Let the Gospel Transform the Way You Love

Dr. Steve Viars September 13, 2020 Romans 12:9-21
Outline

John 16:33 - In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

2 Timothy 3:12 - Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

3 ways your salvation impacts how you relate to others so that our bodies are instruments in the Redeemer’s hands

I. Let Your Love be Sincere – vv. 9-13

Romans 12:9 - Let love be without hypocrisy…

a-hupocritos – not being like an actor on a stage

A. By relating properly to good and evil – v. 9

Romans 12:9 - Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

B. By devoting yourself to growing in this kind of love – vv. 10-11

Romans 12:10-11 - Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.

Philippians 2:12-13 - So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

C. By maintaining hope even when love is hard – v. 12

Romans 12:12 - …rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer…

D. By joyfully sacrificing for those in need – v. 13

Romans 12:13 - …contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

II. Let Your Love Address Persecution – vv. 14-16

A. By knowing how to speak when you are mistreated – vv. 14-15

Romans 12:14-15 - Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Romans 6:11 - Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

B. By knowing how to think when you are persecuted

Romans 12:16 - Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Romans 3:9-10 - What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, not even one…

III. Let Your Love Overcome Evil – vv. 17-21

Romans 12:9 - Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

A. Have the right plan – v. 18

Romans 12:17 - Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

pronoew – “respect what is right”

B. Have the right balance – v. 18

Romans 12:18 - If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

C. Have the right perspective

Romans 12:19 - Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

D. Have the right love

Romans 12:20-21 - But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

- one of the greatest challenges any person faces is how to respond when someone is treating you in an evil fashion…Jesus made it clear…

- John 16:33 - …In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

- that’s called…practicing full disclosure…and it also flies against those who teach some kind of health and wealth theology – that if you have enough faith, God will give you whatever you can envision…that’s simply false advertising…Paul said it like this…

- 2 Timothy 3:12 - Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

- so without a doubt…every person has to have an answer for how to respond when you believe someone is treating you in an evil fashion…

- and we could talk about that an any level we desired…

- whether it’s a family member who disappoints you in some way…

- or a person at school who makes fun of the way you look or won’t do their share of the work on the group project…

- or the neighbor who blasts his music late at night while you’re trying to sleep…

- or a co-worker who lies about you or gossips behind your back..

- it’s a customer who steals your product…or a supplier who ships you defective parts…

- it’s a country that said people of your gender can’t vote…

- or a so-called supreme court who says people of your ethnicity are only 3/5 of a person or that taking life inside a mother’s womb is perfectly acceptable…

- we could go on and on, but for anyone wiling to think in a binary fashion…that there really is good and evil…and that Jesus and the apostle Paul were right in what they affirmed…that leaves us in a position where we have to have an answer to the question we’re posing – what do you do when you believe someone is treating you in an evil fashion?...

- the answers our world offers fall woefully short…perhaps the most common is

1. Be evil back, and a little bit worse…

- that seems to describe much of our so-called political discourse…which far too often resembles a food fight in junior high school..

- but the mentality is – never let an insult go unanswered…

- return evil for evil…and generally in an escalated fashion…

- we see that in counseling where you’re dealing with relationships that are severely fractured and when you start peeling off layers of the onion you find that the initial problem was relatively small and easily solvable…

- but because people believed that you respond to evil by additional helpings of increased evil…well, here we are…

2. Some would say – no, I know that doesn’t please God…but the approach they take is…

- quietly plan your revenge…

- for far too many people, they could complete this sentence a lot faster than they could list God’s Ten Commandments…

- I don’t get mad…but I certainly get even…

- and there’s that seething anger under the surface and simmering bitterness…

- “vengeance will be mine” is this person’s mantra…

- and even though they may look sweet on the outside…after all, they didn’t immediately return evil…

- what’s on the inside is scheming and planning and waiting for the day the trap can be sprung…I will get even with that person someday…

3. Then there’s those who would say – well, those two options are obviously diabolical…so my approach is to simply cut off people who treat me in an evil fashion…

- you get one chance…or maybe two or three…but once you cross the line, I’m done with you…

- it’s called “fool-proofing your life”…an approach, by the way, I’m very glad God doesn’t choose to take with His children…

- but I’ll build a wall, so I don’t have to deal with that…and I’ll build another wall, so I don’t have to deal with you…

- and its amazing how small a person’s world can become if they take the position – I’m going to insulate myself from any/all evil…I never want to be disappointed; I never want to be hurt; I never want to be offended…

- do you see yourself in any of those descriptions?...do you have a strategy in place to direct you when you’re being treated in an evil fashion?...

- what is your working theology that guides you on this question?

- thankfully, the gospel has an answer that is both unique and powerful…that’s what we’d like to study this am…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Romans chapter 12, verse 9…

- we’re talking this morning about how we can Let the Gospel Transform the Way You Love

- we’re going to think about how the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ which was described so comprehensively in Romans 1-11 gives us practical direction for questions even as challenging as the one we’re posing this am…

- while you’re turning there, let’s me update you on a new potential business venture for our church…but we’re going to need your help in finalizing the best name for the product, thoughts about packaging, advertising, distribution, and those types of issues…

- this started last Sunday at our 11:00 service at Faith east where we had the delightful privilege of having Steve Philpott and his family with us…

- Steve was in the hospital battling COVID for 97 days…and honestly it looked very, very bad for a long, long, time…

- well, the Lord answered our prayers and provided great medical care and a marvelous recovery and although Steve has a long road ahead of him, he wanted to be in the Lord’s house last Sunday…

- I told the church family that’s about the closest I’ve ever come to knowing what it felt like to preach after Lazarus was raised from the dead and then he was in the room while you were speaking about the power of God…

- but anyway, after the service…his sweet wife Linda who was an absolute trooper through all of this quietly came over to me and through her mask said to me…I have a confession to make…

- it’s amazing, btw, how many people start their conversations with me using those words…

- then she said something like, at the height of Steve’s illness…when he was doing very poorly…I had a stretch where I was just exhausted, having trouble sleeping…

- and Sunday rolled around…and I wanted to watch church on-line, but I didn’t even have the energy to get out of bed…

- so I just propped my laptop up in the bed…and as soon as I heard the sound of your voice…I instantly went to sleep and got several hours of the best sleep I had enjoyed in weeks…

- I guess that’s proof yet again that I’m here to serve you in any way I possibly can…

- but I immediately began thinking about the business aspect of this…surprise, surprise…

- according to a Consumer Reports article in 2016…do you know how Americans struggle getting a good nights sleep at least a week?...164 million…that’s about half our country’s population…do you know how much they spend in sleeping aids?...41 billion dollars’ worth in 2016, and that was projected to be 50 billion in 2020 (and that was before COVID)…

- all we have to do is send out tapes of my sermons…so if we can get this going on FB…possible product names, packaging, marketing strategies…this could be just another way we’re loving our community, and our world…

- in an odd way, that almost segues into our text…

- read Romans 12:1-9

- So we’re talking about how to Let the Gospel Transform the Way You Love…and with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 3 ways your salvation impacts how you relate to others so that our bodies are instruments in the Redeemer’s hands.

I. Let Your Love be Sincere – vv. 9-13

- it’s pretty amazing that of all the topics Paul could have addressed after 11 chapters of profound theology about various nuances of the gospel of Jesus Christ…

- he focuses on how those truths can help people like you and me grow in biblical love…

- you may have noticed also that the passage tends to come to a crescendo…where we start by talking love for our brothers and sisters in the church…then we move to how we respond to someone persecuting us…and then finally to how it’s possible for this same kind of biblical love to actually overcome evil…

- so let’s start where Paul starts…

- Romans 12:9 - Let love be without hypocrisy…

- the original word is a-hupocritos – not being like an actor on a stage

- it’s from the world of theater…which was an important aspect of their culture…

- and that’s the way some people love…it’s an act…it’s not sincere…which is why they can be loving to someone to their face and turn around and gossip behind their backs…

- or be loving when it furthers their agenda at the time and turn around and be hateful and vindictive the very next day…

- and please connect this to what we saw last week…because of the mercies of God – His great love for you…present your body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God…don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…prove what the will of God is…what is good and acceptable and perfect…

- and one of the ways you do all of that is by growing in sincere love for your brothers and sisters…

- I’ve made the comment several times during the pandemic that I believe exciting days are ahead for the church…because as we get all of this behind us, I believe people are going to be looking for places to reconnect where they can enjoy genuine relationships…

- I hope we’re preparing ourselves to love others like never before…

- now, how is this defined or described in the following verses?...

A. By relating properly to good and evil – v. 9

- Romans 12:9 - Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

- how is all of that tied together?...well, please keep in mind where this passage is going…ultimately we’re going to be talking about a kind of love that can overcome evil…that can destroy it…

- think about the alternatives we mentioned in the introduction…if a person is responding to evil with more evil…that is very unloving, because they are using the very tool God says they should hate…

- the same is true with planning revenge…the timing is just delayed…

- just because a person doesn’t respond with evil immediately with evil does not mean he/she is loving…their hatred may just be under the surface…or characterized by a slow burning fuse…[which in some cases, is why vengeful people are even more destructive and hateful than those who blow up immediately…]

- but there’s certainly no sincere love here because they love what is evil and cling to that as their only hope…

- what about those who quickly cut others off?...they aren’t clinging to what is good because they have lost the opportunity to show love to that person in the days ahead…

- you have to hate what is evil and cling to what is good if you’re going to practice sincere love…

B. By devoting yourself to growing in this kind of love – vv. 10-11

- Romans 12:10–11 - Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

- none of this comes easily or naturally…that’s why the gospel calls us to a life of not being conformed to the world…but being transformed by the power of the gospel…

- Philippians 2:12–13 - So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

- a question that every follower of Christ could ask this am is – who are you working at loving today?...

- that’s one of the many things I love about being a pastor…I constantly have a front row seat to men and women loving each other…

- I could talk about that in all sorts of ways…at weddings, funerals, at ball games, at special events, in serving opportunities…

C. By maintaining hope even when love is hard – v. 12

- Romans 12:12 - rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,

- this one especially goes after the approach that quickly cuts others off…

- we’re a sin-cursed group of people…it’s not just a matter of the sin out there…it’s also a matter of the sin in here…

- and we’re going to bump into each other…and dent one another fender’s…and disappoint each other in all sorts of ways…

- but when God’s people practice hopeful, patient love that communicates, and solves problems, and moves forward together – that can be a powerful model in the divided world in which we live…

- I’m convinced this is one of the ways the church is especially needed right now…as a haven of hope…

- it’s sad to hear about the soaring divorce rate during the pandemic…I hope you’ll redouble your commitment to work at growing in biblically loving your spouse…

- it’s sad to hear about the churches that are exploding by the week…I hope you’ll redouble your commitment to work at growing in biblically loving your church family…

- let’s be hopeful people during this election cycle…by the way, would you like to know who is going to win the election?...whomever God wants to win the election…let the Lord’s sovereignty bring a measure of peace to your heart…

- here’s a corollary question…who’s going to be on the throne of heaven the day after the election…the God of heaven and earth…working out His perfect will in whatever way He chooses…

- wouldn’t it be a terrible thing if one of God’s children got all wound up about the election in a way that caused them to treat another person in a way that was hopeless hateful during these final few weeks?...abhor what is evil and cling to what is good…and ask God to help you work at it…

D. By joyfully sacrificing for those in need – v. 13

- Romans 12:13 - contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

- I want to thank you for your generosity during the pandemic…

- our attendance during these days has been about 35% of what we would typically expect…yet our giving has been 98% of normal, plus very generous giving to our COVID-19 relief fund…

- that’s because of a group of people working at practicing biblical love…

- and much more importantly…it’s because of a sacrificial, risen Savior working in and through us to make this kind of a transformation possible…

- now, everything in verses 9-12 is very important, and challenging…but then in verse 13, the stakes are raised…because Paul raises the possibility of living this way…even if someone is persecuting you…and the admonition is…

II. Let Your Love Address Persecution – vv. 14 - 16

- and our responsibilities at this point are summarized in 2 primary ways…

A. By knowing how to speak when you are mistreated – vv. 14-15

- Romans 12:14–15 - Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

- when someone is speaking in an evil way to you, or about you…what is it that that tongue of yours wants to do?...pronounce a blessing?...

- probably not – but that is what the Lord calls upon us to do…and enables us to do…

- remember a verse we mentioned last week…Romans 6:11 - Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

- the power of the gospel makes this kind of love possible…

- we’ve had this challenge and privilege as a church over the years…and I’m not saying we’ve navigated it perfectly because I’ve been involved…but its part of our story for sure…

- when our community started advocating different views about human sexuality…that placed us in an interesting position…

- one the one hand – it is not our role or desire to tell the unsaved world how to live…

- that would just be moralism…and apart from Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, unregenerate people cannot understand the things of God anyway…

- however, we are a participatory democracy, and we don’t want to be in a position if it can be avoided if our government tries to control how we believe and act inside the church and our associated ministries…

- so, over the years, we have been involved in community conversations about these matters in an attempt to bring some level of civility to the process, and also to carve out a place for people who still choose to believe and live by the truth of God’s Word…

- not, everyone in our town has liked that…and while I wouldn’t use the word persecution…the heat has been turned up a few times, especially whenever we were going to develop a new campus or expand our ministry in some way…

- the “you’re on the wrong side of history folks” don’t like it when the “Jesus is still going to build his church” reality sets in around them…

- so for example, when we worked with the city and the United way in developing the Northend community center project…we eventually decided that an ideal site would be a portion of land owned by the former New Community School…

- that was actually a suggestion by the Mayor because he wanted to see the project happen and he also knew the New Community School was in financial trouble…

- the challenge was, the parents of the New Community School did not know that…at least the seriousness of it all…and to be as charitable as I can…their constituents were culturally progressive people…

- so all of this was transpiring quickly at the end of the summer…so the board chair asked me and the mayor to come to their parent orientation night at the beginning of the school year to explain that we were buying the property adjacent to their building and primarily to ask if they had any suggestions for what amenities we might include in their building to be a blessing to them and their programming…

- in the words of the editor of our newspaper…his twitter feed blew up as soon as I walked in the room [that’s a direct quote]…and let’s just say that the next two hours of my life were anything but pleasant…

- and what was my crime – pastoring a Bible believing church…

- and you know that some of what was said previously, and during those days, about me and/or our church was not particularly complimentary…

- but what we tried to do was just…bless them…

- we sincerely wanted to get to know them…I’ve said many times – there is a lot of pain here that I do not completely understand – so we want to rejoice with those who rejoice but also weep with those who weep…

- and I appreciate the many men and women from our church who have said – I want to be part of that…at whatever cost is necessary – because that’s what Christ-energized love does…

- now, like everything in Scripture, this isn’t behavioral modification…it’s not just “learn to hold your tongue…”

B. By knowing how to think when you are persecuted

- Romans 12:16 - Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

- this is one of the many ways Romans 1-11 serves us so well…

- the gospel, properly understood, demolishes all forms of self-righteousness…

- By time Paul gets done with all of us by the middle of chapter 3…no one could say – I can have a relationship with God on the basis of my own effort, or I’m going to earn my way to heaven, or, I’m a lot better than the person next to me…

- just a representative of what we studied is… Romans 3:9–10 - What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, not even one…

- the more convinced we are about the total depravity of man, the less likely we’ll be to be haughty in mind…or wise in our own estimation…instead we’ll be of the same mind toward one another…and be willing to associate with the so-called “lowly”…because we recognize that apart from Christ…we’re pretty lowly ourselves…

- and the way this fits together logically is this…self-righteousness and being easily offended fit hand in hand…

- whereas having a biblical view of our sinful condition makes lessons the sting when we aren’t always treated as well as we think we deserve…

- now, would you agree with me – all of this is very challenging…developing this kind of love for our brothers and sisters in the church, and then letting that love extend to thinking and speaking properly when we’re being mistreated…this is a tall order…

- but friends…Paul’s not done yet…and what he says at the end of the chapter is only possible if the resurrection power of the gospel is especially operative in a believer’s life…because now he says this:

III. Let Your Love Overcome Evil – vv. 17-21

- this is a different matter entirely…

- overcome is a military word – so our calling isn’t just to avoid being evil ourselves…[which admittedly is a tall order]…but Paul says that we can/must perform acts of good that have the ability to actually destroy the evil that is occurring…that’s the application of what we saw in verse 9… Romans 12:9 - Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

- we have to abhor evil enough that we are motivated to do something about it…

- so how is that possible – look at a key idea in verse 17…

A. Have the right plan – v. 18

- Romans 12:17 - Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

- the first half of the verse is fairly straightforward…[challenging, but straightforward….]

- but the second half requires some explanation…

- “respect what is right” – pronoew – pro is a prefix that often means before, ahead of time…noew means think, perceive, understand…

- so pronoew means – plan ahead, have in mind to do beforehand…

- this is really critical to what we’re talking about this morning…

- we should never be caught off guard when someone treats us in an evil fashion…

- because of what we saw at the very beginning this morning – in this world, you will have tribulation…

- that’s a given…the only question is – do you have a plan in place…

- we plan for everything else…what we’re going to wear that day…what we’re going to do…what we’re going to eat…and on and on…

- but do we have a plan in place for what we are going to think, say, do when someone is evil to us?...

- if not – God would want us to get in the habit of planning that out in advance…because it’s way too late to plan once the bullets are flying….

- this is one of the certain times when failing to plan is planning to fail…

B. Have the right balance – v. 18

- Romans 12:18 - If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

- this verse is a breath of fresh air…it’s almost like Paul can read our minds…or perhaps, the One inspiring these words knows our minds because He made them…

- our objection is – but what about the other person?...they’ll this or they’ll that…

- and Paul says – you’re just responsible for your side of the issue…

- peace may not come right away…the evil may not be destroyed before the end of business today…

C. Have the right perspective

- Romans 12:19 - Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

- have you ever offered to be God’s heavenly payroll clerk?...[I’ll take care of exacting revenge in this one, Lord…]

- [if time – could discuss the temptation to “green-stamp living”…]

- [if time, could discuss why we aren’t qualified to exact revenge in a given situation – compare/contrast God’s response to the mocking teens in 2 Kings 2, to Peter’s denials in John 21…]

D. Have the right love

- Romans 12:20–21 - But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

- Paul quotes Proverbs 25…which is so contrary to what would come naturally in a situation like this…

- sometimes we can get tripped up on the “heaping burning coals” portion – great, do this so you can sit back and watch the person burn…

- there are different ways of thinking about what’s being referred to here…but ultimately we’re not trying to destroy the person…we’re trying to destroy the evil…

- and the principle couldn’t be clearer…you overcome evil by loving acts of good…

- that’s what God calls upon us to do in our homes…

- and at work and school…

- and in our neighborhoods…

- and with our extended family members…

- we might believe what would be best for us right now would be a live free of people ever treating us in an evil fashion…

- God’s Word says something far different…

- in this world, you will face tribulation…the question is – will Christlike love motivate and empower you to make a plan ahead of time…to overcome that evil with good?...

- and isn’t that exactly what our heavenly did in eternity past?...He made a plan…a decree…to overcome our evil with the good sacrifice of His precious Son…

Dr. Steve Viars

Roles

Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation

Bio

B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video