I hope you had a great year in 2014 as it is about over and 2015 is about to begin. Our text is going to be from Romans Chapter 12. Before we get to it I have a game I would like us to play. The University in Scranton published a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology outlining and identifying the 2014 New Year’s Resolutions. The top five New Year’s Resolutions in 2014 were (in reverse order) to stay fit and healthy, enjoy life to the fullest, spend less – save more, get organized, and at number one was to lose weight.
How many of you have made New Year’s Resolutions in the past? Did any of you make a 2014 resolution? How many of you made it past the first day? The first week? Six months? Only about 45% of Americans make a New Year’s Resolution. Of the 45% only 8% actually keep the resolution to the end of the year. In our 8:30am service no one made it past six months and in the 11:00am service there were two people who made it through the year. So that roughly makes our 8% as well.
New Year’s Resolutions are those things we make almost tongue in cheek because we know we won’t be keeping them to the end of the year. Since this is the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, I thought I would make a challenge to you to make a New Year’s Resolution. And, I’ll even give you three options to choose from. Then I’ll give you a simple Biblical truth that you can use through the course of the year that you can use to help you keep your resolution.
Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
1 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.
Paul begins this passage with an appeal. The King James Version says that he urges them. There is a strong emphasis there that he is trying to explain. Paul is saying that he wants them to pay attention to what is being. In order to understand this you have to put it into context. Paul spent the first 11 chapters of Romans defining the Gospel. These two verses in Romans Chapter 12 serve as a pivot point in this text. Paul is transitioning from doctrine to application. He is moving from theology to how that is going to affect the way you live. He is begging them to listen to what he is going to say next. Any time you see the word “therefore” in Scripture it should remind you to look back over the previous context to understand what is about to be said.
Paul is challenging us to consider the weight of the Gospel and what it means to those who have accepted it as part of their life. My Sunday School class just finished studying the book of Romans. In order for us to understand some of the things that Paul is trying teach us in verses 1 and 2, we need a quick summation of Chapters 1-11. In Romans 1:16-17 Paul gives us the thesis of the book.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The premise on which Paul is writing the book of Romans is to explain the Gospel. He is writing to a group of people in Rome most of whom are Greek and Gentiles. He is wanting them to understand the Gospel. Here is the fundamental principle of what salvation is all about. He spent his time defining terms and helping them understand the depth of the Gospel.
In chapters 1-3 Paul helps us to understand the reality that we are all sinners. All of mankind are sinners, whether you grew up in church with Scripture or you were a pagan from some dark corner of the world. Paul teaches us that a God kind of righteousness is required in order for salvation to take place. The reality is that we are all sinners without excuse.
The second half of Chapter 3-5, Paul instructs us that a God kind of righteousness has actually been made available to us. In our sin we can’t be that kind of righteous person but God has made a way for us to have that kind of righteousness in the person of Jesus Christ. In these chapters Paul outlines for us the relationship that we have as a result of Jesus Christ. This righteousness is available to us through faith. It is a work of faith and not a work of man.
In Chapters 6-8 Paul tells us that this God kind of righteousness can actually be realized in the Christian life. You and I have the ability to live the kind of life that Christ lived through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are no longer subject to sin. Sin no longer has dominion over our lives. We are no longer bound to the things of sin because we have been given power over sin. Once we receive this God like righteousness as part of our life in the person of Jesus Christ sin no longer controls us. We are free from sin and free from its power!
In Chapters 9-11 Paul turns to the sovereign hand of God. Freedom from sin is only possible because of God’s sovereignty. God is the direct cause and finisher of the work. In Chapters 12-15 Paul says that if righteousness has been placed on you then you can now live that kind of life because the Holy Spirit dwells within you. Thus, the “therefore”. If you are a byproduct of the Gospel it should affect the way you live. Therefore live this way.
Chapters 1-11 are critical because Paul defines for us in a very systematic way what the Gospel is and what it means. Then in Chapter 12 verses 1 and 2 he transitions to urging them to pay attention. He is telling them that if the Gospel is real in your life there should be a change in your life.
I want to introduce to you from this text three New Year’s Resolutions. I hope all of us will commit to at least one of these for 2015.
I. A Reasonable Worship
The first is that we would resolve to have a reasonable worship together. In Chapter 12 verse 1, Paul is urging them to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy to God, which is a reasonable worship. Paul is asking you to commit your body. This isn’t something he wants you to theoretically do or that it plays out in our minds or emotions. He is literally asking us to take this physical form, this tabernacle, this sanctuary, and do something with it. We worship God with our bodies. Now, what we’ve done today by gathering together and singing worship songs to our God is worship. It’s something that we get to do as a corporate body and it is valuable and important. However, worship doesn’t end when we leave this room. It actually begins when we leave this room. Paul is telling us in verse 1 that because of the Gospel we should live in an act of worship.
Notice the phrase that Paul uses there. He liked to use these contrasting terminologies like living and sacrificing. By definition sacrifice is dead. When the children of Israel brought their sacrifice to the tabernacle the priests killed the animal as the sacrifice. A living sacrifice is almost a contrary idea to one another. God is calling us to use our bodies as a living sacrifice which means it is intentional. You are physically doing it and laying yourself voluntarily on the altar in order to be subject to his will and his decree. The Message Bible takes this phrase and translates it as taking an ordinary life and serving God.
Paul is trying to help us understand this reality that we are to use our everyday daily life to be an instrument of worship. When you go to work it should be worship. Remember when Jesus was on earth he would often tell people that he had to be about his Father’s business. Jesus lived the kind of life that you and I are supposed to live. He worshipped God every where he went and revealed what the Father wanted him to do. He was a daily living sacrifice. We have the intent because of the Gospel to live our life daily as a sacrifice. As long as we are using our bodies as living sacrifices to God our daily activities are acts of worship. Whether we are playing sports, working, or spending time with our families as long as it is honoring to God and done as a living sacrifice subject to what God is calling and instructing us to do, then that is worship. The demand or call of the Gospel within us is to live a reasonable worship.
II. Don’t Be Conformed
My second New Year’s Resolution recommendation is to not be conformed. I recommend that you not be conformed to this world. Paul is instructing us in verse 2 to not be conformed but to be transformed. Again, he is using these opposite terms to help us understand the difference. When I think of conforming it reminds me of when my son, Eli, plays with play dough. He likes to mix the colors up so after a while it all is grey instead of red, green or blue. For Christmas we gave him a couple of new packages to play with. He has a tooth mold that he likes to smash the play dough into the shape of a tooth. You push the play dough into the mold and it looks just like a tooth. If you take red play dough and put it into the mold a red tooth comes out. No matter what color you use they all come out looking the same. The play dough conforms to the mold with just a little bit of pressure. That’s conformity!
Paul is telling us not to conform to this world. He is instructing us that we are to be different. There is a tension that he is providing with this contrast between conformity and transforming based on the Gospel’s liberation of sin. We are no longer bound by sin so sin should not be able to pressure us into doing those things in conformity. We should not attempt to be conformed to the sinful standards of this world. I have a video that I would like to show you that demonstrates this. The video is from the movie Dead Poet’s Society. Robin Williams is trying to help his students understand the need for not conforming. Conformity, as Robin Williams said, is the difficulty of maintaining your own beliefs in the face of others. The question is, can we be transformed? Can we not conform to the things of this world? That is the challenge that is before us.
In 1936 as Hitler was rising to power and Germany was becoming a greater power in Europe, there was a man by the name of August Landmesser. He had recently been married to a woman who thought she was a Protestant but discovered she was actually a Jew. Since he was married to a Jew, he was thrown into jail. He spent two years in a hard labor camp and was told when he was released that he could no longer be married to her. However, he continued to be married to her and was jailed in a concentration camp for three years. By the time he was released his wife had died. He ended up working in the Blohm + Voss shipyard as a foreman. In 1936 they were unveiling a new ship and a group of dignitaries came to see it including Hitler. As was the custom in Nazi Germany everyone saluted Hitler except for August Landmesser. In the photo that you see he is the man with his arms crossed. To me that is the essence of nonconformity.
Every time I see this picture it reminds of me Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The same thing happened to them. The king said that when the music sounded and the trumpets were blown that everyone should bow down and pray to the idol that he had built. These three men would not follow the orders no matter how many times they were asked or pressured to do so. That is not being conformed. It is the ability to maintain your own belief in the face of others. You can’t compromise on biblical truth. There are some principles that we have to maintain. Don’t be conformed to this world!
III. Be Transformed
Here is the complete opposing view. Conformity means to be like the world. Transformed means to be different from the world. The word here that is used in the Greek is the word that we get metamorphosis from. For example, in the Fall when the leaves turn color they have been transformed but not this kind of transformed. They are still leaves and look like leaves but they are dead.
This word “transform” means to have such a significant change that you don’t even look like what you started out as. It is the context of metamorphosis. You have a caterpillar that goes into a cocoon and comes out at a butterfly. The butterfly doesn’t look anything like the caterpillar. That is a transformation in this text. The idea is to be something that is so completely different then the world that you don’t even look the same. It is a complete transition from one state to another.
How are we supposed to transform from a caterpillar to a butterfly? How do we achieve that kind of transformation? Paul gave us an answer to that question. We are transformed by the renewal of our minds. This is an underlying principal of behavior. Your behavior and actions will always line up with your world view. Your world view is defined by how you answer the big questions in life. For example: what does it mean to be human? What is the nature of man? Who is God? What is God like? What happens when you die? Those questions are philosophical deep rooted questions. Your answers to those questions are going to affect your emotions. They will always play out in your behavior. For example, if you think that human beings are sacred and a created being of God then you will have a problem with abortion, murder and theft because you feel that people have value. Those foundations upon which you build your basis will always affect your behavior. So, how do you change the base line of who you are? It is your mind.
Proverbs 23:7 For as a man thinks in his heart so is he.
Matthew 22:37 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Colossians 3:2 Set your mind on things above not on things on earth.
Philipians 2:5 Have this mind in yourself that is also in Christ Jesus.
If we transform our mind it affects the way that we act. There is a natural relationship that takes place between those two. Once that change takes place with how you think the behavior will follow.
This year for New Year’s pick a resolution that will make it through the year. At the beginning of the service I told you that I would provide you with a simple truth that will help you keep your resolution. First this is a daily practice. We are commanded to take up our cross daily. This means when we fall we have an opportunity to start all over again. We are a living sacrifice. As a result of that, we just get back up on the altar. Don’t worry about tomorrow because it will take care of its self. Don’t worry about yesterday because yesterday is done. We only have today. We are not making resolutions for a year. We are making resolutions for a day. Will you and I make a resolution that on January 1, 2015 we will do one of these three things? Then on January 2nd we will do it again because we are called for daily worship, we are called for daily nonconformity, and we are called for daily transformed living.
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- Since our Salvation is a God-Act, how should that affect the way we live?
- Why is Paul equating our everyday life as worship? What is worshipful about living the everyday?
- What does being conformed to this world look like in the everyday life of the believer?
- Why is transformation described as a function of the mind? And how can this be accomplished?