Living the Supernatural Life, Part 1 (Romans Sermon 95 of 120)
March 19, 2006 | Andrew Davis
Running the Race, Life in the Spirit
I. The Supernatural Life
So we're looking at Romans chapter 12 and for the next three weeks, some of the practicalities of the Christian life, what God's word has to say about how to live our everyday lives to his glory. Now as I think about the life of the Apostle Peter, I think there can be no more amazing walk he ever took than the one recorded in Matthew 14. You don't have to turn there, but you know the story of Matthew 14, how Jesus fed the 5000 and then dismissed the crowd, dismissed the disciples, went up on the mountain by himself, alone to pray. The disciples are trying to make their way across the lake, the Sea of Galilee, and as frequently happens on the Sea of Galilee, a terrible storm came and whipped that Sea of Galilee up into a frenzy. And they were having very great difficulty making progress across the lake.
And so, there they were in the middle of the lake, in the middle of the night, in the middle of their terrors, thinking they were going to drown, and suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water, coming toward the boat and they were afraid of him. "'It's a ghost,' they said, cried out in fear. But Jesus said, 'Take courage. It is I, don't be afraid.'" I'm no ghost, I'm here." And then Peter said an astonishing thing. Where did it come from? Do you really understand, Peter? What a man he was. But up out of Peter's heart, somewhere inside he said, "Lord, if it's you tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," Jesus said. And there's the command of God. Come and live a supernatural life, get up out of the boat and do something that you could only do if I support you by my supernatural power.
And so Peter got out and started to walk in the lake. And I would say there was no man on the face of the earth that understood how Jesus' supernatural power is not just for himself to display his own glory, but actually to transform us and make us glorious. He knew at that moment, he was new in this through his own power and strength. Oh, he'd taken many walks since his toddler years. And left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, he could do that. But on the water? It may only be by the supernatural power of Jesus Christ.
Now, I don't want to end in a downer and tell you how it happened. You know what happened after that. But I want to fix that picture in your mind of a supernatural walk because I think that's what God is calling each and every Christian here today to do and to be; to walk in a supernatural way by the power of Christ. Now as you read Romans 12:9-21, you're not going to see the word supernatural in there. But understand, there is a context to Romans 12, it's not just a bunch of ethical teachings that come out of nowhere, but Paul has developed the foundation for a supernatural life already in 11 chapters. It's a life that begins with full and complete forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen? All of your sins forgiven and without that, the rest is impossible. But Romans 1-3, talks about that, how all have sinned and how Jesus shed his blood on the cross, and that through simple faith in the death of Christ, the blood shed on the cross, all of your sins can be, absolutely will be, forgiven.
Amen. Isn't that exciting? That's fantastic. It's the foundation of this supernatural life, but that's not all. Romans 6 says that we're not slave to sin. The baptism we saw earlier gives a picture that we are liberated, we have died to sin, we have risen to a new life. What is the nature of that new life? It is a supernatural life. It's a life that can only be lived by the power of God, only be lived by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Now, Romans 7 says, "It's a life of struggle. It's not easy." Just because you're struggling, doesn't mean you're not living a supernatural life. We're going to struggle with the flesh, we're going to have difficulty, we're going to yearn like Paul did, "O, wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" That is true. But Romans 8 speaks very plainly, very clearly of a supernatural life, a life not lived by the power of the flesh, a life that has lived only by the power of the indwelling spirit, the spirit-filled life, Romans 8. A life in which we are more than conquerors no matter what the devil throws at us. More than conquers.
And so that, I think, is the foundation of this life. As I said, we're not going to see this word supernatural in Romans 12. But here in Romans 12, Paul is going to give us a specific list of duties and exhortations, and aspects of what that life is going to look like. And oh, is it sweet? And oh, is it practical? And it helps us in every way. I think we forget that Romans, people like me can come along and preach it in 88 or 196 messages or something like that, or Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 444. But you can read Romans in one hour, and I think you ought to do it sometimes. Read it right through and realize this is a synopsis of what Paul would have taught to the Romans if he had been there. And so, we forget that we have already had this teaching, it's right there and then within 20 minutes of reading or less, you go right from Romans 8 through 9, through 11, and then into 12, the spirit-filled life looks like this. It's the foundation of what he's telling us to do.
You Are Called to Live a Supernatural Life!
Now, I confess to you that when I was a boy, I used to like to read comic books. I don't do it anymore. But I used to like read them when I was a kid, the Marvel comics, with the Superman and the Fantastic Four. Now they're making all these movie, Spider-Man, and these folks, each one of them had extraordinary capabilities, the ability to fly or to have a bullet bounce off your chest or to have x-ray vision, all of that kind of thing, and the extraordinary, a sense of the supernatural and you know something, this is not new with us. It's been around for a long time. The Greek myths are filled with supernatural heroes like Hercules who could do amazing things. He was given 10 tasks to do, and did each one by his mighty supernatural power.
Why is this? Well, I think there's a cry inside the human heart to be lifted up out of the humdrum ordinary physical existence to something greater, something better. There's a cry for the extraordinary. I could say a cry for the supernatural. We were made for God. We were not just made for 9:00-5:00 humdrum existence, but we were made for more than that. Do you not feel it inside your heart that you were made for more than a humdrum experience? And Christ came to bring us that. He came to call on us to get up out of the boat and see what he could do supernaturally in and through us. And this is the whole thing, Christ's supernatural power is so great, so comprehensive, that he can actually work in the everyday ordinary ebb and flow of life and do supernatural things, things of eternal consequence in the way you think, in the way you speak, in the way you work, in the way you play, in the way you do family, in the way you treat other people, other Christians, non-Christians, even enemies, the way you deal with each one of these categories of people can be done supernaturally.
You are called, brothers and sisters in Christ, to a supernatural life. Isn't that marvelous? You were called to it, and I can show it to you from lots of Scriptures. You know, it says that Christ is in us, indwelling in us, in us the hope of glory. He calls us the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. He says, "Your bodies are the temple of the Spirit of God." These are the bodies we are presenting to him daily as living sacrifices. And we're called on to be more than normal, ordinary people. Look at Jesus' statement in the Sermon on the Mount. I've given you a section of Scripture in Matthew 5, at the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, at the end of chapter 5, Jesus says this, "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?" Think about that.
"What are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Do you not see in that the upward call of God in Christ Jesus? Be perfect, go upward. Don't just be like everyone else. Don't be like the ordinary pagans. Live a higher life, a better life. You should be doing more than others. You should be living a supernatural life. For Paul, we see this in Corinthians. He's struggling with this talented spiritually gifted church that just has so many problems and they're faction ridden, and they've got all kinds of difficulties. And he gets to this point in 1 Corinthians 3 when he tells them that they are still worldly. "For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?"
What is the implication that Paul has? From what point of view is he arguing? He's saying you shouldn't be. You should be better than that. You should be acting like spirit-filled men and women. Not acting in an ordinary way. "For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere men?" What is the problem? Paul is expecting the Corinthian Christians to be living an openly supernatural life. They should be different than they are.
Now, this life is impossible to be lived apart from the Spirit of God. It is impossible to be lived apart from the foundation of forgiveness, through faith in the cross. Forgiveness through faith in the blood of Christ. But it is a life that we Christians are called to live and that we can live by his power. Isn't that wonderful?
II. Supernatural Character
And look at all the areas that we're going to be covering in the next three weeks, this week and two more weeks. We'll start with supernatural character. We'll start with the heart and love. And then we're going to talk about again this morning, zeal which is also a heart matter. Zeal and service. And then we're going to talk about next week, supernatural joy in trials and supernaturally loving the brothers, getting along with one another, living in harmony with Christians, which sometimes can be a challenge especially if it's me. I'll put it on me.
Sometimes living with other Christians can be difficult, a challenge. But supernatural love for the family of God, and a supernatural stance toward the outside world, dealing with other people, even humble lowly poor people, dealing with them well; a life of hospitality in which you're opening your homes, a life in which you just feel like you're encountering God, people are encountering God when they encounter you. When they come into your home, when they come into your life in some way, they just feel like God is around that person. Supernatural. And then the culmination in chapter 12, a supernatural love for enemies. Giving up on vengeance, giving up on revenge, living an open and forgiving life. Harder to do than you might think. I believe that everyone of us to some degree still is holding on to some bitterness, some unforgiveness, a desire for revenge at one level. And I just think Romans 12 frees us from that, and I'm looking forward to that in the third week.
It All Begins with the Heart
Well, let's start with the heart. Let's start with supernatural character. It all begins with the heart. And verse 9 says, "Love must be sincere." Paul starts with the character. What kind of person you are inside and he starts with love, that's where he begins. Now, Paul's been discussing spiritual gifts, and after discussing practical ministries that we can have, he goes back to this, the motive for your using your spiritual gift. Love. It must be love. But he says it's got to be a sincere love. And he goes to the root matter.
Now, the issue here is one of integrity. The word that's translated here, sincere, literally, literalistically could be brought over from the original language, unhypocritical. Unhypocritical, and unhypocritical love. Now, hypocritical in that original language is like an actor. Okay? An actor, somebody who presents a facade, who's got a mask and you don't see them as they really are.
I read a story about Sir Laurence Olivier, he's one of the greatest actors of the 20th century. And there was a young actor who became famous in his own right eventually, who was a very hard-working actor and who threw himself into the role by gaining a lot of weight and immersing himself in the lifestyle that he was going to be doing in the movie and studying and going all these sort of places. And Lawrence Olivier pulled him aside and said, "What are you doing?" He said, "Well, I want to experience this role so I can do it better." He said, "Why don't you just act?" He said, "Watch," and he just for 10 minutes acted in this sort of way and the guy was blown away.
The essence of acting is that it's not based on being, and he's saying, "You don't need to do all that, just act." Well, that's the exact opposite of what the Lord's commanding on us here. You can't just act like a Christian, you can't just act loving. It can't be a sham. It can't be a facade. It must be unhypocritical. How many times do you hear this, 'Church is full of hypocrites'? Well, I have found that church is full of hypocrites. I've also found, so is the world. Have you ever noticed?
I was talking once to somebody about this, "Oh, you know, you're a pastor, you're in the ministry," and, "I never go to church, full of hypocrites." I said, "What's a hypocrite?" "Well, somebody who doesn't live up to the standard that they have." I said, "Well, what standards do you have for life? Give me, for example, 10 ideas of standards we should live up to and write them down." Well, they didn't want to do all that work. I said, "Alright, then do three. And then just watch and see how well you live up to them." It isn't long before they recognize they're hypocrites, too. I think church is a good place to come and get healed of your hypocrisy. Amen? Get healed of it. But here's a command that says be healed of it. Love must be unhypocritical, it must be sincere, it must go to the core. Don't be two different people. Don't have a secret life.
Matthew 22, it says, "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul and with all of your strength, this is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself." Everything that God wants of you is summed up in this, love. But it's got to be a sincere love. You're not going to fool God. There's no facade in front of God. He will be able to see through it. This is such a clear indicator of true Christianity that Jesus said this in John 13:35, "By this will all men know that you are my disciples if you love one another." And so it starts with an unhypocritical love. But we also find in this verse that it's not just a positive matter of love. What you are attracted to, what your soul embraces, what you are yearning for, that's not it alone. It also says love must be sincere, hate what is evil. There is a hatred that's part of the mature healthy Christian life. And it is definitely the other side of the coin on love.
If we genuinely love something, you will hate anything that's opposed to that. For example, if you love a person, you'll hate anything that would destroy that person, right? If you love righteousness then you're going to hate wickedness. You can't just love righteousness and be ambivalent about wickedness, so we must hate what is evil.
Recently, my children were going through a unit study on World War II and one of them brought me a picture in a book. I can scarcely even mention the picture, but it was a group of Russian children about the age of my kids, black and white photo, standing for a photo, a group photo, and they're smiling, waving all this kind of thing, oblivious to the fact that they're about to be murdered by some SS guards and all of them were. They're all dead. That was their last moment on Earth, and I started to cry. And that was 60 years ago.
Now you look at that kind of thing and you say, "That is just evil. It's just evil." And you can't have a blah reaction to that. But I say we have a blah reaction to evil all the time. God calls more things evil than we do. And there has to be a passionate reaction to temptation like not just, "Ehh, not right now." But, "No way! May it never be!" We have to hate what is evil. There's a passion inside. Not just to, like it says, cling to what is good, the very next phrase, like glue, literally a good translation. Cling to what is good, but be repulsed by what is evil. Not just neutral. That's the way God is. And so it begins with the heart.
III. Supernatural Zeal in Service
Part of the heart though is zeal. Look at verse 11, it says, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord." What is zeal?
Zeal is the fire of God in your heart. I think about, for example, the burning bush of Moses, the one that he saw that was burning and burning and burning, but it wasn't burned up. It says also in the Book of Hebrews, our God is a consuming fire. Zeal is like the fire of God, a spiritual fire of God inside your heart. It cause you to burn for his glory. And here it says in verse 11, "Never be lacking in zeal. But keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord."
JC Ryle wrote this, he said, "Zeal and Christianity is a burning desire to please God, to do his will, to advance his glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire which is not natural to men or women, it is a desire which the Spirit puts in the heart of every believer when they are converted to Christ, a desire which some believers, however, feel so much more strongly than others, that they alone deserved to be called zealous men and women. This desire is so strong when it really reigns in a person, that it impels them to make any sacrifice to go through any trouble, to deny themselves anything, to suffer, to work, to labor, to toil, to spend themselves and to be spent, even to die. If only they can please Christ their Savior. A zealous person in Christianity then is preeminently a person of one thing. It is not enough to say that they're earnest, strong, uncompromising, meticulous, wholehearted, and fervent in spirit. No, zealous people see only one thing, they care for one thing, they live for one thing, they're swallowed up in one thing, and that one thing is to please Almighty God."
Well, that's what Ryle says, and I think he's right. There's an intense focus like a laser beam on the pleasure of God. I burn to please God, that's what a zealous person is saying. It's a single-minded focus. Now, Christ had it, didn't he? Did Christ not have zeal for the glory of God? Do you not see it in John chapter 2, when he comes in and finds that the place filled with the traffic of religion, all the concessions, the temple concessions, they're selling sacrifices, and what a scam the whole thing was, how filthy and wretched from top to bottom? And so, Jesus pulls off to the side and takes the time to make a whip. I don't know how long it took him to make that whip, but it's a picture of the wrath of God. It takes a while to get going, but boy, when it's unleashed. And he comes out there and he takes that whip and he moves those animals right out of the temple, and he overturns the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and he says, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a marketplace!"
In John 2, it says his disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." I think that's almost a literalistic prophecy of Jesus' life. Basically, zeal for the house of God ate him up. It killed him. What do you think motivated the high priest and all his henchmen to kill Jesus? Was it his doctrine? What do you think? I think these folks were somewhat more atheological than we might imagine. They were businessmen. It's not personal, only business, right? They're going after him like the mafioso.
But at any rate, it's very serious because Jesus interfered with their business. He didn't do it just once, he did it twice, and so zeal for the house of God led to his crucifixion. But let's go even more directly theological. It is for zeal for the glory of God and zeal for our souls that Jesus shed his blood on the cross. He was willing to die rather than that unforgiven, uncleansed sinner should defile his heavenly realm, and he would rather die than that people he love should burn forever in hell. Both sides are true. Do you see the zeal of Jesus, both for the glory and the holiness of God and for souls like yours and mine? The zeal of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul had it too, didn't he? Do you see the zeal of the Apostle Paul? He said, "I count my life worth nothing to me. If only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." And at the end of his life, he gets to say, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Zeal. And so I say, away with bland, tasteless Christianity. Away with it! Away with it from my life. You should have a flavor as a Christian, don't you think? You should be salty. Jesus said if the salt lose its saltiness, it's worthless, it's no longer good for anything. You should have a distinct flavor. I would hope the flavor would be enticing. It would be appealing, but you should away with bland Christianity. There should be a fire in your life, a fire in your heart, a fire in your ministry.
I used to go camping, as I've mentioned before, with my father, and he had this incredible little blue stove called an Optimus stove, it was made in Sweden. I'll never forget a little blue box like this. We went camping/hiking. Later in marriage, I just went camping, surrounded by RVs and TV sets and hot showers and stuff. I didn't do that when I was younger. We hiked up to just below the tree line, about 5000 feet up and everything you had, you needed, you carried on your back. And so we have this little Optimus stove, and I'll never forget the heat that that thing would put out, this fiery blue flame that could boil water in about 4 minutes. It's just a picture of that fire. Imagine trying to cook a meal using a candle. Alright? You can't do it, try it sometime. Try to boil water with a pot and a candle. It would take an awfully long time, wouldn't it? Couldn't do it.
But yet I feel like we present to God a candle and say, "Here, use me. Use me." He can't. He won't. Thomas Brooks, a Puritan, said, "Cold prayers freeze before they get to heaven." Well, so does cold service, it freezes before it ever gets to heaven, it can accomplish nothing. Where is your fire? These are big time issues going on. Heaven and earth, eternity in heaven, eternity in hell. That's what we're talking about. Giving Christ an account for every moment of your life, that is big. Giving him an account for every careless word you've spoken, that is big. Making the most of every dollar, every minute, that is big. It should call some fire from you, it should call some passion from you that the name of your Savior, Jesus, is dishonored in this world, it should bother you. It should like the psalmist in Psalm 119 said, "Tears flow from my eyes because your law is disobeyed or dishonored." Well, tears should flow from our eyes because Christ is dishonored. And so, we have to get rid of this idea of laziness. A literal translation here is, do not be slothful in zeal. The NIV gives us, never be lacking in zeal. Basically, don't be lazy in the matter of zeal.
I saw a humorous thing put out by a Christian company, they do different videos and stuff and some of them are pretty good, but it showed two teenage or maybe early 20s something young men, sitting in easy chairs, and behind one of them, a fire starts burning in the kitchen. And he looks over his shoulder and just... So he pulls out his cell phone and he dials a number and it's his friend who's sitting in the next chair over to him. He says, "Hey, there's a fire in the kitchen." And the other guy, just as sleepy as he is, he looks back and says, "Well, what should we do about it?" And then at that moment, it just burns down and burns out, and they shrug and they hang up and keep watching the program. I fear that that's how some of us deal with our lives here on earth. Do not be slothful in zeal. Do not be lazy. God is calling from us diligence in the matter of personal holiness, of growing in grace and the knowledge of Christ, we have to work at it.
God is calling from us diligence in the matter of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, even to our neighbors and co-workers. Do not be slothful in zeal, it says. Especially, I want to focus on zeal for lost souls, passion for the lost around you. You're surrounded all the time by people who don't know Christ as their Savior. Do you care about that? Does that matter to you? Christ had that passion for souls. He said in John 4, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work. Do you not say four months more and then comes the harvest? I tell you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, they are white for harvest." He's talking about people.
John 7, on the last and greatest day of the feast, it says Jesus stood and called out in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." Do you see the passion in Jesus for lost souls? For people to be saved? And passion when they're not. In Luke 19:41, it says, "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it." We saw the same passion in the Apostle Paul for his own Jewish people who were rejecting the gospel. In Romans 9, "I speak the truth in Christ, I'm not lying, my conscience confirms it, in the Holy Spirit I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart for I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, those of the nation of Israel." Do you see the passion inside it? Do you have it? Do you have that kind of passion for the lost? Is it in you?
William Carey burned with it. Before he went on the mission field, he was a shoemaker and repairer. He used to carry on a leather globe that he had made, and he would turn it to the part of the world that God had laid on his heart, Asia and India and he'd point and with tears coming down his face, he say, "These are all heathen, they're lost." And that's what made him get on a boat and go.
Henry Martin, educated at Cambridge, he could have done anything he wanted in the world but turned his back on all of it, went to an early grave because of his passion for the lost. He said this, "I would be willing to be torn in pieces if only I could hear the sobs of repentance, if I could see the eyes of faith directed to the redeemer." This is zeal.
I'm going to close with a story I read from a biography of Hudson Taylor, and Hudson Taylor was asked to be a missionary motivation speaker in Toronto, and he went there, I think it was, it might have been actually in the UK, but he wasn't used to that kind of speaking and didn't know what to say, but he brought out of his own missionary experience a story that was moving. And this is what he said, "On a journey from Shanghai to Ningbo," he said, "Among the passengers on board the boat was one intelligent man who, in the course of his travels, had been a good deal abroad. On the previous evening, I had drawn him into earnest conversation about his soul salvation, the man listened with attention, and was even moved to tears but still no definite result was apparent. I was pleased therefore when he asked to be allowed to accompany me and to hear me preach." Then as the story continues, as Mr. Taylor was in the cabin a few moments later, he heard a splash and a cry and running out, found this man had fallen overboard and had sunk in the water.
Instantly lowering the sail of the boat, he sprang into the water and he called to a nearby fishing boat to come with their drag hooks. 'Come!' He cried, his hope revived in his heart. 'Come and drag over this spot directly, a man is drowning, just here.' 'It is not convenient,' was the unfeeling answer. 'Don't talk of convenience,' cried I in agony, 'A man is drowning I tell you.' 'But we are busy fishing,' they responded, 'and we cannot come.' 'Never mind your fishing. I will give you more money than many days fishing will bring. Only come, come at once!' 'How much money will you give us?' 'We cannot stay to discuss that now. Come or it will be too late. I'll give you $5.' 'We won't do it for that,' replied the man. 'Give us $20 and we will drag.' 'I do not possess so much. Do come quickly and I'll give you everything I have.' 'Well, how much is that?' 'I don't know exactly, about $14.' At last, but even then, slowly, the boat paddled over and the net was let down, and less than a minute sufficed to bring up the body of the missing man. All in vain, however, life was gone."
It's not convenient? How much will you give me? Christ is calling on us to have a passion for his service, a zeal for him, for his glory. What is he doing in the world? What work is he doing? Is he not calling people to himself, calling people to salvation? Brothers and sisters, we are rich. We have forgiveness of sins, we have the indwelling spirit, we have a glorious future in heaven, we have everything we need for life and godliness. We also have a high calling, to walk perfectly in this world and to be his witnesses to bring people to salvation. Neve be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord. Close with me in prayer.