Friday, September 15, 2017

Romans, Day 35: Romans 12:9-21 - What Does a Faithful Christian Life Look Like?

Today's Reading: Romans 12:9-21

What Does a Faithful Christian Life Look Like?

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another . . . Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless . . Rejoice . . . Live in harmony . . . Do not be haughty . . . Never be wise in your own sight. . . . give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all . . . live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 
- Romans 12:12-21, ESV

What does it look like to live a faithful Christian life? Paul told us in the beginning of Romans 12 that being a living sacrifice is our reasonable worship in response to the mercy of God in the Gospel. He then told us of the importance of humility, not thinking of ourselves more highly than we should. So, if we're to be humble living sacrifices, what does that look like?

Too often we over-spiritualize the Christian life. We think that living as a faithful Christian involves memorizing lots of the Bible, praying aloud eloquently, maybe being involved in full-time Christian ministry. Paul mentions none of these things as he unpacks our living application of the Gospel in today's passage. Instead, he is intensely practical and focused on love.

The late Rich Mullins, who went home to the Lord 20 year ago this month, once said this to a group of fellow Christian musicians -

I would like to encourage you to stop thinking of what you're doing as ministry. Start realizing that your ministry is how much of a tip you leave when you eat in a restaurant; when you leave a hotel room whether you leave it all messed up or not; whether you flush your own toilet or not. Your ministry is the way that you love people. And you love people when you write something that is encouraging to them, something challenging. You love people when you call your wife and say, 'I'm going to be late for dinner,' instead of letting her burn the meal. You love people when maybe you cook a meal for your wife sometime, because you know she's really tired. Loving people - being respectful toward them - is much more important than writing or doing music.” - Rich Mullins

Love is a more important ministry than writing or singing songs, writing or preaching sermons, writing or publishing books or devotional blog posts. Love must be genuine. To be genuine in our love, we must hate what is evil and cling to what is good. Otherwise, love might just be people-pleasing passivity or feel-good platitudes.

As we seek to live a life of love, we must always do so with zeal, serving the Lord, and we must be constantly in prayer. This is because our life of love is to be lived to the glory of God and will only be possibly by the power of the grace of God.

Love, according to God's definition, is intensely practical and extremely challenging. To love, we must outdo one another in showing honor, we must serve each other, show hospitality, forgive each other, contribute to the needs of the saints, live in harmony and live peaceably with all. If this weren't enough, we are called to bless those who persecute us, to be patient in tribulation, and never seek to avenge ourselves. Never. Talk about tough love!

How can we live this life of love? We need to remember how much we have been loved and forgiven. A constant attitude of repentance and humble gratitude for God's mercy fuels us as we seek to love others. We love as we have been loved, and so we must receive the love of God in order to extend it to others. We must know deeply how often we have offended the Lord and been forgiven, what it cost to save us and how it pleased Him to pay the price. The deep and earnest application of the love of God to our hearts and lives by the Holy Spirit is the source and fuel of all of our true love for others.

God's love is not easy or simplistic. It never compromises His holiness. It is never cheesy or superficial or merely "nice." It is powerful, deep, persevering, forgiving, life-changing. His love and His love alone changes us deeply enough to change the way we love others. May He do so for His glory in each of our hearts!

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