Basic Christianity – Session 6

 WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 2

We saw in our previous session that many scholars think that Romans 12:9-13 may be a portion of an early church manual used for the instruction new believers in how they are to behave.  In these verses are twelve specific rules for believers to follow.  These twelve statements give us a good overview of the kind of life the Lord calls His followers to live.

 

Rule 7 - Give yourself to God - “Serving the Lord” (v.11) - As simple as that little phrase sounds, it is actually packed with meaning. In the New Testament there are basically two different verbs that are used to express the concept of serving.

·         Diakoneo - This verb is generally translated “ministering.” It is in the same word family as our word deacon.

·         Douleuo – This verb is generally translated “serving.”  However, in the Greek of the 1st century it meant “slaving.” It comes from the word “doulos” which was the most basic word for slave.

And douleuo is the word used in the phrase “Serving the Lord” in Romans 12:11 to express the concept of serving.  The idea is that Christians are those who give themselves in service to God as a slave serving a master.

 

I want to make two points of application of this rule:

·         All Christians are called to serve - Many people have a radical misunderstanding of the Christian life. They think that God calls some people to do ministry/service and others to be the recipients of ministry/service. So to their way of thinking, there are pastors and missionaries to do the work of ministry and everyone else is the recipient of the work/ministry of those God has called out.  That is a gross distortion of what the New Testament teaches about Christian service.  And while it is true that God calls some people to vocational ministry, it is equally true that God calls every Christian to a life of service and ministry.  I want you to understand is that this statement about “Serving the Lord” is not just for the religious professionals.  It is for all believers.  We are all called to a life of service, of giving ourselves to God.  And when God’s people fail to understand that we are all called to a life of service, the work of God in the world suffers. 

·         Serving others enriches our lives - The average person in our world would probably say just the opposite.  Most people would say that serving costs us.  It takes away from our lives.  It costs us in terms of time and energy and money.  How can giving up things so precious to us possibly make our lives better?  But that is clearly what Jesus taught.  Listen to what He told His followers in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it...”  Only when you lose yourself in service to God do we really begin to live.  And when we stop giving of ourselves to others, we stop really living. 

 

Rule 8 - Be optimistic - “Rejoicing in hope” (v.12) - Basically, there are two general attitudes with by which we can be characterized.  We can choose to be—

·         Optimistic or pessimistic

·         Positive or negative

·         See the glass as half full or as half empty

·         Focus on the silver lining or focus on the cloud...

Some people are so pessimistic, so negative, so filled with gloom that in the words of one person, “They can find a cloud in every silver lining!” [Harbour, Philippians notes]  Other people are so optimistic, so positive, so filled with joy that they can find something good in any given situation.  The phrase “Rejoicing in hope...” tells us of two things we must cultivate in our lives if we are going to be characterized by optimism. 

·         To be optimistic we must cultivate in our lives an attitude of joy – The word translated “rejoicing” literally means “to be full of joy.”  It is important not to misinterpret what the Scripture means by joy.  If you asked the average person in our world what comes to mind when he/she hears the word joy, that person would probably say “happiness.”  In our culture, we’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that joy=happiness.  And because of that indoctrination, it is easy to misunderstand what the Bible means by the word “rejoicing” or “joy.” Joy and happiness are not the same. 

o    Happiness is a feeling.  It is that blissful feeling we sometimes get when the outward circumstances of our lives are good.  When our health is good, finances are in order, the family happy, and we have no major worries, then we may feel some happiness.  The Bible never tells us “To be happy always” because that is impossible.  Sometimes the outward conditions of our lives do not allow us to feel happy.

o    Joy, on the other hand, is not a feeling.  It is a state of being which is independent of the outward circumstances of our lives.  It is possible to have joy in our lives even when our outward circumstances are in turmoil.  That is because joy is the result, the by-product of our relationship with God through Jesus.  Joy is found in our relationship with God.  The Psalmist said it so well in Psalm 16:11 – “In thy presence is fullness of joy...”  One writer put it this way:  “The Christian who has lost joy does not have bad circumstances, but bad connections.  You do not lose joy unless your communion with Christ breaks down.” [MacArthur, p.73] 

·          To be optimistic we must cultivate in our lives an attitude of hope  - The last part of the phrase “Rejoicing in hope” is also important.  “Hope” like “joy” is one of the great words of Bible.  It is used more than 80 times in NT alone.  The Greek word which is normally translated “hope” and the word Paul used in Romans 12:12 is “elpis.”  It carries the idea of confident expectation and of looking forward to something with pleasure.  It is important to understand what the biblical writers mean by hope.  In biblical sense hope is nsot a naively optimistic view of life.  It is not burying our head in sand like the proverbial ostrich and wishing everything will eventually work out alright.  The biblical emphasis is not on what hope for but whom we hope in.  Greeks spoke of what they hoped for, but Hebrews spoke of whom they hoped in.  The Psalmist expressed well when wrote, "For thou, O Lord, are my hope..." (Psalm 71:5)

 

In Worms, Germany is St. Peter’s Cathedral.  In St. Peter’s Cathedral is the room where Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, was brought before a church council and questioned about what the church considered his heretical beliefs.  One of the inquisitors, a particularly mean-spirited man said, “Tell me, Luther, when the whole world turns against you—church, state, and people—where will you be then?” And Luther’s classic reply was, “Why then, as now, I will be in the hands of the Almighty God!” 

 

And that’s what it means to be optimistic in the biblical sense.  It means to live in the awareness that we are in God’s hands, and that is a good place to be.

 

Rule 9Hang in during the tough times - “Persevering in tribulation” (v.12) - While all the rules on this list are important and none should be neglected, I think the 8th rule on the list, found in the middle part of Romans 12:12 is particularly important.  For if we fail to learn and live by this particular rule, we set ourselves up for a life of frustration and failure.  This rule speaks to the one quality that virtually all successful people in any arena of life—academics, athletics, business, entertainment, law, politics, medicine, ministry, media, social work or whatever—have in common.  And that is the ability to hang in and not give up in the face of adversity.  The words translated “tribulation” and “perseverance” are both rich in meaning...

  • “Tribulation” is a translation of the Greek word “thlipsis.”  The word literally means “pressure.”  The idea behind the word is a crushing weight.  It was the word used to describe the process by which grapes were crushed to make wine and olives were crushed to make olive oil.  It is interesting that the moment of the greatest tribulation in the life of Jesus took place in a garden called Gethsemane.  The word Gethsemane means “oil press.”  When Romans 12:12 speaks of “Persevering in tribulation” it is not referring to a light, easy to bear pressure.  It is speaking of the kind of crushing tribulation Jesus faced in Gethsemane...
  • “Persevering” is also rich in meaning.  The word is “hupomeno.” “Hupo” is a preposition meaning by or under and”meno” is a verb meaning to stay or remain or abide.  So, hupomeno” means to remain by or to stand fast.  The word was used to describe a soldier under enemy fire who stands his ground, refusing to break and run.

And the clear meaning of “Persevering in tribulation” is that we are to stand our ground, to hang in there during the tough times of life.  And fortunately, as believers, we do not have to do that in our own strength.  God gives us some resources to help us hang in there when things are tough.  Resources such as His people and His Word and His Spirit.

 

Rule 10Don’t forget to pray“Devoted to prayer” (v.12) - This is the second time which the NASB uses the English word “devoted” in this passage.  At the beginning of verse 10 we are instructed to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love...”  Now in verse 12 we are to be “...devoted to prayer.”  However, it is important to understand while the English words are the same, the Greek words are totally different.  We saw in a previous session that the word translated “devoted” in verse 10 carries the idea of affection.  It is a combination of the words used to describe family love and emotional love.  However, the word translated “devoted” in the phrase “...devoted to prayer” in verse 12 is a totally different word.  The word is “proskartereo” and it is made up to two words:

·         ”pros” is a preposition meaning “moving toward” or “moving forward”...

·         ”kartereo” is a verb that carries the idea of being strong and steadfast, of enduring...

The idea behind the phrase “...devoted to prayer” is to be constantly moving toward endurance, steadfastness in your prayer life.  There is a statement in the NT that provides a good explanation of the phrase “…devoted to prayer…” It is found in James 5:13.  James is the person Eusebius described as having knees like a camel because he spent so much time in prayer.  James has a lot to say about the subject of  prayer, but James 5:13 sums it all up.  The verse says, “Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.” That  verse reminds us that being “…devoted to prayer…” means to pray when things are difficult and to pray when things are good. 

 

Lessons About Prayer

(Romans 8:26-27)

 

1.      Barclay calls these verses – “...one of the most important passages on prayer in the whole N.T.”...(text)

2.      Point out several truths about prayer in this passage...

 

WE ALL, AND IS STRESS ALL, NEED HELP WITH PRAYER

  1. We should not be embarrassed to admit that we struggle with prayer…find great encouragement in statement in middle v.26 – “...for we do not know how to pray as we should...”...not alone in struggle with prayer...it is a fairly universal struggle for those who follow God...”we” not you!...great apostle included himself!!...even someone as mature in walk as Paul struggled...
  2. Disciples realized need...after observing Jesus pray, pleaded with Him, “Lord, teach us to pray...”...starting point improving how we prayer is realizing we need help...

GOD HELPS US IN PRAYER

  1. Notice first phrase v.26 – “And in the same way the Spirit also helps us with our weakness...”...and rest of verse makes clear talking about our weakness in prayer...
  2. “Helps” – verb used only twice in NT...graphic word... Greek word is 17 letters long!!...compound – “with” ... “to take hold of”...means get next to another person and pull with or share that person’s load...only other time used is in Luke 10...Mary/Martha...Martha busy preparations for meal but Mary listening to Jesus...Martha complained to Jesus, “...tell her to help me...” to share the load...

 

PRAYER IS NOT JUST ASKING GOD FOR SOMETHING OR EVEN TALKING TO GOD

  1. Last part of v.26...”...the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words...”...NEB – “Through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us...”
  2. Prayer involves listening to God…it is a conversation or a relationship…no relationship will last if one person does all the  talking…when the Scripture tells us to “…pray without ceasing…”  it is not saying to live your life with your head bowed and eyes closed and talking to God…it is saying live in communion with or relationship with God…
  3. Thought expressed in that famous little verse of James Montgomery...

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,

The falling of a tear,

The upward glance of an eye

When none but God is near.

 

THE ULTIMATE PRAYER IS PRAYING FOR GOD’S WILL

  1. Last part of v.26 – “...intercedes for the saints (all Christians) according to the will of God...”...literally reads...point is the ultimate of prayers is simply praying for God’s will...
  2. The great over-riding purpose of prayer is to conform our wills to God’s will...when lose sight of that, begin to prayer selfish, self-centered prayers, more intent on directing God than discovering what God desires...
  3. Jesus our model in this...
    • Model prayer – “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done...”
    • Garden of Gethsemane – “If it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done...”
    • On cross...last words were a prayer of compliance to God’s will...”Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.”

 

A MODEL FOR PRAYING

ADORATION

CONFESSION

THANKSGIVING

SUPPLICATION

 

 

Rule 11Don’t hoard what you have ­– “Contributing to the needs of the saints…” (V.13) - There is nothing complex about that statement.  The word contributing” is a basic word for sharing and “saints” is a common NT word that means all believers.  The meaning of the phrase is that we are to share what we have with those who have needs. 

Some see this statement as a specific reference to the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea who were suffering immensely because of a famine that had struck that part of the world.  Paul had urged other churches to send a relief offering to those suffering Christians, and some speculate that in the phrase he was encouraging the Christians in Rome to participate in that offering. 

But behind the phrase “...contributing to the needs of the saints...” is a much larger principle than just a passing reference to specific offering.  It may be an over-simplification to state it this way, but basically there are two kinds of people in our world --givers and takers.

  • There are those who go through life giving themselves (their time, energy, abilities, love, and resources) to others...
  • There are those who go through life taking (time, energy, abilities, love, and resources) from others...

My observation is that generally, the givers are happy, fulfilled people and the takers are unhappy, unfulfilled people. 

No doubt you have heard the statement "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  That's a statement Jesus made, but it does not appear in any of the four gospels.  Paul quoted the statement in his farewell address to the church at Ephesus that is recorded in Acts 20.  The root meaning of the word translated "blessed" means happy or fulfilled.  His statement can be paraphrased "Giving brings more happiness/fulfillment to your life than getting."

 

Rule 12Be gracious“Practicing hospitality…” (V.13) - That little phrase is rich in meaning.  I want to take just a moment to explore both of those words.

·         “Practicing” is a very graphic word.  The basic meaning of the word is to pursue, chase, or run after something.  The idea behind this word is that it is not enough merely to show hospitality toward others.  We are to do so with a spirit of energy and enthusiasm. Christian hospitality should not be practiced in an hesitating or grudging way.  We are not to flee from it, we are to chase after it.  The verb form indicates a continuing habit of “practicing hospitality.”  This is not to be a one time or occasional event in the life of a Christian.  It is to be a habit of life.

·         “Hospitality” is also a very graphic word.  It is actually a compound word made up of two words put together.  The first part of the word “hospitality” is philo, which means beloved, dear, friend.  The second part is xenos, which means a foreigner, guest, or stranger.  So the word “hospitality” basically means to treat a stranger as you would a friend. 

Putting those two words together, “practicing hospitality” means constantly to be looking for ways that we can befriend those people and express love to those people who have special needs in their lives and who may feel alienated, disenfranchised, cut-off from others. 

 

The New Testament has a lot to say about God’s people “practicing hospitality.”

·         In I Timothy 3:2 and again in Titus 1:8 being hospitable is listed as one of the requirements for those who would be overseers or bishops or pastors of churches…

·         In I Timothy 5:10 showing hospitality is listed as one of the requirements elderly widows must meet to be put on a list to receive financial assistance from the church…

·         In Hebrews 13:2 all Christians are instructed “…to show hospitality to strangers…”

·         In I Peter 4:9 we are told to “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”

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