A Challenge from Paul

romansDuring my evening reading in Romans, I landed on what is one of my favorite parts of the Book – Romans 12:9-21:

[Marks of the True Christian]
[9] Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. [10] Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. [11] Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. [12] Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. [13] Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

[14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. [15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. [16] Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. [17] Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. [18] If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. [19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [20] To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21 ESV

Safe to say, it is challenging. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t pull any punches here. None of the Bible does! As I read this set of verses, I am challenged to ask myself questions like the following:

  • Do I abhor what is evil or do I only slightly dislike it? (v9)
  • Is my love genuine or is it a show? (v9)
  • Do I rejoice in hope or is it an afterthought? (v12)
  • Am I patient in tribulation or do I complain? (v12)
  • Do I rejoice with those who rejoice & weep with those who weep or am I selfishly concerned with my own life? (v15)
  • Do I trust the Lord to avenge me when wronged or do I attempt to take it into my own hands? (v19)
  • Do I pursue harmony in relationships with others or do I pursue my own kingdom? (v16)
  • Do I do what is honorable in the sight of all? (v17)
  • Do I bless those who persecute me or do I treat them the way I am treated? (v14)

Goodness! And those are based on just some of the verses in this one passage alone! Praise God for grace & mercy!

The questions that we can ask ourselves from this chapter, as well as the whole Bible, can be used by God to show us our weak areas – where we lack in our faithfulness and how we always need His sanctification, grace, and help. However, none of these actions commanded in Romans 12 are possible apart from the Gospel of God & the work of the Holy Spirit in a responsive & regenerate heart. It is, after all, a heart issue. We don’t want to be guilty of what Paul Tripp calls ‘fruit stapling’ where we focus on the behavior (fruit) and not the heart change (root). May we lean on God’s Holy Spirit to continue to stoke the flame of the heart that loves Him and desires to obey Him and bring glory to Him. May we rejoice in the conviction of the Holy Spirit. May we love His Word that He has given us. May He continue to sanctify us and may we be lights in the midst of a dark world. May we be made deeply aware of our weaknesses and our need and rejoice in the fact that our God knows them, promises to sanctify us, and loves us wholly.

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