Sunday’s Sermon — Point One

May 29, 2007, 11:00 am; posted by
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How do we live like a Christian? We must be holy.

Verse 9 here in Romans 12 says, “Love must be sincere. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.” And if you look at what these verbs mean, it helps to elaborate on the meaning of the verse. “Abhor” isn’t a word you hear a lot these days, but it’s a powerful one — it reveals a passionate sort of hatred, a visceral disgust, sort of the way I feel about mushrooms, for instance. If you put mushrooms in my food, I will react with that sort of loathing; I abhor mushrooms. And that’s how we are supposed to react to evil.

On the contrary, that word “cling to” is the reverse, the same passion sent the other direction. Imagine a baby being held by her mother; if you try to take that baby away, she won’t fully understand what’s happening, but she will passionately hold on to her mother. She will cling to what she knows and loves — as we should. To whatsoever is good.

There is a constant battle in our lives between these desires; Paul wrote about it earlier in the book of Romans, in 7:21. The song I just sang mentions it in the last line — “I am full of earth, and dirt, and You.” But there’s another aspect to this tension, and it’s mentioned in Galatians 5:13-14: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“Flesh” is “sarx” in the Greek, which simply means “flesh,” meat, the sinew and muscle of the human body. This shows us the biggest problem isn’t Satan, or anyone else, or some shadowy outside force; it’s us, ourselves, from the day we’re born, bent toward sin.

And what is juxtaposed against the “flesh” here? Love, through service to others. The flesh wants to fulfill its own desires; love prefers others above itself. The best way to fight the battle against the flesh is not to sit around and think about how bad we are. It’s not to look for an answer in our mind, or rationalize and explain away our sin. The best way, we’re taught here, to become holy and truly fulfill the law is to SERVE, to love our neighbors in a selfless way that shifts the focus from ourselves and returns it to the outside world. And that’s where it needs to be, centered on the people who desperately need to witness the love of Jesus Christ, put into practice by disciples living a holy life of love through service.

The less we focus on ourselves, the easier it is to correctly orient that passion, fleeing from evil and clinging to good. Christians must live holy lives to have the work of God’s grace manifest in us.


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