Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Living Life Upside Down

Romans 12:14-21

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Here are a set of principles that many of us live by without knowing it.

 

???????? Each negative action towards us should be met with an overwhelming opposite reaction so that those that oppose us will be crushed and humiliated.

???????? Be happy when others are happy. Be absent when others are sad.

???????? Associate with those who are slightly above you ? using that association to one day attain their status, and then step on and over them on your way to the top.

???????? Never appear conceited.

???????? Leave no slight unanswered

???????? When you see your enemy hungry or thirsty ? rejoice; they deserve to be miserable!

 

The values of this age basically tell us to get what you think you deserve, and a little bit more, making sure no one else gets it first. It?s not surprising. This age thrives on the values of its leader: Lucifer, who is the king of self.

 

When we become followers of Jesus Christ, we know the old self is crucified (Romans 6) but still hangs around to hassle us. The process of transformation (Romans 12:2) is the process of exfoliating the old skin, and letting the character of God, being created inside us by the Holy Spirit, be manifested in our character, choices, and the actions of our lives.

 

It is easier said than done. Paul tells us that this new creature is part of an organism called the body of Christ?that each of us is gifted by God to have an equal and important part of that body as we set about to become part of God?s story of redemption. Last time we talked about the character of that work as it relates to your own life: love genuinely and live patiently as you see God working in the other?s lives and in the big picture.

 

But Jesus revealed a major truth to His followers: ?In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.\" (John 16:33)

 

Tribulation means ?pressure.? We will feel pressure in this life because we have become part of a rival kingdom. While we were once Satan?s slaves, in Jesus we become his enemy. He will pressure us to conform once again to the values of this age and ignore our allegiance and citizenship in this new kingdom?the kingdom of God. Part of that pressure comes when people who do not know Jesus start acting like it! He?ll also put the pressure on by using members of his kingdom to hassle us.

 

The temptation is to treat them like enemies instead of prisoners of war. The temptation is to declare our independence from this age by fighting and withdrawing, rather than engaging and redeeming by the gospel.

 

From here through the first half of chapter 15, Paul informs us how to live at peace in a war zone, and it starts by combating those base worldly values as we encounter those who are hostile towards us. Here mainly we are dealing with three areas of the flesh: anger, pride, and greed?as we put these aside, we begin to see how to truly love the way God does.

 

Let?s read verses 14 ? 21 and then I want to give you what I think are the Christ-like values to replace the world-like values we have grown up with and see modeled for us in the culture around us.

 

14

 

Think ?prisoner of war? not ?enemy to be destroyed.? Those that persecute need God?s love just as much as you do. You may win the battle in the situation, but lose the war for their soul. Who cares if they say nasty things about you? Who cares is they do nasty things to you? What is more important, your pride and protection, or the eternal state of their soul?

 

15

 

Be empathetic. People will see Jesus in you the more you love them and the less you judge them. I don?t mean to wink at sin; I mean that prisoners of war are being thrashed by the enemy. Life?s victories can move someone to acknowledge God, and life?s tragedies can move someone to their knees and acknowledge their need for a Savior. So be there as an understanding ear.

 

16

 

Empathy leads to harmony. The world wants us to get ahead and leave everyone else behind. But Jesus calls us to get rid of those class stereotypes and realize that ?the greatest among you shall be your servant? (Matt 23:11). ?associate with the lowly? can also mean ?give yourself to humble tasks.? Instead of puffing ourselves up by doing great things (in a worldly sense), we should humbly go about serving the needs of others?often the most menial task may be the most important bit of service you do in a day. These previous verses mainly deal with our relationships to one another. Now we talk more about relating to pre-Christians.

 

17

 

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matt 5:46-47)

 

Repaying evil with evil is using the currency of this age. And it doesn?t set us apart as anything different from the prisoners of war around us. But loving when hated? Now that?s something that stands out. Paul says rather than succumb to the temptation to strike out, whatever you do, let it be honorable?something beyond reproach.

 

18

 

We should be those that seek peace and reconciliation when our neighbor wants to go to war. It?s not always possible, but when a dispute breaks out over the placement of a tree or fencepost, be the one that tries to work it out rather than just stand your ground because you are right. Remember what?s at stake.

 

19

 

Evil is evil, but it?s not up to us to repay evil?that?s God?s job. God is the only one who knows how to properly repay evil. It is also God?s desire that the evil in people be dealt with on the cross. Imagine if you were still held accountable for every wrong thing you did! The NIV states it this way ?leave room for God?s wrath.? And leave room for God?s love!

 

20

 

We read this verse and we go ?yes! I?d love to dump hot burning fiery coals on someone and watch them suffer!? This is almost a direct quote from:

 

Prov 25:21-22 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, 22 for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

 

The Egyptians used to carry a pan of hot coals on their heads as an act of repentance. Seeing kindness in the face of evil may be just the thing that opens up their hard heart to the love of God so that they in turn will repent and turn to Jesus. The coals basically represent fanning the dormant fires that made someone?s heart cold so that they see what true love is, and what evil is, and will turn to the Lord with all their heart.

 

21

 

This is the bottom line of the whole thing. We think that force is how we overcome our hostile environment. But it is really love. The more we give into the temptation to act like the world when we are treated badly, the more the world seeps into us. The more we react with love, seeing the big picture, moving others towards loving God ? that?s when good overcomes evil.

 

Conclusions

 

So what do we do with the feelings that we get when people treat us badly?

 

Do we just stuff it down and put on a fake smile? No, actually. Let?s consider one of the greatest of the faithful ever to live: David. If you read the Psalms you know that David never minced words with God. In Psalm 10:13 & 15 he says ?Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, ?You will not call to account?? 15 break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.?

 

In the world we should be concerned that the love of God rescue all the prisoners, but in our private chamber we can be transparent with God?he knows our feelings anyway?and we can pour out our frustrations on him. The more we are honest with God, the more he can have access to our feelings and emotions and as we pray for supernatural love, we really start becoming like him more and more on the outside.

 

So what do we do to overcome evil with good?

?

If you really want to blow someone away, getting back at them is so old school. Try doing something really nice?that?d show ?em! J

 

Hot tub pool testing. Add water, add testing solution and get color. But when different color results, it?s a surprise ? so too when we do good for someone that doesn?t like us. It surprises them so much it might just surprise them into the kingdom!

 

Are there limits?

 

Of course. I would not advocate anyone just becoming a doormat. But here?s the measure to decide whether to react or not?if your ability to glorify God or spread the gospel is jeopardized. We see the Apostle Paul do that. Many times he let the threats and physical harm from brush off. In Acts 14:19 Paul got stoned outside of Lystra. He simply got up and went back in the city. In Acts 16 Paul made a real point of calling the city officials on the carpet for arresting Roman citizens without trial. The difference is he needed to protect a small group of Christians from persecution so he made it so they would be left alone by publically adjourning the city officials.

 

???????? Your position in life (associate with the lowly, don?t be conceited)

???????? Your place in the culture ( live peaceably, do the right thing)

???????? Your reaction to evil (bless, don?t repay evil, give good to those who do bad to you)

???????? Your reaction to life (rejoice and weep)

 

1 John 3:16-18 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world\'s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God\'s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

 

Make yourself available to God; be transformed so you can be used; love genuinely even those that don?t love back!

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