Sermon August 27, 2017 Romans 12 and 13 “How Should We Then Live?”

Romans Chapters 12 and 13                                                                              August 27, 2017

“How Should We Then Live?”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki     Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

“How Should We Then Live?” was a book and a film series by Francis Schaeffer, which was first published over 40 years ago. In light of everything going on in America today, I think we need to ask that same question: How should we then live? How do we live and and interact with our neighbors, given all the divisions and fractures around us? How do we respond to the accusations of hate and lies? How do we live in a culture that denies God’s authority and exalts human sovereignty?

I think one of the best answers to this question is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans, in chapters 12 and 13. What I want to do this morning is to see how the various principles and relationships in those two chapters can provide us with a Biblical, balanced, and loving approach to living in this fractured society of ours, and for us to be used by God to bring healing.

To help us grasp the principles in Romans 12-13, it may be helpful to picture the building of a grand house, perhaps three stories high, with a basement and garage, and see how each aspect of the house corresponds to one of the principles.

We can picture Romans chapter 1-11 as the foundation for this grand house. Here we discover who God is; what sinners and rebels we are; our great need of being reconciled and forgiven; how Jesus Christ accomplished that; God’s choosing of us – so it is all of His grace and glory; and our need of repentance and faith in responding to all that God has done for us in Christ. In short, Romans 1-11 are the theological foundation to how we should then live.

Then in Romans 12 and 13 we build on that solid, Christ-centered foundation, and we see that Romans 12:1 becomes the crucial connection between the foundation and the house. This is a pivotal verse: “Therefore, in view of God’s mercy…” Everything we need to do and all the resources we need to do them are based on the “salvation mercies” which God has shown to us in Christ. Here is how we can think about these two chapters: that God is speaking to us about seven interrelated principles, each of which is expressed as a relationship, and altogether, they tell us how we should live in this world:

  1. Our relationship to God: with consecrated bodies and renewed minds. (12:1-2)
  2. Our relationship to ourselves: thinking soberly about our gifts. (12:3-8)
  3. Our relationship to one another: love the family of God. (12:9-13)
  4. Our relationship to our enemies: not retaliation, but service. (12:14-21)
  5. Our relationship to the government: being good citizens. (13:1-7)
  6. Our relationship to our neighbors: loving others as yourself.13:8-10:
  7. Our relationship to Christ’s return: the motive for these relationships. (13:11-14)

I want you to see how Romans 12-13 provides an integrated framework for knowing how to live in the world, as followers of Christ. And the reason it can help you is because [1] it covers all the major areas of how we should live, and because [2] it puts these principles both in order and in balance.

Obviously we cannot go into detail on any of these relationships, but I hope that God will use this overview to help you to see where you might be either negligent or you might be too pre-occupied. For example, take the 5th one – relating to the state. On the one hand, some of you may have given up on anything political, so you don’t even vote. On the other hand, others of you might have put so much time and energy into influencing politics that you give the impression that the Kingdom of God will come in through voting in good people! Both extremes are wrong. But even the person with a balanced, Biblical understanding of a good relationship to the state needs to have his or her perspective informed by the six other relationships.

Therefore, do you see how we need to examine each relationship, and also examine each aspect in light of the others?  This is how we will know how we should live.

Let’s examine each of these seven principles or relationships:

  1. Our relationship to God: with consecrated bodies and renewed minds. (12:1-2)

We start with our own relationship with the Lord, because if that is not right, then none of our other relationships will be right. It would be like failing to anchor the house to the foundation, or perhaps laying down crooked and slanted boards that everything will be built on. Let me highlight the three main commands in this section. First, In view of All God has done for us in Christ, we must present our bodies – all that we are – to God, as living sacrifices to Him. Second, in light of His mercies, we must stop conforming to this age. That is, we must not go along with this secular age or world’s trends and thinking. One obvious example is the world’s attempt to obliterate any distinction between male and female. Another example is the belief that success is found in material possessions, comfort, and control.

The third command is, that in light of God’s mercies, we must be transformed though a renewed mind. God calls us to so live in and meditate on His Word, the Bible, so that the Holy Spirit of God actually changes us and transforms us. God’s Word must feed us, X-ray us, challenge us, comfort us, and inform our view of the world. Does the Bible do that for you?

When you stop conforming and start being transformed, then you will know God’s best for you!

  1. Our relationship to ourselves: thinking soberly about our usefulness. (12:3-8)

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your own self, your identity, and how you fit into the larger body of Christ, the church. There are two dangers to avoid here. On the one hand, you can be too pre-occupied with yourself, so that you spend too much time on yourself. On the other hand, you can neglect a healthy and humble picture of yourself, either because you hate yourself or you throw yourself into a cause and neglect the proper care of your soul and body. But God calls us to have a sober and humble view of ourselves: our weaknesses, our strengths, our gifts, and our personality. He calls us to slow down at times and get rest and have a sabbatical. He calls us to take inventory of our lives. Perhaps every 3-5 years each of us should take a few days to look hard at who we are, where we are going, and what is motivating us.

Going back to our house analogy, we could picture this part of life as the framework and the interior of the house, including the warmth and lighting and functionality.

God call us to develop a sober and humble view of ourselves and our gifts. Are you doing that?

Our relationship to one another: love the family of God. (12:9-13)

Christ calls us to love, serve, and help one another in the body of Christ, and a robust involvement in a local congregation is the best way to do that.   In our house analogy we can picture this love as the hallways and stairs that connect us with one another, and as we as the dining room, where we gather to eat and fellowship together. The local church is to be a family living in a home, not paying boarders in a boarding house! This relationship must be a priority if we are to live in the world around us, for two reasons: One, we need one another in the church to humble us and to help us, to come along side us in the battle. Two, the members of a church must demonstrate what love and humility and diversity looks like within the body of Christ – or else how will the world know we are Christ’s followers, and why would they listen to us, if we have nothing to offer?  I am thankful to the Lord for the loving care within this body, even as we are a diverse group of people… but let us press on!  What is your commitment to the church?

  1. Our relationship to our enemies: not retaliation, but service. (12:14-21)

When you build your grand house, there’s probably going to be at least one neighbor who doesn’t like what you’re doing, and complains all the time about your house. (When our family moved in our house in Maple Glen 27 years ago, and we filed an application for a variance to have an apartment built for my mother, we had three people in the area state their opposition!) How will you relate to those who oppose you? Will you ignore them? Hate them? Or love them?

How do you respond when you are praying in front of Abington Hospital, holding a sign that says “Jesus Heals and Forgives” or “Abortion Kills Children” and someone drives by, giving you the finger and cursing you?  It’s not enough to try to restrain yourself from getting angry or getting revenge; God calls us to counter-balance that temptation with positive and loving actions towards those who oppose us. We are called to leave punishment in God’s hands.

Notice the three references to evil in vv. 9-21. In v. 9 we are told to hate what is evil. In v. 17 we are called to not repay evil with evil. And in v. 21 we are commanded to overcome evil with good. Those three exhortations will give you lots to think on and put into practice!

Think of the Christians in Charleston, SC, who forgave Dylan Roof, after he killed nine of their members, two summers ago. This is the way of the cross of Christ, who did not retaliate (1 Peter 2:23) but even forgave those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34)

Our relationship to the government: being good citizens. (13:1-7)

Today we have anti-fascists groups battling the KKK, and Black Lives matter pitted against support for the police. How should we live in relation to the governing authorities: the local, state, and federal governments? We see how in 13:1-7. We might picture relationship this a paying taxes on the house you built, following township and state regulations for your house, yard, and car, and being involved by voting and attending civic meetings. God calls us to obey and honor the authorities he has ordained, and yet at the same time, the Bible also teaches us that we must obey God above any human authority (Acts 4:19, 5:29). So wisdom is needed. The state is not the answer nor the provider, but God has ordained that the state to have limited authority over us, under His rule, for the good of the land, and the carrying out of justice.

When Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome, the authorities were just about to begin their persecution of the believers… perhaps that is what is happening in our country? Paul wanted them to be ready and be prepared, with a positive attitude toward the state/ governing leaders as God’s servants, while at the same time understanding that the government of Romans 13 can become corrupt as the wicked Babylon of Revelation 13. Let us pray for our leaders; honor them and pay rightful taxes, and seek to be a godly influence in our local government.

  1. Our relationship to our neighbors: loving others as yourself (13:8-10)

How many of your neighbors do you know by name? How many of them have been in your house or apartment for coffee or a meal? If we are going to impact the world for Jesus, we must start by being salt and light for Him in our neighborhood. It’s not enough to put a lawn sign in our yard. We cannot circle the wagons and become an isolated community of Christian, for God calls us to go out and to be Christ’s ambassadors, bringing the Good News of Jesus to those around us, both in word and in deed.    We could think of these relationships as the paths from the street to our doors, foyers, and porches. We don’t want to build a beautiful house and then have no way for outsiders to come and visit us! Yes, our lives and our homes will get messy as we reach out, but that’s the way relationships are. They are rarely simple and easy.

One quick suggestion is to do things in your front yard or in front of your house or apartment. For example, wash your car there, do some gardening, or work on a project there… so that as others walk by, you might be able to engage them in conversation.

We begin by listening to others, especially those who have very different views or backgrounds.

By the way, notice in v. 10 that love is the fulfillment of the law, and Paul has just quoted four of the Ten Commandments. The point is that love for others is made strong by obeying the moral law, the Ten Commandments. Love without law is a spineless jellyfish; law without love is a lifeless skeleton. Therefore love will be faithful in marriage and love will honor all human life. The kind of love God calls us to demonstrate is never sloppy agape; rather, it is the outworking of God’s holiness and righteousness, as spelled out in God’s law.

  1. Our relationship to Christ’s return: the motive for these relationships. (13:11-14)

We are to live in the light of the “Daytime” that Christ has brought in his resurrection and ascension, and not in secret deeds of night. Furthermore, we are to live with an understanding that we are still awaiting the return of Jesus Christ, and so we live between the first and second appearances of Christ, in the already of the gospel fulfillment, and yet in the “not yet” of the fullness of his coming.  So as the first coming of Christ (12:1) provides the motive of God’s mercies, the second coming of Christ provides encouragement to holy living (13:11-14)  Do you have a lively expectation of the Lord’s return? It is a great incentive for living a holy life.

Romans 13:11-14 are the verses that a young playboy read, back in 386 AD, and that transformed his life. He wrote, “Instantly, at the end of this sentence, a clear light flooded my heart, and all the darkness of doubt vanished away.” You might have heard of this man… his name was Aurelius Augustine, better known to us as St. Augustine, one of the greatest church fathers of all time!

I encourage each of you to examine your priorities along the lines of these seven relationships, and strengthen those weak areas, repent where you have overdone things, and most of all, seek to build every aspect of your “house” on the true foundation of the mercies of God in Christ!