The ultimate test of success and the ultimate test of spiritual maturity of becoming what he commanded, make disciples, is that I love God more deeply and authentically each day and I love others more sincerely and more practically in ways they can understand.
The Apostle Paul again, then takes what Jesus said, that very simple thing. And then in Romans chapter 12 he says, let me show you what it looks like to love God, verses 1 and 2.
Let me show you what it looks like to love others as yourself, verses 3 through the end of the chapter.
And so, why we talk about an R12 Christian here? It’s not some standard. It’s what the love of God produces in relationship. And so the profile of a disciple is verse 1 of chapter 12 of Romans. You’re surrendered to God.
Verse 2, is this. We are not conformed to this world. So we step away. And we’re transformed by the renewing of our mind that our actual lifestyle would prove or demonstrate what God’s will is.
Verse 3 is, we get a sober self-assessment. We don’t think too highly of our self or either too low. We think of ourselves accurately, clearly. Our role in the body, verse 4 and 5. Our gifts operational, verses 6 through 8.
And then in verses 9 through 13, we’re surrendered to God, yes. We’re separate from the world’s values, we’re sober in self-assessment. And then in verses 9 through 13, we’re serving in love.
We’re actually doing life with each other. We don’t come to an event called church or even to a small group. We let love be without hypocrisy. We abhor what is evil. We cling to what is good. We’re devoted to each other with brotherly love.
We give preference to each other in honor. We lay our lives out for one another. We love each other in such a way that people outside can’t understand. It’s not an organization. It’s a living organism of people connected to God and connected to each other who serve each other.
And then verse 14 to 21, we’re supernaturally responding to evil with good. So when our enemies need food, we feed them and when they want a drink, we give them something to drink and when we’re harmed, we don’t take our own revenge but we overcome evil with good.
So, do you get it? It’s real simple. Spiritual simplicity. Love God, love others. What’s spiritual simplicity look like? An R12 Christian. Well, how do you practice that?
I mean, how do you operationalize becoming an R12 Christian that’s surrendered to God and separate from the world’s values and has a sober self-assessment and is serving in love and supernaturally responding to evil with good?
What practices actually have to happen? Because an R12 Christian is what you are to be. The three practices are what you are to do in dependency and faith so God gives you the grace to become what he wants you to become.
And we use the acronym BIO, and you see it around here, because it’s about life. It’s not about religion. It’s not about duty. And so, our goal, you will never become an R12 Christian, nor will I, unless on a daily basis you’re in God’s word, surrendered to him.
What it means to be surrendered is, on a certain day, at a certain time you say, God I’m all in. But it’s not just a decision. Then you say, that means whatever you say in your word about anything, I will obey it.
I’m gonna obey it when it looks like a great deal. I’m gonna obey it when I’m thinking, oh God, surely. I don’t want to do this. But by faith I’m going to believe that if you say it in your word, I guess handling my money this way will keep me out of debt.
Well, I guess doing relationships this way, will not only stop sexually transmitted diseases but I’ll probably stay married to the same person for a long time. And I guess if raising my kids this way, it’ll create…
But you say, that’s hard. No, no, no it’s not hard. It’s impossible. I can’t do this. You can’t do this.
But the word of God, as you talk with God, in the context of God people, gives you grace. Grace is the want to and the will to and power to do God’s will. And so, we’re asking and trying to create ways where you can be before God.
And I don’t mean just having a devotional life. I mean, be before God daily. You experience his presence, you talk with him in the car. You utter quick prayers before meetings.
You’re mad and you’re angry, oh God, will you help me with this? It’s this living reality. You don’t live for yourself. You’re living with him and for him. And then you’re before him regularly on a weekend where you worship and have instruction and say, God, I want to join with the family. And so, that’s a practice. It’s a discipline.
The second is to live in community. And to be in community is not joining a small group. You need to be in a small group but community is when the real you meets real needs for the right reason in the right way.
It’s when you take off your mask and I take off my mask. It’s when you have a need or someone has a need and you spend some money you don’t have or you give some time that you don’t have to really help someone and then God goes, whooooh, and you experience his grace.
And the “O” for life of BIO is you’re on mission. You’re on mission at 24 Hour Fitness, you’re on mission at the job, you’re on mission when you’re just walking in the neighborhood. You’re on mission when you’re at Home Depot, you’re on mission when you’re at Target. You’re on mission when there’s a crisis at your house.
You are on mission asking the Spirit of God to give you the wisdom to know what it looks like to serve and to reach out and to be a minister of reconciliation as an ambassador from heaven.
Now does this make sense? This is not, you know, rocket science. This is not overly difficult. This is the game plan that’s aligned in scripture for you to be on the love train.
Now, there’s some processes that I’ve observed over the years. I don’t have a verse for these and so you can weigh these but there’s three things I’ve seen over the years that ignite life change.
The first one is, and I’ve got a lot of demographics and a lot of actual content on this one. We began to teach Romans 12:1 and the R12 series about four or five years ago on the radio. And, by far, eighty five percent of all the feedback, thousands and thousands of emails.
People saying, I’ve been a Christian ten years, five years, seven years, three years, and I don’t know what happened. I’ve never heard about surrender. I prayed today to be all in and then the testimonies go on, and they start talking about radical life change.
Restoration in marriages, alignment with God’s will, restoration of finances. In other words, the action doesn’t really happen until you, on a certain day at a certain time, come to the actual reality that there’s a ladder or something you’re dependant on that is not the lordship of Jesus Christ and you get down and you surrender.
When that happens, things begin to occur in people’s lives. Radical things occur. Now, you’ll notice, I want to connect the phobia with the reason people don’t do that [be all in] is fear of the future.
Okay? Let’s just get this all out in one good session together. The reason people don’t go all in is, “I’m afraid if I go all in, if I’m married, I won’t be married”. “I’m afraid if I go all in, I got some money now and I may not have some money”.
Because the issue is control. The issue is, I have to be in control because I know what outcomes are best for me and this all-knowing, all-powerful God that died on a cross, was risen from the dead, and loves me. I mean, what’s he know?
See, it’s not logical, is it? But, I mean, I will just tell you, the Pew Research, the Gallup Research, and the Barna Research that we instituted, the last one, nine out of ten Christians in America are not all in.
If you’re not all in, there’s no power. It’s just like, yeah, you know I can be in. There’s no flow. You’re not compelled by the love of Christ. You’re not living for him, you’re living for you.
And by, you know, I’ve been there, done that. It doesn’t work. But it’s the fear of the future. And until you can say, that’s why Psalm 84:11 is like, this verse that I just harp on all the time.
It says, the Lord God is a sun and a shield. The Lord gives grace and glory. No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
That was, for me, okay. I’m gonna get the best by surrendering. Have you done that?
See, you can, you can read the Bible a little bit, be involved in, you can do all kind of things to avoid that. You will never experience the power of God and the life change ignites it.
The second process is in this area of, in community. And it’s the fear of rejection. I’ve watched this happen, I’ve been in hundreds of small groups in the last twenty-five or thirty years.
And I’ve been in small groups where nothing happens. I’ve been in small groups where we talk about the Bible a little bit and everyone stays sort of superficial. Then you eat a little bit and it’s okay and it’s social and it’s nice and you learn a little bit. It’s not the will of God.
But here’s what happens. Every small group that becomes authentic community, someone has some courage. And maybe you divide up in groups sometimes and it’s the men over here and the women over here or maybe it’s together. And someone does something like this. I feel a little bit safer here and I’ve not shared this ugly part of me before. And it’s vulnerability.
And they share something that’s really real that if they get shut down, they’ll probably put it back and may never take it out again.
But at some point in time there’s this step of faith. The first, you surrender your will. Here, you surrender your image. And you let people see who you really are and this step of vulnerability and then what, I’ve watched it happen hundreds of times.
And what they assume would be met with rejection, is met with people that look and say, wow, you struggle with that too? Yeah. And you just watch the group change.
So the igniting event is when you share and you take that step where you’re in, but then you step up. But the fear is rejection. As long as you never want to be rejected, just go on record and know you’ll also never be loved. Never be loved.
Because all you’re doing and all I’m, and we all do it. We all have these defense mechanisms. I always put forth what I want people to think I am and if they love that, that’s great I guess, except it’s not me.
Because I got some good stuff but I got some bad stuff. I got some ugly stuff. I got some motives I don’t like. I have some really bad days. I have some issues I’m wrestling with. When I can put those out there and a group of people looks me in the eye and loves me, I experience the love of Christ and healing takes place. Healing takes place.
Confess your sins to one another that you might be healed, James says.
And then finally, in terms of, the third igniting process and this is like yesterday to me. I’ll never forget, I was a Christian about two and a half years. I’ll never forget the first person I ever led to Christ. I did it very poorly. I said it very slowly. And at the end, the guy says, can I receive Christ right now?
I mean, where’s Billy Graham when you need him? Yeah…well how do I do it? Uh, let’s pray together. Oh God, what do I do, what do I do, what do I do, what do I do, what do I do? And I prayed a very bad prayer for him to pray that he prayed.
And it was real and that guy’s life changed. Here’s the deal. When you risk failure and you step out with your gifts and you step out and serve and supernaturally you become the conduit of the grace of God in you and then through you.
And maybe they come to Christ or maybe their marriage turns around or maybe they were super depressed. Whatever it is, you actually realize, it was like electricity going through your body. Ooooh, this is God, this isn’t me, it went out, it did something.
When that happens, it’s wonderfully addicting. And you’ll take risks like never before. About seven out of ten Christians in America have never led anyone to Christ.
In most churches, eighty percent of the people are watching twenty percent of the people work very hard to make an organization move forward.
As you turn to the back page, I just have a little application thought that I think will be very helpful for us. It says, a call to all. Would you just write the word, an invitation to all.
There are times it doesn’t happen; maybe sometimes at the end of a series or some times when I’m praying. But I will just tell you, if I could humanly figure out how to sit across from every person in this room over a cup of coffee and hear about an hour of your spiritual journey and what’s going on and what are the barriers?
I would just plead with you about getting before God and getting in community and getting on mission and facing those fears. I would just want to say, you know something? I have so struggled with all of that and I’ve been a pastor for twenty-five, twenty-eight years.
And every time I watch people take that step of faith through those things, amazing things happen. And they’re not easy. But amazing things happen.
And here’s the invitation. What you need to hear is, you and I will constantly be looking for love in all the wrong places unless you hear Jesus say today and respond, hey, come to me. All of you that are heavy laden. That’s old words for stressed out and overcommitted, and I will give you rest.
And then it goes on to say. Take my yoke upon you. It was a picture of you know, the two oxen. And a yoke connects them. And where this one goes, this one goes. It’s really a different way to say surrender.
Do life my way. Decide and pre-decide that whatever this book says about how to do relationships or decisions, that’s how you’re gonna do it. For I’m meek and lowly in heart. In other words, I’m not pushy. I’ve got your best, and you’ll find rest for your souls.
See, the picture last week about experiencing and exporting God’s love. It really was, in all different places. Some of you are here today and, you know, you’re just like me and everybody else. You’ve tried different ways to make yourself, I am somebody now! I am significant, look at me! Look what I own! Look how I dress! Look what I’ve done! Look where my kids go to college! Look how pretty I am! Look at my muscles!
And those things, at some point in time, you just realize, you know something? What I need is to be loved for me. Not for how I look, not for what I’ve done. And in a moment of time you actually, you stop and you just say, Lord, I’m tired of trying. I surrender. And I am afraid.
And as you contemplate that, for some especially, you realize, you know, I can’t do that because I know I’m living with this person or I know that I can’t keep this activity or I know that the outrageous temper that I have behind closed doors or I know that my lack of…
And God says, okay, well step away from the things and the people and the media that pull you away from me and step into the light.
So he says, step down. Then step away. And he says, now renew your mind. You gotta get in your head and your heart, you are what you eat. You are what you think.
And then, since it’s impossible to do by yourself, he says, I want you to find a group of people, you know it might be a group of guys, might be a group of couples, might be a group of women. And just do life. Don’t have a Bible study.
And at some point in time, at the right time, maybe in the group or maybe just one or two that you really trust, share a part of you that you’re convinced if anyone ever knew it, they would reject it.
And watch where the love of God will get manifested in a way where you can say, you know, I wish I was making more at my job and I wish our marriage was a nine or a ten instead of a six and a half. But I’m on a journey and my kids aren’t perfect and I got struggles. But God loves me. And I’m learning how to love other people. And I don’t think anybody has it together.
And out of that you step up and you begin to let people see who you really are and what’s amazing is, it’s the most beautiful, dynamic, wonderful person because that’s who God made.
You don’t need to look like anyone else. You don’t need to have this or have that. If God gives you stuff, great! You’re a steward.
And then, you step out. And you say, you know something? I gotta get my focus off me. I don’t want to live for me. I want to be on mission and I want to discover what God made me to do. He’s got a plan for you.
You know, most everyone in this room, you’re exactly where you’re at today because there was some series of decisions that you made. Made a decision to go to this school and you made a decision to have kids or to marry someone or not to marry someone. Or, you made a decision to get up and come here.
There’s more to life than making decisions but every pivotal moment begins with a decision. And I would just wonder and I know I can’t do it. But I so want you to have it.
I wonder what would happen if every person in the room that knew today, I need to step down and surrender. If today, you did it.
And for others, you said, I need to step away. You know, I’m gonna break up with that girl or break up with that guy or I’m gonna get help with that addiction or…
And for others, you stepped in and maybe it’s a ministry team or a small group or maybe you’re in one and you step up. And for others you, realize, man, I’m pretty mature and I’m soaking and sitting and I need to get my gifts in the game.