HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson
You know Christmas is here when: it takes you an hour to drive somewhere that normally takes 15 minutes; you can’t find a parking place at the mall; and people who are normally congenial snap at you. This series is to help us have the right attitude, not just during the Christmas season but also in every season of life.
Romans 12:9-13 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: So far we have seen three messages in this series – 1. “How to Have Love Without Hypocrisy.” 2. “How to Hate Evil and Cling to Good.” 3. “How to Outdo Each Other in Showing Honor.” This morning we come to verse 11 and 12– “not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;” On the one hand, that verse seems like quite simple. But, pause and study it carefully and you will see that it is a message we desperately need to hear in America today. The title of this message is How to Stay Ablaze for God. Christianity in America is suffering:
– Not because the gospel is weak (it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes),
– Not because people are more sinful (people are just as sinful today as they were in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah),
– Not because we don’t have the knowledge (we know more today than we ever did before),
– Not because we don’t have the resources (never before has the church had all the literature, technology, and knowhow at its disposal),
– Not because we don’t have the man power (we have more Christians today than any other time in history),
– Not because we don’t have the time (there are still 24 hours in a day),
– Not because we are more persecuted than before (study the early church that had to face the lions)
We try to pass the blame on this, that, and the other. The real problem in America is that most Christians have become anemic, lifeless, and weak. What is needed is the spirit of a Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla, men and women on fire for God.
This morning if the spiritual temperature of our nation troubles you, stop looking to Washington or Hollywood and start looking in the mirror. Are you ablaze for God?
The passage breaks down into three parts:
I. BE ON FIRE FOR GOD.
11 not lagging in diligence, A better translation of that would be “in zeal, do not be lazy.”
Christianity in America is suffering because we have lost the zeal, the fire, the passion, the urgency, the energy, the boldness, and the forthrightness that moved the world for God in previous generations.
Anytime you say that, immediately we think of someone who is pushy and obnoxious, trying to cram the gospel down our throat. No one wants that. That does more harm than good for the kingdom of God. People run when they see you coming. What we are talking about is “being in a spirit of revival.” It’s not that we have the gospel but the gospel has us. We are driven by our convictions regarding the lostness of every human being, the eternal judgment that is waiting in the end, the salvation through Jesus Christ being the only hope for them. The church is not a cruise liner. It is a rescue ship.
For e.g. Many years ago, when I first began in the ministry, I actually prayed to God for convictions. I had seen too many pastors and church people having a good time on a cruise liner while all around them there were people drowning in the water. It didn’t happen overnight but little by little God began to remove the complacency of my heart and replace it with His convictions.
Guess who was instrumental in this? The Holy Spirit. Listen to the next phrase – fervent in spirit, Again a better translation would be “boiling by the Spirit.” In other words, Ask the Holy Spirit to set you on fire. Our zeal for the gospel is not some self-induced passion but the Holy Spirit Himself sets us on fire. What you and I try to light ourselves on fire we fizzle out but when the Holy Spirit lights us up we begin to burn with an incredible unquenchable zeal.
That phrase “boiling by the Spirit” was used of Apollos in Acts 18:25 “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.”
Meaning: Set on fire by the Holy Spirit does not mean that you have all the answers and you have arrived. All is means is that moment and time you are completely under the authority and direction of the Holy Spirit
Any heart that is willing can have the Holy Spirit. He will empower whoever will honor Him.
Application: Many of us are on fire by the wrong spirit.
Now here comes another phrase that is critical for being on fire for God – serving the Lord. My paraphrase would be “with Jesus as Our Master.”
The purpose of the Holy Spirit is never to glorify Himself or you. His purpose is to glorify Jesus. Jesus Himself said in John 16:13-14 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
Now we begin to walk, talk, think, and behave as Jesus. Now when we meet people, they see Jesus in us. There is no place for sin and self.
Robert Murray McCheyne, “Above all things, cultivate your own spirit. A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear and your heart full of God’s Spirit is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin.”
Application: Are you on fire for God? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Are you living every moment to magnify Jesus Christ?
II. BE HOPEFUL AND PATIENT
12 rejoicing in hope,
What is HOPE? There are 2 ways people use the word hope: One, I sure hope it works out. Meaning = I don’t think it will get better; Second, Hope is on its way. Meaning = Don’t give up. There is help coming. It is the expectation of something better to come.
The Holy Spirit is the harbinger of hope. Listen to Romans 5:5 “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Again, Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Show me a person who is hopeless and I will show you a person who is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Anytime I hear I don’t think it’s going to work or I’m afraid it’s not going to work and I see a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit. The problem with our nation and our community is hopelessness. You can talk about hope and you can make hope your campaign slogan but if there is no genuine hope, nothing will happen.
Now someone might say, but you don’t realize how bad it is. Listen to the very next line – patient in tribulation. First the word tribulation refers to pressure to the point of breaking. Why are we surprised? Jesus said in John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation…”
How are we to face tribulation? Be patient. It is not some passive putting up with things but actively standing and enduring.
Someone might say “that’s hard to do.” Listen again to John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Application: Are you rejoicing in hope? Are you patient in the midst of trouble?
III. BE IN CONSTANT PRAYER
continuing steadfastly in prayer; Literally – busy yourself in prayer
Most of us busy ourselves in worry, in doubt, and in complaining.
Our prayer is our communication with the home base.
Stop praying and one by one like dominoes it will all crash. First to go is patience in trouble, next to go is joy, because there is no hope. Then, you are no longer following Jesus, no longer filled with the Spirit, and now you are simply existing with passion and zeal.
E.M. Bounds “Short devotions deplete spiritual vigor, arrest spiritual progress, sap spiritual foundations, blight the root and bloom of spiritual life. They are the prolific source of backsliding, the sure indication of a superficial piety; they deceive, blight, rot the seed, and impoverish the soil.”
In other words, your spiritual life, for practical purposes is dead. You can put up the tree, hang the wreaths, buy the gifts, sing Christmas carols but it doesn’t do anything for you or anybody else.
Application: Did this message describe you? Are you ablaze for God? Or, are you burned out for God?
John Wesley “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.”
Do you know Jesus as your Savior?