Very brief outline of a talk I gave yesterday

” Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:11 NIV

“In the diligence, not lazy. In the (S)spirit, boiling. In the Lord, serving.” Romans 12:11 literal from Greek

In this section of Romans 12 Paul describes the virtues and perspectives needed for the church to be the church in series of short pithy statements.

To be the church we need to be:

Committed to our POSITION

Gripped by PASSION

Reliant on our source of POWER



Jesus had been with his disciples for three years and one the most fundamental themes he had been testing through his words and actions was servanthood. Just before he died he wanted to make sure that they really understood something about what it meant to be his disciple and it’s connection to servanthood

So when no one else would demean themselves, when his disciples were all conscious of their status and didn’t want to appear inferior or lower down the pecking order by washing each others feet, Jesus got some water, a bowl and a towel and washed everyone’s else’s feet.

Jesus took on the role of a slave, of a servant. What Jesus was doing and saying was that servanthood characterised by humility, servanthood that never sees serving other people as below one’s self, is fundamental to be being his disciple. Humble servanthood is the inedible mark of those who live in the Kingdom of God.

It seems like this has always been a difficult message in the church. Just a few decades later Paul had to express what Jesus meant in these words

Philippians 2:5-11
New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

Paul is saying to the Christians of his generation, the first generation of gentile believers, that one attitude is absolutely fundamental in the Christian community, and that is servanthood. He is saying we simply cannot be followers of Jesus without being a servant to others for Jesus embraced the way of servanthood despite its sacrifice and cost.

Here in Romans 12 Paul is speaking to us about the attitudes and actions that need to be present in a community of Christ followers for them to be fully the church that God wants them to be and so its shouldn’t surprise us that here he talks about servanthood

A church to be truly the church must be a community of servants, of those who serve Jesus by serving others.

slave or serve …. IN THE LORD” …. our servanthood springs from our relationship with Jesus. We serve with Jesus and like Jesus when we translate “in the lord, slaving” into our lives

When those who know us look at our lives and community they should see evidence of Christ like servanthood, of us serving others in a way marked by humility and sacrifice.


EARLY METHODISTS were insulted by being called “enthusiasts” In the 18th century many people believed that the greatest virtue was to be rational and unemotional about everything. Yet the early methodists couldn’t be cold and rational because they had met Jesus, they were passionate and zealous. They were passionate, passionate about Jesus, passionate about worship, passionate about holiness, passionate about sharing their faith in words and actions.

Passion has always been an unmistakable characteristic of a church which is living as God intended and the Spirit wants to enable.

Sadly it’s not always the experience of every church. I suspect Paul had heard of a lack of passion in the church in Rome. So he says to them, and through them to us

“Never be lacking in zeal” or more literally “In the diligence, not lazy”

It’s a tragedy and insult to Christ when an expression of his Body is full of people who are apathetic or lazy about their faith. Who give the impression they can’t be bothered or the things of God are unimportant or uninteresting to them.

Make no mistake Passion is important to Christ. Looking at churches in modern Turkey 2000 years ago Jesus said this to one community of apathetic believers


15-17 “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit.

We all express passion differently because of our different personalties but we know when we feel it in our lives and see it in a church

So passion and servanthood should mark out Christian community. It would be easy just to read this in a way that makes us feel more guilty. We SHOULD BE MORE PASSIONATE, We SHOULD SERVE MORE!

what if we looked at this verse in another way, due to the middle phrase that this isn’t just a command but an invitation?

What if we see this description of what God says we should be as also an invitation to what we can be through Gods power? We need to realise again what the Word of God calls us to be the Spirit of God wants to enable us to be. That Christ through His Spirit wants to enable us to become more fully servants like him marked by a passion for Him and His ways.

This verse doesn’t need to stir up guilt in us that we are not yet what is being described but should stir in us a desire to allow the Spirit to enable us to become what is being described.


” spiritual fervour,” “In the (S)spirit, boiling.”

Other translations …..

and let us keep the fires of the spirit burning,




Big question for translation. Does Paul mean OUR spirit or THE SPIRIT …. Is he describing what our spirit should be like or what the Holy Spirit does? Surely not an either OR but a both and?

We become fervent in spirit, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit

A pot boiling is a picture of energy, life, activity, power etc and this is something, to use a cliche we DON’T WORK IT UP but IT IS SENT DOWN. it’s the work of the Spirit in our spirit.

That doesn’t mean we are passive. The Holy Spirit is sensitive elsewhere Paul says that there are

THINGS WE CAN DO WHICH INHBIT THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT: “Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thess 5:19

THINGS WE CAN DO WHICH ENCOURAGE THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” 1 Tim 1:6

So we need to identify those attitudes and actions that inhibit the Spirit’s work in our life and church and stop them and identify and adopt those attitudes and actions that encourage the work of the Spirit

What a great picture this verse has of the community of believers the Spirit wants to enable us to become.

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