October 23, 2012
THE GEORGIA CAPITOL DEVOTIONAL - 23 OCTOBER 2012
One of the biblical truths expressed to us in the concluding (interim) study in Second Thessalonians was to persevere in discipline. (If you did not receive that Bible study for some reason, you can access a copy online by clicking here.) Second Thessalonians exhorted us to practice discipline in our lives, and also indicated when formal discipline is appropriate toward the "unruly" among God’s people. An appropriate question, then, is how God's people should respond to the "unruly" who do not have faith in God or heed the Bible in any manner. Romans 12:9-21 is one text that provides answers to this question.
Interestingly (within in Romans 12:9-21), there is both integration and application of various portions of Matthew 5—7 (the Sermon on the Mount), in addition to select Old Testament injunctions. The most important principles to govern Christian conduct are love and peace. Romans 12:9-13 emphasize the priority of love for Christian conduct as a compelling witness to biblical faith (cf. John 13:34-35). God’s people express love toward fellow believers by exercising their spiritual gifts in a cheerful, energetic, humbly, and kindly manner (Rom 12:6-13); it is a love that is to be visible to the unbelieving world. One identifying characteristic of the Christian life is the manner in which we behave toward other Christians (12:9-13).
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133).
Romans 12:14-21 then addresses love as it relates to unbelievers. The broader responsibilities of the Christian include love for other believers (12:9-13, 16) and even for those who are not Christians (12:14-21). While it is absolutely critical to understand what Christ accomplished for sinners through His death upon Calvary’s cross, such knowledge and belief is to have tremendous significance in the interpersonal relationships that we encounter daily. There are practical ramifications that are the result of being justified by God. To possess the righteousness of God—by grace through faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—is to affect your interaction with other people, both those who are Christians and even those who are not.
Romans 12 began with the topic of personal sacrifice, which would certainly instill images of martyrdom (especially for the early church). Nevertheless, the primary meaning of the words “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” is expressed by a life of godliness and worship as gratitude for the grace and mercy of God. For instance, Romans 6:13 reads, “And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God . . . as instruments of righteousness to God.” In other words, for the majority of Christians, personal sacrifice is evident in small actions of love, as opposed to the proverbial blaze of glory that is recounted in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. In an address to Christian leaders, one Bible teacher expressed such faithfulness in practical terms.
To give my life for Christ appears glorious. To pour myself out for others . . . to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom—I’ll do it. I’m ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking $l,000 bill and laying it on the table— “Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.” But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $l,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of saying, “Get lost.” Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it’s harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul [as quoted by Craig Brian Larson, ed., Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999) 200].
A tremendous difference exists between the sacrifice of physical martyrdom and daily acts of love. The “living sacrifice” of Scripture is evident by love for others, which includes both fellow believers and non-Christians. The reason for this is that biblical sacrifice requires dying spiritually to self, as opposed to dying physically. The one who is “a living and holy sacrifice” understands the grace and mercy of God, and thus lives his/her life with a renewed mind to be an available gift of mercy to others. An evident indication that one appreciates and understands the love and mercy of God is whether you and I express that love and mercy to others (in times when it is easy and more often, at times, when it is not).
Blessed to Be a Blessing,