Oct27TueOctober 27, 2015
Because of God’s mercy, we are to give our whole selves to God. We are to lay our lives on the altar. The Lord Jesus wants all of us, our hearts, our minds our everything. He wants the totality of our lives. Because of God’s mercy we are to die to self and live for the Lord Jesus Christ.
You see, God’s mercy changes us - v. 2. The gospel of grace will change you. It should change you. It must change you if you believe it. We are to become a transformed people and that transformation, that change, affects every area of our life.
This morning we will see that transformed Christian’s strive to live in harmony with all and that transformed Christian’s love their enemies.
Like the rest of the transformed life, this does not come naturally. None of this is possible apart from the transforming mercy and grace of God. Romans 12 is utterly unobtainable and impractical were it not for the Holy Spirit indwelling us and God’s grace empowering us.
God’s word says, “Live in harmony with one another.” More literally it says, “Be of the same mind.” This is a biblical call for us to have a common mind-set. It is a biblical call to unity of belief and concern and object. We find it everywhere in the Bible. Romans 15:5, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:27, “Only let your manner of life be worthy[a] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Philippians 2:2, “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
Now, I don’t think that the apostle is calling upon us to see all things exactly alike. It does not mean we all have identical viewpoints and agree on every issue. That is uniformity not unity and harmony.
There are such things as honest disagreements about points of doctrine as we grow in the Lord and wrestle with God’s truth. None of us understand God’s truth as we ought, and none of us have everything correct. God does, but we don’t. There is simply no way we are always going to agree with everybody we meet (future events).
Rather, the Bible is saying there is a way to handle disagreement and still have harmony with one another. It can be very difficult. We know how easy it is to disagree and to enter into debate and arguments that can tear relationships apart. But as Christians we should work toward agreement and disagree agreeably whenever we can. We should have an attitude of love so that our disagreements don’t degenerate into all out hostility and divisiveness.
You see, “live in harmony” is calling us to unity based on our common salvation, our shared purpose in the gospel, and our shared hope in Christ. Think of the little pools of water that remain on the shore when the tide has gone out (tide pools). But when the tide comes in, those pools of water now become one vast amount of water. That is a great picture of Christianity. We all have differences, true differences (those are the little pools) But when the tide of the oneness that we have in Jesus Christ dominates us, then those differences, true differences, are not the most significant thing. We are able to disagree agreeably and live in harmony.
Who is in favor of glorifying God? Amen! Who believes that pleasing Christ is top priority? Who wants to follow Christ and fight the good fight of faith? Who wants to reach the lost and make disciples of all nations? This is the kind of agreement that should and needs to exist among believers.
Of course we must be careful. The command to live in harmony does not mean that we set aside essential doctrinal truth for the sake of unity, which would be to compromise the gospel. I would remind you that Paul was zealous to deal with issues and to get to the truth of the matter. He did not hesitate to pronounce anathema on those who preached a false gospel. Unity at the cost of truth is a false unity.
Two enemies of harmony are pride and conceit.
“Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”
Pride sows the seed of discord and conflict. It is our greatest enemy. More than anything else it destroys the harmony of the body of Christ. Because of pride we develop overly exalted opinion of ourselves, leading us to think that we are always right and others wrong and that our opinions matter more than others.
It is difficult to know if Paul is here referencing lowly things or lowly people, or both.
The verb “associate with” is literally, “to be carried away by” as a flood that sweeps someone away. So the idea is don’t resist doing lowly tasks, but to be carried away with doing them. If you see trash on the floor, pick it up and throw it away. Don’t think changing a diaper is below you. Don’t think sweeping the floor or doing the dishes or picking up toys or vacuuming or anything else is to lowbrow for you. If snow need shoveling or leaves need raking, etc. Or, as applied to people, don’t think because of your economic or educational level that you are better than others but reach out in love to everyone. I love how Phillips translated it, “Don’t become snobbish, but take a real interest in ordinary people.” Make friends with people who are poor. Make friends with those who are not anybody. Make friends with those other people look down upon. Get off your high horse and come to grips with reality. There are humble tasks and ordinary people who need our attention. Don’t allow pride to steer you away from them.
Conceit is self-sufficiency by which our own judgment is so highly valued that we will not have regard to the wisdom that comes from any other source. The conceited person is stubborn and impervious to any advice but his own. It is an overinflated opinion of your value, ability or appearance.
The Bible strongly condemns it – Proverbs 3:7: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” The one who is wise in God’s eyes is the one who does not lean on his own understanding! Wisdom comes from God, not within!
Proverbs 26:12: Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Isaiah 5:21: Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!
To be prideful and conceited is foolish and it is to have forgotten the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember, all have been leveled by sin, and any who have been redeemed have been so by God’s mercy. Therefore, anyone who would look down upon another believer with contempt or conceit or think that a particular task is beneath them has not grasped the enormous implication of having been redeemed by grace!
Philippians 2:3-8: 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b]being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus was constantly observing, looking for ways he could serve others. The most profound of which was giving his life for our sins on the cross.
This is why I say to be prideful and conceited is to have forgotten the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is good news of God who became man and humbled himself to die for you and me. And you’re not willing to associate with certain people or do certain tasks? That is gospel insanity! You have forgotten Christ and salvation! What if Jesus took that attitude with you?
You see? Nothing in the universe cuts us down like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves so we have to remember the cross! It is there we shrink to our true size because it is preaching to us, “I am here because of your sin. It is your sin I am bearing, it is your curse I am suffering, it is your debt I am paying, it is your death I am dying.” How can anyone be prideful and conceited in light of that truth? How can anyone think someone or something is below them?
Pride and conceit begins to change into humility when we truly understand and live in light of the cross. Humility comes when we internalize the truth that nothing in the life of a Christian is to be about “me.”
What is natural is to hate our enemies.
But Jesus taught us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).
This is how Christians must live. Christians transformed by the gospel love their enemies. They love those who wrong them. For some of us that is easier than others. Some of us have suffered traumatic wrongs and hurts while others of us have been hurt or wronged only in small ways but regardless God’s Word says to love those who wrong us. We are to respond to hate and hurt with radical, Christlike love that overcomes it and brings glory to God.
But let’s be clear - We are talking about personal, not judicial, responses. This passage relates to personal revenge, not to utilizing proper authorities for protection. If someone is breaking the law, it is right to report him. If you are in an abusive, life threatening relationship, call the police! As Romans 13 says, the governing authorities do not bear the sword in vain. They are ministers of God to execute wrath on them that do evil. But our text is not talking about public justice. It is talking about private revenge. It is talking about how you should personally respond when you are mistreated in your personal relationships.
When someone wrongs you or mistreats you the desire to retaliate is nearly overwhelming. When you have been unjustly treated or had your rights infringed upon the desire for retaliation burns within you.
“Don’t get mad, get even.” He did it to me and I am going to give it back to him.” Payback! Tit for Tat! Eye for Eye! If I don’t they will think I am weak and get stepped on even more! When your husband snaps unkindly at you, you respond by being cold to him or not talking to him. If your sibling takes your toy you take one of his. If someone makes a hurtful comment to you, you counter it.
We are not to give in, however, to the desire to get even. We are not to take it upon ourselves to serve out vengeance. There is no eye for eye. We don’t get them back. No silent revenge. There are no exceptions, no pleas for extenuating circumstances, no maybe. Revenge and retaliation are ruled out.
Proverbs 20:22 – “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil;’ wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.”
Proverbs 24:29 – “Do not say, ‘I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.’”
1 Thess. 5:15 – “See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”
1 Peter 3:9 – “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
You see, there is no wiggle room out of this. Do not avenge yourselves! We are to avoid any such feelings, imaginations or actions of revenge.
In January, 1999 Graham Staines and his two sons, Phillip (10) and Timothy (6) were mobbed by radical Hindus, trapped inside their vehicle in … India, and burned alive. The three charred bodies were recovered clinging to each other. Graham Staines had spent 34 years serving the people of India in the name of Jesus. He was the director of the Leprosy Mission in Baripada, Orissa.
He left behind his widow Gladys and daughter Esther. … Her response was in every paper in India to the glory of Christ. She said, a few days after the martyrdom of her husband and sons, “I have only one message for the people of India. I’m not bitter. Neither am I angry. But I have one great desire: that each citizen of this country should establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ who gave his life for their sins … let us burn hatred and spread the flame of Christ’s love.”
Everyone thought she would move back to Australia. No. She said God had called them to India, and she would not leave. She said, “My husband and our children have sacrificed their lives for this nation; India is my home. I hope to be here and continue to serve the needy.” Then, perhaps most remarkable of all—listen to this all you who are teenagers—her daughter Esther was asked how she felt about the murder of her dad, and the thirteen year old, said, “I praise the Lord that He found my father worthy to die for Him.”
Instead of responding with vengeance Christians are to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. We are to plan ahead to lead a good, noble and honorable life that even an unbelieving world couldn’t argue against.
2 Corinthians 8:21 – “For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.”
1 Timothy 3:7 – “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
Proverbs 3:4 – “So that you will find favor and success in the sight of God and man.”
The idea is when people do you wrong, respond in such a way that you are free from reproach to a watching world.
Of course by this is not meant that we should determine our behavior by public opinion. Public opinion may run contrary to God’s Word. Rather, he means that we should think about our testimony to a watching world. What idea of the Christian faith will the world form when it sees or hears about how we responded to the wrong that was done to us? Will they see Christ-like love or human fleshly anger? If we react with rage, we’re not being a good witness. If we stop to think about our witness, we can then respond in a Christlike manner.
We have a testimony. People are watching and looking. They know how a Christian should act. They will watch and see whether or not we retaliate as the world does, whether or not we try to "get even."
So the hard question that this Scripture leaves us with is, have I paid back evil with evil to anyone? Is this my pattern with my spouse? Is this the way I deal with my kids? How are my relationships with my extended family? Is this how I deal with difficult people at work or in my neighborhood? If so, first ask God’s forgiveness. Then figure out a way to ask forgiveness of those you have wronged. Even if they don’t repent, think about ways that you can bless them with kindness. That’s how to do right when you’ve been wronged.
In addition to doing what is right in the sight of men, Christians are also to take pains to live at peace with everyone. Don’t be itching for a fight. Vengeance leads to further vengeance. It keeps the cycle going. Instead, of vengeance the goal as a Christian is to live peaceably with everyone.
This isn’t always possible. Jesus, the Prince of Peace was murdered by hostile people. Paul was beaten with rods, was stoned and received 39 lashes several times. Sometimes the attitude of others doesn’t allow for peace. What is more, we certainly can’t be at peace with sin or error. If peace means collaboration with sin or error, if it means compromise to Christian integrity then peace must be sacrificed. Peace should never be purchased at the price of our Christian convictions and witness.
However, so far as it is up to us, we must make every effort to be at peace with others. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone…” If someone is mad at you and trying to stir things up, don’t return the favor. It takes two to tango. The responsibility for discord must to no extent be traceable to failure on our part to do all that is compatible with holiness and truth. The impossibility of peace should not arise from your own inability to restrain your own sinful impulses of anger or resentment. Over others conduct we have no control but the reason for strife should never lie with the Christian.
Believers are no to take revenge because God has promised to avenge his people. Instead of taking things into our own hands we are to trust God and leave it in his perfectly capable hands. God is good and just and he does all things well. Get out of God’s way. He’ll settle the scores. He’ll right the wrongs.
Don’t take vengeance into your own hands because you will mess it up. You will be either too harsh or too soft or you will attack the wrong person or say the wrong thing. We are too much like Jonah who when God spared Nineveh got mad, “God, why didn’t you wipe them out?” We are unable to carry out true justice. We cannot possibly know all the motives and circumstances that were behind a person’s wrongful actions. Besides, our emotions get in the way and cloud our judgment. Only God has the wisdom and the patience needed to punish evildoers properly and to bring them to justice. He doesn’t need any help from you or I.
So your aim should be to do right towards those who wrong you (12:17) and think about how to live peaceably with them. But if they refuse to repent, you don’t have to seek revenge, because God will right all wrongs at the judgment. This is God’s promise, he will deal with sin. No sinner will ever escape God’s justice.
Instead of seeking revenge Christians are given a better way – to help their enemies! Our personal responsibility is to love and serve our enemy according to his needs, and genuinely to seek his highest good. This is going the extra mile, isn’t it?! The world says we should avoid conflict if possible so there is less conflict in the world. But God says seek the good of your enemy. Romans 12:14 says to bless your enemy! This means that we pray for the salvation of our oppressors, hoping that they will turn from their evil and be rescued from the wrath to come.
That’s what were called to do and in doing so God’s Word says “you will heap burning coals on his head.”
I am not sure exactly what that means. It is a direct quote of Proverbs 25:21-22. There are two main interpretations prevalent through church history but before I even explain those let me talk you absolutely what it doesn’t mean – it doesn’t mean “you will burn him.” If you’ve got an enemy and you really want to get him back, be extra nice to him or her and she won’t be able to stand it.” That is hardly the spirit of this passage!
One is that the burning coals are burning pains of shame and repentance that our enemy comes to experience in light of our kindness to them. They are deliberately trying to hurt us and instead of responding in kind we respond with love and kindness and it causes them to burn with shame.
Second is that the burning coals represent God’s judgment on His enemies. All of the OT references to burning coals means this. Psalm 140:10 David cries out about his enemies, “May burning coals fall on them.” So the meaning becomes if you do good toward your enemy and he doesn’t repent, you can rest assured that God will one day redress your wrong by bringing severe judgment on your enemy.
Whichever the case, your motive in seeking your enemy’s welfare is to bring him or her to repentance but if he doesn’t repent you can know that God will bring him to justice.
This is a wonderful summary statement of vv. 17-21.
Instead of allowing evil go get the upper hand and bring defeat, win the victory against that which is wrong by doing what is right. Our most powerful weapon against evil is the good. To respond to evil with evil is not to overcome it but to add to it. If we curse, repay for evil, take revenge then we have given in to evil and been defeated by it.
So Christian, don’t give in to evil! Overcome it!
So let me bring this down to brass tacks:
How do we relate to Muslims?
How do we relate to members of ISIS? Certainly ISIS is the enemy of Christians and we do not love the organization but are we not called to love the members of it?
Who is your enemy? How are you overcoming their hatred with the love of Christ?
How do you do that?
We do it by remembering how Jesus did it for us.
This is the way God himself acted toward us:
Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:10 – “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to hi through the death of his Son.”
Are we not then supposed to love and forgive as we have been loved and forgiven?
1 Peter 2:21-23: 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example,that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
How did Jesus survive the most awful day in human history? How could stand there and let himself be accused of crimes he didn’t commit? Why didn’t he strike back? Why didn’t he fight for his rights? The answer is found in the little phrase–"He entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” He believed that God was a God of justice, therefore he didn’t have to say a word in his own defense. He knew that God would take care of him in the end.
So do we, so we are set free to love our enemies and not be vengeful.
Jesus loved His enemies to save us and to show us that it can be done.
Renew your mind with that.
Let us allow the Spirit of God to transform us as a people so that we follow Jesus in those steps
During a time of terrible atrocities in Armenia, a Turkish soldier pursued a young woman and her brother down a street. He cornered them and then mercilessly shot the brother and let the sister go free, but only after she saw her brother’s brutal murder.
Later, the woman was working as a nurse in a military hospital when the Turkish soldier who had shot her brother was brought into her ward. He was critically wounded and if she had left him alone, he would have died. At first, she wrestled with the desire for vengeance. But she realized that the Lord wanted her to treat this man with kindness, so she gently nursed him back to health.
One day the Turk, who recognized her, said, “Why didn’t you let me die?” She replied, “I am a follower of Jesus and He said, ‘Love your enemies.’” The man was silent for a long time, but finally said, “I never knew that anyone could have such a faith. If that’s what it does, tell me more about it. I want it.” (“Our Daily Bread,” 11/81)