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We have reached a key moment in our studies in the letter to the Romans. Paul has spent 11 chapters detailing his great theology on what the gospel is. But it has to be more than head knowledge and so in these closing chapters, chapters 12 to 16, Paul tells us how we apply this gospel in our daily lives. He begins by detailing what our response is to God. Knowing the gospel means we respond in love to God and understand that everything we do is our spiritual worship.

Having established our response to the gospel is love for God, Paul goes on to talk of how the church its to be a place of sacrificial love. Believers are to be transformed by Jesus and not conformed by the world. We are to be different people who demonstrate a better way – the Jesus way. We are called to live as Jesus did so that we will show what the love of God looks like in our daily lives.

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

David McCullagh:

We have reached a significant moment in the letter of Paul to the church in Rome because for 11 chapters he has been digging deep and he's been digging very deep into what is the heart of the gospel. And as we concluded chapter 11 last week we saw that the heart of the gospel is God's love for us. So that we would know the great salvation in Jesus Christ. And Paul is so filled with the truth, with this truth, that he couldn't contain himself. And he burst out almost in song in verse 33 of chapter 11 to say, Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways. Just because this is a significant moment doesn't mean that Paul is going to go easy on us. Because what he wants to look at further is why God would bless us with such salvation. And the simple answer is, if we were to look at ourselves as we are, we don't know why he does it. But he does, and we truly are eternally grateful to him for it. Because we don't deserve this salvation. It's not of any merit of our own that could have persuaded God to love us. Paul tells us in his great theology of the gospel in these 11 chapters that God, or that salvation is God's initiative and we are to be his joy filled recipients. But this is not about head knowledge only. The gospel is to be lived out and so we now take all that we have learned and begin in chapter 12. And although we're shifting gear with our response to the gospel, Paul is not changing what he believes or he's already taught. What he is now demonstrating is the application of these 11 chapters. When I was a business studies teacher for all of three years, between qualifying as a teacher and then going into the ministry, I was I was always conscious that when I taught or what I taught would have bearing and relevance to the students to what the world of work would be like. There was no point in me standing up at the front of a classroom and teaching different aspects of marketing or production or human resources if it didn't make sense in the real world. And as teachers, we would often try to take students off on a field trip so that they could see what they were learning in class did indeed have relevance in future job opportunities. And let's face it, who doesn't love a field trip? Teacher and pupil alike. And if you were in business studies, you got the best of field trips because you got to Coca Cola and you got to Tato Castle. And do you know what's the benefit of going to both those places? You get freebies. Free crisps straight off the conveyor belt, unflavored. Free coke as much as you could drink on the bus journey home. Maybe it wasn't so good for teachers after all. But it was all about seeing that what we were learning in the classroom actually made sense in real life. life terms. That for business studies students, they could see that what they were learning about these things, as dull as it looked in a textbook, well, they could see a job. They could see a career. They could see life after school. In a real way that they could see in front of them were opportunities for employment and what we discovered that when we returned from these field trips, there was indeed greater application in GCSE and A level students because they could see what they were learning first hand. being worked out in front of them in the real world. And because of that, it great, it gave great greater drive to understand, to learn, to pass coursework and exams so that they could see their own future. You see what we learn in the classroom must have bearing on how we daily live. Well, chapters 12 to 16 of Romans, it's not work experience, it's not a field trip, but it is supposed to ground us so that we can know how the gospel works out and is lived out day by day. If you like, it's an ever ongoing field trip that as we learn, so we live, and we see the purpose of our learning. in how we live. And so Paul begins for us, drawing us back again to the heart of the gospel in verses one and two, I appeal to you therefore by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind and your spirit. that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. In the opening sentence, we have the word therefore. Whenever we see therefore in scripture it indicates that what has gone before has come. will have bearing on what is to come. So Paul is saying, I hope you've paid attention to the past 11 chapters, because now we're going to see what that does for us. And the first action that we come to that is to be taken is that we are to present our bodies and our minds. as living sacrifices there in the second line. Jew and gentile alike in this community of God's people in the church there in Rome would have been very aware of the sacrificial system. The only scripture they would have had would have been portions of the Old Testament, certainly the first five books. And so they would have understood, as I say, Jew and Gentile alike, even though living in Rome, what the whole sacrificial system was about. They would have known its practice and they would have known its purpose. But here Paul, in the New Covenant, is adjusting it so that it makes sense for how we live today, without the sacrificial system. Because even in this day, this system, as in Paul's day, it was still very much in operation. But, as we now know, it was fulfilled in Jesus and therefore was no longer needed. We were thinking of this this morning with the girls and boys when we learned together. Hebrews 10, verse 10, We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Because that's what the sacrifice was to do. It was to sanctify the people, to make them right before God on that day of atonement. But that's been done for us. Christ has fulfilled the sacrificial system. And so presentation of our bodies as a living sacrifice tells us of that fulfillment of what was intended by certain Old Testament sacrifices. And it now signifies worshippers, to worshippers, their personal commitment to God. Such sacrifice then and now needs to be holy and acceptable to God. And of course, we're never going to be perfectly holy in this life because of the influence of sin, but we are to strive to do things the way God would have us do them, and to do them for His glory, because they are to be our spiritual worship. Spiritual worship can be understood as worship motivated and ordered in a reasoned way based on the careful understanding of the gospel and what its implications are to us given there in chapters 1 to 11. You see there's a battle going on And it is a battle for your very soul. The world wants to conform you to its standard, but we are to be transformed. This transformation takes place when we focus our thinking and meditation. on Christ. And when I use the word meditation, I'm not using a, a new age word. I'm using scripture because that's the picture that the psalmist gives us in Psalm number one in verses two to three, but his delight is in the law of the Lord. And on his law, he meditates day and night. Meditation is simply thinking And that's what we're to do with God. We are to think deeply about him and of him as his word has revealed himself to us. Because when we do then look at what we are like. This rich image that we are like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers. Our transformation in Jesus Christ is actually for our benefit. It's for our benefit so that we will grow closer to God and thereby live in His will. So our immediate response to the gospel is to live a new life in Christ. A life that is good, acceptable, and perfect to His standards, and not to our own standards or to the standards of the world. And so, this is a passage divided in three, and in this first section of spiritual worship, we have to take stock of who we are and what our lives are like. Are we being conformed to the world, or are we being transformed to the world? It's all very well being here and singing our hallelujahs tonight. But what about tomorrow morning? What about next Saturday on the sports field? What about how we interact with those at home? With family members? You see, the world would conform us that we simply don't care, that we'll speak how we want, use language that is inappropriate and do what we want to do. That's what it means to be conformed by the world, to be self centered and do what I want to do in word, in action and in thought. But to be transformed by Jesus is to become his standard, is to learn from him so that that transformation is recognizable by all those around. That indeed, yes, it will make a stand out, but it will make a stand out in a way that is good and for the glory of the kingdom. So how does Paul tell us to live out the gospel of these 11 chapters of deep theology of what is the heart of the gospel? Well, his first point of application is to live as sacrifices for Jesus Christ. We forego this world. We do not be conformed to it, but we be transformed by Jesus in our thoughts, in our actions, in our words. Take stock tonight. This is what is required of us if we profess faith in Jesus Christ. This is how we live out the gospel and show it to all those around. But Paul has more to say. Moving on to verses 3 to 8. Paul wants to speak about our life together as believers. Because this is a church really pressured. It's in the imperial capital. It's under persecution. And it will be under persecution in due course in the history of the world. And so Paul is getting them ready for that. And what he's wanting to do is what the book of Acts has stressed. Because in the book of Acts, we read of the one another's in the early church. These are the verses that tell us of how close members of the church were to one another. They held everything in common, and they came together for worship, for fellowship, and even for food, meals together. This was a display of their unity in the gospel. Paul now wants build on that and to give us the image of a body because Paul at the end of the day is a realist. He knows what we're like. He knows humanity. And so we're all too familiar with the image of the body, not just in scripture, but in the reality of our own bodies. I was told that once you hit 40, you begin to know your body. You begin to feel the pains and the aches. You didn't even know you could be painful and achy in certain parts of your body. And the older you get, the more problems our bodies cause for us. And there's very little we can do about it. But we know that we need each part of our body to function well so that we will feel well. How much discomfort can even the littlest of thorns give in a finger and it unsettles the whole body for days? Well, Paul wants us to know that this transformation in Christ leads to a bit of self awareness. We are to see ourselves as equal to every other believer, not more or less important. Regardless of our position in the church or status in society, the number of qualifications we have or the money in the bank. When we are in Christ, we are to think with sober judgment of who we are. Because Paul goes on in verse 4 to say, For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of Christ. off one, sorry, members one off another. See this transformation isn't just for us alone, but it is for the whole community of God's people. We are to recognize that we actually need each other. We do need each other. We may differ in the gifts that we demonstrate, but it is not our gifts that define us, nor is there one gifting greater than the other. It is true that certain gifts in the church carry greater responsibility, but that does not mean it is more important. Paul helpfully goes on to lift the gifts. prophetic understanding, serving, teaching, challenging, giving, leading, and showing mercy. Now this is not an exclusive list, but it is a list that has things that we could all do, and some that only a few will do. But each gift is needed in the church to bless believers and to speak the gospel into society. That's why the image of a body is perfect, because we truly need. each other, to be the body that we're supposed to be. Regardless of what our gifts are, do you see how we're supposed to use them? We are to do them to the absolute best of our ability, because when we serve the church, then we serve God well. When you look around this congregation of God's people, not just tonight, but tomorrow, When you think of those who attend morning and evening, what do you see and what do you think? If you're thinking negatively, even about one person, then you need to sharpen your perspective of what the church is about. The church is not a place where we make things harder for our brothers and sisters. The world is good enough at doing that for us. We are to support, we are to encourage, and we are to bless each other with our acts of service in Jesus name. The church has been given to us by God as the vehicle by which we gather together. We are to love the church, to love the people, to forgive and to love even when it is hard, because this is God's standard for us and was so well displayed in the actions of Jesus Christ. And this is where we are taken to in the last section of this passage. But before we get there, what is our life together? Are we simply people who walk in through the door and walk out again? We'll even try to avoid making eye contact with certain people because of things that are going on in life. That's not what the church is to be. The church is to be a place of blessing, of safety. The place is to be where the world is out there, and we as the people of God are in here where we may be built up and edified together, one of another, so that when we have to go out again, we will stand strong, knowing that someone has our back here and now, as well as the strength and comfort of our Savior. Life together is an important part of living as the church. Once again, we need you. We need to encourage each other, we need to bless each other, and we need to serve each other. These are the commands that are given to us, the church, and we must obey. And so Paul wants to develop this and think more about this. And so in verses 9 to 21, he develops for us what are the marks of a true Christian. And I think this is going to make us a little bit uncomfortable. Because here's what Paul says, Abore what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Now the love that Paul is speaking of here, the word, uh, if you've been to a wedding that I've conducted, normally there's an explanation of what the three words of love are, but this is agape in this, uh, verse, which means sacrificial love. And that's what Paul's speaking about. Paul has already spoken of this love and he thinks it's a love that thinks of others more highly than ourselves. But it is a love that is for others and not for ourselves only. In other words, our life together as believers is to be genuine. And this is harder than we think, because look at what is contrasted with sacrificial love. Well, we are to abhor evil. So if we are not genuine in our love, then the contrast is that our actions are not what God desires for us. And we so easily ignore others because of our own thinking of them. and actions. We refuse, as I've said, to greet someone that we worship with. This is not love. This is the opposite of love. We are to hold fast to what is good, because it actually takes a lot of work to live together as God's people. Because verse 10 continues, as we live out the gospel, we are to love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. Now I'm not suggesting that when you walk in the door it's one of those, you know, old romantic style phone calls. No you hang up, no you hang up, no you hang up. I couldn't be bothered with that. I put the phone down when the conversation was over. We're not talking about who can be the most blowing up of the other person. We're simply saying we treat each other special. We are to be kind, we're to be sincere to one another, and to demonstrate this affection with true devotion, not object detachment. An emotional bond is implied here in what Paul is saying. We are truly to love one another, even with our faults. As the commentator Ian Duguid says of this verse, Something is wrong when believers feel less care for each other than they do for their household dog. And you may love your dog, you may love your cat, but we are to love God's people more. Even though they irritate us, even though they may annoy us, we are to love them more because not only are we to fellowship together in this life, but indeed we will be together for all eternity. And that's a very long time. We are to demonstrate the love of Christ to each other so that we will not only know a great sense of fellowship, But that we will see before us the love of Christ living in the lives of our brothers and sisters. And this was brought home to me simply last week when God's word was opened and someone responded and said they'd heard of the love of God but they'd never before seen it. In this very building. Take courage in that. Take courage that we are noticed and not noticed to be criticized or to be made fun of, but to be admired as Jesus lovers because we demonstrate love. This is what we are to do. This is the command that is given in chapter 10 and verse two, we saw that zeal can be misd. That we can be so fervent that we can take our eyes off love and start loving the things that aren't true and aren't Genuine. And so Paul wants to keep us on the right track and says don't lose your focus Continue to show love so that people will notice and he speaks here of zeal in verse 11 Where he says that it is a component in expressing love and it is indispensable that we are to be zealous for it When he uses the word in verse 11, slothful love suggests dead formality, simply going through the motions, turning up and as quickly as you can getting out through the door again. That's not true love, that, that's rushing. We are to be more sincere in our love, to be zealous, to have zeal in it, to be fervent, suggest inner intensity, showing itself in what might appear to be extreme, but yet doing it. Because that's what required and Jesus did it because an example of this would be Jesus is washing the disciples feet You know how that went down. They were a little bit put off by it. They weren't sure that Jesus should be doing this In fact Peter said it should be him who did it to Jesus But in this action Jesus was expressing his love for his disciples. It was fervent love Displayed in the washing of the feet in John 13 and verse 1 because we are to serve the Lord in all that we do. I can remember an outreach team leader down in Carlo in my younger days would say that the greatest job on an outreach team is the person who washes the toilets. I didn't agree because I didn't want to wash toilets. But his rationale was why do you need clean toilets on an outreach team? Because it stops the spread of disease. And if you have a team that goes down with sickness and disease, then you can't do the work that you've been called to do. See, everything we do, from the cleaning of the toilets, to the serving of tea, to shaking hands at the door, to lifting the collection, to simply being the smiling face across the pew. is all service to the Lord. It's not little, it's not small, it's all for the good of the kingdom. And when we do this, then we're led to what the outcome is in verse 12, that we rejoice in hope, we be patient in tribulation, and we be constant in prayer. We are to be people who are confident in their future. We may not know what lies ahead, But we can be prepared because the heart of the gospel is about looking to the future. We are to be hope filled people who, when discouraged with the challenges of this world, can draw near to the Lord in prayer. And prayer should not be something that's relegated to those times of hardship, but prayer should be a daily practice for each and every one of us, so that when the hard times come, our prayer life will be a natural response to what we're facing. And notice in Verse 11 what this sacrificial love leads us to and it's for the good of the church and it's giving because we demonstrate our knowledge of God's goodness to us by showing it to others through our giving and our hospitality and this again is thinking of others above ourselves. Well the chapter closes in verses 14 to 21 with a shift in Paul's direction and it's almost a rhythmic shift in how he sees how we live. In verse 14, he echoes the beatitude of blessing those who persecute you. There is to be joy in the moments where it is called for with others, but also weeping with others during their difficult times, that we may support each other in every significant moment in life. And look at what verse 16 tells us. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise. in your own sight. Churches can be places of strife at times for God's people, but look at what love does. Look at what agape, gospel centered love does. It enables us to live in harmony, one with the other. The gospel in our lives should minimize what is our fraught attention to things. It should make us behave better before each other, and it should also make it easier to avoid being wise in your own sight, because once again, we are to think of others above ourselves. Verses 17 through to 20 speak of our engagement with those who do us wrong, or who we find difficult, because, by the way, the world conforms us that we, we pay back evil for evil. That if they strike us, will we strike them back harder? That's not what we're told here. What we're told is that the one who does evil to us and the one who causes us strife, well, we are to respond and we are to live as Christ teaches us. Paul tells us to live as Christ lived. To live in peace, but to live in trust in the Lord, for his judgment on those who do not live to his standard. And this is the great refrain of this passage. We are called to trust in God, to truly trust him. When we do, we can live his way and know that he will keep us. And so Paul concludes where he started in verse two, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. And this should be our strategy against evil. Don't be overcome by it. We are to be proactive in our living of the gospel. And as we do this. Then we will be led into a life ruled by fervent love for God and will ensure that good Attains the upper hand in the Christian life because as Paul writes in Galatians 5 and verse 16 Walk by the Spirit And you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Walk by the ways of the Spirit and allow the Lord to lead you. It may mean that you have to change your relationship with certain people because you find them difficult, but it will be for the good of the kingdom of God. And I need to say what I'm going to say next because the church hasn't always done this well. This is a great list, and this is a beautiful list, and this is what we should aspire to, but if you have been hurt by the church, I am sorry for that. Genuinely. Because the church should not be the place of hurt. The church should be the place of gospel love. That builds up. That strengthens. And that in our fellowship together, we will be ready for that day when we will be brought into the kingdom of God. But if the church has hurt you, please don't let that hold you back. Because the church can do better, and should do better. Together, the church is not an institution, it's not a building, it's, it's all of us. And it takes each and every one of us to live in this way. And so what are we to do? Well, let's conclude with what Paul says in verse 9. Let's let our love be genuine for each other. Let's abhor what is evil. Yes, let's take our stand for what is wrong, biblically, because we must. But let's hold fast to what is good. Let us stand tall in the strength of Christ so that as his people the heart of the gospel will Transform us and continue to transform us so that as we know in our heads what it means So we will live it out and we begin Here because how can we show the love to our non christian neighbor if we cannot show the love to each other? How can we speak well of the gospel when we're not speaking well of each other? How can we supposedly build up the church by seeing souls one if we cannot edify Fellowship and love one another what good is it for us to rush out the door home and miss the opportunity of fellowship? To demonstrate the love of Christ you see Paul's changed and what he wants to do But he has not gone any less deep He goes deep and it is a challenge for each and every one of us that there is a standard By which we are to live If we're not living in that standard, then we are not living God's way. But look at what the standard is. Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it something that we want for ourselves? Well, if we do, then we live it and we show it. Because in it, we show who Christ is to us. Well, may we show him well to each other, even this night, as we go out into all this world and proclaim his goodness. And his grace. Let's pray. Our Father, God, we thought it was a little bit tough so far in Romans by the depths to which Paul brings us to try and understand what it means to be your people. But now, as he points us to how we are to live it out, it gets even harder because it means we have to be transformed. We have to change, but thank you that we tr that we change into the likeness of Christ. We follow his ways. So help us not to be conformed into the ways of this world. But may we stand strong in Christ and live for him firstly before you before each other and then into the world where you've called us to work to live and to declare your truths. And we ask this in Jesus name. Amen.

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