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If we do not recognize this calling we cannot fully please God or meet our potential as God’s church. The prevalent lack of emphasis on works in connection with salvation has led many conclude that God does not require us to do anything. Others, who may intellectually recognize the necessity of obedience in becoming a Christian, are deceived into thinking that the “work” has been done.
- #315 – O Why Not Tonight – last stanza says.. “Our blessed Lord refuses none who would to Him their souls unite. Believe, obey, the work is done, be saved O tonight.” My grandmother would not sing the song this way. She realized that when a person believes and is baptized (obeys the gospel) the work is not done. She would sing, the works begun.
- What is your attitude toward the work that God has given you to do? That is the focus of our study as we continue to look at Paul’s teaching in Romans 12.
Romans 12:11 – “not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” These three phrases are not disconnected from each other. Taken together they describe the proper action, attitude and goal of our spiritual work.
I. “Not Lagging in Diligence” – The KJV translates this phrase as not “slothful in business“. This has led some to interpret this as an encouragement for Christians to work hard at their secular jobs. Certainly the Bible does address the conscientious manner in which Christians must do their job. In Col. 3:2-23 Paul told 1st Century Christians (who were slaves) to obey their masters and to do everything “heartily, as to the Lord“. What if Jesus was your boss? Would it make you work differently? There is no place for laziness in the life of the Christian. But when we consider the context it seems that Paul’s statement is best taken in view of our spiritual work in the kingdom of God. The phrase here could be translated, “do not be lazy in zeal and intensity.” Paul’s phrase sets in contrast 2 opposite words: lazy (not lagging) and zeal (diligence). Albert Barnes said, “An idle man and a Christian are names that do not harmonize.” William Barclay stated, “There is a certain intensity in the Christian life. There is no room for lethargy in it.” (The Daily Study Bible Series, Romans, p. 178).
A. “Not Lagging” – Do you know what it means to “lag” behind. It implies a standard that sets a pace (others in the race). (ex. – running the mile in middle school – just a little bit of walking would put you way behind. But if you found another who was willing to walk also, it become easier to quit.) The thrust of this admonition may be directed toward those who become lethargic or apathetic toward the work God has placed before them.
1. The writer of Hebrews warns against this attitude in Heb 6:10-12 – 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. They had already displayed a work and labor of love, but they needed to be diligent to the end, not becoming sluggish, or they would not inherit the promises. Do you know what it feels like to become sluggish? My car has done that before. I noticed it most when it was time to push on the gas and get going. It seemed to want to make excuses and hold back.
2. It may be easy for us to relax; to be “at ease.” – Amos 6:1 “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion” – Amos’ words were directed toward those in Israel that were unconcerned about God’s judgment or their accountability. Jeremiah 48:10 says, “A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lord’s work!” (NIV) What did you say the last time you were asked to do something for the church or the cause of Christ?
B. “In Diligence” – what is diligence? The original Greek word here is spoude (spoo-day) and literally means speed or haste. By implication it means earnestness, eagerness or care or carefulness. The diligent person is one who takes extra effort to do something with care.
1. Earlier is Romans 12 Paul commanded those who lead to lead with diligence (v. 8). In connection with leadership the implication is twofold.
a. A leader must be zealous or ready to do the job with enthusiasm,
b. and he must not procrastinate when the work needs to be done.
2. When connected with the previous phrase the admonition is for earnest and careful work that is done with enthusiasm. We noiticed earlier that Paul calls on Christians who have been redeemed by Christ to be “zealous for good works“. This leads us to the next phrase in Roman 12:11 –
II. “Fervent in the Spirit” – The word translated “fervent” (zeo – zeh-o) is also translated zeal. It means to boil with heat, be hot. It can either good (boiling love) or bad (boiling anger) depending on the context. Here it means to have a burning desire to do the will and work of God.
A. Do you remember what Jesus’ disciples said of Him in John 2:17 after He chased the money-changers from the temple? “Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.'” His zeal for what was right would not let Him do nothing.
B. What is the opposite of love? We might say hate, but a more accurate answer might be apathy. Christians should care about God’s work and cause. Zeal is the absence of apathy.
C. The church at Laodicea was chastised because of their lukewarmness in Revelation 3:14-16 14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Barclay says, “The one man whom the Risen Christ could not stand was the man who was neither hot nor cold” He added, “The Christian may burn out, but he cannot rust out.”
D. Zeal (earnestness) is often connected with prayer in the N.T. Those who are fervent in spirit will be moved to pray about the outcome. Col 4:2 – Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; The zeal that God requires is not an arrogant, “get out of the way and let me get something done” attitude. The zealous Christian is fervent about the work because it is God’s work, not his. Col 4:12 – Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
1. What are you fervent about? What do you fervently pray for? What work do you really want to see done? (the man who is praying at the gas pump for lower gas prices. Maybe we need to pray, but is this what we are really concerned about? It is easier to move people to action on an issue like this than on the really important things that need to be done – like saving the lost – Matt 9:37-38 – 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
E. True Spiritual enthusiasm is rare among Christians today. When we see it may scare us a little. It is often seen in the new Christian whose life has taken a new direction and purpose. They are excited about teaching others and learning more. Before Apollos knew the whole gospel he as a man who was “fervent in the spirit”. Acts 18:25 – This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. Nothing could keep him from doing what God wanted him to do. He was instructed on what to do and fervent to do it. Sometimes we have the instruction, but not the fervency. Many times when we find a young Christian with this type of enthusiasm, the first thing we tell him is to settle down. The fire and enthusiasm of the first century church is missing among them. Maybe this accounts for our lack of success.
1. How do you get “fervent in the spirit“? I remember when my mom did not like to fish. Now that ws not so when she died. She was an avid and enthusiastic fisher-person. What changed her fervency about the sport. She went fishing one day (because everyone else was going) and she caught a big flounder. She was “hooked”. We need to go fishing.
III. “Serving the Lord” – This last phrase points past the attitude to the purpose of our labor or work. We are to do what we do to serve the Lord. Everything we do must be consistent with His word, and done to bring Him glory. If we miss on either of these we are not true servants of God.
A. Paul never lost sight of that foundational mission. In this chapter (Romans 12), Paul uses three different words to describe Christian service.
1. In verse 1 he uses latreia, which is translated, “service of worship,” and emphasizes reverential awe or fear.
2. The second word is diakonia, which pertains to practical service in vs. 12. It is often used to describe the help that we give to others in the name of Christ.
3. In verse 11, he uses douleuo, which refers to the service of a bond-slave, whose very reason for existence is to do his master’s will.
a. This word is uncomplicated obediene, just as the concept it portrays to us. The bondservant did everything for the good of the master. Jesus says the servant cannot serve two masters. Matt 6:24- No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
b. The bondservant obeyed the commands of his master without question or hesitation. It was all about his needs. Luke 17:7-10 – 7 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'” This type of service is not popular today. Religion today is centered on pleasing ourselves and serving our needs.
Conclusion: In our pursuit of spirituality in the words of this chapter we have come across an essential, and sometimes rare, element of the truly spiritual person. Enthusiastic service for the glory of God. Another word for this is the diligent spiritual good works that we were created to walk in. (Eph. 2:10) Are you working for Christ? Are you His bondservant? Paul makes the point in Romans 6 that you are someone’s servant (douloo) Rom 6:16-18 – 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.