Romans 12:11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
When doing good for others, we shouldn’t be doing it out of some sense of obligation or the idea that we’ll gain standing with God if we do good works. The same is true of when we serve the Lord. It should be a joy to serve others if we are really doing it with the right motives.
If we say that we’re serving God, but we complain or grumble about what we’re doing, then we don’t exactly come across as serving out of joy. What message does that send to those who are watching? This doesn’t mean to put on a fake smile either. If you’re serving out of obligation and have no real joy or zeal in doing it; what are you left to do?
Search your heart. Pray that God would convict you where you’re lacking in ferver that He might ignite a fire in you to do good. Study the Scriptures, seek God’s will, lay aside your own pride and approach Him with a humble heart. You’ll find that joy will come as you serve if you do it with the right motivation and with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Have you ever been part of a church that just didn’t feel like it was really living out the purposes of God? When that happens it often starts with a lack in the love department. If Christians can’t love each other, the fellow members of the body of Christ, then there will be no effective ministry.
Paul’s marks of a true Christian reflect not just how a Christian should act, but how Christians should treat each other. These were not instructions on how to treat people “out there”, but how to treat people “in here” first. Practicing the love of God and doing good works starts among family and then it spills out into the rest of our relationships. We must first love and serve our fellow believers.
This is one of the key reasons to belong to a local church fellowship. A church provides the opportunity to love and serve those who share a faith in Christ before going out and doing it among the people of the world. A church is a place to be equipped for ministry, and that starts with love and service from and toward your fellow Christians. Besides that, Christian unity is best perfected within the context of a gathering of believers who make up a family.
Love what is good, hate what is evil, love and serve your Christian brothers and sisters.
Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
What are the marks of a true Christian? We may sometimes wonder how to answer that question, but fortunately for us, the Apostle Paul already did in his letter to the Romans. Paul lays out a criteria for the true Christian. It’s not another set of rules to follow, and it’s not all-inclusive, but it’s worth taking a look at.
It’s no surprise that this outline of a true Christian starts with love. A Christian without love is ineffective and doesn’t present a very good witness. Paul commends his friends in Rome to be genuine in their love, to hate what is evil, and to hold on to what is good. This is good advice, but sadly not what many of us think of when we define the Christian life.
Let love be genuine. In the American church especially there is a tendency to put on a show that isn’t genuine when it comes to love and acceptance. We want people to believe that we care about them even when we don’t. But that’s not Christian love. That’s hypocrisy. Let your love be genuine. Work at it. If you’re struggling with showing someone love, focus on their good points and act out of that.
Hate what is evil. Again, to pick on the American church, we have become very much a part of the culture around us, even in our churches. We embrace the world’s things, even when they contradict the way of God. The only think we’re told to hate as a command is evil and sin. Instead we often love what is evil and hate what is good. That has to change.
Hold on to what is good. Keep focused on the things of God. Love the things that fit His character, follow after the things that please Him. This is the beginning of effective Christian living that presents a witness for Christ that others will want to know more about.
Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
What comes next? Sanctification is the process by which God prepares us to be in His presence, but there is a moment in time at which that process is completed – death. This seems a morbid topic to speak of, but death is part of the sanctification process for a Christian, not punishment. Though we die because of sin, death is a positive thing for the believer.
Our experience of death completes our union with Christ. He died and to be like Him we must also die. He conquered death and therefore when we experience death we become closer to Him and begin the final aspect of salvation – glorification. We leave this body and join the Lord in our real home (2 Corinthians 5:8), where there will be no more sorrow and no more tears (Revelation 21:4). We’ll become who we were really meant to be, in the bodies we were really meant to have. And we’ll never know death again.
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Isn’t it great to know that you are not left on your own after you become a believer in Christ? God does a work in you to bring you to Himself, but He doesn’t just abandon you after that, expecting you to endure all on your own until the day of glory. No, He continues to work in you until that day.
Once you belong to God’s family, you are promised an inheritance and the Holy Spirit is given to you as a guarantee of that inheritance. Upon the completion of this life, you will inherit eternal life and everything that comes with it. This can only be achieved if you remain a child of God and maintain your salvation. But isn’t it wonderful to know that you don’t have to do that on your own?
It was God that began the work in you to enable you to believe and it is He who will continue to work in you until the end of this life on earth. He will never leave you nor forsake you and no one can snatch you out of your Father’s hand. Nothing can separate you from His love. Nothing. He will finish what He started. Your future doesn’t solely rest on you.
Hebrews 2:10-11 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers
He who calls you and causes you to be born again, who justifies you and forgives you, who adopts you as His own, will not stop at merely getting you. He’ll keep working in you to make you more like Christ until the day of glory. The process of spiritual maturing is sanctification, becoming holy.
To sanctify really means “to set apart”, so when you consider what God does for you in His act of salvation you can see that He sets you apart for something. Justification, the declaration of the sinner as righteous, is not done as an end unto itself. This verdict of “not guilty” is for the purpose of empowering us to do God’s work. We are saved for His purposes, for His own good pleasure.
While were were still sinners, He made us alive in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:5) and He will continue working in us to bring us into maturity. This means we grow in character, in faith, in works, and in love. God does this in us both by the work of the Holy Spirit within and by our own actions and choices that lead us to holiness. It’s only through Christ’s shed blood that we are capable of this growth, however. None of this is ours to claim credit.
Romans 8:14-15 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
The work of the Holy Spirit in us does not end at conversion, nor does our relationship with God end at being justified in Christ through His sacrifice for our sins. We gain treasures far beyond what we can even imagine, and none of it is earned or deserved. One of the greatest gifts of all is adoption into God’s family.
Whereas once we were enemies of God because of our sin, in Christ we not only receive reconciliation with the Father, but adoption as one of His own. It’s often said that everyone is a child of God, but biblically speaking only those who are in Christ are truly children of God because we have entered into the family through adoption. We get to become coheirs with Jesus and one day we will share in His glory (Romans 8:17).
God’s use of family terms in His Word to picture His work of redemption is beautiful and meaningful. We may not always grasp the most theological of word pictures, but we can understand what it means to be children with a daddy who loves us. Not just intellectually, but emotionally, as we grow in love for our Father in Christ and fellowship with Him (1 Corinthians 1:9).
Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Conversion is both an event and a process. It occurs, but it continues occurring throughout the life of a Christian. It had divine action as well as human response. Conversion is a sign of, but not the condition of, our justification. We have to be given grace in order to repent and be converted. We can’t obtain our own salvation just through choosing to believe. The power to believe is given through the grace of God and regeneration takes place before we can have faith.
Of all the aspects to the salvation process, this is the first that requires any action of the person; all work up to this point has been done (mostly in secret) by the Holy Spirit in the heart of the regenerate person. Now comes the time to respond to the call. Just to be clear, we must respond but we are not responsible for our own salvation or conversion. Only after we have had a work done in us by God can we even conceive of making the move to respond.
This is the part you may know as “accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior”. The important part here is the acceptance of Him as Lord. An acknowledgement of the need for a Savior is not the same as turning your life over to Christ. Responding to the call of God with repentance and surrender is the beginning of the life-long process of sanctification.
Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Have you been born again? What happened the first time you were born? Did you have anything to do with it? When your mother and father conceived you, were you in control of the decision to be born? What about in your spiritual rebirth? Did you have any control of the decision to be reborn?
It’s worth viewing the words chosen by the Holy Spirit as He inspired the writers of the Bible as intentional and meaningful. Even the more metaphorical phrases have deep meaning. It’s no coincidence that the Bible speaks of someone who is saved as being “born again”. Just as we couldn’t choose to be born, we can’t choose to be reborn. God made us alive spiritually by giving us a new life (Ephesians 2:5). He gives us a new heart. He gives us the right to be adopted as His children by being born again (John 1:12-13). It’s a gift, and we had nothing to do with it. We didn’t earn it and we sure didn’t deserve it.
Regeneration is a secret act of God in which He gives us new spiritual life. Whereas once the Gospel was foolishness to us (1 Corinthians 1:18), through His work in us it begins to make sense and we are drawn to it (Romans 1:16). This is because we have been given a new understanding and a new heart that longs for God. Regeneration brings us from spiritual death to life. Now we have the ability to possess the saving faith required to respond to the Gospel by accepting Christ. This is all a gift of God as He pours out His grace on us.
Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
How does God call one to a saving faith in Jesus? What is our part in this? How do we know when we’ve received an effectual call?
God uses two key things to call people to Himself: The Holy Spirit works in the person and the Gospel is proclaimed. We use terminology to describe what we’re feeling when the Holy Spirit is working in us like “tugging at our heart” or “stirring our soul”. Things like this are just our human way of describing what we know to be true; that the Holy Spirit is doing something. We might not know what is happening inside of us, but we feel the need to respond to it. Then we hear the Gospel.
A clear presentation of the Gospel will leave us with an understanding that we’re sinners and that we need a Savior, that the penalties for our sin is death, and that Jesus Christ died to pay that penalty. Hearing this news proclaimed, paired with the work of the Holy Spirit to make us understand it, we can then respond in repentance and faith. Those two things must be present. God has to have initiated a calling within us for the possibility of faith to even exist, and we need to hear the Gospel (Romans 10:14) in order to respond to it. Then, we can be saved.