Audio Worship 10/22/2023, "Spiritual Formation: Transforming Our Relationships" Romans 12.3-21

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1610

October 22, 2023

Romans 12.3-21   Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus


"Spiritual Formation: Transforming Our Relationships"


3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 9Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


We have been examining how our on-going spiritual formation seeks to transform our being from one degree to another, closer to being like Christ. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3.17-18). We have examined the transformation of thoughts, feelings, the will, and the body. Today we look to transforming our relationships. It is about the social dimension of our being. How do we get along with one another in all the relationship we encounter. Society – one nation under God; family – raising children, working, cooking; marriage – giving ourselves to the other; friendships – laying down our lives for their sake; all these relationships, and others, are all connected to the social dimension of existence and either build community or tear down community.

In essence this is a reflection of the community that is the Lord in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That mystery of three in one, three persons in one substance, is a model of community and it seems to me that this is why God seeks to build communities that relate well with one another and communities that relate rightly with God Himself. So the Ten Commandments are written for the sake of those relationships between us and God (1-3) and for the sake of human relationships (5-10) with the Sabbath command hinging the two sets. We are created for community because we are created in the image of God. We are created to commune with God so that we will be more able to commune with one another.

This is one of the reasons I believe Paul includes Romans 12.18 in the list of exhortations: 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Live peaceably is to live in communion with others as best we can. Now, that can become very complex as sometimes those around us refuse to live peaceably. Enemies of the cross will seek to live in every way opposed to Christians. It is much like Israel’s situation as they would seek to live peaceably with their neighbors, but some of those neighbors refuse to do so. It is the Christian responsibility to first seek peace among our neighbors, as far as it depends on us, says Paul. There are limits for which we cannot be responsible. We do the best we can following the teachings of the Bible in how we are to relate to others. Let us look at four areas that can help us be transformed to be like Christ in all our relationships and social dimensions.



  • Made Whole in Christ


One step toward blessed relationships is seeing ourselves as God sees us in His redeeming grace. We have been made whole in Christ Jesus by His death and resurrection. The lens through which we are now seen by God is through that blood of the cross, washed clean, and the new life in Christ’s resurrection. You know how sometimes when we see someone in dress clothes and we make the comment that they clean up real nice. Same with God’s grace, we all clean up real nice in God’s eyes. It is the simple realization that we have died to our self in order to live to God.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3.1-4


Hear again that line in verse 3, You have died! The old sinful nature has been crucified in Christ. This is symbolized in our baptism, going under the waters to rise up again. And the rest of verse 3, your life is hidden with Christ in God! God sees us through what Christ has done for us.


We all have had some form of brokenness in life. Sin has affected all of humanity. Christ brings wholeness to our being in reconciling us to God. It is in the blessing of that relationship of reconciliation that we build all other relationships. It is never just about me and God, but always a part of a larger community even if just a community of two. This is why sins that people commitment with the idea that, “I’m not hurting anyone”, are so dangerous, because they truly are hurting the larger community in their sin no matter what the sin might be. Sin, in and of itself, is destructive to the whole community. Only in Christ can that sin be washed away and we can be made whole.


More good news – God is at work in us to make us more like Jesus. Philippians 1.6 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. In one sense this means that it begins with us, seeing ourselves as a new creation in Christ. But in another sense, and more importantly, it begins with God. For it is God who has done this in us. It is God who has taken the initiative to reconcile us to Himself. As Paul says, it is not our own doing, but the gift of God (Ephesians 2.8). Our part is to accept what God has done. Receive the forgiveness offered. Embrace the grace of God. Work out our salvation with the Holy Spirit, that is, our sanctification (Phil 2.12-13) 12Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

In all of this, God is our sufficiency. Paul writes of this in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 3.4-5 4Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.


2 Cor 9.6-8 6The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.


God has already done all we need for assurance of our salvation so that we not worry or live with anxiety over anything. Wholeness in Christ is granted us for all things in life and even in death for the promises of God are sure and give us sufficient hope and confidence in all things. When we have this assurance in our lives, we are better able to relate to others in the love of God that has deeply touched our lives.


  • Humble Vulnerability


A second attribute that strengthens our relational life is humility. This is how our reading for today begins in Romans 12.3, 3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Don’t think too highly of ourselves! The attitude is humble before the Lord. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4.10

Such humility enables us to set our desires aside and look out for others before ourselves, 1 Corinthians 10.24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

1 Peter 3.8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Ultimately we are again seeking to have the mind of Christ as in Philippians 2.4-8, Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


What humility does in our spirit and life is drive out our need to defend ourselves or for self-justification or to manipulate others or anything that leads us to try to “look good”. We are willing to take the blame in a given situation, willing to take second place, willing to give of ourselves for the sake of others. This attitude makes for better and deeper relationships with everyone in our life.


  • Our Authentic Self


When we see ourselves and others as God does and when we act with all humility in our lives, we begin to eliminate all pretense. We drop the masks from our faces and our lives and seek to be our authentic real selves. This also takes a great deal of humility and vulnerability. Romans 12 gives us two sets of attributes for being ourselves as we are in Christ. The first are the ways we are the church according to the grace and power given us by God. Look again at Romans 12.3-8. Grace to be humble according to the faith we have received. Gifts have been given in areas of prophecy, service, teaching, exhortations, generosity, leadership, and acts of mercy. These are the gifts given to the body of Christ, the Church, and we are to use them as we interact in the community of faith. Then in verses 9-21 we see the qualities that all Christians should practice, beginning with verse 9 - Let love be genuine. So, verses 3-8 may not be for everyone because we might not all teach or have a gift of prophecy, but we all can let love be genuine. We all can seek to live out these attributes beginning with genuine love. It may be that all the following exhortations all come from that genuine love. Abhor evil, hold fast to good, these stem from love. Show honor, contribute to the saints and show hospitality, all from love. There are twenty-two qualities of the Christian life in these verses.

These are certainly helpful descriptions of what it means to live in Christian community and in the world as well. It contains the attitudes and actions of the transformed social life of Christians. This is how we are to relate to one another, especially in the church, but also, as best we can, outside the church. Outside we may have to bless those who persecute us or not repay evil for evil. It may not be easy, but it gives witness to the transformation of how those in Christ relate to others.

At the center of our relationships is love. Love is an expression of care and concern for God and others in its deepest sense of giving ones self for the sake of another. Jesus demonstrates this to the maximum degree in giving His life for the sins of the world. We demonstrate this by giving of our resources, time, energy, space, whatever we can give in order to show love to those in need. Love is a relational act that cannot truly exist apart from community. Marriage, family, town, church, nation, no matter the size of the relatedness, the need is there for love.



  • Embracing the Living Water


The last point today is to embrace the living water that God gives. Living water is this source of life and power that enables us to live understanding God’s view of us, to humble ourselves before God, and to embrace the life of Romans 12. When Jesus met the woman at the well he spoke of this water, 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4.13-14).

Also John 7.38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

One of the devotional thoughts that I have kept in my memory from Oswald Chambers in his book My Utmost for His Highest, is from the devotional thought on August 30:


If you keep your relationship right with [Jesus], then regardless of your circumstances or whoever you encounter each day, He will continue to pour “rivers of living water” through you (John 7:38). And it is actually by His mercy that He does not let you know it. Once you have the right relationship with God through salvation and sanctification, remember that whatever your circumstances may be, you have been placed in them by God. And God uses the reaction of your life to your circumstances to fulfill His purpose, as long as you continue to “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7).


Our relationships are truly transformed by the flow of God’s living water. That is Christ in us, the Holy Spirit in us, the Word of God in us. Living water pouring into and through us even when we are unaware. Our social actions and interactions in total dependence on God’s resources of living water found in Christ. In this living water, our lives are indeed transformed. Amen.


* Sermon series based on readings from Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard.