Blog | Pastor Duane

The artwork from our Viva La Vida sermon series (to the left) comes from the cover of Coldplay's album, which is actually a 19th century painting by Eugène Delacroix called "Liberty Leading the People." Delacroix was a French Romantic artist who specialized in illustrating the literary works of William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Yet, his most famous painting was the highly political piece, "Liberty Leading the People."

In the painting a woman representing liberty is leading representatives of the three main classes in society...the rich, the poor and the middle-class while waving the French tricolour, which became the symbol of the French Revolution. The painting is on display at the Louvre, where it has been since 1874.

The subtitle to our VIVA LA VIDA sermon series is "Living the Life of Christ." So I thought I'd take this entry and an opportunity to talk about the connection between the life of Christ, revolution and liberty.

When you read the New Testament Gospels one of the striking things thing you notice is these repeated crowds showing up all over the place because of Jesus. Some were undoubtedly attracted to Jesus because of his miraculous feats. Some were surely drawn to him because of his great teaching the spiritual wisdom he imparted. And without a doubt many gravitated to him in hopes of him being a social and political revolutionary.

The first century was a tumultuous time particularly for the Jews. They did not like the ruling order of the Romans and hoped for a leader a messiah to lead a revolution and deliver them. And various potential messiahs of this sort tried. In historical order, this includes these men: Eleazar (Josephus, Jewish Wars [J.W.], 2.13.2), Judas Son of Ezekias (Joshephus, Antiquities [Ant.], 17.10.5), Simon Servant of Herod (Ant., 17.10.6), Athronges (Ant., 17.7), Menahem Son of Judas (J.W. 2.17.8), Simon bar Giora (J.W. 7.26-32), and Simeon bar Kokhba (Dio Cassius 59.13.3).

These are just revolutionaries who got recorded in history books, but there were also several other unnamed ones merely dismissed as "bandits" and "guerillas." Of the ones who are recorded 5 were before Jesus started his ministry and two (which were the biggest and most successful revolts) were after Jesus' ascension.

Knowing about these revolutionaries makes the following statement of Jesus from Matthew 24:5 astonishing, "Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray." Here Jesus does two main things. One, Jesus acknowledges that he is The Christ, The Messiah, The Revolutionary, the only one. Two, Jesus prophesies of all these false christs, messiahs, and revolutionaries.

Revolution and revolutionaries throughout history are wanted because the lack of freedom or liberty. Jesus never denies being The Social, Political, and Military Revolutionary...he just had to deal with something first, the cause of our lack of freedom/liberty, which comes from sin and us being bound by it. So he went to the cross to deal with sin first before he comes a second time to topple over governments and establish his rule. If he had done so in his first coming there would have been no people to enjoy his rule because we would have all been found guilty and overthrown.

In order to bring true liberty, Jesus went to the root, the root of all war, violence, and oppression...the human heart. The cross is the most revolutionary thing that could ever have been done. This is the gospel my friends, freedom in Jesus.

Martin Luther said, "The Christian is the most free lord of all and subject to none...the most dutiful servant of all and subject to every one." Because of Jesus we become the most free people of all. We are free because there is no longer the constraints of guilt and judgment hanging over us. Jesus has done all the work for us in order to free us. Once a believer, this freedom changes us and enables us to truly love God and those around us...and that is all the freedom we have ever wanted or needed. The freedom to becomes slaves of all and to love being so.

Eugène Delacroix thought a physical change in regime could bring liberty to lead all people. He was only partly right. Freedom does lead. But true freedom is the ability to sacrificially love without demand, return or expectation. Eugène was wrong if he thought merely a new regime could bring liberty. Liberty must first be gained in the heart, then Jesus, the servant of all can truly lead us all in the way of freedom.

- Pastor Duane
This is the sixth week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 6, this week, is titled "Living in Light of the Day" and works with Romans 13:11-14 addressing the age we live in, the coming day of the Lord, and the armor we wear as Christians. This sermon was originally preached October 12th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.


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October 12th, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"Life in Light of the Day"
Romans 13:11-14


Good morning. So we're half way through our fall series, Viva La Vida. Today we finish up with chapter 13 in the book of Romans. This week's sermon title is "Living in Light of the Day." I begin today with a part of the story written by John Bunyan called "Pilgrim's Progress."

The main character of Pilgrim's Progress is a man named "Christian." Christian is on a journey, taking a trip from a place called, "City of Destruction" to a new home, a place called the "Celestial City." The journey is treacherous and there are many obstacles to overcome. There's the "Slough of Despond" a miry swamp one easily sinks into under the weight of guilt. There's the "Doubting Castle" he must pass through, where the "Giant Despair" lives and the only way out is with a key called "Promise." There are valleys and rivers and places of rest and places of great danger and difficulty. Christian is traveling according to a map given to him by some shepherds. The map guides him on a path called "The King's Highway." In the second part of the book Christian's family is following him with the help of a guide and while on the King's Highway they go through the "Enchanted Ground." While there here is what they experience there…

"By this time they got to the Enchanted Ground, where the air naturally tended to make one drowsy. The place was all grown over with briers and thorns…where was an enchanted arbour (a shaded spot for resting), upon which, if a man sits, or if a man sleeps, some say they shall never rise or wake again in this world…Now, when it was light, their guide could well enough tell how to miss those ways that led wrong, yet, in the dark, he was put to a test; but he had in his pocket a map of all ways leading to or from the Celestial City: therefore he struck a light (for he never went anywhere without his matchbox), and took a view of his map, which in all probability, without it they would have been smothered in the mud; for just a little way before them, and that at the end of the cleanest way too, was a pit--none knows how deep--full of nothing but mud, there made on purpose to destroy the pilgrims who fell into it.

And they came to an arbour and there lay two men whose names were Heedless and Too-Bold. These two went thus far on pilgrimage; but here, being wearied with their journey, they sat down to rest themselves, and so fell fast asleep. When the pilgrims saw them, they stood still and shook their heads; for they knew that the sleepers were in a pitiful case. Then they consulted what to do: whether to go on and leave them in their sleep, or to step to them and try to awake them. So they concluded to go to them and wake them--that is, if they could; but with this caution, namely, to take heed that they themselves did not sit down, nor embrace the offered benefit of that arbour.

(They tried desperately but the two men refused to wake. Then the guide struck up a light and) now they could see one another better, and the way they should walk. (Now, when they were almost through the forest and they came upon a man who was kneeling down and praying. So they went up to him quietly and waited for him to finish. After praying the man got up and looked walked ahead down the path to a clearing. Everyone followed him and when they got to the clearing they could see it at last, the Celestial City so close. And they all began to run.)"

I start out with that story this morning because it captures some key elements of our text in Romans today. The analogies or parallels between the Christian life being a journey fighting sleep and walking in the light. The key theme or thrust of our passage today is urgency, that there is urgency or incumbency for immediate action. There are two main bases for ethics within Christianity. One is what we talked about last week, the eternal law of love. The other is the future, eschatology, what is ahead for us that is supposed to have a profound effect on how we live now.

Well, let's read our text and pray over it.

Lord God would you help us today to gain much from your Word. For many of us would it fill out our view of our lives and the world we live in, how we live in it, and who we're living for. Would it further mature us as individuals and the moral quality of our lives and would it inspire us as a community together support each other and walk together in the light, armor and person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

The Age We Are In - A Time Between Time (vs. 11-12a)

I have three main points we'll move through today as we work with this Bible passage, "The Age We Are In," "The Apocalypse to Come." and "The Armor We Wear." The first point comes from verse 11 and the first part of verse 12 and this issue of time and being a Christian.

Look at all the time references here. We "know the time." "The hour has come." "Salvation is nearer to us now." "The night is far gone." And "The day is at hand." That's five time references in one and half verses.

Time. Time has a lot to do with what it means to be human and what it means to be a Christian. God is outside of time but he created time when he created the world. God's creation and the people he made and saves is the big story, that is the essence of true history. It is the story of who God is, what he has done, what he is doing, and what he has ahead.

There are two main time or age references in the Bible as I have taught you in the past. There is the old age, the age dominated by sin and evil since the garden of Eden, and there is the new age, the age of salvation free of sin and full of goodness that continues into heavenly eternity.

We spoke about that new age two weeks ago when we looked at how this chapter of Romans talks about the Christian's relationship to the state. We learned the Christian is truly only a citizen, only a true part of one ruling government, a theocracy, where Jesus rules and reigns as King. We Christians believe Jesus is not just a spiritual crutch for the weak but is a real person who really came into this world as a God-man, who will really return, and when he does he will return not displaying his humility as a poor peasant carpenter but displaying his heavenly right and power as the king of all kings and he will set-up a physical kingdom here on earth.

So what we have are two ages or times, the age of the past and the age of the future. All of history falls into one of those two ages. Now here's the deal, look at the text. The time and the hour has come. The reason the time and the hour has come is because Jesus has come, Jesus came into the world and he lived life the way it is supposed to be. The life of love for everyone, the life without sin, the life of continually giving God glory and thanks…and then Jesus died for death, the death we deserve for not living life right. When Jesus did that he dealt with sin and evil and he initiated or started the new age. So it's begun since Jesus, the new future age.

But sin and evil are still all around a lot right? And salvation hasn't yet fully happened right? You see salvation is mostly in regards to the future in the Bible, like here. Salvation is nearer. It's not here yet, but it's close. Salvation is to be saved from something…something bad that we don't want to happen to us…that the wrath and judgment of God.

Sometimes we talk about already being saved, like Romans 8:24 and a few other passages do. When we talk that way as Christians what we are essentially talking about is being declared saved, we've received the hope or promise of salvation from God for our belief in Jesus. We are justified or made right with God through Jesus already through faith. We have a deposit of the Holy Spirit given to us. In that sense we are already saved, because God has already begun his work in us. We are saved now because have the security of being saved in the future.

Other times the Bible talks about salvation happening right now, like in 1 Corinthians 1:18 when it calls Christians "those who are being saved." We actually get a sense of that here in our text for today don't we? Salvation, the future, is nearer to us, since when? Since we "first believed." When we first believed a process of purification or sanctification began in us, where we become less and less attracted to and entangled in sin and more and more attracted to and enraveled in righteousness. That's the part of the Christian life which is a journey or is a process where progress is made…the being saved part, being saved from sin and wickedness in us.

Then there is the future, when we will all actually and physically be saved. There will be real danger, an eternity danger and we will escape it because of Jesus and will receive entrance into the Celestial City of joy and peace.

Now what we learn from this is that we live in an in-between time, a time between time, an already but not yet time (hand gesture). As Christians we're a part of the new age to come, the future age of Jesus and his rule and reign. But we're still also part of old age, the age of lingering sin and evil in us and around us. That creates some tension. I believe many many of the problem and difficulties you and I experience in this life as a Christian have to do with this tension. And that is the reason I believe God inspired this passage of Scripture for us…to teach us how to deal with the tension.

Essentially this passage calls us to put our attention and our focus on to the reality of the future age…Who we really are and what is really ahead for us in Christ. It is so easy for us as Christians just to live life the old way, like we are still just fully in the old age, but we're not. Jesus has come…he has come into this world and into our lives and that changes things.

When we don't realize this the analogy the Bible gives here is sleep, it is as though we have fallen asleep and forgotten what is really going on. Like the two men in The Pilgrim's Progress, we can fall prey to an enchantment where the air and the age we live in can tend to make us drowsy and cause us to forget the reality of who God is, who we are as sinful humans, who Jesus is as God's son, and the great significance of what Jesus has done for us.

This text stands as a wake up call to us to rise from our sleep. Sleep is an interesting thing. There was an interesting movie out not too ago called, "The Science of Sleep" where Stéphane, the main character becomes confused between what is real life and what he is actually dreaming. Have you guys ever had that experience? When you wake up and you can't figure out if you're dreaming or it's real life?

Maybe you saw another movie, a little bit older, called "Waking Life." It's about a young man who is in this constant lucid dream like state. In it he listens to and participates in various philosophical discussions about things like reality, free will, our relationships with others, the meaning of life, existentialism, situation ethics and a whole host of other things.

Sleep. Have you fallen asleep? Are you walking through life just ignoring the real, lasting, eternal things as though you are asleep?

Sleep. Everyone sleeps. You cannot not sleep. The most I have ever gone without sleep was when I was in graduate school and I stayed awake for four days toward the end of writing my master's thesis. I became a raving lunatic. My neck hurt so bad from bending over reading and typing, that I took a whole stack of books and set my computer on top of them so that I could just type while looking up. Amy thought I had completely gone nuts.

The Guiness World Book of Records says a man named Randy Gardner holds the record for not sleeping the longest. He stayed awake for 11 days before he crashed out. Everyone sleeps. And the Bible takes this common experience, sleep, and says that is what is like when live like God is not Lord of this world, that history is going somewhere, and that Jesus is who he said he was and will do what he said he would do.

I'll give you another illustration. Have you ever tried to help someone? To really help someone? You give a listening ear and do your best to understand who they are and where they are coming from and what's going on with them…and even still after all that it is just so clear to you what's going on with them and what they need to do…but they just won't listen. You just want to take the person and shake them and yell at them "WAKE UP!!!"

The other day I got in a conversation with a guy who is a senior in high school. He's about to flunk out because he never goes to class. And the only thing the guy cares to talk about is gang's. He wants to be in the SA's. A big gang here in San Diego. This young man wants to be in the SA's because "nobody messes with them, because if you do, they'll kill your whole family in front of you." I tried to tell the dude, "WAKE UP!" That's what you want? People to be afraid of you because you will kill their family?! WAKE UP!

I actually feel like this a lot. Like the mission of my life is to call us all to WAKE UP! The realities of this world, of our lives, of our sin, of Jesus are so plain…and yet we so often refuse to wake up and get in gear.

The Apocalypse to Come - Jesus, Judgment and Redemption (vs.12-13a)

Well, after informing us that this is the age and hour of salvation and so we need to wake up, this text follows that positive call with a warning of judgment. This my second point for today, "The Apocalypse to Come."

Look at verse 12 again, "The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." We'll talk about clothes and armor and light in a minute, but first look at the contrast here between the night and the day.

Both the time when this book of the Bible was written and the culture of the land it was originally written to has a lot to do with this night and day stuff. They did not have the modern convenience of artificial lighting powered by electricity like we do today. All society was governed by the sun. Thus most people rose at dawn, just before the first glimpse of daylight. This was especially needed because in the middle east it gets really hot in the afternoon, so they would try and get the bulk of their work done early before the heat of the day.

Only slackers, fools, did not get up at the crack of dawn to work. You know these guys. A lot of dudes are like that in our day…living at his parent's house playing video games until 4am and then sleeping in until noon.

That's the wrong idea about life. The daytime is for working and the nighttime is for sleeping. The day is at hand! It's time wake up and get up! The night is over. Look at verse 13, "Let us walk properly as in the daytime." A parallel between righteous living and unrighteousness living. Between sin-free Jesus goodness living and guilt-infested evil living. The impetus or the thing propelling this urgency is "the day."

Now the two words, "the day" was a technical phrase for Jews. Several of the Old Testament prophets talk about "the day." It has two parts, a good part and a bad part. The bad part is it is the dark and furious wrathful judgment of God. Joel 1:15 says, "Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes."

We learned just a few weeks ago at the end of Romans 12 that we are not to repay evil for evil because God says, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord." God is the judge of all and he promises in his word that no one guilty will ever get away with wrongdoing. He will judge and repay, so we are not supposed to personally retaliate against people. When will he do that? Because it sure seems like a lot of people are getting away with a lot of stuff right! When's it going to happen? The day. The great day of the Lord. It's going to be a dark day for many.

For those who have already died, the Bible teaches the Lord will raise up from the dead, because on "the day" everybody gets an immortal body, one that will not die. For the unrepentant, they will then be judged and experience an unending punishment in their body which cannot be killed. That's an intense judgment.

For others "the day" will be a glorious day, when all sin and evil will finally be vanquished forever and ever. No more tears and sorrow, no more pain and seeming injustice, no more hurt just peace and joy in the presence of a good good God which will not end. Jesus will descend and sit on his throne and life the way it should be will be full at last. That's the good part of the day.

There's a good side and a bad side of the day depending on which side you stand on. If you're on the side with Jesus, it's a good day. If you're not on the side with Jesus, it'll be a bad day for you, one that won't end. It will be the great and terrible apocalypse to come.

Now, I'll try to avoid both the Kurt Vonnegut and Kirk Cameron end of things regarding end times stuff. But I do want to give us some eschatological, end times guidelines. People often seem to like to get attracted to the fanatical end of things and start imagining all kinds of crazy stuff into the Bible. Stuff like the book of Revelation (singular), talking about helicopters and people disappearing and all kinds of wild stuff. Some churches even get all fanatic about the end times and what's going on in Israel and start trying to predict all this stuff.

Any time people get more excited about some spiritual fantasy of what could be in the future and they are more into that than Jesus himself you know its dangerous and wrong. It's an ancient form of Gnosticism which loves "secret knowledge" rather than the clearly revealed knowledge of Jesus in the Bible.

So how are we as Christians supposed to view end times stuff? Ultimately, we do not know all the details, we only know what the Bible clearly says. So what does the Bible clearly say?

1. Christians win. God is good. He is in control of what happens. And we win. There will joy and peace for all believers in Jesus.

2. Total judgment. There will be judgment for those who refuse to be sorry for their lives and turn to Christ and change. We must confess our sins and turn to Jesus (1 Jn 1:9).

3. Unpredictable. Jesus himself said no one knows the day or the hour when it is going to happen (Mk 13:32). So the moment anybody starts predicting a certain time when it's going to happen you know you got a false Jesus prophet on your hands who really doesn't love Jesus.

4. Constant readiness. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 " The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." You must get right with God now. We must wake up now.

This is the main point of all the end times stuff is for us to get right with God, to embrace the provision of his Son and a righteous life while God's grace is being extended. As our text says, salvation is nearer, the hour has come, this is the time, the day is at hand…it is around the corner. This text is meant to stab us awake! Yes, in some senses to scare us.

Maybe you think that's wrong. I know for some of you it makes you really uncomfortable whenever I talk about hell. There is a natural uneasiness with the subject. Yet it is one of the principle things which makes someone lost…you are lost if you think there will be no punishment. The consideration of hell is actually one of the first things which tends to rouse sleeping sinners. That's why I try and mention hell at least once in every one of my sermons.

Let me ask you a question…Is it not a reasonable thing to fright a person out of a house of fire? The most unloving thing I could do for you as a pastor is to never mention hell or the judgment of God. There are consequences and they will come if you do not repent.

But maybe that sounds manipulative to you. Like fear should never be a right motive. But I say is fear always bad? A sinful fear makes men afraid to come to God. A right fear makes men afraid to go [away] from him. A right fear of God fears not experiencing the love of Jesus and being close to him. I am terrified of any life outside of the love and acceptance of Christ.

Listen, all people want to avoid pain and cultivate pleasure. As Pascal once noted, even the man who hangs himself does so on want and hope of a happier and better life. The gospel does not deny us pleasures but on the contrary brings legitimate ones which actually have the effect of heightening pleasure rather than destroying it because in the gospel both reason and conscience are brought into harmony.

Oh how dangerous is sleepiness, lethargy, apathy! It is perhaps one of the most evil things in existence. I have had several friends who just get stuck. They get so engrossed in how they feel or what they don't feel that they refuse to move forward and embrace the provisions of the gospel.

Do you get apathetic? Do you ever feel like not doing anything? Where you just lack motivation? God seems distant…it's hard to see the purpose or immediate benefit of doing the things you know you should. You feel slow and groggy and find yourself gravitating towards people and things you know are not good for you?

I feel like that at times. I don't know a person who doesn't experience or have to fight apathy? We all do. The question is whether you fight it or not? This text by calling us out of our moral drowsiness and is meant to stab us awake so that we might live in the life and light of Christ.

The Armor We Wear - The Light of Christ (vs. 13b-14)

Maybe you're there right now. You hear what I'm saying audibly with your ears and you know that's you. You lack a passion for God. You can't remember the last time you spent one on one time with him, reading his word and praying. You haven't really been paying much attention to your life and how you're living. You know that's where you are.

And maybe you hear me and you think one of two things. Maybe you think…I don't know what it's like to be you and been where you've been and go through what you're going through. Maybe, maybe that's true. Or you think I'm just some freak with a bunch of emotional baggage who deal with it by yelling at a bunch of people every Sunday. Maybe that's true too.

Or maybe a third option. Maybe you hear what I'm saying and you don't just hear with your ears but you hear it in your soul and you know it's true. You know you've been neglecting yourself and the Lord and the people around you and you know you need Jesus and you're just not sure what to do. What do you do?

If that is you, I'm glad you're here because we are in one of the most practical sections of the book of Romans that gives us a lot of clear instruction and aid. Let's look at our text, this is our last main point for today, "The Armor We Wear." "So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."

There's three real practical things here. One is a reference to clothing. See those words "cast off" and "put on." "Cast off works of darkness." "Put on armor of light." "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ." That's getting dressed words. Take off, put on. Take off, put on. You do this every day with what you wear. At the end of the day you take off some clothes and the beginning of the next day you put other ones on. At several jobs in our city you have to wear a uniform to work there. Or maybe it is just expected that you show up in a suit. But there is a certain attire for the job.

That is the idea here…that every day you live as a Christian is like this. We must take off our old evil age clothes and works and put on the new Jesus age clothes of light and life. That's the first thing. Every day you must get dressed as a Christian. Remember what clothes you've been given, don't go back to wearing old out of style clothes that are not fit for the task at hand.

The second thing here is in this word "armor." Armor is obviously a military term. It calls to mind, the worldview of the Christian which views this life, the time-between-the-time as a time of war, we are in a spiritual warfare battle. Ephesians 6 tells us we are in a spiritual battle against sin and we must fight.

If you think that being a Christian was going to be or is easy, you're wrong. It's hard and it's going to take some hard work. Some of our resident military guys who have been over to Iraq can tell you, they act different when they're over there. There is a wartime mentality. We have to think like that as Christians…it's wartime. My third personal resolution which hangs in front of my desk in my office says this, "I Resolve to Consider Life on Earth War." From the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep life is war against our flesh and sin and temptation all around us.

How do you fight? You put on the armor? What is the armor? It is light, armor of light. And then verse 14 expands on what this armor of light is. It is Jesus himself. Look at it. "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ." At the end of verse 12 we're to put on the armor of light and at the beginning of verse 14 we learn that this armor of light is Jesus himself!

Paul puts it another way in Ephesians 5:12 he says this, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." You see the works of darkness are death. When you live and walk in them they are death to you.

The idea with walk is that this world is just our temporary home. You will live however many years God has determined for you to live here and then you will live forever in your permanent home. We used to sing a song in church when I was a kid…I don't remember the title of it but the chorus said, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through, my treasures are laid out, somewhere beyond the blue the angels beckon me from heaven's open door and I can't feel at home in this world anymore." We are just walking through on our way to the Celestial City and how we walk matters.

We get six things listed here which the Bible states are clearly works of darkness and death that will kill you and keep you from reaching the great city and instead you will fall under the wrath of the day. These things are what the light of Christ shines on showing to be darkness and death. When you put on Jesus his light will make you feel uncomfortable about some things. Here's sex…they come in pairs.

Interestingly, the first two pairs are things which actually usually only happen at night time in our culture. The ESV has "orgies and drunkenness" and "sexual immorality and sensuality." The first word the ESV has as "orgies" is probably more likely "wild parities where you let loose" since it is coupled with drunkenness. The next set is literally sex with anyone you are not married to and the word sensuality here means indecency or debauchery or licentiousness…it's being physically loose and morally uncontrolled.

These things are huge here in San Diego and they are huge for some of you in our church. You got to know these things are sin. They are not okay. They are extremely displeasing to God and destructive to yourselves.

The hard thing is it would be so much easier to not say anything. Because when I call people out on this stuff whether in person one on one or from up here when I'm talking... If you are getting drunk, doing drugs, being sexually active with someone you're not married to and I say something about, there is a huge probability that you are not going to like it, feel like I'm judging you, and likely leave the church.

I know this because it has happened. I'll be straight up honest with you. We had some of our core church members, people who had been around for over a year, who we loved and spent much time with…we had core people leave the commitment and community of our church this last year because of talking to them about these exact things…having sex with people their not married to, repeated drunkenness, and drug addiction.

It is really hard for me to talk about this stuff because I don't want to be the bad guy and we're trying to grow this church so I know I take a risk when I call people out on these things…but when it comes down to it the Bible is really clear here and I care more about honoring the Bible and Jesus being pleased with me as a pastor then I do about you liking me.

So I say this with the utmost love for you. Sex with people you are not married to and getting drunk (which I believe includes the recreational experience of drugs), is evidence that you're walking on the dark road to hell and I fear for you life eternally unless you wake up and truly put on Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life.

And just to be sure and to be clear…it's not that we're against sex and alcohol. I love sex and I love beer. I like having sex and beer as often as I can. God made sex and is glorified by husbands and wives having sex with each other. I love having sex with my wife. It's great! And I love beer, especially dark beers and pale ales. God made alcohol, Jesus drank it, and he is glorified when we enjoy it by not drinking too much of it as G.K. Chesterton said. Drinking is not sin, drunkenness is.

Everything is beautiful and enjoyable if you do it God's way and not your own way. The last couplet here I think is for the other type of people in the room. You see there are two types of sinners. We're all sinners. Some fall in sin just because they get caught in these traps of doing immoral things they know are wrong. Others fall in sin because they are really good at restraining themselves and not doing those kind things and then this happens…they get proud and look down on everyone else and think they are better because they don't do those things.

Here's what usually happens if you're in that camp. One, you probably tend to get into a lot of arguments with people. Why? Because you're always justifying yourself, saying why you're right and the other person is wrong. You're a quarreler. It is the hardest thing for you to actually listen to another person and learn something from them because you tend to think everyone else is wrong and you're always right.

The funny thing is people on this side of things tend to be very angry at other people. Why? Because they are jealous. They work so hard at not doing all the bad stuff…but the whole time they wish they could be free and do that stuff too because it looks like everyone else is having all the fun. So you just take it out on them. Quarrelling and jealousy is not good and is just as sinful and evil as sexual immorality and drunkenness. So cast those things off and put on Jesus.

Okay, so we got two things so far on how we walk in the daytime, not sleeping through life. One, we get dressed in Jesus each day. Two, we cast off dark works. And three, the last one…we plan properly.

Look at the last part of verse 14, "make no provision for the flesh, to gratify it's desires." What this is talking about is where you do not think ahead of time.

I'll give you a couple examples. Since we're talking about drinking, it's an easy one. If you decide you're going to go out with some friends or go to a part and you don't decide beforehand how your going to drink, how much you're going to have, and how much money you're going to spend…you're setting yourself up to fail. You're making a provision for the flesh to gratify it's desires.

How about sexual immorality. If you're hanging out with a girl that's not your wife and you're all alone in a house or an apartment and you think that maybe laying down on the couch together to watch a movie is a good idea…it's not. You're going to make it very difficult for yourself to resist sexually enjoying yourself with her. Or how about for married people…it's even easier. You don't spend any time alone with people of the opposite sex who you are not married to because if you do you are opening the door for a relationship that belongs only with your husband or wife. That's not wise. You're making a provision for potential sin.

Now for some of you…I think this one applies. I have friends, people I care about deeply who are just stuck in their traps and patterns of sin and can't seem to get out. Here's why…bad company. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Bad company ruins good morals." If you're trying to change your life and the way you live and behave but all your closest friends…the people you spend the most time with…are all caught up into all the things you are trying not to do. It's going to be very difficult. You're making a provision for the flesh. Some of you just need to stop spending time with people and maybe even cut off relationship with some people for awhile because they are not good people for you.

So we have three things the armor of light in Jesus enables us see and fight with, so we don't fall asleep. One, we get dressed in Jesus each day. Jesus is our identity. Two, we cast off dark works. We learn to love righteousness and hate wickedness. And three, we plan properly not making provisions for the flesh, not setting ourselves up to fail.


Okay, so this has been a little bit longer sermon. Let's end it. I started out reading from "The Pilgrim's Progress" today. I'll just end with a simple question. Are you making progress? For each and every one of us who are Christians here, let's ask ourselves are we making progress? Are we growing and maturing and becoming more and more like Jesus, putting him on more, walking more in his light? Or do you find yourself asleep? Getting caught up in the works of darkness and getting stuck in the enchanted forest. Are you just stuck?

Do you have your eyes set on the Celestial City? Does the fast approaching day give you motivation to run and press forward? Is there an urgency to your faith? Are you afraid of hell and excited for heaven? What is it Jesus armor of light needs to shine light on in you? Where do you need change in your life? You can't change on your own…you need Jesus.

Let's go to Jesus' table and spend some time in prayer and reflection and thanks and receive the grace he gives us in this special communion.

The two biggest topics these days heard amongst coffee house clatter, dinner discussions, and neighborly jabbing is undoubtedly the coming elections and the current financial state of the economy in the great United States of America. Two weeks ago on Sunday morning, in studying Romans 13, we learned the only true government we belong to as Christians is the Kingdom of God, where Jesus rules as King. Last week, we learned how that effects the currency we use to live...our money. This week's journal entry is devoted to helping us think more Biblically about our finances.

Last Sunday night a new class of The Resolved School of Theology began, Theo 131 - A Theology of Finances, taught by Gary Warkentin. My wife Amy and I are taking the class. Here was the biggest principle I walked away with, which was actually quite shocking when you consider the power and depth of such a view...from the Bible's perspective, I OWN NOTHING!

1 Chronicles 29:11 "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all."

Psalm 24:1 "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein."

It is pretty clear that from the Bible's perspective, God owns the earth and everything in it. All the land, all the houses, all the money...it all belongs to him. That is a crazy thought. How often do we think of possessions as things which are ours, things we earned, things which belong to us! I do all the time and our everyday speech is fraught with such an assumption...and yet this is a false and unbiblical assumption because we own nothing.

But if we don't own anything, then what is the proper way we are to see money, spending, and possessions? In Luke 16 Jesus teaches us that we are steward or managers of God's property. Everything we have is temporary on loan from him. What matters is what we do with it. If we glorify him with it and have a good report for Jesus our boss. Or if we squander his wealth and deserve to be fired for it.

How would this view of money change how you view your finances, your purchases, or your possessions? I think for many of us, it would not only radically change our patterns of behavior but relieve us of the pressure which comes along with thinking everything is our and depends on us.

In fact, learning that our lives are not so much about us but about God is the most freeing thing we can experience in this life. As we mature as Christians we will increasingly realize that not just our stuff but our very selves do not belong to us.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price."

The price was Jesus blood on the cross and we desperately needed to be bought to save us from ourselves and our destruction. For us as Christians we are the possession of Christ. The more we realize that and live for him the happier we will be. We must recognize that we own nothing and are nothing apart from Christ.

Much love,
-Pastor Duane

Here are a couple good books on the subject:
"Money, Possessions and Eternity" by Randy Alcorn
"Discovering God's Way of Handling Money" by Crown Ministries

This is the fifth week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 5, this week, is titled "Life Under Eternal Law" and works with Romans 13:8-10 addressing financial debt, the nature of love, fulfilling the law, and being neighborly. This sermon was originally preached October 5th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.


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October 5th, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"Life Under Eternal Law"
Romans 13:9-10


Good morning everyone. It's good to see you. If you don't know me, my name is Duane and I get the joy of being a pastor here and preaching the gospel each week from God's book, the Bible. Well, let's read the text for today and get right into it. We're continuing in our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" moving through Romans, chapter 12-16.

Last week, we studied the previous section of Scripture which dealt how a Christian is supposed to relate to whatever the government is of the land he or she finds themselves living in. We learned that the Christian is really part of a theocracy called the Kingdom of God, where Jesus rules as king…that's who and what we live for what we care about.

Whatever rulers of the land, the current politics and politicians and present law is mainly temporary, they are a temporary law until Jesus returns and sets up his physical kingdom here on earth. Until then, we are to attempt to please the current, temporal, ruling governments, by obeying them, living in peace and paying our taxes. Other than that, we don't care too much because we don't put a whole lot of trust or hope in any government except the one we really care about…the Kingdom of God where Christ rules as the perfect king.

Today's text turns our attention from the current ruling governments, to the one ruling law in the Kingdom of God…love and the urgent need for love. Last week's sermon was "Life Under Temporal Law" and this week's sermon title is "Life Under Eternal Law" and our text is Romans 13:9-10. Let's read the text and pray.

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Lord bless the work of your word today. May our understanding of love and its fulfillment through the gospel's work in us be expanded today. Love is such a simple word and yet is something we seem to fail at so much. Give us your love today…love for you and love for one another. May the urgency and need for us to live in the love of Jesus Christ be greatly impressed upon us. Teach us where we lack love and are really only living for ourselves and our flesh. Work in us today through your word. Amen.

I have three main points from the text today, "Living in Debt Forever," "Fulfilling the Law Through Love," and "Being Freed to Love our Neighbor."

Living in Debt Forever

Ironically, we begin today by talking about money. Verse 8 begins by saying, "Owe no one anything, except to love each other." The verse we ended with last week, ended by talking about money…paying money to the government, taxes. And this week starts off by talking about financial debt.

It is ironic because unless you don't have a TV, a radio, the internet, and no people you ever talk to…then you know that this has been a rollercoaster week financially for the US. Congress just passed a $700 billion dollar financial bailout bill in order to try and save the economy. Now, to be honest, as much as I've read about it, I really don't have a clue how it all works and how it's supposed to save us and what would happen if they didn't do that, so I don't even really have an opinion. I'm just curious where they get the money? $700 billion…that's a seven with nine zeroes after it. I guess they just start printing more money up or something. I'm sure one of you can tell me afterward.

It is amazing to me how practical the Bible is sometimes. 2 Peter 1:3 says the Bible has in it everything we need for life and godliness. The first words of today's verse is about as practical you can get for living life…how you handle your money and your relationships.

Now on the outset these four initial words seem to almost say you should never go into debt for anything, no car loans, no house loans, no credit cards, no movie rentals, nothing…"Owe no one anything." But…we know that's not what it's saying. Verse 7 just said there will be times when we owe money to the government and what we miss in this translation is the tense of the word. It is a present imperative, which means it has a continuous force. "Don't continue owing" would also be a very good translation.

This is actually one place where I actually like what the NIV does. If any of you know me, you know the NIV translation of the Bible frustrates me a lot of the time, which is why we use the ESV here…the ESV is perhaps the best translation out there right now. But here's what the NIV does, it says, "Let no debt remain outstanding." The idea is that you pay your debts, you don't just let them linger and go on forever and ever. You have a contract and pay off plan and you stick to it.

The Bible as a whole is not against you going into debt. There may be times when that would be a good and wise thing to do. Jesus straight up says to loan people money if they ask you and you can do it, Matthew 5:42. In the Old Testament there was a whole system for lending and borrowing. They actually did a very unique thing. Because God owns everything anyway and just calls us temporary stewards of what is his. They only leased land out to each other and then at the end of every 50 years any remaining debt was cancelled and all land was returned. It was called the year of Jubilee, you can read about it in Leviticus 25.

So the Bible is not against you going into debt for some important things at certain times in your life…like a house or a car, but it is against you just going into debt without a real feasible and doable plan to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time. A lot of people who are in trouble right now financially are people who took out these sub-prime loans. About two years ago, Amy and I tried to buy a house and the loan officer wanted to qualify us for about $100 thousand dollars more than I knew was our limit to be able to make the monthly payments. The loan officer said, the payments would be within our monthly price range for the first year and then go up after that. But I knew I probably wouldn't be making nearly double income in a year…so we walked away from it.

Learning how to handle your money in a good and godly way is an area several of you probably need to mature in. Some of you I'm guessing have bad credit because you've gotten into using credit cards and you maybe missed some payments or were late on them or you only pay the minimum payment which only pays the interest. That's not good…that's the kind of thing the Bible is talking about here. You shouldn't do that. Some of you need to cut up your credit cards and learn that if you don't have the money for something you don't buy it, plain and simple.

We live in such a materialistic and consumeristic culture that we think we should be able to buy something if we want it regardless of whether or not we can really afford it. You need to learn self-control and entrust your money to God. As we can see here, God cares about how you spend your money and even the way you treat debt. As a side-note there is a great documentary on the American debt problem and use of credit cards and other bad consumer practices called "Maxed Out." You can check it out.

Now some of you are scared because of this whole economy thing. I hear you. I've heard several stories just this last week. In our community group someone shared that there are families who have lost their homes and are sleeping in cars downtown. My mother and father in-law just this week, watched their neighbor just pack up their house and move away from the home they own because they couldn't make the payments anymore. Before they left the whole family took hammers to the garage door and cussed out the bank as they were doing it.

People are scared. But we need not be. For those who are God's children, in his family through Jesus, God has promised in his Word never to leave us or forsake us and that we will never go hungry.

Hebrews 13:5-6 "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we can confidently say,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"

Matthew 6:31-33 "Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?' or ‘What shall we drink?' or ‘What shall we wear?' …your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

But maybe you ask how is God going to do that? How will God make sure I'm taken care of? Here is how? When God calls you to be his own and gives you faith in his Son Jesus, you become part of a family of people…a community devoted in love to one another.

Let's read it here in our text in Romans. "Owe no one anything, except to love each other." If we truly love each other and band together we will be taken care of. The Bible is so genius here. It takes a practical, hit-home issue like finances and debt and flips it and turns it into being a foundational basis for what kind of love we are to have for each other.

I mean this is radical. We are not to have unending financial debt, but instead we are to be in a debt of love to one another forever. We will never have loved enough, when we can say, "Oh, okay I'm done now…bye bye…I fulfilled my debt, my obligation and now I'm done. I loved you and now that's over…were even." I mean this is crazy. Paul here takes something bad, like unending financial debt but then sees a parallel to gospel love in that it is a never-ending debt of love toward each other.

Here is the heart issue in it. Does anyone here have a hard time receiving a gift from someone? I do. Anytime anyone pays for me for something, like say a meal, or something bigger sometimes…my automatic response is usually to first resist. If I do give in, usually it is on the condition that I will receive the gift if I can pay for the person the next time. What I realized a number of years ago is that this was pride and I not only do it with my friends but with God. We think we are being good, or righteous in being resistant to grace, but it is our pride that wants to try and payback a gift of love. Our motivation is to want to be self-sufficient, not needy, and we want to make things right ourselves.

That is the idea here with a never-ending debt of love. You can never pay back love. The only way to receive love is to not attempt to counter balance it or you diminish the love. The way we really love is by diving deeper into debt. By loving without any goal or hope of making things even. Instead, our goal is to incur more love debt. The more love we give the more we owe and our debt grows and grows.

Fulfilling the Law Through Love

Look at something interesting here with me, we'll come back to love in a second, but look at the word "law" here. Verse 8 ends by saying those who love one another fulfill the law. What does it mean to fulfill the law? Paul brings up some of the law, four of the ten commandments…do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet. Then, quoting both Leviticus 19 and Jesus, verse 10 says, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

Let me ask you a question. What does it mean to fulfill the law here? Does it mean complete or terminate it? Or does it mean to reach the expected or desired intent or result? You see usually when we hear the word "law" we think bad, do's and don'ts, rules. Law is negative.

And that is true. One of the main purpose of God's law is to show us that we are sinners in need of repentance and a savior. Romans 3:20 "Through the law comes knowledge of sin." But there is another reason for law. Law is based on, or flows out of God's holy righteous character. God is a perfect and loving God. He does not adulterate, he does not murder, he does not steal nor covet. God is good and Jesus said he did not come to destroy or abolish the law but to fulfill it, to complete it for us, so that we might complete it to through him (Matt 5:17).

We need Jesus for that, badly because our inclinations are toward these very things God says are evil and not to do. But we find ourselves wanting to have sex with people we're not married to, adultery. We find ourselves angry with people and wishing physical harm or even death upon them, murder. We find ourselves, wanting to get things without having to work hard or pay for them, we like what is free, thievery. And we find ourselves always wanting something more, something different, something better, something someone else has, coveting. Our hearts are desperately wicked (Jer 17:9).

But this is the beauty of the gospel is that it transforms you. The gospel begins to change us and enable us to truly love and it isn't something we work for or conjure up…we find ourselves naturally loving and truly caring about other people. If love for a person is our first and primary concern, we don't have to fight and wrestle with ourselves whether it be lustful, hateful, thieving, or coveting thoughts…they will not be barriers or issues for us. Love will squeeze out those desires and we will find ourselves fulfilling the law and enjoying it immensely.

In the fifth chapter of the book of Galatians, love is listed as a fruit of the Spirit. Something Jesus spirit gives, he pours it into our hearts (Rom 5:5), and when it becomes the active driving force for our lives, Galatians 5:23 says against such a thing, there is no law. It gets fulfilled. Law does not stand in opposition to love, ever. Law is against sin, but not love.

Being Freed to Love our Neighbor

This brings me to the question of what is love and who is my neighbor? I believe that when we look into those questions, what we find is the difference between religion and the gospel.

So has anyone seen that commercial for Diet Pepsi Max that's been on TV for the last few months? There are a bunch of different people around town who sort of look like Zombies until they drink Diet Pepsi Max and then they turn into bobble heads pumping their heads side to side along to Haddaway's song, "What is Love?" "What is love, baby don't hurt me no more."

What is love? What does it mean? 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 erotic, 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.

Let me explain. Agape is self-less love. But it seems to me that for many today, maybe for you, we have thought of love as a sort of mythical moral compass that cannot err. The thing is love must have an objective moral standard greater than ourselves or else love lapses into just being pure fleeting sentimentality and virtually anything can be loving.

For example, let's take the first commandment Paul mentions here, do not commit adultery. What is the reason people give for adultery, for cheating on their wife or their husband? I didn't love them anymore. You see how deceptive that is, to think that adultery could actually be a loving act! That's crazy. Real love looks a certain way and it only becomes that when you are looking away from yourself.

Loving ourselves is instinctual. We always act for our own interests and preservation. Only each of us as individuals has access to know when we feel hungry in our stomachs. No one else can feel that. We instinctually care about ourselves. What the Bible says here is that love happens when we instinctually love our neighbor like that…as ourselves.

And this only happens through the gospel, it's what makes Christianity not a religion. Because love is not a set of moral codes that we are trying to force ourselves to abide by…love is what happens when we get forgiven of our sin by Jesus Christ and it changes us, it changes our natural self-centered instincts…we become increasingly loving. We get transformed through Jesus. Don't you want that, isn't that what we need. That's what I want and need…more of Jesus' love.

Two stories which will hopefully illustrate this and then we'll close. First is the story of the rich young ruler (Mk 10:17-22). A young successful business man, probably 30 years old or so came up to Jesus and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus told him, to keep the commandments, and he quoted a few of the ones in our passage today, don't murder, don't adulterate, don't steal. The business man responded and said, he had kept all those perfectly since he was a young boy. The Bible says Jesus then looked at him and it says "he loved him" and then told him he still lacked one thing, to go sell all his possessions give the money to the poor. The story ends with the business man walking away sad because he had a lot of money and was not willing to part with it and love the people around him in need.

Second story, the story of the good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). On another occasion a lawyer came up to Jesus and asked him the same question the rich young business man had asked, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus responded by asking him what the law or the commandments said. In response the lawyer said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus, seemingly surprised, complemented and said yes, do that and you will live. But the lawyer quickly retorts and says, "Yeah, but who's my neighbor?" In response Jesus tells a story. There's a guy who's broken and beat up and stuck in a place between two towns. First, there's a pastor who drives by every day and see him but never does anything about it. Then, there's an older man in the faith, whose been a Christian a long time, and he lives nearby and see him but doesn't do anything for him. Lastly, there is this believer visiting from out of town who sees the guy all messed up, stops, picks him up, ministers to him, gets him some medicine, puts him up in a hotel and pays for it all. At the end of the story Jesus asked who was the neighbor and the lawyer answers rightly by saying, the one who had mercy on the guy who was broken and beat-up.

What Jesus does is he points out that we often don't know who are neighbor is because we lack the love and compassion shown in mercy. In the story Jesus, we're the person who's beat up and broken…deep down, and Jesus has had mercy on us, offering his life and his death in exchange for our brokenness and sin. Because we've received mercy then everyone becomes our neighbor, we then understand the depth of love and freely give it to all. The lawyer asked Jesus who our neighbor is? Jesus answered by explaining what it meant to be neighborly.


Let's conclude. I want to probe us all a little bit. How is your neighborly-ness? When you look at people what do you see?

When you see people and the state they are in…when you see their sin and their failure what are your thoughts or affections? Do you think and feel anger toward them for being so dumb, or self-centered, or just caught up in bad things? Do you see their hardness of heart and does it make you mad?

Or when you see people and the state they are in…when you see their sin and their failure…do you see them as broken and hurting people? Do you see them as people in need of love? Do you see them as your neighbor? Someone you're called to have a never-ending debt of love for?

Do you focus so much on your life and your job and your money and your family that you can't even see anyone around who is hurting and broken? Are you pursuing life with a goal of thinking that if you made just enough money or could get out of financial debt or if you could buy enough things that then you'd be happy? Or is pouring our your life in a debt of love toward others the thing which gives you the most satisfaction?

Is the gospel changing you? Are you being transformed by Jesus work in you, enabling you to fulfill the law and really becoming more loving? Or are you becoming harder, just expecting that everything and everyone around you is going to fail you?

There's probably not a person in this room who could honestly answer all those probing questions the way we wish we could. That's because there is only one who truly see people in the fullness of who they are, with all the corruption intertwined, as he yet has mercy and compassion and love. That's Jesus and that's why we need him. We need his forgiveness and his love to permeate us and turn us away from ourselves and onto him so that we might see people through his eyes with his love and his grace.

Here's what you can be sure of today from this text. If you've been foolish and dumb with money…there is hope in Jesus. If you've tried and tried to gain favor or approval with God and failed, God loves you regardless of all your vain efforts and gives you never-ending love through his son. If you've been completely oblivious to your neighbor, Jesus will open up your heart with compassion for people who are desperate and ruined all around us in this world.

Let's pray.
On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door Wittenburg which ignited "The Reformation" across Jesus' church. From this Sovereign work of God's Spirit the follow principles and convictions resulted...

Salvation is by
1) Grace Alone
2) Through Faith Alone
4) In Jesus Christ Alone
4) Revealed in Scripture Alone
5) For the Glory of God Alone

The Five Solas | Sermon | Pastor Duane
  Listen         Read

We look forward with excitement to the celebration of this special Christian holiday very dear to the tradition of The Resolved Church.
What do you do when two "scholars" or "theologians" or "pastors" or "people" disagree on something? What do you do with controversy? There are three main views. 1) Balance. Some think the truth is always somewhere in the middle. 2) Unity. Some think truth pertains only to the things there is no disagreement. 3) Conviction. Others think truth must be worked for by considering both positions and settling on one with a full conscience.

Our Motivations

It is difficult to separate this discussion from the issues of the heart and its motivations. For no doctrinal or theological or intellectual issue is really just a head matter but our past experiences, biases, and sometimes sinful inclinations effect the way we think about or handle an issue. Our personal presuppositions matter.

Often times the vie for balance is motivated by either laziness or disillusionment. That may sound harsh but usually a person who always thinks the truth is in the middle really has not took the time to thoroughly study both viewpoints (laziness) and feels overwhelmed by the amount of information or disagreement on the subject so they preemptively conclude neither position can be wholly true.

Often times the vie for unity is motivated by a fear of conflict or confrontation. Most of us don't like the feeling of strife or contention. It is uneasy and unsettling and when people are not getting along whether you are on the inside or outside of it, it is uncomfortable. Thus, many try to approach life by avoiding difficulty and disagreement at all costs and consider the only things to be true, to be the things which are for the most part universally accepted.

It is my contention that we must be a people of conviction. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 states, "...our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." We are to each be "fully convinced in (our) own mind (Rom 14:5)."

Such a thing takes a lot of work. To be honest and consider something from both viewpoints and only have a motivation for what is actually true, even if it means we have been wrong up is to approach controversy with true humility. It is a false humility which says one position cannot be correct.

Consider the words of John Piper on controversy:
     "Can controversial teachings nurture Christlikeness? Before you answer this question, ask another one: Are there any significant biblical teachings that have not been controversial? I cannot even think of one...As much as we would like it, we do not have the luxury of living in a world where the most nourishing truths are unopposed. If we think we can suspend judgment on all that is controversial and feed our souls with only what is left, we are living in a dreamworld. There is nothing left...Besides that, would we really want to give to the devil the right to determine our spiritual menu by refusing to eat any teaching over which he can cause controversy?"
     Those are good words from Pastor Piper. Throughout the Bible it seems one of the enemy's chief tools is to mix a little bit of truth with untruth in order to create controversy so people end up wandering away from the faith. Instead we must hold the Bible firm in our hand and work hard to work it out.


"Adiophora" means matters of indifference, tertiary, or secondary issues. Perhaps you have heard it said that there are essentials and non-essentials or closed-handed and open-handed issues in the Christian faith. This idea, as far as I can tell, originally comes from the debate of Calixtus and Calovius in the early 17th century. You can read about it here: (www.theresolved.com/downloads/essentials.pdf).

Calixtus sought to unite the Lutherans, Reformed, and Rome based on unity in fundamentals ("consensus quinquesaecularis"), he was the first ecumenicist. Calixtus thought systematic theology was too specific and devisive. Calovius said we need clarify or elaborate on what the first fundamentals are, which leads to secondary fundamentals needed to protect us from doctrinal error because uniting when there is disagreement in some areas can lead to compromise in bigger ones. Calovious thought such openness would eat away at the Christian faith and that all doctrines are related in some way.

I think there are two dangers and Calixtus and Calovius both make good points. The first danger is making your doctrinal acceptance so narrrow there is no room for an individual's growth and you end up spending most your time fighting with other Christians about minut points. Which is what happened in the scholasticism era when theologians started arguing about things such as how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

The other danger is not making your doctrine clear and providing acceptable boundaries. Which is what happened in the theologies of 19th century liberalism, when it was thought that inerrancy could be dismissed. I agree, like Calovius that if push it far enough we can see that everything connected to our salvation in Jesus Christ. Then must we require everyone accept every point of our doctrine for church membership? I don't think so. I think what we are really after in membership is people who put their faith in the blood of Christ for their sin and not their own works and that they are people who are humble and willing to learn, grow, follow leadership and be on mission.

Getting Dirty

So, say you've been convinced and now you want to dig in and get dirty. How do you go about doing that? One misnomer is the view of the "scholar" or the expert. Sometimes certain positions are advocated by saying that "this is the only reasonable thing to think" because this is what the scholars say. Essentially this is a viewpoint advocating trust in a person rather than a position. If there is anything worth believing, I'm sure there are not simply people who are "too stupid to get it." Besides, for nearly every controversial belief there are "scholars" on both sides if you take the time to look. We must remember that whether the person is a "scholar," a "pastor" or some other expert, they are still a fallible human being who could be wrong.

Here is my advice...
- Multiple Viewpoint Books: At least in the arena of theology, for nearly every controversial belief there are books which contain multiple viewpoints from the advocates of certain positions. Some are better than others but usually the way it goes is...each author presents his case, the other viewpoint authors respond, and then the author has a final response to them all. This way you can avoid being intellectually dishonest and get a fair view of the lay of the land and the issues involved so that you can become fully convinced in your own mind.
- Do your own study: Even without having extensive training a person can do a pretty good job at studying an issue or a passage of Scripture in the Bible. This is easier than ever before with the amount of free tools available on the internet today. You can often do just as good of study or better than most Bible commentators and in then you might have reason to actually agree or disagree with them. For an example of my personal study methodology and some good resource guides you can read this post: www.theresolved.com/?p=326
- The Bible is the Final Arbitar: Whatever the Bible says is our ultimate and final authority. When it comes down to it all of our consciences ought to be held captive by the Word of God. If the Bible says it we believe it and if it doesn't we do not. All controversy ends with what the Bible says. We must adhere to the clear and present declaration of 2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."
- Practice Humility and Grace: A humble and gracious spirit is imperative for the Christian when in the midst of a debate or disagreement. Too often have Christians, perhaps from being cast out and dismissed so much of the time, have spoke in harsh tones and words.
     Jonathan Edwards writes, "The proud enjoy to speak in the most harsh, severe, and terrible language…they say we must be plain hearted and bold for Christ, we must declare war on sin wherever we see it, we must not mince the matter in the cause of God and when speaking for Christ…(this) is to overthrow all Christian meekness and gentleness…and defile(s) the mouths of the children of God…under a cloak of sanctity and zeal and boldness for Christ."
     R.C. Sproul too speaks so wisely about the spirit of humility versus an argumentative spirit. He writes, "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. We need to be teachable...(and have) 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."


Let us be a people of conviction. Let us be striving and holding to the truth with a humble spirit of grace and submission to Jesus' book. Let us not be awash in the pools of friction and disbelief but plant our feet with surety that God's Word is true. Let us give others the room to grow and grant them grace to learn not just from our words but from the character with which we carry the truths breathed out by God's Holy Spirit.

- Pastor Duane
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