Practical Christian Living, Part 4

 

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

March 9, 2003

Practical Christian Living, Part 4

Romans 12:12,13 – Prayer, Giving, Hospitality

Being a Living Sacrifice

We have been studying Romans 12 and what Paul has to say about
the practical ramifications of being a Christian. When a person
becomes a Christian there are changes that will occur in that
person’s life as a result of their new beliefs. Paul states
very directly in Romans 12:1 that the only reasonable response of
worship that we could have to God’s mercies to us in Jesus
Christ which have resulted in our salvation is that we should
present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices that are
acceptable to God. We have spent the bulk of our time in closely
examining what Paul says about how being a living sacrifice
acceptable to God should work out in our everyday lives.

Being Transformed

In verse 2 we found that we should resist the pressures of the
world to believe and act like it does. Instead we are to be
transformed by the renewing of our minds. As we learn what God
has revealed to us in the Bible about Himself and how we are to
live, we become convicted about what is right and wrong to
believe and do. As we set our minds on the things above, the
things of this earth become less important to us. This results in
changes in our attitudes and behaviors. We become more and more
like our savior and less like the sinner we once were. God is
conforming us into the image of Christ.

Being Humble in the Body

In verses 3-5 we found that as living sacrifices we develop a
proper judgement of ourselves because we learn where we really
fit in the important things of life. As members of the body of
Christ, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Each of
us needs each other for the body to function properly, so we
become humble men and women who strive to work together in
harmony.

Using Your Gifts

Part of that mutual cooperation is explained further in verses
6-8 when Paul briefly addresses the subject of spiritual gifts
and lists out a few of those that exist within the church. God
equips each of those who belong to Him with abilities and
ministries in which they are to serve Him and in doing so build
up the rest of the body. As a living sacrifice, you are
God’s servant who is to stand ready to serve our Lord
however He desires.

Living in Relationships – agaph
/ agape

In verses 9-21 Paul explains how being a living sacrifice unto
God is to practically work out in our relationships with others.
The general principle is given in verse 9. We are to love without
hypocrisy, abhorring what is evil and clinging to what is good.
This love is agaph / agape, the love
of choice and commitment that sacrifices itself for the best
interest of the one loved. It is a love that is never feigned and
so it is without hypocrisy. Because it is a love that reflects
God’s character and nature it abhors what is evil and clings
to what is good. It is repulsed by that which is ungodly while it
is attracted to that which is godly.

Living in Relationships with One Another.

Brotherly Love

In verses 10-13 Paul expands on this general principle in our
relationships with other believers. We have already seen that the
Christian as a living sacrifice is to be devoted to one another
in brotherly love that is demonstrated in giving preference in
honor to one another. We consider the other more important than
ourselves and step out to lead the way in showing such respect
and honor. We seek to initiate instead of just respond.

This principle of showing such brotherly love is further
expand in verses 11-13 with a sequence of specific duties we have
toward one another. Diligence is the primary duty listed here
under which Paul marks out seven more specific areas in which our
being living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God are to be
practically demonstrated.

Diligence without slothfulness

*Fervent in spirit

*Serving in the Lord

*Rejoicing in hope

*Enduring in tribulation

*Devoted in prayer

*Contributing to the needs of the saints

*Practicing hospitality

Remember that diligence without slothfulness is the idea that
we are to be ready to quickly respond in earnestness to
accomplish, promote or strive after whatever is needful in our
relationships with others. A person who is slothful is the
opposite. They hesitate and delay in their response. Because the
Spirit of God has touched our lives, we are zealous in our own
spirit to respond to God’s Spirit in our relationships with
others. We seek to serve one another in the Lord because as
living sacrifices it is now Christ living through us.

Rejoicing in Hope, Persevering in Tribulation

Last week we saw that our attitude is one in which we are
"rejoicing in hope" and "persevering in
tribulation." As living sacrifices our lives are centered
around God and His glory instead of the things of this life. We
help one another in the difficult times of life by encouraging
each other with our hope in God’s promises. We looked at
some of those promises in detail last week. They range from His
promises related to our salvation from sin through faith in
Christ, to His promises that we will be with Him in heaven for
eternity, to the practical matters of everyday life in the here
and now that He will provide for our needs as we seek first His
kingdom and righteousness. We encourage each other in the
tribulations of life because we know that God is still at work,
He has not forsaken us, and He will do something in our lives
even in the midst of the trials.

This morning we are going to look at the last three duties in
this list, continuing in prayer, contributing to the needs of
the saints, and practicing hospitality.
Next week we will
examine verses 14-21 and how being a living sacrifice is to
affect our relationships with non-believers including enemies.

Devoted in Prayer

The word for prayer here, proseuch
/ proseuxe, is a common, general word for people verbally
communicating to God. What is this communication we call prayer?

It is not repetition of the same thing over and over again.
Jesus specifically condemned such practice in Matthew 6:7,8
"And when you are praying, do not use meaningless
repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will
be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them; for
your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him
."

It is not to be done as a means to impress others with your
piety. Jesus condemned that practice in Matthew 6:5 "And
when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love
to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in
order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their
reward in full."

Prayer is not religious rituals or ceremonies, though that is
the practice in many religions. Neither burning candles, smoking
incense, spinning wheels nor flying flags are communication to
God for the same reason they are not communication to any of us.
If someone came up to you and instead of speaking started doing
one of these things, such as lighting candles and putting them in
front of you, what would you think? If someone came up and told
you something and then lit the candles and said the candle was
now their constant reminder to you of what they said, what would
you think? Are you supposed to forget them when the candle goes
out?

God does not need an inanimate object from us to constantly
remind Him of us and our needs. The God who reveals Himself in
the Bible is omniscient. He knows our needs before we even ask.
God does not dwell in a building or in any one location. He is
omnipresent and has chosen to have His Spirit dwell within His
people. God is ever present with us and intimately involved in
our lives. God cares for us and has even numbered the hairs on
our heads (Matt. 10). Religious rituals and ceremonies are not
substitutes for true prayer.

What is true prayer? One of the best definitions I have seen
is that given by John Bunyan. "Prayer is a sincere,
sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God,
through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy
Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His
word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the
will of God."

True prayer is real, personal communication with the God who
created you, and its purpose is found in the dynamics of that
relationship. He is God and you are His creature. He is Lord, and
you are His servant. It is not you telling Him what to do, but
rather expressing your heart and then seeking His will. D.L.
Moody described this well saying, "After we have made our
requests known to Him, our language should be, │¬ËœThy will be
done.’ I would a thousand times rather that God’s will
should be done than my own, I cannot see into the future as God
can; therefore, it is a good deal better to let Him choose for me
than to choose for myself."

As living sacrifices we are to be devoted to such prayer. Our
desire is to seek God’s will above all else including in our
communication to God. The word translated as devoted here, from proskarterew / proskartereo, means to be
"steadfast or strong toward" and hence the idea of
continuing or devoted. This is more than the idea of just
"praying without ceasing" as Paul says in 1 Thess.
5:17. The idea there is to be in a mindset of prayer at all
times. Here, there is a more active element.

Paul says the same thing in Colossians 4:2 to which he adds, "keeping
alert in it with [an attitude of] thanksgiving, praying at the
same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for
the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for
which I have also been imprisoned; 4 in order that I may make it
clear in the way I ought to speak."
It takes an active
mind to be steadfast in prayer in the midst of all the situations
that come up in life. It also takes an active mind to remember
the things that your Christian brothers and sisters are going
through including what they are doing in serving the Lord.

Notice that this phrase comes directly after "persevering
in tribulation."
There are many things that could
distract us and move our attention away from the Lord including
tribulations. Yet, those very things should cause the Christian
to seek the Lord and His will all the more. In the midst of
affliction and problems, we should not only desire to let the
Lord know how we are doing, but actively seeking the Lord’s
help in enduring the affliction and working through the problems
in a way that glorifies Him. Paul was enduring the affliction of
prison at the time, yet the focus of his prayer was not on being
relieved from that affliction, but rather that a door of ministry
would be opened to him for declaring God’s word, and that in
doing so he would speak God’s message clearly.

I will add here that it also takes steadfastness to pray when
things are going well. Too often we can get so wrapped up in the
blessings we are enjoying that we forget to be mindful of the one
that gave them to us in the first place.

As a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God, we should be
steadfast and continuing in our communication with our Lord. Are
you devoted in prayer? Are you diligent in talking with God not
only about your own life, but also the lives of those around you
and their various ministries? A very practical side benefit of
praying for others is that removes jealousy and increases our own
joy. When we are praying for others and then see the Lord use
them, we are also partakers in that blessing. We become excited
and thankful for what the Lord has done through someone else.
That does not leave any room for jealousy.

Contributing to the Needs of the Saints

In verse 13 we find the next specific duty we have toward one
another which is "contributing to the needs of the
Saints."
The "saints" here are, of course,
other believers. Catholicism may want to reserve sainthood for
some special class of Christians, but the Bible does not. Every
person saved by God’s grace through faith in the person and
work of Jesus Christ is a saint, a "holy one," for they
have been chosen and set apart for Him. Anyone doubting this can
simply look up the word "saints" in their Bible and
they will see this is true.

When we talk about "contributing to the needs" of
others, some people become uncomfortable because they think
someone is about to try to pick their pocket. We don’t like
our government doing that even though we have become used to the
socialism in our government by which they tax us in order to give
to people they define as needy. We certainly would not like our
church doing that. Let me set your mind at ease. This church does
not do that because it would be against the clear principles of
the New Testament for us to do so. Even the early church in which
they "had all things in common" (Acts. 2:44) did not do
that, as we shall see in a few minutes.

There are three key words in Paul’s instruction here in
verse 13 – "contributing," "needs" and
"saints." As we have already seen, "saints"
refers to all true Christians. While we strive to do good to all
men, we have a special responsibility towards our own family and
then to other Christians. In 1 Timothy 3:8, Paul is very direct
in our family responsibility saying, "But if anyone does
not provide for his own, and especially for those of his
household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an
unbeliever."
Paul then goes on to explain the
church’s responsibility in taking care of widows who do not
have family to meet their needs and meet certain criteria of
godliness. In Galatians 6:9,10 Paul says, "And let us not
lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do
not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do
good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household
of the faith.
"

It is not wrong for Christians to take care of one another
first and then give consideration to others. In fact, it is a
Biblical command. What kind of strange love would it be for a man
to neglect the needs of his own family, yet meet the needs of
others? We need to remember that Christians are brothers and
sisters in Christ, for each of us are part of God’s family.

The next key word for us here is "needs." Too often
what are described as "needs" are nothing more than
selfish desires. It is a proper and godly love in which a man
meets the true needs of his family and then they share what they
have beyond that to meet the needs of others. What then
constitutes real needs?

We can be sure from the beginning that real needs do not
include luxury items and conveniences. Perhaps one of the things
that irritate most of us about government welfare programs is
that they often take money out of our pockets and give it to
people who then have more luxury items and comforts than we have.
Every Winter there are stories about people who are given utility
subsidies that heat their place to 800 or more so they
can walk around in a T-shirt. Responsible people put on a sweater
and keep the heat down. A need would be to help keep a person
from freezing to death. Beyond that it is a luxury.

What about food? A need is to help people to have a diet that
would keep them from starving and have decent nutrition. Anything
beyond that is a luxury. I don’t mind helping people with
food, and I have done so a lot over the years, but I do find it
irritating to be paying for people to have porterhouse steak,
shrimp and bakery pies when my own budget is one of hamburger and
tuna casserole. As odd as it sounds, I have had people turn down
my offer to share with them the food Diane was serving to my own
family. They were not as hungry as they made themselves out to
be.

Another thing to keep in mind in this is to discern the real
need instead of the presented want. When I lived in Los Angeles
years ago, it was common to be approached while you were at a gas
station by people who said they needed a couple of dollars for
gas for their own car or so they could get something to eat. A
similar thing would occur at grocery markets. As you came out,
people would ask you for some money so they could be groceries.
The very design of these approaches were to catch you when you
would be in a hurry. I never gave any of them money. Instead, I
would offer to buy them what they said they needed. No one ever
took me up on buying gas or groceries for them. Only one person
let me take them to lunch. That took more time, but it also gave
me the opportunity to share the gospel with them. Seeking to meet
the actual need instead of the request not only exposes those who
are fraudulent, but it allows you to meet real needs both
physical and spiritual. Meeting a physical need should be the
door to open the opportunity to meet a spiritual need. Don’t
do the first without doing the second.

What do we actually need? Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:8 that "if
we have food and covering, with these we shall be content."

Paul also said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "if anyone will
not work, neither let him eat."
We have a responsibility
to meet the needs of people when they are legitimate, but that
does not include the sluggard. There is a big difference between
not being able to work and refusing to work. "The desire
of the sluggard puts him to death, For his hands refuse to
work"
Proverbs 21:25. Sluggards need to work first.

The third key word in this phrase is "contributing."
I have saved this for last because I wanted to emphasize it. This
is from the word koinwnew / koinwneo,
which is from the same root word which we usually translate as
"communion" or "fellowship." It means to
"participate or share in." Paul uses the same word in 1
Timothy 6:17,18 where he says, "Instruct those who are
rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their
hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly
supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 [Instruct them] to do
good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share

(koinwnew / koinoneo). Paul is
not picking on the rich here, but simply reminding them why God
has entrusted to them their riches. That goes for you and me as
well. In fact, part of the purpose of working is to be able to do
this. Paul instructs us in Ephesians 4:28 "Let him who
steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with
his own hands what is good, in order that he may have [something]
to share with him who has need."

An important aspect to understand about
"contributing" in this manner is that it is voluntary.
It is done as you decide. Paul sets down the principles for this
in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 when he was instructing them on the
collection he was going to make among them in order to bring
relief for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. "Now this [I
say,] he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who
sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. 7 Let each one [do]
just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under
compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver"
(2 Cor.
9:6,7). Paul then goes on to remind them that God would meet
their needs and that their contribution for the poor would result
in their glorification of God and praying for them. The principle
here is that we give based on our own relationship with and trust
in God. There is no "church tax" for even
"tithing" is not placed up Christians. (The paper on
Giving in the literature rack explains this further).

The motivation to participate in meeting the needs of others
arises out of being a living sacrifice and the resulting
brotherly love that is to exist between Christians. This was true
even in the early church. In Acts 2:42,43 we find that "And
all those who had believed were together, and had all things in
common; and they began selling their property and possessions,
and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need."
This
was not a commune, for this mutual sharing was not required, but
was done out of love for one another. In Acts 5 when Peter
confronted Annanias about only bringing a portion of the money
from the land he had sold, the issue was not that Annanias had
not given all the money, but that Annanias had lied about it.
Peter said to him in verse 4, "While it remained unsold,
did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not
under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed
in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God."

As living and holy sacrifices unto God we freely give because
doing good and sharing in such a manner are sacrifices that are
pleasing to God (Heb. 13:16). We also help one another because of
our love for God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. As 1
John 3:17,18 states it, "But whoever has the world’s
goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart
against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little
children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed
and truth
."

Let me add one more point here about practicing this
principle. While some of this does take place from what you give
to this church, for the most part, this is something that is done
on an individual basis. Even when we bring a need before the
church, you respond to it individually. You have relationships
with one another, and when you see or learn of the need of a
fellow Christian, you assess what you have and then seek ways in
which you can help. That is loving in "deed and truth."

How are you doing at"contributing to the needs of the
saints"?

Practicing Hospitality

The last phrase in this section, "practicing
hospitality,"
flows directly from "contributing
to the needs of the saints
" for it expands the principle
beyond the realm of those you personally know to also include
those you do not personally know.

The word "hospitality" here, filoxenia
/ filoxenia, is a compound word combining filoV
/ filos, meaning love in the sense of affection, with the word xenoV / xenos, meaning foreigner or
stranger. Hospitality means to love strangers.

Practicing hospitality is a characteristic required of elders
(1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8) and those who would be considered
"widows indeed" and eligible for church support (1
Timothy 5:10). But is also something that Peter commanded all
Christians to do. 1 Peter 4:9 states, "Be hospitable to
one another without complaint."
It would not be very
loving to be hospitable to someone and then later complain about
the inconvenience or expense it caused you. Besides, according to
Hebrews 13:2, we should "not neglect to show hospitality
to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without
knowing it."
Your guest may turn out to be a lot more
than you thought.

What exactly is hospitality? There was a time in which there
were not motels and such along the roads as we have them today.
Those few inns that did exist could be expensive and/or
dangerous. A stranger passing through a town might often just go
to the town square or common and spend the night there.
Hospitality was inviting that stranger to join you for a meal or
even staying in your home. There are many Biblical examples of
this. Abraham and Lot both did this with the result that they
were actually being hospitable to angels (Gen. 18 & 19). Such
hospitality was a necessity for the prophets and the apostles.
You might recall the widow that provided for Elijah (1 Kings 17)
or Lazarus, Martha and Mary that provided for Jesus (Luke 10).
John commended Gaius for his hospitality (3 John 5-8), and Paul
commended Onesiphorus for his hospitality (2 Tim. 1:16-18).

There are plenty of restaurants and motels now, but
hospitality is still something that Christians need to be
diligent about putting into practice because it is the practical
display of brotherly love. This is an area that I believe this
church can greatly improve.

Hospitality begins with a heart of compassion that will notice
strangers and assess their needs. It begins with being friendly
enough to talk with people you don’t know and offer your
help. That would include inviting those who are visiting our
church to lunch. If we were practicing hospitality as we should,
no guest should be able to leave here without at least being
asked to lunch. It would be even better if they were asked by
several people from our church. This is a ministry that any of us
can do by simply sharing what we have. You don’t have to
serve a fancy meal or take someone to an expensive restaurant to
be hospitable. Your goal is to impress them with your love for
Christ, not your financial condition.

There are also opportunities to have someone stay with you.
Diane and I often host missionaries or visiting preachers that
come here, but it is a blessing that you are also welcome to
share in. In fact, this Summer, there will be quite a few coming
here in June and July while we are away. If you can help, let me
know.

How are you doing at practicing hospitality? If all of us were
doing so, we would need a coordinator of hospitality just so
everyone gets the opportunity. But you don’t need to wait
for a formal ministry to be started. You simply need to love God
and thank Him for what He has already provided for you and then
love other Christians, including strangers, enough to extend
yourself to be a blessing to them.

How are you doing at presenting yourself as a living and holy
sacrifice acceptable to God? Are you progressing in being
transformed by the renewing of your mind? Are you growing in
humility as you better understand your gifts and place within the
body of Christ? Are you increasing in your love without hypocrisy
in abhorring evil and clinging to what is good? How are you doing
in showing brotherly love in all the practical ways discussed
over the last three weeks? I pray that each of us are a little
more mature in these areas today than we were a month ago.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * *

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply
God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear
during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at
lunch. Older Children : Do one or more of the following:
1) Count how many times words for "giving" are used. 2)
Discuss with your parents about how you can give to the
Lord’s work and meet the needs of others.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing
the sermon with others.

Outline Romans 12. How does being a
"living sacrifice" relate to what Paul says through out
the rest of the chapter? In what practical ways is brotherly love
to be diligently demonstrated? What are some of the wrong ways in
which people try to pray? What is true prayer? What motivates
true prayer? What does it mean to "persevere" in
prayer? What distracts you from prayer? How can you lessen those
distractions? Who are the "saints"? What constitute
real needs? What needs should Christians try to meet for one
another? What guidelines and restrictions are there for meeting
needs of others? How did the early church meet the needs among
them? What are the New Testament principles of giving? How do
they differ from Old Testament commands? What is to be the
motive(s) for giving? Are you poor, rich or very wealthy? Who do
you compare yourself with to make that assessment? What is
hospitality? What are some Biblical examples of it? Are you
hospitable? Why or why not? If not, what would need to change?
When will you make those changes?

Sermon
Study Sheets

 

Sermon Notes
3/9/2003 am

Practical Christian
Living, Part 4
Romans 12:12,13

Review – Romans 12:1-12

Being a Living Sacrifice (vs. 1)

Being Transformed (vs. 2)

Being Humble in the Body (vs. 3-5)

Using your gift(s) (vs. 6-8)

Living in Relationships (vs. 9-21)

Agape / agape (vs. 9)

Brotherly Love (vs. 10-13)

Diligence in 7 areas

Devoted in Prayer (vs. 12c)

proseuch / proseuxe –

Matthew 6:7,8

Matthew 6:5

"Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring
out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength
and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has
promised, or according to His word, for the good of the church,
with submission in faith to the will of God." – John Bunyan

Devoted – Colossians 4:2

Contributing to the Needs of the Saints (vs. 12:13a)

Saints

Needs

Family responsibility – 1 Timothy 3:8

Church responsibility – Galatians 6:9

Actual needs – 1 Timothy 6:8; 2 Thessalonians 3;10; Proverbs
21:25

Contributing

1 Timothy 6:17,18

Ephesians 4:28,29

Principles of giving 1 Corinthians 9:6-15

Early Church practice – Acts 2:42,43; 5

Motives – Hebrews 13:16; 1 John 3:17,18

Practicing Hospitality (vs. 12:13b)

filoxenia / filoxenia –

Required by (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)
& (1 Timothy 5:10)

General responsibility – 1 Peter 4:9

Angels – Hebrews 13:2

Practice –