Christian Conduct Romans 12:9-18 I want to ask you a question? How do you know what love is? Now I don’t want your Christian answer. I want you to close your eyes. I want you to think way back. What’s your earliest memory as a child? Ponder that memory for a minute. Place yourself back there. Capture the sights, the sounds, the smells. Really re-live that memory. With your eyes closed and your memory still in mind, ask yourself the same question; How do you know what love is? In your early childhood memory, how did you know what love was then? Alright, open your eyes. Can anyone tell me how you just answered the question of how you knew what love was from a young age? (If it’s based off another person) How did they know what love is? Because if your answer keeps being you know what love is because of another person, then we can safely say that person would also answer this question with a person. And if this pattern keeps continuing down throughout the ages, eventually you’ll run outta people and come to God! Since God is the first cause in love, then He’s the source of love. The Bible says that everything gives God glory, so “then we can love because God loved us first” (1 John 4:19). You see, every one of us are born with the capacity to love because God loved us FIRST! Just like when a newborn baby stares lovingly into their mother's eyes for the first time, you can tell its love. The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Love is apart of who we are, just like love is apart of who God is. You are made in God’s image. This doesn’t mean you physically look like God because “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), but it does mean that you share similar character traits with God. Just like God you can think, reason, feel, decide, and love. But remember, we don’t live in a perfect world. When Adam and Eve sinned, they ushered in what we call “the fall,” and its because of the fall that our image of God has been tarnished. We don’t love perfectly like we should. That’s why in today’s Scripture, Paul has to remind us what love really is. That’s why in verse 9 the Bible says, “Love must be sincere.” To simply say that verse leaves us incomplete because it leaves us with the question, how do I do that? I also want you to realize that verse 9 is not only the main theme of Romans 12 but also it’s also the transition point. In the past two weeks we learned how to be “holy and pleasing to God,” how to renew our mind, and that “true and proper worship” must lead to service in which we’re equipped through the giving of God’s grace gifts, all of which can only be done out of Godly love. Verses 1-8 show us a renewed mind leads to service, and now in verses 9-18, Paul is showing how love is to be lived out in service. This is why verse 9 sums up all of Romans 12. Now the NIV says, “Love must be sincere.” That’s true, but to love sincerely you must know truthfully what love is. Other translations read, “Love must be without hypocrisy.” You can love sincerely and still be a hypocrite, just like you can be sincere and still be sincerely wrong. And sadly that’s what we see in the world today, people who sincerely love love, but love as a hypocrite because they don’t know what love is. Now don’t think I’m being harsh because the definition of a hypocrite is “a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion.” That’s why if people don’t look to God, who is love, and open a Bible to read about what God has to say about love, they’re being hypocritical because they’re determining what love is from their tarnished and fallen viewpoint. So before we read any farther into Romans 12, we need a better understanding of what the Bible means by love. Because we say “love” a lot. I love my wife; I love my kids; I love my job; I love my shoes. “How was lunch?” “I loved it.” Clearly there can’t be one definition for love because it’s a safe bet that you love your Lord more than you love your lunch. 4 Greek words are used for love. First is Eros, which is romantic love. Second is Phileo, which means friendship/brotherly love. Third is Storge (not used in the Bible), which is parental love. But fourth is Agape love, which is God’s love. Remember God’s very nature is love, and everything He does stems from His love, which makes Agape love God’s unconditional and self-sacrificial love displayed in action. But the worlds problem is it disregards Agape love. Even many Christians are taught a false view of God and love because they put a spin on words. Is God your friend? Yes, but that’s only Phileo love. Is God your Father? Yes, but that’s only Storge love. God is more than that because “God is love.” His mercy and His wrath come from His love because God is Agape love. The world today prizes things that make them feel good, and I’m sure they're sincere about it. It just breaks my heart that the world is not as sincere about knowing the truth as it is about what makes them feel good. They falsely determine what love is based love as a feeling. But love is not just a feeling. Feelings can change and feelings can deceive. Sometimes we’re blinded from the truth by our feelings. Sure a good feeling is the result of love, but feeling good is not the source of love, God is! It’s just like a Facebook post I saw the other day that really made me mad. It was titled “Break the Rules, Love Everybody.” In this post the picture showed a line of people holding their Bibles while standing in front of Jesus with Jesus saying to them, “The difference between me and you is you use Scripture to determine what love means, and I use love to determine what Scripture means.” This cuts me straight to the core, but it’s a perfect slogan for what’s wrong with people today. We are not called to adapt the Bible to our culture, but to adapt our culture to the Bible. Are we supposed to love everybody? Yes. But we are not to love the sin. We are not to approve of sin. I even find the title of that Facebook post, “Break the Rules, Love Everybody” ironic because the Bible contains God’s rules (Laws, Commandments) for living, and this Facebook post is telling you to break the Bible and go your own way. Well, going their own way didn’t work out for Adam and Eve, and guess what, the same holds true for people today. And the saddest part is that a former minister posted that. So I warn you, pray and study God’s Word so that you’re not deceived. That’s why Romans 12:9 is not only the main theme for this chapter, but I encourage you to use this verse as a guideline and a plumb line for your life. A plumb line reveals the center. So use Romans 12:9 for your Bible studies and as a guide for life to keep you centered. This is exactly what Paul did in the following verses. The second half of Rom. 12:9 says, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” This is not a new thought, because Proverbs 8:13 says, “To fear the LORD is to hate evil.” God is agape love. You see, perfect love requires perfect justice. God would not be Just or Loving if He withheld justice. Psalm 97:10 begins, “Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” Believers are not to hate an evil person, but to hate the evil that controls their life. Verse 9 says “cling to what is good.” God alone is good, so cling to Him. Hate what is evil and cling to what is good because love must be sincere. Verse 10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Be devoted to one another. Pursue what’s best for them, even if it’s costly to you. Honor one another by placing them higher than yourself because love must be sincere. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Spiritual fervor means to boil over with enthusiasm. It’s hard to contain boiling water, so don’t get lazy serving the Lord because love must be sincere. Maintain your spiritual fervor so in verse 12 you can, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” because love must be sincere.” Verse 13 says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Don’t have a firm grip on your possessions; freely share them with those in need. And practice hospitality by creating opportunities for ministry. Don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you because love must be sincere.” “Bless those who persecute you.” This may be the hardest one to follow. But don’t curse them because love must be sincere.” “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” because love must be sincere. “Don’t be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position and don’t be conceited.” Don’t be arrogant. Remember, even Jesus sat down and ate with sinners because love must be sincere. “Don’t repay anyone evil for evil and be careful to do what’s right in the eyes of everyone.” In the OT, the law of retaliation was given as a guideline for the judges (Deut. 19:21). In other words the punishment must fit the crime. What God doesn’t want is revenge. Don’t be evil because someone was evil towards you because love must be sincere. And finally, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Love is not dependent upon another person. Love received is dependent upon another person, but love given is not. Your offer of peace might not be accepted by the other person. While the desired outcome may not always be possible, do what you can to pursue reconciliation because love must be sincere. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.” Better now than on the day of judgment. And what better way to test yourself than to see if your love is sincere. Folks if you’ve found your love not to be sincere. If you’ve loved the conduct of the world instead of the conduct of a Christian, or if you sincerely desire Christ’s agape love for your life, there’s no better time then now to come to the Lord. Alter Call. AMEN. Lord, You are the God of all comfort, the Father of mercies. And when the righteous cry out, we know that You hear our plea. You are a present help because you are always and forever present in us. You strengthen and uphold us with Your righteous right hand and lead us from fear to peace because You are not the author of confusion but of peace. Lord, I pray that you comfort us so we can, in turn, comfort those who are going through trials. Let us cast our burden upon You Lord and teach us in the way we should go. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.