Jani: Hello, everyone, I’m glad you’ve tuned back in for another episode of our discipleship series. We’re working through our second priority, the body of Christ. And I want us to start today with worship, a time of worship together.
Worship, true worship involves the heart. It’s an affair of the heart. Jesus taught us in Matthew 15:8, when he said,
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”Matthew 15:8
He’s showing us that worship really is an affair of the heart. And that was cited from Isaiah 29:13. Jesus is helping us to see that true worship is not willpower, but affection. God is seeking true worshipers, John 4:23 says. When we come together in our small groups, I want Jesus to become more beautiful to you, to affect you right down in your heart where you can almost taste his glory. Like, I don’t know, kind of like serving a lovely meal for others to enjoy. That’s what I hope these podcasts are for you. And I’m hoping that your love and enjoyment of Jesus Christ will deepen, and you will truly be able to worship him from your heart.
The Treasure of the Bible
Now, in our discipleship groups, we’re working on reading through the Bible together. But I think we often take this book for granted. Why do we honor the Bible so much? Well, because we believe it is the very Word of God. We want to listen carefully and hear what he has to say to us. Do you realize what a treasure your Bible is? The very Bible that you are holding in your hands? Well, it might do well, just to have a short lesson on how the Bible came to us. We don’t have time today. But maybe sometime in one of our podcasts, we’ll do that. But even just think, how it survived through all the millennia, from the days when Moses wrote it in Hebrew, all the way down to the Greek and English to the King James Bible, the RSV and the ESV, to the modern day translations we have today, to the Bible you are holding in your hand. Oh, what a privilege.
As of this past September 2021, the full Bible has been translated into 717 languages. But there are a total of 7378 languages spoken in the world. One out of five people are still without a complete Bible in their first language, their mother tongue. Oh, you have one, and you’ve been taught to read, cherish it. There may come a day when we don’t have as easy access to a Bible. Let’s fill our hearts and minds with his word.
Now, I want you in your group to turn to Psalm 19:7-11 and read through it together. Think. What what do you learn about God’s word from this passage and then spend time thanking Him for His Word. Pause the podcast now and look together at Psalm 19:7-11. Share and then thank him for his word.
Teaching Time: Sincere Love Within The Body of Christ
All right, we’re going to go from our worship time to our teaching time tonight. We’re studying priority two these few weeks in our discipleship group, and we’re going to camp on a passage that I love in Romans 12:9-21.
Remember, priority one is Jesus Christ. Remember how we learned that chorus from 1 Corinthians 1:30 of how Jesus Christ is made to us, all we need wisdom, righteousness, power, holiness for every hour, our redemption. He’s everything we need. Now, we’re going to begin studying about how we need each other. God has given us other believers to walk through life with. We’re not alone.
If we were to take an hour or so to go around your table, and I were to ask you, in all your experiences on earth so far, which has brought you the most joy? Many of you would answer by describing a relationship, a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend, maybe a teacher. And on the other hand, if I asked you, of all your experiences on earth so far, which has brought you the most pain? Many of you would also answer by sharing about a relationship. Isn’t that true? You see, as each one of us walks through life, the thing which we seek after and hold most dear, that experience, which makes life bearable, and gives us a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, it’s found in meaningful relationships, in which real sincere love can be both received and given away.
And yet, there is a real tension here. Because it’s in the very act of loving and being loved, that are rough edges are exposed. All those character traits we try to hide and those dark thoughts that creep around in our head, they just haunt us. Those prejudices that we’re ashamed of but we harbor them way down deep, hoping no one will ever find out about them. Those little sins we play with in the privacy of our own mind or heart. All of these are relentlessly brought to light as we move into love relationships with other people.
So the very thing that can bring us the most joy can also bring us incredible pain. No wonder we tend to withdraw. We try to cover up to surround ourselves with enough defense mechanisms to survive with the least amount of self exposure and pain. Oh but, dear sisters, the Bible never leaves any room, or any right for withdrawal from each other. It confronts us with our self centered immaturity and self protection, and calls us to bear each other’s burdens, to love one another deeply from the heart, to show the world what Christ is like by the way we treat each other. To outdo each other in love and kindness and forgiveness as we follow Christ’s example.
So today, let’s talk about our second priority, loving and enjoying the vast richness of the body of Christ. At Emmanuel, we call this “gospel culture”. We believe that gospel doctrine should give birth to gospel culture, what we believe can really change how we treat each other. Our text for our next three times together is Romans 12:9-21. The context of this passage shows us that it’s written to Christians. When you look at the beginning of Romans 12, why don’t we turn there right now, Romans 12. If you look at verses one and two, he says,
“Present your bodies as living sacrifices…”Romans 12:1-2
That’s written to Christians. And then in verses three through eight, Paul teaches us about spiritual gifts. Then we come to our passage that we’re going to be camping on, I like to call we’re going to sit on it and just marinate in it and let it change our hearts and minds. We come to our passage in chapter 12, verses nine through 21.
Applying These Lessons To Our Relationships Within the Body of Christ
Now, of course, these verses stand true in all relationships. But for these lessons, I’m going to apply them particularly to our relationships within the body of Christ. Romans 12:9-21 answers the question, how can we apply this gospel that we embrace to everyday decisions, words, and actions? We find here in these verses, a series of staccato imperatives. Do this and don’t do that. But remember where these verses are in the scope of Paul’s letter to the Romans. This is Romans 12. It’s not Romans 3 or 5 or Romans 7. Look for Jesus in these commands. We’ll be talking about treating each other with love, with humility, and forgiveness, because that’s what gospel culture looks like. Jesus loves me, therefore, what is the implication and how I treat others? Jesus blesses those who persecute him. Therefore, what is the implication for me, when someone persecutes me. Jesus overcomes evil with good. Therefore, what is the implication for my response to the evil I see around me? Keep this in mind as we work our way through our passage word by word with these three points, from verses 9 through 13, gospel culture cultivates sincere love.
Our second point, next week will be from verses 14 through 16. Gospel culture nurtures humility. And then in three weeks, from verses 17 through 21, gospel culture generates forgiveness.
Now today, we’re going to look at Romans 12:9-13. Let’s read it together. Listen, as I read,
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal. Be fervent in spirit. Serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope. Be patient in tribulation. Be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”Romans 12:9-13
Gospel Culture Cultivates Sincere Love
Now I want you to see today that gospel culture cultivates sincere love. These verses free us from pretense with each other. Let’s look at verse 9. Sincere love is genuine. It’s authentic, real, trustworthy. He says, “Let love be genuine”, wholehearted. Why this admonition? Well, I think it’s because it’s our nature to love insincerely. I don’t know about you, but when I love it’s often self-serving. It revolves around my needs and desires. Insincere love loves because of all the benefits. Genuine love. Well, genuine love, loves for the other person alone. True love, sincere love, is other-oriented not self-seeking.
The Gospel shows me how to love sincerely. Christ loved me that way. I think our churches can develop a culture of niceness. We come in and ask each other, “How are you?” and we get responses, “Oh, I’m fine.” But all the while there’s a critical spirit simmering and anger or disappointment or competition underneath that surface smile. Jesus says no, there’s another way we can love each other genuinely, sincerely.
He says, “Abhor what is evil. Hold fast to what is good.” Now in this context, obviously we know we’re supposed to abhor everything that’s evil. But in this context, what is evil? Oh, let’s learn to detest, to scorn, to hate, to abhor that self-seeking, self-gratification that comes from trying to love in order to build myself up. Oh, may I be horrified by it. May you be. And then hold fast cling to. Cling to that expression of love toward another that makes every effort to meet the needs of the other person without drawing the attention to yourself? You see, sincere love is genuine and it’s possible.
Then we see in verse 10, that sincere love honors another. Look at Verse 10. “Brotherly affection” is how he says we should love each other. Like in your own family. Paul calls us in 1 Timothy 3:15, “the household of God”. In other words, love each other in your community of believers as if you were related.
Going Beyond Love by Showing Honor
We are called to go beyond genuine love. He says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” To honor another means to esteem, to show respect, appreciation, consideration. This is the only competition that I know of in the New Testament. At Emmanuel, in our small groups, and I try to in my own discipleship group, we have what’s called honor time, where we just say, alright, let’s take some time and honor one another. And the leader will start and he’ll say, or she’ll say, I want to honor Ashley, for her willingness to teach this group for me while I’m going to be in Britain or I want to honor Esther for her open heartedness when Dad and I came to visit her family when she wasn’t feeling well. You see, you just honor the other person in front of others. You thank God for them, esteem them.
I believe the opposite of honor is gossip and slander. Slander or gossip, our lack of honor and devotion to one another, come from the central source of all sin, the promotion of self. All of us are naturally self-oriented. We’re born self-centered. We need Jesus. That’s why honoring someone is hard. And I think gossip feeds my own self promotion. Gossip feeds my natural curiosity about someone else’s faults. 1 Timothy 3:15 links busy bodies with gossipers. Gossip feeds my desire to be the center of attention. Did you hear about…?
Gossip also feeds my desire to elevate myself over others. In my perverse sinfulness, if I can say something negative about you, it soothes my anxieties about my own hang ups. I’m so sorry to admit that, but it’s true. I wonder if any of you can find yourself there. Let’s guard how we speak about each other. Ray and I have a question we ask ourselves in each other. It’s this: is her name safe in our house? Is his name safe in our house? Oh, may it be.
Overcoming “The Princess Game”
We can be women who show respect and honor and devotion to one another. To be devoted to one another requires a certain dethroning of our own self image. This is hard because we like to play what I call “The Princess Game”.
In this game, I am the princess and I am on my throne. My interests and needs should be recognized as most important and worthwhile. My talents should be praised, my wisdom acknowledged, my opinions sought. Oh, but it is in relationships that I’m dethroned. In learning to love others genuinely, I can step down from my throne. I can polish my crown, take it off my head and polish it and place it on the head of another. I can wrap my royal robe of rights and privileges around the shoulders of those people God has brought into my life.
You see, love, genuine love, looks for ways to build an alternative culture of honor called churches, where people are lifted up. Their accomplishments celebrated, their strengths admired, their weaknesses forgiven. There’s no more negative scrutiny, no more finger-pointing. Philippians 2:3-4 says,
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit. But in humility, count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”Philippians 2:3-4
And then in verse 11, I want you to see how sincere love serves. Paul writes,
“Do not be slothful in zeal. Be fervent in spirit. Serve the Lord.”Romans 12:11
It’s interesting here that Paul puts serving the Lord in the midst of honoring and loving each other. That’s one of the ways we can serve him. Don’t lack in zeal, be passionate. Sincere love is eager. It shows an active, enthusiastic interest. To be involved in people’s lives, takes energy.
Our gospel doctrine helps us here, as we try to live it out in our church culture. One of the ways I can serve Christ is by devoting myself to his body, to the body of Christ, to the Christian community he is calling me to love sincerely. Now, how can this be? How can I serve Christ by loving you? Well, that makes sense only because we are all part of Christ. Ephesians 5:23 teaches very clearly, that Christ is the head of the Church, which is His body. The Bible teaches that we are not just Christ’s bride, we are his body, we complete him, we fill him out. Ephesians 1:22-23 say,
“God appointed him [Jesus] to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.”Ephesians 1:22-23
You see, you’re not just part of an organization when you become a Christian and join a church. We must never think of ourselves as primarily united organizationally, but rather organically. The body of Christ is an organic, growing body. We fill him out. Did you catch that? We are God’s gift to his father. God sent His Son to die on the cross. And what does he get out of it? He gets us. And he thinks that’s wonderful. Oh, thank you, Jesus. You and I are part of Christ’s body. We are part of his fullness, we fill him out. So when I look at you, I’m looking at a bit of Christ. When I serve you, I’m serving Christ. When I honor you. I’m honoring Christ. When we treat the Lord’s people with tenderness and reverence, we’re treating the Lord well. And when I speak poorly of you, of any brother or sister in Christ, I’m speaking poorly of Christ.
Think of Saul, on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:5, when Paul meets with the Lord, the Lord says, Here I come, I’m going to save you. Saul asks him, “Who are you, Lord?” And this is what Jesus answers in Acts 9:5,
“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”Acts 9:5
Jesus took Saul’s persecutions against his children as persecutions against himself. Let’s guard our unity. Let’s share the Spirit of Christ and let our differences shrink and fade. Let’s not be groups of women who focus on secondary issues, but rather on our blessed Lord Jesus Christ himself. As you work together in your church to serve Him, there will always be secondary issues. Oh, there’ll be new building projects. There’ll be new ministries that are developing or your Sunday school curriculum, which one to use. There’ll be questions about whom to have speak at certain events and what color curtains to put in the nursery and what kind of format you should use for worship and oh we could go on and on.
It’s Not Easy Being Family
You see, it’s not easy to be a member of the family of God. You can’t have close relationships without getting hurt, just the way you do in a physical family. But let’s not be divisive, strident, critical Christians. Turn to Ephesians 4:29-32 and read it together right now. Pause the podcast and read together Ephesians 4:29-32.
Did you catch that phrase, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit”? Do you want to grieve the Holy Spirit? Mom Ortlund used to ask me, “Jani, do you want to see God cry? Then let anger and bitterness and slander build up between you and other Christians.” Oh, let’s not grieve the Holy Spirit, let’s be known for our unity, not our fussiness. Christ died to make us one. We will spend all eternity together even with those Christians were mad at today.
Sincere Love is Joyfully Generous
Now let’s come to our final point in verses 12 through 13. And that is that sincere love is joyfully, patiently, prayerfully generous. Look at that phrase, rejoice in hope, in the hope that serving Jesus and His people is worth it. Losing myself in others will bring me real joy, not the false sense of satisfaction that self-love seems to promise. Also, we can be joyful in the hope that we won’t always be this way. God through the wonder and grace of his gospel is transforming us to be more and more conformed to the image of His Son. And then he says, “Be patient in tribulation.” Our response should be, “That’s okay. God knows what he’s doing. I can leave this burdensome relationship with Him and be patient in the tribulation I feel over it.”
“Be constant in prayer,” he goes on to tell us. He’s saying keep on, don’t give up. Hope and patience are linked very closely to prayer here. If you find yourself discouraged or impatient or frustrated with how relationships within the body of Christ are going, then pray instead of reaming those people out in your head, talk to God about the problem. Don’t complain about them, commune with God. When a certain hurtful relationship comes to mind, don’t dwell on it. Don’t meditate on it. Instead, meditate on God. Pray for that person and ask God to bless them and help you to see them as he sees them.
And then Paul tells us to contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. There are many kinds of needs, many things that ought to be shared among God’s family. But in order to be able to meet those needs, you have to be in close with each other. Needs are best uncovered and met up close. That is one of the beauties and joys of being in a small group within your church.
The Joy of a Small Group
If you are listening to this, and have resisted being in a small group, I wonder why? How will you be able to practice sincere love within the body of Christ from a distance? Oh, join a small group, please. It will cost you something, it will be costly, but the cost of living in isolation is so much more. What a vast reservoir of love and knowledge and care is waiting to be tapped into among us as women. We have unlimited potential to experience gospel culture on the basis of our Gospel doctrine. It can start by our taking these five verses and asking God to show us how to live them out among the Christians he has called us to.
Now let’s take a break. Let’s pause the podcast and have your group take a little bit of a break at kind of a long time of teaching. We’ll see you in a minute or two.
Welcome back and what I want you to do for this last part of your discipleship group is gather together for accountability and your assignment and then share your prayer requests. So I want to ask you, have you been able to have your quiet times and meditate on your Bible verse this week? Leaders choose someone to share about their quiet times this past week. Pause the podcast and share.
Now, I want you to discuss together the introduction to Bonhoeffer “Life Together”. Pause the podcast and discuss different things you learned.
Next Week’s Assignment
Here’s your assignment for next week.
- Continue on with your quiet times, six times this week.
- Then I want you to read “Life Together” Chapter One.
- I want you to memorize these verses we’ve been talking about today, Romans 12:9-13. Memorize them by next week, you can do it. We’ll talk about Bible memory in the weeks ahead, but get started on these five verses.
- And then exchange names to pray for each other.
Now it’s time for you to share your prayer requests together. Talk about how your short-term goals are coming and share some of them. Share your prayer requests. Pray together if you have time, if not exchange names. And then close your time together by singing our benediction over each other. May the Lord, Mighty Lord, bless and keep you forever. And my prayer is that he may restore your souls as you spend time together in the word and with each other. God bless you.