Monday, 2 July 2007

Be R.E.A.L

Be R.E.A.L. Romans 12:3-12:21 Someone wrote that some of the world’s unhappiest people are Christians. Why? Some Christians are too Christian to enjoy sinning but too sinful to enjoy their Christianity. Some Christians have enough faith to recognize their need for prayer, but not enough to take them to prayer meeting. Some Christians have enough faith to keep them from reading porn materials but not enough for them to read their Bible daily.

Teenagers have an expression. “Be real!” today, through Romans 12:1-2, I challenge you to surrender yourselves to God and separate from the world’s value system.

Today, I challenge you to be real as believers. Let’s open our Bibles to Romans 12:3-21. To make it easy for us to remember our message, I came up with the acronym R-E-A-L.

“R” stands for “REMEMBER who we are in Christ.” Verse 3 reads, “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 measure of faith God has given you.” In our devotional guide this morning, we saw that we are to love ourselves correctly. One way of doing that is by having a sober assessment of your self or by coming to grips with the real you.

We struggle with the question of identity. We ask, “Who am I?” We tend to underestimate or overestimate ourselves. When we struggle with who we are, we find it hard to accept others also. But the Bible says it’s okay to have a high, health view of your self.

Note that it does not say, “Do not think of yourself highly.” Instead, it says that “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” And to have the right estimate of ourselves, we have to start with how God looks at us. Paul wrote, “…think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you”.

The God’s Word version goes like this: “your thoughts should lead you to use good judgment based on what God has given each of you as believers.” We need to value ourselves the way God values us. God created us in His image.

Yes, sin tarnished that image. But God redeemed us. And now, we are His workmanship.

We are His masterpiece! God values us so much even before we were born, He watched over us. Isaiah 44:2 says, “I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born.”

In Psalm 139:16, it says, “You... scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” We are so valuable to God. So, being humble is not putting your self down. Being humble is knowing where you stand before God. Remember who you are in Christ. Never forget who you really are.

We also struggle with the question of security. We ask, “Where do I belong?” When we are insecure, it affects how we relate with others. Verses 4-5 says, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

We belong to Christ’s body. The future doctor Lester Chua told me that there is always an effect on the body when you remove any part of it. That’s why always remember that we belong to each other. I like how The Message translated Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing.” Ephesians 4:4 also says, “You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.”

Remember who we are in Christ.

“E” stands for “ENJOY serving others with your gifts.” We also struggle with the question of significance. We ask, “What am I supposed to do?” Verses 6-8 teach us that God has gifted us to serve Him through each other.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Time does not permit us to discuss in detail the spiritual gifts itemized here. But let me first emphasize that God gave each one at least one spiritual gift. The New Living Translation goes like this:

“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” All of us are gifted. Thus, we need to discover and develop our gifts to serve others: “let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pride fully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”[9] I once taught in our church that we are to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. We must find out what we do well and do more of it. And we must find what we don’t do well and do less of it. When we fail to make use of our gifts, we are depriving ourselves the opportunity to serve others and we are depriving others the blessings of being served well. When we try to do things that we are not gifted to do, we can’t do it as well as those who are supposed to do it. We are also missing out on what we’re supposed to do. And we are blocking others from doing what they are supposed to do.

So, enjoy servings others with your gifts. Always remember that the Christian life is not only believing but also belonging. We are part of a community of faith. This leads me to my next point.

“A” stands for “AFFIRM the need for authentic community.” Have you ever asked, “If I were a first time visitor, what would be my impression of this church?” Would you feel so welcome? Does the church have to resort to gimmicks to attract visitors?

Charles Swindoll, "Ican assure you, when people discover that a church promotes authenticity, when its leaders model it on a consistent basis, they cannot stay away. It’s like an invisible magnet that draws them in.” Swindoll defines “authenticity” this way: “Authenticity occurs when real people say real things about real issues with real feelings. When you’re authentic you live what you are.” We need to make sure we are authentic and we stay authentic. I like how Dr. Chip Ingram summarized Romans 12:9-13: “Authentic community occurs when the real you meet real needs for the right reasons in the right way.” Let us look at every facet of this statement.

First, “Authentic community occurs when the real you…” Verse 9a says, “Love must be sincere.” To be sincere means to be without hypocrisy. The New Living Translation goes like this: “Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them.” People can easily detect a fake. Let’s continue: “Authentic community occurs when the real you meet real needs…” That doesn’t mean that we compromise our faith: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” So, when we see a person who needs correction, Galatians 6:1 says that “if someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead that person back to the right path.” We need to be committed to each other no matter what.

Verse 10 says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” Rick Warren wrote, “This is beginning of real community. …We must remember that the church is made up of real sinners, including ourselves. Because we’re sinners, we hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. But instead of leaving the church, we need to stay and work it out if at all possible.” That devotion takes humility. That’s why Paul added: “Honor one another above yourselves.” Let’s proceed: “Authentic community occurs when the real you meet real needs for the right reasons…” Verse 11 says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” We are actually serving the Lord through each one. So we must be passionate and enthusiastic in serving one another. And finally, “Authentic community occurs when the real you meet real needs for the right reasons in the right way.” Note the upward focus of verse 12: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” We have our own needs to be fulfilled. But the problem is meeting other people’s needs does not guarantee that our own needs would be met. I agree it’s really disappointing.

That’s why we need to trust God to meet our needs as we meet the needs of others. Note also that we are not to ask what we can get but what we can give. Look at the outward focus of verse 13: “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” We are to think not only of our own needs but also the needs of others. It’s fulfilling when you are “other-centered.” But it’s not rewarding when you are “self-centered.” So, we must affirm the need for authentic community.Finally,

“L” stands for “LEARN to supernaturally respond to evil.” When we seek to live out the life God wanted us to live, we will surely face conflicts and struggles. Even people we serve will not respond positively to us. Verse 14-21 teaches us that there are three things we have to remember when people oppose us. First, we are to bless them. Verses 14-16 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Note that it takes humility to do that. Second, we are not to take revenge. Verses 17-20 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 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. 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.’” Love people rather than hate them. Why? We tend to become what we love or hate. So, choose what you want to become. That’s why verse 21 encourages us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”What does Paul mean by “you will heap burning coals on his head”? That doesn’t mean that your goal is to embarrass them, that you do good things to people who hate you so that they would burn with shame.

During the time of Paul, people do not have a heater at home. They usually have a small fire in the midst of their homes to warm them up. But when their fire goes out, they bring a jar and knock on their neighbors’ doors to ask for coals. If the neighbor is stingy, they give you small pieces of coals or even those that are about to burn out. But if the neighbor is generous, they give you fresh coals. In fact, they would even fill up your jar.

Remember that people carry jars by balancing it on their heads. That’s what Paul meant by heaping burning coals on people’s heads. To do good in response to evil rather than paying evil with evil is an act of generosity. Now this is not difficult. This is impossible. But by the grace of God, we can learn to supernaturally respond to evil.A group of scientists experimented with monkeys. They placed four monkeys in a room. Now there’s a pole with a bunch of bananas on top. Every time a monkey would climb the pole, it would be doused with cold water. It happened again and again until finally the monkeys gave up. Now the scientists removed one of the monkeys and placed a new one. You know what happened? When the new monkey tried to climb the pole, the other monkeys grabbed him and dragged him away from the pole. Then the scientists replaced another monkey. They did the same thing up to the last monkey. At the end, all the monkeys got replaced. Every monkey, even if they have never been doused by water, never climbed the pole. They just refuse to climb it.

Now, people have failed before in their commitment to God. At times, they end up discouraging others who would also commit themselves to God. They act like those monkeys. Brothers and sisters don’t be like them.

Be R-E-A-L. REMEMBER who we are in Christ.ENJOY serving others with your gifts.AFFIRM the need for authentic community.LEARN to supernaturally respond to evil.


Deborah said...

Shar, I love the new look so wonderful! I truly enjoy your daily devotionals, love to read them everyday. love always me

Deborah said...

I have placed a link on my blogsite linking your daily devotionals so that those that visit my site can link on to yours. love you

Irritable Mother said...

This is a great challenge. I do want to be REAL.
Thanks for taking the time to think this all through and sharing it here!

Anonymous said...

Be REAL article great. We all need to consider and recnsider if we are applying it to our own lives. Well done on a great blogsite. Love to all. Debs Ballito

BetweenYou and Me

BetweenYou and Me