Transactional Love – Sermon by Jim Bagley – 6 September 2020

Reminder: If you are planning to take part in the Lord’s Table at the end of the service, have your bread and juice ready.


Welcome to First Baptist Kingsville this morning. We approach this Labour Day Sunday so differently than in other years. Usually, this last long weekend of the summer is a pause before the busy season of return to school and the recommencement of all of our community and church activities. This year is different. This year, school is beginning with a sense of uncertainty and anxiety that is palpable. All eyes are on the safe return of our children to classes before we can even begin to think about anything else.

And through all of this, God is faithful. He is here for us when we turn to Him. He continues to call us to faith. This life is filled with uncertainty – not just this year but always – but God is our constant, our guide, our light. May we never forget this as we approach Him in prayer.


Make Me Simple by Ted Loder

O Ingenious God,

I rejoice in Your creation and pray that Your Spirit touches me so deeply that I will find a sense of self which makes me glad to be who I am, and yet restless at being anything less than I can become.

Make me simple enough not to be confused by disappointments,
Clear enough not to mistake busyness for freedom,
Honest enough not to expect truth to be painless
Brave enough not to sing all my songs in private,
Compassionate enough to get into trouble,
Humble enough to admit trouble and seek help,
Joyful enough to celebrate all of it, myself and others and You
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

Scripture Reading

Romans 12:9-21 – New International Version

Read this passage slowly, considering this question: “Is true love about what you get, or what you give?”

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 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.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Today's Message - The End of Transactional Christianity


So, is true love about what you get, or what you give?

I think most of us can probably guess the “right answer” to that question – it’s not about what we get. True love is about our choice to give rather than take; our decision to be willing to sacrifice for others, inspired by the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

That’s the right answer, but is it the real answer? Is it your answer? Is it my answer? It may be how we appear to live our lives, but what about our inner lives? What about our motivation – the reasons we do what we do? What about our own agenda’s that we may be unaware of – agenda’s hidden even from ourselves?

We may know that true love is supposed to be unconditional, but that isn’t an easy thing to live out. It just isn’t how the world works. It’s not natural, or as the Bible tells us, it’s not “fleshly.”

Our propensity to only do things that benefit us can go right back to many of our decisions to follow Jesus in the first place. When I was growing up, it was much more common to hear a real old-fashioned “fire and brimstone” sermon in church on Sunday morning. These sermons usually used vivid (and frankly, unbiblical) imagery to describe the details of the tortures of hell. Once that was established, the invitation was made to pray the sinner’s prayer so that you could be sure to go to heaven instead of that horrible place.

In essence, salvation was a fairly straight forward rescue from ‘eternal damnation’, and the gospel was primarily about going to a good place instead. And so, it was usually presented as God’s offer to enter into a transaction with Him. Ask for forgiveness and pray that Jesus would come into your heart, and heaven was yours. It was always stated that you didn’t need to do anything more – that would be legalism – but I am sure few of us really believed that. The heavy implication always seemed to be that the price of heaven was a lifetime of regular church attendance (weekly in those days) and 10% of your income. On top of that, you needed to do your best to stay away from the big sins of adultery, murder, and (if you were Baptist) being seen drinking a beer. That was my experience anyway.

I don’t remember hearing very much Romans 12:2 talk about a life of transformation (“Don’t conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”), just that it was important not to embarrass your church.  Do that along with the prayer, and heaven was waiting for you on the other side!

That rather shallow understanding of the gospel and salvation has led to charges of rampant hypocrisy in the evangelical church of our day, a hypocrisy illustrated regularly by the serial failures of leader after leader – Jerry Fallwell Jr. being just the most recent example. Any idea of salvation that doesn’t include a Romans 12 transformation isn’t Christian salvation at all.

This transactional view of salvation was never what God was calling us to. The gospel can’t be watered down to “the sinner’s prayer” and heaven when you die. It is far bigger than that. It is about being changed completely. It isn’t about trying hard to do loving things but learning to become loving people.

Romans 13:8-14 – New International Version

Love Fulfills the Law

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So, let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

When God came in the flesh as a simple carpenter from the north country, He was doing something radical. The message and call to love was illustrated through the Father’s overwhelming patience and grace toward the nation of Israel that had repeatedly turned it’s back on Him. Still, we can’t blame the pre-Jesus followers of God for interpreting the message in this ambiguous way. The law presented a relationship with God that was more about obeying the rules. The gospel of Jesus didn’t declare the law to be wrong, just incomplete. Jesus brought a clarity to God’s desire to be with us that the law could only hint at. Jesus was and is a complete game-changer!

No longer was it enough to just keep the rules. From now on, Jesus was calling us into a far more personal relationship of love with God than the people of His day could have ever imagined. On top of that, this gospel had implications on relationships with each other as well. The idea that we could secure our future by saying the right words or doing the right things was set aside for something that went far beyond “heaven someday.” Salvation is just as much about living in the kingdom of heaven today!

Paul here calls us to “wake from our sleep,” because salvation is near to us.” We are being called to a new life of walking in the light of Jesus, a light that sets out a new path and changes us from the inside out! This is the gospel of Jesus Christ!


Given this expanded and comprehensive view of the gospel and all God wants for us, why doesn’t it make more of a difference in our lives? Spend a moment reflecting on this question.

There is nothing I have said here that is radical; nothing you probably haven’t heard numerous times; probably nothing most of you even have any issue with. So why is it so hard to do?

Why indeed! Why do I – one who is writing or speaking these truths to you to consider – why do I have so much trouble with embracing this good news to the fullest extent? Why do we find ourselves so easily diverted to a life that is self-focused and transactional – hoarding our love only to be given to those we are convinced will give it back to us?

Why? Because God isn’t finished with me yet, and He isn’t finished with you either. There is lots of transforming yet to do, if we are up for it.

“Don’t conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”  Romans 12:2

Get used to that verse, because I suspect you will hear a lot of it over the next two months! More than anything else, it is my desire to leave here with as many of you as possible committed to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in your lives; committed to allowing God to soak into you more and more as He changes you from the inside out; committed to a process of growth in God’s direction that will last the rest of your life!

There is no magic way for this to happen. God can and does work in each of us in ways that are as unique as our own relationships with Him. There is one God, but He is creative and loves us all in a way that defies any formula – a truth that can be easily seen in scripture if you are looking for it. You need to take the initiative and grab hold of it for yourself – you need people who will walk through this with you, but no one can do it for you.


I do understand our tendency to understand love as transactional. It comes most naturally to us. We love the people who love us back; help those who have helped us; listen to those who have showed us patience; shared with those who have our backs. This is completely natural, but it is not the gospel.

God is calling us to a different way to live, and love: with a new purpose and a new heart!

Lord's Table

As we prepare our hearts to remember the Lord’s Table this morning, we will once again read Paul’s call to Christian love of Romans 12:9-21. This is a time for us to remember the sacrifice made by Jesus to display to us the power of unconditional love through the cross. On the cross, Jesus paid the price of sin, and in doing so transcended the transactional nature of the Old Testament law and paved the way for the new law: the law of love and grace. When we trust Jesus and place our lives in His hands, we become one with Him as eternal citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven!

After reading the scripture, we will pray a prayer of confession, and then take the elements of the Lord’s Table. One day soon, we will come to this table together, but until then we participate as we always have; in the presence of Christians all around the world, and all through time.

Scripture Reading

Romans 12:9-21 – New International Version

Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  10  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  11  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,  serving the Lord.  12  Be joyful in hope,  patient in affliction,  faithful in prayer.  13  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.

14  Bless those who persecute you;  bless and do not curse.  15  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  16  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.

17  Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  18  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  19  Do not take revenge,  my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”  says the Lord.  20  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.”

21  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Prayer of Confession

Dear Lord, help us to hold close to you.
We confess that we too often treat love as a transaction; giving it only to those who will give it back to us.
We confess that we are sometimes afraid and feel overwhelmed, instead of putting our trust in You.
We confess that we are sometimes defiant, seeking to make sure our rights and comfort come before the rights and comfort of others.
We confess that we are sometimes impatient, lacking in grace.
We confess that we find ourselves seeking escape from this world, rather than facing it with You.
We confess that we are sometimes selfish and miserly, rather than generous and willing to share.
Lord, help us to be seekers of Your heart in the midst of our uncertain lives. Help us to choose love and forgiveness and humility; even when we don’t want to.
Come alongside of those who are suffering, who grieve, who are hopeless, who are afraid.
Take our hands, and lead us to Your light. Amen.

If you belong to Jesus, your sins are forgiven and you have been set free through the act of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Eat this bread and drink this cup in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, until He comes again.

(eat the bread and drink from the cup)



Father, help us to live this day to the full, being true to You, in every way.

Jesus, help me to give myself away to others, being kind to everyone I meet.

Spirit, help me to love the lost, proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.


(From 365 Prayer)