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Real #love requires vulnerability.

 

Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

 

In a world full of imperfect people who do imperfect things, it is often easier to become stoic and ambivalent towards others. In this way we can protect our own hearts and feelings, shielding ourselves from the pain of betrayal and wrong doing. However, a Christian heart is one who does not seek self-protection above ministering to others. As a matter of fact, a Christian heart is one that has been so transformed by the love of God that it feels right along with the hearts of its fellow brothers and sisters. Paul tells us that when one of our family rejoices, we should be rejoicing right along with them; when they are sad, our hearts should break along with theirs. This truly requires us to be vulnerable to possible hurts ourselves, but in this vulnerability is also self-denial, and this is the kind of heart that has been changed by God. Paul is not telling us to go out and become professional mourners or manufactured laughers. What he is telling us is to become so consumed with our Father and His love that our hearts are transformed into ones that really feel empathetic love for each another. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

 

Study/Meditation: Read John 13:34. Jesus made love a commandment. Why do you think He did so? Why is this so important?

 

*Father, thank You for loving me so completely. Help me as I meditate on Your love to be pleasing to You in my love for others. Amen.

 

In all things and in all ways, point others to Christ. #prayer

 

Romans 12:14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

 

When we are wronged and choose not to retaliate against the person or persons who wronged us, we can often walk away from that situation feeling fairly good about ourselves. After all, the world would tell us to get revenge and make the other person(s) suffer. However, Christians have been called to a more radical transformation than that. In this verse, Paul is simply restating something Jesus said in Luke 6:28, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” As God’s children, we are to seek to become so God-centered and so God-exalting that our only concern is that His glory be manifested and known throughout the world. It is a “renewing of the mind,” as Paul stated in Romans 12:3, and this renewal sees past the offense to the mission. The response is that instead of cursing him or ignoring her, we only pray for them. In so doing, we are presenting ourselves as a “living sacrifice” to God, making all that we are and all that we do about worshipping Him. (Romans 12:2) Self is no longer the main thing. God is the main thing, and whatever is done to us must be about advancing Him, not ministering to self.

 

Study/Meditation: The mandate given by Paul in Romans 12:14 is expounded on by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 5:38-48. What specifically does Jesus say about how we are to treat those who mistreat us?

 

*Father, give me a heart that sees past the wrongs committed against me so that I may instead pray for and bless those who do so. Let my response be a light that leads to You. Amen.

 

We seek to be generous because God was first generous to us. #giving

 

Romans 12:13 “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

 

It seems rather interesting that in the middle of Paul’s exhortations on personal spiritual disciplines that he insert one about contributing and showing hospitality. Why? The answer lays in what we are to do and the reasons why we should be eager to do so. The word Paul uses that has been translated as “contribute” is actually a word more closely related to the word “fellowship” or “sharing.” He is speaking of fellowship between Christians, or sharing with one another that are in need. He follows that up with telling us that in order to do so, we should seek to be hospitable to one another—asking each other to have a meal, giving of our time and finances, or being kind to each other in church and in the community. This hospitality also includes the way we treat those outside of the church. Our generosity should likewise extend to those we wish to bring into fellowship. Why are these activities placed in the middle of reminders about our responses to God’s love and mercy? We seek to be kind and generous to others because that’s exactly what God did for us. We were strangers and aliens, but God graciously brought us into His family by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:15-21) We seek to treat one another as we were first treated by our Father.

 

Study/Meditation: In what ways can you deliberately “contribute to the saints and seek to show hospitality” this week?

 

*Father, give me a heart for others that would show kindness and hospitality. Reveal to me those opportunities so that I may live as a thankful member of Your family. Amen.

 

Christians know they need God because they know Him. #prayer

 

Romans 12:12c “…be constant in prayer.”

 

In this rather long list of directives in Romans 12, Paul has anchored them on the first verse of the chapter, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…” We cannot love or serve or lead or give or exhort or show honor or any of the other things Paul lists without the mercies of God, but even further than that, we cannot recognize that we need God’s mercies unless we first know Him. How do we do that? We talk with Him, and we do so in a “constant” or “devoted” manner. We do not know our spouses or our best friends or our family by speaking with them only occasionally. We know them because we spend time with them. We have relationship with them because we speak with them and enjoy their company more than just before mealtime or when we need something. In order for us to be able to walk in God’s mercies and His grace so that we can behave as His children, we must first recognize that we need His mercy and His grace. The world needs Him; they just don’t know they need Him. We, His children, know we need His mercy because we know Him, and we know Him by living lives that are constant in prayer.

 

Study/Meditation: How does Paul elaborate on how and why we need prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23?

 

*Father, thank You for giving me this avenue in order to know You more. You are my Abba Father, and I love You. Amen.

 

Christians must respond to #tribulations as people of eternity.

 

Romans 12:12b “…be patient in tribulation…”

 

It’s human nature to want the good news. We want to hear that we are loved and cherished and taken care of. These are the things toward which all humanity works. However, the reality is that this life is largely about tribulation; it’s about enduring trials and setbacks and disappointments with the occasional reprieve of good news. After all, the world is imperfect, so therefore its results will tend toward imperfection. How is a Christian supposed to respond to disappointments as children who are heirs to eternity, men and women who are the bride of the King of kings? We remember precisely that. We set our eyes on the eternity that is ours, and then we respond as people of eternity, not people of the temporal. Our joy and our love are based on the reality of being a child of God, so we live in those things not outside of the trials, but in spite of, and even sometimes because of the trials. But above all else, we set our hearts and our minds on the glory of God, remembering that all that we are and all that we do should be toward the goal of demonstrating the greatness and majesty of our Lord. For the heirs to eternity, this should be done as we celebrate the good times and as we are patient in the bad times.

 

Study/Meditation: Read 1 Peter 4:12-19. What does Peter say should be our reactions in the midst of trials and tribulations?

 

*Father, help me display Your glory to the world in the midst of my troubles. Give me wisdom to deal with life appropriately and lovingly, setting my eyes always on You. Amen.

 

The ultimate #hope of every believing heart is the glory of God.

 

Romans 12:12a “Rejoice in hope.”

 

Paul is a great proponent of rejoicing. He speaks of believers rejoicing in Romans 5: 2-3, 11 12:12, 15 15:10; 2 Corinthians 3:11; Philippians 3:1, 4:4; and 1Thessolonians 5:16. However, in all of his letters he is perhaps most clear in the one to the Romans on where to rejoice. He writes that we should rejoice “in hope.” He certainly doesn’t say to rejoice in our circumstances, nor does he even tell us to rejoice in our salvation, though that is surely a reason for rejoicing. No, in the context of God’s mercy, grace, and love, Paul tells us to rejoice in hope. He used this same phrase earlier in the letter in 5:2 which explains more on what this hope is in: “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The hope in which we are to rejoice is God. John Piper said, “The ultimate hope of the human heart is not forgiveness or justification or heaven or freedom from disease. The ultimate hope of every heart is the glory of God. You were made to see and savor the glory of God.” (“Happy in Hope, Patient in Pain, Constant in Prayer,” John Piper, 2004, desiringgod.org) In all things we must set our minds and our hearts on the moment and eternity when we live in the magnificent presence of the Almighty Creator God, the Lover of our souls. This is truly a hope well meant for rejoicing.

 

Study/Meditation: In what ways can you practically, in your day to day walk, rejoice in the hope of the glory of God?

 

*Father, You are magnificent and mighty! You are my hope and my joy and may shield. I love You and worship You in all things. Amen.