Jan 26, 2015

Romans 12 - Living Life - Part 22

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Romans 12: Living Life

Study 22: Rejoice and sorrow

v15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

I wonder if some times you are like me –you are sad when people you know have reason to be happy! We are like that as people! Jesus in Luke 15:25-30 indicates that this behaviour comes from envy! Or you are happy when people have reason to be sad or in trouble – your attitude is “They deserve it!” This is nothing short of malice. And unsurprisingly, it can come quite naturally to us! Paul here challenges the Roman readers and by proxy, us, with something totally alien to our natural way of behaving! Paul goes “be happy to the happy and weep with the weeping!”

That is a counter to the way the world we live in operates. Sure some people who are not Christian may do it Paul’s way but in general they don’t. But that is not the way it is to be with the Church! We are to love others as we would want to be loved. Love is not detached or ignorant of other people’s joys and sorrows. Love does not simply ignore or bear malice. Love lifts, encourages, embraces and emboldens! Love in action is offering a shoulder to cry on to somebody in need of help. Love in action is rejoicing with that brother or sister who has cause for celebration. Love offers solidarity with the other person, regardless of mood or emotion.

So how can we show this love to others? We maybe able to do it in our own strength, but we assuredly can by using the power of the Holy Spirit! Oh how easily we forget He is living within us! WOW! If we ask for His help, He will help – often in the most amazing ways. Let the Holy Spirit stimulate your imagination as to how you can practically rejoice and be happy with those who are rejoicing or to show you how you can weep with those who are weeping and in sorrow. And if we have reason to rejoice, let us not forget to be so overcome that we neglect to weep with those who are weeping. Or conversely, if we have good reason to be weeping, let us now forget to somehow rejoice with that brother or sister who has reason to be happy!

Go! Let your love for others be practically seen – whether with smiles or with tears!

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Jan 25, 2015

Romans 12 - Living Life - Part 21

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Romans 12: Living Life

Study 21: Bless and pray


v14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.



Paul here seems to have had some teaching about what Jesus taught for here he echoes Jesus, who is now His master. (Matthew 5:43-44 and Luke 6:27-28.)


To bless means to show kindness and love. Do you have enemies – people who don’t like you or loathe you because you are a Christian or for some other reason? I know some people who have been totally disowned by their own families because they became Christians. How are we to react? Paul here, echoes Jesus, commands that we are to show kindness and love. That is what bless means here - seeking the welfare of those that would cause us harm. It is a challenge to us because our natural reaction is usually to fight back or to ignore - that is curse. But we are challenged to pray for those who would wish us harm. Praying for their welfare is showing love for those who wish us harm. How can this be done? It can only be done using the power and strength of the Holy Spirit within us rather than attempting to do it in our own strength.


Paul here is a good example. Just a few years ago, Paul was going around persecuting the church. The first Christian Martyr was Stephen, as told to us in Acts 7:59-60. “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.”


Saul was standing there watching. Saul who we know now became Paul – our writer! Shortly after this event, Saul was arrested by Jesus whom He was persecuting. Paul has changed! His motto now is “bless those who persecute you.” Whereas his motto before was “Love your neighbour but hate your enemy!” What a change under the power of the Holy Spirit!


This is of course a picture of the Gospel. God showed love for His enemies, by sending His Son Jesus to die, so that all of humanity could change from being enemies of God to being friends of God.


Go! Bless others who are against you. Go and also pray for the persecuted church around the world – for they are your Christian family.

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Jan 24, 2015

Romans 12 - Living Life - Part 20

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Romans 12: Living Life

Study 20:

v13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Here in v13, Paul is referring to helping other Christians in need, as and when we can. Note I said need and not want. By helping other needy people in the Church, such love reflects God’s love. As well as evangelism, the Church also has a social mission – to help cover the needs of those outside the Church.

Part of that need would be giving hospitality to people. We should be looking to pursue opportunities to give hospitality and not just when we want to. If I came to your door, cold, hungry and thirsty, would you feed me, give me a drink and put me near the heater? Jesus taught in the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25 that any act of love and mercy we do for others, was also an act of love and mercy toward Him.

When we provide the needs of others and practise hospitality we are reaching out to others – just as God reaches out to humanity with a free offer of salvation. Perhaps one of the great sins of our generation is the neglect to do good to others – doing good by supplying needs and practising hospitality. For you see, sin is not just doing bad things, it is also not doing good when we have the opportunity.

Over the last 2 months, my wife and I have been in need. Almost every day of those 2 months, somebody we know has helped us out in helping alleviate that need. We may well be in need for a little while longer, but it is a comfort to know that people care and will help us out at our point of need. Praise God for them!

We Christians show that we love God, by practically loving others. Helping the needy and doing hospitality, not as a means of salvation (for that is by grace alone) but as a means to show our salvation to those in need of embracing Jesus’ love for them. Go and help those in need and practise hospitality. Not just to your friends but also those you don’t know.

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Jan 23, 2015

Romans 12 - Living Life - Part 19

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Romans 12: Living Life

Study 19: Persevere and Pray

v12 Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

As part of our having a confident hope, Paul now commands these Roman Christians to be patient during trouble and to keep on praying. Because we have this great hope in the return of Jesus Christ and the fullness of our salvation, we can be patient in trouble and persevere. That doesn’t mean we won’t have trouble in this life, but it does mean that whatever we face, God is with us. Remember God is a personal God and if you are a Christian, then His Holy Spirit lives within you! WOW! God Himself helps you to persevere as He sustains, carries and empowers you! Whatever trials and troubles we are going through, we are not alone – God is with you! Don’t listen to anybody who tells you differently – including satan who will tell you lies in order for you to give up on God.

Another reason we can be patient and persevere is God perseveres with us! He does this through the continuous work of the Holy Spirit in your life if you are a believer. As a Christian, you will never perish, and nobody or nothing can snatch you out of His hand. Nothing can separate you from God’s love for you as you are shielded by God’s all mighty power. That is part of your confident hope, which is why you and I can persevere with patience through all types of trials and troubles.

Another part of our hope is that God’s whole purpose for you is to transform you into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. God may well use some form of temporal suffering in order to achieve it, but in the light of eternity, it will not be for long!

And we keep on praying to God earnestly! It is one way the Spirit empowers us! As we pray, Jesus also prays for us! WOW! Prayer is to have a high priority in our life – and not just half hour in the morning. Maintain a prayerful attitude throughout the day. As the conflicts and troubles come upon us, we can persevere in prayer because God perseveres with us. We are engaged in spiritual warfare. Satan will use all means to bring you down. Go and persevere with patience and prayer – for you will receive the fulfilment of your hope - the reward of your salvation.

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Jan 22, 2015

Romans 12 - Living Life - Part 18

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Romans 12: Living Life

Study 18: Rejoice!

v12 Rejoice in our confident hope.


Why can we serve the Lord with zeal and enthusiasm in all things we do, as we looked at last time? Because we have an assured and confident hope which should be a fantastic cause for joy and celebration! What is the assured hope for the Christian? Here it is! Peace with God takes care of the past - He no longer holds our sins against us. Access to God takes care of the present - we can come to Him whenever we desire. A glorious hope takes care of our future - which is the expectation of the return of Jesus Christ. When Jesus comes again, there will be an amazing time of glory to follow. An amazing time of glory to come, when Jesus, the Son of God, comes back for His people. Hope is the glory of salvation for all those who call Jesus Christ their Lord and Saviour! Our hope is in Him who is the object of our faith and life! WOW!

We rejoice by filling our minds with the hope of the glory to come! But as we looked at previously, don’t be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly use! You are called to be growing and maturing in a process that is called discipleship. This will inevitable lead to your being asked the reason for which you have your hope in Jesus Christ. This hope is an unending hope, which will enable you to endure to the end and run the race marked out for you. How can you run this race? By having your focus set on Jesus Christ. Keep him in focus each day, by living each day for Him and let Him get all the glory and honour in all things you do!

Rejoicing doesn’t necessarily mean going around with a big silly grin on your face! Rejoicing is also have a quiet confident and sincere hope. Why can we be confident of this great hope? Because God is faithful and He is always true to His word! Just as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead with a new body 3 days after his death, so will all those who are Christian have new bodies! WOW! Go forward in this great hope you have with confident rejoicing! Thank you.


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Jan 21, 2015

Romans 12 - Living Life - Part 17

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Romans 12: Living Life

Study 17: Enthusiastic Zeal

  

v11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

Paul here commands Christians not to be lazy but to work hard! Is Paul talking about work outside the church or is he referring to work for the church? Quite possibly he means both! Remember those gifts we looked at earlier in the series? How are you doing with them? Are you being lazy and neither developing or using them as you ought? Get up and use them and develop them – work hard at them ensuring your service of God is with great zeal and delight!

Perhaps Paul had heard that some of them were just sitting around waiting for Jesus to come back again and were neglecting their care and duty to work - and therefore their families!. So Paul has had to command them to get about their work with due diligence and attitude.

We are also to work hard at loving others and particularly loving those other believers that we know – as they are our family because of Jesus Christ! That is the immediate context. We are to work on our Christian lives utilising the power of the Holy Spirit as He changes us into the image of Jesus Christ! Yes that can be hard work too, but don’t give up! It will be worth it! You and I will be held accountable by God for the use and development of the gifts He has given us! Were you aware of that?

I wonder why you do, what you do and when you do it? In everything we do, we are to do it with zeal as we serve our God – regardless of what we do! We are to do all things as if pleasing to our God. Have you been doing the same job or role for a while now and feeling a bit underwhelmed with it all? Let the Holy Spirit excite you, invigorate and enliven your attitudes and behaviour. Perhaps you are unemployed and looking for work? Do all you can to find a job and ensure that your conscience remains clear! Serve enthusiastically the Lord well in what ever you do – whether for the church or for you and your family! Let the world who is watching you know you are a Christian by the way you do things!

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Jan 20, 2015

Romans 12 - Living Life - Part 16

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Romans 12: Living Life

Study 16: Be family!

Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.

Paul we know is writing to all believers in Rome, those who are called by God and loved by God (Romans 1:7). So Paul here commands that the Roman Christians are to love each other with genuine affection. Yes Christians are to love all others, including those who are not believers, but are to love especially other Christian believers. After all they are all Christian! There is only one Saviour for believers, Jesus Christ, and there is only one Holy Spirit living with believers and there is only one God! So be as one family!

Paul instructs these believers to be totally devoted to each other, having the welfare of others on their hearts and minds. For example when one believer is weak, the other believers are to act and strengthen that weak member. They are all to hold onto each other as family through their committed love and faith in Jesus Christ. That genuine family affection and love between them all – without division.

How is this genuine affection for each other seen? It is seen as each believer holds in honour all other believers. Honouring others is where the interest of others comes before self-interest. However, not just honouring but delighting in the other. Where there is family love and honour, there can be no division, arguments or strife! WOW!

Could that describe the group of believers you are attached to with your church or all the believers in your town? Are they a church or group of believers who all hold each other in genuine affection, devotion and honour? Are there believers know to you, that you are not loving with genuine affection and delighting honourably? Part of loving others is to hold them in high esteem – having their interests at heart and not your own. What are you doing for the fellowship of believers you are a part of? Are you jealous of somebody else who is getting more attention than you? Are you taking pride in your own work of ministry but looking down on the work of another believer? If you are, then you are not taking delight in them and honouring them!

Go! Love affectionately all believers – not just those who are your friends or those in your own church, but all believers everywhere and take great delight in honouring them above yourself!

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Jan 19, 2015

Romans 12 - Living Life - Part 15

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Romans 12: Living Life

Study 15: Glue to good and eschew evil

  

V9- Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.


Do you want to show you love God? Then hate what God hates and adhere to what is good! Turn away from and get rid of from all that which God hates! Instead turn towards goodness and living right with God. God cannot abide sin and evil, and neither should those who claim to follow Him. When you love God then you are clinging to what is good, holy and helpful.

Love is also discerning and doesn’t let others sin wilfully but allows for you to gentle guide others back to living right with God and other people. Note I said gentle and not forceful or coercion. It’s not your job to convict others of sin. That is the role of the Holy Spirit and for Him to bring to repentance. God is love and cannot abide sin or evil. We as Christians are to turn away from all that is wrong and evil. Love God by living a life worthy of God – all that which is good, holy and pleasing to God! WOW!

Evil is anathema and poison to love. Saying that we love God, yet having known sin within our life, is akin to the love that Judas had for Jesus when Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. Judas’ love of Jesus was false, hypocritical and deceitful – it was a fake love, not real love. As a Christian you are to throw off everything that hinders your Christian life so that you can run the race of love for your God. With evil and sin there is to be no compromise or conforming!

Want to know what is right to do? Ask God and He will tell you! He may even surprise you with what He would have you do: against all your own expectations. Regularly confess your unconfessed sins to God and accept His forgiveness - turning away from that evil! Read and study the Bible. Be prepared to have a mentor and to be discipled by somebody. Part of the trouble with 21st century church, is that discipleship is a lost art and in some church circles, almost a dirty word. Go! Really hate what is sinful and wrong! Glue yourself to what is good – then you will be loving God and loving others.

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Jan 18, 2015

Romans 12 - Living Life - Part 14

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Romans 12: Living Life

Study 14: Go! Love! Really Love!

v9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.

To have a gift or gifts, such as those Paul lists here, is a sign of God’s love for you! Therefore you are to love others – all others. If you are doing it after God’s own interests and the welfare of other people then you really do love others. Really love them! People can smell out fake love in an instant! If you are doing things for your own interest and welfare, and patronising towards others or as a means to manipulate them, then that is a fake love.

Why do you do what you do for God and for other people? Is it because you are driven by your love for God and love for others? This is love for others without pretence or hypocrisy. That is real love! If it is for any other reason, then it is not real love. That includes loving those who wouldn’t naturally be the target of your love - including those who hate you and those who have done you wrong. To love only those who love us, is what those outside the church expect as normal behaviour. But as Christian Disciples, we are to do more and to be seen to love more than any other people! That can be very hard to do. But if we use the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, then we can do it. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you and He will.

How is the invisible God seen? God is seen through Christian Disciples showing love for other people. If the Church was to be seen as loving others and loving their local community, the Gospel message, the story of God’s love, would have an enormous impact. The Christian Disciple is to be so filled and magnetized with God’s love and grace, that it is a magnetic attraction to others to the majestic goodness of the awesome God that they serve and obey. Our motive for all things is to be love. That includes gently restoring people into living a life worthy of following God if they are a Christian Disciple. There can be no excuse for sin in the life of those who claim to follow Jesus Christ.

How and in what way do we love – love God and love others? That is what Paul goes on to say! Go and love!

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Jan 17, 2015

Romans 12 - Living Life - Part 13

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Romans 12: Living Life

Study 13: Gift of Kindness & Mercy

8 And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

This could also be the gift of Mercy… We know that God is a God of mercy and kindness, therefore those who claim to follow Him, must also be cheerfully kind to others. Some people have an extraordinary capacity to be kind and merciful to people they meet who are in need – they certainly have this gift! They give a WOW about God. People like Mother Theresa.

However, all Christians should seek to be kind and merciful. This would include visiting the sick, caring for the elderly, sick and disabled, the unemployed, orphans, widows, the destitute. It could simply be a listening ear, a smile or a kind word at the right time to somebody. One way to do it cheerfully and gladly is to do it as a generous thanksgiving to God. If you are to help people with kindness and mercy, show you are happy to help! The word Paul uses here is hilaroteti. We get the word ‘hilarious’ from it! Laughter can be good medicine when used appropriately! As Calvin said “to observe sadness in the countenance of those by whom assistance is given, makes them to feel themselves despised.

How are you and your church being kind and merciful to people in need? How are those you know who are housebound being shown kindness? Are you and the church using imagination to be kind and merciful – helping people to be a part of the church community? How can you help with kindness and mercy those who are unemployed and looking for work? Let each of us use our imaginations to help those in need with kindness and mercy.

I read today of a homeless man who died in one of the richest parts of London. As he died, he fell and was found dead impaled on fence railings. The link to the story is here. Imagine if that man had been shown genuine kindness and mercy? To be fair, he may have rejected any kindness towards him. I don’t know. But I do know that we sometimes reject the kindness and mercy of people out of pride instead of accepting with gratitude and humility. I know I am like that sometimes!

Go! Be cheerfully kind and merciful. Thank you.


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