OAKRIDGE BIBLE CHAPEL

Church-Growing Fruit from a God-Honouring Root (Romans 12:1–15:13)

COVID-19 has forced us apart as a church and paused or changed many of the functions of our church, but we recognize the virus doesn’t exempt us from being the church. The reality and mission of the body of Christ transcends continents, eras, and even pandemics. 

God has given us assignments to which we must dedicate ourselves regardless of circumstance. These are God-given lighthouses at which we must stare and move toward, especially when the winds are strong, the waves are high, and the fog is thick.

Today, from a handful of chapters in the latter half of Paul’s letter to the Romans, we’re going to be reminded of one such assignment. More specifically, we’re going to find a root to which we must attend and, when we do, the fruit it surely produces.

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Last week I introduced a brief series of sermons in which we are exploring how to be family from afar; how to be an assembly of believers while unassembled. 

COVID-19 has forced us apart as a church and paused or changed many of the functions of our church, but we recognize the virus doesn’t exempt us from being the church. The reality and mission of the body of Christ transcends continents, eras, and even pandemics. 

Last Sunday we looked at an example in Acts 8. The early church, though forced apart, remained an intentional witness for Christ. They scattered with purpose and we were challenged to do likewise.

Today and next week, we’re going to consider a couple more assignments we’ve been given, tasks that do not—and must not—change regardless of circumstance. These are God-given lighthouses at which we must stare and move toward, especially when the winds are strong, the waves are high, and the fog is thick.

Turn to Romans 12. We’re going to be covering a lot of biblical real estate this morning, but Romans 12 will be our starting point because in its first two verses we find the root of the assignment we want to consider. We’re going to familiarize ourselves with this root before eventually looking at some of the fruit it produces.

Examining the Root 

Root and fruit, neither of which are affected or nullified by the coronavirus or anything else. As a church, we are called to produce the fruit we’ll see this morning, but we can’t do that effectively without first understanding the root.

The chapter begins with a “Therefore,” showing that what Paul is about to say stems from something he’s already said. While eleven chapters to too much to read, a handful of familiar verses can give us a decent summary. 

… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 3:23

Every human being is guilty before God because every human being falls short of his standard of perfection.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

The cost of falling short of God’s standard of perfection is death. But, the very same God we’ve wronged has provided a path to reconciliation—a path away from the death we deserve and toward the life we don’t. And that path is a person: “Christ Jesus our Lord.”

But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

God offers us this eternal life through Jesus Christ because he loves us, a love extended while we were still rebels.

Basically, this is what the first eleven chapters of Romans is about: God’s gracious provision of salvation to sinful humanity and the blessings, victory, freedom, unity, and power it brings. It’s the theology of our justification, the sovereignty of God, and the certainty of our final destination based upon God’s unflappable promises.

With all that in mind and because all that is true, Paul says:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Romans 12:1

Because God gave himself to us, Paul tells us to give ourselves to him. 

We’re to be a living sacrifice, meaning God’s to have an all-access pass to our lives. I’m to give him every moment and every part of myself. We’re to be a holy sacrifice, separate from the filth of this world. We set ourselves apart from things that defile and lay ourselves on the altar as unblemished as possible.

When we offer ourselves in this manner, it’s acceptable to God—it pleases him—and it’s an act of worship. We sometimes make the mistake of equating worship with singing or church or Sundays. But, according to Paul, worship is something we do every moment of our lives in response to what God has already done in us.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

As we remember the mercies of God, and give our lives back to him in a worshipful response, we also run away from worldliness and toward godliness, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect. 

The reality is, everyone is being transformed and discipled. But into what image? Creation or the Creator? The world out of which we’ve been saved, or the God who saved us out of the world?

Paul is shouting into that tug-of-war and reminding us of all that God has given and what little he’s asking in return, relatively speaking. This is at the heart of “renewing of your mind”; it’s dwelling on the realities of “the mercies of God” and the worship he deserves in response.

That’s the root of our assignment. Motivated and empowered by the mercy we’ve received, believers are to voluntarily and continually give our whole lives back to God as an act of worship, becoming more like him in the process. This assignment, at its root, is all-together unaffected by coronavirus, lockdowns, and quarantines. 

Growing the Fruit

Now, what does this have to do with the church? Well, what does the root produce when healthy? What is the fruit we can look forward to seeing in our lives? In the next few chapters, Paul lists at least three.

Fruit #1: Serving one another

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly …

Romans 12:3–6a

Humility and clear thinking are byproducts of verses 1 and 2, the root of responding to God’s mercies, and leads to understanding that we are not islands but part of a body.

As believers, we are inseparably united together. Not all of us have the same function and yet, we all have a function, a role that, if left unplayed, makes all of us weaker. 

Years ago I broke my left hand. Being right-handed, I didn’t think it would make much of a difference. Wrong! You never know how much you use parts of your body until you can’t. It’s the same in the church; we need all hands on deck to function as we should. And, if you’re a Christian associated with Oakridge, that means you.

A follow-up question may be, How do I know my gift? Paul lists some examples in verses 6–8, but it’s not an exhaustive list. So, how does one know what gift they’ve been given? 

I think that’s the wrong question. Not only does it feed our egocentrism but it’s asking a question the text isn’t. Notice, Paul doesn’t tell us to find how we’re gifted. He just states we each are and that we need to serve, humbly recognizing it’s not about us.

Let me suggest that, if you’re not serving your church family and don’t know where to start, begin by asking, God, where do I see a need? Maybe it’s in phone calls, children’s ministry, facility repair, technology, prayer. The needs are endless! Then, when you see the need, step out in faith to try and meet it, trusting God will empower you to do just that.

We have more examples in our church family of people who are doing this than I can count. This livestream by which this sermon is currently being used is a direct product of someone seeing a need and stepping out in faith to fill it.

The first fruit that Paul lists that grows off the root in verses 1 and 2 is serving one another. 

Fruit #2: Loving one another.

This is a bigger chunk of Scripture but you can tell it’s one unit because it opens and closes with the same charge.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honour …

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 12:9–10; 13:8–10

As we continually give ourselves to the Lord as living sacrifices and grow in godliness, we expand our capacity to love one another. 

We’re not taking about a feeling of affection or endearment; we’re talking about intentional action. This is clearly seen in the verses between what I read. Paul gives examples of what it looks like to love one another, and they’re all actions. 

… rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. bRespect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:11–21

It’s almost overwhelming as Paul lays out examples of what it means to love one another: Laying down personal preferences, conveniences, comforts, time, and energy. I’m giving up all that for people around me. It sounds impossible! 

But remember, this is a fruit growing from a specific root. It’s as we give our lives to God, motivated by his sacrificial mercies, that we can then lay down our lives for others.

Of all the examples Paul gives, the most difficult may be those that deal with people and situations that are generally considered unlovely. We want to be a church filled with people who seek peace with the unruly (v. 18); who refuse to hold grudges even when legitimate (v. 19), and who submit to government when possible (13:1–7). We are to love one another, no matter how difficult. It’s a fruit that grows from a sacrificial root.

Fruit #3: Accepting one another

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

Romans 14:1

Notice we’re dealing with believers as the “weak in faith” still has faith, it’s just underdeveloped and immature. 

Just like our home families, our church family contains a variety of maturity levels. Some are newborns while others are bodybuilders, and the rest of us are sprinkled in between. Paul’s saying, regardless of maturity, accept one another. 

This gets very practical. Paul gives two examples of how differing maturity levels can cause tension if there’s no acceptance. First, (vv. 2–4) he uses an issue with food and, second (vv. 5–9), an issue with Sabbath observance.

Remember in the 1st-century, much of the church were saved Jews, many of whom were trying figure out what to do about the Mosaic Law, including the food customs and Sabbath day. Some understood it as fulfilled in Christ and a non-issue; others struggled to let go of those traditions. Both were saved and so, Paul says, accept the weaker believer for the stage of faith they’re in; encouraging them and maturing them with the nourishment of the word, but  accept them nonetheless. We’re not dealing with sin here, just maturity as seen situational ethics.

But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Romans 14:10–14

This is a live-and-let-live command. Be gracious with one another as fellow children of the Most High God, remembering that one day we will each stand before Christ and give an account, not for anyone else’s life, but only our own. This is not a ticket to ignore sin in one another but to accept those who see things differently than us, trusting their motives are to honour the God we both serve.

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. …

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

Romans 15:1–2, 5–7

The onus is on the mature. One of the fruit growing from the root of dedication to God is going to be suffering with the immature, sacrificing yourself for their sake, that they may not stumble in their faith, but grow-up.

We have so many opportunities for this fruit to be on display today. I could illustrate that by simply asking questions of our church: What do you think of masks? Lockdowns? Politics? Government overreach? How do you think the church should respond?

There are always potential reasons for division in the church and the Enemy has been working overtime this past year to exploit and exacerbate cracks that have developed. The plaster that fills those fissures is the fruit of accepting one another. It means the mature shoulder the burden for the immature, watching their tongues and tempers, for their growth and the health of the whole.

So, coming back to our original question this morning: How do we be family from afar? How do we function as a church when apart? 

We first need to recognize that our assignments don’t change. We are to be a church that serves one another, humbly using the gifts God has given us for that very purpose. We are to love one another, pouring out everything for the sake of others. And we are to accept one another, recognizing the variety of maturity levels in the church and helping the weak get stronger. 

Doesn’t that sound like the type of family you’d like to be part of; the type of church you’d want others to experience? Of course!

But we must not forget that all of those fruit grow out of a specific root. We, as a whole, will only be able to serve, love, and accept one another to the extent that we, as individuals, are offering our bodies as living and holy sacrifices to God, pursuing godliness. 

Application

We must tend to the root in order to grow the fruit!

How do we tend the root? We must remember the mercies of God in our lives. We have to know it, meditate on it, share it, talk about it, dream about it. The more our minds marinate in the realities of God’s graciousness, the more we offer ourselves back to him, the more we grow as a church into the type of family we want to be and, more important, the type of family God wants us to be.

I’ll encourage you to work your way through Romans 8 this week. You may read it once a day or incrementally throughout the week, slowly digesting the riches of God’s mercy it describes. Tend to that root. Celebrate it. Let it shape the way you think about God, yourself, and the world around you. Tend that root. Ask God to help you offer yourself to him as a living and holy sacrifice.

Then, pick a fruit. Do feel the Lord calling you to serve? If so, ask yourself, where’s the need I can meet by faith? Read Romans 8 and dive right in. Show that fruit: Serve on another.

Are you being called to love, maybe even in a way that’s hard and toward someone unlovely? Read Romans 8 again, bite down on your pride, and lay yourself down for them. Bear fruit: Love one another.

Are you being called to accept someone who’s thinking differently than you? It’s irritating but, honestly, everything that could possibly divide us as a church pales in comparison to what unites us as described in Romans 8. Show that fruit: Accept one another.

Brothers and sisters, tend the fruit in your life—look to the mercies of God that he has lavished upon you, give your whole life to him being set apart from the world and toward godliness. When we all do that, even when apart like we are now, we will grow as a church family. We will grow in our capacity to serve, love, and accept one another. There’s no stopping it.