HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (Part 1) by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson
Christmas is here. Our kids are counting down the days, as I’m sure yours are as well. Christmas can be a time of joy, excitement, and laughter but it can also be a time of sadness, frustration, and contention. What is needed is the kind of love that will cover a multitude of sins. This morning’s message is titled – “HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON,” from Romans 12. By the way, this message is for all seasons.
Romans 12:9 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Overall Background: We are in the application section of the Book of Romans. From Romans 1-11, Paul has been teaching us doctrine and starting in Romans 12, he focuses on application. In verse 9 he says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” Meaning – Be real when you love people. Don’t be fake, a put on, superficial, selective, and temporary.
The mistake people make is they immediately try to apply it and they fall flat on their face. They try to love their spouse, children, neighbor, co-workers, and church family and they fall flat on their face. Sooner or later someone does something that goes beyond their definition of love and they start pretending. They set up their own criteria of love and it’s a mess.
What’s the solution? You cannot apply Romans 12:9 without looking back to Romans 1-11 to see what Paul through the Holy Spirit has said about love. Romans 1-11 should be the foundation, the atmosphere, and the motivation for Romans 12-16. The doctrine we learned should impact the way we live. What many Christians do is that they think – here’s doctrine and here’s application. First, they focus on doctrine and then set it aside. Next, they focus on application and they fall flat on their face. What you believe should affect how you behave. Your doctrine should affect your lifestyle. If you start applying without referring to doctrine, then verse 9 would read –“love be with hypocrisy.”
On a side note, if your doctrine has not touched your actions, then either your doctrine is faulty or your application is weak. Most of the time our doctrine is right on but our application is missing. As A.W. Tozer (famous pastor and writer) used to say, “You can be straight as a gun barrel theologically and just as empty (and cold and hard) as one spiritually.”
What have we learned about love between Romans 1-11? Here are a few things:
I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE SUPPLIER OF GOD’S LOVE
In Romans 5:5 we have learned that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Meaning: Once I’m saved, I don’t have to dig into my own resources to find love. Whatever I find will be fake, a put on, superficial, selective, and temporary. But the love that the Holy Spirit has poured into my heart is real, genuine, impartial, and lasting.
For e.g. Let’s say that I had to survive in the Alaskan wilderness for a week in the dead of winter. Prior to going into the woods, I was given a backpack with compass, matches, flint knife, flares, tent, canned food, defensive equipment, and everything that I needed to survive. Then I go out into the woods and forget everything and start panicking because I’m cold, hungry, lost, and scared? What would you say? Don’t you have your backpack? Why are you not using those things?
When we come to the Lord, we have our old backpack. But the Holy Spirit gives us a new backpack and He fills it with all that we need for our journey. Sadly, we dig into the old backpack rather than the new.
The Holy Spirit transforms our previously judgmental, critical, negative, condescending eyes into the eyes of love and compassion. The first fruit of the Spirit is Love (Galatians 5:22). Show me a person who is busy finding fault, constantly critical, constantly hateful, and I will show you a person who is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Show me a family that is constantly at each other’s throats and I will show you a family that is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Show me a church that is constantly bickering and fussing and fighting and I will show you a church that is not filled with the Holy Spirit. They may make a lot of noise but it is nothing more than “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” (I Cor. 13:1) But show me a church that loves Jesus, loves each other, and loves the lost and I will show you a church that is full of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Does that mean there will not be any problems? Of course not! But “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (I Pet 4:8)
II. THE CROSS IS THE DEMONSTRATION OF GOD’S LOVE.
In Romans 5:8 we have learned that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Meaning: The sample of what this love looks like has no resemblance on earth. A mother loves her child. That’s wonderful but that’s what mothers do. A soldier gives his life because he loves his country. It’s a great sacrifice but it still does not compare to God’s love. Where do you see God’s love? On the cross. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
For e.g. Ray Stedman tells the story of the man who was walking past a bookstore and he saw a book titled “How to Hug.” It was a thick book. Being the romantic and curious type he went in to buy it. When he opened it was the third volume of an encyclopedia that covered every subject from “How” to “Hug.”
The love that is in our backpack is not love that is selective and partial but it loves those who hate us. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-46 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
People know the real deal. For e.g. I heard the story of the teenager who grew up in a terrible situation and saw her parents abusing each other mentally, emotionally, and physically. Then she gave her heart to Christ. Someone asked her why. She replied that she was waiting for her ride in the church and from the window she saw the youth pastor lovingly walk to his car with his wife. He opened the door for her and gave her a peck on the cheek, all the while unaware that someone was watching them. That’s when I realized that there is such a thing as true love.
III. JESUS CHRIST IS THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S LOVE
In Romans 8:35-38 we have learned that the source of our love never runs dry. What if we face physical problems? Listen to verse 35 onwards – 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
What happens we face physical problems? Some people feel that God is punishing them for something they have done wrong. Remember – God disciplines but never punishes His children. The end result of punishment is penalty and shame but the end result of discipline is growth and blessing.
Are you facing some difficult times in your life? Do you believe that God is punishing you? Do you believe that right now you are out of favor with God? If so, it will affect the way you treat yourself and others. You will look down on self and be hateful about self. Then, you will look down on others and be hateful to them.
But listen to Romans 8:37 onwards, 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When we are secure in God’s love for us, it will show in our relationships – husband/wife, children, neighbors, co-workers, and church family. If you are not secure in God’s love for yourself, you are not in the best state to make decisions. Right now, you need to hold up a sign that says “VOLATILE – CANNOT BE TRUSTED.” “DANGER – INTERACT AT YOUR OWN RISK.” Or “I KNOW BUT I CAN’T LIVE IT.”
I’m not suggesting that we go around hugging everybody but if these truths are in us, what is the conclusion again in Romans 12:9 “Let love be without hypocrisy.” Meaning: It’s not an exhortation or a command but a warning or a reminder.
Where do we begin? What is needed is for us to stop using catch phrases as mantras and start examining our hearts if we are truly living them. It is easy to say –
– I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live…
– I am dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus…
– I do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit…
If right now your life is filled with anxiety, doubt, frustration, and all the rest, you need to step back and take a hard look at each of them. Then ask yourself if you really believe them. Are you walking in the truth?
Let me ask you a few questions:
- Do you believe that the Holy Spirit has poured the love of God into your heart? Are you living right this moment under His direction and authority?
- What is the standard of love that you are using in your life? Anything less than the cross will cause you to hate others.
- Do you say you love God? Then do you also say you hate someone?
- Are you truly secure in God’s love? Is there anything that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus?
Christmas can be a time of sadness, frustration, and contention. It can bring out the worst or the best in us. If you are full of the Holy Spirit, if your heart is set upon Jesus Christ, if you are secure in the promises of God in His Word, what will come forth will be genuine love.