We’ve looked at private, public, corporate and relational worship and now we conclude this series with a look at radical worship.
Who is my greatest enemy? Who is it that I can’t stand to be around?
Radical worship is how you respond to the person that is in the box.
Radical worship is giving others what they don’t deserve. It brings pleasure and honor to God. When people persecute you for your faith your response is vitally important to God.
I am not talking about being persecuted because you are a jerk or obnoxious or you are never at work on time. Not because you are self righteous and pious and put people down with sarcastic remarks. If you are being persecuted for those things you probably deserve it and you have other problems in your life.
I am talking today about when people persecute you because you love Jesus. There is a way to respond that brings honor and glory to Jesus Christ.
How do you do that? The writer in Romans now moves into a new mode of writing. Everything so far in chapter 12 has been about being a living sacrifice within the context of the church body but now he moves into a shift and begins to talk about our response in the world.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Now here it goes to another level. After you have been hurt, after people have mistreated you:
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with every one.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:14-21
What is radical worship? It is radical because nothing about this in normal.
We all know all too well how this works. Someone cuts you off you cut them off. Boss gives you a hard time you work to get them fired or you slow down production. Somebody is giving you a rough time? Your’re smart and have some resources so you make it tough on them. Feels kind of good short term.
The moment we take that approach we step from being a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God and we become an living and unholy sacrifice and become displeasing and unacceptable to God.
What we are going to talk about today is impossible to do unless you have bought into verse one of chapter 12. You have had a distinct moment of personal surrender to God and you are now allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your mind, your heart, your thoughts, your actions and reactions. You have to be in an abiding relationship. You have to be in the scriptures on a regular basis and saying no to the world and yes to God. You have to be in genuine community with other Christfollowers.
You will have to have divine resources operating in your life to pull this off. Radical worship has the potential to have the greatest impact on the outside world of anything you or I or this church could ever do. This is God’s way. This is the teaching of Jesus Christ for any who are going to follow Him.
What is radical worship? It is blessing anyone one who persecutes you because you are following Christ. It is giving people what they don’t deserve.
We are told to bless them!
How are Christians persecuted here? (leaving early, tips, cheating, woman in the corporate world, kick backs)
This can lead to real bitterness in our life if we are not very careful.
You will find that if you are a Romans 12:1 Christian who is living it out (verse 2) and doing life together (verses 3-5) and exercising your gifts in the body you will find that you just don’t fit in certain places. There is a whole generation of Christians in the last few years that have demanded their rights. They are very political and demand equality in a pluralistic society. They love to say that we have our rights. It’s tough to find that in the New Testament.
Listen to what Jesus said about it:
“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.
(Imitation: Whatever you worship you become like) Whatever we imitate we are worshipping.
For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:44-48
How do you bless and not curse people? What does that look like?
1. Genuine forgiveness is a prerequisite to blessing somebody
You can’t bless your enemy until you pull the dart out of your heart and forgive the person that did you in. This is not easy, in fact, it is so hard that you can’t do it unless you have experienced Romans 12:1-2 and understand that God has to help you with this.
You shouldn’t be surprised by persecution.
“Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12
May I just say something to you today that may be a little tough to take? I am not advocating that we go around being obnoxious so that we “suffer persecution,” but sometimes I think we have grown to be so much like the world around us that there really is little difference. When you act, think, talk and participate in everything that the world around you does with little or no moral backbone you won’t face much persecution, yet we are told that it will come.
Bless those who persecute you. This is radical worship! When you bless those who are persecuting you even the most hardened hearts will be affected by it. See the second box? Why don’t you write down the name of the person that you think there is no way they will ever become a follower of Jesus Christ. These are exhibit A, number one sinners who hate God, hate Christians and the church and you believe there is no way they would ever fall in love with Jesus.
When the people in your little box see us as the church respond with blessing instead of cursing even they will be touched by this principle lived out in our lives. Let me give you a story right from the Bible.
Do you remember the story in Acts 7 of a man named Stephen who has just told the entire story of the Old Testament and he is preaching Jesus? The crowd of persecutors take up stones to kill him and as he falls to one knee the Bible says that he looks up to heaven and says,
“As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.” Acts 7:59-60
As they killed Stephen they laid their coats at the feet of an up and coming hater of Christianity named Saul. He was one of the most aggressive people there when it came to hating Christfollowers and persecuting them. But when he saw Stephen die with forgiveness on his lips it softened something in his heart and soul until when confronted by the presence of God not long after this his life was transformed and he became the most prolific writer of the New Testament and the leading apostle in the New Testament church. Oh and he changed his name to Paul. You want to see what forgiveness will do read Acts 9 and marvel at the power of forgiveness to radically transform a life.
What Paul saw on that day was a believer radically worshipping God by giving others what they didn’t deserve by blessing them instead of cursing them. It is so powerful.
(Cross and the Switchblade) Pivot point in the movie: “Every piece will still love you.”
2. Long for their salvation and wish them well.
There are some of you right now that are thinking about a son in law, or a business partner, or a relative or an ex relative, or a neighbor or someone from work and you are thinking this is all well and good for Jesus on the cross or Stephen being stoned but you have no idea what they did to me and how miserable they make my life.
Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them
Some of you will name all kinds of reason why you can’t forgive the person you are thinking about today. They have cost you money and grief and heartaches and frankly you don’t think I can give you three good reasons why you should forgive them.
Yes I can. . .
a. It is commanded.
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you”
If you are still struggling because what you have to forgive is really big let me direct you to a story you can read on your own.
Story of the man who owed 10 millions dollars and had it forgiven. Matthew 18:22-33
When God says forgive us as I have forgiven you it should make us stop and think about it today. 10 million dollars wouldn’t touch our debt. I deserved to go to hell and so do you because of sin in our lives. One sin will send you there! You’ve been forgiven. All the secret things, the thoughts and maybe even actions, the times when you were nearly unlovable have all been paid for by Jesus Christ. Your sins are as far as the east is from the west. You have been forgiven and God says in essence, “I have forgiven through the death of my only Son, now I command you to forgive those people in your life.”
Some of you will fixate on this teaching today as the most important thing in the series because you are carrying something and in some cases have for years. Some of us have a deep bitterness that we nurse and have actually become quite comfortable with it. In fact we would almost miss it if it was gone.
b. The worth of each individual
It is so hard to get our arms around this but do you realize that when Jesus went to the cross he died for every man and woman no matter how despicable they might be. No matter what they have done or how heinous it might have been they were made in the image of God just like you and they are people Jesus died for. 1 John says that Jesus died for not only us but the whole world.
c. Unforgiveness in our hearts doesn’t destroy our enemies it destroys us.
Paul Meier says 95 percent of all depression is caused by anger, revenge and unforgiveness. You don’t need medication or more counseling you need to find a way to let go of the bitterness that is shrinking your own heart and genuinely forgive.
“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”
We always associate this verse with how we are supposed to treat other Christfollowers. This whole writing from verse fourteen on is about how to bless and not curse those who persecute us.
If the most radical way lost people who are hardened are going to see Christ is by seeing Him incarnated in us in this radical worship and in giving them what they don’t deserve then we have to learn to practice this.
This is saying that when your enemies are experiencing something that makes them happy we should rejoice with them and when they are hurting we should hurt with them. Too often our problem is we flip flop this.
Something bad happens to the person in your box, (wife goes into depression, one of their children goes off into destructive behavior, or their business takes a downturn) and in our self righteous little minds and sometimes even out loud we think, “Well, maybe this will bring them to Lord because they are getting exactly what they deserve. God’s finally balancing the scales!” They are weeping and we are rejoicing. I’ve got some news for you, you have a job but being their judge is not one of them.
When they are hurting God commands us to weep and hurt with them. And then there are times when we should be rejoicing and we are weeping. There will be times when that person who has hurt you will have things just go so right. Maybe there is a new baby or one of their kids gets an award or maybe they have a big deal go through. What would happen if you went to that person and engaged them in conversation about it and let them talk about it to you? What if you rejoiced with them?
Whole hearted identification is the door to communicating to the world that there is a God who really cares. The most powerful thing you will ever do in radical worship is to do good when someone does bad to you!
There was a friend of a pastor who was an acquaintance and fellow worker of a non practicing orthodox Jew. This man made it incredibly hard on the Christian man. Day after day he would belittle his principles and convictions. Day after day he would try to wear him down by negative feedback to nearly everything this Christian man said or did. And then this fellow worker got deathly sick and in his sickness the man who was there for him the most was this Christfollower who had felt his wrath day after day. (He didn’t say, ‘Now God is on my side and he’s getting some of his back after all the hassle he’s given me.’) The man actually came to Christ and said he could argue with the man all day long but in the end he was the one who really loved me.
Why would you care about me? What would happen if we started giving others what they don’t deserve?
4. Honest Humility
Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
“I say to you love your enemies. . .”
Now this whole teaching has been about living with those outside our church world but there is a subtle shift of inclusion here and I think the writer is now talking about all people including those within the church.
I need to say this quickly but if you are always being critical of others behind their back and especially in front of new Christfollowers would you please stop it? IF you can’t say anything nice or complimentary but just revel in cutting and biting language that is painful and hurtful toward others in the church you probably need to revisit your relationship with God. Do you know how easy it is for us to be hateful toward other churches and even Christfollowers?
Christians sometimes are just plain nuts. We get all cranked up about other what is going on in the world and we love to sit around and talk about how bad it is. What do you expect in a sinful world? Our world is what we who are called to be salt and light have made it!
There is nothing more repulsive than arrogance and yet I read the Matthew 5 passage and I hear the tenderness in Jesus voice and it is stunning in light of where most of us live.
“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.
“love your enemies” That is more than just a good attitude, it is sacrificially, unconditionally, doing good to them. When you and I give good for evil we are most like our Heavenly Father.
This is really hard and cannot be done unless you have surrendered to God in a Romans 12:1-2 way. You will not be able to do this without participation in the body of Christ as we have talked about.
Who do you need to give over to God and begin to pray for?
Who do you need to love overtop of your feelings?
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Today we are inviting you to the Lord’s table. I know that this has been a very sobering thought for some of us and I would like for us to take a moment for silent prayer and reflection.
Now what I would like you to do in response to this whole series, (or maybe this is your first Sunday here and you can respond as well), is come to the table if you are willing to allow God to help you live this out. If you are willing to pray for the people who’s names are in your boxes as your wait in line.
Will you pray that you might be filled with the Holy Spirit that you might be a living sacrifice?
“And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b] 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2