Summary: 3rd and last in a series on Romans 12. This message addresses the call and the ways believers are to authentically loving other believers and unbelievers.
Trinity Baptist Church August 24, 2008
Some of you remember that once upon a time I was -- sort of a hippie. It was during college -- Patty and I both attended K-State. My second Summer in college I left conservative K-State and went to a Navigator summer program in Boulder, CO. If you’ve been to Boulder you’ve seen the remnants of the liberal side of life that started back then. Believe me, you don’t know the half of it! That was the Summer of ‘71 and as far as the children of the 60’s were concerned it still was the 60’s! It was certainly a shock to my system!
Our objective was to reach street people with Christ‘s gospel. So we rented a fraternity house, held jobs during the day and spent evenings and weekends trying to share Christ with people in parks and on the street. Some, we invited to stay at the house and they shared meals and life with us. It was fascinating to say the least. Some of us including me, figured we should take on outward signs to speak to our target audience. I grew my hair long and even managed a little facial fuzz. I bought a thick iron cross to wear around my neck. I really thought I looked the part.
We learned a powerful lesson that Summer from some of our new friends. They weren’t really awed by the look we took on. Those symbols -- hair, clothes, jewelry were just that -- symbols -- and they didn’t impact them. But one thing made lots of them sit up and take notice when they encountered it. It was an experience they’d never had -- authentic Christ-like love.
We should have known it going in -- after all, Jesus did say, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. He communicated that the striking and undeniable mark that we’re His -- is God‘s love streaming from us. That was true for the disciples who heard it and it remains true. We think we know that -- but this issue is one of those things we can easily know about without it reaching down to our behavior.
We’re in Romans 12 -- today completes our study. I’ve said a good title for Romans 12 would be “God’s prescription for our complacency.” God knows how much we need it -- twin diseases -- apathy and complacency -- seem to plague the American Church. This chapter not only points to God’s answer, it urges us to it.
Romans 12 began with that urgent summons in verses 1 and 2 -- it is to offer up yourself like a sacrifice to God Who’s so incredibly merciful and gracious. Paul told us that sort of sacrificial worship is the only worship that makes sense.
So people who know God’s grace ought to give their whole selves to Him -- as holy offerings and worshiping. There are two areas of overflow. We talked about the first one last time, from verses 3-8; when you give yourself to Christ you’ll commit to Christ’s Body, the Church. After all, God didn’t just make us part of Christ, He made us part of His Body. Along with our connection, we have God-given capacities called gifts. Those gifts are the avenues by which we then can serve in the Church.
Plenty of us need to wrestle with that whole concept. Our independent American spirit often leaves Christians not only disconnected but also apathetic about serving Christ’s people and Church. If you’re at that point, I can only urge you to let God turn you around; you‘re not at a good place -- and, believe me, your walk with Christ doesn’t move forward when you try to regard Christ but disregard His people. The NT asserts that serving His people is an accurate barometer of commitment to Christ.
There’s another barometer in our verses today. It also makes us uncomfortable -- because we often prefer cheap imitations. If you’d go to downtown Moscow or New York or London, you could buy a “Rolex watch” or a “Prada purse” on the street for 10 or 20% of what you’d pay in the stores. Your image might get a boost, but the reality is, what you have wouldn’t be the genuine article. Paul talks to us today about the genuine article.
I’ve said that Romans 12 addresses three significant relationships -- first is the one we have with our God. The second – is relating in the body and serving it. The third is relating to people we encounter everyday -- both believers and unbelievers.
Your relationships tell a story. They reflect what’s in you and show up how things are between you and God. That’s why the NT talks so much about them -- they gauge authenticity. Authenticity is the concept we begin with in verse 9. Look at the Central idea: when it comes to relating with people -- Paul write, practice authentic love -- he adds to that, abhor what is evil and cling to what is good. Those are parallel ideas and amplify what it means to love people with sincerity.