Practical Christian Living, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

This morning we are going to continue in our study of Romans 12.  Paul has presented deep theology in the first 11 chapters, and now he is applying these theological truths to practical, everyday living.  In view of God’s mercies to man in Jesus Christ who, being God in human flesh, lived a sinless life, and willingly laid down His life on the cross as the substitute sacrifice in atoning for our sins, then rose again from the dead on the third day proving Himself and His promises of salvation from sin for those who believe in Him to be true, there should be a corresponding response by those who profess such faith.

They are to present themselves

As living and holy sacrifices

Which are acceptable to God.  

This is the reasonable response

Of true worship of God.  

Such a person is then changed

Over time to be a reflection

Of Jesus as they are transformed

By the renewing of their minds.

We have already seen in verses 3-8 that Paul has explained that the Christian, as a living sacrifice, is to be humble and not think more highly of themselves than they ought as part of the body of Christ.  Every believer is gifted by God for service, and every gift and ministry are needed for the body to mature, so all basis of pride is removed since the goal is for the common good of the whole body.  Our lives revolve around serving the Lord for the sake of His kingdom, not our own.

We have also already seen that in

Being a living and holy sacrifice

Acceptable to the Lord,

The Christian is to be growing

In their love for God, other believers, and all people.

This love is agape, the love marked by

Its sacrificial nature in giving of itself

For the benefit of another and based in

Conscious choice instead of fleeting emotions.

It is never a love that is feigned, so it is without hypocrisy.  It reflects God’s character and nature, and so it abhors what is evil while it clings to what is good.  It finds what is not godly to be detestable and hated so there is a strong aversion to such things.  At the same time, it is attracted to and holds tightly to what is godly.

Yesterday we saw that beyond this general duty, the Christian has more specific duties in relationship to other believers.  There is to be a brotherly love among believers because we are all part of the family of God.  We should have the same commitment to one another that we should for our siblings.  This kind of love is demonstrated in giving preference in honor to one another.  We consider the other more important than ourselves.  We are also to step out in leading the way in showing such respect and honor.  We seek to initiate instead of just respond.

We also looked at verse 11 last week which begins the sequence of duties listed in verse 11-13 that we will continue looking at today.  Diligence is the primary duty listed here under which Paul marks out seven more specific areas in which our being living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God are to be practically demonstrated.

As we saw in yesterday’s blog, the phrase “diligence without slothfulness” carries the idea that we are . . .

To be ready to quickly respond

In earnestness to accomplish,

Promote, or strive after whatever

Is needful in our relationships with others.

A person who is slothful is the opposite.  They hesitant and delay in their response.  Because the Spirit of God has touched our lives, we are zealous in our own spirit to respond to God’s Spirit in our relationships with others.

We seek to serve one another in the Lord.  

That is quite a thought all in itself –

Not only does the holy

Creator of the universe

Wants us to serve Him,

But that we can do so

In our relationships with

One another by letting

Him work through us.

Paul described it this way in Galatians 2:20 saying, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  Paul viewed his own life as one in which he had died and Jesus Christ was now living through him.  As living sacrifices, we are to do the same.  

This morning we will continue on with verse 12 and look at two more of the specific areas in which we are to practically demonstrate our being living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God.  In each of these we are to be diligent to act and respond.

Rejoicing In Hope.

Hope is one of the great blessings of being a Christian.  Tragically, Christians can get overwhelmed by the problems of life, and in losing their focus, they can become discouraged and even seriously depressed.  The solution to this is to go back to the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

The first thing we need to understand about this hope is that it is not a “wish.”  It is not something we would like to happen, but which is a great unknown if it actually will.

Biblical hope

Is not based in

Speculation, dreams,

Or even potential.  

It is based in absolutes

And for that reason

Biblical hope is

A confident assurance

Of what will occur

In the future. 

Our hope in Jesus Christ

For both the present

And the future

Is a certainty.

That is why we are to be “in hope rejoicing.”  Again, this is something we are to be diligent about and not slothful.

What is the basis of this hope and why should we rejoice in it?  

The basis of our hopes

Are the promises of God.  

The reason we should

Rejoice in it is

Because His promises

Are the expressions

Of His love,

And they all will

Come true because

They are based in

God’s divine power.

2 Peter 1:2-4 describes this truth, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

Remember too that this section of Romans is the application of a proper response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As those who have turned from sin to the savior, we have been forgiven and promised a place in heaven with Christ. In the present, we have been promised that God will use our lives to glorify Himself, which is the purpose of our existence, and even more so since we are to be presenting our bodies as living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God.

What are some of these precious and magnificent promises that should cause us to rejoice?

Here are a few . . .

Forgiveness Of Sins.

Colossians 1:13-14 says, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  1 John 1:9 declares, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  The Christian has been promised that their sins are forgiven because of their redemption in Christ.

Freedom From God’s Condemnation.

Romans 8:1-2 states, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”  John 3:17-18 says, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  Believers have been promised that they will stand before God without fear of His condemnation because Jesus was condemned in our place.  

Eternal Life.

John 5:24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”  John 10:27-28 states, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”  The eternal life spoken of here is not length of life, for even the wicked will exist throughout eternity in Hell (Matthew 25:41, 46; Revelation 21:11-15).  Eternal life is the quality of life of being in proper relationship with God.  That is the meaning of Jesus’ statement in John 10:10 that He, “Came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”

A Home In Heaven.

The eternal destiny of those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ is secure.  John 14:2-3 says, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Christ’s Return For Us.

Heaven is not a place that people get to on their own, but one in which our Savior returns for us and takes us there.  In addition to John 14:3 the Bible also declares in Philippians 3:20-21, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

Comfort At Death.

For the Christian, to be “absent from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). We comfort one another with that hope and that we will meet those who have preceded us (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  For the Christian, “to live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21ff).  We have gained victory over our enemy, death, through Jesus Christ who conquered it.  Though each of us will have to go through physical death if the Lord does not return prior to that event, we will not experience spiritual death (the second death – Revelation 20), and physical death cannot keep us.  We will be resurrected.

New, Glorified Bodies.

One of the great things about God’s promises of a future in heaven with Him is that we will also have new bodies that will not be subject to the corruption of our present physical bodies. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 declares, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

Intercession By Jesus And The Spirit.

God has also given us wonderful promises that apply to our present lives including intercession by both Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Romans 8:26 says, “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  Hebrews 7:25 states, “Hence, also, He [Jesus] is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Jesus’ Presence Now And Forever.

Not only does Jesus presently intercede with the Father on our behalf, but He is also present with us.  Matthew 28:20 says, “. . . and low, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Hebrews 13:5 states, “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

The Spirit’s Indwelling.

We describe the Holy Spirit’s relationship to us in the present as His indwelling us.  The idea here is that He is within you instead of standing next to you.  John 14:16 says, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.”  Galatians 4:6 sates, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Adoption Into God’s Family.

As Galatians 4:6 mentions, we can approach God as His children crying out, ‘Abba! Father!’  We can do this because God adopts the Christian as His child.  Romans 8:14-17 declares, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ . . .”  This truth made John marvel in 1 John 3:1, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.”  

Access To God The Father.

Our adoption into God’s family also allows us direct access to the Father.  Most religions restrict personal access to God and make you go through a priest of some type.  Biblical Christianity believes what God has said Himself about who can approach Him.  That is why we can follow Jesus’ instructions and address God directly as “Our Father, who art in heaven.”  Ephesians 2:18-19 tells us “For through Him [Jesus] we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” Hebrews 4:16 says, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

His Provision For Everything Needed In This Life.

God’s promises to us also take care of the common needs of everyday life in the present.  Matthew 6:33 states, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”  What things?  All that is needed for daily life including food, drink, and clothing.  God makes these promises because He wants our minds to be focused on Him and not the common things of life. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  Philippians 4:19 states, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 9:6-12 a further reason that God provides for all our material needs, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.  Let each one [do] just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, ‘He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness abides forever.’ Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.”  God’s provision for us allows for us to be the means by which He will meet the needs of others.

Emotional Stability.

 God’s promises also encompass our emotional needs.  We can be at peace when non-Christians are in turmoil.  Since God has promised to meet our physical needs as we seek first His kingdom and righteousness, we do not need to worry about such things. But we do not need to be anxious about anything else either because we can present the need to God and rest in His peace.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Or as 1 Peter 5:7 says, “You can cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

The Bible also says in 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 that God is, “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  Whatever turmoil may come into our lives, God can meet our emotional needs.

Purpose In Life.

God’s promises also remove the futility and vanity of life.  Ecclesiastes expounds on the principle that anything man might achieve in life is ultimately futile if it done apart from God.  Amass wealth or power and you must leave it to someone who will come after you, and they may be a fool who will squander it.  Gain fame, and it also fades away.  As the years go by, you are forgotten. Seek pleasure, and you will always be seeking, because pleasure is always fleeting.  It never lasts. But God’s promises give the Christian an eternal purpose for their lives.

As already pointed out, the Christian is brought into a relationship that will last for eternity.  The believer was chosen by God in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4).  He or she is a “vessel of mercy” which God has “prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23), and so will be changed into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), and serve God forever.  In the present, the believer is to do the good works that God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10), and they are to do them in such a way that men will see them and glorify God (Matthew 5:16).  God choose those who are saved to be His own people who would proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9).  Jesus has commissioned us to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey whatsoever things He has commanded (Matthew 29:19,20).  That includes raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

Triumph In Trials.

God also makes promises related to the trials that we face in life.  Jesus said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  Trials are just part of life in a sin fallen world, but the Christian has hope in the midst of them because Jesus has overcome the sin of this world.  God’s general promise in Romans 8:28 is that He, “Causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.”  But God also specifically tells us that the trials that bring about the testing of our faith will produce endurance and that in turn will result in maturity (James 1:2-4).  God promises to chasten the son whom He loves, so the trials might also be the demonstration of that love in correcting us. (Hebrews 12:5-11).  In Romans 5:3-8 Paul said that we could, “Exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  He went on to point out in verse 8 that, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Hope does not fail and it is the basis for rejoicing because it is based in the very character of God which cannot fail.  God’s love extends His grace and mercy to us granting us forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ and bringing us into a personal relationship with Him.  He extends to us wonderful and precious promises that cannot fail because God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent.  Nothing can thwart any of His promises.

This hope also becomes the basis for what Paul says in the second phrase of Romans 12:12.  In tribulation, the Christian is enduring.

Enduring In Tribulation.

Bad things do happen to believers.  Christians can find themselves in crises.  Those devoted to God will face discouragement.  But as has already been pointed out, none of these things should remove our hope in Christ.  We can rejoice in the midst of them.

The word for “tribulation,” is the same word as used in John 116:33 and Romans 5:3 which we have already looked at.  It is also often translated as “affliction.”  The word here for “enduring,” means to “abide under” and hence to “endure,” “put up with,” “stand
firm,” “persevere.”

The sense of our enduring in tribulation is the same as Jesus as he faced the cross. Hebrews 12:2-3 says that, “For the joy set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  If we keep our focus correct, we can endure current tribulations because we have a hope of something better in the future that will result from it.  2 Corinthians reveals that Paul had lived through some very nasty times including being beaten, lashed, struck with rods, imprisoned, went hungry, thirsty, and had sleepless nights.  He was also shipwrecked and endured an untold number of other dangers and hardships in his travels (2 Corinthians 11;23ff).  Paul’s own comment on these trials in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 is “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Life can be tough for Christians, and there are things that arise in our lives that can be very difficult.  If we do not keep our focus correct, we can become discouraged or even depressed.  It can be enough to drive you to your knees – no wonder the next phrase in Paul’s list is “devoted to prayer.”  We will examine that tomorrow.

We do not have to succumb to the pressures around us.  We do not have to become discouraged or depressed.  We have the promises of God that give us ongoing hope regardless of the circumstances.  We can endure the afflictions of the moment in view of what God will bring about in the future and what He is doing in the present.  But to do that you must keep your perspective correct.

Life is not about your pleasure or comfort.  

It is not about your wealth or fame.  

It really is not about you at all.

It is about the holy God who created us and saved us for Himself
despite our rebellion against Him.  Those who profess to be Christians need to respond to God’s mercy toward them by presenting themselves as living and holy sacrifices that are acceptable to God.  They need to continue to resist the pressures of the world and be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

When your mind is set on things above,

Instead of the things of this earth,

You will be able to live

In godly wisdom

In a godly manner.

But what about the times when you are overwhelmed and become discouraged or depressed?  That is when you are in the greatest need of the rest of the body of Christ using their gifts properly to help you along.  The problem is that this is also the time when you least want to be around other people.  There is much that you can do to alleviate discouragement and depression simply by doing what is right before God regardless of your feelings at the moment.  But at the same time, you should not have to endure it all alone.

There is a responsibility that the rest of the Body of Christ has towards those who are down, but before we can reach out to them we must first remember our own frailty.  We are not to judge, condemn or look down on those who struggle as if some how we are superior because we are not currently struggling.  Each of us has our own weaknesses and we are to treat others the way we would want to be treated ourselves.  In addition, if one part of the body suffers, then we are all suffering (1 Corinthians 12:26).  We are to humbly seek to help others.  Yes, we need to remind them that as Christians we are living sacrifices whose lives are to revolve around God’s will and not our own desires. But we are also to encourage them with all the wonderful aspects of God’s love that cause us to rejoice in His care for us.  We are to lift them up and encourage them with the wonderful promises God has made to us.  We are to help one another rejoice in hope, and persevere in tribulation.

Are you down cast, discouraged, or depressed?  Then turn your focus once again to our loving Lord and rejoice in the hope we have in Him for both eternity and the present. Jeremiah sat looking over the ruins of Jerusalem, yet amid the destruction he still recognized his hope in the Lord and said in Lamentations 3:22-25, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.’

Press on in the midst of the current afflictions knowing that in due time, we will reap if we do not give up (1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:10).  Do you see people who are struggling?  Don’t ignore them.  They need help.  Step out to encourage the fainthearted and help the weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14).  It is not your job to fix them, but it is your job to make yourself available and useful to the Lord as He works in their lives, possibly through you.  They might need a shoulder to cry on and their tears wiped away. All of us do at times.  They will need others to patiently point them back to our hope in Christ so that they might once again rejoice.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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