High-Level Living — Made Possible By Grace

7979607525_eb4cedd988_mThe New Testament calls us to live the Christian life with excellence. Romans 12:9 — 21 is one passage that describes this excellence. Here I set segments from it in bold italics and add collected comments from various commentators and translations of the Bible. One or two of these might provide for deep reflection each day of this week.

Love must be sincere. “Let not your love wear a mask” (The Message). “Let us have no imitation Christian love” (J.B Phillips). Let each expression of warmth or concern be genuine. Never different faces for different circumstances.

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. “Hate sin as you would the hell to which it leads. Be cemented or glued to that which is good” (Adam Clarke). Under all circumstances, keep your moral compass in sync with Jesus and the Father’s timeless standards for living.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. “Love a brother/ sister Christian with the affection of a natural sibling.” “Consider all your brethren as more worthy than yourself” (Adam Clarke).

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant” (The Message). Real love for Jesus will keep you going strong.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Keep clearly before you that your long term future is heaven. This will help you to take the sufferings and ills of the present with patience. Keep the fires of prayer stoked daily. Never slack off from daily private prayer in the secret place.

Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Keep alert to fellow believers who have material needs — whether next door or across the seas. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat …. I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35). Real faith in the Lord quickens us to human need.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and don’t curse. “Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath” (The Message) “Give good words; or pray for them that give you bad words …. Have the loving, forgiving mind that was in your Lord” (Adam Clarke).

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Have empathy in both of these directions in the family of God. However, “To weep with those that weep is easier than to rejoice with those who rejoice” (The Expositor’s Greek Testament). Those who have cause to rejoice don’t feel the need for support in the way those who weep do. But we are to keep our awareness balanced in both directions.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but associate with people of low position. (That is, those who do menial work or are unemployed or even disabled.) Do not be conceited. “Do not pass by the poor man to pay your court to the great man …. Do not suppose that wisdom and discernment dwell alone with you” (Adam Clarke). “Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody” (The Message).

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. Don’t let yourself get into the “tit for tat” mode. And, it is not enough to do what is legally right; we must do what appears to others to be right — that is, do what meets the generally accepted standards drawn from the written law. Paul: “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but in the eyes of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21).

If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Living at peace with everyone is sometimes not possible, but the burden is on us to try, and never to be the responsible party in the breaking of the peace or living in alienation from others.

Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. The evil actions of others can cause deep hurt often seemingly beyond repair. In our fallenness, personal revenge may appeal. But knowing that God is the judge of all the earth restrains our impulse to seek revenge. We can say “God’s righteousness will prevail.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Do not become of the same character as the wrong doer you are complaining of. “However frequently he/she may grieve and infuriate you, always repay him/her with kindness; your goodwill in the end may overcome his/her evil” (Adam Clarke). “Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good” (The Message).

Each of these admonitions is a tall order; together they are impossible to attain by human effort alone. Still, the grace extended by the Spirit allows us to pursue life on this high ground. And, we find that these words lead us along the least stressful and most productive path in the long run — a life of minimal regrets. Grace and peace to us all as we travel on high ground.

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2 thoughts on “High-Level Living — Made Possible By Grace

  1. Romans 12:9-21 gives wonderful guidance as to how to achieve high level living made possible by grace – living the Christian life with excellence as you put it Pastor.. I think this is what John Wesley means bu Christian perfection ,living a life of holiness,which can only be achieved by depending on and through the grace of our Lord,the Holy Spirit.

    The letter to the first century Christian congregation in Rome,from Christ’s apostle Paul , is known today as ‘ Romans’.I say the congregation in Rome not church for I don’t know whether they had an actual regular building they met in .They were a group of Christians who maybe met in one another’s homes or wherever they could.In any case I think church means the people not the building.

    Sometimes ,as I read Romans,I like to imagine I’m one of that first century congregation in Rome.A new letter has just arrived by ship from Paul and is being read aloud by one in our congregation who can read well.We all listen to every word from Paul and afterwards discuss among ourselves what these words mean for the way we live our lives. For now Paul’s words to us must be put into practise, applied to our everyday life ,since Paul has been appointed by Jesus to lead us to live the Jesus way .

    I want to say how fond I am of the bibles you’ve quoted from Pastor Don.They help my understanding through their modern everyday English.

    American Pastor Eugene H Patterson’s translation ,’The Message’ has been useful to me in helping my understaning of d difficult passages.His modern language is so alive.

    So too is the translation into modern English of English clergyman John Phillips,the J.B.Phillips Bible.

    I’ve just found another helpful translation ,the Weymouth New Testament also known as The New Testament in Modern Speech. It was translated into modern English by Baptist layman Richard Francis Weymouth then edited and partly revised by his secretary , Reverend Ernest Hampden-Cook ,who published it in 1903,the year after Mr Weymouth’s death.Though over a hundred years old now ,it still reads as plain modern English and helps one understand the New Testament message..For instace’ love thy neighbour’ would be put as’ love one another’.This is clearer since Jesus wasn’t asking us to be lovingkind only to our next door neighbour.

    Now I’m pleased to learn from you,Pastor,of 2 other valuable aids to Bible understanding -‘ The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ by British Methodist Adam Clarke. and ‘ The Expositor’s Greek Testament ‘ I don’t know if this is the one by James Moffatt,the Scottish translator of the Moffatt bible,the MNT or Moffatt New Translation. If so,I’ve tracked one down & look forward to using it.Some call the Moffatt Bible the first Bible in modern English ,but I suppose the King James Bible was modern English in 1611 & the Wycliffe Bible was modern English in 1382.

    I’m using these 13 segments from Romans with their accompanying brief commentaries as a focus to reflect on each day, part of my prayer and bible time..On Monday I focussed on ‘Love must be sincere’,yesterday on ‘ Hate what is evil : choose what is good’.Today,Wednesday I focussed on ‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.’

    One thing I do is try to say each message in different words.That helps me really understand the message.So ,for instance ,today one of the things I said was :

    ‘Consider the feelings of everyone you meet today,try to put mrself in their shoes & see things from their perspective.Listen to what they say and remember they are my brother or sister as we all come from Adam and Eve.So care for them as family’

    Sometimes that was easy ,sometimes more difficult.But it was good because the Bible was becoming part of my daily life.I’ll carry on doing this each day for the rest of the week .Then there’ll still be another 6 segments left and so I’ll carry on into next week.This may even become a habit ,bringing words from the Bible to bear on my daily life.I’ve already begun to realize how practical the Bible is,through this habit.

    It’s just important to remember what you say at the end,Pastor ,that these admonitions are impossible to attain by human will alone. But if we welcome the Holy Ghost to inspirit us,the Spirit will enable us to live a high and holy life.

    Least stress ,a life of peace and minimal regrets ,under Grace – this is the life most worth living.I want it.May we all find this Grace and peace.

  2. September 17, 2014
    Thanks, Bishop Bastian, for your thoughtful and helpful articles. I would like to copy, if permitted, some of your articles and give them to friends, some of whom may not have a computer. My efforts have not been successful. Is this because I am not doing something correctly, or is this because of the design of your transmission? Charles Claussen

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