Now, tonight, we are going to continue our study of Romans, and we're looking at chapter 12 and very, very practical passages that are before us that I believe the Lord is going to use in wonderful ways in our lives as we respond in obedience. It's really kind of a grocery list, just one thing after another, beginning in verse 9 and running all the way to verse 21. There is some structure and some order which we'll see as we move along, but basically, just a list of the duties of practical Christianity, how it is that the Lord wants us to live our Christian life.
Now let me just say, at the very beginning, something that I hope will help you. If, when we mention each of these things, and they come rather rapidly, there are more than twenty separate exhortations here, if, as we mention them – and I say this to my own heart as well– I find myself struck rather deeply as to their importance and urgency and I feel somewhat convicted about the lack of them in my life, then that's the Spirit of God making a direct hit.
There will be some of them that, when you hear them and you think them through, and as we briefly present the significance of each one, you're not going to have a great struggle, you're not going to respond in a sense of feeling great conviction, and that's probably because these are things that are being manifest in your life. And I really believe that, if you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ and you're walking in the Spirit, these things will be true of your life. So you don't need to feel sort of a wholesale sense of defeat as we go through.
There may be times when you feel convicted. I know there have been times in my own study, as I've gone through these things, over the last week, that some of them have hit me very directly, some of them not so directly, but when I sense those things that are direct in my life and I need to be sensitive to those then I know the Spirit of God is bringing conviction. On the other hand, when I sense that that doesn't really speak to me so strongly, then I know that that's something the Spirit of God has already begun to do in my life. And so I have a sort of a mixed reaction to the experience of learning these things. One is to be convicted, and the other is to have a sense of confidence that what I see God doing in my life is really happening, and that's very comforting.
I ought to be able to say, "Hey, I feel that way. I agree with that. That's my feeling. That's the way I want to live. I see that in my life." And I think you'll find that, too, as you go through. So don't expect just to receive some condemnation. I think you're going to find here some commendation. I think you're going to say to yourself, here, that I see God doing that in my life. I see that the Lord has changed my life from what is natural to what is supernatural, and these things are true of my own experience, and that should be, in that sense, a very gratifying experience to go through this section of Romans chapter 12.
Huxley, the great English novelist, made an interesting statement one time. He said, "It doesn't take much of a man to be a Christian. It just takes all of him.” And Henry Drummond, who was a very dear friend of D.L. Moody, put it like this, in one of his messages he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the entrance fee to God's kingdom is nothing, but the annual dues are everything."
The Christian life is a consummate way of living. The Christian life is a lifestyle all its own that literally draws the parameters around all of our living. When Jesus said, "You come on through a narrow gate and you walk a narrow way," that's precisely what He meant. Christian living is very defined. It doesn't have any latitude at all, in one sense, and has great freedom in another sense. Our freedom is the freedom to do what is right. Our freedom is the freedom to honor God. The confinement is that we must do whatever He commands.
And so, in a sense, we could say that Romans 12 9 to 21 is sort of New Testament law. It's really not negotiable. It's the law that we are free to fulfill, and I say free because, in the freedom of obedience, we find our blessedness. And you know, from your study of Ephesians chapter 2, that we were created unto good works which God had before ordained that we would walk in them. That we were made, as Paul says, to manifest the fruits of righteousness. And so it is the definition of a Christian life that he lives uniquely, and the parameters and the walls and the lines of his life are circumspect, and they're drawn by God Himself.
So, here, we have some of the principles for living the Christian life. In one sense, they're general. In another sense, they're specific. They're general in the sense that they can touch all kinds of areas of life. They're specific in the fact that they must be applied in each incident of life, in each action and reaction of life. Now, this is not absolutely comprehensive. There are other things that we're responsible for. There are other elements of our lifestyle that God would have us to follow that aren't listed here, but this is a wonderful sampling of things that should be true of the Christian's life.
And another thing, just to keep in mind, is that Christian living is not mystical. It is not some kind of ephemeral, illusive, supernatural sort of floating mentality that can't be brought down to real living. It is quite practical. It is not mystical. It is very pragmatic. It is a matter of thinking and speaking and acting and doing in a certain way, and this is the way Christians are to live.
Now it comes at a very essential part of the Book of Romans, and most people think that the major part of Romans is over, but it isn't. By the time you've gotten through the first eleven chapters, and then you've gone through the glorious commitment of chapter 12 verses 1 and 2 and maybe outlined the great section on spiritual gifts in chapter 12 verses 3 through 8, people have the feeling that that's the real heart of the book, but it isn't.
The real heart of the book begins now. The whole intent of this epistle was to call upon believers to live a certain way. The first eleven chapters were simply the foundation for that living. It was Paul's way of saying, "Look, here are eleven chapters of what God has done to make this possible. Now you dedicate your life to Him,” chapter 12. “Use your gift to the fullest of its ability and then begin to live like this.” This is really the message of Romans, and from here on, through the first part of chapter 15, we're going to come face-to-face with some very practical injunctions for Christian living, how we are to live with each other in the family, how we are to live with those outside the family, how we are to respond to those who are our avowed personal enemies, how we are to react to the government, how we are to deal with those who are weaker in the faith than we are. And these practical injunctions in chapters 12, 13, 14 and a little bit into 15 are really where Paul has been going all along.
And you might ask, "Well why did he spend so much time on the foundation?” Because he wanted to lay it well, secondly, because we needed to know the richness of our salvation, and, thirdly, because it ought to make us so infinitely grateful that the right kind of living pattern is a very obvious and a very immediate kind of response. I mean, if I understand what the Lord did for me in Romans 1 to 11, it seems a small thing for me to return to Him the love given to me in a life of obedience as indicated in chapters 12, 13, 14 and 15. So he comes then, in chapter 12 and verse 9, to a listing of Christian duties, things that are very down to earth and very practical.
Now the section resists a tight outlining. It really does, verses 9 to 21. It's very difficult to just cut it up into little slices. The best way that I can explain it to you, so you'll have some sort of imagery in your mind, is that it's an ever-expanding circle. It starts rather small, and it just gets larger and larger and embraces more and more people. For example, verse 9, if you'll look at it, is pretty much very personal. It starts with me. It talks about my love and my hating what is evil and holding tightly to what is good. That's just very personal. That's a commitment in my own heart, so the circle begins with me, and then the circle begins to widen in verse 10 to 13.
"Be kindly affectioned, one to another, with brotherly love," and it goes on to talk about preferring one another and being zealous and fervent in your service to the Lord. And so the circle widens to include others while also reaching back to speak of things in my own life again, such as in verse 12, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation and continuing diligent in prayer. So the circle gets a little wider but doesn't lose sight of me, and it talks about others and my relation to them and then backs up and talks about me again.
And in the third widening of the circle, we come to verse 14, and from 14 to 16, the circle widens beyond the family of God, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to embrace all people in general, whether they persecute us and we are to bless them, whether they rejoice and we're to rejoice with them, whether they weep and we're to weep with them. And we're to consider them all equally and not think of ourselves as better than they are, verse 16, and so, again, that speaks of my own personal pride. So there's a sense in which the circle enlarges to embrace a new category of people each time but still reaches back and touches the others as well.
And the final circle widening comes from verses 17 to 21, and that widens to encompass even those who are our very personal and avowed enemies who do things against us, beyond just a general persecution of what we believe, but who wound us and injure us and harm us and sin violently against us. And there is instruction there as to how we are to respond to that, not giving back evil for evil, not holding vengeance in our hearts, so forth and so on. And again I say, even though the circle widens to embrace our personal avowed enemies, it also reaches back to touch attitudes in our own hearts and the way we live such as learning, in verse 18, to live peaceably with all men. So Paul is really grasping at some random things, but in his mind, apparently, he's enlarging his circle of thought each time. And I feel that's the best way to sort of get a grasp on how the flow goes in these verses.
Now I can promise you something. This section is not going to be very profound in the sense that you're going to hear things that will tickle your ears or things you've never heard before or discover some great new truth. It's really kind of a reminder section of things you already know and many things you're already practicing and, I can testify, many things that are already at work in your lives for which I bless God and praise Him. So let it be an encouraging time. Let it be a time, if need be, when you're convicted but a time also when you're encouraged as you see these things true in your own life.
Let's begin with the first circle, and we'll call it the personal, the personal duties, and he gives three of them in verse 9. In fact, he seems to favor little triplets. There's three in verse 9. There's three in verse 11. There's three in verse 12. It seems to be that that's the way his thinking runs in this opening section.
But, anyway, in verse 9 it's very personal, three basic attitudes, three basic duties that flesh out in the way we live relative to our own personal thinking patterns. Verse 9, "Let love be without hypocrisy, hate that which is evil and cleave to that which is good." It really needs very little explanation. It's very, very easy to understand, and it needs to be so we don't miss it.
But let me just break those three apart for a moment and see if I can't reinforce them by giving you a little feeling for what the Scripture says about them. Number one, and fittingly, "Let love be without hypocrisy.” The greatest thing in the life of a Christian is what? Love. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13, Paul says, "And now abides faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is,” what? “Is love.” We all know that.
In chapter 13 of Romans, would you look for a moment at verse 8. Paul says, "Owe no man anything but to love one another. For he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Then verse 10, the end of the verse, "Love is the fulfilling of the law.” And you remember our Lord said, if you want to keep the whole law of God, just do this. Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
Love is the supreme thing. And so we're not surprised that Paul begins here nor are we surprised, when we read in Galatians 5, that he writes about the fruit of the Spirit and he says, "The fruit of the Spirit is," and what's the first? "Love," then joy, peace and so forth and so on. Everything begins with love.
The starting point of the Christian experience is love. Jesus, in John 13, said to His disciples, "You are to love one another and, by this, shall all men know that you are My disciples.” And he wrote to his beloved in the church and said, "I pray that your love may abound more and more." Love is the greatest thing. Love is the supreme reality, and so he begins with the fact that we are to live lives of love.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 6, a little more obscure passage, maybe not as familiar as the others, but listen to what it says. Paul is talking about his ministry, and he says he is a minister of God then he begins to describe his ministry, "In much endurance, in afflictions, in necessities or needs, in distresses, in stripes that is being beaten, in imprisonments, in tumults, riots,” that were often a part of his ministry, “labors, in watchings,” that is having to be on guard for his life and the life of others, “in fastings, by purity, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit,” then this one, and you ought to underline it, “by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand, on the left," and so forth and so forth.
In other words, as he begins to describe his approach to ministry, describe his attitude, one of them is love unfeigned. That is pure love, love, to put it in Romans 12:9 terms, without hypocrisy. Love that is not fake love, love that is real love, genuine love, that's the first duty of a Christian listed here.
And do you remember 1 Peter 1:22? Paul – Peter says, "Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit," in other words, seeing that you are redeemed, here should be the result, "unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another with a pure heart fervently, being born again."
In other words, the result of the new birth is an unfeigned love, a non-hypocritical love. And then he says, "Love one another fervently.” He uses a very interesting word, fervently, Peter uses, is the word ektenes, and it's basically used of the stretching of a muscle, even in a horse. It could be used in a human illustration as well, to reach as far as possible, stretching that muscle to its absolute limit. And that's the word Peter chooses, an anatomical term which is to say stretch yourself to the limit in showing your love to one another since you have been born again. And the first and basic practical duty of a Christian is love.
And you remember 1 Peter chapter 4 and verse 8, that very beautiful and somewhat familiar verse which says, "And above all things, have fervent love," same word ektenes, "among yourselves for love shall cover the multitude of sins.” Love has a way of throwing a blanket over someone's evil, doesn't it? It has a way of throwing a blanket over someone's wrong, someone's fault, someone's injury and so love is the starting point.
But the kind of love that we see in Peter's epistle and in 2 Corinthians 6, as I read it to you, and here is an unfeigned love, a non-fake love, not a phony love, not a superficial love but a real genuine, deep love. Like D.L. Moody said, "There are a lot of people who talk cream and live skim milk." But what he's talking about here is not skim milk kind of love. It's the real stuff, Christian love that is cleansed of self-motivation and self-fulfillment and self-aggrandizement, a Christian love that loves in a pure way out of a pure heart for the sake of Christ, no play acting. And so we are to love people with a pure love.
I can remember hearing people say when I was a kid, "Well we love so-and-so in the Lord.” Have you ever heard anybody say that? I love them in the Lord. Well that used to mean I personally can't stand them, but I'm under spiritual obligation. It's as if you had a pipe running out of you somewhere and you can squirt them with divine love. "Here take this, it's not mine, but you get it from me by virtue of God." That's not what he's talking about, and I don't want to take the time to develop a whole biblical theology of love. Sufficed to say it is the kind of love that reaches out and meets needs.
Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you," in John 13, and He had just loved them by washing their filthy feet. They had a need, He met the need. It is a condescending but not in a negative way, not in a demeaning way. It is a coming down to the level of someone with a need, and frankly, there's nothing, in the world of sin, any worse than hypocrisy. The greatest sinner who ever lived was the greatest sinner who ever lived because of the profound depth of his hypocrisy and that was Judas.
Hypocrisy is the most distasteful and ugly of all sins for it feigns affection and is filled with hate. No sin is worse than hypocrisy. No vice is more destructive than hypocrisy, and no virtue is more wonderful than love. So hypocritical love is an unbelievable combination of which the theologian John Murray says, "If love is the sum of virtue and hypocrisy is the epitome of vice, what a contradiction to bring the two together.” Christians are commanded to live a pure, true, genuine love.
And I suppose the best way to define it, without spending a lot of time, would be just to call your attention to 1 John chapter 3 and verse 14. It says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life.” How do we know that? How do we know we've been saved? "Because we love the brethren," because there's a love in our hearts for God's people. "He that loves not his brother abides in death." Then in verse 18, a very, very important statement, "My little children," and here's the test of genuine, pure, fervent love. He says this, "Let us not love in,” what, “in word neither in tongue but in,” what, “deed and truth."
Genuine love will manifest itself not in some sentimentalism but in deeds of kindness, deeds of caring, of meeting needs, of support. Dr. Barnhouse used to say, the great Bible teacher back in Philadelphia Tenth Presbyterian Church, he's now with the Lord, he used to say, "True love leaves the stage and walks the path of real life.” And the antithesis of that is Luke 22:48 where Jesus looks Judas in the eye and says, "Do you betray Me with a kiss?" And He used the word a kiss of love.
The first Christian duty, the supreme Christian duty is to live a life of unhypocritical, honest, legitimate, genuine, truthful love which manifests itself in selfless, sacrificial service to those who have need. And do you remember when the Lord was asked after having said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," the question came to Him, "Who is my neighbor?" and Jesus told a story about a man lying in the road, you remember, on the way to Jericho. And the point of the story was whoever is lying in your path with a need is the one you need to show your love to. The primary duty is love.
In fact, do you remember the apostle Paul's letter to the Corinthians in which he says, "You come behind in no gift?” And in chapter 12, he describes all the spiritual gifts, and he chose how all those spiritual gifts are to work. And after all of that description of spiritual gifts in chapter 12, he comes to the last verse and says, "But I show you a,” what, “a more excellent way.” In other words, a better way than even the use of spiritual gifts and he goes right in to chapter 13 and starts that monumental description of love that all of us know so well. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, I am become a sounding bronze or a tinkling cymbal, and though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and though I have all faith so that I can remove mountains and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.” In other words, everything without love equals what? Nothing. Nothing.
So, the priority is given to love, and it has to start in your own relationships with your own family, your own friends, your church, all those people in the circle of your friendship and influence. Christians will demonstrate the genuineness of their Christianity to the world by the genuineness of their love. Is that not true? "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples," Jesus said in John 13, “if you have love one for another."
I'll never forget a woman coming to this church. She went to the synagogue down the street to be counseled, and they wouldn't counsel her in her marital problem because she hadn't paid her dues and so she was upset. This is some years back, and she came down the street to the nearest religious building to get some help, and we were the nearest one. That was before the Buddhist people had parked down on the corner And so she came this way and wandered in.
It was Sunday, and she was coming along the sidewalk. I truly don't know whether she wanted to come in or not, but by the time she knew where she was, she was in a group, found herself in the place. She came to Christ. She may be here tonight. She came to Christ, and later on, she told me her testimony. She said, "I was so upset that they wouldn't counsel me. I just came in here.” She said, "I'm telling you, it changed my life." I said, "Well, did you enjoy that service that day?" And I said – she said, "I don't even know what you said. I wouldn't even have known you were there. I was overwhelmed by the love of these people for each other. It was so foreign to anything I'd ever experienced, and it was that that drew me to my Messiah."
And that kind of story can be told over and over and over again. If you don't think the world is looking for love, just listen to the songs on the radio. It's just one steady stream of people crying out for meaningful love which can't be found on a human level, not the dimension they're looking for. We have the greatest thing to offer the world when we offer them love.
Well, a second thing he says in verse 9 – don't worry, we're not going to go all the way to verse 21. You can relax. Just because I covered 16 verses this morning doesn't mean I'll ever do it again but at least we'll get through verse 9. Is that all right?
But in verse 9, the second thing he says is, "Hate that which is evil. Hate that which is evil.” That's so simple. Obviously, it follows the first one, "If you love God with all your heart and you love your neighbor and you love the brotherhood, you're going to hate what is evil because evil stains the fellowship.” How can I say I love you and tolerate sin? I can't because sin destroys my relationship with you and your relationship with me. Sin is a disastrous invasion into a love relationship. So anyone who truly loves has to hate evil. In fact, in Psalm 97:10, there's a wonderful, simple word it says, "Ye that love Jehovah hate evil. Ye that love Jehovah hate evil.” The two are absolutely opposed. You see, God is too holy to tolerate sin. Sin is the antithesis of God.
Let me just give you a little brief look at the doctrine of God. The basic essential characteristic of God is His holiness. He is holy, holy, holy. That is the most distinctive definition of God, and what holy means is separate, and what that is saying is that God is utterly unlike we are. He is not like us, and the reason He is not like us is because He is holy without, what, sin. And it is His absolute sinlessness that equates to His absolute otherness, His absolute unlike us-ness, if we can say it that way.
And so God is a God of total and absolute and utter purity and sinlessness. Consequently, He cannot look on evil, cannot tolerate evil, and one who truly knows the love of God and loves God in return would have to hate evil. And I want you to note that it says there, because of the use of the imperative in the present tense, "Be continuously or be constantly hating that which is evil." Be constantly hating that which is evil. It's a very strong term.
Evil isn't something we can tolerate at any level. Evil is something we must hate with a passion. There can be no truce struck with evil. There can be no minimal tolerance of evil. We must constantly hate anything and everything and all things that are evil. Listen to Psalm 101, which basically is a psalm that calls for this, "I will sing of mercy and justice, unto Thee, O Lord, will I sing. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way," David says, "O when wilt Thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes. I hate the work of those who turn aside.” That is turn aside from the word and will of God. "It shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from me. I will not know a wicked person who so secretly slandereth his neighbor. Jim will I cut off. Him that hath a high look and a proud heart will I not tolerate. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land that they may dwell with me. He that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house. He that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord."
Boy, David is really exercised. Isn't he? He's saying, "Lord, I will walk in a perfect way. I will keep a heart that is pure. I will put away a perverse heart, and when I meet a man who is perverse, I will put him out of my presence. When I meet a man who is deceitful, I will put him out of my life. When I meet a man who is a liar, I will put him out of my house. I will have nothing to do with wickedness. I will have nothing to do with wicked people." In other words, David knows that you can strike no settlements with evil. You must flee from it. You cannot tolerate it. I t must be constantly hated and so he says, "I will do all I can to cut off these people.” Cut off is an old Hebrew expression for kill. I will eliminate wickedness. I will eliminate evil doers,” he says.
And do you remember what our Lord said in Matthew 18? He said, if your right eye offends you, do what? Pluck it out. If your right hand offends you, cut it off." And what the Lord was saying there was basically a sort of proverbial statement, a statement of great verbal exaggeration to make a point and the point is this, you deal with sin drastically. You deal with sin dramatically because sin is such a terrible, anti-God reality.
Do you remember Proverbs 8:13? I remember learning this as a boy. Two verses I learned out of Proverbs, Proverbs 9:10, and I remember them from my childhood. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding." “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The flip side of that is Proverbs 8:13, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." The fear of the Lord is to love wisdom. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth do I hate. Do you hate that? Do you hate pride? Do you hate arrogance? Do you hate the evil ways of men? Do you hate a perverse mouth or have you grown accustomed to perversion out of the mouth of people? Have you grown custom to perverse lifestyle? Do you tolerate that? Do you find yourself not ill at ease in its presence? Can you take it when you're in the company of someone who is living a perverse life whose mouth speaks perverse things, whose heart is filled with pride and arrogance or do you find that those things are so hateful to you that, like David, you say, "I will put such a person out of my presence because I cannot be a victim of the breaking down of the holy standards of my own life?"
Let me show you another verse that may speak to you of this issue. Jude, that small little epistle right before the book of Revelation, and verse 23 is a very, very powerful and forceful statement, and it says, in verse 20, that we are to be building up ourselves on our most holy faith. And then in verse 21 it says, "Keep yourselves in the love of God." In other words, keep bathed in God's love. Keep living a life of holiness, a life of love.
And when you reach out, verse 22, Have compassion. When you see people in need, be compassionate, and verse 23 says, "And save others with fear.” In other words, when you reach out to redeem a sinner, you do so with a sense of fear. Why? "You snatch them out of the fire because you hate even the garment spotted by the flesh." And the word for garment here is an interesting word. It is the word that has to do with the inner garment, the undergarment if you will, the chiton which was worn next to the skin, the inner robe, the symbol of all that touched the flesh.
And what Jude is saying is, when you even go out into the world to reach someone for Christ, when you reach out in evangelism, you've got to realize that need to have a healthy fear, and you need to realize that you must hate anything that is even spotted, that is even touched by the defilement of the world. So you snatch it like a bran from the burning, lest your own garment would be spotted or defiled.
It's a very serious warning. I mean it's like the people who work in hospitals who are very sensitive to the new strain of disease we call AIDS and who know its infectious and fatal character, who have to deal with the people who have it and yet live in fear of the consequence of even coming near that disease. And so it is in the spiritual dimension, we hate sin, and we hate anyone who lives a life of defiant sinfulness against God in the sense that we hate their sin though we love them as a lost person. And when we reach out to those people, it has to be with a great sense of fear, lest we would be spotted by their sin, lest, in coming so close to them, some of the pollution in their life would stain us, some of the infection of their disease, we would catch.
Apparently there was one man who traveled with the apostle Paul who wasn't able to deal with this issue. His name was Demas, and though he was in proximity to Paul, the best of men, he forsook Paul because he loved, what, this present world. He couldn't be an effective missionary. He couldn't be an effective evangel because, when he got close to the system, it elicited out of him all the worst and instead of him changing it, it changed him.
And so we hate sin because we know what it can do, how defiling it can be. As one writer said long ago, "Our only security against sin is to be shocked by it, and when we stop being shocked by it, we're not secure against its inroads into our consciousness." And I daresay, in the society in which we live, it's hard to be shocked by any sin, isn't it? We've gotten so accustomed to all of it, but we are to hate sin. That is the Scripture's word to us.
Just two other scriptures that I would point out to you, there are so many. We could look at Amos 5:15 where Amos says, "Hate the evil and love the good.” And do you remember Micah? Micah preached judgment against the leaders of Israel in chapter, I think – I can't remember exactly the chapter, but he said this, "The problem with you is you hate the good and you love the evil." They had just reversed it. In 1 Thessalonians, do you remember chapter 5 verse 22? I'm sure you do. "Abstain from all,” what, “appearance of evil.” And it doesn't – it isn't the idea that something appears to be evil and isn't. What it means is, as soon as evil even appears, get out. Get out. Don't stay there. When you hear a perverse mouth or see an evil way, get out. As soon as it appears, be gone and don't sit around long enough to figure out whether it's evil or not. If there's any doubt, be on your way.
You want to hear one of the most beautiful descriptions of the Savior in Hebrews 1 verse 8? "Unto the Son, He saith," this is the Father speaking to the Son, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy Kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.” Jesus was exalted above all because He had a pure love of righteousness and a pure hatred of evil. Every Christian needs to see the infinite beauty of holiness and the infinite damnability of sin.
Now how do we know what we mean by evil? Well, it's not too hard to figure out. It ought to be obvious to all of us, but in case you're stuck for a definition, let me suggest a couple of things. Go back, for a moment, to the book of Proverbs chapter 6 and let's find out what the Lord hates. All right?
He hates evil. Let's find out what it is He hates, and, here in Proverbs 6, we get a good insight into that beginning in verse 16. "These six doth the Lord hate, yea, seven are an abomination unto Him." Seven things the Lord hates. "A proud look." You hate pride. Do you really hate it? "A lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked imaginations or schemes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among the brethren."
Now the Lord hates pride, He hates lies, He hates murders, He hates wicked schemes of any kind, immoral deeds, feet that run eagerly to the evil they plot. He hates those who speak falsely and those who create discord, disunity, riots and trouble. Those are the things the Lord hates, and there could be other lists coming at those things from different angles.
But for just a moment, look at the first chapter of Isaiah and we'll get another look at this. The Lord is condemning His people, and He's bringing judgment against Judah and Jerusalem. In verse 12 it says, "When you come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand to tread My courts? Who asked you to come” Can you imagine that? God says to His people, "Who asked you to come? Did I tell you to come?" The implication is nobody asked you, not Me or anyone else. "Bring no more empty oblations, Incense is an abomination to Me. The new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot bear. It is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts, My soul hates. They are a trouble unto Me. I am weary of bearing them, and when you spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you. When you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves. Make yourselves clean."
You know what God hates? False religion. False religion. It's not hard to figure out what the evil is that God hates, and anyone, who wants to live the Christian life, begins with a very simple practical duty and that practical duty is to hate evil and to constantly hate it and to hate it in every form and to hate it not only when it's full-blown but even when it begins to appear to hate it and abstain from it and stay away from it and not do anything that could even be mistaken to be evil. There's no place for that, and it saddens my heart to know that, in our society, people are basically entertained by evil. No one is truly obedient to this, and this is an important note. No one is truly obedient to this command who only fears the consequence of evil. Did you hear that? No one is truly obedient to this command who only fears the consequence of evil.
The issue here is not the consequence of evil. A truly good man passionately hates evil because of what evil is not because of what he'll get if he does it. He hates it because it is his holy nature. He hates it because God hates it and he loves God, and there are some people who don't hate evil. They just hate to have to face the consequence, and that's very infantile and very immature and very selfish and not the motive at all that should be in the heart of a believer. A good man hates evil, not because he fears the consequence but because he loves holiness.
And then he says, at the end of verse 9, "Stick," the word "cling" is the word cleave, it's the same word kollaō used of a marriage bond. It's a word to mean to glue. "Stick to that which is good, be stuck to what is good, don't ever leave it, don't be separated from it." They've got all these new glues. They make great illustrations. I see them put a drop of glue on a piece of metal. They put another piece of metal on it and pick up a truck. That's really being stuck to that thing.
Be bonded. Be stuck to that which is good, agathos, inherently good, genuinely good, qualitatively good. And isn't this what the psalmist said in Psalm 1? "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful." Boy, that is such a very profound verse. Did you notice it? "Blessed is the man who walks not among the ungodly, stands not in the way of sinners, sits not in the seat of the scorners,” and that's exactly what happens. First you walk and then you stop to see what's going on, and pretty soon you've taken your seat.
Blessed is the man who does none of them. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he”, what, “meditate day and night.” Hate evil, love good, hate evil, love good. Philippians tells us how to do that, "Finally, brethren," 4:8 of Philippians, "Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,” what, “think on these things.” What's the key? Think on these things. Think on these things. That's how you cleave to what is good.
Now this was the heart of Paul. Go back with me for just a moment and let me refresh you of Romans 7 where we get the heart attitude of Paul. It's most interesting to me, in verse 15, what he says. He's a believer here. He says, "That which I do, I don't understand." Have you found that true? Sometimes you've engaged in a sin, maybe an attitudinal sin, a sin of verbal expression, a sin of indifference, and you say to yourself, "I don't understand that. I hate that. I hate that in me. I not only hate it in others, but I hate to see it in me.” That's my reaction. That was Paul's. "What I do, I don't understand. Why do I do that? For what I would that do I not, but what I,” what, “hate I do."
This is the best thing I know to indicate a true Christian. A true Christian is one who hates evil and loves righteousness. That's the mark. It isn't whether you’ve, quote unquote, made a decision. It's whether you love righteousness and hate evil. Oh, you can love righteousness and hate evil and still do evil. Right? That's what Paul's saying, “I don't understand that. Why do I do that which I hate,” he says. “It isn't me. It isn't what I want to do.”
Verse 17 says, "It is sin that dwells in me, and I hate that." And that's why he says, "O wretched man that I am, who will get me out of this mess?” I mean I think every one of us as Christians can identify with that struggle. You love righteousness. You love the things of God. You don't like to have a bitter attitude. You don't like to hear yourself being critical, judgmental, condemning, unkind. You don't like to fill your mind and your eyes with things you shouldn't see. You don't like to think thoughts you shouldn't think. You don't like to be proud and egocentric. You don't like to be indifferent, and you say to yourself, "I hate that. Why do I do that?” And you say, with Paul in frustration, "It is sin that dwells in me. It's not what I really desire. It's that sin that's in me." And you say, "O wretched man that I am, who will get me out of this?" And you yield yourself even more to the Holy Spirit, I hope, that He might work in you that which is righteous, but even beyond that, you long for the day when you will get out of this mess, right? When you'll lose the flesh and your sin and go to be with the Lord.
And, in Romans 8, he says, "We wait for the day when we will be redeemed not only in soul but in body. We are waiting for the redemption of our body, the glorious liberation of the children of God, when Paul says this mortal shall put on immortality and this corruptible shall put on incorruption, when we'll be like Christ.
So Paul helps us to understand that we are to be characterized as people who, in our deepest, truest self, hate sin and hate evil, even though the things we do we hate. And that's the best test I know for you to put to your own self to see whether you're in the faith. When you sin, do you hate that? Is the inclination of your heart to do what is right and, when you do what is wrong, it is something you detest and hate and want to put away? That's the mark that Paul says is a principle of Christian duty.
So we, first of all, love without hypocrisy. Secondly, we hate what is evil, and thirdly, we cling to what is good. And Paul says that in verse 19 of Romans 7. "The good that I would I don't do, and the evil which I would not that I do.” But what he says is the good that I would do. He wants to stick to what is good. He wants to cleave to what is good. By the way, there's no neutrality here. There's no middle ground. You either stick to what is good, or you move toward what is evil.
You say "Well, how do I know what is good? Well, that's pretty easy. Where are the good things? They're in the Word of God. If you study the Bible you'll find out what's good. A man said to me, he said, "I've come to Christ but," he said, "I've got so much garbage in my mind. How do I get it out? How do I clean it up?" And I said, "Well, you have to be reprogrammed. See, you've been programmed for a long time, and your brain is full of filth, and it's got to be reprogrammed, completely washed out.” And the only way that can be done is the washing of the Word, isn't it?
Another element of knowing what is good is in chapter 12 verse 2. It says, "Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” And that's what I'm saying. As you come away from the world and saturate yourself with the Word of God, you will have a renewed mind and then you will be able to prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. You'll know what is good as you begin to be reprogrammed and saturated in the Word of God because you not only receive the Word of God but who is the one teaching you while you're studying? The Holy Spirit.
Well there are some foundations, anyway, for tonight. Christian duty begins with a pure love, a hating of evil and a sticking to what is good. Very simple, isn't it? I mean those are the irreducible minimums of the Christian experience, and I know, in many of your lives, maybe in most of your lives, if you did a little spiritual inventory right now you would say, "Yes, I love the brethren.” Do you realize that a person, who comes to Grace Church and doesn't know Jesus Christ, doesn't feel that affinity, that love, that spirit of sacrifice towards God's people. Rather, there's probably a sort of a – not only an indifference but a little bit of resentment between that person and this fellowship.
So if you, in your heart, sense a love, if you sense a joy when you're with God's people, if you want to reach out to those who are in need, that's the indication that you're moving along the path of Christian duty here. And if, as you look at your life, you can identify with the struggle of the apostle Paul and say, "Yes, I want to cling to what is good, even though I don't always do it. Yes, I hate what is evil, even though sometimes I do it,” if the deepest desires of your heart are to love God's people, to do what's good, to shun what's evil, you're moving on the right path. And all you need to do is keep on that path out of gratitude for what the Lord has done for you. Isn't that what Paul is saying?
On the basis of the mercies of God, chapter 12 verse 1, present your body, a living sacrifice and get on with it. And what does that mean? That means start loving to the fullest of your capacity by the power of the Spirit, start hating what is evil in a constant way as a pattern of life and cling tightly to what is good and don't ever let yourself get spotted with that which is evil. Live your whole life with a sense of fear lest you get too close to that because it stains so profoundly and so disastrously.
Well, that's a good beginning, and we'll take a larger chunk next Lord's day. Let's bow in prayer.
We thank You, Father, tonight, for just reminding us of some of these very basic things. I need to be reminded. We all do. That's obvious because of how many times we have failed. We haven't been loving as we ought. We haven't hated the evil. We have indulged ourselves in it to one degree or another. We haven't held tightly to what is good. We have allowed ourselves to let go of the good in favor of the evil.
Father, we thank You for Your forgiveness. Lord, we want to live the life that pleases You. We want to do the things that give You glory. We want to honor Your blessed name, and so, Father, we pray that we might learn how to love, not in human strength, but to love with the love that is shed abroad in our hearts, Your love, that we might learn what it is to hate evil, to hate even the garment that is spotted by the flesh, to avoid anything that even touches that.
And, Father, may we further learn how to cleave tightly to what is good, give us a great love for good things, righteous things, right things that Christ may be exalted in us.
With your head bowed for just a moment, would you just, as we've begun to look at these practical things, just kind of covenant in your heart to the Lord that you want to take these three very personal elements of Christian behavior and you want the Lord to produce them in all their fullness in your life. Just commit yourself to the Lord in that regard.