We’re in store for a treat! Pastor Annie Spangler brings us a special message all about Love in Action. We’re taking a deep dive into Romans chapter 12 and discovering 3 practical ways to share the love of Jesus with everyone around us! As we explore Paul’s letter to the church of Rome, we discover exactly what love in action looks like and how we can start implementing these practices in our everyday lives.
1 John 3:18 (NLT) Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
One of the amazing things about God’s Word is that the Bible is living and active. The Holy Spirit uses scripture to teach us and show us and help us become all that God has called us to be. As we dive into our Bible study on Romans 12, let’s open our hearts and minds to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us.
Romans 12:1 (NIV)- Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy...
Let’s look at the first word of that verse before we go any further…Therefore. Everytime we see that word, we need to ask ourselves, “What is it there for?” We know that Paul wrote the book of Romans as a letter to the Church or Rome to address some of the major issues the church was having.
The church was divided–they had ethical differences, theological differences, issues with pridefulness and overwhelming tension. Because of these internal conflicts, tensions then spilled outside of the church. During this time, Christians were seen as the lowest of the low in society; they were beaten and mocked and ostracized.
Paul shows the Church of Rome that if we want to make a difference in the world, we have to have unity within the church. He outlines the gospel message of Jesus and reminds us that division is not an option because we are all followers of Christ. We were all sinners, we all fell short of God’s glory, and now we are all redeemed and justified. Paul is reminding us of who we are in Christ!
Romans 3:22-24 (NLT) 22We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
If we look back at the first line of Romans 12–therefore–we see what the first 11 books of Romans are there for:
Therefore…because we’re united in Christ.
Therefore…because we’ve all been redeemed.
Therefore…because we are justified and can stand before God as if we’ve never sinned.
Therefore…because Jesus sacrificed for us and served us and loved us and laid His life down for us so that we could know Him and walk with Him.
Therefore…in light of all of this, our faith should be active and we should show our love in action. Amen!
Understanding everything that happened in the first 11 chapters helps us to clearly understand that the whole of chapter 12 of Romans is our response to what Jesus has done for us–our response to the goodness of the Gospel. Within chapter 12, we discover 3 primary ways to show Love in Action.
Romans 12:1 (NLT) - 1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
We are to present our lives as a living sacrifice. But sacrifice is hard! In her message, Love in Action, Pastor Annie perfectly (and hysterically!) highlights the challenges that accompany sacrificial love. Her story emphasizes the fact that if we want anything in our lives to progress and improve, it requires sacrifice. We cannot stay stagnant in our lives if we want growth. Sacrifice is a must!
Keep in mind, it’s not just about sacrificing material things. We’re told to be living sacrifices, which means laying down our entire lives and saying, “Lord, I want every part of me, everything I am, and everything I do to point back to Jesus.”
Therefore…because Jesus died for me, I can live for Him. Because Jesus sacrificed for me, I can sacrifice my life to worship Him. Amen! So then, how do we become living sacrifices?
Romans 12:2-3 (NLT) 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 3Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
It’s easy to read these verses and have the mindset that behavior is key–don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t swear, don’t…But the truth is, behavior is secondary and thinking is primary. For our behavior to change, we have to change the way we think.
The world tells us to put ourselves at the center. As believers, we are called to keep Jesus at the center of our lives always. The world emphasizes instant gratification and self-preservation but we as Christians renew our minds and restructure our thinking to keep Jesus at the core. We have died to ourselves; we are alive in Christ! With Jesus at the center of our lives, showing Love in Action through sacrifice becomes a natural response.
Share a time when sacrificing for someone or something you love has been difficult.
In addition to the death and resurrection of Jesus, how else has sacrificial love impacted your life?
What would it look like for you to sacrifice for your spouse, your child, your friend, or your coworker?
Romans 12:4-8 (NLT) 4Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
6In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Sacrifice is giving something up; service is giving something to something or someone. We give to the things that we love! Whether it’s our family, our church, our friends, or our passions, we give our attention, our resources, our time, and our money to the things we love.
As a part of the body of Christ, we all belong to each other and therefore, we are called to serve one another. This is a radically different mindset from the self-centered culture we live in! We don’t actually belong to ourselves; we belong to the community of believers who serve the body of Christ.
1 John 4:20 (NLT) If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?
We can’t love God and hate each other. God is the head of the church and we are the body–we are the hands and feet of the body of Christ, used to fulfill God’s purpose on the earth. Church is not just a program we attend; we have a part to play and a responsibility, a function as part of the church body to be used by God.
Romans 12:6 (NLT) 6In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.
We all have gifts instilled in us by God on purpose, for a purpose! God has intricately designed us each with intentional gifts to serve the body of Christ and serve the world around us. Let’s think about what comes easy for us and what we naturally do well. These are God’s gifts for us to use for His Kingdom. Love in Action looks like service!
What are some ways you can serve the people in your community, your world this week?
How have people in your community, your world served you this week?
What is your spiritual gift and how can you use it to impact others?
Romans 12:9-21 (NLT) 9Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.19Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.
20Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”
21Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Right off the bat in verse 9, we see that Love in Action looks like sincerity. We are called to really love people. For the next 11 verses, Paul follows this general principle with a list of practical examples of what sincere love actually looks like. Let’s break it down verse by verse to get a clear understanding on how we can act out this aspect of love in our day-to-day lives.
We are called to outdo one another in honor. What if we were a church full of people whose goal is to look for opportunities to honor each other. One of the ways we honor kids at VFC is with Caught ya prizes…when we see kids being kind or helpful or working hard to memorize the weekly verse, teachers will say, “I caught ya being good!” and hand out stickers and little prizes to honor them.
What if we adopted that principle as adults? What if we began actively appreciating people when they open the door for others or coming in early or speaking nicely to a customer service rep or any other small, but significant, ways we can honor each other! This is love in action.
In the midst of all these practical examples of how to love sincerely, we’re reminded on the forefront of the importance of keeping our spiritual gauge for Jesus high. If we’re trying to love sincerely by our own abilities, we won’t get very far. But when we keep our spiritual fervor high, when we spend time with the Lord, when we’re excited about our faith, loving people sincerely comes effortlessly, it’s no longer a chore. When our faith is strong, loving people is just a natural response.
There are countless ways for us to be hospitable to those around us! By inviting people into our homes, taking friends' meals when they’ve had a baby or returned home from a stay at the hospital, paying it forward when we have the opportunity, and making small, extra efforts to help out people in need, we’re able to sincerely show Love in Action.
Remember, Paul is writing to a group of Christians who have been persecuted, mocked, and ostracized, yet he’s reminding them that the teachings of Jesus say to bless those who hurt us. That means that we, too, should bless our enemies, bless those who say mean things to us, bless those who cut us off in traffic, bless those whose ideas and values are different from ours, and bless the coworkers who make our lives difficult.
Oftentimes, it’s easier to empathize with people who are hurting than celebrate with those who are winning. Rejoicing can sometimes stir up feelings of jealousy and envy. It’s hard to sincerely rejoice! But we have to renew our minds around the love of God so that we can celebrate with the coworker who gets the promotion we wanted or the friends who bought the house we wish we would afford. Other people’s victories don’t have to be our losses! We can be secure in our relationship with God and put Jesus at the center to rejoice with others.
We may not be able to love in peace with everyone, but we can do our best to love sincerely. In Love in Action, Pastor Annie shares a real-life example of a time she struggled to live in peace with a stranger but her sister led by example and showed them both how to live in peace as it depended on them. Be sure to listen for helpful understanding and clarity!
This is what sincere love in action actually looks like!
Which of these practical applications of love in action do you struggle most to show to others?
Share a time when someone has shown love in action toward you in one of these specific ways and share the impact that love made on your life.
Imagine what our world could look like if we were people who love in action through our sacrifice, our service, our sincerity. Let’s commit to meditating on this word and committing the principles taught in Romans 12 to memory so that we may each embody the love of Jesus in action to the world around us. Amen!
Thank you, God, for the opportunity to worship you freely. Please speak to us, Lord, and help us to fulfill all the plans and purposes you have for us as we study your Word. We’re so thankful that every time we open the Word, we can learn something new. Please use your Word to produce fruit within us. Challenge us to sacrifice and serve and be sincere with our love. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen!