Marks of a True Christian II
We are returning to our text in Romans 12, a passage that I hope and trust has become familiar to us. Indeed my prayer is that as we look at this passage today, the message will be branded upon our hearts, burned into our brains and made so much a part of us that we will not be able to do anything but live it out in our lives. Because that is the main point: Application. It is a point of contention in the Church at large as men and women flock into church buildings across the land today only to walk out, forgetting what they heard. James says that if you are one who merely hears the word but does not obey it, your religion is worthless. You are deluding yourselves and your faith is an empty profession.
As Christians we are called to look intently into the word of God. James 1:25 “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. The word used here is Parakuthas and the picture we get from this word is this; you see something on the ground, and instead of passing by thinking you know all about what you saw, you stoop down to get a real close look in order to make an accurate identification. We are talking about more than just a passing glance or a half way effort here. We are talking about an intense effort borne out of a deep desire to know the truth.
James further emphasizes his point by saying that you Parameinas; you remain, you continue to look. It was used by Luke to describe Peter stooping down at the door of Jesus’ tomb after the resurrection. He stooped there and gazed and gazed into the tomb, trying to understand what he was seeing. There was the stone, there were the empty grave-clothes looking like a cocoon, and there was the facecloth, folded and lying by itself. And he pondered what he was seeing; what did it all mean?
To get the idea of what I’m talking about, I ask you to please think back to the story I read to you about the Student, the Fish and Dr. Agazziz. Do you remember what the story was about? It was a story about observation. It was about developing the powers of observation for the purpose of identification. And the lesson we learn from this story is that we must spend the time looking, observing: studying the word of God so that we can understand what it says. We must look intently into the Word of God, pleading the aid of His Holy Spirit and using all of our powers of observation so we can identify or interpret correctly everything about a passage. And having made this correct interpretation we must then apply the revealed truth to our lives; we must live it out.
Did you ever wonder why so many Christians are spiritually anemic? It is precisely because they don’t ever get past the idea of just reading for the sake of reading. They think that merely reading the bible is enough…that they have somehow done their spiritual duty. But this is foreign to scripture. God never said, “Hey just read it man. It doesn’t matter if you understand it or not. And it doesn’t matter whether or not you obey what you read. Just get your chapters in and your good!” This is not the intention of the command of the scriptures which tell us to abide in His word and so prove to be His disciples. Joh 8:31 Consider Jer 15:16 “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.”
Or how about Col 3:16 which says; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
There is so much more to the Christian life than we ever imagined and I’m telling you, we have been both robbed by teachers, who either did our thinking for us or told us that it was their job, and we didn’t need to bother ourselves with all that messy studying stuff. And we have been robbed by our own laziness, thinking that we knew enough and didn’t need to dig any deeper.
This is very sad!
The scriptures are such a treasure trove, so clear and plain; indeed they are so full of spiritual riches that we are fools if we merely want to stay where we are. Aren’t you tired of merely going through the motions in your bible reading? Don’t you want to be the people who know their God and do exploits? But how can you be mighty in the scriptures if you don’t really dig into the Truth? Without this your Christian walk will be stunted at best; like a tree that gets water only every once in a while, just enough to keep a few leaves on it. Is this what you want?
Listen again to James 1:22-25. “But prove yourselves (by the habit of your life that you are) doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude (or who are lying to) themselves.
23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;
Consider that at the time this letter was written, the mirrors in use were merely highly polished brass or bronze. If you were rich you could purchase one of silver or gold. But it was still very primitive compared to the glass ones that were not developed till the 14th century. These mirrors gave a very dim and distorted reflection of the person using them. But by carefully turning the mirror and finding the best light, a person could eventually get a fairly accurate image of his or her face. But it required effort on the part of the one looking. This is what James has in mind here. By patient and careful observation, an individual could eventually discover what he or she actually looked like.
But then, for whatever reason, perhaps he is in a hurry or really doesn’t care about his appearance, he stops looking. Picking up in verse 24 we read “for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” It is this forgetfulness which is the point of the analogy.
Applied to God’s word it is even more devastating. You see, when a person looks into God’s word, even to the point of understanding what is being said, and then doesn’t apply these truths to his own life, this person has declared that, while the teachings are nice and true, they don’t apply to him…they are for somebody else. It is like telling a sinner of his sinfulness, the danger that he is in and the remedy that is found in Christ. He agrees with you concerning the facts that you have presented and thinks it’s wonderful that someone would love so deeply as to die for him…but then he goes on his way as if he were never exposed to those realities. Do you see the gravity of the situation? We cannot just go through the motions of reading with no application for if we do so we are merely deluding ourselves. God is not fooled by pseudo-devotion. He didn’t call us to ‘make a decision, He called us to die. God is looking for total commitment!
James continues in verse 25 saying “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, (remember the definition, bending over to carefully examine something from the clearest possible vantage point, not just once… this is an ongoing action…not examining it merely as an exercise of curiosity to say we know what it means, but examining it with a desire to know the will of God, that which is good and acceptable and perfect…and abides by it, that is, having discovered the deepest most complete meaning of God’s truth, he then sets out to be obedient to the revealed word, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, and this man will be blessed in what he does.
And so this morning I want for us to look intently at Romans 12 beginning at verse 1 again just to get the flow of the passage. And I want us to really look intently into the Word of God, with the intention of applying what we learn today to our lives. And please get past another notion, if it is in your mind; that of making some kind of temporary change. If we have ears to hear, we are being called today, by God Himself, to a radical transformation of our lives, a renovation, a revolution in our way of thinking and living. So let us listen to the word of God with the resolve to be more than just hearers of the word but with the intention of making immediate application, today, for the Glory of God.
We begin with verse 1Therefore I urge you, brethren, I think that it is an important point to note that Paul is addressing professing believers here. He calls them brethren. Adelphos is a word that is used in families. Consider that Blacks use the word to identify someone of the same race. They are brothers of the same race. Well, we are brothers and sisters of the same family; the family of God. God is our Father, Jesus is our Elder Brother. We have received the spirit of adoption so that we cry out Father, Father.
And so Paul is addressing us as his brothers and sisters, members of the same family. Now though I’m sure this is obvious to you, please indulge me for a moment. Note that there was a Church inRomeat the writing of this letter which was around AD 56, some 23 years after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Here is a church in the heart ofRome, a pagan nation and ruler of the known world. How did a church ever get in here? I would venture to say that on the human level, Paul had a hand in it. On the Day of Pentecost there were visitors fromRomethere and perhaps some were part of the 3000 souls that were saved that day. And perhaps some of these made their way back home and began calling sinners to Christ.
When Stephen was stoned, Paul began his raging persecution against the Church which caused the Christians to scatter preaching as they went. Acts 8:4 Perhaps some of these made their way to Rome and preached Christ. Whatever the case may be, at the writing of this letter in 56 AD there was a thriving Church in Rome. Romans 1:8. Now Paul had been saved around 36-37AD, and here, after over 20 years of faithful service, he is still burning with zeal for Christ. And so he sends this letter saying; 11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Though he had not been able to get toRomeyet, Paul loved these brethren whom he had never seen and longed to be able to help them. In Romans 12:1 he used the word Parakaleo which means to come alongside to help or encourage. So, though he was not yet able to travel toRome, through the medium of the written word, Paul was there in spirit, coming alongside these fellow believers, urging them to draw closer to the Father.
He wanted them to be like him; dead to the world and alive to Christ. And because of the great love that God has for us, He has sent His servant Paul to come alongside of us to encourage us so that we too would benefit from the divinely inspired words herein. Understand too that Paul is like us; he was a man with same feelings, emotions, drives: if you read Romans 7 you understand that he dealt with everything we have experienced. And so he is like us. And yet the Apostle Paul is not like us because strenuously fought the good fight of faith. He left everything, died to everything that he once held dear; counted all things loss in order to gain Christ. Paul saw the world and the things of the world as dung and you can’t get any baser than that. In fact he was torn between staying here in this world and serving the family of God and leaving to be with Jesus: which was much better.
I think I can confidently say that we do not have this same heart, this same mind! And my contention is that this is where we must go. We too must see the world in this manner. We too must view the world as nothing but dung. We must have our eyes fixed upon Jesus with these words in our hearts and on our lips; to live is Christ and to die is gain!
And Paul is not calling us to do something that he hasn’t done. He is not like so many who say ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ There is a saying, “You can’t teach what you don’t know and you can’t lead where you won’t go.” Paul is not such a person. He followed Christ no matter what the cost. He counted it joy to follow Christ, to be dead to the world and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Paul had offered himself as a living sacrifice and he had never been so alive as when he was dead. For Christ had come and had given him life and that more abundantly. Paul had gone through horrors but had never lost his first love or what he had been called to. There is a poem that I would like to share with you this morning which I think illustrates this point very wonderfully. It is called
THE VALLEY OF VISION
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
Where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
Hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
That the way down is the way up,
That to be low is to be high,
That the broken heart is the healed heart,
That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
That the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
That to having nothing is to possess all,
That to bear the cross is to wear the crown
That to give is to receive,
That the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
And the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.
You see it is in leaving all that we find all! When we die it is then that we live. Jesus said “He who loses his life for My sake will find it. I will give Him life and that more abundantly.”
Let’s go further in our passage. Paul is urging us…what…by the mercies of God, because of all the wonderful things that God has done for us and we looked at just a brief summary of these mercies in chapter’s 1 through 11, because of these blessings he is calling us to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. After spending the first 11 chapters teaching us what Christ has done for us, he calls upon our sense of gratitude and urges us to lay down upon the altar and die to ourselves and to live wholly and totally for God…that this is only reasonable since He has purchased us with the blood of His Son and we are His own possession.
2And do not be conformed to this world, do not succumb to the tempting allurements of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the boastful pride of life…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, and here we are talking about single-minded devotion to God; to a heavenly mindset so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Invoking his authority as an Apostle Paul then says, 3For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; This is a warning against pride. And over against the worldly mindset we are be different…but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. This is a heavenly mindset as we are thinking scripturally, taking every thought into captivity by the word of God. It is to be Christ-like. It is a dependant mindset where there is no clamoring for ‘me first’ but rather God First as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. It is a mindset which understands that we are all part of the body of Christ.4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, The true child of God is a servant to whom God has given the gifts of faith and grace for that particular task which God has called him to. And like the pieces of a puzzle, each piece being necessary to complete that puzzle, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. We all have our part, we all have our place and we all have our function. And this is important. We weren’t called by God unto salvation to then fade away into some obscurity where we do nothing: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Eph 2:10
And 6Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:
if prophecy, if you have been called to forth-tell the word of God as a pastor, then do so according to the proportion of his faith; or according to the revealed truth of the once for all given to the saints faith. Prophesy is speaking forth the mind and the council of God, proclaiming His divine message. It is standing up and proclaiming the Word of God. The one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. The prophet edifies the church. Those who prophesy are to do so according to the proportion of their faith. This means that those who prophesy are to say exactly what God has told them to say. They are not to go beyond what God has said. They are not to embellish the message or add to or take away from it. Re 22:19 gives a warning to anyone who would consider doing so. We read “and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”
The preacher therefore is called to an exacting task: to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2Tim 2:15
7if service, here is where we get our word deacon, diakonos in his serving; and note its meaning. Service! Not leading. Not overseeing the rule of the church but service. We know from Acts 6 exactly what the deacons were called for. The Apostles were called to minster the word of God not wait tables. And so they gave these instructions which should give you an inkling of what kind of heart a servant must have. 3 “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. So you see here those who have offered themselves as living sacrifices, turned away from the world and its pleasures, been transformed by the renewing of their minds; men who are humble, seeking only to serve the One whom their souls love! And this service is seen in the emulation of Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life.
or he who teaches, in his teaching; this is the function of systematically training people. Every Christian should, at some level, be able to open the scriptures and teach the truths they find there. That is a part of hiding the word in your heart, not so no one can see it but so you will be saturated with it and be able instruct others.
8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; The word Parakaleo means to come alongside for the purpose of helping someone. It is a word that means to encourage and to urge. I think we can all be encouragers at one time or another when we see someone without hope, or who has questions as to why something has gone wrong. With the word of God in our hearts we should be the greatest encouragers in the world. We can come alongside someone and give them something to think about, some word of encouragement, some word of hope.
he who gives, with liberality; To give means to share with someone, with openhanded and openhearted compassion. 2Co 9:7 shows us the proper attitude involved when Paul says “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. Giving is an act of worship just like all the other parts of worship as we seek to praise God and glorify Him. It is not to be exercised with fanfare like the Pharisees did but rather between you and God as you simply worship Him.
he who leads, with diligence; It means he that is placed in front. The reference is to any position involving superintendence. He is to do so with diligence, watchfulness and carefulness.
he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. I would turn your attention to the parable of the Good Samaritan here. Did he not demonstrate mercy in the most magnificent way! We are called to show mercy as we have been shown mercy. We were evil and yet God had mercy on us. And I think we are called to go and do likewise. This is part of letting our light shine before men so that they can see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.
9Let love be without hypocrisy The Greek word for love is Agapeo from which we get our English word Charity. Charity is defined as benevolent or compassionate love. Its outworking is not based on what the object of love desires like the people standing on the street corner with signs. They just want a handout and many are professionals at this…it is their job. We learned from the Truth Project that, rather than just hand out money we are to help these people to work for their needs. If we have gleanings we are to use them in this manner.
This is how the outworking of Agapeo is seen, not in just giving what the object of our charity wants but is based on what the giver of love sees as the real need.
And our demonstration of love is to be without hypocrisy. Anupkritos. means inexperienced at acting. Our love is to be a love that is more than just words but rather that which can be seen in deeds and in truth! It comes from the heart of one who has surrendered all on the altar to Christ as a living sacrifice; Christ is living through us and loving through us. His love was pure and perfect. And we are to be like Christ.
Abhor Apostugeo detest with horror or to shudder with horror what is evil; poneros evil in a moral or spiritual sense. Think of shuddering from intense cold: uncontrollable shivering. James tells us that the demons believe that there is one God and they shudder. In the same way we are to abhor evil with the emphasis on separation from it.
cling to what is good. We are called here to bind ourselves to what is good (agathos), to keep company with that which is good or agathos, benevolent, profitable and useful. The good is “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute.” And “if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise,” Paul continues, “let your mind dwell on [or cling to] these things” (Phil. 4:8). In 1 Thessalonians 5:21–22, the apostle gives similar instruction: “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” That is clearly a call to discernment, the thoughtful, careful evaluation of everything, so we can decide, judged against God’s Word, what to reject and what to cling to. As Paul has already explained, the key to finding and following what is good is in not being “conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; Devoted comes from philostorge a compound of philos (friend, friendly; friendship love) and storgeµ (natural family love, which is not based on personal attraction or desirability). Brotherly love Philadelphia is another compound word: phileo (to have tender affection) and adelphos (brother). We are to have a loving affection for one another in the family of God. Devotion means to love warmly. The opposite of this would be the Pharisees who as a group loved themselves and merely gave God lip serve. In contrast to merely saying you love Jesus, He told His disciples that “If you love Me, you will keep (or obey) My commandments. Joh 14:15 We are to give preference to one another in honor; which literally means we are to try to outdo one another in showing respect for one another. And this is to be done without pharisaical play acting. To honor is not to flatter or to give hypocritical praise in hope of getting something in return. The very opposite is in mind. To truly give preference to one another in honor means to show genuine appreciation and admiration for one another.
And this brings us to our new verse which takes us behind the actions to the heart. We are to be 11not lagging behind in diligence, not lazy…the idea is that we are to be diligent with a true servants heart, not irked by the duties of service to others, not wishing we were somewhere else doing anything else rather than serving God as we perform all of our duties. The exact opposite is to characterize us. We are to be fervent burning, boiling in spirit, our zeal for God as we prophesy, serve, teach, exhort, give, lead, or show mercy is to be done with a zeal that burns, boils; like a pot of water that is boiling over specifically because we are serving the Lord;
In Col 3:23 Paul gives us this instruction “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,” This is the main idea. If we have offered ourselves as living sacrifices unto God which is our reasonable service, and if we have turned away from the world and have been transformed by the renewing of our minds, then we will be marked by these things; we will prophesy pure unadulterated truth, we will serve with a joyful heart, we will teach the whole council of God, we will exhort and encourage those in need with earnestness borne out of a desire to see others grow up into the image of Christ. We will show mercy to those who need mercy and our demonstrations of love will be real for our love will be real. We will truly hate what God hates. We will shudder at the thought of evil and will shrink back away from it in horror. And we will cling to that which is truly good. Our measure of what is good will be that which God has declared to be good. There will be a true devotion to one another with a desire to see each other grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Indeed our love for each other will be seen in our genuine appreciation and admiration for one another.
And this will not be any halfway, humanistic, effort with a hidden agenda behind it. Our service toward each other will be an exercise of true love for one another. Our reasoning behind all of our actions will be scriptural.
We will be acting in obedience to the command of God who calls us to 32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Eph 4:32-5:1.
Only those who have looked intently into the Word of God and remained there can understand this. Those who are merely superficial ‘christians’ will not. Have you been diligent in your study of the word of God? Have you been diligent in listening to this message today with the intention of applying the truths you have learned? In your own personal bible study time have you taken the time to look intently into His word; have you remained there, examining, studying, calling upon God to show you great and mighty things that you know not? Or have you merely looked into the word superficially, and come away with a distorted view of the truth, only to forget what you learned?
Today, God has once again shown us the characteristics, the marks of the true Christian. We have gone through the process of observation, explanation and application. The words have been defined, the passages explained and we have seen the truth of what we are to be doing and indeed how we are to do all of our duties. All that is left is to apply them to our lives. The question is; will we?