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Sunday, May 17, 2015

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

“A Transformed People: Part Three”
All Roads Lead to Romans
May 17, 2015 :: Romans 12:13-16 

Romans 12 is important because it’s the first chapter in Romans to really tell us what to do. Chapters 1 through 11 told us what to believe, and that’s crucially important.

We need to believe the gospel of grace. We need to believe in justification by faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone and all of the amazing blessings and trustworthy promises that come with that gospel of grace.

But after 11 chapters of what we need to believe, here Paul begins to tell us what we need to do in light of that grace.

“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.”

That’s what we’re supposed to do–to give our whole selves to God.

And then, we will be CHANGED.

Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

We’re spending so much time together in Romans 12 because God wants to tell us here what kind of “A Transformed People” He wants us to become.

“A Transformed People.”

A community of Christians who have been changed and are being changed by the gospel.

“A Transformed People.”

As with the last two Sundays, I’m going to read this whole section to you, verses 9 through 21, but then only preach a few of the bullet-point verses.

Two weeks ago, we focused on verses 9 and 10. Then last week, we did verses 11 and 12. Today, I’m going to go large and try to do 4 verses, verses 13 through 16.

And as we unpack them, I’ve got three major headings of character qualities that “A Transformed People” will exhibit.

Are you changing?

Have you been infected by the gospel of Jesus Christ in such away that you have been changed and are being changed into the person that God wants you to be?

Are you changing?

Are you different from how you used to be?

Are you different from how the world is? Are you breaking out of its mold, and being transformed by the renewing of your mind through biblical truth?

Are you changing?

There are nine imperatives in these four verses. Nine commands to obey.

And obeying them does not come naturally to people like you and me.

Some of them are easier than others, but none of them are natural. They are supernatural and they require change.

I’m going to put them under 3 major headings this morning. Number one:

A Transformed People will be marked by:

#1. GENEROSITY.

Paul proceeds in three ever more difficult steps. First sentence of verse 13.

“Share with God's people who are in need.”

The word translated “God’s people” is the word for “saint” or “holy ones.” Remember that’s you and me. That’s other Christians. Not super-Christians but regularly old Christians. That’s why the NIV went with “God’s people.”

“Share (food, clothing, shelter, finances) with God’s people who are in need.”

The word for “share” here builds off the word for fellowship “Koinonia.” Having something in common.

Here there are Christians who have needs, and a people transformed by the gospel will see those needs and respond with generosity.

Does that come easily or naturally?

Well, I suppose for some people it does somewhat. Some people are just naturally generous. But this is supernaturally generous.

What does the world say? The world sometimes lauds generosity, but it also often  cautions us against it. The world often says, “Your needs come first. Charity starts at home. If there’s anything left over, then you can be generous.”

But God says, “Share with your fellow Christians who are in need.”

This church is really good at that. You folks are amazing at seeing the needs that others have and doing something about it.

I’ve learned so much about generosity from watching you in action.

I’ve learned that when I see a truly needy fellow Christian that I ought to be willing to meet that need.

Now in the second half of verse 13, Paul turns up the heat a little and makes it a bit harder. He says, “Practice hospitality.”

Or even stronger, “Pursue hospitality.”  “Chase after hospitality. Roll up your sleeves and give yourself to it.”

Now, the Greek word for “hospitality” here is “philozenian.” And it means to love a stranger.

This isn’t just being generous with those people that you know and love already and are like you.

This is being generous with your home and your resources for those who may not be like you and may even be passing through. People you just met!

Have you ever had anyone over to your home that you just met?

Some people aren’t willing to use their homes as ministry tools at all.

But this is calling us to not only use our homes in ministry but to use them in ministry to strangers.

Now, there are safety aspects of that kind of ministry that should be taken into account. We are called to be prudent, to be wise, to be a shrewd as snakes while being innocent as doves.

It’s right to be careful in practicing hospitality, but we are called to pursue hospitality.

Using our homes and other resources to show the love of Christ to strangers.

Being a pastor near an exit on an interstate led to some pretty interesting interactions over the years.

I remember once meeting a group of young people from the inner city who had run out gas here at Kylertown and didn’t even have a jacket among them even though it was January.

They were trying to get from Florida to Texas to Indiana to New York City and they had run out of money.

Their names were Lance, JaTon, Fred, and Lindsey. And JaTon was pregnant with a little girl they were naming “Justice.”

Heather and I decided to bring them home and give them a home-cooked meal and offer them a place to stay for the night.

I remember the young guy, not much more than kid named Fred said, "I'm not used to this hospitality!"

Our kids enjoyed playing with them. And then when it was time to leave, they backed up into the yard and their car wheel fell into a hole that the kids had dug in the front yard!  We had to get out and push them out of the hole.

It was Wednesday night, and we brought them to church with us.

I knew how you folks would treat them. I knew that you would take them in as family and show them hospitality here on our campus.

They were different than many of us are. They looked different.  They talked a little different.  They hadn’t made good plans or acted wisely in figuring out how to get from here to there.  Fred didn’t even have a winter coat!

I gave him one of my old ones from High School. I didn’t fit in it anymore.

And they were really thankful.

That’s ministry folks. It doesn’t come naturally, it comes super naturally.

“Practice hospitality.” Be generous with your home. Go out of your way to care for travelers, strangers, aliens–those different from you.

The world says, “If you don’t know them, don’t have anything to do with them.”

Don’t conform to the world. Be transformed and pursue hospitality?

Are you changing?

Do you see how counter-cultural, how counter-world these things are that God is asking us to do?

It gets harder in verse 14. Instead of just showing generosity to your fellow Christians and to perhaps neutral strangers, God is calling us to show generosity to our enemies. V.14

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

I know that one doesn’t come naturally!

Paul is obviously drawing from our Lord Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount.

We are called to love our enemies.

To bless those who persecute us; bless and do not curse.

That’s hard to do.

It’s pretty near impossible to do if you don’t know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

The world says, “If they hurt you, then you hurt them back.”

Like Sean Connery says in the movie the Untouchables:

“You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way!”

That’s the world’s way.

But Jesus’ way is more than just the opposite.

It’s not just refraining from cursing your persecutor, it’s blessing them.

That’s generosity!

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

I believe that loving your enemy is probably the hardest thing that Jesus ever taught us to do.

But if He hadn’t done it, then none of us would be here today.

We live off of the love that God had for His enemies, and we’re called to do the same.

By the way, that’s how we do it. We remember that while we were still God’s enemies, Jesus died for us.

In view of the mercies of God, be transformed to bless your enemy. Bless and do not curse.

That means seeking blessing in tangible ways on those who hate you.

That means no cursing them on social media.

That means no cursing them under your breath.

That means no cursing them anywhere, but instead blessing them.

Now, Paul is going to expand on this in verses 17 through 21 which, Lord-willing, we will study together next week, so we’ll talk more about what this looks like, but I want you to see just how counter-cultural, counter-intuitive, and counter-natural this is.

This requires transformation.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

Practice generosity even with your enemies.

Number two.

A Transformed People will be marked by:

#2. UNITY. V.15

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

I almost said, “solidarity” for this point, but I decided that it was too big a word.

A transformed people will be marked by unity.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Now, that sounds good, but then you realize that sometimes you’re supposed to do both of those at the same time.

Because in a church family there are some people who are weeping at any given time and at the same given time those who are celebrating something.

And a transformed people will do both. They will be unified and empathize with those who are hurting and party with those who are partying.

What gets in the way of that?

Envy. It’s hard to celebrate with someone if you wish you had what they are enjoying.

When someone else wins the race or gets the girl or achieves the rank or lands the job and you wish it was you. It’s hard to rejoice when they rejoice.

It’s also hard to mourn when you are secretly glad that something bad happened to someone else. Smugness. A sense of self-righteous justice.

“They deserve it.”

When you say that to yourself with that tone of inner voice, you’re probably not mourning with those who mourn.

A transformed people will be marked by solidarity, by oneness, by unity with each other, no matter what is going on good or bad.

You know one place where I’ve tried to apply verse 15 recently is to all of racial conflict and conflict with the police that we’ve seen in Baltimore and other places this last year.

I try to mourn with the black families who have lost their sons.

And at the same time, I try to mourn with the police families who have lost theirs.

I don’t think it should be either/or.

It shouldn’t be just “I support people like me. Or the groups I like.”

That’s what the world says. That’s what social media says.

But Jesus says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Especially in the body of Christ. Verse 16.

“Live in harmony with one another.”

Literally, “Think like one another.”

Share the same values. Live in gospel-centered unity.

Verse 18 is going to tell us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

As followers of Christ, we are to be peacemakers and unifiers, bringing people together.

Not folks who are always looking for a fight.

Of course, this does not mean that we will always agree with each other. But it means that we should work towards agreement and disagree agreeably whenever we can.

The church needs to be unified.

Remember Aaron’s oily beard?

I love the strange imagery of Psalm 133.

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes.”

There was nothing more holy than that smelly gooey stuff anointing Aaron and he was covered with holiness. And that’s what unity is. It’s utterly holy.

“It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Unity is refreshing like the dew of massive Mount Hermon falling on tiny little Mount Zion and springing it to life with all of that juicy verdant goodness!

A transformed people will be marked by holy and refreshing unity.

The world says, “Speak your mind.” Jesus says, “Live in harmony with one another.”

What steps do you need to take to live out that command?

How do you need to change so that you are harmonious with other Christians?

We can’t just be itching for a fight.

The way forward to that unity involves number three.

#3. HUMILITY.

A transformed people will be marked by humility. Verse 16.

“Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

The New Living Translation says in verse 16, “Don't try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all!”

Humility.

Of course, some of us have a lot to be humble about.

Does humility come naturally?

I suppose some people are more naturally humble than others.

But pride is a problem that all of us deal with.

And we need to be transformed.

The world says that everything is about us and should revolve around us.

And the world says that we should play up to important powerful people, people who can get us something and improve our standing and reputation.

But God says to associate with people of low position.

And don’t think too highly of yourself.

When I was a student at Moody Bible Institute, I took part in a ministry to homeless and jobless people affiliated with First Evangelical Free Church of Chicago named Breakthrough Urban Ministries.

My job was to show up and listen to people. Not teach them anything, just listen to them.

And when I could, I was to try to help them develop a resume. And print them out for them to work on getting jobs.

I remember taking a guy in my car across Chicago to a burger joint that was hiring and he had his one page resume that I had typed for him.

And it was a joy to know him and all of them.

They weren’t great and powerful. They were small and almost helpless socially-speaking.

But we are called, as God’s people to stoop down and get on the same level as others and not to think that we deserve to be on any level.

Humility.

Isn’t that what God showed us in Jesus?

Philippians 2:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Vv.5-11)
Our attitude should be like his. Humble.

The world says to be proud. Stick your chest out and be proud.

You are special.
You are great.
You are the best.

God says, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

Love the poor. Love the helpless.

Stoop to tie the shoe of little kid.

Listen to the mentally handicapped person when they try to tell you a story.

Move into rougher neighborhood instead of moving on up.

Don’t look down your nose at “those” kind of people.

Don’t get drunk on yourself and up on your high horse.

But be humble.

That takes grace.

It doesn’t come naturally, only supernaturally.

Only through the gospel of a humble God-Man.

Isn’t that an amazing thought? A humble God-Man?!

The gospel is good news of crucified God who became man and humbled himself to die for you and me.

And so we can humble ourselves, too.

Are you changing?

Have you been changed and are you being changed?

Is your life marked by generosity?

It’s easier with God’s people, harder with strangers, and near impossible with enemies, but God says to do it.

Is your life marked by unity?

Are you picking fights or your standing in solidarity with those mourn and those who rejoice?

Is your life marked by humility?

Are you proud, conceited, thinking too highly of yourself?

Or are you willing to associate with the last, the least, and the lost?

May God make us a transformed people who live counter-culturally, counter-intuitively, and counter-naturally.

Becoming different from the world.

No longer conformed but transformed by the gospel of grace.

***

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
26. A Transformed People (Part One)
27. A Transformed People (Part Two)

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