Be Transformed…

Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday in Romans 12:2. Yesterday, we focused on Paul’s warning not to be conformed to this world. Today, we look at the positive alternative to that – transformation.

The word “transformed” comes from the Greek metamorphoo. If that word looks familiar, it should. That’s were our word metamorphosis comes from, and it gives us a good image of transformation. At just the right time, the caterpillar slinks along a limb, finds a good spot, and forms a cocoon. The caterpillar stays in that cocoon approximately 21 days, then emerges as a butterfly. It is transformed, and the transformation is beautiful.

For the Christian, this kind of transformation includes our external behaviors, but it is far more than surface deep. It is a change to the very kind of person we are. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7), so we know that an immediate change takes place the day a person trusts in Jesus Christ. The Bible pictures this as a darkness-to-light, death-to-life change. But there is an ongoing change that happens to us as our minds are being renewed by the Spirit of God.

In other words, we are not simply changing from the world’s to-do list to Jesus to-do list, instead we are allowing the Spirit of God to change us from the inside out. This happens, Paul says, by the renewal of your mind.

This is too important to overlook! When we were dead in our sins, our minds were dead to the things of God. In other words, the problem with our minds is not simply that we do not have enough information to make good decisions. The problem is that an unredeemed mind is corrupted. It is bent toward rebellion and away from God. Paul wrote in Romans 1:28, “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind.”

Even when we have a genuine conversion to Christ, we still have these deep ruts in our thinking, ruts we often fall back into. It is intensely frustrating for a believer who wants to align his life with the will of God, but struggles with old habits. We long to be free of the shackles of sinful behaviors and the guilt and shame that accompany them.

If transformation comes from the renewal of our minds, how, then, are our minds renewed? Renewal of our minds is not something obtained by force of will. Renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). We must be utterly dependent upon God’s power and not our own. Many great accomplishments have been done by humankind by the sheer force of will, but not the renewal of the mind!

If this renewal is a God thing, then an ever-growing intimacy with God is our answer. The nearer we draw to the heart and mind of God, the more we will be able to discern and discover His will, and the more willing we will be to pursue that will with all our hearts. This is why the disciplines of daily prayer and Bible reading are so very important. This is why a connection with a body of believers who can challenge you and hold you accountable is so important. This is why listening to Christ-honoring music and reading the works of godly men and women are so important. Our transformation is supercharged by the renewal of our minds as our thinking begins to line up with the heart and will of God Himself.

A Living Sacrifice…

Picking up where we left off yesterday, Paul has made his appeal to the Roman church (and to us) based on the mercies of God. I would add here that he uses “mercies” rather than “mercy” because the mercy God shows is multi-faceted and ever-flowing. And based on the mercies God has shown to us, Paul lays out our reasonable response…

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” When Paul uses the term “bodies,” it would seem that he is not just talking about our physical bodies but would include the totality of who we are. It is, however, with our physical bodies that we interact with the world around us. Our understanding of God mercies and our salvation experience because of His mercy saves our souls, but it also influences our actions and interactions in the physical realm.

There was also a belief taught by philosophers and embraced by many that body and spirit were totally separate. Indulging in sinful behaviors with your body, they believed, would have no affect on your spirit whatsoever. Paul’s words argue against such a dichotomy. We are not simply to present our souls to God but every part of ourselves. When we bring our bodies to Him, we are, as the Hokey Pokey song would say, putting our wholeself in. The trick is not to then take our wholeself out!

So what is a “living sacrifice“? Remember that animal sacrifice was common, but in each case the animal was killed. That was the sacrifice. The idea of a living sacrifice would have struck the readers as very strange. The answer, however, may be far simpler than it appears.

The words of Jesus found in Luke’s gospel shed some like on the idea of a living sacrifice. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Just as a sacrifice was a one-time event, so too was a crucifixion! Yet Jesus calls us to take up our cross DAILY. We are daily dying to ourselves so as to live for Christ – or better yet, to allow Christ to live in and through us!

Paul then adds two terms that describe the living sacrifice – “holy” and “acceptable to God.” The standards God placed upon acceptable offerings were high. A Jew was to carefully consider what He would bring to the Lord as an offering. It was not random or haphazard in any way. He was to bring the first fruits, the best of his flock or herd. He was not to bring blind or lame animals, that which would be less costly to dispose of.

When we come to the Lord as living sacrifices, we are not to bring our least or the leftovers of our lives. We are to give to God the very best of ourselves. This is not simply in regard to money we might place in an offering basket. Paul is talking about giving our very selves!

And he adds – “which is your spiritual worship.” We offer our BODIES as SPIRITUAL worship. There is no divide here. We don’t separate our spirit and our physical form. True worship, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, is in spirit and in truth. When we offer our spiritual worship, it is giving ourselves to God inside and out and without reservation or holding back. And it is the only reasonable and logical thing to do based on the mercy He has shown to us.

In times of prosperity and times of lack, in times of triumph and in life’s defeats, in our best times and our worst times, God covers us with His mercy and calls us to live in such a way to bring glory to Him and bring people to Jesus.

By the Mercies of God…

Today, we’re going to begin walking through Romans 12. The plan (and we all know how plans can change) is to do this daily in the hopes that it might encourage the body of Christ and challenge those who do not believe so that they might embrace Jesus as Savior! So, let’s get started…

In all that he has written before this, Paul has already presented the church in Rome (and us) with a truckload of profound and life-changing truth about God and His eternal plans. Here, Paul appeals to the Roman believers. “Appeal” is a word meaning to urge or exhort. It is composed to two parts. The first part means “from close beside” and the other “to call.” Even though Paul was a great distance away, it is as if he were standing beside them making his plea to the Romans.

In his urging, is “by the mercies of God.” If you took the time to read through Romans 1-11, it richly expounds on the great mercy of God toward sinful humanity. It was a mercy that took Jesus to the cross.

The word “mercy” means to have deep compassion on someone in great difficulty. It is translated elsewhere as “pity,” but we see pity as looking down on a person or just feeling sorry for them. Mercy is far more active! It not only feels badly about a person’s situation, it acts on behalf of that person. So, for us, mercy reveals not only the heart of God toward us but His power in acting to bring us out of our dire state.

Lamentations 3:22 reminds us that the mercies of God never end. Ephesians 2:4 informs us that God is rich in mercy. God pocket’s are bulging with mercy. His bank vault cannot close because of the magnitude of His mercy. His mercy overflows the halls of heaven and spills out on each of us as God holds back His wrath and is lovingly patient with us.

God’s mercy and grace are bound up together. As Ray Pritchard writes, “Mercy is what gets us out of trouble. Grace gives us what we don’t deserve” (citation). They are both expressions of His love.

Today, let us marvel in the mercy of God. Let His mercy toward us motivate us to reflect that mercy to a hurting world. Jesus said, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

Who You Are…

Who YOU are…

– It’s important to know that the “you” in this verse is plural, not singular. We too often think of our Christian faith as only a journey we travel with Jesus, but it is more, far more. It is also a journey we travel with Jesus’ people. The New Testament knows nothing of a Lone Ranger kind of Christian. We were born again into a born again community!

A CHOSEN RACE – “Chosen” is a term often used for Israel. They were a people God chose and a people He chose to bless (Deuteronomy 7:6). And in Ephesians 1:4, Paul says of believers that “He chose us in Him [that is in Christ] before the creation of the world.” This was not due to our worthiness but was by God’s grace alone. No matter how we feel, no matter what others think of us, no matter how maligned or even despised the church of Jesus may become, the truth is that we are chosen by God Himself.

A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD – In the Old Testament, the monarchy and the priesthood were divided. Kings were to be descended from the line of David, the tribe of Benjamin. Priests were to be descended from the line of Aaron, the tribe of Levi. Each one had its unique roles in the life of God’s people. (See 1 Samuel 13:8-14 and 2 Chronicles 26:16-21)

In Jesus, all this was surpassed. Jesus is the great high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17) and the promised King to sit on David’s throne (Luke 1:32, Revelation 19:11-16). We are a royal priesthood in the sense that we are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). 

A HOLY NATION – This, too, is terminology used in reference to Israel. They were not holy in the sense that they never erred and always responded perfectly to God’s desires for them. That notion would be dispelled with even a cursory reading of the Old Testament! In what sense, then, were they holy? 

The term ‘holy’ means ‘set apart,’ and this is precisely who there were. God chose them and set them apart from the other nations. Many of the laws He gave to them were to distinguish them from the nations around them. And God has set us apart. As believers in His Son, we were chosen, called, and set apart by God Himself. Jesus calls us to follow Him, and in doing so our attitudes and lifestyles will be markedly different from the world around us – or at least they should be.

A PEOPLE FOR HIS OWN POSSESSION – In Deuteronomy 7:6, it refers to the people of God as God’s “treasured possession.” What a beautiful expression! We are God’s, and God delights in that. We bring joy to the heart of God, not because we are always good or perfect, but because we are His. Do we disappoint Him? Yes. But the fact remains that He loves us. He delights in us. 

What YOU are called to do – 

– We could have stopped with has just been said and go on feeling good about ourselves for the rest of the day. But God never intended us to be the fine china on display behind glass doors in the cabinet collecting dust – to be taken out and used only once a year. Instead, He chose us and calls us for a purpose – a glorious purpose.

TO PROCLAIM THE EXCELLENCIES OF GOD – The one who “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,” is worthy of our praise – now and forever. We are to declare His praises in our worship, but we are also to proclaim His glory to the world in our witness.

Everyone is a creation of God, but not all are children of God. The Bible is clear that there is but one way into the holy presence of God, and that way is through faith in Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and the only Way to the Father (John 14:6). Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14). 

But God’s Word also tells us that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13). Have you trusted in Jesus? If not, today could be your day of salvation. Email me, and we’ll talk. pastor@gracefellowship.ws

More Than Conquerors…

Romans 8:37-39 —

No – This “no” is an answer in response to questions asked before it. Can tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus? Paul’s answer is a resounding “NO!” Then he begins to expand on it…

MORE THAN CONQUERORS – This is who we are. Or more exactly, it is who we are IN JESUS. It is because of God’s great love shown supremely in His sending His Son to pay the full price for our sins, that we share in an eternal inheritance. Jesus won the victory, and extends that victory to us. It is only in Him that we are more than conquerors.

FROM THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS IN OUR LORD – If you are a follower of Jesus, no matter what challenges and even heartaches may come, nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing! No way! No how!

God loves you. Nothing can change that. He will not love you more on your best days or less on your bad days. Count on it.

No Condemnation…

In a time when many are anxious and some scared, Christians have a confident assurance that sustains us and gives us hope. Let’s look more closely at this verse – Romans 8:1

NOW – Believers in Jesus are forgiven now!!! It’s who we are. It’s our identity and should affect how we live, how we feel, and how we respond to crises.

NO CONDEMNATION – The price has been paid for ALL our sin by the blood of Jesus! He has secured our pardon. He has set us free. Let’s love and love as forgiven people.

IN CHRIST JESUS – This is key! Who are those who are now forgiven and free? Who are those who are no longer condemned? The answer is right here – those who are in Christ Jesus! Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Would you like to know how you can be forgiven? Go to this website to get more information – https://www.godlife.com/en/gospel/something-better-bench-2… – then send me an email. I’d love to share with you about a new life in Jesus. [Email]

How to Forgive… (part 1)

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

This one may take a few posts. Apologizing for something we have done is something most of us can do. Forgiving someone for something they have done to us can be incredibly challenging, so let’s take this slowly. As we begin to address the issue of forgiveness, we might do well to start by considering what forgiveness is not.

Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness is a choice, and your feelings may not agree with your decision. There may still be anger and hurt, and these feelings may be fully justified. It may take a long time for your feelings to catch up.

Forgiveness is not pretending you are not hurt. In order to truly forgive, you must acknowledge that you are hurt. Sometimes you may feel as if the slight is minor or that the person may not have intended to hurt you, but if you won’t even acknowledge to yourself that you’re hurt, you will end up just stashing the pain and/or disappointment in the junk drawer of your heart. It is easy for bitterness to take root in that kind of environment. Bitterness tends to leak out in passive aggression or an abrasive attitude.

Forgiveness is not putting yourself in line for continuing pain and abuse. Trust is given at first, but when that trust has been betrayed it can take time to rebuild it. I tell couples in pre-marriage counseling that trust is earned by the inch but lost by the mile. If a pattern of inconsiderate or abusive behavior exist, you can forgive while not putting yourself in the position to be mistreated and misused by the other person. Even when an apology is offered and forgiveness is extended, trust must be earned back – if it ever can be.

Forgiveness is not impossible. This may be hard to accept for some of you who have been hurt deeply, but forgiveness is possible. We who have been forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus need to be awfully careful about withholding forgiveness from others. Forgiveness is an expression of God’s love in us, and Jesus calls us to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45). We do not earn forgiveness by forgiving, but we forgive others because we have truly experienced forgiveness from the Father.

Jesus’ words always hit me right between the eyes —

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14,15 (ESV)

Let those words simmer in your soul a while…