Transformation: Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Back to the Core

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:9, 10).

In verse 9, the Greek word agape is the kind of love commanded. Refer back to the definitions and examples of agape love.

Having returned to the core value of the chapter and of the Bible, the text continues by delineating practical means of fulfilling the admonition to love in sincerity. “Love must be sincere” is followed by another guideline that may seem disassociated with the first: “Hate what is evil.” It is an interesting statement. Hatred normally is a negative action and could be taken as the opposite of love. It compares with the familiar saying “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Also, evil denotes the lack of love. Loving evil would not be sincere love, but a distorted emotion. Finally, this admonishment to hate what is evil emphasizes the importance of sincere love, not deceptive or hypocritical love. Both of the latter are, of course, rated as being evil.

Evil seeks to overwhelm or destroy what is good and loving. As Christians, we should ardently strive to avoid and work against anything evil. An example, gossip, which is found in the church as well as outside its door, is capable of destroying the personal integrity of those gossiping and the reputations of those talked about. It can ruin relationships and even spoil the reputation of a church. A small church had a secretary whose office was adjacent to the pastor’s office, separated only by an un-insulated wall. The secretary was in the habit of listening to conversations between the pastor and his visitors, including counseling sessions. The secretary violated the rule of love by spreading what she heard, often with variations. She was clinging to evil and ignoring what is good by violating the trust expected by the pastor.

Also interesting in verse 9 is the verb cling, which implies the strength of the priorities we need to establish. An example is found in Philippians 4:8 as to how we should think: “ … whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Grab the thought, grasp it, and don’t let it go. Cling to it.

The second of the two direct referrals to love in chapter 12 is found in verse 10: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” This devotedness involves phileo-delphi, or love that is driven by feelings and emotions. Devotedness suggests support, encouragement, and concern for someone, usually a friend. Phileo is not applied to strangers and enemies in the sense of agape, because it does not rely on the will and determination.

Third, “Honor one another above yourselves.” Honor (phileo- storge) is another variation on phileo love. Note that this admonition is counterpoint to Romans 12:3. One opposes giving honor to ourselves, and the other encourages giving honor to someone else. In either case, the focus is on another person, or even God. Since this is mentioned so often in various ways, it must be a continuous challenge to living the Christian life, especially as to the issues of love (Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:3).

Accepting this as true and obeying it ties in with the character of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve. Paul is saying that we should esteem others, respect them, and submit to them. This, I believe, applies to our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is not something we should back away from, for He promises great reward for obedience in this respect. “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). It is a true expression of love. Jesus’ servanthood led to His death—for us. God does not see things as we do. Unless we gain an understanding concerning His love, how and why He demonstrated that love on the cross, we will never fully understand our role in loving others. We will not be able to adequately explain to others their need for a Savior. That in itself is an expression of love.

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Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith

Change is unavoidable.  I try frequently, either conciously or otherwise, but fail. I may manage the shift somewhat, but change happens. My life began as a naive little boy on a Southern Idaho farm in the middle of the great depression. In my view we were rich, although my Dad laughed when I asked him if we were. In a sense we were. We raised and preserved all our own vegetables and fruit. Our cows provided us with milk products of every kind. In those days we sold cream (pure cream) and fed the hogs and the dogs with the milk we didn’t use. We ate abundantly of beef and pork from our livestock. Mom baked everything that we buy in the bakery today. Everyone in my family was slim and trim. We worked hard twelve to fourteen hours a day. Dad splurged when he bought Mom a MixMaster for $15 and had to pay it off by the month. Move forward 75 years. I’m now at the point where I am fully aware that my life is close to it’s finale. Am I rich? Yes, but not in the sense of that five year old back on the farm, I took seriously the fact–too late–that my choices initiated changes. So in a sense I can control change to a degree. The first half of my life was spent doing what I wanted. Unfortunately, alcohol had a significant effect of what on what I did and the changes that took place. At the end of the day, there are two results from the best choice I ever made. I realized that my belief that I was a Christian was total hypocrisy. When I learned the truth, it became apparent that that is what I had rejected. The second result was a total change in my life. My life went from descent to ascent. The climb is not easy, but is fulfilling, and enriching as I continue to learn and make choices stemming from the will of God. He is the answer to my fears. He, being Love, has endowed that to me. He has taught me that pride is self destructive and seeking the humble attitude  of Jesus is the way to the path of real life. It focuses on the cross of Christ, which to me was once just an ornament at the front of the church. Changes happen, but the consequences can be incomprensibly good. I have learned, as the Bible says, I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

The inspiration for my new book

Transformation The Servant’s Heart-A Life of Faith did not start out with a book in mind. My wife Jan and I have belonged to a church cell group for many years. We take turns hosting and leading in a lesson, the subject of which varies. On one occasion, when it was my turn I chose the topic of anxiety as it affects the Christian life. The Bible is specific about the need to leave anxiety and worry out of the Christian perspective. I experienced anxiety on many occasions and I observed it in others. I learned that being anxious is related to trust in God, which in turn affects our faith. At a later date I was asked to fill in for the pastor in his absence. My sermon topic was anxiety, based on the notes I had from the cell lesson. A few days later I received an email from the associate pastor, who thanked me for the affect my message had on his problems with worry. I was dumbfounded since he is also a licensed professional counselor. I felt God had His hand in it for some reason. Later I had heard excerpts from a radio lesson on Romans as I drove around in my car. It was interesting to me and I decided to write about the issue of love in Romans 12:9, 10. Somewhere in that process the thought of writing a book came to me, and I decided that a third subject would make it more complete. I became intrigued with Philippians 2:5, which presents the need for Christians to have the mind of Christ. The idea of thinking like Christ raised me to a higher level of thought concerning the Christian life. Then a strange thing happened. I got on the computer to review the anxiety article. I wasn’t there. I searched the filing cabinet and it wasn’t there either. Many months before, I had given a copy of the anxiety text to two people to read and critique. Unbelievably, neither of them had kept the copy. I was discouraged, even anxious. In desperation I looked through the files again and found the original notes for the cell lesson. I took that God’s approval that I continue. It turned out to be a blessing, since I was able to improve the context.

The motivation underlying Transformation is that the Christian life is expected to be unique. Becoming a genuine believer guarantees a change style due to the immediate indwelling of the Holy Spirit in them. We are never forced to live the life Christ, but we have an legitimate obligation because of the payment of Christ on the cross for our sin. There are many reasons we don’t live up to God’s standard, and Transformation brings to light three of the hindrances of living for Him and not the world.