“Will You Leave Everything Behind for Me?”

Cost of Discipleship, Anawangin beach, sunset, boat, uncontainablemusings.com, uncontainablemusings, unconventional calling, leaving everything behind

“Will you really leave everything behind for Me?”

I was excited to begin God’s task for me. I woke up early and thought of my schedule for the day as I prepared my breakfast. I had organized the previous night things I needed to research, study and plan.

But the Lord was not yet done speaking. He brought to my mind people in our local church who left their profession to serve in full-time ministry. Then there were the apostles who also left their profession to follow Jesus and became fishers of men.

As I pondered on their example, Jesus lovingly asked, “Will you really leave everything behind for Me?”

For the past years, He has been preparing me to leave one possession at a time. And now only one thing is left.

I went back to my room and read the calling of the first disciples.

 

“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

In John 1:35-51, we see the early encounters of Jesus with a few of the apostles. While the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are similar. This was when Jesus called them to full-time ministry. I focused my study on Luke because of his detailed account.

Luke 5:1-11

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken,10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.

The Lake of Gennesaret is also known as the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18), and the Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1). It’s a large, freshwater lake about 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, and about 690 ft. below sea level, making it the lowest body of freshwater on earth. It was home to a thriving fishing industry. Many events in Jesus’ earthly life and ministry took place in the region of Galilee and areas surrounding the Sea of Galilee.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke 4, He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, cast out evil spirits and healed many including Simon’s mother-in-law. And all the people were amazed by His authority and power.

So it wasn’t the first time the people heard Him preach about the Kingdom of God. And it wasn’t the first time for the apostles either. Jesus’ early encounters with Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael was recorded in John 1:35-51. Then we see in Luke 4:38-39, Jesus went to the home of Simon (who is also Peter) where he healed Simon’s mother-in-law who was suffering from a high fever. They called Jesus as Teacher and were still getting to know more about Him.

Jesus saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. To keep the people from crowding him, He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat. He did the same in Matthew 13:2Mark 3:94:1.

Much of their fishing was done at night (John 21:3). Then at daytime, they would work on their equipment, mend and wash their nets to prepare them following night. So this event happened in the morning after a night of fishing.

When Jesus had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

These experienced fishermen worked hard all night but didn’t catch any fish. Now they were calling it a day and were washing their nets. Then Jesus, a carpenter who may not have any experience in fishing, tells Simon, an experienced fisherman, to set out to fish. To which Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything…” If they caught nothing the previous night, which was the best time to fish, then chances of catching anything during the day would even be smaller. There’s no point fishing in the daytime. And there’s no point fishing around that area because they already did everything they could all night and caught nothing. They knew their job, they had been doing it all their life. This didn’t make sense to Simon.

Nevertheless, he continued: “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Though it didn’t make sense, Simon obeyed because Jesus said so. He had heard news about Jesus, had encountered Him prior to this, had heard Him preach, had seen His miracle done in his own home, and from Teacher he now calls Him Master. He was seeing and knowing more and more who Jesus is.

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

How small were their boats that they couldn’t hold a large number of fish and they began to sink? And how small and delicate were their fishing nets that they began to break with that large catch?

We have to remember that fishing was their trade. In Mark 1:20, Zebedee, the father of James and John, had hired men which indicates that his fishing business was a prosperous one. This also means the size of the boat could hold Zebedee, James, John, their hired men, their fishing equipment plus the fish they’d catch which would be placed in the boat. We can also read throughout the Gospels that there were times Jesus and His 12 apostles were in a boat. That’s at least 13 people plus maybe some crew that runs the boat. So we can conclude that their boats were fairly large.

We also need to consider that fishermen in that area knew what the normal catch would be, what a good catch or even a great catch would be. And they had designed usually capable nets and boats that would be able to handle the amount of catch they’d get in the Sea of Galilee.

And when they had done what Jesus told them to do, an incredible result happened: they enclosed an enormous quantity of fish that the nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help, then they filled both boats so full that they began to sink. The catch was so massive that it literally went beyond anything they had ever anticipated because their nets couldn’t contain it and their boats couldn’t hold it.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

They were all astonished. This was beyond anything they had ever experienced. There was no other explanation except that it was an expression of divine power.

Notice Peter’s response. First, he fell at Jesus’ knees and called Him Lord. He knew now that Jesus is God. Second, understanding that truth led him to recognize his sinfulness. When we see God for who He is (holy) we see ourselves for who we are (sinful).

Why did Peter say: “Go away from me, Lord?” Jesus’ reply to him: “Don’t be afraid” shows Peter was terrified. He knew he was a sinful man standing before a Holy God. He was afraid for his life. It was the terror of being in the presence of holy God and being on the brink of divine judgment.

God is holy. Holy means separation from everything that is sinful. God is without sin and is separate from sin. When man sinned against God we became separated from God. We know that all of us have sinned. Whether minor or grave sin, the point is we have sinned. The Bible says: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)

The wages (fitting compensation) of sin is death. This death refers to spiritual death which means when we die we would be forever separated from God and forever experience His judgment against our sins. What would become of us then? We either be forever separated from God or someone holy sacrifice himself as payment for our sins instead.

And that’s exactly what God did because of His great love for us. He made a way. He whom we have offended made a way. God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a holy life and sacrificed Himself as payment for our sins that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Through God’s grace, we can be made holy and be reconciled back to God not because of ourselves but because of Jesus’ holiness. When we repent of our sins and turn to Jesus we can be saved. This is the Jesus that Simon Peter and the other apostles were talking to: Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. God Himself in human flesh calling them to follow Him.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

In the terror of this moment, Peter wants to send the Lord away, but the Lord wants to pull Peter closer. What from Peter’s viewpoint is so frightening that he wants to run is so encouraging to the Lord that He wants to embrace Peter. At the very point at which the sinner feels the most alienation is the point at which the Savior is seeking reconciliation. And here was Peter and his two buddies, James and John, wanting to run when Jesus wanted to embrace them, wanting alienation when Jesus sought reconciliation.  This is the glorious moment of their repentance. Jesus showed His divine mercy and love. –MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Characteristics of Jesus’ Divinity, Part 2”. Grace To You.

This also shows evangelism was the primary purpose for which Jesus called the apostles, and it remains the central mission for His people (Matthew 28:19-20Acts 1:8). Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross to save us from our sins and reconcile us back to God. Those who have been reconciled to God through Christ have been given this task of reconciling people to Him. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

It should’ve been enough that He spoke and it was the voice of God. It should’ve been enough for them to know who Jesus is with His teachings and miraculous signs but He did more. After He finished His message, He wanted to demonstrate who He is. He wanted Simon Peter, James and John to come to the full understanding of who He is. Because it was time to bring Peter to full commitment. It was time to call them to full commitment.

Following Jesus means making Him our top priority, it means giving our full commitment and devotion, it means loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Following Jesus may require us to leave everything just like what He required the apostles to which they wholeheartedly and joyfully obeyed.

 

“Because You say so, I will.”

In the same way that Jesus’ instruction to Peter didn’t make sense, Jesus instruction to me also doesn’t make any sense: leave my job to pursue work without income for Jesus. So how on earth can I provide for myself? It’s ridiculous! Unreasonable. Yes, but only to shortsighted people like me.

And that’s the beauty of it! God’s power displayed in the seemingly absurd circumstance. Not blind faith but faith anchored on His promises and affirmations through the Bible. This clarity yet absurdity of God’s leading makes me more excited to witness what He is doing, to be in awe of His power and glory, to see more of His work, and to know Him more and more.

If you’ve read all the previous posts about this “Unconventional Calling”  series, you may have noticed that it only revolved around my work, family, and writing for God. For an absurd instruction such as this, I asked the Lord to affirm me many times so I can stand firm on His Word and not be swayed by worldly perspective, or be shaken by opposition, difficulty, discouragement or whatever circumstance I may find myself in. This 6-part story series is evidence of God’s faithfulness in answering that prayer. He gave me more than enough affirmations so I can be resolute and not be moved, so I can be fixed on His promises and continue on this path He prepared for me.

It should’ve been enough that Jesus spoke and clarified His leading to me. It should’ve been enough for Him to realign my priorities. It should’ve been enough that He taught me the cost of following Him and the things I needed to give up. These should’ve been enough for me to understand, respond in obedience and stand firm. But He did more. After He finished teaching, He wanted to demonstrate His intimate love for me.

The calling of the first disciples has become an intimate and special message of God for me. It was as if Jesus was telling me those same words He told the apostles:

  • “Will you really leave everything behind for Me?”
  • “It was time to bring (Olivia) to full commitment.”
  • “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”
  • “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

“Is this the calling?” I laughed asking both myself and the Lord. By calling I mean the call to ministry. I thought only pastors and missionaries are called to ministry or maybe also those working full-time in a local church. And I’m certain I’m not meant for any of those. So it never occurred to me that Jesus would call me this way.

I remember the first time I volunteered in a ministry, I only wanted to help in any way I can. Then a few years later, God placed in my heart to pray for this: to be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work (2 Timothy 2:21). I only want to be useful for the Lord. But I never thought He would commission me this way. Why would He call someone like me?

“Father, this mandate is for every believer. I shouldn’t even be reminded of it because it’s expected. But who am I that You would call me to Yourself, intimately speak to me, and personally commission me to proclaim the Gospel just like You did with the apostles? It’s not like a king would personally seek out a beggar to appoint him regarding a public edict. But You did. How intimate can You be? How unfathomable is Your love? Who am I, Lord, that You would call me into ministry this way? I don’t know what to say to You. I’m unworthy to serve You. I’m unworthy to have You. I’m unworthy to even stand before Your presence. But even in my unworthiness, who am I to resist Your call? What else can I say to You? Yes, Lord, I will do as You say; I will leave everything behind for You because, in reality, I don’t have anything or anyone but You.”

“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Jesus. (Luke 5:10-11)

Counting the Cost of Discipleship

Luke 14:33, cost of discipleship, uncontainablemusings.com

What does it cost to follow Jesus?

The Lord revealed the initial response of my heart when He instructed me to proclaim His work in my life to the whole world:

“Yes, Lord, I’ll do it. But first I need to be stable with my new work so I can provide for myself and the task you want me to do.”

Sounds familiar?

In Luke 9:57-62 we can read some responses of people who wished to follow Jesus.

As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Previous passages tell us about Jesus and His ministry. He preached the Gospel, taught about the Kingdom of heaven, healed the sick, fed thousands, cast out demons, did miraculous signs and wonders. And a large crowd had followed Him.

Jesus’ conversation with these 3 people is one of the many passages that teach us there’s a cost to following Him.

 

1. It requires us to give up comfort and convenience

Someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.

Matthew 8:18-22 states this someone was a scribe. A scribe is one learned in Jewish Law; a religious teacher. They were highly educated and among the wealthier citizens. Scribes were generally hostile to Jesus. Many times, Jesus opposed and corrected their legalistic teachings together with the Pharisees and other religious leaders.

And here we see a scribe calling Jesus as Teacher and saying he would follow Him wherever He would go.

But Jesus knew what was in his heart. So He replied even animals have their own homes but He, the Son of Man, doesn’t have a place to lay His head. Jesus was functionally homeless; He and His disciples stayed in homes of those who would take them in.

In Luke 9:1-6, Jesus sent out the Apostles to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. They stayed in houses where they were welcomed. Then in verses 51-56 of the same chapter, a Samaritan village didn’t welcome Jesus so they went to another village. Such was how Jesus and His disciples lived.

Jesus didn’t reject the scribe’s desire to follow Him. Instead, He wanted him to count the cost so he would understand what he was committing to. Wherever Jesus would go was definitely not a place of convenience or comfort. It was as if Jesus was saying, “Are you sure you want to be homeless with Me? Are you willing to face the sacrifices? Are you prepared to accept a lower standard of living for my sake? Are you sure you’re willing to give up your comfortable and convenient lifestyle for Me?”

For some people, it comes down to what’s in it for me?  That’s the wrong way to proclaim the Gospel.  It’s not about self-satisfaction, it’s about self-denial.  It’s not about what do I get when I get Jesus; it’s about what am I willing to give up. It’s about the level of desperation that says, “Look, I don’t make any bargains at this point. My condition is so desperate I want forgiveness and I want grace and I want heaven and I put no conditions on it.” – MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Barriers to True Discipleship”  Grace to You.

 

2. It requires us to give up earthly priorities

Then Jesus said to another person, “Come, follow me.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

In Jewish tradition, burial takes place immediately after death. The body is washed and not embalmed. There’s no public viewing of the body which, for them, is a sign of respect for the deceased. The end of the funeral signifies a transition of mourning for the immediate family. During the first seven days following the funeral, the mourners generally stay at home.

Jewish burial custom would allow us to understand that this person’s father wasn’t dead and needed to be buried. If he was, this son wouldn’t have been there with Jesus because they would bury their dead immediately and a time of mourning follows. Rather, he was waiting until his father died then he would follow Jesus.

It seems right that this son wanted to fulfill his responsibility to carry out the funeral arrangements of his parents. And he may have wanted to also obtain his inheritance from his father.

But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

What does “spiritually dead” mean? The Bible says we’re dead because of our sins. Physically we’re alive but our spirit is dead because of our rebellion against God. This means when we die, we will be forever separated from the love of God and experience His unending wrath.

But because of God’s love, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, as a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins so that by the grace of God through saving faith in Jesus Christ alone we can be saved. When we truly repent of our sins and trust only in the saving work of Jesus then God would make us alive with Christ, and forgive all our sins. And the Holy Spirit would dwell in us. 

The spiritually dead are those who still live in rebellion against God. They can’t understand the things of God because they don’t have the Spirit of God. They can’t preach about the Kingdom of God because this is foolishness to them. Only those who are part of the Kingdom of Heaven can proclaim about it.

Let the people in this world who are outside the kingdom of God take care of the dead. Leave temporal things to temporal people. Leave the matters of the temporal kingdom to the people who live in that kingdom. You are called to come into the Kingdom of God and for the rest of your life to go and proclaim the glories of that Kingdom. Let go of the kingdom of this world, even its good elements, even its noble responsibilities. –MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Barriers to True Discipleship”  Grace to You.

This doesn’t mean that God is indifferent to family relationships and responsibilities. But the man’s request would have involved putting tradition or his own desires ahead of serving Jesus. It reflects his commitment to Christ was a matter of only secondary importance.

Sometimes we may find ourselves in a decision to choose between right and right. It’s good to fulfill our duties but should we choose it over God’s calling for us? Would you choose what is good in exchange for what is best?

 

3. It requires us to give our whole heart

Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

This man simply wants to say goodbye to his family which seems completely reasonable.

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus is talking about a farmer using a plow on a field. The man put his hand to the plow to start plowing. The goal of the farmer is to make straight rows in the earth. He does this by looking at a distant object. Jesus creates a picture of a farmer who rather than looking straight ahead at a distant object is constantly looking back at things. This would result in a crooked and curved plow line. If that happens, the field he is plowing will not yield a full harvest.

But why would he become unfit for the Kingdom of God?

Jesus’ reply uncovered the nature of this man’s problem. His heart was back home, not with his Lord.

Putting our hands on the plow means we have decided to commit our lives to God. When God calls us to Himself, we are expected to give our whole heart and complete devotion. We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The description of a farmer who keeps looking back shows he’s distracted with other things. We cannot follow Jesus wholeheartedly if we’re distracted with things of this world.

There was no way that he was fit for the Kingdom of God because he was holding on to the kingdoms of this world.

When Jesus invited someone to come into His kingdom, when Jesus invited someone to receive His forgiveness and salvation, He asked that person for the rest of his life. He didn’t want a moment. He didn’t want the emotion of a moment. He wanted the carefully thought out, understood, commitment of a lifetime. Repentance from sin, confession of Jesus as Lord, obedience from the heart to the Word and the Spirit was for life. And there was always that emphasis in the ministry of Jesus. He disdained the short-term disciple. He made things so difficult for many would-be disciples that, for example, in John 6 it says, “Many of His disciples walked no more with Him.” The standard was just too high. What was required was too demanding. – MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Barriers to True Discipleship”  Grace to You.

Are there things we’re allowing to hinder our service to the Lord? Jesus calls us to give our unreserved commitment to Him. And just like what Paul said in Philippians 3, let us forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead, let us press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 

Who do I love more?

Growing up in a family that values hard work, it became the center of my pursuit. I was driven and didn’t want anything to hinder me from achieving my goals. Until the Lord stopped me in my tracks, changed my perspective, and made me realize the importance of relationships. My family became my priority and my work had become only a means to help and provide.

But now the Lord wants me to reflect: Which is my priority? To whom is my allegiance? What is the utmost desire of my heart? Who is at the center of my pursuit?

Leaving my work means more than literal unemployment:

  • It means leaving any residual desire to achieve and pursue professional growth
  • It means being unable to provide for myself which challenges self-sufficiency
  • It means humbling myself down to ask for help and even depend on my family for provision
  • It means forsaking my family — a result from being unable to help them
  • It means separating myself from the responsibility I’ve always enjoyed doing

Ultimately, it signifies detachment from everything I value.

Jesus said, “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well.” (Luke 14:26)

Do I love my family more than I love the Lord? Or do I love myself and my work more than I love the Lord?

My work cannot give me anything I desire except provision for my family. But the Lord promised me, “I will take care of your family.” His emphasis on I, meaning He will; it’s not for me to do. My family needs the Lord, not me. If the Lord has been taking care of them, what other concerns do I have? My duty is to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the purpose of my existence.

Jesus made His leading clear, affirmed me many times, corrected my priorities and enabled me to see the bigger picture. But there were times I hear myself ask Him: “Why can’t I be generous to my family? Why do You want to remove my joy of helping them?”

These examples in Luke 9 allowed me to understand this is the cost of following Him. The cost Jesus requires of me is to leave the people I love to proclaim the Gospel to people I do not know. Should I choose the joy of serving my family over the greatest joy of serving the Lord?

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:33)

Read the whole series about my “Unconventional Calling”.

Acceptable Worship: An Eagerness to Meet the Needs of God’s People

Romans 12:13, Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake, Zambales Mountains, Philippines

Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake, Zambales Mountains, Philippines | May 2012

Romans 12:13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Trials and difficulties are inevitable, and it is during times of difficulties that we ought to help those who are in need especially the saints or the family of believers.

Contributing to the needs of the saints

“Contributing” in the Greek is koinōnéō which means to have a share of, to have fellowship with, to participate and share in. It is making another’s necessities one’s own as to relieve them.

To love is to meet the needs of others. Sincerely loving fellow believers would drive us to share in their needs. The 1st century church has shown an excellent example in contributing to the needs of fellow believers.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (Acts 2:44-45)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:32-37)

This example is going against the grain of society. The world thinks only of oneself and what one can benefit, but the Lord teaches us to be set apart from the world. The early church had everything in common and that is what we are also called to do. The resources we have are entrusted to us for God’s purposes, for the advancement of His Kingdom, for His glory.

Practicing hospitality

Interestingly, the word “practicing” in the Greek is diṓkō which means pursue with all haste, to chase after; earnestly desiring to overtake or apprehend. It is the same root word used for persecute, so negatively it means to zealously persecute or hunt down, and positively, it means to earnestly pursue, to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire.

Then the word “hospitality” in the Greek is philoxenia which means love to strangers. It is the warmth and friendliness shown to strangers; figuratively it means the readiness to share hospitality, hence also generosity, by entertaining in one’s home, etc. This means that we are called not only to be hospitable to those we are closely related with but even with those who are not in our circle of close friends because they are still part of the family of believers.

Practicing hospitality is more than just being friendly and welcoming to guests but also being ready and earnestly pursuing love to strangers. The writer of Hebrews also said, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:2a). Peter also said in 1 Peter 4:9 to “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

Conclusion

An attitude of generosity comes from having a proper perspective on the resources the Lord has given us.

…Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:16-10)

Contributing to the needs of the saints and practicing hospitality are marks of a sacrificial love. It requires us to share in the needs of others by making their necessities as part of our own. It also involves us to eagerly pursue showing love to strangers and being ready to offer help for a fellow believer.

Sincere love seeks the good of the beloved and reaches out to meet their needs. It is going out of one’s comfort zone and valuing others as more significant than ourselves.

As family of believers, we are called to be devoted one another deeply, to serve the Body selflessly and zealously, to love genuinely, to set an example in honoring others in humility, to persevere in tribulations, and to meet other’s needs. This is our spiritual service of worship, in view of God’s mercy and everything He has done for us.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21) 

Romans 12 Personal Study Series:
Acceptable Worship: An Offering Prescribed by God (Romans 12:1-2)
Acceptable Worship: A Selfless Service (Romans 12:3-8)
Acceptable Worship: A Love That Conforms to God’s Character (Romans 12:9-10)
Acceptable Worship: A Zealous and Fervent Service to the Lord (Romans 12:11)
Acceptable Worship: Joyful, Prayerful and Persevering in Tribulation (Romans 12:12)
Acceptable Worship: An Eagerness to Meet the Needs of God’s People (Romans 12:13)

References:
Interlinear Bible
Parallel Bible

For further understanding of Romans 12 you can check these sites: GCF’s sermon series on RomansJohn MacArthur’s sermon series on Romans or Bible.Org

Acceptable Worship: Joyful, Prayerful and Persevering in Tribulation

Mt. Pulag, Romans 12:12, joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,

Mt. Pulag, Cordillera Central, Philippines | May 2010

Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.

By God’s grace, as we submit to be conformed to His character, sincerely love one another, value others above ourselves and humbly serve the Lord with all our hearts, we will encounter difficulties and trials. The Bible tells us many times that we will go through sufferings.

Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12 that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

After commanding His disciples to love one another, Jesus warned them in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” 

And in John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In the same way, Paul exhorts us to rejoice in our hope — the confident expectation of our eternal salvation paid by the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. To rejoice literally means to experience God’s grace and be glad for it. This joyfulness of heart is not dependent on a favorable circumstance or on having a positive disposition because regardless of the circumstance God’s grace is abundant and His promises are true. Our hope is sure and we can rejoice because we know that He who promised is faithful.

Joy in our hope comes from focusing our hearts and our minds on the steadfast character of the Lord. This gives us encouragement and allows us to persevere in tribulation and hold fast on His promises as we wait with eager expectation of that future glory that will be revealed in us.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5)

It is when we go through trials that we become more prayerful. The more intense our affliction, the more persistent and fervent we are in prayer. Being devoted in prayer means to continue steadfastly and wait upon the Lord as we pray, to consistently show strength which prevails in spite of difficulties. 

The Lord uses our trials to mold us into the likeness of Christ to bring Him glory and our confident hope and constancy in prayer sustains us to persevere through it.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Romans 12 Personal Study Series:
Acceptable Worship: An Offering Prescribed by God (Romans 12:1-2)
Acceptable Worship: A Selfless Service (Romans 12:3-8)
Acceptable Worship: A Love That Conforms to God’s Character (Romans 12:9-10)
Acceptable Worship: A Zealous and Fervent Service to the Lord (Romans 12:11)
Acceptable Worship:  Joyful, Prayerful and Persevering in Tribulation (Romans 12:12)
Acceptable Worship:  An Eagerness to Meet the Needs of God’s People (Romans 12:13)

References:
Interlinear Bible
Parallel Bible
Bible.Org

For further understanding of Romans 12 you can check these sites: GCF’s sermon series on Romans or John MacArthur’s sermon series on Romans.

Acceptable Worship: A Zealous and Fervent Service to the Lord

Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Clark Freeport, Pampanga, Philippines, Romans 12:11, zeal, fervor, serve the Lord, acceptable worship

Clark Freeport, Pampanga, Philippines | February 2011

Romans 12:11 Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.

Not lagging behind in diligence…

Lagging behind” means slothful, lazy, sluggish, hesitating hence be tardy or delayed. In classical Greek, it means indolent which refers to shrinking backward, because unready. The idea of ‘delay’ underlies the secondary sense, ‘burdensome, troublesome’ – a vexation arising from weary waiting.

Of course the word not negates the attitude of “lagging behind”.

While the word “diligence” (“zeal” in other versions) in Greek is spoudḗ which means to hurry, to make haste. It is moving with swiftness to show zealous diligence, giving one’s best and full effort by making haste. It also means earnestness and enthusiasm in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything.  For the believer, it means quickly obeying what the Lord reveals is His priority. This elevates the better over the good – the more important over the important – and does so with earnest swiftness.

Therefore not lagging behind in diligence is not only about hard work, persistence and painstaking effort but starts with a heart full of eagerness and enthusiastic zeal in serving the Lord; manifested in swift obedience, in earnestness in giving one’s best and total commitment in accomplishing a task, not losing momentum or becoming weary but always ready to do the work of the Lord.

I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. (Psalm 119:60)

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:11-12)

Fervent in spirit…

Fervent literally means to boil with heat, to burn in spirit. This describes the intensity of our service to the Lord; it should not be lukewarm or cold but boiling in the spirit.

Figuratively, it means to show great zeal; to be ardently passionate, “boiling” with interest or desire; to be deeply committed to something, with the implication of accompanying desire – ‘to be earnest, to set one’s heart on, to be completely intent upon’.

We are also reminded by Paul in 2 Timothy 1:6 to fan into flame the gift of God.

… Serving the Lord. 

Serving in this verse means to be a slave. We serve the Lord, not as an employed servant or a temporary volunteer but a bond-servant who willingly and totally devotes oneself to permanent servitude for the Lord.

We are called to serve the Lord with haste, with zealous diligence, and with fervent spirit giving our complete devotion to Him; to not only be obedient but also be passionate, full of enthusiasm and excitement in serving Him. Our reason and motivation behind all these go back to everything the Lord has done for us, because of His immeasurable love and unending mercy, He sacrificed Himself for us to save us from our sins and has called us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is our true and proper worship (Romans 12:1).

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Romans 12 Personal Study Series:
Acceptable Worship: An Offering Prescribed by God (Romans 12:1-2)
Acceptable Worship: A Selfless Service (Romans 12:3-8)
Acceptable Worship: A Love That Conforms to God’s Character (Romans 12:9-10)
Acceptable Worship: A Zealous and Fervent Service to the Lord (Romans 12:11)
Acceptable Worship:  Joyful, Prayerful and Persevering in Tribulation (Romans 12:12)
Acceptable Worship:  An Eagerness to Meet the Needs of God’s People (Romans 12:13)

References:
Interlinear Bible
Parallel Bible

For further understanding of Romans 12 you can check these sites: GCF’s sermon series on Romans or John MacArthur’s sermon series on Romans.

Acceptable Worship: A Love That Conforms to God’s Character

romans 12:9-10, acceptable worship, sunset, beach, mountains, people, Philippines, Anawangin Cove, Zambales

Anawangin Cove, Zambales, Philippines | April 2010

Romans 12: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor. 

A love without hypocrisy.

In verse 9, Paul used the Greek word agápē translated as love. It means benevolence, goodwill, esteem. In the New Testament, it typically refers to divine love. 1 John 4:7 says that love comes from God; then in verse 8 it says God is love. Jesus showed His love for us with His selfless service and sacrifice on the cross to save undeserving sinful men. From His example, we see that agápē is an unconditional, self-sacrificing kind of love which seeks the welfare and the highest good of the one loved.

Our love should be without hypocrisy. Without hypocrisy means a sincere behavior free from hidden agendas or selfish motives seeking personal gain. It should be pure, genuine selfless love.

So how can a supposedly selfless love be selfish? This reveals the self-centered sinful nature of man. We can show an outward love and service to others but in reality be self-seeking when it is driven by personal interests or when we manipulate the situation and people for our own benefit. This hidden motive or attitude of the heart negates the very essence of  an agápē kind of love.

We are called to love unconditionally because this is a reflection of God’s character and it can only be possible through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.

A love that abhors evil and clings to good.

To abhor evil means to detest it utterly. True love without hypocrisy does not trivialize, condone, approve, encourage or partake in what is evil. Instead, it adheres and gives oneself steadfastly to what is good. Sin destroys a loving relationship; and only what is good builds up, restores, and strengthens relationships.

The standard of what is good and evil is not based on one’s own preference or how society defines it but is according to God’s holy character revealed in His Word.

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

A devoted love for the family of believers.

In verse 10, Paul mentioned two other descriptions of love: philadelphía and philóstorgos. Philadelphía means love and affection for fellow-believers. Philóstorgos means a devoted love shown by family-members, it is a kindly affectionate natural love for one’s family.

Quoting a quote from a sermon, our love for fellow believers should be “…marked by a devotion that is characteristic of a loving, close-knit, and mutually supportive family.” – James Boice (Romans [Baker], 4:1598)

John 1:12-13 says that all who did receive Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

When we were born into a family, we did not choose who our parents and siblings would be, they were chosen by God. Our love for them is not based on preference, attraction, personality, or common interest. In the same way, believers are adopted into God’s family and share the same Heavenly Father not by human decision but of God’s. And Paul exhorts us to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord in an affectionate devoted love as that of our own family, a love that is also not based on our personal preferences, common interests, etc. but on the truth that they are our eternal spiritual family.

A love that gives preference in honoring others. 

To give preference to others in honor means to go before another in valuing others thereby exhibiting the right example so others can follow. It means we are not waiting for others to value us or another person by giving honor, respect, esteem, or serve and meet the need, instead we should have a mindset of doing it first and outdo one another in showing honor.

A genuine, sincere unconditional love does not think of what it can benefit from the situation or from other people rather it seeks to find ways in showing love, meeting the need and building others up. It gives preference to others above oneself. A character of humility and selflessness that Jesus exemplified. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)

Romans 12 Personal Study Series:
Acceptable Worship: An Offering Prescribed by God (Romans 12:1-2)
Acceptable Worship: A Selfless Service (Romans 12:3-8)
Acceptable Worship: A Love That Conforms to God’s Character (Romans 12:9-10)
Acceptable Worship: A Zealous and Fervent Service to the Lord (Romans 12:11)
Acceptable Worship:  Joyful, Prayerful and Persevering in Tribulation (Romans 12:12)
Acceptable Worship:  An Eagerness to Meet the Needs of God’s People (Romans 12:13)

References:
Interlinear Bible
Parallel Bible
Bible.Org

For further understanding of Romans 12 you can check these sites: GCF’s sermon series on Romans or John MacArthur’s sermon series on Romans.