9 Love must be sincere..—Romans 12:9a NIV
Unfortunately, the English language has one word for “love” so it can be confusing as to what we mean some times. To say we “love” our family, “love” our car and “love” ice cream, we use the same word, but the depth of feeling for each category would not be the same (at least, one would hope not). So, what does sincere love mean and how do we show it? The Greek language has five or more words that can be translated “love”. The Greek word used here is “agape” which means affection, good will, love, or benevolence. So, the definition gives us some hints of what it is and how we can show it. Affection means to show tenderness or warmth to others. There are instances of people who have broken into tears because someone has tenderly touched them. The human touch is an amazing thing and it is one way we can show sincere love. Just as Jesus touched the lepers, we must be willing to touch the “untouchables”. We can show sincere love with our benevolence. This can, but does not necessarily, include monetary gifts. Jesus said a cup of water given in His Name was showing your love for Him. It can be as simple as a smile or a hello or it can be complex, as shown in the story of the Good Samaritan. Either way, it requires us to be involved in the lives of those around us. One study has shown that it takes at least seven touches to lead someone to Christ. We can show sincere love by being one of the seven.
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.—Romans 12:4-8 NIV
If you have ever had a problem with your big toe, then you are aware of some of the issues it can cause. Our toes, especially the big toe, help us balance and propel us forward when we are walking or running. So, when we have toe problems, our body will naturally try to compensate for that and pretty soon, it will affect the ankle, then the leg, the knee, the hip and the back. If the toe issue continues long enough, we will develop other skeletal problems. Other parts of the body have varying functions. Just try to pick up anything substantial without using your thumb. It doesn’t work so well, does it? the point is for the body to function efficiently, it needs every part doing what it is designed to do. The body of Christ, the Church, is the same way. We are each a part of the body and God has given each one of us a gift to help the rest of the body. If any of us refuse to use the gift we have been given, then, eventually the whole body suffers. If the church we attend isn’t functioning properly, is it possible that we are the malfunctioning body part? Whatever gift God has given you, the body needs it to complete the mission God has given to the Church.
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.–Romans 12:1-3 NIV
When Paul says “bodies” here, he is talking about more than just the physical body that we see.The Greek word is “soma” which can mean “a sound whole” In other words, Paul is referring to the same things that Jesus listed in Luke 10:27, when He said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind“. We. like David, need a “heart after God’s heart” and we need “the mind of Christ” If we have these two things, then we can be sure that our soul is secure in Jesus Christ and it will be our desire to worship God with all of our strength. Our heart’s desire will be to daily ask God to “create a clean Heart” and “renew a right Spirit” within us. If we do this, our minds will be continually renewed by the Holy Spirit. If we stay in communion with the Holy Spirit who stays in communion with the Father, then we will know God’s will for our lives for this moment. And when you think about it, that is probably all we can handle. We won’t need to know what tomorrow is going to bring, if we don’t make it through today. Stay humble and walk in faith.
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.—Micah 6:8 NIV
7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.–John 16: 7, 13,14 NIV
Jesus had been a Friend, Teacher, Mentor, and Guide for the disciples for the better part of 3 years. Now in In preparing His disciples for His departure, Jesus tells them He is leaving for their good. What could possible be better than walking with Jesus? Who would lead them in His absence? Who would talk with them? Who would strengthen and encourage them now? Jesus told them there is an Advocate coming to do all this for them. The Spirit of Truth that would guide them into all truth. Just as Jesus had said about Himself, He also says about the Holy Spirit.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.–John 5:19 NIV
Why would this be better? As a human, Jesus could only be in one place at one time. He could only teach those within the sound of His voice. The Holy Spirit is not bound by human restraints. He lives inside of each of us and can be everywhere at once. Just think of it, God’s Powerful Spirit (GPS, if you will) with His own network that reaches everywhere and is never out of contact with you or His home station. Powerful enough to direct every human on earth at one time. So, if you are feeling lost, confused or needing encouragement, just stop and listen to the GPS inside you.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.–James 1:2-5 NIV
Why do Christians have to endure trials and persecutions? I suppose people have been asking this question since the first century. The disciples never quite understood why Jesus had to suffer and die until after the Resurrection. God does not allow us to go through suffering so that He will know where we are on our journey, He allows it so that we will know. He allows it so that our “I can” will turn into “No, I can’t but God can”. “No pain, no gain” applies to spiritual growth as well as physical. Would understanding the “why” really make the pain any less real or painful? I am sure that since Jesus was in on the plan of redemption, He understood the why, but that didn’t keep Him from asking His Father if there might not be another way. As he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”–Matt. 26:42 NIV
It is not a sin to wonder or to question “why?”. It is only a sin when we take it to the point of being disobedient. We need to pray for wisdom, but when we pray for wisdom, we need to understand that acquiring wisdom requires experiencing a lot of things and some of them will be painful.
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.–Luke 9:23 NIV
14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:14-15 NIV
Paul is instructing Timothy (and us) about the destruction and divisions that are caused by debating over doctrines. He is instructing us that our time would be better spent in meditating on God’s Word and doing exactly what it says without adding anything to it. This is what the scribes and Pharisees had done to the Old Testament law. They had added their own interpretations to it and were weighing the people down with useless requirements. Some of us do the same thing today and then wonder why our church attendance is down.
The important thing for us to remember is that God made the plan of salvation very simple for a reason. It is not a burden to bear, it is easy to understand and for us, it is free, even though, it cost God His only Son. Anyone can do it.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.–John 3:16 NIV
Is there more to the story? Yes, but just believing and repenting is all there is to salvation. Knowing the rest of the story will help you enjoy the journey.
“I will give thanks to You, O Lord;
For although You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away,
And You comfort me.
2 “Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.”
3 Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.–Isaiah 12:1-3 NASB
Each of us needs to pause each day and meditate on what an amazing God we serve. He has every right to be angry with us and punish us accordingly. Instead, He put all of our sins on His only Son and allowed Him to be crucified on a cross for our salvation. Jesus was all man and all God, so God Himself hung on that cross and He has become our salvation. He is our strength and our song. We can trust Him to complete the work He started in each of us when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, No matter the situation, we can turn to Him and draw water from the springs of salvation and they will fill us with joy. Every moment of every day, we should “rejoice and be glad.”
8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
—1 Peter 1:8,9 NASB
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God,so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.—Ephesians 6:10-13 NIV
Since we don’t actually see the angels and the demons surrounding us, it is hard for us to stay aware of the continuous battle going on around us everyday. But there are several examples of this in the Scriptures. The example in Daniel 10 involves at least two demonic princes and two angelic princes.
20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.–Daniel 10:20, 21 NIV
Just as Daniel was not physically involved in the battle, neither are we. Our battlefield is our mind. That is why our armor is not physical armor, it is invisible things that protect our thought patterns from being overwhelmed by evil. These weapons are truth, righteousness, readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. For us to be fully dressed in the armor God has provided for us takes time. It is not a piece of clothing that you can just throw in the corner and then grab when bad times come. It takes hours and hours of prayer, Bible study and meditation to get fully dressed. satan knows where the holes in our armor are. We must pray daily for the Holy Spirit to show us the holes and then spend whatever time it takes in prayer and Scripture study to mend those holes. While we reside in this old piece of decaying flesh, we will never be able to fill all the holes. That is why God has His angels encamped around us.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.—Psalm 34:7 NIV
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.–Gal. 5:16-18 (NIV)
What does Paul mean when he says “walk by the Spirit”? To understand what Paul is talking about, we have to understand that every word we say and every conscious action we take is a direct result of a decision we have made. The decisions we make are a direct result of our thought patterns. Our thought patterns are controlled by what we spend the most time thinking about. We spend the most time thinking about what we feel is most important to us. The more we think about one thing, the more important it becomes to us. It becomes a cycle of our thoughts producing actions that produce more thoughts about the same thing. We are born in sin into a world that is saturated in sin. so we are going to have sinful thoughts. More and more of the things we hear and see are designed to tempt us to satisfy the flesh. But the flesh wants the things that are contrary to what the Holy Spirit knows that we need. The indwelling Spirit is there to guide us and help us break the sinful thought pattern. Does the Holy Spirit audibly speak to us? Yes, sometimes He does. But most of the time, He just nudges us with a whisper that we sometimes think is our own thought. Sometimes He has other Christians speak to us. Sometimes, He speaks to us through God’s Word. When we have humbled ourselves and seek His guidance, He will get the message to us. If we listen to, hear and obey the message, we are being led by or “walking by the Spirit”.