Romans Lesson 36: The Spiritual Butterfly Effect :: By Sean Gooding

Chapter 12:9-21 

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. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. 20 Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Last week we compared the transformation that Jesus will do in us once we sacrificially surrender ourselves to that of the caterpillar transforming to the butterfly. One must die for the other to live. The human transformation is a bit more tedious and at times painful. But the process is no different; our old self has to die and the new self, in Jesus, comes to life. Now, in reality, the old self and the new self co-exist for a period of time until we die and then we become the completely new person that God intended. But it is possible to live less and less like the old self.

  • Don’t be two-faced, verse 9 

There is nothing more hurtful than to find that someone you trusted is two-faced. This is what hypocrisy is. It is the art of playing a role depending on who you are with or who you think is watching. Sadly, many Christians feel the need to live two-faced because they are not accepted as they are. Many of the apostles did not get some of Jesus’ teachings until long after the resurrection. They just kept working away. Some, like Peter, had a difficult time understanding Paul’s writings. But one of the things that should mark a Christian is authenticity. What you see is what you get; even the barnacles and flaws. Christians fail all the time.

I saw a devotion yesterday about the High Priests in the OT, and one of the things that the speaker pointed out was how often the High Priest had to offer sacrifices for his own sins. Even as religious leaders, they were sinful and required to offer sacrifices. Often the first sacrifice of the day was for themselves and their sins. One of the most destructive forces in the New Testament church today and forever is that there are too many two-faced people. Letting your guard down and being real may cost you a lot in the short run, but it brings lasting peace and less stress. Now, this does not mean that we are not to be seeking to surrender to the Lord; but don’t act out what you are not.

  • Learn to Hate Evil, verse 9 

Notice that we are called to stop something and then do something. We will never just hate evil and live in a vacuum. We must then learn to love what is good. Take time and read the scriptures, and you will see what God calls evil; these are the things you should hate. Likewise, He calls things good; these are the things we should love and hold on to. It sounds simple, and it is simpler than we make it out to be. Sadly, too many of us are not avid students of the scriptures, and we don’t know what God hates nor what He loves, and so we just float along following the crowd and not making personal convictions and choices based on God’s relationship to us and we to Him.

Take a look at the Ten Commandments to start; what are things that God hates? Idolatry, lying about a neighbor, covetousness, adultery, disobedient and unruly children, stealing, and on we can go. What if we started there and then moved on? As we explore more of Romans chapter 12, we will find some good things that we can cling to and add to our lives.

  • How do you treat your fellow saints? Verse 10-13 

We are called to love each other, serve each other and to humble ourselves around each other. We are called to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are to pray for each other, help each other as we go through the trials of life, and then we are to encourage each other and take responsibility for each other. We are not islands unto ourselves, and we do not live for ourselves. We are a family in Jesus, bought and paid for by His blood, and no one got in any other way. We all stand on equal ground at the foot of the cross. We got here by God’s grace, God’s love, God’s kindness, God’s sacrifice, God’s Holy Word, God’s Holy Spirit convicting us and God’s life given to us. NONE of us earned our way into the family. We are called to honor each other, consider each other and do all we can to not hurt each other.

  • Learn to Absorb hurts, verses 14-20 

I cannot tell you how often I have heard people drop out of the church because they ‘got hurt by someone.’ Sad really. Well, you don’t know what they said to me or did to me. I agree. What have you done to Jesus? And yet, He still loves you and forgives you every day. But He is God. Yes, He is. But we are to be made in His image. Jesus forgave the men who nailed Him to the cross. Stephen, in Acts 7, forgave the men who stoned him to death. Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery and looked out for their best interests and did not hurt them.

Here is a newsflash for you: you are going to get hurt in churches, in families, at your work, amongst your friends and anywhere you go. Part of maturing as a Christian, part of morphing from the caterpillar into the butterfly, is learning to absorb hurts. You will never grow in Jesus until you learn this. Until you learn to forgive without keeping score, you will not begin to look like Jesus. We have too many Christians who wear their feelings on their sleeves and are too touchy. The reality is that if you are that touchy, the Devil will find you everywhere you go. Someone in every church will hurt you. You will just flit from church to church and never grow up and never mature in Jesus. No Pain, No Gain; this is true in Christianity as well.

  • Stop waiting for someone else to be good, verse 17-21 

You live right! Stop holding grudges. Stop wanting to get people back. Stop hurting those that hurt you; often you hurt the ones that did not hurt you. Seek peace with everyone, even your enemies. Do not repay bad behavior with bad behavior. God knows what is going on. He knows that whole story. Maybe, just maybe, God needs you to absorb some pain as a help to a brother or sister. He needs you to show His unconditional love and grace; He needs you to be kind and patient in the midst of hard things so that the person He is trying to reach can see Him in you. You do the right thing proactively. We all want the other guy to do right first. Love the unlovable, serve the ungrateful, be kind to the hurtful and patient with the demanding.

This is some hard stuff, but it is called adult Christianity. We need some of God’s people to put on their big spiritual pants and step up. This is the spiritual butterfly effect; let the old you, the caterpillar die. Let the new you, the butterfly, live and set the example for others. Lead and serve, humble yourselves and step up, stand out and let Jesus live in and through you to the hurt and hurting around you. Let Him teach you how to absorb hurt and forgive others all the time, just like He forgives you and me all the time. This is how we cling to the good.

I leave you with verse 21 once again; be an overcomer and help others be overcomers.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

God bless you,

Dr. Sean Gooding

Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church

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