Sunday, June 07, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "A Transformed People (Part Four)"

“A Transformed People (Part Four)”
All Roads Lead to Romans
June 7, 2015 :: Romans 12:17-21 

The first thing I want to say to today is that I have missed you all very much.

The last time I preached from this pulpit was May 17th. If you can believe that. And that Sunday, I had a fever. And I was fixing at that time (though I had no idea) to go to the hospital with diverticulitis and a perforated colon.

So the next Sunday, Donnie Rosie filled in for me as I convalesced. And I still didn’t get to stand in the back and shake your hands. It’s been about a month since I got to greet most of you personally. I’ve missed you, and it’s great to be back.

Last Sunday, I was up at Miracle Mountain Ranch with my 3 sons and four other guys from our church at the Father/Son Retreat that Donnie Rosie and his dad Don Rosie host up there each year.

We all had a phenomenal time up there. My boys are already talking about going again next year. We enjoyed riding the horses, taking the confidence course, shooting .22's and shotguns at clay pigeons and lots of great food and time getting to know other guys from other places.  I got to share from the Bible around the campfire [and juggling fire!] and we also heard from Don Rosie, Donnie’s dad.

Thank for you for releasing me last weekend to go. Donnie wrote me a little note that I’d like to share with you, “Dear Matt, Thank you for taking the time to spend sharing with this group. It was everything that I hoped it would be for these men. Maybe we can do it again some day. - Donnie.” Thank you all for making that possible.

Thank you for your prayers for me. I was concerned about sleeping in a tent. By the way, my boys and I set a new record for setting up the family tent...the longest time ever! It was our first time doing it without Mommy. We’ll be a lot faster next time.

I always struggle with sleeping in a tent, and this time it was just a week after I had been in the hospital for three days.

But I slept pretty good each day and I felt good, too. Thank you for praying for my health. I go to see a doctor this Wednesday to see if there are follow-up steps that I need to take to ensure my health into the future. I appreciate your prayers.

Now, the second thing I want to say is, “Do you remember what we’re learning in Romans 12?”

Because it’s been a looong time since we were in Romans together.

The title of my message is “A Transformed People (Part Four),” but I’m a little worried that you won’t remember what was in parts one through three!

So, let’s review.

The book of Romans is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christians who were living in Rome in the middle of the first century.

The church in Rome was made up of both Jews who had become Christians and Gentiles who had become Christians and they were struggling with one another. There were some tensions between them. We don’t know all of what those tensions were, but Paul is definitely trying to bring the together by seeing how the gospel brings them together.

And Paul hopes to visit them sometime soon and then using Rome as a base of support, launch from Rome to places West, even Spain to take his gospel to places where it has never yet been preached.

So, Paul began in chapter 1 to lay out his presentation of the gospel of grace. A gospel of which he says he is unashamed. Remember Romans 1:16?

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

And we’ve taken 28 Sundays to see Paul unpack that gospel.

It began with bad news, right?

Because of unrighteousness, the wrath of God is being revealed.

Because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

That’s true of both Jews and Gentiles. All have sinned. All are unrighteous and deserving the wrath of God.

The wages of sins are death.

But the good news is that God has supplied the righteousness we need through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:21

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

That’s apart from the law!

Justification is by faith in Christ alone.

That’s Paul’s gospel. And it’s glorious!

Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to re-preach Romans 4 through 11 to you today as well, but it’s important to remember when we are studying Romans 12 that it’s all built on the glorious gospel of Romans 1 through 11.

Romans 12 begins with these words, and they are our “Hide the Word Verse” for this month.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy [in view of the glorious gospel of grace presented in Romans 1 through 11], to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Because of God’s mercy, we are to give our whole selves to God.

And that will change us. Verse 2 says:

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

The gospel of grace will change you. It should change you. It must change you if you believe it.

We are to become a transformed people.

No longer conformed to the pattern of the world.
No longer living like the rest of the world lives.
No longer pressed into the mold that our unbelieving friends are pressed into.
No longer conformed.

But now transformed by the renewing of our mind in the word of God.

And that transformation, that change, affects every area of our life.

Is this coming back to you now?

It’s been almost a month since we were talking about this together.

Each week of this mini-series on “A Transformed People,” we read verses 9 through 21 and then just studied a couple of the verses at a time.

And I’d like to do that again. I’ll read verses 9 through 21, but our focus today will be on the very last paragraph of the chapter, verses 17 through 21.

Paul has saved the hardest transformation for last.

[Scripture Reading, Prayer]

Today is Graduation Sunday, and I thought about skipping over Romans yet another week and preaching a special message just for our graduates like I sometimes do.

But not only do I want to get us back to Romans as soon as possible, but I can think of no better counsel to give our graduates than what I just read. Romans 12. Especially verses 1 and 2 and verses 9 through 21.

Sheila, Tricia, Hannah, and Jordan, if you live out Romans 12, then you will experience a God-blessed life.

This is how God wants you to live as Christian adults in a broken and increasingly hostile world.

Romans 12 is a great place to go for a Graduation Sunday message.

But to live out Romans 12 will truly take transformation.

Because none of this comes naturally.

Some of us might be more naturally inclined to live out pieces and parts of Romans 12 than others, but to do it all will require the Spirit of God to transforms us into the image of the Son of God.

Because none of this comes naturally.

But, in my opinion, the hardest part to live out is today’s paragraph, the last paragraph, verses 17 through 21.

Paul is echoing the words of our Lord Jesus from what we call His Sermon on the Mount. And he’s saying, in essence, that a transformed people will love their enemies.

A transformed people will love their enemies.

That, my friends, does not come naturally.

What is natural is to hate our enemies.

To hate those who are opposed to us.
To hate those who persecute us.
To hate those who are against us.

And to actively seek their defeat and destruction.

But our Lord Jesus said “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44).

I think that’s probably the hardest thing that Jesus has ever asked us to do.

And Paul is just reminding us of it in Romans 12.

This is how real Christians live.

Christians transformed by the gospel love their enemies.

Now, Paul proceeds to teach on this in two major steps.


A transformed people will not repay evil for evil. Verse 17.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.”

This means no paybacks.

Someone does you dirty, you don’t do them dirty in return.

No tit for tat.

No eye for an eye.

No getting them back for that.

We do not repay evil for evil.

We often want to, but a follower of Christ does not retaliate in kind.

Is that difficult to live out?

You bet it is. When we are harmed, the natural response is to harm someone in return.

To get them right back.

That’s what’s natural.

But God is calling us to live supernaturally.

To live in view of the mercy of God.

To be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Now, the second half of verse 17 says, “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.”

I think that means to try to live out the generally accepted norms in society when it comes to conflict. Not everyone will agree on everything, but if most people agree on  something, try to live it out.

And most people believe that it’s good to avoid conflict whenever possible. V.18

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Don’t be itching for a fight.

The goal should be to live peaceably with your neighbors whether they are Christians or nonChristians. Whether they are with you or opposed to you.

Whether they are your friends or even your enemies.

As much as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone.

Now, that means two things. One is that it’s not always possible to achieve this goal.

Some people will be your enemies.

Sheila, Tricia, Hannah, and Jordan, you’ve gotten through high school, you already know this. Some people will be your enemies.

Christians, some people will be your enemies.

No matter what you do.

In fact, our Lord Jesus told us that some people will hate us just because we believe in Him.

No matter how loving you are, some people will hate you.

That’s a reality we must come to grips with in our day and age.

Some people will be our enemies.

However, this verse also is saying that we don’t have to return the favor.

It takes two to tango.

So, we don’t have to show up to every fight to which we’re invited.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

It’s not always possible, but we as followers of Jesus need to do everything that we can do to avoid repaying evil for evil.

We are to work diligently at being peacemakers.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Now, that’s peacemakers, not peacefakers. That’s not teaching that we are to pretend that everything is right and hunky-dorey when it most certainly isn’t.

But we are to strive for peace, as much as it depends upon us.

We are to do our part.

And not to retaliate. V.19

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

We do not repay evil for evil.

“Do not take revenge.”

“Do not grab your own justice.”

King James says, “Avenge not yourselves.”

Don’t become an Avenger for yourself.

Man, that’s hard.

I don’t know about you, but I love to seek justice for myself.

If I perceive myself as wronged, my first reaction is always to defend myself and promote my own justice. And if I don’t check myself, it’s to want that evil done to me to be done to that person who brought it on me.

And to volunteer for the job of bringing it.

But Paul says that I’m not be my own Avenger.

There is an another Avenger who will do it better than I ever could.

And it’s not Captain America. Verse 19 again.

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Leave room for God’s wrath. Get out of His way.

He’ll settle the scores. He’ll right the wrongs. You don’t have to be a vigilante for yourself.

“‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

“Yeah, but sometimes, it doesn’t seem like it’s working!”

Sometimes it seems like we have to take it in hand because God is not bringing it.

But God’s justice is perfect and so is His timing.

It’s not wrong to want justice. It is wrong to take it into your own hands.

We do not repay evil for evil.

It’s not our job.

It’s God’s job to avenge, and He will do it perfectly. It’s our job to leave room for God to do His. Amen?

But Paul takes it this all one step further. And it’s a harder step to take.

Because, as Christians, we are not called to simply not-retaliate. We are called to actively seek the good of our enemies. We are called to love our enemies.


“On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

That’s going the extra mile, isn’t it?

That certainly doesn’t come naturally.

The world says that, sure, we should avoid conflict if possible so there is less conflict in the world.

But God says to not only avoid conflict but to actively seek the good of our enemies.

“On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.”

If he has needs, seek to meet them.

Go beyond justice to graciousness. Generosity.

Now, by the way, that’s crazy.

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if [your enemy] is thirsty, give him something to drink?"

Won’t that put you in even more danger?

Yes, it actually might.

But that’s how Christians live. We love our enemies.

We do good to them.

We seek their good even as they seek evil for us.

Is that hard to live out? Oh yes it is.

But it’s what we are called to.

Paul quotes Proverbs 25 here in saying that lovingly caring for the needs of our enemies will “heap burning coals” on their heads.

Now, I’m not sure exactly what that means. There are two main interpretations prevalent through church history.

One is that the burning coals are our enemies’ consciences which are painfully pointing out to them how they have wronged us. When they see us love them in return, their consciences will sorely remind them of the evil they have done and they will regret it and repent of it.

That’s possible, and I like it.

The other main interpretation points out that burning coals are always judgment or punishment in the Old Testament, so this is saying that as we return good for evil, it heaps up more punishment on our enemies so that when God avenges us, there is more ammunition for that justice.

That could be right, as well.

Either way, our showing active love to those who hate us, is the right things for a transformed people to do.

We are to go bigger than them.

We don’t just suffer injustices; we actually love those who perpetrate them against us. V.21

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

That’s how we get the victory. We gain the victory by loving our enemies.

And showing the world the love of Christ.

Now, this raises for me a host of questions in how to apply it in various difficult situations. And I don’t have all of the answers.

There are a lot of “what about this?” and “what about that?” that this teaching raises for me.

I don’t have all of the answers.

But I do know that we aren’t supposed to argue these verses away.

We are supposed to live them out.

We are called to overcome evil with good.

Sheila, Tricia, Hannah, Jordan, Christians are called to overcome evil with good.

Lanse Free Church, we are called to overcome evil with good.

Now, that sounds really good, but it’s really hard to do.

To not repay evil for evil, and even more to repay evil with good.

What does that look like in your situation right now?

At very the least, it looks like verse 14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

What comes out of your mouth about your enemies?

What shows up on your Facebook account about your enemies?

What do you tweet about those who persecute you?

What have you said that needs to be repented of?

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

And it’s more than just our words. It’s our actions, too.

What are the genuine needs of our enemies? And how can we meet them?

Realizing that it’s God’s job to settle the scores.

Who are you enemies right now and what might you be called to do show them love?

Maybe it’s someone who has persecuted you on the job.
Maybe it’s someone who is pestered you on social media.
Maybe it’s that person who unfriended you.
Maybe it’s your ex-boyfriend or your ex-girlfriend or your ex-wife or ex-husband.
Maybe it’s someone of the opposite political persuasion as you.
Maybe it’s someone of another religion.

How do we as Christians relate to Muslims?

How do we as Christians relate to members of ISIS?

ISIS is most certainly the enemy of Christians.

They have announced that loud and clear.

And while we do not love the organization of ISIS, we as Christians are called to love the members of it.

Who is your enemy?

And how are you called to love them?

Maybe it’s not as big as all that, but God has brought to your mind an enemy that you are called to not just refrain from hurting but to actively show counter-cultural, counter-natural love to.

Who is your enemy?

And how are you called to love them?

I don’t have all of the answers to that question for each of us.

But I know that God is calling us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we come to love our enemies.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

That sounds good, but it’s really hard.

How are we going to do that?

We do it by remembering how Jesus did it to us and for us.

Remember chapter 5, verse 8?  “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were still God’s enemies, Christ died for us.

1 Peter 2:23.  “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. [The True Avenger.] He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Jesus loved His enemies to save us and to show us that it can be done.

Renew your mind with that.

Jesus loved His enemies to save us and to show us how to do it ourselves.

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Let us allow the Spirit of God to transform us as a people so that we follow Jesus in those steps.


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)
28. A Transformed People (Part Three)