In our study of Romans chapter twelve, we will look at how we can tell the difference between someone who is set apart for God's use (consecrated) and someone who is pretending (hypocrite). If you ask people why they do not "go to church", quite a few will say because it is full of hypocrites.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." NIV translation
Whenever we see "therefore" in Paul's writings, we need to pause and see what it is there for. In this case, it refers back to chapter 11 and the fact that both Jew and Gentile can be saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Now, he says that, because we are saved, our duty is to offer our bodies to the service of God. He also says that this is our "spiritual act of worship" and that should make us pause again to take notice. There are many today who act like they are superior spiritually in worship by babbling in tongues or other things. They will put on a big show of worship but, once they leave the service, they will act like everyone else that is of the world. These people are commonly called hypocrites. The Greek word hypokrisis is where we get the term hypocrite and it means someone who is playing a part on a stage or putting on a mask.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." NIV translation
Paul goes on to explain that this living sacrifice is set apart (different) from the world around them. The renewing of the mind refers to the fact that, when we come to Christ, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit which counsels us concerning the things of God. We see that the reason we present this sacrifice is so that we can understand what the will of God is for our lives. Someone who is set apart (consecrated) will be in tune with God and will be guided by Him. Someone who is playing a part (hypocrite) will constantly be searching for the meaning and purpose for their daily lives. They will chase after the latest and greatest theory or possession and never be content.
"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." NIV translation
Those who are set apart will be humble while those who are playing a part will want everyone to see and know how religious they are. Paul tells us that we should each judge ourselves and our relationship with God to see where we are truly at in our lives. We are told to do this based on the faith that God has given us which means we are to compare our walk with what Christ has for us (the best) instead of comparing ourselves to other people. Those who are set apart will always look at themselves in light of how God sees them while those who are playing a part will look at themselves based on the amount of praise and applause that they are receiving from people around them.
"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." NIV translation
Part of this humility is realizing our role in the greater body which is the kingdom of heaven. Paul compares the church to a physical body and we know that the human body acts as a unit. In the same manner, someone who is set apart for God's use will work with the body of Christ.
"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." NIV translation
God gives each of us abilities that are designed to fit into the local body of Christ. When they all come together, then, the local body of believers function as designed. Each person must use the gift that they have and they complement each other to glorify God.
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above ourselves." NIV translation
Someone who is set apart demonstrates the love of God to his fellow man. Those that are playing a part can pretend to love but only for a short time while those that are set apart will have a consistent pattern of demonstrating love. Those that are set apart will hate evil and not want to associate with evil activities while the pretender will be comfortable going along with whatever is popular. The humble (set apart) will think of others before self while those who are playing a part will always be out to see what they can get for themselves.
"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." NIV translation
We are to remember the passion that we had for Christ when we first came to Him. His love for us caused us to want to serve Him and to grow closer to Him. It is this love and remembrance of what He has done for us that will give us the strength and desire to serve Him. This love will cause us to get active in our faith on a consistent basis instead of just doing a little "service" every now and then.
"Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." NIV translation
This love and desire to serve Jesus will be displayed by serving fellow Christians as well as others that are in need. The phrase "practice hospitality" is talking about the fact that we are called to serve complete strangers as well as the brothers and sisters that we know.
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." NIV translation
This love will also be shared with those who hate us and treat us badly. The actual word for bless means roughly "no worry" and it means that those who treat us badly do not have to worry about how we will react because we will always react with love from Jesus.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." NIV translation
This love is demonstrated in our display of compassion for those around us. This is where we put ourselves in their shoes and it causes us to take action on their behalf. This love causes us to look at all others as if they were above us because that is what Jesus did for all of us. This happens in those that are set apart when our minds are changed to be like the mind of Christ (see Philippians 2). Those that are playing a part still have their old way of thinking.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." NIV translation
The person who is set apart has the peace of God in them and that peace flows out to others in their dealings with them. They do not react to the evil acts of others but instead act out of the love that is in them through the power of the Holy Spirit. They trust that God will settle all scores as necessary while those that are playing a part are quick to jump up to their own defense.
"On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." NIV translation
Paul quotes the words of Solomon concerning the matter of revenge. Those that are playing a part do not have the faith to wait on the judgment of God while those that are set apart know that the judgment is coming. Those that are playing a part are quickly overcome by evil as they lash out to seek their own vengeance. Those who are set apart overcome the devil's schemes with their display of love just as Jesus did when He died for His enemies (which we all were at that time).