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Let Love Be Without Hypocrisy
Itís the month of love, but Godís love transcends eros and the cute little cupids carrying valentines and flowers. God demonstrated His love by sending Jesus. His is an agape love, different even from phileo, or brotherly love, and even from storge, or family love.
In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush urged Americans to give two years worth of service to others, doing good that overcomes evil. His appeal warrants a closer look at Romans 12, for it is here that we find the value of such service and the application of the power of the gospel in our lives. The question becomes: How can we love sincerely in an evil age?
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. What the law could not do, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. It tells us of certain historical events, of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the cross and resurrection, when Jesus fulfilled the law and took upon Himself the righteous judgment that the law pronounced upon guilty sinners, the righteousness of God entered dynamically into redemptive history. The righteousness of God in Christ surpassed the righteousness of the law. The righteousness of God is historical fact, witnessed when the Son of God was delivered up for our trespasses and raised again for our justification.
In Christ, believers have died to sin, to the law, and to the old, having been raised to walk in newness of life. The believerís life is hid with Christ in God. The believerís very existence and identity in Christ involve embracing the historical events of the death and resurrection of Jesus. These events define and enfold us as we are joined to Christ by faith and by His Spirit. His life is your life.
So, itís an already, not yet thing, because here we are in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, "this evil age," while being a citizen of heaven at the same time. We have a future hope and a present spiritual reality to deal with.
With this in mind, Paul urges believers to present their bodies as living, holy, pleasing sacrifices to God, which is the reasonable way to serve Him in worship. We are not to conform to the way of our modern age but be transformed by the renewal of our minds. Why? So we may be able to determine what Godís good and pleasing and perfect will is. So, you give God your body, your mind, and your will.
After that, Paul describes believersí relationship to each other in terms of the members of a body. Each one has a spiritual function to perform and God-given abilities to be used for the building up of the body. This, Paul says, will necessitate an honest evaluation and an acknowledgment that our gifts come because of Godís grace to be accepted and exercised by faith. An honest evaluation means we will neither belittle our God-given gifts nor boast of them. We have them to bless others and build up the body of Christ.
Whatever your gifts, they come by the grace given to you. And so, love must be without hypocrisy. No masks, no shows, no parades, no acting, no cover-ups, no mixtures. We are to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. We are to have warm affection for one another with brotherly affection, preferring one another when showing honor. Donít slacken in diligence, Paul exhorts, but be aglow in spirit, serving the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure affliction, persevere in prayer, share in meeting the saintsí needs, pursue hospitality.
What do you do after you are saved already? Why not go directly to heaven? Well, you and I are here to bless and be a blessing to those around us. We have the Lord. We have the gospel to share. We have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. We have the power of God working in our behalf. We have the fruit of the Spirit manifesting through us. And so, Paul exhorts us to bless those who persecute us; bless and donít curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
This means that we will experience the human condition with others who enter our lives on a daily basis. Weíre all in this humanity thing together. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We all need grace and peace with God. All kinds of people, from all over the planet need Jesus Christ. So Paul exhorts us to think in harmony with one another and not be haughty but be the kind of person who associates with the lowly. In other words, donít become conceited.
Paul then tells us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit not to return evil for evil to anyone. Instead, plan ahead to do what is fine in the eyes of every one. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with everybody. Donít avenge yourselves, but rather make room for wrath. "Vengeance is Mine," saith the Lord, "I will repay."
We donít want to hear this right now, month of love or not. We struggle with the problem of divine justice. We have been wronged, sinned against, and treated unfairly. It seems that evil is going unchecked and even being rewarded, not punished. With the psalmist we cry out to God, "LORD, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?" (Psalm 94.3) God moves too slowly for us these days. It was ever thus. (Psalm 10, e.g.)
God in His longsuffering and mercy has chosen to delay the ultimate expression of His wrath and anger against sin. The wicked think Godís justice is "far above" and "out of sight," and so do some of us at times. Yet it is a fact. Believers were once Godís enemies and are now reconciled through the death of Jesus. Jesus took the wrath (Romans 3.25) and satisfied divine justice. Believers benefit from the redemptive-historical righteousness of God. You who were the just objects of divine enmity, vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, are now the just objects and recipients of divine grace and favor, vessels of mercy prepared for eternal glory.
"With the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness." (Romans 10.10) Justice was meted out at the cross. Jesus, the Messiah, has crushed the serpentís heel, destroying the works of darkness. (Revelation 12.5, 7-12; Luke 10.18; John 12.31; Genesis 3.15)
In addition to the cross, there is yet another day, "the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds." (Romans 2.5, 6) Believers do not come into judgment, having passed already out of death into life (John 5.24). But those who remain in their sins, those who continue in the estate of spiritual death, will be subject to the second death. (Revelation 20.11-15)
We must believe that the Judge of all the earth will do right. (Genesis 18.25) We must know that God will punish evil and that He is truly just. We must grasp the import of His holiness and just hatred of sin. While youíre looking at me and I may be looking at you, letís both remember to examine ourselves! Where would any of us be without Jesus?
The answer is to wait until the Lord comes. (1 Corinthians 4) The fact is, that the world is watching Christians. This really came home to me while in Australia. One woman saw Marcy Murray reading a book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and came right over to engage in Christian fellowship. Others felt uneasy around us, obviously. We found Christians witnessing and encouraged them, and we ourselves witnessed to many.
The world right now is watching to see how we will respond to evil. It isnít going to come naturally. We must take thought, pray, and plan to act in accordance with the Gospel. Though the goal is peace with all men, yet the enmity of the world and Satan are such that peaceful relations do not always exist. While we seek peace, we realize that the world hates Christ and will hate us as well. We are prone to return evil for evil, to want to "get even" when wronged.
Yet, it is specific acts of good that overcome general evil. So, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Conquer evil by good; donít be conquered by evil. The LORD will reward you. (cf. Matthew 5.43-48; Luke 6.27, 28, 35; Romans 2.4-6; 1 Peter 3.9-12) God will bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night. (Luke 18.7, 8)
In blessing and loving and doing good, we exemplify Godís kindness even to the evil and unthankful. They may repent (Romans 2.4-6), or they may respond with further ingratitude and evil, heaping more condemnation upon themselves. As sons of God, we are to imitate God in the way He responds to the evil of wicked men. (Luke 6.35)
Every good word, good deed, good thought is an evil undone. We bless that we might inherit a blessing. We bless because we have been blessed by God. We will do this as a people, even as we understand that government is to protect our borders, that governing authorities are Godís servants and agents (Romans 13). Get things straightópersonal and social ethics, personal and social justice issues.
And then, love one another. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love doesnít do anything to harm a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law. Itís time to put off the works of darkness and put on the weapons of light, to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no plans to satisfy the desires of the flesh. For the end of the commandment is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned.
At Mary Craig Ministries we seek to bless those who come to our doors. Many of you write me and tell me how our web site, www.marycraig.org, encourages your Christian life. Many of you write and tell me how much you have grown from the teachings and ministry of MCM. It is in relationship with one another that we demonstrate the truth that we know and believe Jesus Christ.
I thank you who are partners with me in the gospel. Your support makes it possible for MCM to minister to countless people all over the planet. We have sent 20 people to 42 countries on missions trips. We have now called in nations on five continents. We are amazed at how God is blessing this ministry. Are you part of the blessing and the blessed? Join us as we bless others in the name of Christ, spreading His name and fame, sharing His gospel and His life.
Loving and living by grace,
Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult, but
Give a blessing instead; for you were called for this very purpose,
That you might inherit a blessing. For, ĎLet him who means to
Love life and see good days refrain his tongue from evil and his lips
From speaking guile. Let him turn away from evil, and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord
Are upon the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer;
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.í (1 Peter 3.9-12)
© 2002 Mary Craig Ministries, Inc.
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