Romans 12:9-11. Let love be genuine…be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.
Let’s pause for a brief second and remember the first two verses of this glorious chapter:
Romans 12:1-2. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
“To live is Christ” means that we have the life of Christ in us, breaking out of us, yearning to reveal itself through us. Through our everyday lives. We are living sacrifices only because it is Jesus who is in us. He is THE living sacrifice. He is the One into which we are being transformed. His is the mind unto which our mind is being renewed.
Why do I bring all this up? Because of the next thing Paul says to us in Romans 12:11 about genuine love – be fervent in spirit.
OK first, almost every time Paul says spirit he means the Holy Spirit. So most likely he is saying that we need to be fervent in the Holy Spirit.
Second, the word fervent. Glowing. Boiling. Burning. On fire. “Keep the fire of the Spirit burning.”
Third, look at the very next phrase – serving the Lord. (Note: the order is important here)
First Reformed: one of the best movies of 2018 (IMO). What does fervor really look like? Hope or destruction?
What does all this mean?
First, fervent in Spirit, is not a new spiritual experience to pray, hope, or work for. It’s faith. It’s believing that the Spirit is at work in you. We don’t just try to have more fervor. We trust. We receive. We rest. It’s our ongoing reality in Christ. It’s part of our “spiritual worship” and being a “living sacrifice.” We experience the Spirit, we “burn in the Spirit.” We are fervent in Spirit, only when we have faith in our co-crucifixion and co-resurrection with Christ.
Remember Christian, you cannot get more of the Spirit. You cannot get more of Christ’s life in you. You can’t be more Spirit filled than you are right now. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work conforming you to Christ’s image. He is not waiting for you to figure anything out before he can act. He works ALL THINGS for your good, your transformation. Do you believe this? If so, then you are fervent in the Spirit.
Second, fervent in the Spirit will result in serving the Lord. Or more literally “slaving in the Lord.” This means that genuine love and “burning in the Spirit” will always look like the serving, sacrificial, submissive, crucified life of Christ. Too many Christians have completely disassociated the Spirit from Christ and his crucifixion. The Spirit isn’t taking you higher, he’s taking you lower, to experience the glory of union with Christ and his sufferings. This is the true path to joy. To hope. To resurrection. To zeal. To fervor. To “burning in the Spirit.” To “burn in the Spirit” is to trust his saving work in your life through Christ and to allow him to turn you into the servant of mankind that Jesus was.
Like we said, the order is important here. “To live is Christ” means that we are fervent in the Spirit by faith. A faith that settles us deeper and deeper into God’s grace and then motivates us to serve in the Lord. First grace, then faith, then service. First the “mercies of God,” then “fervor in the Spirit,” then “serving in the Lord.”
The Spirit has raised us to new life in Christ and this new life burns in us. It burns through us for others. This is the life of Christ in us. This is genuine love.