During the Spanish Civil War, a communist general coined the term “fifth column” to refer to people working within a society to subvert it on behalf of their cause. This general said he had four columns of troops marching on Madrid, and a fifth column already in the city doing whatever it took to help topple the existing government. The term “fifth column” became a popular way to describe people who infiltrate a society, using every means at their disposal to bring down the culture for the benefit of the invading army.
Today, God’s Body – the Church – is Jesus’ “fifth column”. Jesus uses the four columns of His Sovereign Lordship, His Spirit, His Scriptures, and His Servant Angels. God’s Body of believers are not to see themselves as an audience but rather as an army working on behalf of God’s kingdom to infiltrate society and invade the surrounding culture to bring people into relationship and under the reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said believers are in the world but not of it (John 17:15-16).
Christians are not to be thermometers who read the culture and are influenced by it. Instead, Christians are called to be like a thermostat who enhances the environment and impacts culture with tangible good. This is God’s purpose for God’s Body today and it was God’s plan for Christianity in the book of Acts. As believers go about their daily life, Jesus is with you. The gospel shapes the way you think and feel and you become His voice of hope, His hands of help, His feet to labor and love.
Jesus’ presence is on display and deployed into action wherever you go. In that sense, Jesus goes to work offices, construction sites, day care centers, art & music studios, school classrooms, nursing homes, special disability groups, and various other social centers? Jesus travels on airlines, boat cruises and bus rides? He goes to big cities and small towns across the world. He is in homes and hospitals, buildings and vehicles.
One familiar passage of Scripture exhorts Christians to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” (Romans 12:1) Our life in word and deed reflects Jesus Christ. In that same passage, there are listed thirty exhortations, or vital signs, for Christian living. They are listed below for reflection with the verses in Romans 12. It could be suggested there are thirty exhortations for one day each month and repeat continually. However, each exhortation is meant with simultaneous priority and implementation. Nonetheless, while reading each one, ask yourself:
- Which 1-3 of these am I more suited? Who and how can I help mentor others in these areas?
- Which 1-3 of these am I most challenged? How can I cultivate growth in these areas? Who is someone who could be a mentor for me in certain areas?
- Which 1-3 of these does my family most need from me currently? How will I begin to put these in practice?
- Which 1-3 of these do I desire increased from my family? How will I communicate my expectations?
- Which 1-3 of these is my church most challenged? How can I help our church improve in any of these areas?
30 EXHORTATIONS FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING
- 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,
- 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 [them] 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.
- 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 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.
Christians must be known for their love in heart.
The first carries significance in Paul’s thinking across his and the other apostolic letters. Believers are to genuinely love (ἀγάπη) one another. But why did Paul describe the aim of our love as w/o hypocrisy – rather than saying love boldly/courageously/devotedly/earnestly/faithfully?
Hypocrisy implies not just fakeness but self-centeredness. And that is the essence that Paul is attacking with the previous passage content of spiritual gifts and the latter passage content for how to love and treat others. A hypocritical person presents themselves on the outside as one thing, but on the inside they are different: church attenders who don’t really pray or read their Bible, supposed Christians who don’t live under Jesus’ Lordship in the area of sexual activity… or the self-centeredness of Christians who spectate rather than serve their church, or who live in comforts with very little sacrifices for the cause of Christ around the world. To be more specific: there are liberal hypocrites who boast of religion when it fits their agenda for politics or personal preference (environment, poverty, personal rights, etc.) but their lifestyle doesn’t match their lip service / likewise, there are fundamentalist hypocrites who pride their beliefs and promote their deeds but inwardly their hearts lack integrity and their lifestyle is equally immoral in a variety of sins.
Matthew 15:7 “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”
1Corinthians 13:3 “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). In another letter, Paul said the greatest act of spiritual service was love (1Corinthians 13:13). Supremely, love is the backbone for all the other exhortations.
- Illus: Test of sincerity. Our English word sincere comes from the Latin sincerus, which means “without wax.” It stems from a practice of the early Roman merchants who set their earthen and porcelain jars out for sale. If a crack appeared in one, they would fill it with wax the same color as the jar, so a buyer would not be aware that it was cracked. But astute buyers learned to hold these jars out in the sun, and if the jar was cracked, the wax would melt and the crack would be revealed. So the honest merchants would test their wares this way and mark them sincerus — without wax.
- A test of sincerity of love is community and accountability. Do others affirm and feel loved by you? Are people attracted to your love that they bring others to experience it too?
- V. 10 Love one another (φιλόστοργοι) with brotherly affection (φιλαδελφίᾳ)
Paul was saying Christians devotion to one another is to be as family and friends.
– Value of church membership and attendance; church is not a social club but a special family.
– Value of church beyond Sunday!
– Value of vulnerability… no masks, no fake/counterfeit, no duplicity or deceit, no posturing or bragging; but life on life to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly” (Rom 12:15-16).
– Value of each person: even bothersome brothers, silly sisters, unusual uncles & grumpy grandparents.
V. 10 Outdo one another showing honor.
The Roman social structure was quite hierarchical, therefore Paul’s exhortation to love and honor everyone was radical. While a servant may respect and show kindness for the master, to have the master love and serve the servant would have been completely counter-cultural. A leader’s best message is their life of service.
Imagine a place where there was competition to honor each other.
V. 11. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Paul was perhaps seeking to light a fire in the elite, higher class members of the church. Sometimes the affluent can grow apathetic and slow to meet needs or volunteer. Sometimes people only like to make suggestions but not participate in the implementation for lack of care or commitment. Instead, Paul exhorted them toward fervent service (fervent = ζέοντες = hot enough to boil).
V.13 Contribute to needs of saints
The early church was full of generosity. “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34). 1st century Christianity wasn’t a forced socialism but a community full of freedom, grace, and love for one another.
Further, Paul points out there are needs that should be met. God provides for needs through blessing His people to be a blessing and bring glory to the Father.
V. 13 Show hospitality
Paul isn’t talking about that once a year invite to a small group of people to enter your home. Instead, hospitality is to be a regular practice for the people of God. We shouldn’t begrudge hospitality (1Peter 4:9; Heb 13:1; Lev 19:33-34). And church elders are called to model hospitality (1Tim 3:2).
– Persons who have refrigerator rights… bc they’re family.
– Hospitality = φιλοξενίαν: a compound word for love and stranger; love for outsiders.
– Hospitality for purpose of mission: “Where strangers become friends and friends become family.”
– Matthew 9:10 “And as Jesus reclined at table in the house behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.”
Christians must be known for love to hate evil.
Paul’s view of love is not superficial or mere sentimentality, but has a strength and sobriety to all that is around us. He exhorts Christians to “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom 12:9). The word “abhor” is very strong language and could also be translated as “intensely hate,” “detest,” or “loathe.” Paul is saying that one’s love must not only be good hearted toward things that are right, but also a hatred for things that are wrong. “Holding fast” or is very intimate language and is used of a man and woman (cf Mat 19:5; 1Cor 6:16-17). Paul wants us to be “joined/glue together” to godliness.
We live in a world that is polluted with the poison of evil. In our homes and the palm of our hands are all kinds of immorality, impurity, violence, foolishness, and filth are promoted in our world. As Christians, we must not contaminate our souls with triviality and trash. Our greatest apologetic in a sin-poisoned world is a unique, differentness, integrity, and set-apart holiness.
- Psalm 1:1-2 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. But his delight in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”
- Psalm 97:10 “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!”
- Proverbs 8:13 “The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil.”
- Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
- Ephesians 5:18 “And do not get drunk on [worldliness] but be filled with the Spirit”
- Shovel deep for the roots of evil… what hard choices do you need to make?