I gave you one of these last week. Do you remember? You could choose to be discouraged with the description of a disposition of love OR, you could be encouraged by imagining God making you into that kind of person. Well, here’s another pre-sermon decision, and you have two days to mull it over. The question is from John Piper, “Shall we be American with a pinch of religious flavoring? Or: Shall we be Christ’s people with a pinch of American flavoring?” This is a very important question and the implications are enormous. It’s a tough question for a number of reasons.
1) It’s the Fourth of July weekend! We are celebrating our independence in the aftermath of a revolution. To be American is to have a bit of a rebel spirit. People tell us we can’t do something and we do it! It’s the American spirit.
2) We are experiencing Covid-fatigue. The results of all this government intervention is starting to wear us thin. Changes that seem arbitrary, inconsistencies of application and the tension over “positions” on the subjects are wearisome.
3) Evangelicals have been courted by certain politicians and the message from them is clear; “Christianity and patriotism are one!”
Ugh. No wonder we’re tired, frustrated, angry and divided. Do you see why Piper’s question is so important? If we ask the wrong question, the answer doesn’t really matter. However, the implications of the answer to the right question can be life-changing. We’re going to take a look at Romans 13 this week. To whom will you give ultimate allegiance?
The first half of Romans 12 is not too hard to understand or even receive. It is reasonable to offer ourselves to God, renew our minds and join Him in the transformation process. Using our gifts for the good of others and the glory of God is not easy but it makes sense in light of Who gave us the gifts. But as we move into the second half of Romans 12, things get a little more complicated. Paul reminded the Romans that the expectation of transformation was a disposition of love that not only valued those in the community of faith but enemies of the gospel as well! Of course, this was exactly what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Given our nature as humans and our culture historically, the admonition to love like Jesus seems idealistic and out of reach for humans. In fact, it would be possible to read these verses and only end up discouraged. If we’re honest, we’re not doing so well with “becoming people of love.” There is another way to read this passage that will be encouraging. Read it as a description of who you are becoming. Of course we fall short! That’s why we needed to be saved. But, what God wants to do is make people like His Son and He is doing just that! He has given us the Spirit so we have the power. He has given us the Word so we have the description. He has given us His Son so we have a Partner and Model in the process. What seems impossible to us is possible with God. He will not give up, let’s abide in Him so that much fruit will remain.