9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21 (ESV)
How’s that forgiveness thing going? Are you trying to avoid it or are you “forgiven up”, or like me, are you somewhere in between? I think it’s an ongoing process, and every day God will bring instances to your heart so that you can forgive as He has commanded.
Does the way we treat others affect our prayer life? How does our text tell us we must behave?
Bless those who persecute me.
Be sympathetic toward others.
Associate with those “beneath me”.
Don’t repay evil for evil.
Let God have the last word.
Be nice to those who are my enemies or aren’t nice to me.
This is opposite of what the world tells us to do. We’re told that we need to “get even”, to take life by the horns and go for the gusto, to try to climb the ladder and look down on others. To live for ourselves and keep what we get.
How do you think that acting like God commands will help your prayer life? I think that the more I can follow God's guidelines, the more empathy I will feel for my fellow man. As I am more empathic, I will naturally want to pray for them. I will try to respond to the needs of others. I will have a more humble spirit. I will be more willing to admit I was wrong. I will be more willing to forgive. It’s a circle – a circle of love outlined hundreds of years ago by a man who was first known as a persecutor of Christians, and then through the intervention of God Himself, shows what a complete transformation can be accomplished when one repents. I’m sure that Paul had many people to whom he had to offer forgiveness for the killings that he endorsed. But he spent much time in jail on trumped up charges, and also for the “crime” of preaching repentance and baptism in Jesus alone. He had many grievances, but he also knew that Jesus modeled forgiving behavior, and he had to do the same.
1 Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:1-2 (KJV)
My sin separates me from God. Hmmmmm. But didn’t He promise: As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Psalms 103:12 (KJV)
Well, wouldn’t that be confessed sin? God expects me to deal with my sins. He expects me to learn from my mistakes – and possibly repeat the same errors – but He expects me to ‘fess up when I’ve messed up. And If I don’t, I’m told that my sins have hid his face from me, that he will not hear. That’s pretty serious. Confession is a big deal to God. And when we confess, what does He promise?
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)
So now it’s time to woodshed. Time to get it right with God. Confess your sins to Him. All of them. He already knows; He just wants to hear you tell Him that you were wrong and that you are sorry. He promises that He will clean us up and forgive.
If you don’t already know Christ, He offers the same forgiveness for you. All you need to do is tell Him how sorry you are for what you’ve done to mess up your life, then ask Him to forgive you and come into your heart to be your Savior. He promises to do just that! With His help you will then be able to turn your life around. There IS hope! When you’ve made that commitment, the next steps are to tell someone that you’ve asked Him into your heart (confess) and then to be baptized. If you have questions about any of this, ask me, ask the pastor… ask someone!
This part of the study isn’t so easy. But God is faithful and He will be with you every step of the way. Ask for forgiveness from God. Forgive others just like Jesus modeled – unconditionally.
I’ll see you on Friday.