Thursday, May 16, 2019

Humbly Serve One Another

Part 2 of Love in Action

Text: Romans 12:3-8




For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (v. 3). 


Gospel Transformation 

The gospel transforms lives.

How do we know if our life has been transformed by the gospel? Examine our relationships. Our relationships reveal the level of our gospel transformation.

Gospel transformation is to be lived out in community. 

We’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re can be good Christians while neglecting the command of Jesus to love others as he has loved us—even if we do lots of good things (e.g., read the Bible daily).


It Begins in the Mind

If I had to sum up verses 3-8 in one statement, it would be: Humbly serve one another. 

Humility and service are two things that don’t come naturally for us. So how do we get to the point where we humbly serve one another?

Paul writes, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v. 2). When we change the way we think, we change the way we live.

We need to think about two things.

First, we need to think about what the gospel tells us about ourselves. 

Paul says, “By the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (v. 3). In other words, be humble.

Most of us have an inflated opinion of ourselves. Even if we have low self-esteem about some areas of our lives, we still think too highly about ourselves in other areas of our lives. “I’m smarter than that person.” “I’m a better parent than that person.” “I know more about the Bible than that person.” 

What does the gospel tell us about ourselves? The gospel tells us that we are sinners and that we are saved only by God’s grace. Don’t think too highly about yourself!

And how were we saved? By Christ’s death on the cross. So the gospel also tells us that we are loved and valued by God. Don’t think too lowly about yourself!

Christ died for me, but he also died for that believer who’s hard for me to love. I need to remember that God doesn’t love and value that person less than he loves and values me.

Second, we need to think about the reason why we are members of the body of Christ. 

Paul writes, “For as in one body [i.e., our physical bodies] we have many members [i.e., parts], so we [i.e., the church], though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (vv. 4-5).

There is unity (one body) diversity (many members) in the church (just like in the human body).

And the members of the body of Christ are meant to serve one another (just like the parts of the human body serve one another): “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (v. 6).


Discerning the Body

In Paul’s instructions about the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-34), we find “body” three times. In verses 24 and 27, “body” refers to the physical body of Christ. But I believe “body” in verse 29 refers to the church: “anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

Paul writes, “There is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). But what was happening in the church in Corinth? “When you come together as a church, I heard that there are divisions among you” (1 Cor. 11:18). They were tearing apart the body of Christ.

When we eat and drink during the Lord’s Supper, we are to remember two truths: (1) Christ died for us; (2) we are one body. We are to discern what God’s will is for the church. He wants us to be unified in love for God and love for one another.

Do we love God if we don’t love one another? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Are we keeping his command to love another as he has loved us?

We won’t humbly serve one another unless we love one another.


Christ Is Our Example and Energy

Christ is the ultimate example of humble service. He declared, “Whoever would be first among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).

Christ is also the energy for humble service. Why do we humbly serve one another? The thing that motivates us most should be our love for Christ. Do you love Christ? He also wants us to love his church.

Let’s examine ourselves to see if there are attitudes in our hearts that are hindering us from humbly serving one another.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The "Now What?" of the Gospel

Part 1 of Love in Action

Text: Romans 12:1-2




I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (v. 1). 


Now What?

Up to this point in his letter to the church in Rome, the apostle Paul has explained the gospel. And now in chapter 12, Paul gets to the “Now what?” of the gospel: we believe the gospel, now what?

We don’t forget the gospel and go on with our lives. What we believe about the gospel should make a big difference in our lives. 


A Living Sacrifice

Paul writes, “I appeal to you…brothers [and sisters]” (v. 1). He’s saying, “I urge you.” So what he’s about to say is very important.

He urges them, “Present your bodies [i.e., yourselves] as a living sacrifice” (v. 1).

What he’s saying is that we are to offer ourselves completely to God. “Here’s my life. It’s yours.” 

This kind of sacrifice is “living” (as opposed to the OT animal sacrifices), “holy” (i.e., “set apart”), and “acceptable [i.e., pleasing] to God” (v. 1).

This is not an optional second step of the Christian life.


The Mercies of God

“Therefore” (v. 1) points back to what Paul has previously written in this letter. He’s written about “the mercies of God” (v. 1).

Paul is saying, “Think about how good God has been to you. This about his mercy. Think about his grace. Think about how he has saved you.”

Is giving your life to God “as a living sacrifice” an easy thing to do? No. But it becomes easier when we remember what God has done for us.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:23-25).

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32).

What did we contribute to our salvation? What part did we play?

Imagine that I made a huge mess in our church building. And then a group of you came and cleaned up the mess, and I said, “Look at the great job we did!” You’d probably ask me, “What did you do?” And I would say, “I made the mess!”

What did part did you and I play in our salvation? We made the mess. We created the need for salvation. Still, God didn’t need to save us. In his mercy and grace, he chose to save us. How? By giving his own Son to die for us.

Do you believe that God loves you? Do you believe that he gave up his Son for your salvation? If you really believe these things about God, how can you refuse to give your life to him?


Live That Please God

Paul says that offering our lives to God is our “spiritual [logikos] worship” (v. 1). The KJV says “reasonable service.” Perhaps “reasonable” is the better translation of logikos. Douglas Moo prefers “informed” (Romans, p. 395). Our worship is to be informed (i.e., based on what we know about God and what he’s done for us).

Theology leads to doxology. But it shouldn’t end with praise. Theology also leads to obedience. Both praise and obedience are ways we worship. Worship is the way we live, not just what we do on Sunday morning.

God wants our hearts—seven days a week. This is the kind of worship that pleases God. This is the kind of worship God deserves.


Gospel Transformation

Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world” (v. 2). He’s saying, “Don’t act like everyone else.” Instead, we are to “be transformed” (v. 2). We are to be different. We are to act like Jesus.

How can we be transformed? “By the renewal of [our] mind[s]” (v. 2). All theology is practical. When we change the way we think, we change the way we live. 

Think about what Jesus has done for us. He declared, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). How would our lives change if we loved others as Jesus has loved us?

We’re fooling ourselves if we think we can be “good Christians” by doing good things but lacking love for others.

Offering ourselves to God is “the will of God” (v. 2) for our lives. And if we live this way, we will discover (“by testing you may discern,” v. 2) that God’s will is “good and acceptable [i.e., pleasing] and perfect” (v. 2). 

Some of the best things we ever do are also the most difficult things we ever do.


Don't Forget the Gospel!

Students, in frustration, often ask, “When am I ever going to use this (e.g., algebra) in my life?” Many of the things we learn in school don’t end up being very important to our lives.

But that’s not the case with the gospel! What we learn about the gospel never stops benefiting us.

When we initially accept the gospel, we don’t say, “That’s done. I’ve got my ticket to heaven. Now I can get on doing what I want to do.” No, we say, “Now what? God, here is my life. I give it to you. What do you want me to do?”

And that sacrifice is reasonable—it’s what we should do—when we remember what God has done for us.