For those of you who were with us last week, I told you about a couple of experiences I had during the week. I met a young woman who was sharing with me about her spiritual beliefs. They didn?t even begin to resemble what the Bible teaches so I asked her, ?How do you know that what you believe is true?? Her response was the response I hear quite frequently. She said, ?I know it in my heart.?

A few days later I was driving back from Lincoln, Nebraska with Annie. I told Annie about my conversation with the young lady and then I said, ?What if, when we left Lincoln, I asked someone, ?Can you tell me how to get to Oklahoma City?? and they said, ?Just follow your heart?? Where would that advice get us?? Annie said, ?Lost.? And that is where most folks are today?lost. They don?t mean to be lost, they don?t want to be lost, most don?t even think that they are lost, but that doesn?t change the fact that their internal GPS is all messed up and they are off the path that God desires for them.

What I didn?t tell you last week, but what I want to confess this morning is this: I got to talking to Annie and was enjoying our conversation so much that I missed my turn south off of I-80 onto Highway 81. I drove 10 miles out of my way before I recognized that I was lost. Once I realized that I was lost I had to ?confess? my sin and ?repent.? The word, ?repent,? in the Bible means, ?to turn around.? And that is exactly what I did. I turned around and got back on track. I was only 50 miles outside of Lincoln when I made that huge mistake. I could have said, ?Well, it feels like we are on the right road.? Or ?I just need to follow my heart all the way home.? If I would have kept on the same path I would have ended up in San Francisco, California and not at my desired destination. For the rest of the 400 miles of our trip I paid attention, I was disciplined, focused on the task at hand.

The word ?discipline? isn?t a word that we use every day. As a matter of fact, it is mostly used when we talk about athletes or what happens to a child when they get in trouble, but for the follower of Jesus, ?discipline,? should be a word we are well acquainted with. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul wrote,

    24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)

Athletes set goals and work on their games for a medal, trophy, ring, or prize money, but our goal is altogether different and so is our training. I know the commitment that it takes, the discipline that is required of athletes. I also know the discipline, the training that God desires for those who are followers of Jesus. I will tell you there is no comparison. Godly discipline is exacting, arduous, and demanding, far more demanding than the training that athletes undergo. The writer of Hebrews wrote,

    11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11 NIV)

?No discipline seems pleasant at the time.? Never was there a more true statement made. As God molds us, shapes us, renews our minds, brings our issues to the surface, leads us to confront them, and crucifies our flesh it is painful is it not? I had a coach in college who used to say, as we were dying from running ?gassers,? ?If it?s hurtin? it?s helpin? men!? Paul would agree. Godly discipline, godly training, is not pleasant in the moment, but we press on because we know it is God?s best for us. We know that it ?produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.?

Now, the truth of the matter is that most of the followers of Jesus are not in the program, they are sitting on the sidelines. It is not that God is unwilling to ?train? them, to mold and shape them, build their character, and develop their dependence upon Him. No, that is not the problem. The problem rests in us. We are unwilling to commit ourselves to God?s training. We want to be part of the team, but we refuse to show up for practice. The word ?discipline? as defined in the dictionary is:

    1. Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that
    produces moral or mental improvement.
    2. Controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control.
    3. a. A systematic method to obtain obedience: a military discipline.
    b. A state of order based on submission to rules and authority: a teacher who demands discipline in the
    classroom.
    4. Punishment intended to correct or train.

It is the training aspect of discipline that I want us to think about as we study our next section of Romans this morning. Let?s read Romans 12:9-13 as we dig into our lesson for this morning.

    9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13 NIV)

As we continue our study of Romans 12 we are continuing to witness the unfolding of the progression of Paul?s thought. It is imperative that we keep in mind, or rather that we keep in sight, ?God?s mercies,? for it is God?s mercy that is the impetus for everything that follows. It is God?s mercy that leads us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. It is God?s mercy that keeps our estimation of ourselves in check. It is God?s mercy that has placed us within the Body of Christ. It is God?s mercy that has given the Body the rich diversity of gifts and abilities. It is God?s mercy that causes us to recognize the incredible value of each of the gifts God has given to us, as well as the other parts of the Body. And in the Scripture that we will study today, it is God?s mercy that compels us to love the other members of the family of God with a love that is totally other oriented. John MacArthur writes about this type of love when he says,

Agape love centers on the needs and welfare of the one loved and will pay whatever personal price is necessary to meet those needs and foster that welfare. (John MacArthur, MacArthur?s New Testament Commentary: Romans 9-16. The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. 1994)

Paul has used the word ??????? (agape) already in this letter to the Romans, but each time it has been in reference to God?s actions. In Romans 5, Paul was writing about the by-products produced by our struggles when we view them from a godly perspective. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. Then, in Romans 5:5, Paul writes,

    5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:5 NIV)

Why is our ?hope? unfailing? Because of God?s ?agape.? God?s unfailing love is the foundation for our hope because we know that God is Sovereign, He is all-powerful, and His will for us is perfect?He knows what He is doing.

Romans 5:8 is one of the best examples of God?s ?agape.? Remember MacArthur?s definition of ?agape?? This type of love centers on the needs and welfare of the one loved. Let?s read Romans 5:8.

    8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)

Amazing love! How else would you describe love that is being beaten and brutalized and yet prays, ?Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.? (Luke 23:34 NIV) Who would willingly die for those who were enemies? Why would anyone die for those who beat you, bludgeon your face, and rip your back to shreds? How? Why? Agape.

The greatest need of humanity was not, and is not, education, cures for incurable diseases, or a stronger economy, but it is forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Not only has God?s ?agape? accomplished this, but it continues to hold us through every experience, every moment, every trial of life. In Romans 8:35-39 we read of two more instances of God?s ?agape.? Read along with me.

    35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39 NIV)

How has God?s ?agape? acted on our behalf? God has come to us when we had no desire for God whatsoever. God has reconciled us to Himself when we were His declared enemies. God?s love will never ever let us go?no matter what. There is nothing that can pry you out of His gracious, loving hands. Why has God done all of this for you and me? That?s a great question. It is a question with a very uncomplicated answer really. He loves you. He loves me. He does not want us to spend our lives not knowing Him, not understanding His purpose for our lives, and not wasting our lives on ourselves.

There is a second reason for God demonstrating His love for us in such an overwhelming way?He wants us to love others. The love of God is the standard for our love for others. In our Scripture for today God introduces the word, ?agape? as the standard for our love for others.

The problem that we see so prevalent in the Church today is that we don?t understand the kind of love that God calls us to have for our brothers and sisters. We are so accustomed to what society calls ?love,? but which is really not even close to the ?agape? of God. We love those who love us. Our love lasts as long as people treat us right, as long as it is reciprocated by those around us. Much of what our society calls ?love? is mere emotion, but God calls us to make a decision to love?through thick and thin, through good times and bad, when it is reciprocated and when it is not. I call this the discipline of love because it is a decision that will press you and me beyond what is comfortable for us.

It is so important that we understand the kind of love that God asks of us because if we don?t have a good understanding we will settle for far less. Now that we understand let?s read again our Scripture for today and see if it does not take on a much deeper meaning.

    9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13 NIV)

I want to forewarn you. We will not finish this study today. I want us to take our time to understand how we are to relate to one another because how we relate to one another is imperative for the health of the Body of Christ and the local church.

How many times have you heard of churches that have gotten their start because they split off of some other church? A group of folks got mad because they didn?t get their way so they took their marbles and began their own game somewhere else. Or how many folks have gotten their feelings hurt by a pastor or a church member and instead of sitting down, talking things over, and reconciling with them they simply went to a new church. This should not be?not if we are practicing the kind of love that is described for us in Romans 12:9-13.

Paul begins by saying, ?Love must be sincere.? I know some of you get bored sometimes with me taking the time to explain to you the meaning of words from the original languages of the Bible, but in this sentence we find one of the great examples of why I take the time to help us understand. First of all, the word ?love? used here is the word, ?agape.? We now know what that word means. ?Agape? is focused on the needs and welfare of the other person. This type of love demands a decision?I will love you regardless. Mere sentiment, pure emotion, will never carry out this type of love.

Secondly, the word, ?sincere,? is a very interesting word in Greek. It is the word, ?anupokritos? (anupokritos) and it means, ?Without hypocrisy, without a mask, unfeigned, undisguised, or sincere.? The word is taken from the Greek theatre. The Greek actors would have various masks to represent the role they were playing. If it was a comical scene then the actor would hold a funny looking mask over their face while speaking their lines. If it was a solemn, dramatic scene, then the mask would reflect the role the actor was portraying. Paul says that our love doesn?t wear masks. We don?t pretend to love folks?we make the decision to really love them. Let me show you a couple of places where this same word is used in Scripture.

In Paul?s letter to the young pastor, Timothy, he urged him to stay in Ephesus and to work towards correcting those whose teaching was in error. Timothy was to point out to them the error of their ways and correct their teaching, not because he wanted to show them up or be a trouble maker, but because of love, ?agape? love, which comes from a ?sincere? faith, a faith without masks. Read along with me from 1Timothy 1:3-5.

    3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work–which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:3-5 NIV)

In the last example I want us to look at we will take a look at 1 Peter 1:21-22. Turn there with me and let?s read together.

    21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Peter 1:21-22 NIV)

Did you notice something truly amazing? Paul says that living out this love God calls us to have for our brothers and sisters is part of a process. Paul says, ?Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.? Or, keep on loving one another. The more we follow God?s Word, pursue His will rather than our own, the more we will become like Jesus and His love will permeate our hearts.

What Paul is teaching the church in Rome is a lesson he taught to all believers. You may wonder how I know that since I wasn?t around when Paul was teaching. Well, there is evidence in Paul?s letter to the church in Corinth that we need to look at this morning. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul wrote about the Body of Christ and the various ?members? and ?gifts? that are present in the Body. Sound familiar? That is just what he has been writing about in Romans 12. Then in 1 Corinthians 13 he shared the great chapter of love. Let?s read it together.

    1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NIV)

If we are eloquent and convincing, but don?t have love we don?t have anything. If we have great biblical knowledge and can explain all of the mysteries of God, but don?t have love then we don?t have anything. If we give all of our money to help meet the needs of the poor, but we don?t have love then we don?t have anything. The kind of love that Paul portrays for us is very specific in its character and nature because it is modeled after the love God has for us. It is patient and kind. It doesn?t envy, it doesn?t boast, and it is not proud. Love is not rude nor does it ring its own bell. Love doesn?t fly off the handle nor does it hold wrongs over the heads of others. Love rejoices over truth and not evil. Love protects others, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. It never fails, it never gives up, it never throws in the towel on others.

The Scripture that we are looking at this morning from Romans 12:9-13 holds before us a replica of the type of love that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13. There are thirteen aspects of the love we are supposed to live out in Romans 12:9-13. They are: 1) Love is to be real, sincere, not faked. 2) Love hates what is evil. 3) Love clings to what is good. 4) Love cares for others with a brotherly affection. 5) Love tries to outdo others in being the first to show honor to others. 6) Love is not lazy, but zealous. 7) Love is bubbling over in the Spirit, 8) Loves great desire is to serve the Lord. 9) Love rejoices in hope. 10) Love is patient in tribulation. 11) Love is constant in prayer. 12) Love desires to help brothers and sisters who are in need. 13) Love goes out of its way to show hospitality to others.

The reason why Paul was so forceful and persistent in pressing the followers of Jesus in his day to embrace the lifestyle of love was because it was this lesson that was most prominent in the teachings of Jesus. When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the greatest, He said, ?love God and love your neighbor.? Turn to Mark 12:28-31 and let?s read together.

    28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 NIV)

It is my prayer for Britton Christian Church that we will be a church that is known for its love for God and its love for people. You want to honor God? Then love Him enough to do what He says. You want to honor God? Then love people. Really love people. Don?t just love those who are easy to love, love all people in the same way that God loves you.

The key for Britton Christian Church to be known as a church of godly love is for each of us to keep in mind the mercies of God that have been lavished upon us as individuals. If you and I understand the lengths to which God has gone in reconciling us to Himself, blessing us with the gifts and abilities that we possess, and sustaining us through the good times and bad then we will never give up on others. Has God given up on us? You know the answer to that question. He never has and He never will.

There may be someone here this morning who has never truly considered or had explained to you that wondrous love that God has for you. I pray that this morning you have had your eyes opened and your heart has been filled with great understanding. He loves you more than you can even imagine. Will you respond to His love by opening your arms and your heart and inviting Him in as your Lord and King this very morning? He will give you a love for others that you can never have on your own. Won?t you invite Him in?
Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 15, 2009
bccpreacherman@aol.com

The Discipline of Love
Romans 12:9-13
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