Skip Heitzig - Romans 12
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All right, let's turn in our Bibles to the book of Romans, chapter 12. We come to the graduation chapter of the book of Romans, the fourth great transition of this book. Remember, I gave you four sections that this book is divided into? And you know them, you memorized them, you are a Roman expert at this point. You know that it talks about the wrath of God, the grace of God, the plan of God, and now the will of God. See, I knew you knew it. So it's the graduation chapter, because he says, "I beseech you therefore." And the Christian life always has a therefore. That is, it leads you somewhere. It brings you to a place of once you know something, now you do something with what you know. That's the therefore.
Now Paul does use this term quite a bit. But in the book of Romans, there are four transitional therefores. And I just thought it would be appropriate if you looked at them with me. So go back to chapter three, and let's look at this first one. Romans chapter 3, in verse 19. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law. That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law, no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The first therefore is the therefore of condemnation. The gavel goes down. The judge says Jew, Gentile, every person, guilty before God. That's the first one. The second one is in chapter five. So turn the page to chapter 5, verse 1. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This second therefore is that therefore of justification. Even though the gavel goes down and pronounces the world guilty, because you've trusted in Christ, the gavel goes down on your behalf, whereby God treats you as though you have never sinned. Even though you have, even though you're not perfect, He regards you, He treats you, as though you were as righteous as His Son. You have been justified by faith. So that's the therefore of justification.
The third one is in chapter 8, verse 1. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. This is the therefore of exoneration. You are not condemned, and nothing and no one can make you condemned. Again, the gavel has gone down on your behalf, pronouncing you as though you have not sinned, justified. And there is no condemnation, and no one can bring condemnation against you. You have been exonerated. And then, in chapter 12, verse 1, is the fourth one. This is the therefore of consecration. Because all of these are true, therefore I am going to do something with myself, my body, my life. So, he begins. I beseech you, I urge you, I beg you. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Notice that he says I urge you or I beseech you by the mercies of God, in view of the mercies of God. The JB Phillips translation, one that I'm going to refer to a few times tonight, the JB Phillips translation puts it this way. With eyes wide open to the mercies of God. Think of what God has done as recorded by Paul the apostle. Guilty? All mankind. But God has declared you not guilty. He's forgiven you. He's justified you. He's adopted you. He's promised you heaven after this life. He has promised to walk with you during the hardest times and make sense out of the trials of life. In view of all of those things that we would call, and Paul sums up, as the mercies of God, I beseech you therefore that you would present your bodies to God.
I do think it's good from time to time to review the mercies of God in your own life, to stop and think of how God has taken the moments, the relationships, the decisions, the mistakes, and woven them together in perfection to bring you to where you are. My mind goes back to a young teenager who was aimless, often on drugs, unsure, insecure, no real future, but how that God in 1973 got a hold of his heart and saved me and gave me purpose. And then I think of, not only that, which is a great mercy of God, but that I was bouncing around to a few churches. But by the mercy of God, He let me reside finally at a Bible teaching church under a great mentor pastor who fed the Word of God and gave a good role model of pastoral ministry. And then I think about feeling alone, and wondering where the Lord would lead me after that, only to meet a beautiful young girl by the name of Lenya. And how in 1981, we got married and then the Lord put it on our hearts to go east, to go back east, to Albuquerque.
Way far away back east. And just, let's just see what will happen. Let's just give it a shot, and see if the Lord's in it, only to discover by His mercy, the Lord was in it. So it's good to stop, put the pause button on, and just review the mercies of God and how He has patched together your life for His purpose. So I beseech you, I urge you therefore, because of all that God has done, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice.
Now that happens to be technical language. The word present yourself is a technical term often used to refer to the Levitical priests who would offer their animal sacrifices on the altar. And you know, it says in the book of Peter, we are a holy priesthood, and we offer up spiritual sacrifices. The first sacrifice is ourself. We, as a priest, offer ourselves to God. We do this every day. Lord, I'm yours. Take my body. Take my will. Take my affections. Take my passions. Take my time and use me. You and I are priests. Imagine my mother, who raised me as a Roman Catholic. The day I came to her and she said, as she looked at me, she goes, oh, I had always hoped that you would be a priest. And I smiled. I said, mom, your prayers have been answered. I am one. And she gave me that quizzical look. And I went on to explain how the Bible says we are a holy priesthood. And I offer these sacrifices to God, as do you, every day.
So here's the problem though. When you have a dead sacrifice, it can't go anywhere. You take an animal. You kill it, slit its throat, bleed it out, put it on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord. It's totally consumed. It is totally sacrificed. Because it has no life, it has no will. It doesn't go anywhere. It's dead. The problem is with the living sacrifices. Living sacrifices, that is a sacrifice to God, not dead, but while you live, your life is lived in sacrificial ministry to the Lord. But because it's a living sacrifice, living sacrifices have a tendency to want to squirm off the altar.
Ever do that? Lord, I give you my life. Well, I'm going to take it back right now. I'll give it to you later. Right? Or Lord, I recommit. Why are you recommitting? Because you had taken it back. You had gone the other direction. The only reason we make prayers of re-commitment is because the sacrifice has squirmed off the altar. But we are to be a living sacrifice. That is our life lived for the glory of God. Present your body. Why the body? What's the big deal about the body? Now the reason I'm asking the question is because some Christians, I have discovered, have what I would only describe as a philosophical dualism in life. Let me explain.
They would say, well, the Spirit is important, and that which is spiritual is important, but that which is physical is not all that important. My body isn't all that important. I can do what I want with my body. And I bring that up, because that was the exact same philosophy of Gnostic heresy in the early church. They had a philosophical dualism. They believed that the spirit was important, the body was not. Therefore, they could sort of live however they wanted with their body, as long as their spirit was dedicated to God. That was Gnosticism.
It's not quite the same, but some Christians today just think their body isn't all that important. They don't take care of it. They don't see it as a vessel, as a temple of God. Why would God be so interested in you giving your body to Him? Because your body can become a base of operations for the Holy Spirit to work in, to move in, to operate from, to do His work in the world.
Put in the parlance of 1 Corinthians, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the place where God resides, a place where worship is conducted, the place, the base of operations, from which God moves among His people. How about if you were to see your body as a base of operations from which God could work with your family, with your neighbors, with your friends, at your work? If you saw yourself as that, then you could live a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, which is your reasonable service. So your body is important. God gives want it to become a base of operations for Him to work through. Think of the Bible. Think of people in the Scripture who dedicated their lives, their bodies, to the Lord.
Think of, for example, the womb of Sarah. Barren, an older woman. But eventually, though it took God some time with her, she surrendered her life, her body, to the Lord and her womb conceived Isaac. And the plan of God, the Salvation of Israel and the world through Jesus Christ, eventually came through that lineage. Think of the mouth of Moses. Moses said I can't talk, I'm a man of uncircumcised lips, I really can't do this. But surrendered to God, he became a very powerful spokesperson before Pharaoh, before the children of Israel.
Think of the hands of David. This little shepherd boy, but the Holy Spirit governing, controlling those hands, he was able to slay Goliath. He was able to lead his people, and he became a very important King in Israel's history. So your bodies are important. Present your bodies to God a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, which is your reasonable service. It's the smartest thing you could do. It's the wisest move you could make.
Some translations say your spiritual act of worship. That's OK, too. That's a good translation. I prefer reasonable service. The Greek word is logikos, logical. Think of it this way. When you think of the mercies of God, when you think of all that God has done for you, when you think of the plan of God and how God was able to let that gavel go down and declare you justified and not guilty and all the plan that God has for you, when you understand those mercies, the most logical thing you could ever do, the smartest move you could ever make, is to say, Lord, I'm presenting my body to you. That's why I think this is a superior translation. It is your reasonable service. OK, all of that for verse one. Let's mosey on.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed, totally changed, a complete alteration, transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. So the presentation of your body leads to the transformation of your mind and your life. One leads to the other.
Do not be conformed to this world but transformed. Now in verse two, there's a couple of different parts. There's the negative, and there's the positive. Do you see it? Here's the negative. Do not be conformed. Do you know that God calls you and I to be nonconformists? You don't have to conform to the thinking, the attitudes, the values of this worldly system. Be a nonconformist. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, in speaking of the pagan world, He said do not be like them. Be a nonconformist. Do not be conformed to this world.
Now I mentioned the JB Phillips translation, right? I said I was going to quote a few times from it. In the JB Phillips translation, verse two is rendered this way. Don't let the world squeeze you into its own mold. Isn't that good? Don't let the world squeeze you into its own mold. Oh, it will try. It wants you to parrot its weird value system and say all the right things, and be all woke and be all spoke and be all that they say you ought to be. Don't be conformed to this world. Be a nonconformist. Don't let the world squeeze you into its own mold.
Why is it that we conform, by the way? Why do we conform to the world? Fear. Nobody likes to be rejected by a peer group. Everybody fears not fitting in. Everybody's afraid of what other people are going to think of them. Everybody's afraid of the backlash if they take a stand, what somebody is going to write on their Instagram or what they're going to tweet back or an email they're going to get or somebody gossiping behind their backs. It's fear of the crowd that makes us conform to the values of this world.
But He says don't be conformed. That's the negative; here's the positive. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Just like your body matters, your mind matters. Too many Christian institutions have an unwritten rule when you enter them, and that is please check your brain at the door. No more thinking critically after this point. Now you just swallow everything we give you. No. Your mind matters, and you should think critically, and if need be, question necessarily. Even Paul the apostle congratulated the Bereans, because they were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word of God with all readiness of mine but they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things be so. Be a Berean. Do that.
Can you imagine listening to Paul the apostle and even having the thought, well, I don't know if that's true? And somebody go, what do you mean that's not true? That's Paul the apostle, man. So? I want to make sure that is in line with the Scripture. I'm going to search the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul just said is true. And Paul said, I like that. They're more noble than those in Thessalonica because they did that. So your mind matters to God. You are to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. To think through things intelligently, clearly, critically.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove, now we've gone through the negative and the positive. Here's the practical. The practical part this is where it will lead you when you do that. When you don't conform but you are transformed, you will prove, the result will be you'll discover what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.
I don't think I've ever met a Christian who doesn't want to know the will of God. A person comes to know Christ. They're all excited that their sins are forgiven. They have heaven waiting for them. They have purpose for life. But they quickly come to the place where they say, I wonder what God wants from my life, what He wants me to do, what area He'd be leading me into. What is the will of God? How do I discover the perfect will of God?
And then, unfortunately, some think well, it must be difficult. Or it must be strange, weird. In discovering the will of God, maybe God will give me a sign. Maybe I'll hear a voice from heaven, I'll see lights line up. Somebody will speak a word of prophecy to me, that's how I'll discover the will of God. God could use any of those means. But I've discovered that usually God moves supernaturally naturally, not supernaturally weirdly, not supernaturally strangely, but just naturally. You will just discover. You'll walk in it. The Lord will put you in the right place. And you will discover, you will prove, what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.
Now I'm going to say something to you, but I want you to take it in this context. Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and then do what you want. Now, pick that apart. Think critically what I just said. If you love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, what you will want will be the will of God. If you love Him, you want to honor Him, you want to glorify Him, you're thinking I want to follow the dictates of Scripture, then do what you want. Because what you want is you're going to discover what He wants. You're going to want what He wants. He'll place those desires in your heart. You'll prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.
For I say through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Now let me give that part of the verse to you in the Phillips translation. This translation says do not think of himself more highly than he ought. The Phillips translation says don't cherish exaggerated ideas of your own importance. Again, that's so good. Don't cherish exaggerated ideas of your own importance.
Now I've discovered this happens when God starts using a person, that the natural reaction to God using them is wow, I must be pretty awesome. I am pretty awesome. I mean, that was amazing what the Lord did in my life. And so you start having exaggerated ideas of your own importance. No. All that proves is God is willing to condescend and use even you. And me. God has chosen, remember what it says. God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. First Corinthians 13. That is my life verse.
If a doctor performs an operation in a surgical suite under sterile conditions with a great backup team and all the latest technology, happens every day. But if a doctor can do that same operation in a primitive environment without that backup system, without that technology, and only has a little kitchen knife that he or she heats up and makes sterile, and for that operation to be successful, now that's something special. And after the operation, you don't take the knife and go praise you knife. You are the most awesome knife ever. It's not the knife. It's the one who held the knife. It's the one who did the work. It's not the tool. So don't have exaggerated, I'm a knife. So? Who's the surgeon, man? Who's the doc behind you?
So don't think of yourself more highly than he ought to think, but think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Now he's going to go on to speak about the body of Christ and love in the body of Christ and gifts that promote unity in the church to fulfill His will among us. And it says the God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
One thing I have discovered about God and how He uses us is the Lord is not an ogre. He doesn't call you to do something that you go, oh man, I'd hate to do that. I've had people say, I'd hate to go to the mission field. Chances are He's not calling you. Now He might, but if He does, He'll give you a love for it. He'll give you a desire to do it. He'll put the will within your heart. It's not like God is so mean and He twists your arm and He's going to force you to do stuff you hate to do. No, God has given you a measure of faith so that you will operate in a certain area and it's a perfect fit. A perfect fit. He's a gracious and loving God.
So, for as we have many members in one body, this is the human body as an analogy, but all the members do not have the same function. Right? First Corinthians chapter 12. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the seeing? There's different parts in the human body. So we, being many, that is we, as the body of Christ, Church members, we being many are one body in Christ and individually members one of another, having then gifts, differing according to the grace that is given to us. Let us use them.
I mentioned a doctor. And I mentioned a kitchen knife or a scalpel. That's just one tool. The doctor has needles, different gauges of needles, different shapes of needles, different kinds of suture, different tools like retractors and hemostats and blades, etc., to do what he does, besides a number of other tools. Every tool is important. A mechanic doesn't just have a screwdriver, but has a screwdriver and a pliers and a bunch of other tools to do a job. When somebody comes to me and says, well, what is the best spiritual gift to have? That's like asking what's the best tool in your toolbox? Or what is the best implement for the doctor to use? And the answer of course would be well, it depends on what job you want to do. If you want to weld something, a hammer is not your best tool. In fact, you can beat something all day long and it won't help, won't accomplish the job. If you're trying to hammer a nail into a piece of wood, a screwdriver is not your best tool. A hammer would be.
So when the Bible says covet the best gifts, and it does say that, desire the best gifts of the Spirit, what is the best gift? Well, it depends on what God has called you to do. And the best gift for you will be given by God to you to accomplish the work He's called you to do. You can rest assured of that. So He's given you a measure of faith, and He's given you whatever gift is needed to fulfill and to bless the body of Christ. In Romans chapter 12, he mentions some spiritual gifts. He mentions seven spiritual gifts. That's not how many spiritual gifts there are. If you were to look at 1 Corinthians chapter 12, he lists 17 spiritual gifts. If you look at the book of Ephesians, he mentions five spiritual gifts. So, and I've read so many books on this, some will say when it comes to gifts of the Spirit, gifts of the Holy Spirit, there are 22 gifts. Or some will say 21 gifts. Or the number floats, depending on how you read the words. But it doesn't matter, right? I don't think the number matters.
I think that it's the same Spirit who works all of these things all and in all, Paul said. So you can have a person with one gift or two gifts or three gifts of the Spirit, and then you'll have somebody else with one of those gifts but a couple of other gifts, so that the combination is pretty endless. And so that the use and working of the spiritual gift in the body of Christ can be like a fingerprint, very individual, very stylized, very not like another. And even two people with the same gift of the Spirit are going to operate differently. They're going to have their own personality. So you get two, let's say, pastor teachers, and they are given the same passage of Scripture, I guarantee you're going to have two different sermons, two different ways of looking at it. Same truths, but different styles. OK, enough said on that. Let's kind of go through this. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them. If prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith.
I'm not going to go through all these gifts and describe all the use of them. I have done that. I've done that in depth. I've done that with every gift of the Spirit. I will say this, and there is dispute as to if prophecy means preaching the Word, or if it means something more specific, in the Old Testament, prophets often foretold the future. Yes? They predicted. Sometimes they didn't predict. Sometimes it was not foretelling. Sometimes it was just forth telling. They were just saying thus says the Lord. It was God speaking into a situation or to an event happening in the country or in the city, with the kingdom, with the king. And it wasn't a prediction per se. It was just God's word, God's will, for that moment.
The idea of New Testament prophecy, and there were prophets in the New Testament, seemed to be more local than universal. That is, it's not like a thus sayeth the Lord in Isaiah that will be carried on throughout all of history as a part of Scripture, but rather more like the prophet Agabus, who, when Paul went to Caesarea on his way to Jerusalem, Agabus, it says, was a prophet, and he took Paul's sash or his belt and he bound himself with it. And then he stood up in the midst of the little assembly gathered in Caesarea, held up his hands with the sash of Paul wrapped around it, and says thus says the Lord, the One who owns this belt will be bound in Jerusalem. Then Paul said well, that's my belt. And they all looked at Paul and said well, you're the dude that's going to get arrested then. You're going to be bound. And he was.
So they took that to mean God doesn't want you to go to Jerusalem, and they begged him, Paul, don't go, because the prophecy that faithful prophet just spoke said you're going to get arrested. Well Paul didn't see that as a prohibition. Paul saw that as a confirmation. He said, OK, so I'm going to get arrested. He goes, what do you mean, weeping and breaking my heart? This is Paul speaking. What do you mean weeping and breaking my heart? I'm ready not only to be arrested, but to die for the Name of the Lord Jesus. OK, a man like that is unstoppable. A man who is ready to get arrested and die, what do you do? Well, you let him go. And he did. But it was Agabus, the prophet, who gave that very specific prophecy.
So if prophecy, let us prophecy, speak forth, in proportion to our faith. Perhaps a better translation would be in proportion to the faith, the faith, like we talked about this last weekend, the body of Christian Truth. Or ministry. Let us use it in our ministering. Now this word, ministry, this spiritual gift, means the gift of practical service. The word Paul uses here is diakonia. Diakonia is the word, the Greek word, whereby we get our word deacon, a servant, a practical servant in the church. So if God has given you that measure of faith and the ministry of practical serving, meeting needs practically in people's lives, then do it.
He who teaches, in teaching. That's what I feel my primary gift is. I think I have other gifts of the Spirit, but primarily this is the gift of the Spirit that I exercise here for this local body most frequently. And a gift of teaching is the ability to interpret the text and to clarify its meaning, to be able to explain the meaning clearly to people. Like in the book of Nehemiah, when Ezra the priest stood up on a platform of wood, read the text of Scripture, and it says gave the sense. Gave the sense, explained the meaning, made the application to the hearts of the people.
Now as a teacher, I will just say I believe, and I might be biased on this, I believe the gift of teaching and the use of teaching is one of the most needed gifts in the church. And let me explain. In my view, many pulpits lack teaching. They have preaching. They have exhorting. They have entertaining. But few have preaching. In fact, in many churches, and I've seen many of them, when a pulpit committee looks for a pastor, they rarely look for a teacher, especially an expository teacher. They want somebody who has other gifts, somebody who can raise the budget, somebody who can meet with donors, somebody who can be nice and visit all the people all the time. And thus he may not have time to prepare a message. But the message, ah, it's incidental, it's not as important. I believe it's dire. I believe it's very important. God has given us a Book, and a teacher will explain clearly, simply, the meaning of that.
So he who teaches in teaching, so that's my little bias, that's my little soapbox. But I qualified it, I warned you. Verse eight, he who exhorts, and that is a spiritual gift, in exhortation. The word in Greek for exhort or exhortation is parakaleo. And parakaleo is better translated encouraging. You know, we think of somebody who exhorts, and they get in your grill, and they have a furrowed brow, and they tell you what to do. Actually, an exhorter encourages you to do it. And it might have a firmness to it. That gift might be expressed that way, but teaching lays the foundation, and exhortation is the gentle prod that uses the gift of teaching and instruction and motivates a person. See?
So here's an example. Let's say I hold up a skateboard, since we have a skate park here. And I hold up a skateboard and go, man, first of all, let me tell you about this skateboard. This skateboard is a long board, and I'm only going by what I have at home. So a longboard is different than a shorter skateboard. It's smoother, but it doesn't turn as well, but the wheels are a little bit bigger so they're softer. And I start explaining all the parts and the bearings and the trucks and how it operates and the tape on top that gives you grip. And so you're getting all this instruction. All that's good. Now you know how it operates. But somebody with the gift of exhortation is the guy who gives you a push on the skateboard. It's one thing to have the instruction, but it's another thing to get the push and get some momentum.
Now you need both. You need instruction, because you don't want somebody just putting somebody who knows nothing about this on a skateboard and just pushes them down a hill. That would be cruel. So you need instruction. But if you just get instruction but you don't have somebody to help you put it into practice, it's just head knowledge. So teaching and exhortation are two gifts that often operate together. So many times, the teacher will also be a preacher, and vise versa. He who exhorts in exhortation. He who gives with liberality, there is a gift of giving. All of us are called to give and support the Lord's work, but some people God gives a special enabling to see a need and the financial wherewithal and the heart to meet that need.
He who leads with diligence. I believe this leadership gift referred to here is known as, in 1 Corinthians 12, the gift of administration. The ability to administrate and to lead that way. He who shows mercy with cheerfulness, another spiritual gift. Thank God for those who have the gift of mercy when we need it. Verse nine, let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. And here's what I want you to notice as we go through the rest of this chapter. There are 30 short little commands, just sort of one strung upon another, little staccato exhortations. Do this, do that, this, that, 30 of them. And they all primarily deal with love, how we love the family of God, how we love hostility or the world, even in the midst of hostility, and how we love even our enemies.
So let love be without hypocrisy. Those two words, without hypocrisy, one word in the Greek language. Anypokritos, Anypokritos, without hypocrisy. Anypokritos, a hypocrite, literally hypokrites, Greek word, was nothing more than an actor. A stage actor who wore in his hand, had in his hand, a mask or two, and put a mask up and spoke words before a crowd. Like let's say he has a happy face, puts that up and says words, and takes that off and puts up the sad face and says things. That is an actor. That's a hypokrites. To say this, let love be anypokritos, without hypocrisy, is to say let your love be so genuine that you're not wearing a mask when you say it and when you act it. It's love without a mask. Love with a mask, hypocritical love, is where somebody says sweet sappy little sentimental nice things to you to make you feel good, then stabs you in the back. That's hypocritical love. Judas Iscariot loved Jesus hypocritically. He came to the garden with a kiss. And Jesus said you betray the Son of Man with a kiss? That's hypocrisy. It's a show of affection outwardly, but inwardly you're a traitor.
So let your love be real. Let it be genuine, without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. You could do a sermon on each one of these. They are all so good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.
Now, I'm sorry to go into so much of the Greek language, but it's a play on words in this verse. So when he says be kindly affectionate, he uses the word philostorgos. And then he says brotherly love. It's the word philadelphia. Phileo or philia is brotherly love. So it's a play on words. Be philostorgos to one another with philadelphia. All of that to say love like you're part of the same family. You're in the family of God. That's your brother and your sister. Well, not my real brother, yeah, more so, deeper, because of the spiritual bond. So be kindly affectionate, philostorgos to one another with philadelphia, with real brotherly love.
In honor, giving preference to one another, not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit. That means burning hot, red hot in spirit. Serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer, distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Now in verse 11, just notice this. Whole thing about not lagging in diligence but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Have you noticed, see if you've noticed this. There seem to be seasons in the Christian experience. At first, we're red hot. We're on fire. We're so excited. Jesus is so real. My sins are forgiven. I'm going to heaven. I know God. Do you know God? I mean, we're just amped, right? We get so excited. And that's so awesome. It's great. Right? That's zeal. And it's zeal according to knowledge. But then, when we get a lot of knowledge, we get a lot of Bible knowledge, we know a lot of Greek words, like I just rattled off, we can sometimes tend to become so mind heavy and emotionally light. Yes, I remember when I was that amped up, when I was a young believer, when I was immature and I just kind of mouthed off.
And as we grow through these seasons of the Christian life, we start even disdaining being a fanatic. Nobody wants to be a fanatic. Well, you are a fanatic. Some of you are sports fanatics. Sports fan. Fan is short for fanatic. Some of you will go to a game or you'll watch a game at home, and somebody makes a touchdown or a home run, and you don't sit there and go oh, how lovely. You yell, the neighbors hear you. The dogs bark in the neighborhood.
Fanatic? You're a fan, man. You're excited. And yet when it comes to the things of God, which ought to be really exciting, we can tend to become so passive. We're afraid. Well, I don't want to be a spiritual fanatic. You know what? Try it. I don't mean be fake. Right? Painted fire never warmed anyone. But allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and excitement for the most important, worthy things in the universe, God Himself. And I've found it's a lot easier to cool down a fanatic than warm up a corpse. Somebody's a little too fanatic. So? Give them to me all day long. You know, it's a lot easier to work with that than try to hoo, hoo, come on, to somebody who's dead.
I've always loved the 24th chapter of the book of Luke, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus came and spoke to them, spoke the Scripture to them. And after he left, they turned to each other and said did not our hearts burn within us as He spoke to us along the way? May God give us that. On fire, fervent in spirit, not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer, distributing to the needs of the saints, given to philonexia, hospitality. Literally, the love of strangers, loving the strangers.
Think about this word when it comes to the crisis of the border. Think of this when it comes to immigration. No matter what you think of what laws should be, and you have the right to think whatever you want, I'm not here to tell you what to think, I am here to tell you that however a person comes into our country, love the stranger. Love the stranger. See that as an opportunity for the gospel, to get a person who is on their way not to heaven, but perhaps to hell, rescued and on their way to heaven, and them being brothers and sisters in your faith. Hospitality.
Now he shifts gears a little bit in verse 14. Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep. To live in Rome was very difficult for a Christian. It was a volatile situation. It was becoming more and more hostile and more and more volatile to live out the Christian life in a pagan Roman environment. Hence the need to bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse.
Now that's impossible, and God calls you to it. It's impossible in the flesh. It's impossible on your own. It's impossible without God's help. But Jesus said what's impossible with man is possible with God. Now listen. The Bible says in the book of Romans, God has shed abroad the love of God in our hearts. Remember that verse? So if the love of God flows into you, you know what that means? The love of God can flow out of you. Well man, I'm just out of love, man. I've run out of love. Impossible. The love of God is flowing into you. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. The love of God keeps coming in, unless you've shut it off. So it is never ending. You never are at an end of your capacity to show love to another person, because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts.
So based on that, bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. The second part is easier than the first. Easy for me to weep with somebody who's weeping. Pastor, I'm... Oh, I'll put my arm around, let's pray. And here's why it's easier. I'm not going through that. You are. I can try to enter into your emotion. I'll do my best to do that. Jesus did. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, entering into the emotion of Mary and Martha.
But that's much easier than the first part. Rejoice with those that rejoice. You say no, that's actually easier than weeping with those who weep. No, I disagree. I think it's harder to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. OK? Here's an example. Your car's beat up. I'm not saying it is, but let's say it is. Beat up. You can't afford a new one. Somebody comes up to you and says, can you believe it? The Lord blessed me with a brand new car. Rejoice with me. And you try. And you go... All right? It's not a real smile, but praise God. Hallelujah.
It's hard, because they're blessed and you ain't. Right? You feel me? You got that? Well, that's impossible. Yeah, on your own it is. Rejoice with those that rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don't be afraid to hang out with ordinary common people. Do not be wise in your own opinion. No exaggerated, don't cherish exaggerated thoughts of your own importance.
Repay no one for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. I'm glad he said the caveat if it is possible. I'm glad he didn't say live at peace with all men. That ain't possible. Some people won't have it. But if it's possible, if you can do it, if, and for it to be possible, both parties have to be willing. And if both parties are willing, if the other party is willing, you should also be willing. So if it is possible, as much as depends on you, never let the inability to be at peace with your neighbor be on your side of the fence. Be at peace with all men.
There was a book out, I remember, in the early 1980s, by Joyce Landorf, now that, that goes back, called Irregular People. And basically, the theme in her book is that everybody has in their life at least one irregular person. It's that person every time you see him, they say some remark that makes you feel bad. They can't help themselves. There's always just that rub. They're inappropriate. They're mistimed. All that. And it's how to deal irregular people. But then the book also makes the point that you are also an irregular person to somebody else.
And how to change that as well. If it's possible, as much it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves but rather give place to wrath. For it is written, vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord. Some of us wish that verse wasn't there, because honestly vengeance is so much fun. It's so fun in the flesh to plot and to plan getting that person back. Oh, it's going to feel so good. Oh, when they hear this, when they see this. It's fun. It's sinful, but it's a blast, right? That's just honest. You know what I mean. The Chinese had a proverb that if your enemy wrongs you, buy each of his children a drum. Right? That's the way you get back at him. Just have all their kids be a drummer. No offense if you're a drummer. My respect to parents who let their kids be drummers. Therefore, verse 20, if your enemy hungers, feed him. If he thirsts, give him a drink. For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head.
That's an Egyptian custom. It's an old Middle Eastern custom. When somebody wanted to show public contriteness that they had done something wrong to somebody and they wanted everybody to know that they're admitting they're wrong, so just so you know I admit my wrong, I'm letting it be known that I bear the shame, what they would do is they would carry a pan of hot coals on their head. I know that sounds really weird. But it was not to burn their head. They would have a little cloth tuffet, and then they would put a little thing with hot coals. The idea is I'm bearing the heat of the shame and the pain that I have caused other people. So the idea of loving your enemy is you're going to heap fires of coals. You're going to make them feel really bad by you treating them so good. And they'll be humiliated, they'll be shamed, because of your not acting like them, but you're acting with such love that it's going to cause a sensation. They're going to want to stop that. That's the idea.
In so doing, you will heap coals of fire in his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Overcome evil with good. You say well, I don't have any enemies. I don't know. I'm not going to give a show of hands and say, how many of you don't have any enemies? Because if you look up enemy in a dictionary, one of the definitions is not somebody who wants to kill you or shoot you or destroy you, but an antagonist. Anybody have an antagonist in their life? Think of that as an enemy.
David had a number of enemies. He said You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. David had Amalekites as enemies. David had Philistines as enemies. David had Goliath as enemies. David had a father-in-law as an enemy, King Saul. David had a son named Absalom who was an enemy. Jesus said a man's enemies will be those of his own household. Some of you have frenemies.
People who act like friends but are out to do you harm. Aren't you glad it says if it's possible, be at peace with all? Give it your best. In some cases, you'll be successful. In some cases, you won't. And when you're not, you've done your best. You've tried to reach out. You've tried to make peace. But you've honored the Lord.
Father, thank You that You've given us an opportunity to consider your Word, to make application to our lives in this very, very practical section of this book that we're getting into. I pray, Father, that You will enable us going forward to be trained by these very words, to be conformed, not to the world but conformed to Your standard. Really transformed, changed totally. We present, Father, our bodies to You as living sacrifices. It's the most logical thing we could ever do. It's the smartest move we could ever make. We give them to You now. We pray that You will use us. We pray that You will conform our thought patterns, our thinking, our minds, after Your image, for Your glory, in Jesus' name. Amen.