ďMotivated By MerciesĒ††††† Romans 12:1-21††††††††††††† September 16, 2012

 

SI:Iím beginning a sermon series this morning that will take us through the fall

†† and into winter.Weíre going to be looking in detail at one chapter in the Bibleó

†† Romans 12.

 

The way I choose what books of the Bible or what portions of Scripture

†† to preach is based on what interests me and also on my conversations all of you.

The biblical topics that interest you, the questions you ask about the faith,

†† the struggles you are having, the burdens that God has placed on you.

I take note of those things, and then, try to choose portions of the Bible

†† where those things will be addressed.

 

Over the past months several members have talked to me about their burden

†† to be more generous, hospitable, and compassionateó

†† that whole area of Christian service that we usually refer to as mercy ministry.

Meeting the needs of people, particularly physical needs, in the name of Christ.

†† What does the Lord call us to do, and how are we to do it?

Several members have also told me they want to know more about spiritual gifts.

†† What they are and how they can be used in the church.

 

So as I began to mull over those concerns and burdens, I found myself coming back

†† again and again to Romans 12.This is a great passage on mercy and gifts.

†† Iím excited about how the Holy Spirit is going to teach us and guide us.

†† I know I need to be stretched and challenged in these areas.

But Iím nervous about the preaching part.

†† We just finished Psalms.To me, Psalms are the easiest part of Bible to preach.

†† I love the way each Psalm encapsulates a theme.I love the poetic imagery.

When you study the Psalms, you take them in one gulpóthe way to read a poem.

 

But Romans is different literature.Theological treatise by greatest apostolic mind.

†† You canít take it in a gulp.Have to go line by line.Sometimes word by word.

Thereís a history of preaching Romans point by point, line by line, examining

†† Paulís careful argument.Martyn Lloyd-Jones took 25 years to preach Romans.

We wonít go at that slow of a pace, but we will take our time,

†† and try to uncover all that the Lord has for us in this amazing chapter.

 

 

 

INTRO:There was a little girl who lived in Germany during WWII.

†† Her name was Suzi Hasel.She had two brothers and one sister.

†† Her parents were devout believers and they had a strong Christian home.

Later in life Suzi wrote a book about her familyís experiences during the war.

†† The title of the book is A Thousand May Fall.

†† That comes from that promise in Psalm 91 that says, ďA thousand may fall

†† at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.Ē

 

Suziís father was drafted into the German army

†† and spent the whole war on the Russian front.

Her mother and brothers and sister were in their home in Frankfurt.

†† As the war dragged on it became more and more difficult for them to find food.

†† Suziís mother did everything she could to feed her children.

But many nights they went to bed hungry.

†† Itís hard to imagine how that would be for a mother.

 

Suzi tells of a time her mother had gotten a loaf of bread.

†† They were walking back home to make a meal of it when they came across

†† a column of several thousand Russians being marched to a German POW camp.

If you know anything about WWII, you will be aware of the deep hatred that the

†† Germans and the Russians had for each other.They committed terrible atrocities

†† on the battlefields and treated captured prisoners inhumanely.

58% of captured Russians died in German POW camps.

†† By way of comparison, only 1% of Americans died.

 

So here was a column of these Russians.

†† Emaciated, filthy, covered with lice.Broken by disease, wounds, exhaustion.

Suziís mother was so stirred by the sight of these pitiful men that she pulled out

†† the loaf of breadóthis bread she had scrounged for her four hungry children.

She broke it, and gave half to one of the Russian POWs.

 

What would motivate a mother to perform such a costly act of mercy?

†† Taking food meant for her childrenís mouthsó

†† and giving it to an enemy prisoner of war?

She was obviously moved by pity at the sight of such human suffering.

†† Pity for human suffering is admirable, but itís not a uniquely Christian trait.

Suzi tells us that her mother was moved by something even deeperó

†† her view of the mercies of God in Christ.

 

She was moved by her self-awareness as a Christian that she too was once an

†† enemy of God, that she too was once a pitiful prisoner of sin.

†† And yet God gave his Sonís body to be broken so that she could eat and have life.

Her view of Godís mercies was so much a part of her thinking and identity,

†† and had worked in so deeply, that her immediate response was to give,

†† to reach out in mercy and kindness.

 

You might imagine yourself in that situation and think:I wouldnít have done that.

†† You might even think she shouldnít have done that.

†† Her first responsibility was to her own children.

Giving away that bread was irresponsible and fanatical.

†† Her children were hungrier that night.

And yet Suzi, writing this book years later, looking at her motherís act through

†† the prism of Godís grace saw a beautiful thing.

 

Romans chapter 12 is about the practice of the Christian life.

†† Itís about how Christians are supposed to behave and what we are to do.

Sometimes Christians say:Tell me something practical.Tell me what I should do.

†† Thatís Romans 12.The heading John Murray gives for Romans 12 in his famous

†† commentary is:ďManifold Practical DutiesĒ(Various, numerous, many kinds).

Another scholar divides Romans 12 into seven triplets of duties.

 

So how does the Apostle Paul begin this very practical chapter on Christian life?

He begins with the matter of motivation.Why do what you do?

†† Why do you give bread to an enemy?Why do you teach Sunday school?

†† Why do you put money in the offering?Why do you perform acts of generosity

†† and encouragement?Why do you practice hospitality and associate with lowly?

†† Why do you live at peace with people and not take revenge?

And all the other things Paul tells you to do and not do in this chapter.

 

What moves you?What energizes you?

Paul says, Brothers, I urge you to do all these things, in view of Godís mercy.

†† The word is actually pluralóGodís merciesómanifold mercies.

The motive for all you do as a Christian must be your view, your focus,

†† on Godís mercies toward you through Jesus.

Being motivated by Godís mercies requires you to think, to feel, and to act.

†† Letís use those three points as we work our way though this opening verse.


MP#1Being motivated by Godís mercies requires you to think.

Romans 12 marks the beginning of a new section in Paulís letter.

As Iíve already said, these are Paulís practical instructions.

†† This is what you are to do as a Christian.

†† This is how you ought to live.

 

This section of practical instructions and duties includes chapters 12-16,

†† but weíre only going to study 12.However, if we took time to look at

†† 13-16, you would see that they cover almost every important area of life.

Chapter 13, for example, tells how Christians ought to act as citizens,

†† how we are to relate to government officials and the payment of taxes, etc.

 

Look again at the word Paul uses to introduce this section new section of letter.

†† ďThereforeĒďTherefore, I urge you brothers . . .Ē

The word ďthereforeĒ calls attention to the reasons that came before it.

†† Itís a word that is used in building an argument, making a case.

†† Itís a word that requires you to think and test the logic of the things

†† that were said to get to that point.

 

Whatís Paul referring to with this ďthereforeĒ?

†† Heís referencing everything he has said in the preceding 11 chapters.

†† What is Romans 1-11?Itís Paulís magnificent presentation of the Gospel.

He wrote the letter to the church in Rome to introduce himself.

†† Iím Paul.Iím an Apostle.And this is my messageóthe Gospel, the good news.

†† Itís the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.

Then Paul explains Godís gracious work of salvation through Jesus Christ.

†† Eleven chapters of most detailed, passionate, carefully-argued theology in Bible.

 

And when he is all done explaining Godís plan and Christís work he says:

†† Therefore, this is how you are to live.

Letís just pause here for a moment and let this sink in.Itís profound.

†† This is what sets the Christian faith apart from all world religions.

The Gospel starts with God and what he has done for you in Jesus Christ.

†† It starts with you dead your sin.An enemy of God, a slave to the flesh.

 

Then eleven glorious chapters of Godís work to save you.

The Father choosing you.The Son dying for you.Holy Spirit regenerating you.

†† You are predestined, called, justified, glorified.

†† And then, only then, does God say to you:Therefore, this is how you are to live.

This is the pattern of the whole Bible.

†† Every time commands, instruction given to believers, preceded by Godís work.

Look at the Ten Commandments.Instructions for life.Godís moral law.

†† But before God tells Israel not to take his name in vain, and keep his day holy,

†† and honor their parents, and do not kill, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness,

†† or covetówhat does he tell them?

 

What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?

I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

†† Iíve claimed you, Israel.I sent Moses to be your deliverer.I destroyed enemies.

†† I provided the Passover lamb as a substitute for your sins.I gave you an identity.

Therefore, keep my law.

 

Iíve only talked to one Muslim in my whole life.

†† I was flying somewhere and my seatmate was Muslim from Somalia.

†† I asked him if he minded if I asked him some questions about his religion.

†† According to Islam, how is a person saved?

He said:Only by the mercy of God.

†† That surprised me.I thought we owned that terminology.Thatís what we say!

But then, he began to explain Godís mercy according to Islam.

†† He said:You must do this, you must do that.You must pray this way, this often.

†† You must follow the laws of the Koranóand if you live right, then God might

†† have mercy on you and let you go to heaven when you die.

 

Do you see how different that is from the mercies of God in Christ?

†† Paul doesnít say:Do these things, live this way, and you will get Godís mercy.

But in Jesus Christ God has already extended you mercy.

†† Jesus lived the life you should have lived, died the death you should have died.

Therefore, because of all of thatógive yourself to God, present a living sacrifice.

†† Live this way, show mercy and kindness, even to your enemies, and so on.

 

John Piper said that in this word ďthereforeĒ is a whole world-view.

Heís right.This is where you have to start when it comes to the practical living of

the Christian life.Before you can even begin to think about what you ought to do,

†† how you ought to serve people or whateveróthis must be crystal clear in mind.

Iím doing this because God has already done everything for me.

†† Iím not getting into his good graces by living right.

†† Iím not staying in his good graces by living right.

Because of Jesus, Iím in.So I obey him for completely different reasons.

And that brings us to the second point.

MP#2Being motivated by Godís mercies requires you to feel.

When Paul says, ďTherefore, I urge you brothers, in view of Godís mercy . . .Ē

†† he expects that to do more than make sense in your mind,

†† he expects it to resonate in your heart.

He expects you to feel the mercies of God, to be moved by them.

 

If you are a parent, this is what you want from your children, isnít it?

†† This is a level of motivation that you want from them too.

There are lots of ways you can get children to do what you want them to do.

†† You can explain why there are certain tasks they need to do or rules to follow.

†† You can use consequences and punishments for disobedience.

And there is a place for that.But at some point you want your children to obey,

†† and carry out the tasks of life in the household because they feel your love,

†† and because they are responding to your love.

 

As a dad, I enjoy telling my children yes.I love it when they come to me and ask

†† me for something or if they can do something and I can sayóYes.

†† I love the pleasure it gives them.I love it when they are surprised

†† I love hearing them say, Thank you, Dad!

But what I love more are those times when I have to tell my children no.

†† And maybe there is some disappointment, maybe some anger or argument.

†† But then later they say:Thatís ok, Dad.I understand.

Because when they respond that way, I know that my fatherly love has made

†† an impression on their hearts.I know they feel my love and have responded to it.

 

I was just chuckling with Allison last night about a time when Adrienne was in

†† middle school and we told her no about something, and she pitched a royal fit.

Stood in the door of our bedroom and stomped her foot and demanded that we

†† change our minds.And of course, we just laughed at her.

Which sent her into hysterics.But later that evening, she came and curled up

†† on the bed with us and told us she was sorry and that she knew we loved her.

 

You have to know the ďthereforeĒ of the Gospel.

You have to know all that the Lord has done for you,

†† all the amazing facets of his salvation, but you also must feel it.

An appeal to the mercies of God in Christ should move you

†† Where is that in this passage?

†† Once again, itís referred to in the word ďtherefore.Ē

As Paul gets to the end of his eleven chapter Gospel presentation,

†† he is so filled with awe that he quits teaching and he starts worshipping.

Look at the verses immediately preceding chapter 12.Look at 11:33.

†† Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!How unsearchable his judgments, and his

†† paths beyond tracing out!Who has known the mind of the Lord?Or who has been his counselor?Who has

†† ever given to God, that God should repay him?For from him and through him and to him are all things.To

†† him be the glory forever!Amen.

Deep, heart-felt praise, motivated by the Gospel.

†† And then right after that Amen, whatís next?

ďTherefore, I urge you brothers, in view of Godís mercy . . .Ē

†† And Paul is off, telling us how we should live, and fully expecting that we

†† will feel just as deeply as he did, the mercies of God.

 

The challenge of this is that often we donít feel like we should feel.

†† We know what Jesus had done for us, we understand Godís merciesó

†† but weíre cold to it.We arenít moved as we should be.

Thatís no excuse, we still are called to live obediently.But we need to feel.

†† How do we get those feelings?How do we cultivate them?

Paulís outburst of praise is a clue.He included it not only to praise God,

†† but also because he hoped it would inspire the Romans.

 

Your feelings of gratitude and thankfulness for Godís mercies can be stirred

†† by other Christians.Specifically, by hearing them express their own gratitude

†† and amazement at Godís mercies to them.

When your Christian friends and fellow church members are telling stories

†† about Godís mercies and praising the Lord for what he has doneóit warms you.

Sometimes it shames you a little bit and even makes you jealous.

†† Why donít I feel that way about Jesus?

†† But the great thing is that you can even enter into their praise, just as enter Paulís.

 

Iím going to put in a brazen plug for Covenant Groups.

Do you want your view of Godís mercies to grow?

†† Do you want to feel his mercies more deeply and be motivated by them?

†† Do you want to be more grateful and humble and thankful and obedient?

There are few things more conducive to that, than hearing fellow believers

†† tell their stories of Godís mercies.

Iím a cold fish.I struggle to feel deeply about my faith.

But I can think of many times Allison and I have gotten in the car after Covenant

†† Group, and weíve said:That was good.It was good because of this very thing.

 

Because someone in the group spoke of Godís mercies, we heard them worship,

†† and that warmed me up and motivated me to be more obedient and kind.

†† And that brings us to the last point.

MP#3Being motivated by Godís mercies requires you to act.

Do I need to say this?Sometimes we need to re-state the obvious.

†† Jesus saved you for obedience.He saved you for the glory of serving him.

When a person is born again, when he is united with the visible church through

†† baptism and his allegiances and identity is claimedó

†† then he must follow Christ, he must live the Christian life.

That means doing certain things and not doing other things.

 

Paul says, ďTherefore, I urge you brothers . . .Ē

†† That includes all believers.Heís addressing the church in Rome.

†† Think of how diverse that church must have been.

There were children in that church.We know Paul was thinking of them when he

†† said, Brothers, because he addresses children directly in Ephesians.

†† ďChildren, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.Ē

Even little children who know Jesus died on the cross for their sins

†† are expected by the Lord to live a certain way.

 

In fact, as you read through the New Testament you will find Christians of every

†† age and every status expected to live out their faith to the best of their ability.

Slaves and masters, husbands and wives, widows and unmarried people,

†† older men and younger men and middle-aged men.

†† older women and younger women,.

It doesnít matter if you are rich or poor, prosperous and persecuted,

†† happy or mired in sufferingó

†† you are a recipient of Godís mercies and therefore expected to obey him.

The actions of your life and the decisions you make must flow out of your view

†† of the mercies of God.

 

All this time we havenít even considered this word mercy or mercies.

†† Out of all of the things Paul could have chosen as the heart of motivation,

†† why did he chose Godís mercies?

He could have said, In view of Godís judgment, in view of Christís second coming,

†† or even, in view of Godís grace.That would have been nice.

What is the essential quality of mercy?Itís actually twofold.

 

Mercy is first of all, not giving someone the punishment or treatment they deserve.

Officer, please have mercy on me.

†† Means:Donít give me the speeding ticket I deserve to get.

Mercy is not treating us as our sins deserve.

†† Itís overlooking our behavior as rebels and enemies of God.

Weíve all experienced that from God, not just in the big sense of our salvation,

†† but even in our everyday lives, he has not treated us as our sins deserve.

†† He mercifully mitigates the consequences of our foolish behavior.

 

But there is another quality of mercy that is positive.

Itís pity for a personís condition.When a beggar says:Have mercy.

†† Heís saying:Look at me.Look at my rags.Look at my hungry face.

†† Donít judge me for it, pity meóand in that pity, act and give.

And the Lord has looked on us this way.

†† Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

 

That view of Godís mercy must come home for usó

†† that we were rebels and enemies, he did not give us what we deserve,

†† we deserve to go to hellóand at the same time, he saw us as destitute beggars,

†† and gave us Jesus and life.

That view of mercy has to translate into action.

 

One of the great literary illustrations of mercy is Victor Hugoís Les Miserables.

Mercy operates on so many levels and has a rippling effect through lives and years.

†† If youíve read the book or seen the musical or a movie version, know this.

Itís impossible in a short time to completely trace out Godís mercy.

†† But there is that pivotal moment, that act of mercy.

†† When convict Jean Valjean is given a nightís stay in the bishopís home.

He repays the bishopís kindness by stealing his silverware.

†† But he is caught by the police and brought backóand the bishops saysó

†† this silverware belongs to him, I gave it to him.And you forgot the silver

†† candlesticksóhere take those too.

 

And then when the police have been dismissed the bishops says:

ďDo not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest

†† man.ĒJean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained

†† speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with

†† solemnity:

ďJean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy

†† from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.Ē

 

There was a period of wrestling with that mercy, and resisting itó

†† but eventually Jean Valjean did begin to live in view of Godís merciesó

†† and it looked a lot like Romans 12.

Now thatís a novel, thatís fictionó

†† but itís a true picture the motivation by the mercies of God.

 

God has shown you mercy in Christ.He has given you treasure when you deserved

†† punishment.He has purchased your ungrateful soul by the blood of his son,

†† so that you can live a grateful, generous life.

And he doesnít leave you in the darkóHe gives you the words of his Apostle

†† to show you what you must do for him.

 

Letís pray that as we look at them in these coming weeks, that we will be a people

†† motivated by the mercies of God in Jesus Christ.