys they got into an argument about who would sit near Jesus when he took his seat on the throne, they fought about who would be the greatest. Then Jesus utters these words to them, "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45)."

Jesus gave his life for you and I, so that we might be transformed into humble servant like him. It's not about who's greater or who's better. That's pride, it's by nature competitive. Humility, accepts it's place and position and does not strive to improve it but only to be who God wants and do what he wants. That only happens through us dying to ourselves and in order for that to happy we have to be crucified in the cross of Christ so that his life might get imparted to us. Jesus, the most gifted and most human man of all. May he make us like him.

Last Sunday, the sermon text we studied addressed the spiritual gifts Jesus gives to those who are in his family. This week's journal entry supplements that sermon to hopefully give you some guides to answer the following questions: what are the gifts, who are they for, how do you know what gift(s) you have, and how do you use your gift(s)?

1. What are the gifts?

There are three primary gift lists in the Bible, one in Romans, one in 1 Corinthians, and one in Romans. If you put them all together there are 22 gifts. However, none of the gift lists are the same and there are gifts unique to each list. Because of this, it seems the gifts are not intended to be these tightly knit fixed categories like check boxes you either mark or leave blank. No single Christian has probably ever only had one spiritual gifts and probably no single Christian has had the same spiritual gift in the same degree. Gifts sets come in all different sizes and packages as it were. In addition, several of the gifts are things which ought to be present in the life of every Christian, what makes it a gift is when a person extraordinarily excels in that particular gift with an unusual joy and unusual effectiveness. Below is a chart which shows all gifts and where they are mentioned. For a good description of these gifts see, Wayne Grudem's "Systematic Theology."

2. Who are they for?

The gifts are for three people. One, they are for God and his glory. God is glorified when we use the gifts his son Jesus has given us. God is pleased and it displays how good he is. Two, they are for others. The funny things about the gifts is they are all given so that we might use them to give away to others! The gifts contribute to the body of Christ so that it functions together as one unified group which needs each other. Three, they are for us personally. As individuals we are incomplete and unsatisfied until we are using our gift(s). Using our gift(s) brings a great sense of joy and fulfillment in life.

3. How do you know what gift(s) you have?

Discovering our gifts can take a lot of time. We frequently do not discover our spiritual gift until their is a humbling in us when we open ourselves up to not live for us any longer but to be used as Jesus' vessels for his honor and glory and our joy. Often the gifts are associated with the things we are naturally talented in, good at, and enjoy. Other times it may take some trial and error. Some people may discover by trying out some things to see what they like and what they are good at. There is also an online test you can take that can be a helpful aid sometimes. If you'd like to check it out here it is: www.elca.org/evangelism/assessments/spiritgifts.htm

3. How do you use them?

We use our gifts in two ways. One, in humility. Having gifts and using them and being used by God in other peoples lives can be very dangerous because pride very easily can creep in when it comes to our gifts. We can think we ministered to others because we are just that good rather than recognizing it is God's gifting at work in and through us. Usually the areas we are most gifted in will be the same areas we are most prone to find ourselves falling into sin with. Second, we use our gifts a dependency on the Lord to use them (1 Pet 4:11). It is possible to use our gifts poorly because we do not rely on the strength God provides to use our gifts rightly. We need God's help to use our gifts to the greatest potential as they are intended.

May Jesus continue to help us know what our gifts are and to put them to use.
- Pastor Duane
In last Sundays sermon I talked about an elevator pitch of the gospel. The term elevator pitch comes from business entrepeneurs and the idea is you happen to be in an elevator alone with you and someone like Donald Trump, you got about sixty seconds to saw who and what you are about in hopes to win him over at least to have some sort of interest in your company. Could you do that with the gospel? Can you take someone from creation to the cross to the culmination of all things? Maybe, that's a big task.

If you could there is not only the factual truths of the gospel but there is also your personal story, how your initial life is a microcosm of the big grand story, how you have individual participated in and exemplified that great grand story. Which always takes longer…to tell who you are and how Jesus has changed your life.

So let me give you the elevator pitch of the gospel. The word "gospel" simply means good news. The gospel is a good news message that begins with a story. The story starts with God. The God, the one who created everything in the very beginning and in his creation he made a special garden named Eden where the first man and woman sinned, and did not listen to and love God and that ever since them all of us all human being have been repeating that sin and trapped in the same cycle of loving ourselves and other things more than God and it reaps destruction in us. Think of all the things we try and try and pursue which never really meet our real need deep down.

We so easily to love the creature rather than the eternal Creator which has an eternal consequence called hell. But God did something about hell in a unique point in human history. He became a man, the God-man Jesus and he lived a perfect life, the one we've failed at and continue to fail at and then he died the eternal death we deserve for our failure, our sin on, by dying on a cross.

Jesus rose again to live forevermore and promises that new life both in quality and quantity to all who believe his person and his work on the cross actually can and does deal with who we are deep down as sinners. That new life begins here and now in us and carries on to eternity where we will go to be with him and live life the way it is supposed to be in pure worship with not just singing but fancy meals, exquisite journeys throughout God's lands, amazing conversations with friends and family, all with no more tears and no more pain.

That is good good news. The is the gospel in 60 seconds. Our past, our present, and our future. Broken down, super short, nuts and bolts gospel. 1 Peter 3:15 says, "In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." Can you do that? Think about it. If you want to see an example of it, check out this video:

So a couple practical updates in regards to the life of our church...
1. We discovered several people were not getting the weekly email, sorry. We are working on it and it should be fixed this week.
2. Our calendar is UP TO DATE and can be found by clicking on "Calendar" picture at the upper right hand side of the website.
3. Kathy Broersma is going to be teaching a women's discipleship course. Read about the details HERE
4. There is updated information on the up and coming camping trip. Check out the details HERE
5. In the past we have helped sponsor events from "The Girls Think Tank." Stay tuned for more information on the second annual community picnic coming up, which we'll help out with again next year. You can check out their website here: http://girlsthinktank.org
6. If you have not yet RSVP'd to one of the community groups starting next week and this week please do so, so the ladies know how much food to prepare. For the Allied Gardens Group: . For the Normal Heights Group:
7. If you missed the last church plant meeting you can download it HERE

Friday night, Sept 26th at San Onofre!

$10 a person. Talk to Aaron Braun about what food you can bring etc.

Aaron Braun

Reservation: #2-2410517
Site, Loop: G01, Bluff Sites 51-66, Group Camp
Site Reserve Type: Site-Specific
Checkin Time: 2:00 pm
Checkout Time: 12:00 pm
Type of Use: Overnight
Minimum Number of People: 9
Maximum Number of People: 50
Maximum Number of Vehicles: 12
Driveway Length: 18
Maximum Vehicle Length: 18

A maximum of 12 vehicles are included with the reservation fee, additional vehicles are charged a fee at the park. The campsites are about a half of a mile walk to the beach. Bicycles are allowed San Onofre State Beach Campground is up on a 90' bluff above the ocean. There are 6 dirt trails that access the beach. Some of the trails are steep The campground is close to the railroad tracks and the I-5 freeway, and can get noisy. The nearest services are 5 miles north of the campground in San Clemente. No dogs allowed on the beach!

This campground has outdoor showers with cold water only. Park area offers good walking on 3.5 miles of beaches or through 6 access trails, cut into the bluffs, which is a 1/4 mile hike down the beach. Area is undeveloped and is planning to remain in it's primitive, unspoiled condition. Surfing and skin diving are allowed. NO radios and no one under 18 is allowed to camp without a parent. No dogs allowed on the beach!

Park Kiosk Hours: Hi Season: 8am-9pm Lo Season: 8am-5pm Group Campground: Located behind restroom building #9 and between campsites #66 and #67. This site has an ocean view, 12 parking spaces. Large dirt area for tents, will accommodate up to 50 people.
The Journey
by Kathy Broersma

We are very pleased to announce that Kathy Broersma will be teaching a women's discipleship course in her home called, "The Journey." This course is the result of years of female wisdom and study all developed by Kathy herself. Kathy is an immense treasure to our church, you girls will not want to miss being a part of this.

Titus 2:3-4 "Older women...are to teach what is good, and so train the young women."

The course will addressing things like: Is believing in Jesus something good that we simply add into the mix of who we are and how we live our lives - or is it something more radical? More intentional? More intimate? You will learn for yourself how the Bible helps us answer questions like: Who am I? Does my life have meaning? Does it matter how I live my life? What happens when I die?


09-24-08 ----- Introduction
10-01-08 ----- The Intentional Life
10-08-08 ----- The Roadmap
10-15-08 ----- The Journey Begins
10-22-08 ----- The Journey Matters
10-29-08 ----- Deserts, Detours & Rules of the Road
11-05-08 ----- Journey's End

This is the first week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 1, this week, is titled "All of Life is Worship" and works with Romans 12:1-2 and issues of Christian praxis, life through death, conformation and transformation, and God's will for our lives. This sermon was originally preached September 7th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.


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September 7th, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"All of Life is Worship"
Romans 12:1-2


Good morning everyone. My name is Duane Smets. I pastor here under our head pastor Jesus and I get the privilege being the one who usually preaches God's Word each Sunday. Well, today we start a brand new sermon series here at The Resolved Church, called "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ."

Both the title and the artwork for this series is an unashamed reference to the latest hit single and album from band "Coldplay." Which you probably knew unless you've been living in a cave this last year, or you're just more mature than the rest of us all and don't listen to the radio.

"Viva La Vida" just happened to fit really well with where we are in our study of the book of Romans as church. Viva La Vida is Spanish meaning "Alive is the Life" or "Long Live the Life." Christus is actually Latin for Christ, which I added on there because Christus just sounds so much cooler than the Spanish "Christos." Anyway, you put it together and it means, "Living the Life of Christ" which is exactly what the rest of the book of Romans is all about.

Chapters 1-11 talk about this thick, deep, meaningful, gnarly, awesome, rigorous, soul wrenching, mind bending truths…and then there is a transition in chapter 12 from the high altitudes of theology to the ground level, down to earth, practical outworkings of the gospel in each of our lives.

We have taken the first four years or so during this starting of our church to study the book of Romans in the Bible, which more than any other book so clearly articulates the gospel of Jesus Christ. We want to be a church whose foundation is the gospel, so that's why we started with this book. What we kind of do is split sections up into series and then we go back and forth from studying Romans and studying other things from different places in the Bible in-between series. This will be our last Romans series which both kind of exciting because we'll have finished the book and kind of sad because we've spent so much time in the book.

We've been away from our study in Romans for a month and a half and it could not come at a more timely time both for us and where we are in the life of our church in our focus on living in community together and also for our city and where we are in the time and season of the year entering into fall… Students are back in school, which means parents of the young ones are back to the regular routine and college students are back in town. Summer flings are now over and will either disintegrate or develop into real relationships. Weddings may be on the way for some and broken hearts for others. Tans will fade, hoodies will come out, grass will start growing again, the ocean water will get colder, the beaches sparser, the coffee hotter and the beer better. You gotta love life in San Diego in the fall.

Well let's read our text for this morning and pray over it and then get into our study. There's Bibles on the back table if you need one. I've given this week's sermon the subtitle, "All of Life Is Worship." Let's hear the Word of God.

Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Lord God, would you be so kind to make yourself known today in a way this Word or yours does not return void but hits us and works in us and impels us to a deeper, fuller, farther reaching worship of you then we have yet to experience in our lives. Would it give us a clearer understanding of what it means for us in our day to day lives to be believers in Jesus. Would this passage be a key tool that teaches us to look to your and your will for us first and foremost rather than ourselves as we are so prone to do. God you are good, pleasing and perfect. Do you work today in us…Amen.

Christian Praxis

I want to start today with a question. If someone came up to you and asked you what the gospel is could you share the story of the gospel in 60 seconds, one minute? What would you tell them. Business entrepreneurs call this an "elevator pitch." The idea is you happen to be in an elevator alone with you and someone like Donald Trump, you got about sixty seconds to saw who and what you are about in hopes to win him over at least to have some sort of interest in your company.

Could you do that with the gospel? Can you take someone from creation to the cross to the culmination of all things? Maybe, that's a big task. Paul just spent 11 chapters giving us the gospel. Then there is not only that story but there is your personal story, how your initial life is a microcosm of the big grand story, how you have individual participated in and exemplified that great grand story. That always takes longer. To tell who you are and how Jesus has changed your life.

Some of you it takes really long because it takes so long for you to say anything. I was talking to this dude the other day on the phone and the guy just went on and on and on without a breath…I would hold the phone away for a minute, thinking is this guy serious, and then come back and he is still talking…I finally told him I had to go.

So I want to try and give you an elevator pitch of the gospel because the first word of our text here is the word, "therefore" and I am pretty persuaded because of the change in tone, the change in subject, and the change indicated from the phrase, "by the mercies of…" that Paul, the human author of Romans, is intending to refer to everything he has said so far in the book. So far, for eleven chapters it's been doctrine, theology.

Good and solid doctrine and theology ought always to come first. John Calvin said the difference between the gospel and philosophical speculation is the that philosophical speculation is superstructure without a foundation, like a body without a head. If the gospel is true, it's got to have a foundation, a worldview that makes sense and can support it…that's why when people poo poo theology and say things like, "Who needs theology" or "That's the problem with theology" I always get bummed…Because good theology is essential. You all need to have some good theology otherwise whatever you believe is foundationless, like a body without a head. Everyone has a theology, even no theology is a theology…we just need to have good theology.

So let me give you the elevator pitch of the gospel, the good theology. The Gospel is the good news message that begins with the story that God created everything in the very beginning and in his creation he made a special garden named Eden where the first man and woman sinned, and did not listen to and love God and that ever since them all of us all human being have been repeating that sin and trapped in the same cycle of loving ourselves and other things more than God and it reaps destruction in us.

We so easily to love the creature rather than the eternal Creator which has an eternal consequence called hell. But God did something about hell in a unique point in human history. He became a man, the God-man Jesus and he lived a perfect life, the one we've failed at and continue to fail at and then he died the eternal death we deserve for our failure, our sin on, by dying on a cross.

Jesus rose again to live forevermore and promises that new life both in quality and quantity to all who believe his person and his work on the cross actually can and does deal with who we are deep down as sinners. That new life begins here and now in us and carries on to eternity where we will go to be with him and live life the way it is supposed to be in pure worship with not just singing but fancy meals, exquisite journeys throughout God's lands, amazing conversations with friends and family, all with no more tears and no more pain.

That is good good news. That is the gospel in 60 seconds. Our past, our present, and our future. Broken down, super short, nuts and bolts gospel. Chapter 11 ended by saying that such a gospel is mercy. We have all been disobedient in order that God may have mercy on many. God didn't have to come into the world in Jesus and do anything at all. He would have been a fully good and upright and just God, just to end the story at hell, and all the angels would praise him for keeping true to his word and punishing evil as he ought. But God has mercy in Jesus.

Now Chapter 12 begins, in view of such mercy…this is how we ought to be, this is what ought to drive our lives in how we live them. This is what separates the gospel from religion. Religion says "do these things and you will live" but the Bible here says "live and you will do these things." John Stott says it this way, "There is no greater incentive to holy living than a contemplation of the mercies of God…(it) is the spring and foundation of righteous conduct." We must see ourselves as recipients of mercy.

So today, Viva La Vida begins with an appeal to the practical of life. How we live outside these doors. Even the third word here that gets translated "appeal" is saying something significant. Other translations use phrases like, "call you to, I summon you, I exhort you, I beseech, I encourage you, I implore you, I admonish you, or "I urge you." I was talking to someone the other day who is not a Christian and hasn't really had much exposure to the gospel and they didn't know what a sermon was. And so I was trying to explain what a sermon was and I found myself saying things like, "Well, it's kind of a speech but it's more than a speech…there is an imperative where I am calling people to something, saying 'YOU NEED THIS!"

Life by Death

So let's deal with the next few words, what it is we need so bad. "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…(you need this) to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

This is the great reversal, life by death. We are to present our bodies living, having life, by sacrificing…sacrifice is death. We live by dying. I want to flush that out a bit. First, know that this cluster of words, "present" "sacrifice" "holy" and "acceptable" are all somewhat technical words which are probably totally inferior to us here in the 21 century living in San Diego, California. They are words which belong to sacrificial systems of worship.

In ancient Judaism, you would sacrifice on an alter either food or certain types of animals based on how much money you made and what particular sin needed to be punished. So the idea in the sacrificial system is that the animal or the grain suffers for you and then appeases God turning away his judgment.

Other world religions both in ancient Mesopotamia and in Rome were not dissimilar. There were temple payments and sacrifices, the main difference was that instead of sacrificing to one God you sacrificed to different gods for different things and you would not only sacrifice for sins but also for hopeful favor…like for good weather, or good crops.

The closest we probably get in our culture to the sacrifices of ancient times or to what still happens in some parts of the world, is when people burn incense or candles to a particular god for one reason or another, usually in the privacy of their own home. In Bible times is it was much more public and out in the open for everyone to see.

Now, here when he says to present or offer our bodies, the Bible is not telling to make physical human sacrifice but is picturing our bodies as our whole person. Not only our all our bodily faculties and things we use to function, but our very selves.

This is an analogy. It is taking the idea of sacrifice and saying…look, instead of going to a public place and making a sacrifice whenever you do something wrong, or always looking to appease some God, remember the mercy you have received in Jesus. Jesus paid the sacrifice once and for all and now our lives become like an ever ongoing sacrifice to God through him. That is the analogy of the Christian life…that you no longer live for yourself. Once you encounter the God who lived and died for you it so changes us that we begin to live for others more than for ourselves. We begin a death of sorts where we die more and more to self and live more and more to God.

1 Peter 2:24 says, [Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

It is life through death. And such a life is holy and acceptable to God. For something to be holy means to be set apart. It is for something to be especially dedicated for something. For example, say you have some special clothes that you only wear on special occasions. Like me, I have a couple suits. I hardly ever wear them except when I'm doing weddings. Or I have to "dress up" for something really important. My suits are set apart, they are holy for special occasions.

Here God says, our lives, through Jesus, now is a continual living sacrifice, special and holy. Our life because holy, special, set apart for him. It is like each day, we are to wake up and put on our suit and live for him and not for ourselves any longer. And now it is possible because we have Jesus, where before him it was maybe a hopeful religious quest doomed to failure.

On top of it all it is pleasing. ESV here says "acceptable." I wish it would have translated this as well-pleasing because acceptable seems like second best. Being made alive in Christ is not second best, it is so pleasing to God and when God is pleased we are most happy and satisfied as humans. We are made for God, not for ourselves, and once we humble ourselves and recognized that and receive Jesus' sacrifice for us trying to live for ourselves…then we are freed to be a creature and to be a happy creature who lives under and for a wise and sufficient God.

This is what life is for the Christian. It is worship. In Romans 1 we fall in downward spiral of foolish worship and here in Romans 12 we are lifted up to reasonable and renewed worship. You see those two words there "spiritual worship"? Well the word spiritual is logikos where we get the word "logic" but it's coupled with another word which means "worship" or "service." The idea is somewhere between spiritual on one hand and rational on the other.

The Greek Philosopher Epictetus used logikos this way, he said "If I were a nightengale, I would do what is proper to a nightengale, and if I were a swan, what is proper to a swan. In fact I am logikos, so I must praise God." The Christian idea goes even farther and says, in light of the gospel, who Jesus is and what he has done, dying to ourselves and ever living for him in everything is the only true and proper response left…it becomes our spiritual and rational worship. Worship is no longer focused on a particular place, like in a temple, or in Israel but is now solely in Jesus…we worship him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24).

Conformation and Transformation

Sounds simple enough right? Ya right? If any of you have been a Christian for any amount of time you know it is really really hard. Yes, it is great and true and pleasing to God and is satisfying and Jesus is really really good. But being a Christian is not easy. Why? Because we're still in the world and because of that there is still remaining sin and depravity both in us and all around us.

That's why before Jesus went to die for us he prayed a long prayer for us in John 17 and he asks that the Father would sanctify us in his truth because we are still in the world and we need to be purified from the evil in us and protected from the evil one around us. Here, Paul says it a different way…he says, "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind."

So let's talk about the conformation and transformation in us in light of the gospel. We're given this injunction, this call, to not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Conformity and non-conformity, transformation and stagnation…these are some of the biggest barriers and challenges to the work of the gospel in us while we are in the world. Interestingly, the word here for world is not the normal word that is used. Instead, it's actually the word aeon, which is this age or this time or this period in the course of all of history.

The Bible divides all of history and by all I mean ALL of history into three periods. The past, which is the first and original age, the one perfection in paradise in the garden of Eden. The present, which is age of evil and sin ever since Adam sinned in the garden. And then the future age, of full redemption and glorification, paradise returned with no more sickness, sin, sorrow and evil. Right now we are still in this present evil age, though we've had a taste of the age to come through Jesus.

But this present evil age in the world in many ways is like a force in us and around us which pressures us and influences us to follow its ideas and its agendas. J.B. Philips translated this verse in Romans this way, he said, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its mold."

It begins when we are very young and then just continues and gets more complex and more sophisticated as we get older…the pressure to conform and be squeezed into the mold of other people's expectations. That pressure is so strong, whether it be from friends, family, the media, co-workers…we don't want to be on the out.

Many of you know that I work at a group home for teenagers on Thursday and Friday. All the boys just went back to school and it is ridiculous how much time these boys spend changing outfits, fixing their hair, they'll dump a whole bottle of gel in their hair in one day and spend 45 minutes shaping it.

We get older and it just gets more sophisticated. Then it is trying to make sure you got a good job, you own a nice home, drive a nice car, and go on exotic vacations. Some people are smart…they sense and they feel the pressure to conform and so they decide they'll be non-conformists and not be beat. They make it the goal of their life to be different and stand out.

So they get all tattooed and pierced up and make sure they listen to all the right music and go to all the right shows. I realized this a few years back when I went to a Belle and Sebastian concert. If you don't know who Belle and Sebastian are they're and indie rock band from the UK. And if you don't know what indie rock is, nobody else does either so don't feel bad.

But I showed up at this concert in LA and there were about 500 or so people walking around and I swear everyone of them was wearing converse sneakers, with tight jeans, and jet black dyed hair. It was ridiculous, all these non-conformists together in one place and they were all exactly the same.

My wife Amy took me to the Bob Dylan concert last night for my birthday, which was great. Mr. Zimmerman, Bob Dylan, has a song he didn't sing last night called "Maggie's Farm." In it there's a line that describes exactly what I'm talking about. He says, "Well, I try my best, to be just like I am. But everybody wants you, to be just like them. They sing while you slave and I just get bored. I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more."

What is the deal with the dangers of conformity and non-conformity? It is this, the want and desire for approval…it's the same for both. When we try so hard to conform it's because we want to impress others so that they will like us or love us, because we all want to be loved.

When we refuse to conform, non-conformity, it's because we're afraid people will not love us and so we react and try to be different and stand out…the thing is both of them have this in common, the want for approval. Which isn't necessarily bad, the thing is that only God can give us the approval and the love we are so desiring and the amazing thing about the gospel is that we realize we are far worse off then we ever realized and at the same time more loved than we ever thought possible…nobody's approval can exceed God's in Christ.

The gospel is truly transforming. We are a people who need change. We need to be changed. There are things about all of us that are not good. What happens too often is we start trying to compete with each other to see who is a better Christian or who is more spiritual. That's just our stupid pride rearing it's ugly head again. We all need change, we need to be transformed, we are all sinners.

The word for transformation here is metamorphosis. A change from one thing into another. How does that happen as a Christian, how does change take place, how do people change as they embrace Jesus in their lives. It happens this way, look at the text, the continual, "renewal of your mind." To have our minds renewed is to have them redeemed and set back to thinking about God, the world and ourselves properly…they way we should, like back in Eden before sin.

We just don't think about things properly. We come to any issue or topic or situation with a whole set of baggage from our past experiences and thoughts and then we try to make some sort of judgment about things. Even now, what is happening right now as I talk is you are listening to what I am saying and trying to hold it against what you have previously thought and experienced and trying to make some judgment about it. Right?

The thing is we don't know how to think, we are ignorant and when we usually do try and think we think very foolishly, we've been completely brain-washed because of sin. We need total re-programming. The renewing of our minds has to do with us adjusting our ways of thinking about everything as a Christian, everything is now up for grabs and has to be re-considered. Which is why God gave us a book to help us in that, to tell us what he thinks so we can think his thoughts. That's why we study it so hard and work hard to apply it to our lives.

Not What I Want

Well, let's work with this last phrase of our verse and how the Christian mindset transforms us so the cry of our hearts is, "Not what I want, but what you want Lord." The last part of our verse for today says once the ongoing process of transformation in the gospel is happening then, "by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

As a pastor, besides preaching, my other big responsibility is counseling. People come to me all the time with questions either about the Bible or about their lives, they come seeking prayer and advice. Many of you have done and do that, which is good, that's my job, it's my joy to serve you that way. You want to know the most popular question I get asked? It's this, it comes out in several different ways…but it can always be boiled down to this simple question, "What is God's will for my life?" That's it, that's the #1 question I get asked for advice and prayer.

Almost every time, maybe not every, but almost every time I refer to this verse because it speaks directly to that question. What does it say? What is God's will for my life? Well, first we know that his will is good, acceptable and perfect, so that is definitely what we want. But how do I come to know that good, acceptable and perfect will? Work backwards…I seek to be transformed by the renewal of my mind, I do not allow myself to be conformed to the patterns of this world, I present myself and my life as a living sacrifice, and I live as a recipient of mercy through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I guarantee if you follow those steps you will have assurance of God's will for your life. You see, I think what many of us have wanted (me included) when we ask the question of what God's will for our life is God to just tell us straight out, like in a voice out of heaven or something so that we wouldn't have to do any work or seeking him to find out. Right? We just want to know and we want to know now and we want it to be easy.

That's not the way God works. First of all, not that God couldn't or hasn't ever but the primary way that God speaks to us is not in some sort of experiential impression. In fact, I would venture so far to say you ought to be very careful if you think God is telling you something, because we in our own human sinfulness have a great propensity to sort of justify what we really want to do and so we pray about it and if we feel sort of good, because of our excitement or whatever, then we say that is God and so we put our God stamp on it and say, "I think God is telling me to do this. I prayed about it."

So first, the primary way God speaks to us is NOT through experiential senses of his voice. The primary way God speaks to us is through his word. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice…they follow me (Jn 10:27)." It is interesting. Do you know what shepherds do or used to do? From the time a little baby sheep is born a shepherd gives them a name. A shepherd names everyone of their sheep and from the time they are small calls them by name. As the little sheep is growing up it learns it's name and the sound of the voice of the shepherd so that when it is old whenever it hears its shepherd voice it knows automatically that it is him and it responds.

Here's the deal, it takes a lot of time before the sheep learns its name and the sound of its shepherd's voice. If you want to know the voice of Jesus and his will for your life your going to have to spend some time listening to him, getting to know what he calls you, what he says about you. How do you do that? Right here. The Bible. We have all his words for us recorded. That's one of the most important reasons why you gotta read your Bible, it's how you get to know Jesus' voice.

What this verse here in Romans is talking about is spiritual maturity. Because if you are walking with Jesus and disciplined in his word and his ways, there really isn't going to be a whole lot of big questions or decisions that you're going to have to face because when you do face them, you're going to know exactly what he wants because you've been walking with him.

What is really going on most of the time, maybe not all, but most of the time when we are "seeking God for his will" is that we want something that deep down we really know is not for us and we're trying to convince God or ourselves that it is okay. But what God wants is not really our first and primary concern, he is sort of an added on check off.

The gospel changes that. What have we learned today? We've learned the only way to live is by dying to ourselves. We've learned that we've been seeking approval from others rather than God either by conformity or non-conformity. And we've learned we need a total transformation of our way of thinking.

This is an extremely practical teaching. This verse teaches us that no matter what the question, if it is where you should live, what job you should work, what major in school you should have, who you should marry, if you should have kids, how you should raise your kids, what hobbies you should have, the first and primary issue to deal with is us…so that our wills our turn to say, I do truly not care about what the answer is, the only thing I care about is that it is what YOU WANT FOR ME GOD, not my will but yours. Because if it is God's will, you can't go wrong, you cannot fail.


Let's conclude today. Jesus is ultimate. I can't help but end this sermon with him. Jesus is the most merciful person I have ever encountered. It does not matter to him who you are or what you have done…thieves, the sexually immoral, the addict, the sick and dying, the outcast…he is full of mercy. I don't know all you're stories, and of the one's I do know, I'm sure I only know half the story…Jesus knows it all and he still loves you and accepts you.

When you read about Jesus' life here on earth, there is probably not a better way to describe it then, he offered up himself a living sacrifice…his life was totally lived in service to others. He did not give into to the immense pressures around him. His followers wanted to make him a king. His enemies wanted him to lash out against them. He did not conform to the patterns of this world…he resisted. He always put the Father's will first in his life. He went to the cross to pay the ultimate price so that you and I might live and have his life.

On the night before he died, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed a prayer recorded in the Bible for all of us to hear. He was considering all that he was about to do. Jesus was God, he knew exactly what was about to happen. The whipping. Being spit on and disgraced. The thorny crown. The nails. The cross. The spear in his side.

And even more than all of that, he knew he was about to suffer not just physical human pain but God pain, the pain and punishment for sin. He had never sinned, never knew what that was like, and in a single moment would take on all the sin in the world into his being as if it were his very own and then bear the full brunt of God's eternal wrath and hellish anger against him. It must have been the most horrendous cry mankind has ever hear when Jesus screamed on the cross.

He knew all of that ahead of time and he prayed this prayer. Father, if there be any other way I don't want to do this, but not what I will but what you will.

That is what we need. We need Jesus. You see Jesus is not just a good example. We're kidding ourselves if we think we could ever reach that height of sacrifice and surrender of our will. We need something more. We need Jesus himself, we need the good news of the gospel for God to give us Jesus, his life and his death in exchange for all that we are. We have to be transformed and made into a people of mercy.

Maybe you've never put faith in Jesus, turn to him day. Maybe you've just been stagnate for a long time and there's no transformation happening. Trust Jesus today. Let's go to him and allow him to minister to us.

Let's pray.