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Sunday, May 03, 2015

[Matt's Messages] “A Transformed People: Part One”

“A Transformed People: Part One”
All Roads Lead to Romans
May 3, 2015 :: Romans 12:9-10 

We’ve slowed down again, haven’t we? Back in chapter 8, we took several weeks to study the whole thing, and then we marched fairly quickly through chapters 9, 10, and 11, but we’ve slowed down again in chapter 12.

And we’re going to slow down even more.

Today, I want to read to you chapter 12 verses 9 through 21, but I’m only planning to teach on verses 9 and 10.

Think of this as a mini-series on Romans 12 within our maxi-series of All Roads Lead to Romans.

And here’s the title: “A Transformed People.”

That word “transformed” comes out of Romans 12:1-2.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy [the big gospel story of the first eleven chapters in this letter], to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. [Give your whole self to God, and He will change your whole life, verse 2.] Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Last week, we said that the transformation of our mind includes our thinking about everything, including our thinking about ourselves. We should think of ourselves humbly, as belonging to the body, and as gifted for the body of Christ.

But the transformation doesn’t stop there.

It affects everything in our life.

Just as the world wants to press us into its mold in every area of our life, so the Lord wants to transform every area of our life.

And this next section, verses 9-21, is full of short bullet-point commands of how we need to change, to be transformed.

And most of them are about community. They are about relationships.

So, that’s why I call this section, “A Transformed People.”

Because it’s the people who are transformed and not just as individuals but in our relationships with one another. Community. A Transformed People.

You’ll see it as I read the whole thing to you.

Before I do, I want you to hear again in the back of your brain that this is all THEREFORE stuff.

The transformation of God’s people is all based on the mercies of God in the gospel of grace.

We can’t do this stuff on our own. We need God’s grace to live this way.

This is transformed living. It’s supernatural. And it’s because of what Jesus did.

Do you see what I mean by saying that Paul is going to ask for some pretty big things in these chapters?

We need 11 chapters of God’s grace to fuel our obedience to these big requests.

God wants us to change, to be transformed, and it takes God’s grace to do it.

Do you see what I mean by saying that these are bullet-points?

Little staccato sentences that pack a big punch.

This is one sermon where I don’t have to come up with my own summary points of application. Paul has done it for me very nicely. There will be four today.

#1. LOVE MUST BE SINCERE.

In a people transformed by the gospel of grace, love must be sincere. V.9

“Love must be sincere.”

Or “Love must be genuine.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like fakes.

I want the real thing–not a fake.

I don’t mind if something is artificial, if they tell you it is artificial.  I don’t mind if something is synthetic, if they tell you that it is synthetic. But when someone tells you one thing, and it is really another–that drives me nuts.  I hate fakes.

God loves what is genuine, too.  God looks on the heart and can see if someone is being authentic and genuine or a fake.  And sincerity is what He desires for our transformed relationships.

“Love must be sincere.” v.9 says.  The old KJV puts it, “Let love be without dissimulation.”  That means no simulations allowed.  No fakes.

The great theologian George Burns once said, “Sincerity is the key to success. If you can fake that, you can get away with anything!”  I wouldn’t have wanted to be George Burns’ friend!

Have you ever had a friend that wasn’t really a friend?

Back when I was a youth pastor, I saw a lot of that problem among the teens that I worked with.  Two people can spend a lot of time together, have similar interests, and share a lot of personal information, and yet not be real friends.

The teens (especially the girls for some reason) were famous for connecting with another teen for a short period of time and sharing all kinds of intimate discussion and then turning around and using it against each other.  Sharing it with someone they shouldn’t.  Gossiping the information down the grape-vine until someone got hurt.

It wasn’t real friendship.

Perhaps you know someone like that right now.  They are all friendly and nice to you to your face, but you wonder, “is it real?”  Do they really care or is it a fake?

Perhaps someone is wondering that about you right now.  Are you for real with your relationships?  Or are you just faking it?

“Love must be sincere.”

Christians can’t fake our love for one another.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we have to always share everything that is on our hearts.  We aren’t called to always be open.  But we are called to always be honest.

I was convicted as I wrote this sermon of the recent times when I’ve told someone in a very “sincere-sounding” tone that I would pray for them and then turned around and promptly forgot to pray.

But that’s not what God wants from me.  He wants me to be sincere, authentic, without hypocrisy.

The English word “sincere” comes from two Latin words, “syn-cere.”  In Latin, the prefix “syn” means “without” and “cere” means wax. Without-wax.

Because in the middle ages, if you were a potter and you dropped a piece of pottery that you were going to sell, if the pottery had just a “hair-line” fracture, then you might be tempted to cover over the crack with wax. The wax would blend in with the pottery and it would be weeks before the leak would show (or at least until the pottery got close to an open flame)–long enough for you to get away with selling it.

So, if you were pottery-shopping in those days, you would ask, is this vase without wax?  Is this vase “syn-cere?”  Is this vase sincere?

God is asking us that question right now.  Are there “hair-line” fractures in our “love” for others that we are papering over?  Is our love mostly real but 10% fake?

“Love must be sincere.”

Now, there is actually no verb in the original Greek there. It’s possible that it’s supposed to serve as like a heading for the whole section.

“Sincere Love.”

Everything flows from that.

For our second point, look at the second sentence in v.9.

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

#2. HATE WHAT IS EVIL; CLING TO WHAT IS GOOD.

Now this sentence is about hating evil in general and loving good in all of its forms, but it is sandwiched in between two sentences that are clearly about love and transformed relationships.  So, I can’t help but think that this verse is about wanting purity, holiness in your relationships.

Sometimes we get the idea that if we are going to be a good Christian friend, we will ignore the  shortcomings, failures, and sins of our friends. That is not what God says.
God says to hate evil even if it shows up in your friend!

Turn to the person next to you and say, “I hate the evil in you.”

(I love you, too!)

But isn’t that right?  Would it really be love if you just let your Christians friends destroy themselves with sin and wrong-doing?

I remember once my wife saying to me, “I hate the evil in you.”  And I felt loved.

She hates it when I am a hypocrite or when I exaggerate into falsehood or when I am a glutton or when I complain against a holy God.  She hates that in me.  She wants that gutted out of me.  And I hate the evil in her.  And that’s love!

Isn’t that how Jesus loves us? He loves us “just the way we are but too much to let us stay that way.”

Do you have a Christian friend who is caught in sin?  It very well could be UNLOVING for you to not confront them about it.  It could be UNLOVING for you to ignore their failure to obey God’s will for their lives.  It would be UNLOVING to simply accept their evil!

I hate confrontation. It’s the one thing I hate the most about being a pastor. I don’t  mind standing up here and calling sin, sin. But I hate to have to get into someone’s face about it. And I have often failed to do that loving confrontation.

But love does it.

Transformed love does that.

Transformed love goes to people caught in since and (gently as possible) shares with them where they are going wrong.

If I were in the second story of a burning house, you would hopefully love me enough to yell, “Fire!  Get out!”  You wouldn’t say, “Oh, I’m his friend.   I’d hate for him to  think that I’m ordering him around or think that I know something that he doesn’t.”

That would be unloving.  Love hates evil in the other person.  Go to that person this week and try to help them expunge the evil.

But purity is more than just getting rid of evil.  It is also (v.9), “cling[ing] to what is good.”  If all you do is go around poking your Christian friends and trying to pry out their bad parts, then you are missing more than half of friendship. The reason why they trust you to poke around in their evil is because you recognize and cling to what is good in them.

Do you do this with other Christians?  Do you catch them doing something good and right and pure and then congratulating and thanking them for it?

“Cling to what is good.”  If God is doing something in someone’s life, I want to encourage that, I want to sing God’s praises in their life, I want to bless them for that, I want to cling to it and fan it to flame in them.  Don’t you?

Isn’t that what the best of Christians do?  Don’t they bring out the best in you?  This is crucial.

1 Corinthians 13:6 says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

My wife is my best friend on Earth.  And Heather Joy is committed to seeing what God is doing in my life and then clinging to it.  When God has led me to draw closer in prayer, or to confess and renounce some sin, or to take some new step of faith, she is right there encouraging me on in purity.  That’s what we need.

Transformed people in our lives that hate the evil in us and who cling to what is good in us.

Do you see how that is a transformation? We don’t naturally do that. That’s a work of God’s grace.

#3. BE DEVOTED TO ONE ANOTHER IN BROTHERLY LOVE.

V.10. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”  Loyalty.

The word for “devoted” here in v.10 is a word that describes more than just sticking to someone else, it means being truly attached to someone like they were a family member.  Proverbs says, “A friend sticks closer than a brother.”

The ESV translates this, “Love one another with brotherly affection.”  That gets across the idea.  Love must be sincere, love must strive for purity, and love must be loyal with a brotherly kind of affection.

The Greek Word is literally, “Philadelphia.” Brotherly love.

That takes transformation, doesn’t it?

For Christians to see each other as brothers and sisters?

We talked about this last week especially with verse 5.

“In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

That’s the body metaphor.

This in verse 10 is the family metaphor.

We are brothers and sisters in Christ.

We belong to each other.

And I think it boils down to this. We care for each other.

We genuinely, truly care.

Do you care about your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Do your have affection for them. Look around this room. Do you care about these folks? Do you care what happens to them, good or bad?

As Christians, as transformed people, we are aren’t supposed to be passive or apathetic. We are to love each other with a brotherly love.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we are always going to like each other or agree with each other or enjoy being with each other.

I have a younger brother and we have not always liked each other or agreed with each other enjoyed being with each other.

But we are BROTHERS. We care about each other.

Thankfully, after we grew up we came to like each other, agree most of the time and enjoy each other’s company. Yesterday was my brothers’ birthday, and called him to see how he’s doing.

Do you call other Christians to see how they’re doing?

Do you treat fellow Christians as brother and sisters?

A transformed people are devoted to one another in brotherly love.

The fourth and last bulleted sentence comes from the last phrase in verse 10.

“Honor one another above yourselves.”

#4. HONOR ONE ANOTHER ABOVE YOURSELVES.

That takes transformation!

That takes humility.  That means putting someone else first.

The NIV is almost not strong enough here.  The ESV translates this better, “Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Our Christian relationships, if they are going to be good and godly and pleasing to the Lord, need to be contests of deference.

Love puts the other person’s needs ahead of your own.  1 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Love is not self-seeking.”

Let me ask you a trick question.  In your Christian relationships, whether they be husband and wife or friend to friend or whatever, which of you are more important in your relationship? You or the other person?  Which of the two of you is more important?

It’s a trick question.  Before God, you are both equal in worth and value.  And you both have equally important things to offer to your relationship.  The answer is: neither is more important.

So, who is going to go first?  Who is going to bend?  Who is going to serve whom?  Do you see why this quality is crucial?

God calls us to outdo one-another with honor.

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

D.L. Moody said, “The measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many men he serves.”

Have you ever had to “take a number” in a line at a store or at the PENN DOT  License Center or somewhere like that?  And they serve you in the order that you grabbed your number?  They call it out or flash it on a screen, “#27, #28, #29"

God calls us to regularly hand over our ticket to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  To put them ahead of ourselves in the line of life. Humility.

“Honor one another above yourselves.”

God is calling you to put them first.

“Honor one another above yourselves.”

Do you see how this take transformation?

You and I don’t do this stuff on our own.

On my own, I do not love sincerely.
On my own, I do not hate what is evil and cling to what is good.
On my own, I do not love other Christians with a brotherly love.
On my own, I do not honor anybody ahead of myself.

I need to be transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

BUT if I AM transformed, then I need to live a new way.

This weekend, I went down to Ligonier Camp and Conference Center to speak at First Free McKeesport Church’s Men’s Retreat.

First Free is the church where our much loved Pastor Jack Kelly went to pastor after he was our pastor. And he’s much loved there, too, even though he’s retired.

Their current pastor Kirk Albrecht asked me to preach 3 times yesterday on “Me and My Big Mouth,” on the connection between our hearts and our words. And how God wants to change both of them.

And yesterday, I hit this point hard:

That we don’t change to earn God’s favor.

We don’t change to rack up the points to see if we can measure up and achieve salvation.

Salvation is by faith alone in grace alone through Christ alone. And what He did on the cross for us.

But that grace changes us.

By grace, we are entered into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ that starts now and goes on forever.

And it changes all of our lives, including our relationships.

So, are you changing?
Am I changing?

Not to be saved but because we are saved?

There was an older man there, I’d say that he was in 80's. Most of the men at the retreat were younger men, 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's. But this fellow was older and his Pittsburgh neighborhood has changed over the years.

And changed for the worse.

Where it used to be filled with hard working, respectful steel worker types. It is now filled with people living off of the government and many of them disrespectful and dangerous.

This man has witnessed two shootings in his neighborhood in the last few years.

And this fellow has been consumed with anger about what has happened to his neighborhood.

But this weekend, God got a hold of this man and showed him that instead of sending him to a mission-field, God has sent the mission-field to him.

And instead of using his words to curse his neighbors, he is now going to seek ways to use his words to bless them and try to reach some of them for Jesus Christ.

This fellows knows Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

And that makes that the difference.

That transforms him.

God loves this man just as he is but too much to let him stay there.

He is changing. Even in his mid-80's he is changing.

God is building a transformed people.

Who live differently than the world.

How about you?

Are you being transformed?

Is your life marked by sincere love?
Is your life marked by purity, hating what is evil and clinging to what is good?
Is your life marked by brother love?
Is your life marked by honoring others above yourself?

May it be said that Lanse Free Church is a people being transformed by the gospel.

***

Messages in this Series:

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel
03. The Bad News
04. Hope for Holy Sexuality
05. The Even Worse News
06. The Worst News
07. Justified
08. Father Abraham
09. The Blessings of Justification
10. How Much More
11. New You
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ
14. No Condemnation
15. If the Spirit Lives in You
16. The Spirit of Sonship
17. We Know
18. For Us
19. Who?
20. God's Word Has Not Failed
21. Israel Stumbled
22. God Raised Him From the Dead
23. God Always Keeps His Promises
24. Therefore
25. How to Think of Yourself

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