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Romans 12:10-16 by Robert Dean
"Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who's the fairest of them all?" This little snippet from a famous fairy tale shows us that we all love ourselves and think we're the best. Listen to this lesson to learn that our greatest need is to learn to love others, no exceptions even for those who mistreat and hate us. Impossible, you say? Discover the different kinds of love described in the Bible and which one we are commanded to have for others. Don't be discouraged by the lofty Christian character traits listed here. Instead realize that these virtues are developed in us by the Holy Spirit when we hang in there, not giving up but persevering through confession of sin, daily Bible reading, and a passion for obedience and for prayer.
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:57 mins 18 secs

Standards for the Christian Life – Part 2
Romans 12:10-16

We are in Romans, chapter 12 and this is actually part 2 on standards for the Christian life. It's very important to understand that the Christian life is not a life of libertinism or licentiousness which is the accusation against some people who believe in grace. After the Apostle Paul taught about grace in Romans 1-5 the very first objection to it that he dealt with comes at the beginning of Romans 6 where he said, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" Of course the answer is no, not at all.

There are standards. We've now become members of God's royal family and just as in most human families there are standards, there are guidelines, there are protocols for the way in which you live as a member of your family so there are guidelines, rules, and protocols for members of the royal family of God. They're not rules to get into the family. They are not rules for gaining God's blessing because Scripture says we've already been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. They're rules that are guidelines so that we continue to walk in the truth, walk by the Spirit, and abide in Christ.

When we violate these standards, we're basically operating on the sin nature and we are out of fellowship. Now many people believe that you can summarize all the Christian life under the concept of love and there's a certain amount of truth to that. That's how Paul starts out as we saw last time, going back over a bit of a review of Romans 12:9 where he says, "Let love be without dissimulation [hypocrisy]. Then he has two other points. These are not necessarily related to each other.

As you go through these verses down through Romans 12:16, actually on down into verses 20 and 21, you could argue like some have tried that all of these say something about love. They certainly correlate to love. Love for one another is a primary mandate for the Christian toward others in the body of Christ. Paul begins with this in Romans 12:9, "{Let} love {be} without hypocrisy." That means without any ulterior motives. The only way we can do that as believers is to love on the basis of our relationship with God.

The Greek word that's used here AGAPE is one of two Greek words that are primarily used to express two different kinds of love in the Christian love. AGAPE is the word that's used to describe the kind of love that God the Father has toward all the inhabitants of planet earth, believer or unbeliever. It is a love that seeks their absolute best and always performs on the basis of righteousness and justice, totally consistent with God's righteousness and justice. It's a love based on integrity.

One of the things that we see in this is that love is always connected to an ethical standard. It's always related to a positive ethical absolute. It's not an emotion. It's not sentimentality. It's not based on feeling. It's based on a mental attitude that is grounded on the absolute righteousness of God. That gives us the stability because the righteousness of God never changes. It never fluctuates. It's never up one day and down the other. It's never a little more one day, a little more diluted the next day. It's a never changing standard. He is immutable and His immutability or the doctrine of immutability applies to every characteristic in the "essence box.

So our love here is manifested on that. It's a love we sometimes describe as being impersonal or unconditional, two adjectives describing love. What I mean by impersonal is not that it is somehow restrained or somehow distant or somehow not engaging with other people but it's a standard of behavior that is true whether or not we have a personal relationship with the person we love. That means it applies to the checker at the grocery store, applies to the person who's driving down the freeway texting on their cellphone and weaving in and out of lanes. It applies to everybody whether we know them personally or not. We treat them the same way. We treat them according to the standard of God's love. There's no ulterior motive. In other words, we're not trying to get something from somebody. We're not being nice to them in order to manipulate them in order to get something from them. We're doing it because that is the right thing to do and we should treat everyone the same.

We saw the next mandate, "Abhor what is evil" which is APOSTUGEO meaning to abhor or detest. We should have a revulsion toward that which is evil and on the other hand, we should cling to that which is good. We should be like Velcro to that which is good. We adhere to it.

Now I talked a little bit about evil last time and I got a couple of questions last time after class. Every now and then you see someone who's been sitting in the pew, listening for years, and a light goes off. They've heard this same doctrine for I don't know how many years and this is true for all of us. It happens to me. I'll look at a passage on something and say, "I just never saw that from that passage before." In fact, I'm going to reference a passage I probably read a hundred times this Sunday and never thought of it in a particular context, never thought about a particular application of it and we'll see that Sunday. The term evil is a term that describes those that are living in rebellion against God. Those who live in rebellion against God are not always performing what we think of as sins, negative actions, the kinds of things that are described in various passages of Scripture as the works of the flesh.

The term for evil is PONEROS and it's used of demons in terms of their evil spirits. Later in 2 Corinthians 11 evil spirits camouflage themselves and counterfeit righteousness and go about as if they are ministers of light. So that which is evil can also do that which appears to be good but it's a relative good. We use the term good in two senses. The Bible does as well. There's one word in the Greek KALOS and a different word AGATHOS. AGATHOS usually describes something that has an intrinsic value, something that is intrinsically good. KALOS on the other hand might refer to that which is relatively good. We know many people can do things that are relatively good in comparison with the behavior in other people. But if they are sinners, let me state that another way, if they're an unbeliever operating on the sin nature then what they are producing is evil. An unbeliever can only function in terms of his sin nature. He doesn't have any other nature. He only has that corrupt nature so no matter how nice, friendly, wonderful a person is, no matter how many relatively good things they do and there are many unbelievers who do many wonderful things, they are operating on their sin nature.

We often fall prey to thinking of unbelievers as only operating on wrong things. The Pharisees were very moral but they were evil. They were unbelievers. There are many people in cults who emphasize a self-righteousness, a righteousness by works, so they're always trying to be as best as they can be and yet, because they're not saved, then whatever they produce is just coming out of their sin nature. So evil is used of the demon and the devil, and the Pharisees. It's a synonym for disobedience in many passages and it describes the inner, corrupt nature that we usually refer to as the sin nature.

In Luke 11:13 Jesus, when addressing his disciples, says, "If you, then, being evil…" Now the disciples are regenerate and He's saying they're evil and even when they're evil they can do relatively good things for your children. He said the same thing to the Pharisees but they were unbelievers. We can chart the sin nature as being motivated by the lust pattern, whatever makes me happy. Self-absorption is the center of the sin nature but it can either produce sins such as sins of the tongue, mental attitude sins or overt sins or it can produce human good.

Now just because human good is a product of the sin nature doesn't mean it's wrong. Human good is what unbelievers produce when they're following establishment principles, when they're living a responsible life, when they're married, when they're teaching their children good behavior, when they're contributing to all manner of charitable institutions and causes. Those are wonderful things. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just that this doesn't have any value in terms of the spiritual life or in terms of eternal life. But they're beneficial for society, for the culture, and for other people. There's nothing wrong with that.

Whenever we're out of fellowship and we're not walking by the Spirit we're producing human good. That means that in the middle of teaching a Bible class a pastor can get out of fellowship and then the rest of that Bible class he's walking by the flesh and it has no eternal value but he's still teaching truth from Scripture and God is still using it. I like to use examples that shake people up. You can witness to someone out of selfish motives. You're not walking according to the Spirit if you're doing that. We can read our Bible out of fellowship. There are many Christians who read their Bible out of fellowship. They don't know how to get back into fellowship but it's a work of the flesh. It's good in that they still learn something and if they get in fellowship, God the Holy Spirit can use some of that and transform it if they apply it into Divine good, when they're walking by the Spirit. Human good is not a bad thing in terms of relatively speaking. It has benefits for society, for the family, for people and that's good but it's not the kind of good that measures up to God's standard of righteousness so it has no eternal value.

The second thing I pointed out related to evil is that the first occurrence of the word goes back to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which indicates that now man would have an experiential awareness of both that which is good and also, of sin. In the Old Testament, evil is a word that is used a few times related to sin but the vast majority of its uses usually speak of idolatry. Now idolatry isn't simply the worship of gods that are made out of wood, stone, or some other sort of material. There are many sophisticated idols of the mind. We worship money. We're greedy and the Apostle Paul says in Colossians 3 that greed or covetousness is a form of idolatry. So there are many different forms of idolatry and they're usually identified as evil. Whenever we're operating on the sin nature, we're worshipping the self. We've replaced God as the focal point of our life and replaced Him with self. That is a form of idolatry.

Then the third point is that everything that proceeds from the sin nature, whether it is human good or counterfeit righteousness or overt sin, sins of the tongue, comes under the category of evil. That produces religion. And then the passage I alluded to, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 talks about the fact that Satan himself transformed himself into an angel of light. He is the greatest counterfeiter in all of history and he is trying to counterfeit God. What makes Satan so devious is that he wants to produce good. When people are producing sin and the works of the flesh in terms of overt sin that leads to division and factions and violence and it tears apart society. It tears the world apart.

Now one of the greatest testimonies of the fact that Satan can't do what he wants to do is that he can't control human beings because when they operate on their sin nature it leads to all forms of violence and criminality. That is just the opposite of what Satan wants. He wants peace. There's no greater advocate in history of peace than Satan. He just doesn't want peace on the basis of God's plan. He wants peace on the basis of his plan and independence from God. So we're to abhor what is evil, everything produced from the sin nature and cling to that which is good. There's that word, AGATHOS, which means that which has intrinsic value.

So that takes us up to where we ended last time. Now in the next section, Romans 12:10-13 there are mostly bullets related to standards for the Christian life we lead, "Be devoted [kindly affectionate] to one another in brotherly love; in honor giving preference to one another." This is expanding on and giving a little more of a refinement to the command to "love without hypocrisy".  The last phrase further expands on the idea of what it means to be kindly affectionate.

The next command is in Romans 12:11, "Not lagging behind in diligence…" We are to be diligent. We are to be eager. We are to focus on the object at hand which is living the spiritual life, "Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to [continuing steadfast in] prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing [given to] hospitality." So let's break this down. Beginning in Romans 12:10, we're to be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love. As we'll see in a minute "kindly affectionate" and "brotherly love" are different from the word AGAPE. They're based on the word PHILOS. PHILOS is the noun and PHILEO is the verb. This has to do with the more intimate love. AGAPE is not as intimate as PHILOS

PHILOS is more of a family love, more of an affectionate love so this is taking us to another level from what Jesus said in John 13:34-35. If you recall the context there Jesus is talking to His disciples the night before He went to the cross. They've already had the institution of the Lord's Table with the Passover meal. He's kicked Judas out of the room already which is a cleansing of the room from sin so that he's left with the eleven disciples and they are all believers. He gives them a new command. He says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another."

Now in the Old Testament the command in the Mosaic Law is to love your neighbor as yourself. So what's the standard for loving your neighbor? It's how you love yourself. So the assumption of Scripture is that everyone loves themselves. This gives the lie to the whole doctrine of poor self-image that's dominated our whole culture. Because every sinner loves himself. That's the focus of the sin nature. Your sin nature is in love with you. Whenever you feel depressed it's because you're not living up the standard that's of your self love and you've disappointed yourself. If you really hated yourself you'd get up and say "I'm glad I'm a failure. Let's fail some more." So we need to learn that we already love ourselves and we need to love others like we love ourselves. That's the standard that God is saying here.

Now people like Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller and several other false teachers and heretics who came along utilizing psycho-babble back in the 20th century saying that before you can love others you first have to learn to love yourself. They just turned Scripture upside down. They said you need to have a good self-image. In fact, Robert Schuller was so arrogant that he wrote a book called, "Self-Image: The New Reformation". He sent a free copy of that book to every pastor in the country. I think I still have mine. In his opening he said that the document of substitutionary death and payment for sin was good for those backward people of the time of the Reformation but we're much more advanced now. We know that God isn't going to punish an innocent person for another's sins. In fact, he added, sin isn't really the problem. The problem is we have a low self-image and Jesus died so you could have a good self-image. That was his message. That was a message that just reverberated throughout American culture back in the 80s and 90s.

There are all kinds of ramifications from that but that's not what God was saying in the Old Testament. He said that everyone already loved themselves so quit being so self-centered and learn how to love other people like you love yourself. When Jesus came along he's going to ratchet the standard up just a little bit. He said He didn't want us to love others like we love ourselves. He wanted us to love others like He loved us. Totally different standard; a much higher standard; almost an impossible standard apart from the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is what? Love. The first thing Paul mentions. The fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…" It starts with love. So Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment to love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. He repeats Himself here, several times. In John 13:35 He says, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." In fact there are many who have argued, and they may be accurate, that the greatest apologetic of the Christian life is the believer who demonstrates the love of God in their life for all people. Because that can only happen as a result of God the Holy Spirit. It's a supernatural fruit of the Spirit. That's how we demonstrate the character of Christ in our lives. It's one of the greatest evidences we can give of the Christian life. We are to love one another.

Again, Paul Jesus repeats it in John 15, "This is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you." And in John 15:17, "This I command you, that you love one another." Now all through here we have the verb AGAPAO. So this applies to people whether they're responsive, not responsive, walking according to the Spirit, not walking by the Spirit, doing what we want them to do, not doing what we want them to do, and doing what we don't want them to do. This relates to that principle we call impersonal love.

Jesus also said there is an ethical standard for love. It's not just going out and saying I love you and there's such shallowness to the typical Christian view of love. I've been in churches where you turn around and tell the person next to you that you love them and then turn to the next one and give them a hug. This is just so superficial. It just promotes a continuing shallowness in the Christian life.

But Scripture says that there's an ethical standard. Notice what Jesus says in John 14, "If you love Me keep my commandments." Love isn't just an emotion. It is expressed through obedience. There's an ethical standard there. In John 14:21 He says, "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me." It's not the person who makes a show of it, not the person who talks about it, not the person who has picked up the latest Christian jargon talking about loving God. It's the person who quietly goes about ordering their life according to the standards of Scripture. That is the person who is showing that they truly love God. In John 14:23 we read, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." I think this is more than just the indwelling of the Trinity. This is talking about an increasing personal relationship with the members of the Trinity for the believer who is walking in obedience.

Then the flip side in John 14:24, "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me." John 14:15 is built off of the principle of the Old Testament. This idea of relating love to obedience didn't just pop up in John 14. In Exodus 20:6 we read, "But showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." That combination of loving God and keeping His commandments is restated several times in the Mosaic Law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Going on to the next chapter, in John 15 Jesus said if you keep My commands you will abide in My love." Now he threw in a new word here. Did you notice it? What's that new word? Earlier He said "if you love me you'll keep my commandments." What's the new word here? You will "abide" in my love. Abide is first introduced at the beginning of John 15 when Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. If you abide in me, you will bear much fruit." Abiding is a key word meaning fellowship, meaning enjoying the fellowship we have with Christ. If we abide, which means stay in fellowship, then we abide in Christ's love. That is a richness of our relationship, our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

In John 15:12, He says, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." The command to love one another isn't divorced from the mandate to keep His commandments or the fellowship. They go together. In John 15:13 He then said, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." So that indicates that there is a sacrificial element to it. By sacrificial element what we simply mean is that rather than just do what we want to do out of self-absorption we want to do what's best for someone else. That's the idea in using the term sacrificial.

Then in 1 John 4:20-21, "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also." Remember that 1 John is a commentary, as it were, by the Apostle John probably some 50 years after He heard the Upper Room discourse in about A.D. 33, the night before Jesus goes to the Cross and then some 50 to 60 years later the Apostle John writes the 1st epistle of 1 John which is basically a commentary or an expansion on what Jesus had taught them. You can't really understand 1 John unless you've gone through the Upper Room discourse and understood that.

So John says here that if someone says he loves God but hates his brother he's not going to be what is called a "Philadelphian", someone who loves his brother here in Romans 12. If you hate your brother you are a liar because he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom we he not seen? Loving God is related to obedience to God so if you're being disobedient and hating your brother then you don't have a relationship with God, you're out of fellowship. By relationship I mean fellowship, not salvation.

So we go back to Romans 12:10, "{Be} devoted [kindly affectionate] to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." Now as I got into this it was difficult to deal with this in terms of the Greek. It appears in the English that there's a command. Every version translates this as a command but you'll notice that the word translated "kindly affectionate" is PHILOSTORGOS. The last part refers to a stork. A mother stork has a great motherly affection for their young and so STORGEO was a word used to describe motherly love in Greek. Now this is a compound noun based on that, meaning devoted to someone, loving them, having a tender affection, particularly a family affection. So that's the first word but notice that this word is an adjective. It's not a verb. It's not an imperative. The next word is ALLELONE, one another, which is not a verb, and then you have PHILOS for brotherly love. Where do you find a verb in that?

So last week I was scratching around, digging around, reading footnotes and all these heavy commentaries trying to find someone who'd give me a clue as to why everyone is translating this as a verb and I found a reference to a book that I went and grabbed out of my books in print. There's still a few books you need to have in print because they're not electronic yet and I found in a footnote [there's some great stuff buried in footnotes] which said there was an idiomatic use of the adjective in Greek that had an imperatival value. See you can express an imperative as we do in this section with a participle but a participle is a verbal adjective so apparently in the use of language they slipped over from using a participal in an adjectival sense to just using an adjective as an imperative. This is one of the few place in the New Testament where we have this kind of an idiom but it's expressing this as a command that we are to be devoted like a family-member, a loving family member.

I always have to qualify this because some people come out of really messed up families. This is a really good family where the family members really care and love each other and so we are to have that kind of care and concern for other believers. Even when they're not worth it. It's really hard to love the unlovely and there are unlovely people in every congregation. But there's not an asterisk that says you need to love them afar. That's not in any textual variant I've found. I haven't found anything in the margin. It's not qualified here. It says to be kindly affectionate or devoted in love to one another. It's simply there and it doesn't say except for that one person you don't really like, that one person who just fell off the watermelon truck yesterday. It doesn't have that. There's no exception. There's no qualification. We are to love everybody in the body of Christ the same way because our love isn't based on who they are. It's not based on who we are. It's based on the character of God that doesn't change. Sometimes we have to do it by the numbers and say, "Okay, I really don't like this person. There's something about them that just really grates on me but God loves them with an infinite stable unchanging love so I'm just going to focus on following God's pattern and just trip along on that."

So we're to be devoted to one another in terms of family love to one another with brotherly love, from PHILASTORGOS to PHILADELPHIA and then it's explained further in the last phrase, "in honor giving preference to one another." This is the opposite of self-absorption. You can't do this when you're operating on the sin nature. The sin nature is saying it's all about me and this command is saying it's all about the other person no matter how much you dislike them. We're to give preference to one another. The verb here is PROEGEOMAI which means to go before to give them preference, to elevate them, and to make them the focus of attention and not put that focus of attention on yourself. 

Paul goes on in Romans 12:11 saying, "Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." There are three different principles here. Again he uses some different grammatical constructions. I point this out because whenever you go outside the norm in a grammatical construction it really strikes the reader in a different way and it catches their attention. In the ancient world they used these kinds of things to emphasize, to highlight, to boldface. They didn't have the ability to do those things so they did it with grammar.

The word for "not lagging" is the Greek word OKNEROS meaning that you shouldn't be hesitant; you shouldn't lag behind; you shouldn't be timid; you should be aggressive; you should be outgoing in other words in your diligence. You should make it a point to be diligent. The word for diligent here is SPOUDE. The verb is SPOUDAZO. This is the word translated in the KJV as "study to show yourself approved unto God." That word translated study really doesn't mean study. It means to be diligent in the NASB, the NIV, and the other modern translations. But the context in talking to Timothy was that he should be diligent in a particular area, which is his study of the Word so it's appropriately translated study but the verb form of this noun means to be diligent, to have a zealous pursuit of something, to exert yourself 150% in a certain direction. So we are not to be hesitant or timid in our diligence. We're to have a passion about our spiritual life and a passion about the Word of God. We should be excited about it, "not lagging or not hesitant or not timid in our diligence".

Then the next phrase says, "Fervent in the Spirit." Now this does not mean we're to be jumping pews and having some sort of Charismatic experience. It's talking about having a passion for our spiritual life. The word "fervent" is ZEO a word that is used literally to mean bringing something to a boil and figuratively it has the idea of being ardent, aggressive or passionate about something. Then it's followed by the phrase EN PNEUMATE, a phrase Paul used many, many times. Here in this passage, at least in the NKJ version the spirit is translated with a lower case "s". There is a lot of debate in this passage whether this really isn't the Holy Spirit but is the human spirit, that you should be passionate in your human spirit about the Word. I tend to favor the fact that since Paul uses the phrase in numerous places to describe doing something by means of the Spirit, in dependence upon God the Holy Spirit, being filled by the Spirit, walking by the Spirit, and a number of other passages that what he's talking about here is not just getting all worked up and being just passionate about something but it is a passion that comes from walking by the Spirit. It's again something produced in us through God the Holy Spirit. We have a passion, a desire to live the Christian life serving the Lord.

I didn't put the Greek word up for serving. It means in a broad sense of the term walking in obedience to the Lord, serving Him, and doing what it says to do in terms of the mandates for the Christian life. So notice that the "fervent" here is a present active participle. It's not an adjective used like an imperative here. It's a participle used like an imperative. That's what we're going to see in the next verse. You have three participles, all present active participles, rejoicing, being patient, and continuing steadfastly. So the first one is "rejoice in hope". Hope is a confident expectation of something. Every time you see the word hope you need to think of something in the future, because of a future reality we can have a present optimistic attitude that no matter how negative the circumstances are around us, no matter how difficult things may appear, because we have an expectation of knowing God has a plan for our life and God is taking us through trials and tests and difficulties to bring us to spiritual maturity we can rejoice now because of that future hope.

James 1: 2-4 says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have {its} perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." It's not the normal human reaction to be joyful over difficulties. The normal human reaction is anger or fear or anxiety but it's not joy. For Christians, we're not joyful because we're masochistic and we just want to revel in the negative. We're joyful because we know that God has a plan as James is pointing out. The testing of our faith is not necessarily fun or enjoyable but because we understand that this is how we grow and this is how the Lord has designed us to mature we can have a hope and joy now because we understand what the game plan is.

So that connects it to the next phrase in Romans 12:12 which is "persevering [being patient] in tribulation". Now the word here for patient is a word that is familiar to those who have gone through the James study, HUPOMENO and its noun HUPOMENE relate to endurance, to hang in there. HUPO is the prefix and MENO is the verb which means to abide or remain so it means to remain under, to stay in the circumstances. It doesn't mean to think that when things get tough you can bail out and go somewhere else. Sometimes the greatest growth that occurs in our Christian life is when we're going through really intense suffering, when we're going through intense difficulty and it just seems like things are hitting us left and right, one thing after another, and there's no letup and we're just ready to scream and yet that's when we're going through an intensified period of spiritual growth if we take advantage of it and walk by the Spirit and we keep on target so that's what HUPOMENO refers to.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." To escape it doesn't mean to avoid it but to escape the aversive consequences of the adversity so that we may handle it. Often you hear this little truism that God wouldn't let you go through it unless you could handle it. There's a certain amount of truth to that but too often I hear people saying that to people who haven't a clue and probably aren't even believers. If you're a member of God's royal family God does have a plan for you and He is taking you through things and if he's taking you through it He knows you have the resources. Why? Because you have the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit; you have the filling of the Holy Spirit; you have the Word of God, and you should have been taught at least the rudimentary principles of the faith-rest drill of trusting in God, claiming promises, to get through those difficult times. That's how we can bear it as believers.

Then the last phrase is being "devoted [continuing steadfastly] in prayer". That's PROSKARTEREO which means to persevere. It's a synonym for HUPOMENO but it means to continuously do something and that you're not going to get distracted from it. You're not going to get thrown off balance and off-target. It's the word used in Colossians 4:2 when Paul says to continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving. That's PROSKARTEREO. It means to hang in there, to be steadfast in prayer, day in and day out.

How many times have you had this experience? I'd had it and I think every Christian has when you say, "Okay I've got to set up a specific time every day where I'm going to pray and I'm going to read my Bible."? The next morning something happens. The next morning something happens. It's just anything to knock you off course. But the point is that we need to set up a regular disciplined schedule in our lives for prayer and to read the Word of God. That performs a personal foundation for us in our walk with God.

Christians need to read the Word. Every now and then someone asks me a question as I was asked in the Bible Study Methods class recently, "What is the role of personal Bible study in the life of the believer with reference to the pastor-teacher?" There are some people who get the idea that they shouldn't read their Bible. I've heard little timid Christians who think, "Oh if I read my Bible. I'll get confused." Let me tell you, if you don't read your Bible you will get confused even here on Tuesday night, Thursday night, and Sunday morning because you don't have a frame of reference. Every believer needs to read their Bible.

Now you're going to come across verses and say, "Now that really doesn't sound like what I've been taught." I run across verses like that and there's all kind of issues related to hermeneutics and related to language and related to the traditional way in which some verses have been translated. You just put a question mark there and move on. You don't let it cause you to stumble. We all grow at different rates and we learn and resolve problems at different times. I tell you, with all the years I've studied and if I live to be a hundred with a clear mind I will have a list 200 yards long with questions about the Bible to take to the Lord. We're going to be discussing some of these things for a long time.

Some passages are just difficult to understand. That's true for everybody. We need to be knowledgeable. We need to know the stories of the Bible. They need to be familiar. As you read through them, you'll underline passages that come across and see that it's a great promise that you need to remember. You ought to index things. If you see a great little verse related to the angelic conflict, make a note in the margin or top of the page and write a word. If it's about the omniscience of God, write omniscience in the margin so that the next time you wonder where you read a great passage you can thumb your way through and find the note. So you write down notes, you underline passages, you're reminded of promises and you memorize that. Let me see, "Jesus wept. Maybe I can remember that tomorrow." Or how about "pray without ceasing"? That's really the shortest verse in the Bible because it's only two words in the Greek. So we need to continue in prayer, focus on these basic things, pray, read your Bible every day. If you read five chapters a day, which takes about eight minutes, some are longer, some are shorter, and you'll read through the whole Bible in a year. It doesn't take long. Anyone can do it. You do that through three or four years and you're going to have a pretty good understanding of the flow of Scripture. You'll be surprised at what you know. All of a sudden things that are said on Sunday morning, or Tuesday or Thursday night, will make little light bulbs go off all the time as you remember. It'll start making sense.

We need knowledgeable congregations so you need to pray and you need to read your Bible every day. In Romans 12:13, Paul says, "Contributing [distributing] to the needs of the saints." It's the verb KOINONEO which means to have fellowship or to share or take part in something so you should share with the needs of the saints. This also relates to love being without hypocrisy and being kindly affectionate as you help one another, those who are having difficulties. Someone's having trouble with the job. It's not necessarily financial. Someone has trouble finding a babysitter. Someone is a young mother and they really don't know what to do with a kid. You can help them out. There are a lot of ways in which we can share in the needs of the saints.

Then it says, "Practicing [given to] hospitality." The pastor's conference is a great time for this. There are a couple of pastors I know that come to the conference that are great individuals but they work jobs that barely take care of their families and they come to a conference which is not inexpensive, which is one reason we don't charge. Someone has to pay. There are those that God has provided for who help with donations and that supplies the needs but some can't afford three nights at a hotel room which costs $300.00 plus their airfare and whatever. It's a great opportunity for folks to open up their homes and to provide a place for them to stay.

The word for given here is DIOKO. Now DIOKO has two meanings. Its core meaning is to pursue something rigorously but when you do it in a positive sense that's helping, and when you do it in a negative sense it's persecuting. The word can go either way. In fact, it's translated in Romans 12:14 as persecute. Here it's positive. It's not persecuting people when you open your home to be hospitable. That's not what it says. You're pursuing hospitality. You're looking for opportunity to help out those who are in need. They're strangers.

The word for hospitality is PHILOXENIA. That's PHILOS the noun for love and XENIA like xenophobia, someone who is fearful of a stranger or of someone of a different race, like the French are. I'm not making a nasty comment about the French. I just always thought it was interesting that in English we refer to foreigners as aliens. In French, they're strangers. I always thought that said a lot about the French mind-set. If you're not French you're a stranger. If you're English, if you're not English, you're an alien. So we should be given to hospitality, ready to open up our homes to others.

Then in Romans 12:14 Paul sums it up, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." Now this reminds us of what we covered just a couple of weeks ago in our passage on Sunday morning in Matthew 5. See this thread runs all the way through Scripture. Loving one another and loving others who are not believers doesn't necessarily refer to those who are being nice to you. We're to bless those who curse you.

Now the word here for bless is the word EULOGEO. This is where we get our English word eulogy. It means to say something nice. It's not the word MAKARIOS which is in Matthew 5 and means to be happy. It's translated blessed are those who are persecuted. Here it means to say something genuinely nice. Remember love is without hypocrisy. It means it doesn't have a hidden agenda. Here it's saying something good and meaning it to those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Say something positive to them and do not speak ill of them. So we're to speak well of those who persecute us.

Just to remind you of Matthew 5:43 and following. "You've heard it said that you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy but I [Jesus] say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." So Paul is saying the exact same thing that Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Why? That you may be sons of your Father in Heaven. A mature son. You have to learn how to have impersonal love for all mankind, even those who hate you and persecute you if you're going to reach spiritual maturity and "be sons of your Father in Heaven."

Matthew 5:47, "For if you love those who love you, what reward is it?" How difficult it is to love people who love you, who treat you nice, who take care of you? But to love someone who spitefully uses you and ridicules you. Now that's where it's difficult. We'll stop at Romans 12:14 tonight and we'll come back with verse 15 and probably be able to finish the rest of this.