The Mercies of God and the Transformed Christian Mind, Session 4
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(These notes taken during the session)
“Let Love Be Genuine”
Genuine here literally is unhypocritical. Just like 1 Corinthians 13, Paul follows spiritual gifts (vv. 3-8) with love (v. 9). He begins with love. These verses (9-21) will be all about love and mercy.
What drives hypocrisy? Why would anyone want to love hypocritically? Hypocrisy is trying to be on the outside what you’re not on the inside. What drives Paul command to not let love be a show?
What drives hypocrisy is pride. “I want people to think I’m great. I’m not, but I want people to think I am.” Here’s the link with verses 1-3. All of this chapter flows out of those verses. Pride is second-hander religion; it gets its energy from other people. But verse three commends the opposite of pride. Humility is thankful. Prideful people aren’t thankful. Because Paul is driving against pride all throughout chapter 12, he says here that our love should not be hypocritical.
“Abhor What Is Evil; Hold Fast to What Is Good”
“Love genuinely....Abhor....” This is a remarkable juxtaposition. What is implied in Paul saying abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good?
Implication #1: There is such a thing as evil that is objective and out there. Evil and good aren’t created by what we affirm as evil and good. It’s objective, concrete reality outside our preferences in the biblical worldview. The great thing about reading the Bible is that children absorb this.
Implication #2: Choosing is not enough; inner intensity is required. Christianity is not a willpower religion; it’s a passion religion. You can’t obey this verse without passion.
Implication #3: The Bible commands that our emotions be changed even though we don’t have immediate control over them. We must get our emotional life into biblical shape. Over time as you contemplate the ugly and the beautiful, you can get a whole new range of emotions.
Implication #4: Objective moral good is good for us, and objective moral evil is bad for us—whether it looks like it is or not.
Implication #5: Genuine love must hate: “Let love be genuine....Abhor....” Where people are being hurt by evil, love must hate, or it doesn’t love people. If you don’t hate, you don’t love. There are things in this world that are destroying human beings. If you don’t hate those things, you don’t love those people.
“Love One Another with Brotherly Affection; Outdo One Another in Showing Honor”
What we’re called upon to feel in the church is brotherly affection, not just strong resolve to treat each other nicely. Again we’re commanded to do something beyond our natural capacity.
Again we’re cast upon verse two. There are other believers in the body of Christ that are hard to get along with, and we need the gospel to change us so that we truly love them with brotherly affection. (I don’t want to set the bar too high: Brotherly affection can look different than niceness. Brothers can look like they don’t like each other, but if you let them get a common enemy.... The relationships may not always look nice, but when it’s over, we’re going to the same home with the same Savior. I’ll lay my life down for you).
What does “show honor” mean? None of us ultimately is honorable. You honor someone by serving them as though they were worthy of your service. This is what Christ did when He died. How do you outdo someone in showing honor? Desire to serve more than you desire to be served. You won’t reject their service (that’s prideful), but you’ll desire to serve more than be served.
“Do Not Be Slothful in Zeal; Be Fervent in Spirit; Serve the Lord”
Not being slothful in zeal and being fervent in spirit could seem contradictory on the surface. The first type could be an unemotional pragmatist; the second kind could be the emotional poet. Paul won’t let either of us be content where we are. The emotional shouldn’t be slothful, and the pragmatist shouldn't be unemotional. The Bible gets at you wherever you are. Keep growing.
“Serve the Lord” adds a focus to the previous two phrases. Make this all in the service of the Lord. He’s after a certain kind of service to Jesus.
What does it mean to serve the Lord? Romans 16:17: serving Jesus, not your appetites; you serve an appetite not by providing help to your appetite but by indulging yourself in it; so serving Jesus is caving into Jesus, glutting yourself on Jesus, being satisfied in Jesus. Eph. 6:6: serving Jesus is contrasted with pleasing people; be more interested in the approval of Christ than the approval of man. Romans 7:6: serving Christ is not serving the law but serving Jesus; come to Jesus first as law-fulfiller, not a law-demander. And the Lord really is the one who serves us (Rom. 15:18). All of our service to Christ is Christ’s service to us. Serving Jesus never pays Him back. Every step of service we take we go deeper into dept to Him. You never can pay Him back by serving Him (1 Cor. 15:10). Eternity will be a never-ending spiral into greater and greater debt to grace.
“Rejoice in Hope; Be Patient in Tribulation; Be Constant in Prayer”
Tribulation sticks out. Theology 101: Through many tribulations you must enter the kingdom. The backdrop of our lives is pain. The word simply means pressure or oppression. It can comes from enemies or from cancer. Satan’s design is to destroy your faith. And God’s design is to strengthen your faith. If you don’t have any tribulation, you will. Now let’s weave the other pieces in.
Rejoice. When there’s tribulation, how can I rejoice? Hope. The future is where our hope is fixed and that hope streams back into the present and gives us joy now. It’s more radical in chapter 5. Even the tribulation itself is working in us that which makes our hope more sure. We don’t just hope in spite of tribulation, but also because of tribulation.
Born out of that joy is the word patience. How are you going to hang in there until the end with all this tribulation?
What serves this hope and patience is constancy in prayer. Pray Eph. 1:15ff. for yourself. Pray that you would see what is yours in Christ so clearly that your joy would rise and you would face tribulation unflinchingly.
“Contribute to the Needs of the Saints; Seek to Show Hospitality”
We’re very rich in America. Our homes should be open to strangers. The reason it had to be commanded is because it’s dangerous. Hospitality can be dangerous. It was dangerous to be a Christian for the first three hundred years. Meeting needs today often feels risky. And added to that, our parents are dying and leaving us baby boomers with trillions of dollars. Let’s resolve right now not to waste our lives with this. Let’s use this money for the kingdom. It’s dangerous to leave our kids with so much money. Money is so dangerous in Jesus’ mind, so much more than sex. Be rich toward God. God is your riches. “Fool” will be spoken over every baby boomer who piles it up and piles it up and dies. Make God your Treasure. Show with your money that He is more valuable than money. And the best way is to give it away.
“Bless Those Who Curse You; Bless and Do Not Curse Them; Rejoice with Those Who Rejoice and Weep with Those Who Weep”
What do those two verses have to do with each other? Mercy: being disposed toward your persecutors as God is disposed toward you. Not just acting it out, but inwardly wanting our enemies to prosper.
Why wouldn’t you rejoice with someone who’s rejoicing? You don’t like them, and you’re mad that they’re happy. To be the kind of person that rejoices with the rejoicer you have to be glad that they’re happy. And to weep with the weeper you have to be sad that things aren’t going well for them. What an amazing person. Those who are full of themselves get upset when others are happy and are happy when others weep. Pride is under this again. This all goes back to verses 1-3 and being enamored with Christ.
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