Michael Youssef - From Valley to Victory - Part 16
Turn with me if you haven't already to Romans 12, beginning at verse 9. The most important thing about that passage is that you have to keep it in context for it is only after a believer has been deeply moved by the mercies of God, only then out of gratitude and out of thanksgiving the believer would want to offer his body as a living sacrifice to the Lord and only when the believer begins to offer all of him and all of her as a living sacrifice, only then, that the mind begins to be transformed into the likeness of Christ and when the mind begins to continuously being transformed, only then in that state of transformation you're gonna see that these three things which I shared in the last message, that you will have an accurate perception of yourself, you'll have an adequate perception of others, and you will have an active serving mentality.
Here, Paul continues, verses 9 to 21, and says when all of that happens and only then, true love, genuine love, is gonna manifest itself in us. Only then. So to make it easier for you, I have codified those 25 injunctions into 8. First, in verse 9, says: "Love hates evil". Love hates what? Secondly, in verse 10, "Love gives honor". Thirdly, verse 11, "Love is passionate about God". Four, verse 12, "Love hopes and perseveres in prayer". Five, verse 13, "Love loves to give". Six, verses 14 and 15, "Love feels deeply with others". Seven, verses 16 to 19, "Love refuses to get even". Finally, number eight, verses 20 to 21, "Love reverses the cultural norms".
Let's go through them very quickly. Love hates what? Paul describes genuine love, real love. Not the fake one but the real love. Literally, without hypocrisy, and he uses that Greek word. It's without hypocrisy. I know some translations said "sincere," but literally, without... well, what's hypocrisy? I sometimes hear the word "hypocrisy" used and most times accurate but other times they're really erroneous. Most people really don't understand what hypocrisy really means. I remember when I started my ministry in Sydney, Australia, back in the mid '70s, people would say to you, "Hey, Padre, you know why I don't come to church"? "No". "It's full of hypocrites".
That used to bamboozle me and I didn't know what to say. Until I really realized and God gave me the answer. And from that moment on, when they say, "Hey, Padre, do you know why I don't go to church? It's full of hypocrites". I always say, "You're right, but we have room for one more. Come and join us". Man, that ends the conversation. But the word "hypocrisy," the Greek word that Paul is using here comes from the ancient world of acting. Why the ancient world of acting? Because back then, in the ancient world, the actors put a mask on to be somebody else or something else. And Paul is saying hypocritical love is a love that puts on a mask. Hypocritical love is a love that loves in words only. Hypocritical love is a love that loves when it's convenient. Hypocritical love is a love that's only seasonal or as-needed basis.
Listen to me, today we have such a confused and false notion of love and we think love is really not condemning sin. You know what is happening in our culture? We're no longer shocked by rebellion against the Word of God. The first stage came a few decades ago when we baptized sin into the church and then we got worse sin and got that baptized too. And what it's doing to us is anesthetizing us against being shocked by sin. We're accommodating to it, not shocked by it. Please think with me, think with me. Try to imagine a group of doctors and nurses who are working in the infectious disease ward of a hospital who refuse to wear protective gear.
You say, "That's unconscionable," and I agree with you. I agree 100%. But that's where many Christians are today. Loving people but hating sin is not only a must. It's the only way to thrive in this perverse culture. Love hates what? Secondly, love, genuine love, gives honor to whom honor is due. Now I know and you know that there are some people confuse honoring somebody with flattery. Now, listen to me. Flattery is a sin and I pray none of you practice it. But honor shows genuine appreciation for those who have ministered to us. It is not a sin. Honor is your respect and acknowledging of the faithfulness of those who minister to us. Honoring others is a sure way of strangling envy and jealousy in our lives. Honoring faithfulness is a mark of genuine love. Love hates what? Love gives what? Love is passionate about God, verse 11.
Back in the days of the Wesleyan Brothers' revival, a Methodist revival, they used to call passion for Christ, they used to call it enthusiasm. That was the word and this was a big accusation of anybody who's really passionate about Christ. And they literally put people on trial if they accused of enthusiasm. Today, we can have passion for a sports team. I mean, we can have passion for a hobby. We can have passion for countless things. We are called fans. But try to have passion for Jesus and you are called fanatic. Beloved, passion for God does not mean mindless activities. Passion for God does not mean mindless emotions, but rather, Paul is trying to tell the believers in Rome and indeed to us today that we should not cool off our zeal for Christ and for his Word. Can I get a witness? That we should not be cooled off by the godless environment in which we live. That we should not become indifferent toward the gospel of Jesus Christ and those who have been lost. Love hates what? Love gives what?
Love is passionate about... Love hopes and perseveres in prayer. Look at verse 12: "Rejoicing in hope and persevering in prayer". What does that mean? Well, it means that you shouldn't be discouraged when God had not answered your prayers immediately. Are you hearing me? You see, don't give up praying in the face of resistance. You don't give up praying the moment you're rejected.
Listen to me. 1 Corinthians 15:58. If you remain steadfast, if you remain immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, your labor's not in vain. When you're faithful to the only one who can generously reward you, when you are faithful to the only one who can see you all of the time, when you are faithful to the only one who can truly bless you, when you are faithful to the only one who can truly answer your prayers, then you can rejoice in hope ahead of time. And then you wait in prayer. My experience in praying is that God gives four answers, at least for my personal point of view. He gives four answers, not one or two: four. The Lord says: "No, not yet". Or sometimes he says, "No. I love you too much to give you that". Or he can say, "Yes, I thought you would never ask".
And the fourth one, I've experienced many, many times to doubt it. He says, "Yes, here's more". Exceedingly, abundantly. Thomas Brooks illustrated our lack of perseverance in prayer this way. He said, "Cold prayers are like arrows without heads, swords without an edge, birds that have no wings; they pierce not, they cut not, they fly not to heaven. Cold prayers freezes before it reaches heaven". All I can say is, "Lord, have mercy".
Love hates... Love gives... Loves is passionate about... Love hopes and perseveres... Love loves to give, verse 13. I want you to know at the outset one of the greatest blessings in my life, blessings that literally blesses me out of my socks, is that I have been privileged to know some people who love to give. And the reason I love them is because I wanna emulate them. They will never know this side of heaven what a blessing they are and I've seen 'em in Australia, in Europe, and here in the United States, of course, in this church. I cannot tell you how much these folks bless me, just for watching them but, sadly, I have also known others who nickel and dime God. You know what I'm talking about? They nickel and dime. "Should I tithe before taxes? Should I tithe after taxes"? What does the word "tithe" mean? Well, go and look it up in the dictionary. It's 10%, and that's the starting point, not the ending. "Should I only give when I have extra money or should I give, should I even tithe at all"?
Someone years ago asked, "Should I tithe before taxes or after taxes"? He said, "All depends if you wanna be blessed before taxes or after taxes". Beloved, here is the core problem about giving. Listen to me. Here's the core problem. We think of ourselves as the owners of everything that God has given us and that's really the error that many, even Bible-believing Christians, fall into. We think we own it. We think it's ours. We don't realize that we are managers and working for the boss who gave us everything. I can hear the generous givers saying, "Amen".
Listen, the Bible makes it absolutely clear, we are mere managers and one day, we're going to give an account. And don't forget that the boss, he's watching you. He's watching patiently and longing for you to come into the joy of being hilarious giver. How are you managing that which is entrusted to you? That's really according to Jesus, in Luke 16:10, is that those who "can be trusted with very little will be trusted with much".
Love hates... Love gives... Love is passionate about... Love hopes and perseveres... Love loves to... Love feels deeply with others. Look at verses 14 and 15: "Rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep". Now, rejoicing here does not mean participating in these mindless parties, this partying. That's what some people think... no, that's not rejoicing. But because it's tied up with loving of your enemy, here in this context, rejoicing therefore means the following.
Listen carefully. Say you and somebody else in your company or in your organization or within your sphere are up for a promotion. He or she gets it, you don't. Can you rejoice with him? Ha, ha, that's what it means. Can you rejoice for that person? Say you are... and another person in a contest. He wins, you lose. Can you really rejoice for that person? See, that's what it means. Say, you watch how God has blessed someone and you're struggling. Can you say, "Oh, God, thank you for blessing my friend"? See, that's what it means here in this context. Now, you have to agree with me, that in our culture, any culture, this type of rejoicing with others, even at our expense, can only be, can only be a Christian principle. Only in the Christian faith.
Love hates what? Love gives... Love's passionate about... Love hopes and persevere in... Love loves to... Love feels deeply with others. Number seven, love refuses to get even, verses 16 to 19. I don't know about you but have you ever asked yourself the question, "What is the primary reason for wanting revenge"? Have you ever asked that? What is the real motive inside of me of wanting to hurt someone who had hurt me? What is the underlying desire for that payback? You know what I'm talking about?
You hear it a lot in the media. You punch me, I'll punch back, right? Why do we want to stick it to somebody who wounded us? One word: pride. Pride, that's the underlying reason. That is the bottom-line motivation. When you see people who specialize in gossip and sowing seed of division, they only do that because they're conceited. Scripture indicates that these folks really refuse to be associated with people whom they see to be below them. Pride, pride.
Let me testify to the glory of God, in all my years in ministry I have never been more freed up and liberated than when the time I learned to pray for someone who has falsely accused me, who has unjustly criticized me. I prayed specifically for God to bless them and bless their family and bless the people, bless their work, bless their... I specifically spent time praying that God would bless them. Oh, by the way, in case you start thinking that I'm a super-duper Christian, don't. I'm ashamed of the fact that it's taken me years to learn this lesson of genuinely praying for someone who wronged me. To pray for someone who deliberately impugned my motives, to pray for someone who deliberately maligned me.
Love hates... Love gives... Love's passionate about... Love hopes and perseveres in... Love loves to... Love feels deeply with... Love refuses to... And finally, verses 20 and 21, love reverses the cultural norms. The cultural norms. As you already told you, the natural thing in our interactions, in our behavior, the natural thing is, "He hit me, I'll hit him back harder. He punched me, I'm gonna punch back with more vigor. He attacked me, I'm gonna attack him with all I've got. He marred my reputation, I'm gonna do it back with vengeance". That's just the natural world which we live in, the fallen world. But do you know what Paul is really saying here?
Now, let me give you a Youssef, not translation, interpretation, okay? You cannot take care of your enemy better than God can. So you might as well leave him or her to God. God will do a much better job with justice than you can. In this way, you will also heap burning coals of shame on their head. Beloved, listen, see how the Bible reverses everything. For Christian believers, he or she reverses their social norm and thus they shame their enemies not by revenge, no. Christian believers reverse this process of evil by praying for the wrongdoer. They still don't like the wrong.
Don't misunderstand me. Still hate the wrong. But praying, that is worse than heaping burning coals on their head. I can tell you on the authority of the Word of God you cannot do any of these things that I've just talked about from the Epistle to the Romans on your own strength, no matter how strong willed you might be. You can only do this in the power of the Holy Spirit within you.