Romans 12:9-21 NKJV
Just as we expect our children to mature in the physical realm, God expects His children to mature in the spiritual realm.
Peter commands us in 1 Peter 2:2 (NIV), “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,”
Heb. 5:12-13 (NIV), “…by this time you ought to be teachers, (but) you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!
“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.”
Paul speaking 1 Cor. 13:11 (NIV) said, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
So, in the Christian realm as in the physical realm there is a time to be a child and there is a time to become mature.
Now, in our passage today Paul is listing some aspects of the Christian life that reflects maturity.
I. MATURITY IN THE CHURCH. 9-13
For there to be maturity in the Church it must begin with maturity in the individual Christian.
A. Maturity Demands Sincere Love . 9
“Let love be without hypocrisy.”
This is AGAPE love – love that comes from the very heart of God.
This love must be pure and true.
If hypocrisy is detected then it isn’t Agape- it doesn’t flow from God’s heart.
1. Love identifies the Christian. (1 John 4:8 NIV)
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
2. Love is the test of discipleship. (John 13:35 NIV)
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
To love one another is a command of Christ. (John 13:34)
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
How does Jesus love us?
“Selflessly” – I think that too often we let self get in the way by questioning: What’s it going to cost me or how is it going to affect me.
“Sacrificially” – Jesus loved us without limitation. If love meant the cross He would go there.
“Forgivingly” – Barclay says “love must be built on forgiveness, for without forgiveness it is bound to die.”
3. Mature Christian love others because they understand:
a.We are fellow human beings with the same emotional and spiritual needs.
b. We all have needs which can only find their fulfillment in Christ.
c. That God loves them and died for their sins as He did ours.
d. They need to know that Jesus Christ has come to earth to reveal God’s love to all people.
4. Mature Christians Hate Evil. 9b
“Abhor (to loathe; to have a horror of) what is evil.”
The Christian expresses his abhorrence of evil by withdrawing from it.
The best way to express your hatred for evil is to “cling to what is good.”
B. Maturity Demonstrates Grace. 10-13
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another”
1. “kindly affectionate” (NIV –devoted) [Gr. phileostorgos] – which speaks of that special love which we have for our families.
James Boice points out that “kindly” ‘is based on the word kin, meaning family. So … we are being told that we are to love and treat Christians as we would members of our family.’”
2. “brotherly love” (Gr.- Philadelphia)
Paul said in Gal. 6:10 NIV, “ as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Believers are a family regardless of nationality, race or background.
Remember the hymn:
“Blessed be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above.”
3. “in honor giving preference to one another”
We are to give honor to one another; we are to prefer one another.
Don’t wait for others to notice what you are doing and praise you, but be alert to what they are doing and praise them.
4. “not lagging in diligence”
Don’t’ let discouragement overcome you, but be zealous in what you are doing.
That is what Paul was referring to in Gal. 6:9, “let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
Discouragement is a constant battle we all have to fight whether on the job, at home or in the Church.
Then Paul added, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
5. “fervent in spirit” – in other words, be bubbling over; be aglow in the Spirit.
Donald Barnhouse said, “The glow of the Spirit is the warmth of the soul touched by the love of Christ.”
6. “serving the Lord” – If we keep our fervency in the Lord, then service will never be a burden but a joy.
7. “rejoicing in hope” – the one thing we must ever be careful of and that is to not give up hope, and especially the looking for the “blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Tit. 2:13), because John says in 1 John 3:2 “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”
8. “patient in tribulation” (NIV – “affliction”) does not mean fatalistic, but to wait in faith and confidence that God will resolve the problem.
We know that one day good will be rewarded and evil will be punished, but it will be in God’s timing – not ours.
9 “continuing steadfastly in prayer” as Boice points out that as Christians we have to pray, but let’s face it, sometimes we get tired and our minds wander, and often we forget to pray when we need to most.
10. “distributing to the needs of the saints, “given to hospitality”- More than giving money to poor Christians, I have an idea that Paul is thinking about our identifying with them in their needs, such as what Jesus said in Mat. 25:35-40 “for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
I believe if we do this we will hear Jesus say “Well done thy good and faithful servant.”
II. MATURITY IN THE WORLD. 12:14-21
We have seen that Christian maturity is very much needed in the Church if we are going to function as pleasing unto God.
Now we want to learn how Christian maturity is needed in our relations with the world.
In John 17 when Christ prayed His high priestly prayer he emphasized that Believers are in the world but not of the world.
1 John 2:15-16, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
This does not mean that we are not to love sinners, but that we are not to love the sinners ways.
a. In order to win our non-Christian friends to Jesus we must cultivate a redemptive friendship with them.
I have known some Christians who liked to boast that they had no non-Christian friends. I guess they thought that made them more pious or spiritual.
b. It is true the Bible teaches separation from the world, but separation does not mean isolation.
Jesus never isolated Himself from the unbelieving world and this upset the religious self- pious Jews. They accused Him of associating with sinners and tax-collectors.
In our passage today Paul teaches us how to live as a Christian in a non-Christian world.
A. The Christian’s Reaction To Persecution. 14
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
Michael Scott Horton has written a book called “Made in America.” He has made a study on how American culture has impacted Christianity, and one of the things he studied he calls “consumerism.”
He says, “”In consumer religion, Christianity becomes trivialized. Its great mysteries become cheap slogans. Its majestic hymns are traded in for shallow jingles. And its parishioners… have come to expect dazzling testimonies, happy anecdotes, and fail-proof schemes for successful living that will satiate spiritual consumption”
But when you study your Bible you discover that Biblical Christianity is almost the opposite of that.
Jesus taught that to be His disciple will cost you.
John 15:20 – Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you….”
2 Tim. 3:12: “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
Mat. 5:44: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”
1. How is the Believer to react when faced with persecution?
Paul says “Bless (Gr. euologize) them” – don’t curse them, but speak well of them. Jesus said, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Mt. 5:44)
a. In this chapter Paul is speaking of applying God’s Word to our daily living.
We are to stop thinking as the world thinks and begin thinking as Christ thinks.
b. Paul makes a radical proposition! We are to love our enemies; we are to pray for them. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” is the command.
2. Jesus predicts the World’s Hatred for Christians. John 15:18-19 (NIV)
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
Here in the South we live in the so called “Bible Belt” and have not suffered severe persecution as in other parts of the world, but it’s coming.
Listen to the news, read the papers and you see that Christian persecution is growing rapidly, even in America, and the closer we get to Christ’s return the more severe it will become.
Why does the world have a hatred for Christians? (Read again John 15:18-19)
B. Christians Must Show Genuine Interest In Others. 15-21
1. Empathize with them. 15
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
The only way we can do this is to learn to think more of others and less of ourselves.
Jesus set the example for us in Phil. 2:5-8, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
2. Exemplify A Unity Of Spirit. 16
a.“Be of the same mind toward one another.”
Paul says in Phil. 2:2 “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
b. “ Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.”
Do not think yourself to be above the lowly of this world. Do not neglect, ignore, or despise the lowly. Walk among them and help them. Be friendly and kind – be loving and gracious in helping to meet the needs of a desperate world.
Micah 6:8: “what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
c. “Do not be wise in your own opinion.”
Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought.
Leon Moris says, “the person who is wise in his own eyes is rarely so in the eyes of other people.”
3. Remember Who You Are. 17
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.”
The flesh wants to retaliate, but as Mounce says, “retaliation for personal injury is not for those who claim to follow the one who told His disciples to turn the other cheek and go the second mile.”
Because another person is dishonest with you doesn’t give you the right to be dishonest with them.
The human nature says retaliate, but the Bible says “No.”
Remember Joseph? If anyone had reason to retaliate, he did, but he refused to and God tremendously blessed him.
The Christian must live beyond reproach in all things. His word must be his bond,
4. Live Peaceably. 18
This is not always possible, but it should be the Christians goal.
The Christian should never be found guilty of disturbing the peace.
5. Trust God In Every Situation. 19-21
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,“ says the Lord.
20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.