True Discipleship Demonstrated by Deeds
Let me begin with a brief review of verses 9-11 before we get into our text for this morning. And I want to make something very clear here; Paul has issued some commands for us to obey and being an Apostle, one of those holy men of old who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, we understand that it is not Paul but God, speaking through Paul who is issuing those commands. So if we obey, we are obeying God and if we disobey, we are disobeying God.
The mark of the true Christian, the true disciple of Jesus is obedience and in obedience we prove our love for God. Remember that a disciple is one who follows. The Christian is one who has left all to follow Christ, to be obedient to His commands, and to serve Him with the whole heart. This morning we are going to be looking at a series of commands issued by God and my prayer is that we will have ears to hear.
The first command is to 9 “love without hypocrisy.” Agape literally means charity and our acts of charity toward others are to be a reflection of the love of God toward us. And as such they are to be genuine, from the heart rather than a mere outward show that is put on before men. So many people put on a big show for others to see. They feign humility and love and sorrow. They create foundations and hold conferences to strategize how to help the poor, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised…and all this is done as a big show! Inwardly they really couldn’t care less; except that they receive the applause of men. They are in it for popularity and profit. This is the definition of hypocrisy; play acting. Two politically active ‘Reverends’ come to mind here. Jesus said in Luke 21:46-47 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” And the real Christian is to avoid deception and outward charades of any kind. Christians are called to walk in truth, to live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loved. That means they are to have real compassion rather than the outward show. Please look with me at Lu 10:25-28. In this passage Jesus was teaching His disciples.
On the day Jesus fed the 5000 the scriptures tell us that He looked out over the crowd and “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Mt 9:36 And we know from other passages of scripture that they wanted to make Him their king. And what was the reason: He gave them something to eat. They were motivated by fleshly desires. And Jesus knew all of this and had no intention of giving them what they wanted. Instead He gave them what they needed…truth. Mr 6:34 declares that “When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” This is what charity does; whether in the case of the wounded man on the road to Jericho or on the plains of Israel or in your living room. There is no play-acting, just real love that is seen, not in word or tongue but in deed and in truth! Then we see that the Christian is commanded to “Abhor what is evil;” that is he is to detest evil with fear and trembling. Apostugountes means, to shrink away from something.
If you saw a snake on the path in front of you would you just go strolling along? Would you run to it, pick it up and hold it in your arms? No, you would shrink away in fear for the snake represents danger. If someone handed you a cup of deadly poison and said ‘have a drink of this poison; its good for you’ would you thank them and rejoice and sing praises to them for such a wonderful gift? No you would shrink away from them. Indeed you would run the other way. It is the same with evil. Evil is danger and full of deadly poison. Eph 5:11 “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them…”
And with the same intensity in which we hate evil and flee from it, we are to cling to or join ourselves, or cleave to what is good. And what is good? How about from the context of our passage where we read that the will of God is that which is good and acceptable and perfect. And that very beautiful verse which we read in Php 4:8 gives us very clear direction when Paul says “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Next we are commanded to be 10 devoted to one another in brotherly love; and here is something that is lacking in the visible church today. Jesus issued the command to love
one another and yet today we see men and women in the church seeking to destroy one another. Instead of seeking to love one another and give preference to one another in honor; which means we are to try to outdo one another in honoring each other, we see men and women biting and devouring one another. They strive, not for holiness of life or conformity to the image of Christ, but for the preeminence; seeking to get the best seat in the house and the biggest portions at meals…just like little children. Pride rules the day and humility is seen as weakness. But pride destroys. It crushes people underfoot. In the epistle of James we see that it causes men to give preferential treatment to the rich and cause the poor to stand in the corner or sit on the floor by someone’s footstool. A friend of mine said that she has been hurt more deeply by so called Christians than by unbelievers.
This should not be. In fact, the scriptures teach the exact opposite. We are called to humility. This is to characterize us as it did our Lord Jesus Christ who declared that He is humble and lowly of heart. Jas 4:6 Jas 4:10 . 1Pe 3:8 1Pe 5:5 1Pe 5:6 Jesus gave us very clear instruction on how we are to behave ourselves in Luke 14:7-11
Continuing on in verse 11 we are commanded to be “not lagging behind in diligence, the Greek word for lagging is oknew and speaks means to delay. Martin Luther translated this passage thus;” in regard to zeal be not lazy. Love keeps nothing for itself but seeks that which profits the neighbor. In other words we are not to put off our duties or be slow in performing our responsibilities. Instead we are called to be fervent burning or boiling in spirit, serving the Lord; Luther again “Against this command, all those offend who do their duty indolently. (lazily or apathetically) Prov 18:9 says “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys. I ask you; when you are at work or at home or anywhere, who are you serving and how? Now the correct answer is “we are serving the Lord with all of our hearts.” But is this the true? Are you really serving God? Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, are you doing all for the glory of God? In whatever you do, be it word or deed, do you do everything in the Name of Jesus, giving glory and honor to God through Him?
Do you do your work as unto the Lord and not to men, seeking to please your employer, even when they are not around? Paul calls this type of work, eye-service as men pleasers. I would ask you to consider these scriptures with me. Eph 6:5-6. Col 3:22 Here is the heart of Christian service; the Christian serves the Lord Jesus Christ not himself. And remember that we are doulos, we are slaves of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. He owns us. He purchased us with His own blood and we are His. Whatever He commands; that we are to do as faithful slaves. And we have already heard His commands haven’t we.
The Christian does serve his or her boss but this is a secondary motivation for the primary service is done for Jesus Christ. So if we were truly serving Jesus, what do you think our service would look like? Is our service with zeal, burning, boiling zeal for Jesus Christ? Only you can answer that question before God but the scriptures are plain in their declaration of what true Christian service looks like. Our work is to be an offering unto the Lord.
Next, and this is our new material, we are commanded to be 12 rejoicing in hope…First off, what is the Christians hope. Is it not the appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who will return just as He promised to bring us home! Turn to 1Th 4: 13 -17 where we read of this blessed event. Are these words not a cause for rejoicing, specifically because they are words of HOPE! Christian hope is the confident assurance that Jesus Christ will do what He said. The Christian is confident that He who began a good work in them will perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ. The Christian is confident that there will be a Day of Jesus Christ when Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
You see, The Christian is not like those who have no hope, who are without God in this world. The Christian knows whom he has believed and is persuaded that He is able to keep that which they have committed unto Him against that day. The Christian has hope, a tangible confident assurance in a hopeless world. And this hope is a witness of the reality of God and the salvation that is to be found in Jesus Christ. You hear of classes on how to build self esteem or self confidence motivational speakers seek to instill self-confidence in men and women. They seek to make sinful men and women feel good about themselves. They seek to cause sinful men and women to put their trust in what is going to pass away. Paul, speaking to the Church in Philippi said “for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, Php 3:3 But at the same time the Christian exhibits great confidence in the Lord.
From Foxes Book of Martyrs we read of the martyrdom of “Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, who hearing that persons were seeking for him, escaped, but was discovered by a child. After feasting the guards who apprehended him, he desired an hour in prayer, which being allowed, he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented that they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place. The proconsul then urged him, saying, “Swear, and I will release thee; —reproach Christ.” Polycarp answered, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?”
At the stake to which he was only tied, but not nailed as usual, as he assured them he should stand immovable, the flames, on their kindling the fagots, encircled his body, like an arch, without touching him; and the executioner, on seeing this, was ordered to pierce him with a sword, when so great a quantity of blood flowed out as extinguished the fire. But his body, at the instigation of the enemies of the Gospel, especially Jews, was ordered to be consumed in the pile, and the request of his friends, who wished to give it Christian burial, rejected. They nevertheless collected his bones and as much of his remains as possible, and caused them to be decently interred.”
This is an example of true Christian hope. It is a hope that stands even when one finds himself before the inquisitor or the interrogator or the raging atheist crowd. It is hope that allows the Christian to stand at the stake and even while the fire burns his flesh, he knows that he is going to meet the Lord. And it is this confident assurance in Christ that will cause those who have no hope to ask the Christian a reason for the hope he has within him…
Not only is the Christian to be rejoicing in hope but he is to be persevering (firm, unrelenting, resolute) in tribulation, in times of affliction. Here is where we see the Martyrs in all of their glory for no matter what was said, they would not relent or bow the knee to baal. Remember the unwavering testimony of the martyrs; “I am a Christian!”When threatened, Polycarp remained unmoved. When the Proconsul said; “I have wild beasts and I will expose you to them unless you repent” Polycarp responded “Call for them for repentance with us is a wicked thing, if it to be changed from better to worse.” “I will tame you with fire, said the Proconsul since you despise the wild beasts. To which Polycarp responded “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour and is soon extinguished but the fire of the future judgment and of eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly, you are ignorant of. But why do you delay, do whatever you please.”
In many lands throughout the world today there is great tribulation among the believers. It is illegal in the Sudan to be a Christian and the punishment is instant death. Just last week in China, the police showed up during a funeral held by an unofficial church, rounded up the members and took them away. Who knows what happened to them. In America, except for some isolated incidences, we haven’t experienced any persecution in our lives. But such a time is coming and the truth of the matter is when mass persecution of Christians arises in America, millions of ‘Christians’ will renounce their faith. This will separate the true sheep from the religious goats and while the phonies exit en masse the true Christians like those of old will stand firm. They will endure; they will persevere during times of tribulation. They will be like those in Re 12:11 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. The people who know their God will be strong and do exploits. They will follow in the footsteps of the saints of old “who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated
38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. 39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:33-40
There is great benefit to the experience of trials and tribulations. Note Rom 5:3-5. Let me say one final thing here concerning perseverance in tribulation. If you aren’t devoted to God now, don’t suddenly expect that when tribulation arises that you will be come super Christian. It is the people who know their God now, who are intimate with Him now, who are walking with Him now who will stand firm. Those who are merely going through the motions, doing enough to get by will fall away.
The true Christian is commanded to be devoted to prayer. This is an interesting word for it literally means to be instant in prayer. When I was a kid we heard our mother say things like, “I want this done instantly” which of course meant now, with no delays. Nobody uses this word much anymore. Modern translations use the word steadfast but the idea here is of urgency and of necessity and the words speak of the complete dedication that is demanded by true prayer. We are to be constantly in communication with our Heavenly Father.
Paul called upon the 1Th 5:17 to pray without ceasing; In Lu 18:1 we have the words of our Lord; 1 “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,” Also in Lu 21:36 Jesus said “But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” In our text Ro 12:12 Paul says we are to be Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; In Eph 6:18 after listing the parts of the full armor or God, Paul says calls upon the Ephesian church to be praying “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” To the Church at Colossae Col 4:2 he gives this instruction Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; And finally Peter says, “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” 1Pe 4:7
Do you think that it is important for us to pray? The Christian understands that prayer is his lifeline, his mode of communicating with the God who saved Him. Consider Jesus who spent whole nights communing with God in prayer and remember that He had no sins to confess. He loves His Father. So does the true believer. The Christian needs prayer like we need air.One of my heroes in the faith is David Brainerd. David spent many hours, many whole nights in prayer to God. Let me share just one entry in his journal;
June 14th 1742. “Felt somewhat of the sweetness of communion with God and the constraining force of His love: how admirably it captivates the soul and makes all the desires and affections center in God! I set apart this day for secret fasting and prayer, to entreat God to direct and bless me with regard to the great work which I have in view, the preaching of the Gospel , and that the Lord would return to me and individually show me the light of His countenance. Had little life and power in the forenoon; near the middle of the afternoon God enabled me to wrestle ardently in intercession for absent friends; but just about night the Lord visited me marvelously in prayer. I think my soul never was in such agony before. I felt no restraint for the treasures of divine grace were opened to me. I wrestled for absent friends, for the ingathering of souls, for multitudes of poor souls, and for many that I thought were the children of God in many distant places. I was in such an agony from half an hour before sunset till near dark that I was all over wet with sweat, but yet it seemed to me that I had wasted away the day, and had done nothing. Oh my dear Savior did sweat blood for poor souls. I longed for more compassion toward them…”
This was a man devoted to prayer. He was instant, urgent in his prayers. He spoke of wrestling in prayer. Have you ever wrestled in prayer? Have you ever spent whole days or nights in prayer to God for the souls of men? Again here is evidence that we have been lied to for most of our lives in church. It seems that the popular teaching of the hour is ‘do as little as you can…do enough just to get by. Just say grace at meals and your prayers at bedtime and you’re good.’ This is in direct opposition to the clear teaching of scripture, that we are to offer ourselves as living holy sacrifices, acceptable to God which is our reasonable service, that we are to turn away from the world and be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we are to do the will of God, to perform that task for which God has saved us. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has ordained that we should walk in them. In other words we are to serve God with our whole heart! And this should be the normal Christian life. Brainerd was a real Christian who loved Jesus and poured out his life as an offering to Him. This is the mark of a true Christian, the evidence of the living out of ones faith in Christ.
Next we are commanded in verse 13 to be contributing to the needs of the saints… We are to be contributing to the needs of, who? The saints. Our fellow believers have needs, be it a listening ear or a meal or yes, money. Now if we really love our brethren with the brotherly love that we are supposed to have for them, if we are seeking each other’s good then we will be eager to help in whatever way is needed. The best illustration I can think of is found in Acts 4:32-35, and again this is the early Church. It was a simple time, without committees, programs and schemes. It was simple, with only four pillars: the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
The church you see was living out its faith. They were following the commandment of Jesus to love one another. They didn’t look at members in need and say, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet not give them what was necessary for their body. They contributed to the needs of the saints. And they did so in love! Indeed they were devoted to one another in brotherly love…they were motivated by their love for the saints. Paul admonished Timothy to “instruct those who are rich in this present world… to be generous and ready to share. While according to the rules of society, we rightfully own certain things, before the Lord we own nothing. We are simply stewards of what He has blessed us with. And one of our most important responsibilities as His stewards is using our personal resources to contribute to the needs of the saints, our brothers and sisters in Christ. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus made clear that we have a responsibility, to the best of our ability, to help anyone in need whom we encounter. But we have a still greater responsibility to serve fellow Christians. “So then, while we have opportunity,” Paul says, “let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” Gal. 6:10.
And finally we see that the Christian is commanded to be practicing hospitality.” Now this is an interesting statement. It means we are to love strangers and to hunt, pursue or seek eagerly to be hospitable. The literal meaning of that phrase in the Greek is, “pursuing the love of strangers.” The scriptures are plain here. We not only are to meet the needs of believers and unbelievers, who come across our paths but we are to look for opportunities to help. The writer of Hebrews says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,”, “for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” Heb. 13:2. As with all of these commands, this one is to be obeyed without hypocrisy or self-interest.
Jesus’ rebuke to His Pharisee host applies to all of His followers. MacArthur says; “Because inns in New Testament times were scarce, expensive, and often dangerous, Christian families commonly opened their homes to believers who passed through their towns. Unlike Paul, who insisted on paying for most of his own expenses, most itinerant preachers and teachers relied entirely on the support of fellow Christians. John commended Gaius for his generosity in this regard: “Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they bear witness to your love before the church; and you will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers with the truth” 3 John 5–8.”
Peter shows us the heart attitude that we are supposed to have in 1Pet 4:9 when he says “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” That is, we should look upon opportunities to show hospitality as a privilege, because we are getting an opportunity to serve the Lord. And His commands are not grievous.
And one final thought on this command; we are to show hospitality without thought of repayment. It is not what we can get but what God has commanded that is the point. And this brings us back to our opening thought; are we living in obedient to God’s commands and so proving that we are His disciples? The tree is known by its fruit and the true disciple is known by the fruit of obedience. Walk then in obedience to His commandments and so prove to be His disciples.