The sermon: loving others

Hi, today my dad preached the sermon as a fill in until that church could get another pastor. And now I have dad’s sermon ready, here it is:

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14-21 (NIV)

A house caught fire, was engulfed in flames; the firemen came and one of them noticed a young boy up on the second floor looking out of the window. He would soon be burned in the flames. But there was an external pipe going up the side of the house and without thought for his own safety the fireman began to climb up that pipe. It was blistering hot, and his gloves began to smoke and the flesh on his hands began to burn. But he rescued the boy successfully.

Unfortunately the boy lost both his parents in the fire, and sometime later there was a meeting held for the purpose of adopting the young boy. Several people came forward and explained why they would make good parents. And then in came the fireman who said he would like to adopt the boy. When he was asked why he should be allowed to adopt the boy, he rolled up his sleeves and showed the scars on his hands. The boy said, “your honor, can he have me.” “Why?” said the judge. “Because I see his hands, I know who he is, he rescued me from the fire.”

You see that young boy recognized the fireman by the marks in his hands. 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ came to a world burning in sin, consumed by lust and greed and pride and selfishness. He was born to a virgin and went around doing good: healing the sick, lifting up the fallen, casting out demons: after living perfectly for 33 years He was falsely accused, and wrongly condemned and unjustly crucified on a torture instrument called a cross. And why? He did it for you! It was a rescue. And after He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, He still bears on His body the marks of His rescue. 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:16

And what does this have to do with the passage we are studying today in Romans chapter 12? Well this passage shows us the marks of a true Christian. It tells us that genuine believers have tell-tale signs, distinguishing characteristics. So let’s begin this morning by considering a few questions together: what are the marks of a true Christian? How are genuine followers of Christ recognized? Let’s consider these as we pray together…(as we think of marks of a genuine Christian we think of the marks of Jesus Christ, and we become very thankful that by His wounds we are healed.)

We are in a passage of Scripture that shows several marks of a true Christian. They start in verse 9: a Christian has genuine love and real purity. We have learned to turn from our past wrong doing and to cling to what is good. Verse 9 might remind us of Mary at the tomb on Sunday morning, when Jesus showed Himself to her and she held on to Jesus. We’re told to hate what is evil and cling to what is good, even as Mary clung to her resurrected Lord.

The next mark of a genuine Christian is in verse 10: real Christians are those who love others and who show honor to others, not to themselves. This might remind us of Abraham, who when they outgrew the land he let Lot choose first where he wanted to live. Even though Abraham was older and had the right to choose first, he showed honor to Lot.

Next, verse 11 shows us that genuine Christians are marked by their passion in serving the Lord.

Verses 12 and 13 show us that a true Christian is one who rejoices in hope, and has learned to be patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer; which reminds us of Job and his patience.

And finally in verse 13 a mark of a true Christian is one who contributes to the needs of others. Christians, like Christ, are givers. These are the marks of a Christian.

But now we come to a section of Scripture that seems extremely hard to do—maybe even impossible. Look at what we are told to do in verse 14, “bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse.” Verse 17 “do not repay evil for evil…”, verse 19 “do not take revenge” and verse 20: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty give him something to drink.” This seems impossible to do. We naturally think: “if our enemy is hungry and thirsty he is finally getting what he deserves.” Naturally we harbor bitterness and anger, we nurse a grudge, and we plot revenge. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, when someone is wronged, he says, “I don’t get mad, I get even.

And just maybe this brings to mind someone with whom you’ve had a problem. Maybe they’ve spoken ill of you to others, ruined your reputation, spread a bad report. And now all you want is for them to get what’s coming to them. 2 weeks ago my wife and I met with a man whose twin brother was killed, strangled by someone they both worked with. And this man didn’t think the police were working fast enough so he went over and beat up his brother’s killer. And in some ways we all think, who can blame him?

So when we read this passage and see that God commands us to bless our enemies, to do good to them, to love them and to meet their needs, we’re like, “no way. God I cannot do that. You don’t understand what they’ve done to me, you don’t know how it feels to be this hurt like this, you don’t know what you’re telling me to do.”

Oh yes He does. Look with me at Colossians chapter 1, and I just want us to notice How God treats His enemies: “21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” Well what did God do with His enemies? “22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”— Colossians 1:21-22

You mean that at one time we were all God’s enemies? Why? Because of our evil behavior. Our unbelief, our rebellion, our sin put us at odds with God and we became not His children but his adversaries, his enemies. By our refusal to submit to God’s Law and believe in God’s Son we have raised our fist to the Almighty and became the enemy of God. All people are born in that condition. James says, “4Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4 (NIV)

And in this condition God would have been right to stomp on us all and send us straight to hell. But instead we read:

22 he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— Colossians 1:21-22 (NIV)

Why are we no longer His enemies? Because God treated His own Son as His worst enemy, so that you and I could be His friends. Why are we now “holy in His sight”? Because Jesus became sin for us. Why are we “without blemish”? Because Jesus took all our blemishes on Himself. And why are we free from accusation? Because Jesus was accused of our sin and condemned in our place. The Bible says it pleased the Father to bruise His Son so that He could bless us. To put Jesus to grief, that He might grace us.

Please notice Romans chapter 5, and let’s see the same title applied to the Romans:

10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10 (NIV)

See that is how God treats His enemies. He blesses us who persecuted Him. On the cross Jesus did Romans 12 verse 20: “if your enemy is hungry feed him, if he is thirsty give him something to drink.” Jesus’ broken body is our bread of life: Jesus’ spilled out blood quenches our thirst for forgiveness and eternal life.

But about now we start to have all kinds of questions: wouldn’t me doing good to my enemy encourage him in his bad behavior? Why should I reward him for his wrong? After all Dr. Phil says about those who hurt me to kick them out and send them packing. Why should I bless him who cursed me? Answer: because that is what God did for you. On the cross, Jesus didn’t say to the Jews or the Roman soldiers, “Just wait until the resurrection and I’ll show you a thing or two”;  no, He didn’t plot revenge, He prayed for His crucifers, “Father, please forgive them…”

Now I’d like to show you an example of this. If you would, turn with me to 2 Samuel chapter 9. As you’re turning, please remember who David’s worst enemy was. Who was David’s worst enemy? It wasn’t Goliath, a small stone took care of that little giant. It wasn’t even the Philistines in general. No, David’s worst enemy was Saul. Saul tried to kill David, threw javelins at him, hunted him down and tried over and over to kill him. And notice what David says in 2 Samuel 9:

1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Samuel 9:1 (NIV)

Wow! Let’s put this in our language today: “Is there anyone still left of my enemies whom I can show kindness to for Jesus’ sake?” That’s what David is doing. He has the marks of a true Christian.

2 Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They called him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “Your servant,” he replied. 3 The king asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.” See Mephibosheth had a great fall when he was younger, and as a result of the fall he couldn’t walk right—he was crippled.

4 “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.” 5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. 6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “Your servant,” he replied. 7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” 8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” 2 Samuel 9:2-8

See that’s grace, and Mephibosheth knew it. And the reality is that you and I are crippled because of the fall. We took part in the rebellion in the garden of Eden, through our parents Adam and Eve, and now we don’t walk right. We are maimed and crippled because of the fall. But King Jesus invites us to come and sit at His table, where the tablecloth of grace covers our brokenness, and where we have fellowship with the King.

And it is the mark of a genuine follower of Christ, like David, to do good to our enemies, to bless them, and provide for them if need be.

Look with me back in Romans chapter 12. See we read this passage and we immediately think of people we need to bless, or try to reconcile with. And we might say, “wait, I’ve already tried. I’ve tried to reconcile with him/her and they’re like a brick wall. They won’t respond.” And that’s why the disclaimers are there in verse 18: “18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” There are two disclaimers here, the first one says “if it is possible” because it’s not always possible. The second disclaimer says “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”, because it also depends on the other person. True reconciliation is when both parties humble themselves and sometimes only one will do so and the other won’t. Don’t be discouraged if you bless your enemy and do good to them, and they don’t respond. Verse 19 tells us to leave the results to God.

So to summarize: the marks of a true Christian are that we love purity and hate sin, that we show honor to others, that we passionately serve the Lord, that we rejoice in hope, are constant in prayer, that we give to others, but also that we love those who hate us, we do good to those who persecute us, and we bless those who curse us.

But there is one final mark mentioned—it’s the culmination of all of Romans chapter 12, and it’s in verse 21:

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NIV) Look at Jesus for a minute hanging on the cross, suffering, covered with sin and shame, dying the death of a criminal. Isn’t He being overcome with evil? No, He is actually overcoming evil with good. He is crucifying our sin, He is overcoming Satan, and He is destroying death for us. And then He rose from the dead on the third day having set us free from sin and guilt, having overcome the world, He rose triumphantly and ascended into heaven as the great Victor in the battle.

All Christians will follow in His steps. We too will overcome by blessing those who curse us, by doing good to those who use us. Because Christians are not on the run, we do not play defense, no we go on the offense and the gates of hell won’t keep us out. We overcome evil with good. And we do this by humbling ourselves, confessing our sins, being reconciled with the Father. And then we humble ourselves to others, seek to bless those who curse us.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-47 (NIV)  That’s the mark of a Christian.

So in short Jesus loved His enemies (us) by dying on the cross, instead of hating us. And we should follow Christ’s example in loving our enemies, blessing those who curse us, honor our enemies and all that. And he (my dad) is saying that if we have a grudge against someone or we need to make things right, then we should do that, and we should do that with the spirit of God in our hearts.

I enjoyed the sermon very much, and I hope you enjoyed it to.

Grace and truth, Charity Cleveland.

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