Radiant Church’s lead pastor, Keith Welton, delivers a sermon from Romans 12:9-21. Finding a church community is hard, but building it through love is our goal. Keith tells us how to have community with the Church.
To listen to last week’s message on Jude 1:17-23, you can access the audio or video here.
Nueroplasticity–Rewire Your Brain
Have you ever heard the term neuroplasticity? Neuroplasticity is the brain’s capacity to continue growing and evolving in response to life experiences. Plasticity is the capacity to be shaped, molded, or altered; neuroplasticity, then, is the ability for the brain to adapt or change over time, by creating new neurons and building new networks.
It’s really amazing how technology allows people to observe patterns of the brain operating and how they can tell different thought patterns traverse different pathways.
The ability of the brain to change and grow in response to experience enables people to bounce back from setbacks and adversity—to be resilient.
The disruption of neuroplasticity by severe stress or adversity is characteristic of such conditions as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. There is quite literally a loss of synapses. In those disorders, people get stuck in neural ruts of negative thinking/feeling/behaving or fear-based memories.
But the brain can be rewired. It does not stop growing and developing. This is good news because we can all get stuck in ruts, and we need rewiring. One of the ways we need to be rewired today is in how we love others. The love of one another is to be a key mark of the church, and it is one that we will have to work hard to rewire ourselves from the world’s thinking.
We are looking at a few verses here, but I want you to understand the flow of thought in that entire chapter. The reason I do this is because I do not want to lead a biblically ignorant church. I want you to know your Bible. It’s too easy today to throw out a verse detached from its setting and make it say whatever you want. I don’t think that builds real conviction on the word of God. It makes disciples of convenience. So look at verse 1,
[I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Do Not Be Conformed to the World
We are not to conform to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
as fashioning something by using a shaped container form, mold; figuratively in the NT; (1) middle conform oneself to, change one’s behavior to be like (perhaps RO 12.2 and 1P 1.14); (2) passive allow oneself to be changed to be like, be conformed to, be made like (probably RO 12.2 and 1P 1.14)
Every day something is shaping us. Whatever you look at you are being conformed to. Like riding a bike. Where you look is where you are going. Whatever you are surrounding yourself with that is what you are becoming like. It is shaping you, shaping how you think, shaping what you believe.
Greatest discipler and influencer of this century is not the Bible or the church. It is the television and Netflix. In the words of Neil Postman we are amusing ourselves to death. We need to be formed by God.
God has spoken to us. We are to listen to him, and so our highest authority is his word. We want to conform to him. Many people are being fashioned by the world. They are caving to the thoughts and pressures and habits of those around them. We look to God. Tell him, “Have your way with me.”
We are being renewed. Through Jesus the Spirit of the living God is changing us, and not just redirecting pathways but reviving who we are. Honoring God is spiritually renewing. The wages of sin is death, so when you go against his purposes you feel that. People in Hollywood have so much, and yet their lives are falling apart with addictions, depression, suicide.
One way we are changed is how we view other people. This passage then has a section on being united with other believers, the Church. They are members of one body. They are to be connected and in relationship. They are to serve and help one another.
All believers of all ages. We are united together through faith in Jesus. One people. It’s a glorious thing to consider what we are a part of.
But must also distinguish the local church. This is a localized portion of the universal Church in which believers unite together in one physical gathering to worship, encourage, and serve one another.
All believers are to be a part of a local church. To be committed members. The body needs this for its own upbuilding.
The glue that holds the church together is love. Love for Jesus leads to a love and commitment to his people.
I don’t know if I am getting older and more nostalgic, perhaps maybe more aware of society at large and less focused on myself, or perhaps more pessimistic. But it just seems there is less love in the world. Less love in those near me. Less people accommodating my perspective on things.
Drive through church, online church. Fantastic because it requires very little of me. This is not the life Jesus calls his people to. We are to live a life of inconveniencing ourselves in order to help others.
We have to rewire ourselves. Most places you go no one cares that you are there. Grocery store. No one glad to see me again. Just want me to spend my money and head out the door. Kids’ sports- Most kind of sit there on their phones and are not thinking about how to love you. School- and people spend so much time in school, where you passively learn, sit through a lecture, don’t do anything too crazy and you get a degree. Don’t need to love your teacher or your classmates. Just go through motions. And many times families are little more than that. We are brilliant in our career fields but idiots in relationships around us. But Jesus offers to transform us, and we can be renewed in love.
Love for Believers Is a Familial Love
v10 love with a brotherly love.
I had always heard my grandmother, Florence Crockett was related to Davy Crockett. One weekend I decided to play around on ancestry.com. I plugged in her birth date and was able to connect with a lot of info on her. Sure enough as I went through I saw that Davy Crockett was the brother of her great, great, great, great grandfather. It was so cool to see. And as I read about them I also discovered that their relative, perhaps father, was killed in an Indian raid and scalped. It was so interesting to read that and to have a new sympathy for them. I had seen lots of movies with Indians and scalping and hadn’t given it much thought. It took on a new meaning. These were my people. We were connected.
In Christ we are brought into the family of God. We are adopted as Sons and daughters. We are heirs of God.
Like Moses who would say let my people go. Not those people, some people, but my people. If our father has loved and brought another into his family I ought to love them as well. We are to love the church and the believers as though our own family.
Devoted. used chiefly of the reciprocal tenderness of parents and children: th/| filadelfi,a (dative of respect) eivj avllh,louj (R. V. in love of the brethren tenderly affectioned one to another)
the mutual love of parents and children; also of husbands and wives), loving affection, prone to love, loving tenderly; used chiefly of the reciprocal tenderness of parents and children:
Devotion to Jesus leads to devotion to his people. You are brought into the deepest level of human relationships, and that involves relating to others in our relationship to God.
The love believers have for each other should be palpable. I think this is one of the things allowing the collapse of churches. We have an amazing veneer. Wood, take a cheap piece of particle board.
Particle board, also known as chipboard or low-density fiberboard, is an engineered wood product manufactured from wood chips and a synthetic resin or other suitable binder, which is pressed and extruded. Particle board is often confused with oriented strand board (OSB, also known as flakeboard, or waferboard), a different type of fiberboard that uses machined wood flakes and offers more strength.
Particle board is not strong. It certainly does not do well when it gets wet. You can take this cheap wood and then buy a veneer, which is a thin layer of another wood, like wall paper, and place over the wood. It looks great on the surface, and some might even think they got a real hardwood piece of furniture. But when weight is placed on that it crumbles.
Churches can have great bands, paying for a great show, but it is just a show. There are no relationships. It is surface deep. We are building the opposite here. We are being very intentional with trying to know one another, and truly know one another. And for that to happen there has to be a commitment to it.
Don’t want to grow any faster than we are truly able to know and love one another; and to sway those coming to the position that they are called to know and love others. It’s not just me. It’s all of us.
Who do you know? Who are you showing the love of Christ to? Is there anybody not here today that you could check on?
What determines how big we grow? Will it be the size of the parking lot? The size of the auditorium? How about our ability to know and love one another? People choose programs over love.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
*who knows Jesus loves them because of the way you care for them?*
Love is powerful.
Seek to look for the needs of others.
Our culture honors itself. We are to honor others. Show honor to others. Teach your kids this. We have worked hard trying to teach them to look someone in the eye and say hello. It shows honor and communicates love. Now we are constantly working on that.
Love Is to be Genuine
[V9 let love be genuine.
Literally without hypocrisy. Anahupocritns. Hypocrites were actors in plays who wore various masks. A different mask was a different role or person. Jesus rebuked people who were hypocrites, that is their faith was just one of the parts they played in life. Could show up to meetings and talk. They were not sincere in their faith.
Genuine. Pure. free from pretense.
We need to love others genuinely. You have to know people in order to truly love them. You have to be able to take off your mask. We are well trained to keep masks on! To be who you are. To be known. Part of loving others is being vulnerable and allowing them into your life. Quit avoiding small group because you are worried what others might think. Allow yourself to be known and seek to know others. Problem when everyone in small group is in counseling for something but none of their small group friends know the reason. What are we praying for?
And here is a problem that develops when you have a mask on. You start to think everyone else has a mask on too. You quit trusting people. Everyone in church is a hypocrite. I have often heard that from people who were working hard to hide.
Can get harder to love people when you know their mess. This happens when relationships deepen.
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
Keller, Meaning of Marriage
Love accepts people where they are, but also seeks to move them toward the Lord.
Let me give you a different way to understand love. If our relationship with God is the most important thing and has consequences for eternity, and if love involves helping and being a blessing to others, then the greatest thing we can do to love others and bless them is to help them in their walk with God. And if we refuse to do that then we have refused to love them.
Hold fast to what is good. If it is good and right you don’t let go of it because someone else disagrees with you. You stand strong. Hang on to it.
V9 abhor evil. Love good. Part of loving others is hating what is evil. Love is construed today that you allow whatever one wants. That is not love. If a friend is going the wrong way on the road I want to tell them. If he is doing something in life that is not honoring to God then I want to tell him. We need to be a community that is practicing this.
Love Endures, Is Patient, Humble
Patient in tribulation. Constant in prayer. Love continues when things go wrong. Come share what is going on in your life. I’m going to love you. I can’t fix you. I can encourage you, guide you, help you, but can’t change your situation. We need to endure with others. And remember, others have endured with you. God has endured with you. Be patient.
I like to work on stuff around the house. I like projects that go according to my plan with nothing unexpected. That rarely happens. It certainly rarely happens with people. We are to be patient with others. If we get mad, pout, or give up, because people do not respond how we want then it means our love is less than ideal. Certainly they have some things to work on, but so do you. Don’t miss that. God is teaching you something about his love.
-Ryan, came back to church knowing he needed to change. Felt he had to hide his addictions or he would not be accepted or allowed in. He experienced a breakthrough in his addiction when he was able to admit what he was dealing with. Felt the love of the church. Not everyone, but enough to help him through. He now helps others with addictions and is working to help the church be a place of transparency, genuine love, and direction for future. When people come back home…
-We need to love those who are hurting. Not just I need you to do this for me. I need you to be this way for me. Suck it up and get in line. Jesus is tender and compassionate and does not break a bruised reed. Love those who are hurting.
-Those who are hurting. You need to love others by dealing with your hurt. You need to love others by doing the things you need to do. Tell someone what is going on. Too many people push aside the help they need. Don’t want to admit it.
16 do not be proud. Associate with the lowly.
There is also a significant section here on loving your enemies. I thought we were talking about the Church and now this long section about blessing those who persecute you, not repaying evil for evil.
If your enemy is hungry, feed him. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. V21. Family members can do things to aggravate you and hurt you. Be strong in who God created you to be and in his grace that is renewing you. Show them love. Endure.
Chris at IG. Very odd girl. Very bright. Wore strange hats. May have had a Green Bay Packers cheese head. Would ask hard questions: What about the dinosaurs and the fossil records? Sometimes seemed like she didn’t even listen to what you said, and she threw another challenge. Did this class twice a year. Came each time for two years. She eventually started coming to church and got baptized. In her baptism she said she thought Christianity was a hoax and the people were all fake, so she came to test them. She said it was the most genuine love she ever felt and concluded it must be real.
Love Is Fervent
-dont be slothful in zeal. Sloth. Be fervent.
hesitating, shrinking, lazy (MT 25.26); (2) of things arousing reluctance bothersome, troublesome.
Zew. well up, bubble, boil; figuratively, of spiritual fervor be very eager, show enthusiasm.
How you love others is a tale on how you are doing in your walk with God.
When a heater doesn’t put out heat the problem is not the vent. There is a deeper problem. The problem is in the core.
Are you fervently taking an interest in others? Are you fervently taking an interest in your family? Part of rewiring is saying it’s not ok to not care. Jesus loved me and I want to love others. You start doing it. You start enjoying the way it affects others. Stop telling yourself you are tired, it doesn’t matter, don’t feel like it. Poor excuses for disobeying God.
Go hard after it. It does matter. Show others a love they have never seen before. Love church. Changes how you see others, like your husband, kids, parents, etc.
This is a terrible church to find community. It is a fantastic church to build community. People think of community like finding a pot of gold under the rainbow. I just happened upon this and everybody loves me, accepts me, challenges me a little but not too much, and never bother me. That is not community. Community is messy. People say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Say the right thing and you misunderstand it. Forget to invite you and then remember and invite you again. This is real community. It is family.
Quit church. Offended by someone and didn’t want to go and see them.
Love the church. Be devoted to it. God is working in the church. I so want to change the culture’s understanding of the church. I came to faith in a small church plant that people were making great sacrifices to be a part of. People were turning down job offers because they wanted to stay at the church. People planned vacations so they could be at church. I’m not saying we have to do that, and I can’t and won’t demand that, but I am longing for people to see that church is such a significant part of their walk with the Lord and of our ability to impact the world.
Perceived hurts rather than real hurts. Many offenses are perceived. Social media feeds this. They see an image and add your own captions and comments to other people’s lives. Everyone does it. You don’t know the situation. You just see the surface. See a person gathering with friends and don’t know their circumstances or situation but you judge them in your heart. We need to know one another.
We need to be a community joined together by love. Much easier to be programmatic, programming our kids to death. Need more margin in their lives and places they can genuinely know others. We do want to build programs, but we want real community to be a basic building block and you can’t manufacture that.
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,[g] 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.[h] 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[i] 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.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.