We are beginning a new series this morning. Would you look at the screen and we are going to read Romans 12 and verse 1.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (NIV)
And again, lets read, this time from “The Message.”
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
Over the next couple of weeks we are going to be looking at some verses in Romans 12.
Verses 9 to 21 contain a list of Christian behaviors or virtues, and it’s those that we shall look at, but first I want to show you how Paul introduces this section of his letter.
Paul has written a long theological argument all the way to the end of Romans 11 and now at the beginning of Romans 12 he turns to talking about how Christians should behave, and he has a big idea, and it’s the idea that we have read together.
Because of all that God has done, Christians are to offer themselves as living sacrifices.
Now I want to give you a moment to think about something. Let me ask you a question. How can you best worship God?
Now notice with me what Paul does. He takes an idea about worship, that was a common part of his culture, the idea of sacrifice, and he says to his readers, not bring a sacrifice, but rather now you be the sacrifice.
So here is the reason for the title for the series over the next week. Most of us are used to worshipping God with a praise song, so we are going to be asking how can my life be a song of praise?
And Paul goes on to tell us right through to Romans 16, but I want to draw your attention especially to verses 9-20 over the next couple of weeks, and this morning, we are going to look at verses 9 and 10, so lets read them together.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. (NIV)
And again we will read in “The Message.”
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. (MSG)
This morning I want to just break that verse down into three bits, and they are all about love. Here’s the first:
Love from the centre of who you are.
Now the first thing I want you to notice s what the passage goes on to say. Hate evil. This is not sentimentality, being lovely and nice.
But more importantly, remember that the NIV said Love must be sincere. The NASB has Let love be without hypocrisy, which is a great translation. Hypocrites were the actors of the age. The wearers of masks, and this is what makes this passage so challenging.
You see it’s one thing to love with the mask on, quite another to love with the mask off.
You see we get so used to putting on masks. Let me paint you a little picture and see if it rings any bells for you.
You are out with some friends trying out a new restaurant and you order you food, which is delivered in due time and you tuck into your meal. It’s not long before one of you friends remarks that their chips are soggy and another says that their steak is overcooked and so on. Before long your waiter comes over and asks if everything is OK with the food, and most of us in this room would do the same thing, out come the masks and on they go and we say oh yes everything is lovely thank you!
It’s so easy for us to put the masks on.
And Paul says love from the centre of who you are. Do you get this? Pretending to love doesn’t count, acting in a loving way doesn’t count, and some of us are struggling already because loving with masks is pretty much all we know how to do.
And Paul says it doesn’t count, you’ve got to love without the mask, you’ve got to love from the centre of who you are, and how do you do that?
Now I am going to leave time this morning to try and answer that question a little later this morning, but first lets go on and notice what else these verses say about love.
So secondly, we are told
Be good friends who love deeply.
The NIV has be devoted to one another in brotherly love, now what does that look like.
You know maybe it’s just me, but I know that I can read verses like this and think that they are a restriction rather than a prescription. So I read be good friends who love deeply and in my head I hear don’t be mean to others.
But what happens if instead of reading these words as a restriction I hear them as a prescription? I suddenly find them a whole lot more challenging.
To put it another way when I stood in church and pledged my love to my wife, I didn’t do it by listing the things that I wouldn’t do, I won’t leave my dirty clothes unfolded on the landing, I won’t criticize your driving or map reading… but I did something much bigger by listing the things I would do. I will love you, cherish you, honor you and obey you…
So what could I do, what could we do to be good friends who love one another deeply?
I want to give you a practical example and opportunity this morning. This came up during the week and I realized that it illustrated this point.
Over the next couple of weeks there are a number of things going on in church life where there could well be a need that could be met in a loving way. We have an Alpha weekend coming up and a mission trip to Romania, and there may be some other similar needs as well. And there are some frankly for whom being involved is a financial challenge, and we thought that one way we could practice being good friends who love deeply is by just providing an opportunity to give financially to support those projects (and others that might be coming along) So there is an opportunity this morning as you leave to make an offering or pledge towards that need, and we will entrust that money to the SOT to use to show love and help out those involved with those projects.
Finally, the verses say
Practice playing second fiddle.
The NIV has honor one another above yourselves, the ESV outdo one another in showing honor. Love, means honoring others and humbling yourself.
I’ve noticed that there is a stage that boys go through where they like to outdo one another. While that’s nothing I can hit 100 meters, I scored eight goals. It’s a stage that starts at about the age of seven and lasts till a boy is about seventy.
It cuts across the way in which we are conditioned to behave, and the way in which we are to push others to prominence while choosing a back seat for ourselves.
Again we are challenged to be the one who points the spotlight rather than being the one who stands in the spotlight. And yet that’s what love will do.
So there you are three was of being a song of praise to God. Love from the centre of who you are, Be good friends who love deeply and practice playing second fiddle.
Now I promised that I would try and answer the how question. Now it’s a big question, but here is one big answer.
Now as I try and give you an answer, I want us to be still for a moment and listen to something that the Bible says about the nature of love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (NIV)
Now some of you are thinking, you just made it worse! In a moment, I’m going to read these verses again, but I’m going to alter them slightly as I read them. You see I think perhaps one of the most important things for us if we are going to be loving people is that we experience the love of God. The Bible says that we love because he first loved us.
Now it could be that as a result of this morning you need to confess that you have been unloving. It could be that you need to ask for God’s help to love from the centre of who you are. But for all of us, I am confident that a greater revelation of the love of God will realeas in us greater love for others.
So what I want to do is remind you of the most perfect example of love, the love of God, and so I want to read this passage not in a way that reminds us of what our love should be like and yet fails to be, but as a reminder of the love of God for us.
So I want to pray and then we will be still and I will read the passage to you as a prayer.
Jesus, your Love is patient and your love is kind.
Your love is never envious or boastful. Your love is not proud.
Jesus at times your love is challenging, but it is never rude. Your love served me at tremendous personal cost.
Your love is slow to anger and you loving forgiveness keeps no record of wrongs.
Your love does not delight in my sin or my pain but rejoices with the truth.
Your love always protects me, yourlove can always be trusted. Your love always hopes,your love always perseveres.
Your love will never fail