A Disciple Lives Strange

When we are living the lifestyle of christianity our lives will look strange.

George Wright
Jun 2, 2019    38m
In this sermon Pastor George Wright teaches us that when we are living the lifestyle of christianity, of disciples of Jesus, our lives will look strange to others. Because disciples pray for their enemies, they need community, and the pursue unity with people with different beliefs Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Grab your Bible, we're going to be in Romans chapter 12. We are in the midst of a series walking through Romans chapter 12, and today we'll be in verse 14 and a few verses following. If you don't have a Bible with you, we've got Bibles all over the room today, and we would encourage you to go ahead and grab one of those Bibles so that you can see for yourself what the word of God is saying as we walk through this time. We're in a series that is called Follow Me, it comes straight from Romans 12, and it's all about the life of a Jesus follower. These are characteristics, these are qualities, these are marks of a true Christian according to the word of God. And so this is the evidence in Romans 12, of what what we have seen throughout the book of Romans chapters 1 through 11, of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 00:54 And so in this great chapter of scripture, we are examining the way an individual begins to live in light of the good news of Jesus Christ, and so we'll be again in verse 14. I want to ask you if you're willing and able to stand with me as I read this scripture. All around the room we stand as we read our opening text in the sermon here at Shandon, so that we can be reminded when we gather in the name of Jesus, when we gather as the people of God, we are standing on the authority of God's word. What God says is right and good and true.

George Wright: 01:32 So this is the word of the Lord given to us through the apostle Paul in his divine inspiration, writing to the church in Rome. Verse 14 of Romans 12, "Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associates with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sites. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." This morning as we walk through these verses, the sermon is simply titled, A Disciple Lives Strange. These are some strange characteristics that show up in the life of a Jesus follower, especially compared to the world around us.

George Wright: 02:37 Let's ask God to use this through a word of prayer. Father, as we look to you now, the reading of your word, it is my prayer that you would have your way among us, and that you would use this word to speak into our lives, that we would not be the same as a result of what you say. So we commit this time to you, in Jesus' name I pray. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you for standing

George Wright: 03:11 A Disciple Lives Strange. What we've seen throughout this series in Romans chapter 12 are these beautiful qualities, these characteristics of one whose life has been transformed by the good news of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us that we could never do for ourselves. And the characteristics that we have seen throughout this series, in the first 13 verses, they are certainly characteristics that will cause a life to stand out as different from the world around us. But when we turn to verse 14, and following through to the end of this chapter and next week will be our final week in this series in Romans 12. What we see in these verses today, and next week, is a life that is truly strange, truly different from the world around it. And what we're seeing in Romans 12, actually points to something the apostle Paul wrote in another one of his letters, a letter to the church in Corinth. Second Corinthians chapter 5 verse 17 says this, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come." And this is something that I think if we're honest in the church, we really wrestle with, that we're to be in the world but, we're not to be of the world. We're to be different from the world around us, and the reality is at times it's very difficult to be different. In many ways it is so much easier to just go with the flow, to just blend in, to not stand out. And yet, over and over again what we see when the Bible talks about those who follow Jesus, and specifically what we see here in Romans 12, in these marks of a true Christian. Is if you are living the life of a Jesus follower, you will appear strange to the world. Your life will look different from the world around you. So as we stepped back into these verses this morning, we need to keep that in mind, a disciple lives strange.

George Wright: 05:37 Look back at verse 14, look at the first thing we see of how a disciple live strange, in these verses. "Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them." The way I want to get started here this morning is actually talking about the power of prayer, and what we see in verse 14 is a disciple, prays strange. A disciple prays strange prayers. I mean how crazy does this statement honestly look? Bless those who persecute you. Could there be anything more counterintuitive than this? Bless those who have wronged you. This statement literally means to speak them good, speak good over those who have wronged you, speak good over those who have persecuted you, speak good over those who have hurt you. How in the world can we do this? Well, the disciple lives strange, a disciple prays strange. Certainly some of the most powerful words that we could ever speak are words that are spoken in prayer, because when words are spoken and prayer, they're not just our words. They are our words that are directed to God, and then are filled and empowered by his spirit. And so I believe here in Romans 12, we are being given a lesson in how to pray, how to pray for those who have wronged to us. And this is something that comes straight from the mouth of Jesus.

George Wright: 07:26 In fact, the apostle Paul is quoting Jesus here in Romans chapter 12 verse 14. Let me give you the quote from Matthew chapter 5, this is The Sermon on the Mount. This is the most famous recorded sermon of Jesus that we have in the scripture, Matthew 5, 6, and 7. And in Matthew 5, as Jesus is teaching the crowd he says this, verse 43, "You have heard that it is said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, (Listen to this.) and pray for those who persecute you. So that you may be sons of your father who is in heaven." Can we just all agree this is not normal? This is not normal. This is strange. Pray for those who persecute you, speak them good. That is not a natural reaction, so again, we must be reminded, this is not a command that the Bible has given a group of people who are trying to earn their way to God. If you can just bless those who persecute you, then God will love you. No, that's not what this is about at all. This is about, as we've seen throughout this series, when it's talked about in Romans 1 through 11 which is the good news of the gospel. That it is through grace that you are saved by faith in Christ, it is not a result of of what you have done. It is the good news of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ that we could never do for ourselves. Romans 12 is the response to how one begins to live, based on the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's not about achieving God's love, it is about living out the gift of God's love that has been given to us through his grace and his mercy. Pray for those who persecute you, is evidence of a life that has been changed by Jesus.

George Wright: 09:40 There's tremendous power in praying God's blessing over those who have wronged you. I want to give just a couple of thoughts to this, praying God's blessing over those who have wronged you. What begins to happen when you pray God's blessing over those who have wronged you, well when you begin to do this, praying God's blessing over the persecutor over the one who has wronged you. You are placing the persecutor in God's hands. Think about what normally happens, typically when someone wrongs us, typically when someone hurts us, we begin to to think things like, I will get them back. I will make sure this is made right. I will have my revenge. This is not over, I will make sure that they understand what they have done and they will pay for what they have done. I will hold this against them until it's right. I will. I will. I will. I will. But when we begin to pray that God would actually bless the one who has wronged us, it begins to change the way we are looking at the one who has wronged us. Because it's now not our responsibility, we are placing the responsibility for them in God's hands, because he can handle it. When you pray for the one who has wronged you, you are saying, I know I can't change them, but God, it's possible that you can. You're saying, I know I can't fix this situation, but God, I trust this situation to you. You see more than I see, you know more than I knew. No, I am trusting you with this, and I'm trusting you with them. You're placing the persecutor in God's hands.

George Wright: 11:46 Verse 17, we'll see this in a moment, says, "Repay no one evil for evil." Verse 19, we'll look at this next week says, "Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God." When you pray God's blessing over those who have wronged you, you are placing them in his hands, and you are saying, God, you are in control of this not me, and I am trusting you. That's powerful, there's freedom in it. But secondly, when you begin to pray God's blessings over those who have wronged you, you are also inviting God to change your hearts as you pray. Romans 12 says, "Bless and do not curse them." This is so powerful because instead of cursing them, which is allowing bitterness to to grow in our heart actually impacting our life, we begin to pray for them, which begins to change the way we view the one who has wronged us. Bless those who persecute you. Prayer is a posture of humility. Prayer is saying to God, I need you. I can't do this. Because you are in control, I am trusting you, and this is such a gift for our heart. This is when our heart begins to change through the power of prayer.

George Wright: 13:13 Look at what the apostle Paul writes in Philippians chapter 4. Turn over real quickly to Philippians 4, we'll come right back to Romans. Philippians is just a few pages over to the right from the book of Romans, Philippians chapter 4. This is so helpful as it relates to prayer, specifically prayer of God's blessing over those who have wronged us. Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Verse 7, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Think about how desperately we need this to be true in our lives when someone has wronged us. I think about some situations in my life where some people have wronged me, and for a time it becomes all I can think about. It consumes us. And as it begins to consume us, it leads to that that root of bitterness that begins to poison our life. And here's what happens, when bitterness begins to poison your life, anxiety begins to creep in and become your reality. Not only are you anxious about what's already been done, but you're anxious about everything that's going to happen. You become anxious about the next person that's going to wrong you. You start to predict this terrible future based on the way you are wrong in the past, and anxiety becomes your norm. And the scripture is saying, just stop for a moment, stop for a moment and hit your knees and begin to pray. And as you pray, your heart begins to change as you are reminded of how much you need God, and what he has done for you. And all of the sudden, over some time as you pray, anxiety starts to be replaced with peace. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding begins to guard our heart, and guard our mind. The scripture is saying here, if you will bless instead of curse, it will radically change your heart. And the peace of God will guard your heart and your thoughts. Pray for those who persecute you. Pray God's blessing over those who wrong you, it will guard your heart and mind.

George Wright: 16:00 But finally, before we move on, when you pray God's blessings over someone who has wronged you, you are responding like Jesus. Think about the beauty of this, if you look to the cross. Luke chapter 23, it says this, "When they came to a place that is called The Skull," That's where Jesus was crucified. The scripture says, "They crucified him and the criminals, one on his rights, one on his left. And then Jesus said to them, (To the persecutors, to the ones wronging him, to the ones killing him. "Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Do you realize that this is the prayer that Jesus on the cross was praying for you and for me, praying for those whose sin was persecuting him? Father, forgive them. A follower of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus follows in his footsteps, praying for those who have wronged us as Jesus prayed for us.

George Wright: 17:32 Well, let's go back to Romans 12, we see a disciple prays strange. Secondly, in Romans 12 verse 15 and 16 we see a disciple needs community. And you may think, well that's not strange, everybody needs community. But here's why it's strange, because in the in the world we live in today more and more we are living in a world where people are isolated. Totally removed and cut off from everyone else, even though on the surface it appears we're more connected than ever. We are now, so many of us, more isolated than any other time in the history of the world. A disciple needs community. Verse 15 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." Why do I bring up community and talk about how isolated so many of us are? Is this, because when we are isolated, we so often begin to grow in jealousy and envy of others. And we live in a culture that is just absolutely being ransacked by jealousy and envy.

George Wright: 18:45 You've heard me talk on many occasions about social media, and you probably are beginning to gather where I stand on social media. I'll just go ahead and tell you, not a fan. All right? I know there's some good things that can happen, but so often through social media for so many of us, it gets dark really quick. It gets dark really, really quick. And for so many who are now living in isolation, more isolation than ever before, only connected to people on social media. There is this envy effect that is beginning to ravage hearts and minds. There's all kinds of research being done around this. It's a psychological phenomenon that is hitting our culture, that many are just totally unprepared to know how to deal with, and so psychologists all around the world are studying what is the true effect of social media on our minds. I read an interesting article recently that was titled this, How Social Media Is Making You Feel Bad About Yourself Every Day, isn't that a positive title to an article? So go get on Facebook this afternoon, How Social Media Is Making You Feel Bad About Yourself Every Day. And the author J. Hill quoted this study at the university of Copenhagen and he said this, "We start to feel envious when we compare our everyday lives with other people's highlight reel." Let me start at square one, do you realize social media is not real life? It's just the highlights, right? And we start to envy the highlight reel of other people, because we see the whole story in our lives, and their highlights look way better than our whole story. And he says, "When you fall into the trap of comparing your private self, with other people's public personas, you are bound to feel and fear." Here's why I bring this up. When envy grows in our lives, we cannot rejoice with those who rejoice. Instead of looking at the postings and saying, man, in that beautiful, the Memorial day weekend, they are in The Bahamas and I am in Columbia, South Carolina. Isn't that amazing? So we look on social media and we're like, I hate that person. Why did they get to go, and I don't? When envy starts to grow, we lose all capacity to rejoice with others. And then even worse, when jealousy and envy starts to grow, we lose capacity to join others in the midst of their pain.

George Wright: 21:41 We get so wrapped up in our own world and our own life, that we cannot join someone in the midst of their emotional distress or in the midst of their difficulty or their mourning. And yet, we've been given this beautiful picture in Romans 12 of Christian community. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Why? Because we're all in this together is what the scripture is reminding us. We need one another. We need community. We are connected to each other as a body.

George Wright: 22:20 First Corinthians 12:26 says this, "If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honored, all rejoice together." Isn't that a beautiful picture of the body of Christ? And this is what we had been invited into as a disciple of Christ. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have been invited into this community. Don't lose sight of that. We need community, a community that is different from the world around us, a community that is willing to rejoice when we rejoice, and weep when we weep.

George Wright: 23:01 Verse 16 it says, "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly." This is also pointing us to community, and this is asking us to consider how we view our relationships. Do you look at people seeking to use them to get what you want, or are you seeking to serve others? Do you look at people and their position and begin to try and jockey and move to get around people who can advance your cause, or your agenda, while neglecting those who seem unimportant to you, or are you seeking to view everyone as significant and important? This is really pointing us back to verse 13 of Romans 12, we talked about this last week, seek to show hospitality. That literally means seek to show love to strangers. That is something we're seeking to take very seriously here at Shandon. Gospel hospitality is something we talk about often, it is one of our priorities. We want to do everything we can to remove barriers to invite others in to experience the good news of who God is, and what he has done through Jesus Christ our Lord.

George Wright: 24:19 We've got many examples of how this is being played out at Shandon, but I want to share one with you that I got the opportunity to come across this week. This comes from one of our college students, and we've got a really neat thing happening among our college students right now where we have a group of students that are joining our team at Shandon College as
students staffers. We have six college students that will be serving as student staff, they are volunteers, but they are leading and serving as if they were a part of the staff team here at Shandon. And so going through the application process, we had a a group of students that were applying for these student staff positions in Shandon College. And part of the application was write your own job description based on your passion, and based on what you see as an opportunity that God has provided Shandon College to advance the mission. And so that's what I wanted to share, a portion of a job description that was written by one of our own here at Shandon, Rachel Woody, who's going to be a senior at USC. And this is just absolutely beautiful, what Rachel wrote as part of her job description is someone who has a hand in Shandon College's hospitality team. "I want to take the success we have had, and revamp it into something that stretches across the entire ministry. I would like to take the hospitality team, and turn it into a care team. Hospitality is loving strangers. For some, it is viewed as either a cop out or something that is viewed as below them, but I see it as something that is far from either of those definitions. Hospitality is closing the gap between our ministry and those who need us." What a great statement. "It's one of the best uses of our time, and I want to make sure that we as leaders take it seriously. So that we may set an example for those who know us and those who do not." Is that not beautiful? Yeah, absolutely, it's incredible. I can assure you, I was not writing things like that when I was a college student, that's amazing. I'm so thankful for this example that Rachel has provided, because this is a reminder of the beauty of community, we need one another. But it's also the reminder of this opportunity that God has given us through community to impact the world around us.

George Wright: 26:54 A disciple needs community that looks different from the world, so that through community we can live out the mission together. And that leads me to our final thought for today from Romans 12:17-18, a disciple pursues unity in the body of Christ, a disciple pursues unity. It says this, verse 17, "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Now I want you to know I struggled with number three, what was I going to call this third point from today's text? And the reason why I struggled, is because we've already talked about unity in this series on Romans 12. But the more I studied, and the more I pressed into this, I said, I've got to be true to the text. And yes, we've already talked about unity, it's talked about on more than one occasion, but it is of the utmost importance so that we can recognize what God is really calling his church to be about. We are to stand out in unity in a way that is strange to the world around us, united on the word of God, united on the good news of Jesus Christ, united in the mission of God, and known more for what we are for than what we are against. And that's strange in today's world, "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all." This is calling the people of God, the followers of Jesus, the disciples of Christ to live above reproach. This is saying those who are followers of Jesus are to take the high road, and to remember there is something that is bigger, a bigger purpose at work through us together, then just what's happening to me individually. When people wrong us, we have an opportunity, a God given opportunity to respond in a way that is very different from the world and is honorable in the sight of all.

George Wright: 29:21 And we are called to pursue peace and I love the way the scripture says this, "If possible." It's realistic, it knows you have some crazy uncles out there, it knows you have some neighbors that are really tough to be at peace with, it knows that there are some who have wronged you tremendously. But here's what it says. If possible, don't miss this, do what you can do. So far as it depends on you, you will not be at peace with everyone, but you are called to do your part in every circumstance. It may not lead to peace because you can't control the other person's actions, but you can do what you can do. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all. You can take the first step. You can pursue peace. Now I know this may come as a total shock to some of you, but in our family in the Wright household of four children, there are many days that appear to be absent of peace. Are you surprised by that? There are days full of arguing, there are days full of fighting, there are days full of bad attitudes many of those days. And so I've got a statement that I say to our kids, I probably have said it over a thousand times since we've had kids that were of the age to even listen. This is the statement that I go to over and over again. Your attitude is your responsibility. It's quoted from an amazingly wise father. That's for my four kids to see. Your attitude is your responsibility. Look, I know that your brother is annoying, but you get to choose how you respond. I know that your sister took something out of your room, but you get to choose how you respond. Your attitude is your responsibility. And it's as if the scripture is saying to us, as we wrap this up today, church, church, your attitude is your responsibility. I know you've been wronged, I know you don't always get your way, I know there's some things that have happened that that you didn't want, that you didn't expect. I know there's been some very painful things that you have endured. Your attitude is your responsibility, and you can pursue peace. You cannot create peace in every situation, but you can pursue peace. You see, the pursuit of peace, the pursuit of Christian unity. , it's not a passive posture where we sit around and wait for someone else to take the first step towards reconciliation. No, the Christian posture of unity is an active posture, pursuing unity, stepping out on faith, seeking peace with all. You can do your part. This is the approach that follows in the footsteps of Jesus who stepped out of heaven to pursue us in his love and grace.

George Wright: 33:04 And want to end with Romans 5 verses 6 through 8, we'll end right here, this is where we land the plane. Flip over to the left, one or two pages to Romans 5, it says, "For while we were still weak..." Think about this, think about why unity is so important, think about why peace is so important. Especially in the family of God, among the people of God, "For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly." For one will scarcely die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person, one would dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus took the first step. Do you see that? He's not sitting back passively going, well, if they get it all together, then maybe I'll go show him some love. No, Jesus sees us in our weakness, Jesus sees us in our sin, Jesus sees us as we wrong him, and he says, father, forgive them, they know not what they do. And while they're still sinners, I will die for them. That is the true gift of peace that comes when we trust in Jesus Christ, that we know there is a God who pursues us with his love. He doesn't leave us in our weakness, he doesn't leave us in our sin, in our shame. He doesn't wait for us to take a first step, he comes to us, before we even know there's a step to take. And as a follower of Jesus Christ, if you are seeking to live the life of a Jesus follower, you have been invited to follow in those footsteps if possible so far as it depends on you do what you can do. Pursue peace, fight for Christian unity, recognize your need for community to be connected one to another, and pray like you've never prayed before. Pray some strange prayers that God would bless those even who have persecuted you, that the good news of His gospel might be seen in their lives, and that your faith would grow as you trust him in your time of need.

George Wright: 35:57 Let me close us in a word of prayer. And if you're here today recognizing you have never experienced peace with God in a personal way, we'd like to invite you today to a relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship that can begin even now as you say, Jesus, I need you. I've been trying to do it my own way, but I'm ready to follow you, I'm ready to trust you for the gift of salvation. Forgive me of my sin, I'm ready to follow after you. That is where you will find peace with God.

George Wright: 36:35 To that end, let me have a word of prayer for us as we close our time. Father, we thank you, we thank you for what you have laid before us in your word this day. And I pray, Lord, that you would take your word, and you would implant it in our heart and in our mind. That we would live out what we say we believe for those who are followers of Jesus, that we would live out what we say we believe, that we would live the life of a Jesus follower that points the world to the good news of love and grace that we have received through Christ. And Lord, I pray for those who are with us today, and those who are joining us online, who have never experienced a personal relationship with Jesus. Those who are searching for peace, those who are longing for peace. I pray, Lord God, that they would recognize even now in the power of your spirit as you pursue them, that your love and grace has been made available to them through the gift of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. That their sin has been forgiven through the power of his resurrection. And I pray, Lord, that they would recognize if they trust in you as savior and Lord, they can experience peace with God. So Lord, give them the faith to believe, the faith to say, Jesus, I need you, Jesus, I'm ready to follow you, Jesus, forgive me. I am placing my life in your hands. Oh, how we praise you for the gift of salvation, and we pray, Lord God, that you would use us as your people to share this good news with as many as possible. Thank you for what you've laid before us in your kindness and grace. It's in Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206