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Applying the Gospel in the Modern World

18/06/2017

Applying the Gospel in the Modern World

Text . Romans 12:14-21
A self explanatory portion of scripture! May God give us grace, that with the help of the Holy Spirit we might be enabled to practice it in our own lives! An elder was asked by a lady member, ‘I need help with a passage of Scrioture, that passage that says that women are to be silent in the church, for I don’t understand it!’ The elder was wise. He replied, ‘you don’t need to understand it. Just put it into practice!’ This is a passage just like that!
There are many modern ethical issues that face Christians. In the 70’s I was studying a Christian ethics course at bible college, and I found John Stott’s book, ‘Issues Facing Christians Today’ extremely helpful. It covered a wide range of topics which were being debated in the church, like abortion, euthanasia, divorce etc. It’s now in its fourth edition. And covers topics that I would never have dreamed of in the seventies. Cancellation of debts, same sex marriage, terrorism…. The issues facing Christians today have grown, and even in our local context, we are faced with our own particular difficulties, victims of the troubles, dealing with the past, conflicting views of history, competing rights and responsibilities. But the challenge is the same. How will the Christian apply the Gospel in modern society, live out that Gospel and bring the good news to his pagan neighbours and friends?

1. Persecution. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
The Bible is right up to date. The hearts of the wicked have never changed, and the persecution that the early church endured has continued right throughout history. We will be expected to endure persecution. How will we react?
• Positively! We will return BLESSING to those who persecute us!
• Negatively! We will never curse them! The Christian’s attitude will be the direct opposite of the attitude of the world.
Why? After all, these people are not our natural enemy. Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The people who are persecuting us are our HARVEST FIELD! Among them, are some whom the Lord will save, like Saul of Tarsus. Among them are the people whom we must witness to and reach for Jesus. The greatest blessing that we can be to them is to carry the gospel to them! John 4:27-38. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest.

2. Goodwill. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Our neighbours are experiencing all the ups and downs, and the highs and lows of life just like we are. We must share those experiences with them.
• Weep with them. That’s what builds a relationship. Go to their funerals, extend the hand of sympathy – show them you care about them.
• Rejoice with them. That’s a challenge for us. Sometimes our attitudes reflect that of the psalmist who was puzzled over why God allowed wicked people to prosper! We don’t know why, but we know what their end will be. But here on earth, what one of our neighbours gets some promotion, or a pay rise, or gets custom and business that you haven’t got, rejoice, Don’t be jealous, or resentful.

3. Perspective. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Keep things in perspective, keep your feet on the ground.
• Agree to live in harmony with others. That’s our desire and it always has been. Christians are not by nature warlike, – we don’t want to win converts at the point of a blade, or to govern nations by force. In a recent interview, a very foolish man called Piers Morgan was being asked about his opinion on Islamic Terrorism. He put it down to funadamentalism, saying that only a few muslims are dangerous terrorists, (quite correct so far) and they are fundamentalists (Also correct). To be politically correct he then qualified that by adding that any form of fundamentalism is wrong, and dangerous, including Christian fundamentalism. Now, I dont see hoardes of Baptists and Presbyterians pouring out of their churches on a Sunday morning shouting ‘death to the infidel and brandishing machetes, or driving vehicles into airports or mowing down pedestrians, or blowing themselves up as a human bomb…. The Christian fundamentalist, (and the meaning of that word has diferent ramifications depending whereabouts you live), but the basis of Christian fundamentalism is a desire to obey the Bible, which tells us here that we are to life at peace with everyone! We want to live at peace. V18 reinforces this…. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
• Don’t be a snob. There is nothing worse than Christian snobbery. Only wanting to be seen with the right people, successful people, high earners. Compare this with the prosperity preachers who actually preach that you should avoid those who hold you back ‘from achieving your destiny.’
We are instructed here to associate with humble people and do humble tasks. Not to be self conceited or heavily opinionated, or over estimate our own importance.

4. Revenge. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Why should a Christian ever seek to ‘get even’ or say ‘just wait, Ill get my own back on them…?’ We should never even seek to do such a thing. Consider again the Gospel, – for Christ loved us when we were his enemies, and died for us that we would have what de don’t deserve. God hasn’t ‘got even’ with me, he has forgiven me, at great cost. So. Likewise, when someone hurts us,
• We don’t return evil for evil
• We leave it with the Lord. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. After all he knows all these situations better than we do, and there will certainly be a Day of Wrath, on which day all the wrongs of this world will be put right, and satisfaction of justice will be complete. Martin McGuiness died, and never answered to an earthly court for the awful crimes committed by the terrorist organisation he led in this life. Don’t be upset by that. Leave it with the Lord! Judgement and vengeance rest with him and we can trust him to day what is right and to see that justice is fully satisfied.
• We make their conscience burn by being good to them. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” We ‘heap coals of fire upon them’ – for sure, having been shown undeserving love, in a witness to the love of Christ, we will certainly render them more culpable for their lack of repentance on judgment day. But perhaps also we can sear and burn them in the conscience, and the Holy Spirit might use that act of undeserved kindness to convict them of their sins and bring them to repentance. A family member told me he didn’t want to support a certain business, because they had been difficult to deal with when a charity wanted to purchase some property from them. That’s exactly what the businessman would expect. Nothing more and nothing less. But what if we were to repay that evil with good, – would it be possible that the businessman might just be convicted?
• We overcome evil with good. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

What a difference an appreciation of the Gospel makes to us. We seek to apply it to every area of life. May God help us to do so.

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