Jack Graham - The Life You Were Born To Give
Take your Bibles, turn to Romans chapter 12, the twelfth chapter of the book of Romans. We're calling this "THE ESSENTIAL GOSPEL". This Gospel is so powerful. Paul said in verse 16 of the very first chapter, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, the Jew first, and also the Gentile". So this Gospel is for everyone. Perhaps the key of all the key verses of this first portion of Romans is Romans 5:8: "God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we yet sinners, Christ died for us". And it is this Gospel of the death, the burial, the resurrection of Christ that we preach.
It is the message that we deliver to the nations and to our neighbor. The world desperately needs Jesus And this passage in Romans chapter 12 that is in front of us today regarding love is what the world needs, it's what we need. After that first section of Romans, the first 11 chapters, he moves to chapter 12 when he begins talking about now living this Christian life. Therefore because of the mercies of God all that Christ has done for us, His great salvation, we then become living sacrifices. We get on the altar and when our all is on the altar, when we are surrendered and given ourselves completely to the Lord, then as a result of that, our minds will be transformed, our lives will be different. We will be changed by the power of Christ to begin living this Christian life.
So from now to end of the book of Romans, it's all about Christian living. It's all practicalities and purposeful living of the Christian life. Love is to be sincere and active. I'm reading something today something a little different. It's from the Amplified which is a little bit of amplification of the text that I'll think you'll appreciate. It's on the screen as you look at your own Bible. But, "Love is to be sincere and active [the real thing—without guile and hypocrisy]. Hate what is evil [detest all ungodliness, do not tolerate wickedness]; hold on tightly to what is good. Be devoted to one another with [authentic] brotherly affection [as members of one family], give preference to one another in honor; never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord; constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength, contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality".
Now in that short paragraph Paul gives some staccato-like imperatives, commands as to how then we are to live this life that we have been given; how we are to live the life that we were born to give. And it's all about love. It's all about love. And when you think about it, that's what the Bible is all about. The Bible is God's love letter to the world. From the beginning to end it's the story of how God has created us and made us and loved us for Himself. And so God Himself is love and this love is most beautifully and powerfully expressed in Jesus Himself, and is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Love is the priority for every believer in Christ. And so when you want to know how should I then live and live this life that I've been born and born again to live, and when Christ came in with these "birthday" gifts, these spiritual gifts, how am I to express them, how am I to employ them? Well, here it is right in front of us, to be letters to the world, if you will, of God's love and God's grace. So what is this love?
First of all, love is truth. He says in verse 9 that love is to be genuine, that it is to be without hypocrisy. You probably know, we've talked about it before, that the word hypocrite comes from the Greek stage, and as actors would wear a mask and play a part. And they would often play multiple parts. Men were the actors in those days so they would play female parts, male parts, children's part, but they would wear a mask for each one of their characters. And so the New Testament, and Jesus in particular, used the word hypocrite. He spoke of this whole thing, of wearing a mask and pretending to be someone that you're not.
So love is not pretentious; love is not phony; it is not fake; it is not manipulative; it is true and it is transparent. One of the most vivid illustrations in the Bible of love with hypocrisy is Judas who betrayed the Lord with a kiss, with feigned, phony love. Love is real! The word for love in this passage is agape. That's the word for God's love, the sacrificial love of the cross, the love is not self-interested but others-focused. All of the love of God! The love of Christ is in that word agape. And this is the way we're to love one another with true love, agape love.
Now I just want you to consider a few words or a few scriptures about this kind of love, this true love. 1 Corinthians 13:13: "So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is agape, which is love". Romans 13:8: "Owe no one anything except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law". What did Jesus say? He said, "The first commandment: Love the Lord your God, heart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself". That is the fulfillment of the Law. Then in the upper room Jesus spoke of His love and the transfer of His love to His followers and He said, "A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another (but here's the key phrase) as I have love you". And as He's washing the feet of those disciples and serving them, "as I have loved you". He loved them to the end, even in their bickering and in their unbelief and all the rest, those disciples, He loved them to the end, all the way to the cross and beyond. He said, "Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another".
I can't love like that but Christ in me can. His Spirit enables us to love as Jesus loves. And then verse 35, key verse for the Christian life: "By this all people will know that you are My disciples if you have love one for another". Do you remember when Simon Peter failed the Lord and he was so brokenhearted because he denied the Lord three time, and then after three times, Peter said, "I'm going fishing". He had failed so much, probably feeling like he had fallen out of the favor of God. He had failed the Lord so much, he was weeping profusely. He said, "I'm going fishing". I don't think he was going there for recreation; he was going back to his old way of life. He went back to the Sea of Galilee.
And then Christ met him there! The risen Christ! All the disciples, and He restored Simon Peter. And when He restored him in love, He said, "Simon, do you love me"? And three times he asked him, "Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me"? giving Peter the opportunity three times, as he had denied Him three times. Now to say, "Yes, Lord, I love you, I love you, I love you". And what did Jesus say? He said, "Then feed my sheep". And Peter rose up, later filled with the Holy Spirit to be the great evangelist and apostle, because you see this love, even when we fail, even when we're phony, even when we don't love Christ the way we ought to love Christ, He will restore us and renew us in His love. And then He says, "All right, I want you to go. If you love Me, go and love people that I love".
Love is truth. I like what Donald Barnhouse said about this idea of genuine love. He said, "True love must leave the stage and walk in the paths of real life". Get off the stage! This is not an act! John Stott put it this way: "Love is not theater; it belongs in the real world". So love is not a platform thing. Love is a passionate thing as we love people in the world. It’s not about how you feel; it’s about what you do, because love does. It’s a verb. The Christian life is a life of authentic love. It demonstrates itself in genuine service and sacrifice for others. And so this is authentic love. It gets down in the dirt; it gets down in the grime. And the first priority for every Christian is to give your life away. In fact, if you want to know if you're a Christian or not, then listen to the words of John in 1 John when he says, "If anyone is my disciple then love the brothers. If you have love one for another", He said, "If you don't love the brothers, if you don't love the Church, then you don't love Me". We demonstrate the genuineness of our faith, listen to me, by the genuineness of our love.
But not only is love true, but love, watch this, is tough. It sounds counter-intuitive, love is tough. But verse 9, the second portion of that tells us that we are to "abhor that which is evil and cling to what is good". So let me say that love is not soft; it is not shallow; it is not sentimental. Love is strong. Love is muscular and this love abhors that which is evil. And the Apostle Paul inspired by the Spirit here, uses a word that actually means detests evil, despise it and hate it! When you love God, you will hate evil; you will detest it in every way. Williams translates this: "You must always turn in horror from what is wrong"! So this is love, Psalm 97, verse 10 says, "You that love the Lord hate evil". And then Proverbs 8:13, "The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil".
So love is tough when it comes to dealing with truth and what is right and what is wrong. So I was thinking, how is it possible for you to love people but hate evil? By clinging to that which is good. And the word that he uses here "to cling" is the same words describing the marriage bond, let a husband cling to his wife, cleave to his wife (old King James). It's a word which means to stick like glue. So we are glued to good; we cherish what is good; we are not overcome with evil, but we overcome evil with good. We know that there is evil and we are to detest it in every way. So what are we to do? We’re to stand up for what is right against everything that is wrong. So how can you do this as a Christian and still love? We’re not to be angry. We can be angry and sin not, but it’s not to raise our fist, but it’s open our hands in love and we are to cling to that which is good.
And I just thought of a couple of ways that we're doing it as a church. Our Prestonwood Pregnancy Center. We hate the evil of abortion! We detest the fact that babies are being taken in their mother's wombs. We hate the fact our culture has become a culture of death for all these years. We hate that! But we cling to what is good and what is right. We cling to the truth that life is sacred before God, and we cling to love and loving people who have made terrible mistakes and sinned against God, and we show them love by clinging to good and showing them the good. If you love babies, you're going to hate the killing of babies. It's like your own children. If your children are doing the wrong thing, you hate anything that would be destroying the lives of your children because you love your children and you don’t want to see evil destroy them.
We have a Life Recovery ministry here at Prestonwood and in this Life Recovery ministry we see a lot of broken people; people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol and pornography, and a lot of other things. And as a church, we take a strong stand against anything that would destroy people's lives. We hate those things which kill and destroy the souls of men and women. But how do we respond? By clinging to that which is good. Not by compromising, not by tolerating, not by negotiating or making a deal with the devil, but by loving people unconditionally while hating and despising and destroying, or rather, the sin that destroys within them. So I can give you many illustrations: You're a doctor and if you love health, you hate disease.
So love is tough. Love is discerning. It speaks the truth in love. We’re to never endorse or condone bad behavior or tolerate evil, because God is holy and God’s love is a pure and righteous love. We can never be neutral about evil! What is right, is right! What is wrong, is wrong! What we’re actually told here is "abhor that which is evil", can also be described as run from everything evil in your life. Run from it! In fact, the Scripture says avoid the very appearance of evil, anything that is suspicious in our life, even a hint of scandal. When evil shows up, we go the other directions. That’s what we’re learning. This is what love does. Instead, cling to good; stay glued to good and what comes from God. It means hold tightly. This is moral goodness. It’s always right to do right; it’s always wrong to do wrong; and never wrong to do what is right. Keep clinging, keep cherishing Christ who is the greatest good, who is God. Keep yourself, Jude said, 23 of Jude, "Keep yourself in the love of God". That is keep clinging to the love of God; keep cherishing this love.
So love is true, love is tough. And then verse 10 tells us that love is tender, for he says, "Be kindly affection to one another," genuine affection. And there are a couple of words that are put together here, but it really means brotherly love, the love of family, of brothers and sisters, the love of close friends. Warm affection. It means to love deeply, to be deeply devoted to one another. Why? He's talking to God's people now. We are His people; we are His family and God wants us to live together in harmony and unity, are a tight-knit family.
So love is tender. Yes, it's tough on the outside when it comes to things that are right and true, but it's tender on the inside. And this tenderness, it's like our tenderness. If you have grandchildren, you know how tender you are with your grandchildren. That's the kind of love that is being described here. Tenderness.
And then, love is thoughtful, love is thoughtful. Out do one another in showing honor. Prefer one another in love, which means put one another first. Compete with one another in showing honor and deference and preference. Showing honor. Give honor to whom honor is due. But when we all love one another and serve one another and prefer one another, then the Church flourishes.
But then love is tenacious. That's verse 11. Now this is one of my favorite verses. It says: "Not lagging behind, but serving the Lord". Not being a slacker. I love that word! We don't use that word too much. "You slacker"! It's a word which means don't be lazy, but work hard, serving the Lord fervently. And that's a beautiful word-picture as well. The idea of serving the Lord fervently is boiling over! It's not a picture of a light shining; it's a picture of a pot boiling over! This is our love for Christ. This is our service: that we are fervently serving the Lord. Never lacking in zeal or earnestness or enthusiasm in the work God has called us to do. And that means all the days of our lives we don't get weary in well-doing. I love 1 Corinthians 15:58: "Be steadfast, unmovable always abounding in the work of the Lord". Always abounding means always getting after it, always serving the Lord, always working enthusiastically for the Lord "for you know your labor in the Lord is not in vain". Jesus had harsh words to say about a church and a people who were lukewarm! He said, "I would rather you be cold-all out against Me, or hot, but your tepidness, your laziness, your lethargy, this all is, it makes me vomit". The old King James says I will spew you out of my mouth. Somehow that even seems worse. Jesus said, "I'm going to spew you out of my mouth because of your lukewarmness".
And so finally, love is triumphant. Verse 12. He says three things very quickly there. He said, "rejoicing in hope, bring steadfast or persevering, patient in tribulation and devout in prayer". Rejoicing in hope, I like the combination of those words. Live with a happy hope. We are living in joy because we have this hope and certainly that one day, we'll keep serving and we'll keep doing these things because one day we hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant". And so we as Christians live with joyful expectation, with certainty in times of uncertainty, with confidence in times of chaos because we have this sure hope. No matter how dark the world becomes, we rejoice in hope! And then we're patient in suffering because if you are living like this and you're boiling over for the Lord, think about it.
If you're fired up in the Lord, some people are going to say, "You are a fanatic! You are a total freak; you're a religious nut", and all the rest, if you're boiling over, if you're really serving the Lord. I'm not talking about showing off. That's shallow, hypocritical love. But if you're showing up and serving the Lord, and doing it faithfully for Him, then you will feel the pressure. The word he uses here is pressure. So we persevere in this pressure because we know in the end we win; love wins because love never fails and nothing separates us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ.
We're are comforted by these words, and the truth that Christ is coming again. We wonder, what's going to happen to the world? What's the world coming to? I'll tell you what the world is coming to. The world is coming to Jesus because Jesus is coming to this world! And this is the blessed hope! He is our hope! And love then puts us on our knees with praise and thanksgiving to God. We're devout in prayer and devout in calling on the name of the Lord. You know, I guarantee, if you're under pressure, you're serving the Lord, you're boiling over, you want to keep going and you are under pressure in serving the Lord in some way, I guarantee you, that will drive you to your knees. So we pray.
And then one final thing: love is transferable, because he says we’re to show love by chasing hospitality and showing love to strangers, the outsiders. We’re to love one another inside, but we’re also to love people on the outside. And we’re doing that by sharing Christ with our neighbors as well as the nations. People we don’t know, strangers to us, but we give and we serve and we witness because this is what love does. And this love therefore, is transferable. It shows up and shows out the love of Jesus. In closing listen to these words: It says, "The churches would be filled if outsiders could find that people in the churches loved them when they came in. We must", listen to this, "win them to us first, then we can turn them over to Christ. We must get the people to love us and then turn them over to Christ".
Now lest you think that that quote came from a modern church marketeer, that was made over 125 years ago by D. L. Moody, a great Christian of yesteryear. And for every generation it's true, "When we love people, they learn how to love our Savior. When we win them to ourselves because of our love, what did Jesus say? They will know that you are disciples because of your love, that you love one another". And when we win them with love to ourselves by showing them love, then we can turn them over to Christ and point them to the one who loves them the most and will love them forever.