Practical Christian Living, Part 1

 

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

February 16, 2003

Practical Christian Living, Part 1

Romans 12:9

Introduction

Have you ever met someone who professed to be a Christian, but
their life style made you seriously question their claim? Even
non-Christians know that there are certain characteristics of
behavior and attitude that should mark the Christian. When those
characteristics are obviously lacking, then there becomes a
question as to whether a person’s claim to be a Christian is
actually true.

Since we live in a society in which tolerance of everything
except the truth is advocated as the supreme virtue, there are
many that would immediately say it is wrong for people to
question a person’s claim. Paul had no such qualms. In 2
Corinthians 13:5 he even challenges his readers to "Test
yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or
do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is
in you, unless indeed you fail the test."

You see, when a person becomes a Christian, there will be
changes that will take place in that person’s life. This is
not in anyway saying that Christians will not stumble and sin. It
is not saying that individual Christians will not have serious
struggles with certain sins. Paul said in Romans 7 that even he
struggled with his flesh and would find himself at times doing
the very evil thing that he did not wish. The Apostle John writes
to Christians and tells them that "if we say that we have
no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in
us."
He then adds, "If we say that we have not
sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us"

(1 John 1:8,10).

The issue here is not that the Christian will be perfect and
without sin, but that the Christian will no longer be
characterized by such sin. Instead, the Christian will be
characterized by the struggle against sin and will be making
progress in that battle. No Christian alive is what they want to
be in terms of personal holiness, but neither is any true
Christian what they used to be. Why? Because the change in belief
concerning self, sin and our Savior results in a change of
attitude and action. Paul covered the theological reality of this
in Romans 6 pointing out that faith in the person and work of the
Lord Jesus Christ results in our old self being crucified with
Him so that we should no longer be slaves of sin. We have been
transferred from Satan’s kingdom to Christ’s realm.
There is a change of masters. We no longer have to obey the
devil, but we are now to obey Jesus. The one that refuses to obey
Christ and continues to follow Satan only demonstrates that there
has not been a change of masters.

In the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul has presented a lot
of deep theological truths about what God has done for us in
Jesus Christ. In Chapter 12, Paul gets very practical and applies
these truths to our everyday lives. The foundation for all that
Paul says in the rest of the book is based on what he says in
Romans 12:1,2. "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the
mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy
sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service
of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be
transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what
the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and
perfect."

We have covered the meaning and ramifications of these two
verses already, but just as a quick reminder, being a living
sacrifice means that your life is no longer lived for yourself,
but for God and His glory. You are crucified with Christ and no
longer live, but Christ lives in you and through you. Being a
living sacrifice is the only reasonable response that the
Christian can have to all that God has done for us in the person
and work of Jesus Christ.

How does a Christian become such a living sacrifice? It begins
when they turn from their sin and self-righteousness to the
salvation offered through faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement
for their sin. It continues on as they resist the pressure of the
world to continue in sin and instead are transformed through a
mind renewed by the Holy Spirit through God’s word.

Paul explains the practical aspects of being such a living
sacrifice throughout the rest of the book. As we have already
seen in verse 3, the Christian is to be humble and not "think
more highly of themselves than they ought to think."
The
Christian is to understand that they are part of a larger group
that makes up the body of Christ, and as part of that body, they
recognize that every other part of the body is important for the
whole to function properly. We spent quite a bit of time going
over the various ways in which God equips His people to be able
to serve Him and build up the rest of the body. Every gift,
ministry and believer is important as each of us use our various
gifts to help the rest of body become more like Jesus Christ.

As we now move to verse 9, we find Paul turning his focus to
the characteristics of how we are to treat other people. This
lays the foundation for what he will say in the rest of the book
on how we are to function in relationship to government, society
and other believers.

Love

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil;
cling to what is good."
This opening phrase may seem
simple, but it is profound for it is exactly the opposite of the
natural sinful bent of men. The nature of the love described here
is not only sincere, but it finds evil to be repugnant and will
hold fast to what is good.

English is generally a very descriptive language with many
words available to make distinction between ideas that are
similar, yet different. However, when it comes to words for
"love," English lacks. We use the word "love"
to describe everything from fond feelings of affection for family
and close friends to our enjoyment of a good meal. We also use it
to describe sensual desires both good and bad.

The Greeks had several words for love. storgh
/ storge described the love of family members for one another. eroV / Eros described the sensual love
between a man and a woman. filew
/Phileo means affection and could be combined with other words to
describe the love of friends, love of strangers, love of wisdom,
love of pre-eminence, love or money and even the love of strife.

The particular word used here in Romans 12:9, agaph / agape, is a word that was not used
very often in daily life until it started being used by
Christians to describe God’s love for us, our love for God,
and the love we are to have for one another. This love is marked
by its sacrificial nature in giving of itself for the benefit of
another. It is based in conscious choice instead of fleeting
emotions. It continues through thick and thin, good times and
bad, heartache and rejoicing.

This is the love God has for the world spoken of in John 3:16
that caused Him to send His only begotten Son so that whosoever
believes in Him should have eternal life. This is the love God
demonstrated in Jesus Christ in that while we were yet sinners,
He died for our sins in our place. This is the committed love
that God has for His people that will never depart and never
diminish (2 Thess. 2:13 cf. Heb. 13:5). This is a quality that is
so closely bound to God that He Himself defines and characterizes
it, for God is love (1 John 4:16).

This is the kind of love that we are commanded to have for
God. In Matt. 22:37 Jesus cites the command of Deut. 6:5 as the
great commandment. It applies to Christians just as it did to the
Jews (1 John 5:2-5). We are to love the Lord our God with all our
heart, soul and mind. This command is not using three or four
categories to describe the ways in which we are to love God, but
rather it expresses the totality, the comprehensiveness with
which we should love God. Notice that it is to love God with all
our heart, all our soul, all our mind. Nothing is
held back. We are to love God with every part of our being, with
every aspect of our nature, with everything that makes us what we
are as humans. Taking into account the sacrificial nature of agaph / agape, we can now understand how
being a "living sacrifice acceptable unto God"
is a demonstration of our love for Him.

This is also the love that we are to have for one another.
Jesus pointed out to His disciples that it would be their love
for one another that would demonstrate to all men that they were
His followers (John 13:35). John points out that a lack of love
for one another is the evidence that a person is a child of the
devil (1 John 3:10). He goes on to say, "20 If someone
says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a
liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen,
cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we
have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother
also. 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of
God; and whoever loves the Father loves the [child] born of Him.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love
God and observe His commandments"
(1 John 4:20-5:2).

This is the love Christians are to have for all people,
including our enemies. Jesus said that the second great
commandment is "to love our neighbors as ourselves." He
then gave the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate both the
nature of this love and its extension to everyone. Jesus was even
more direct in Matt. 5:44 when He told us to "love your
enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."

This love is a primary evidence of being a true Christian. As
already pointed out, those who do not have it for other people do
not have it for God. 1 John 3:14-18 shows both the seriousness of
this and its practical application. "14 We know that we
have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.
He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his
brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal
life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down
His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the
brethren. 17 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? 18 Little children, let us not love
with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth."
Those
who do not demonstrate in practical actions and attitudes agaph / agape love toward God and people
have no valid claim in being Christians.

Without Hypocrisy

Paul further strengthens the nature of this love by adding
that it is to be without hypocrisy. The word here is anupokritoV /anupokritos. It is the negation
of the word upokrithV / hupokrites
from which we get our word, hypocrite. The word comes from the
ancient Greek plays in which actors would play various parts by
holding up a mask over their face. The word came to mean
"two faced" or someone who is acting out a part instead
of being truthful.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about hypocrisy and
hypocrites.

The Scribes and Pharisees were the primary examples that Jesus
used. They thought themselves to be holy people who showed the
unlearned the way to God. The truth was that they were far from
God and were leading people to Hell (Matt. 15:14; 23:15). Jesus
pronounced a series of woes upon them in Matthew 23 because of
this. They honored God with their lips in public, but their
hearts were far from Him (Mk. 7:6). They even came to Jesus
trying to flatter Him by calling Him "teacher," but
their purpose was simply to try to trap Him in something they
could use against Him (Matt. 22).

The root of hypocrisy is pretending to be something you are
not in order to manipulate another person to get what you want
from them. Flattery and feigned friendship are tools hypocrites
will use to accomplish their goals. That is wordly wisdom. The
Christian is to live according to God’s wisdom. James tells
us that this "wisdom from above is first pure, then
peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits,
unwavering, without hypocrisy"
(James 3:17). Hypocrisy,
along with other evils such as malice, guile, envy and slander
are to be far from the Christian’s lips (1 Peter. 2:1). The
Christian is to long for and live by the truths of the enduring
word of God, and all those things, including hypocrisy, are the
opposite of what the Bible says.

All of us are familiar with hypocrisy. Either we have been
guilty of it ourselves or we have suffered at the hands of
hypocrites. It always hurts when the mask gets removed from the
hypocrite and their true selfish nature is revealed. From that
experience alone we can see that true love and hypocrisy are as
far away from each other as can be. Hypocrites are self-centered
and see relationships in terms of what they can get out of it.
True love sees relationships in terms of what they can give to it
and benefit the other.

People flatter others with the goal of being able to
manipulate or take advantage of them later. Prov. 29:5 warns,
"A man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net for
his steps."
Jude 1:16 speaks of the same thing warning
about the ungodly who"speak arrogantly, flattering people
for the sake of [gaining an] advantage."
The
unsuspecting are deceived through the smooth and flattering
speech of the ungodly, who exist even within the church (Rom.
16:18). We also find that the adulteress seduces her victims with
flattery (Prov. 7:5,21), and so does the adulterer. Prov. 26:28
tells us, "A lying tongue hates those it crushes, And a
flattering mouth works ruin."
Flattery, like other forms
of hypocrisy, is a sin that is to be taken seriously. Be wary of
those that seek to win your favor through undeserved praise and
compliments.

Hypocrites will be your friend as long as they are getting or
think they will get something from you, but when it requires a
true sacrifice of themselves on their part for your benefit,
don’t count on them.

Prov. 19:6 & 7 reminds us, "Many will entreat the
favor of a generous man, And every man is a friend to him who
gives gifts. 7 All the brothers of a poor man hate him; How much
more do his friends go far from him! He pursues [them with]
words, [but] they are gone."
A true friend loves at all
times (Prov. 17:17) and is more concerned about what they can
give to the relationship than what they can get. That is how
Christians are to treat one another.

There are several other aspects of agaph
/ agape that make it antithetical to hypocrisy. Paul points out
some of these qualities in 1 Cor. 13:4-8 agaph
/ agape is described there as patient, kind, and not jealous,
bragging or arrogant. It does not act unbecomingly or seek its
own. It is not provoked, nor does it take into account a wrong
[suffered,]. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices
with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes
all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Hypocrisy is
subject to all these things.

Love is honest and true as well as kind and thoughtful. For
that reason, it will express itself on issues that a hypocrite
would never touch. The counsel of a friend is sweet (Prov. 27:9).
That is true even when there may be correction involved. Prov.
27:6 tells us that "Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
" King David
preferred to have the righteous smite him in kindness and reprove
him (Ps. 141:5) than to suffer the hypocrisy of a deceitful
friend such as Ahithophel who caused him much grief (2 Sam. 17
cf. Ps. 41:9). Believers are to speak the truth in love (Eph.
4:15) instead being like the hypocrites who tell people what they
think they would like to hear in order manipulate.

Let me add here that the Christian does not avoid being a
hypocrite by brutally telling people what we really think. Such
brutal honesty is not only unkind, for it is also based in
selfishness, but it is a sure way to make sure you have very few
friends. The Christian avoids being a hypocrite by being a living
sacrifice. We are to love God and other people in this manner of agaph / agape. That includes non-Christians
and enemies as well as other believers. We say and do what is
right before God regardless of our personal feelings or thoughts
of the moment. We then examine ourselves to change our attitudes
to be more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The world will try to conform us into being like they are,
hypocrites who try to impress other people only because it will
help them build their own kingdom. We resist that pressure
because our concern is building Christ’s kingdom, not our
own. We are to live according to God’s priorities. People
are more important than possessions, and purity is more important
than people. We are to lovingly speak the truth in forthright and
honest relationships with the goal of giving of ourselves in
helping people know and become like Jesus Christ. As Ephesians
4:29 commands, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your
mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification
according to the need [of the moment,] that it may give grace to
those who hear."

Abhoring Evil

In the second phrase of Romans 12:9, Paul further defines the
nature of this love and how it affects the life of the believer.

Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

"Abor" is the word apostugounte / apostugounte. This a compound word
that combines the verb stugew /stugeo
with the preposition apo / apo
which intensifies its meaning. stugew
/stugeo is to "hate" or
"detest with horror
." This verb is related to
the noun stux / Styx, which was the
feigned river in hell by which the gods were wont to swear, and
if any of them falsified this oath he was deprived of his nectar
and ambrosia for a hundred years, thus the river was something
that was hated.stugew /stugeo came
to signify hating or detesting something as much as hell. The
compound word here is even more intense than that. The idea here
is to find something so detestable that you shrink back from it.
You want to get away from it.

The love Paul speaks of in this verse should cause the
Christian to have a strong reaction to and aversion of what is
evil. The Christians’ love for God and striving to be a
living sacrifice that is pleasing unto Him should cause them to
flee in horror from anything that is evil. That kind of reaction
demonstrates the radical change that takes place in the Christian
as they are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ by the
renewing of their minds. Prior to salvation, we are bent toward
sin. While there were certain evil things that you might have
abhorred, there were many other evil things to which you were
attracted. The Christian increasingly abhors all evil.

The evil spoken of here (ponhroV /
pon’ros) is everything that is antithetical to God, anything
contrary to His nature. Evil is the opposite of godliness. Those
who love the Lord are to hate evil (Ps. 97:10). Proverbs tells us
that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and
wisdom (Prov. 1:7; 9:10) and Prov. 8:13 defines the "fear of
the Lord" as hating evil. What God hates, we should also
hate, and God hates evil.

What are some of the specifics that God hates? Proverbs
6:16-19 tells us, "16 There are six things which the Lord
hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty
eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A
heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil,
19 A false witness [who] utters lies, And one who spreads strife
among brothers.
" Proverbs 8:13 tells us that God also
hates Pride and arrogance and the evil way, And the perverted
mouth."

Other things that God considers to be abominations include the
crooked [man] (Prov. 3:32), A false balance (Prov.
11:1), the perverse in heart (Prov. 11:20), the
sacrifice of the wicked
(Prov. 15:8), he who justifies the
wicked, and he who condemns the righteous
(Prov. 17:15), any
cultic or occultic practice (Deut. 18:10-12), and those who
act unjustly
(Deut. 25:16), to name some of them. God hates
anything that is contrary to His holiness.

The sad part of this list is that there are many professing
Christians in our day that not only practice these things, but
they even want to justify themselves in their pursuit of them. It
is not surprising that Christians do evil things, for as already
pointed out, Christians will still sin. However, they should be
marked, as was Paul, with a hatred for the sin that they do, not
a defense of it.

What characterizes your actions and attitudes toward God? Your
love for Him should cause you to abhor anything that would not
please Him. Yet, how often do we treat God as if He existed for
our benefit instead of we existing for His glory. Too often we
are guilty of thinking God is holding out on us because He does
not give us something the world says is good, yet the truth is
that it would be bad for us. God is our loving heavenly Father
who gives what is good to His children (Mt. 7:11), but He is the
one that defines what is good. And as a loving Father, He also
knows how to chastize us when we disobey. What characterizes your
actions and attitudes toward God?

What characterizes your actions and attitudes toward others?
Your love for them should cause you to abhor anything that would
cause them to stumble into sin. Sadly, too often Christians can
be just as self centered as the world. They can say and do unkind
things simply because they do not give consideration to the other
person.

Some years ago we asked a woman to be a little more careful in
how she dressed. We do not have any dress code here other than to
be modest as 1 Tim. 2:9 says. She was not flagrantly immodest,
but she did at times dress in a way that a couple of Christian
brothers were distracted by her. Tragically, she ended up being
more concerned about herself than others. She should have been
abhorred that she could have in any way contributed to brothers
stumbling in their thoughts. She should also have had enough love
for them to have happily modified her own behavior for their
benefit. How much love do you have for others?

What are the things that gain your approval when no one else
is with you? Our love for God and others should cause us to abhor
anything that does not promote holiness in our own lives, both in
action and in thought. Yet, how often do we not only allow
ourselves to be put in situations where there is evil going on or
we are watching it, but we secretly are enjoying it.

I addressed the issue of entertainment some months ago. I am
glad that many of you picked up Wayne Wilson’s book, Wordly
Amusements
, and have been rethinking what you allow what you
allow yourselves to see. (There are additional copies on the back
table. Please help yourselves to one. They are a gift from me,
but please, only one per family). In abhorring evil, we should
have the same commitment as David in Psalm 101:3 who vowed. "I
will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of
those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me."
David
knew the tragedy of what could happen when he allowed his eyes to
stray. He did not want to repeat the tragedy. Is that a
commitment you are willing to make out of your love for God and
for other people?

Clinging to Good

Paul concludes this verse with the opposite of abhorring evil

Cling to what is good. The word cling, kollwmenoi /kollomenoi means to
"cleave" be "cemented" or "glued."
Interesting enough, abhorring is in the active tense. It is
something you are to do. Clinging is in the passive tense. It
happens to you as the result of something else. The Christian
cleaves or holds on to what is good because of their love for
God. It is the only reasonable response a person can have when
they love God for they want to please Him.

The "good" spoken of here (agaqoV
/ agathos) is contrasted with the evil in the previous
phrase. It refers to all that reflects the nature and character
of God which defines what is good. Good refers to what is
upright, beneficial and honorable before God. As the Christian is
being a living sacrifice and is transformed by the renewing of
their mind, their lives change and they will demonstrate what is
good and acceptable before God (Rom. 12:2).

Goodness is one of the character qualities that is to be part
of every Christian’s character for it is one of the fruit of
the Spirit (Gal. 5:20,21). That character in turn will
demonstrate itself in good deeds. Ephesians 2:10 tells us "we
are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
One of the purposes of our salvation from sin is so that we
might carry out these good deeds, which Jesus said in Matt. 5:16
, should be done in such a way that they bring glory to God. A
person who has the character trait of goodness will cling to what
is good because it matches their desire to be like Jesus Christ.

The Christian is to be characterized by agaph
/ agape love which is without hypocrisy because it is only
reasonable to respond to God’s great love for us
demonstrated in Jesus Christ with a corresponding love for Him
and His people. As the Christian resists the pressure of the
world to conform them into its image and instead is transformed
by the renewing of their mind, that which is evil will become
increasingly detestable to them while at the same time they will
be clinging ever more tightly to what is good. The point here is
not whether you have yet arrived at full Christian maturity in
these areas, but what your desires are and which direction you
are heading. What direction are you heading?

Remember too, that we do not walk with Christ alone. God has
given every Christian spiritual gifts by which we can serve God
in building up the body of Christ. You are to serve God by using
your gifts to help others become like Jesus, and they are to use
their gifts in helping you become like Christ. Let’s commit
ourselves to helping one another love in this manner and to abhor
what is evil and cling to what is good.

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

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 the words "love" and "agape" are used.
2) Discuss with your parents the what it means to love the Lord
in this manner and how you are abhorring evil and clinging to
what is good.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What do you think when you see someone who professes to be a
Christian, but is obviously not walking with God? Why should
Christians be "living sacrifices" (Rom. 12:1) and what
does that mean? How is a person "transformed by the renewing
of their mind? What is the connection of Romans 12:9 with the
previous verses? What does the Greek word agaph
/ agape mean? Describe following in terms of agaph
/ agape: God’s love for man, the Christian’s love for
God, the Christians love for other people. What can be concluded
about people that do not show this kind of love for God or
others? What is hypocrisy? How is it antithetical to love? How
does hypocrisy often demonstrate itself in relationships? How
have you been hurt by a hypocrite? What does it mean to
"abhor" evil? Why does love react to evil in this
manner? What are the things that God hates? What characterizes
your actions toward God? Others? What do you approve of? What do
you abhor? How are you clinging to what is good?

Sermon
Study Sheets

 

Practical Christian Living,
Part 1 – Love without Hypocrisy

Romans 12:9

Introduction

Necessity of a Changed Life – 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John
1:8,10

Context – Romans 12

Love

storgh / storge

eroV / Eros

filew /Phileo

agaph / agape

Love of God – John 3:16; 2 Thess. 2:13 cf. Heb. 13:5; 1
John 4:16

Love for God – Matt. 22:37

Love for One Another – John 13:35; 1 John 3:10; 1 John
4:20-5:2

Love as Evidence – John 3:14-18

Without Hypocrisy

an + upokrithV
/ an + hupokrit’s

Hypocrites & Hypocrisy

The Pharisees – Matt. 22

James 3:17;1 Peter. 2:1

Flattery – Prov. 29:5; Jude 1:16; Prov. 7:5,21; 26:28

False Friendship – Prov. 19:6,7Prov. 17:17

Love vs. Hypocrisy

1 Cor. 13:4-8; Prov. 27:6,9; Ps. 141:5; Eph. 4:15;
Ephesians 4:29

Abhoring Evil

apostugounte / apostugounte.

ponhroV / pon’ros

Ps. 97:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10 cf. 8:13

Things God Hates

Proverbs 6:16-19; Proverbs 8:13

Abominations – Prov. 3:32; 11:1, 20; 15:8; 17:15;
Deut. 18:10-12; 25:16

Actions & Attitudes toward God?

Actions & Attitudes toward People?

What Meets Your Approval?

Psalm 101:3

Clinging to Good

kollwmenoi /kollomenoi

ajgaqoV / agathos

Gal. 5:20,21; Ephesians 2:10; Matt. 5:16

Conclusion