Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Becoming a Romans 12 Christian - Part 1

Read Part 2 here.
Read Part 3 here.

Join me for a Romans 12 Bible study? Friend, I'd love to have your company. Let's dig into the Word together, starting with prayer.

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Thank you for your Word. Thank you that it's living and interactive, ready to meet our every spiritual need. Please forgive us if we've been lukewarm Christians at any time, and help us to understand and pray these verses into our hearts and lives. Thank you that you never leave us spiritually stagnant, but always bring us back to yourself. You promise to finish your work in us, and we thank you. We love you and desire to make our lives a living sacrifice to you. 

In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Written by the apostle Paul, Romans 12 is nothing if not a description of how believers should behave. In the first 11 books of Romans, Paul went over the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Following this theological discussion, the apostle provides the practical here, in Romans 12. Paul connects it to the previous verses with the word "therefore". Practically speaking, if your heart is right with God, this then is how you should behave.

The verses are provided below. Please read them once a day for a week.

Romans 12 (ESV scripture source here)

A Living Sacrifice 

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.
Gifts of Grace

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Marks of the True Christian

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The duties we are to perform as Christians (our daily behavior) come out of the privileges afforded us as receivers of Grace. We don't will these behaviors into our lives; rather, they are the natural outflow of the love and grace poured into us.

However, we still have free will. We can still make choices that sidetrack or stagnate us, and verses such as these are designed to bring us back into the fold. Picture the rod and staff and think about their meanings, as described below:
During times of struggle and danger, Jesus is also there to comfort us with His rod and staff. The meaning of the Hebrew word for "rod," SEBET, and "staff," MISHENA, are very special. The Hebrew word SEBET has the idea of a "stick." It originally referred to a part of a tree. In the Old Testament the "stick" was used to count sheep (Lev. 27:32). It was also used to protect the sheep from other animals. In the book of Proverbs the stick is used for discipline (Prov. 13:24). SEBET has a sense of authority. The Hebrew word MISHENA has the idea of "something to lean on," "trust," "support," or "staff." Together, the two words paint a picture of a strong, protective shepherd whom we can trust. One who not only cares for us but who will protect us. Sheep are stupid animals compared to other creatures. If we are following the shepherd and danger, trouble, and the threat of death come in the form of life's foxes and bears, He is there with His rod and staff. He protects us with His rod and we can trust the leading of His staff. source
Paul’s words in Romans 12 are not demanding ones, but those of exhortation. It matters to God why we act this way, for he doesn't judge men on outward appearances, but on the heart. Our behavior thus must stem from righteous attitudes and motives, rather than from guilt, greed or self-interest. God wants more from us--he wants purity of heart. He wants us to respond to his Grace with our worship, with our sincere desire to please Him, and to actively avoid anything that would displease Him.

The worship called for in Romans 12 is sacrificial. In the Old Testament several types of offerings existed (sin offerings), but in this case, our offering is not for our sin, for Jesus took care of our sin, past, present, and future. 

Romans 12, then, calls for a sacrifice of praise. In praise and worship and devotion, we give up our lives--we offer them as living sacrifices. We reject the world and its influences, and allow our minds to be renewed--to be completely transformed by His spirit within us. We completely turn ourselves over to this process.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Romans 6:12-13 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness.

We will go through Romans 12 slowly over many weeks, trying to glean as much application and depth as possible. In addition to reading Romans 12 every day for one week, think about what it is you do with your body all through the day. How do you use your eyes, your mouth, your ears, your hands, your figure and face, to bring God glory? Write it all out to give you a starting point, and contrast it with what the worldly do with their eyes, ears, mouth, hands, minds, and bodies? 

I submit to you that the world would have us behave thus:

~ Eyes: Feast our eyes on the unholy--on waste-of-time dirt readings about Miley Cyrus or the Kardashians, on dirt movies, on waste-of-time, violent or irreverent video games

~ Ears: Feast our ears on the unholy--on dirt lyrics, on cussing, on irreverent or waste-of-time media

~ Our figures and faces: Put ourselves into revealing outfits to invite the praise of man; spend too much money and time on clothes and hair and makeup for the same reason

~ Our mouths: Speak untruths, complain, cuss, slander, tear down with anger, feed ourselves unwisely, thereby compromising our health

~ Our minds and hands: Working, with either or both, for the praise of man or the glory of ourselves. We may be workaholics, putting emphasis on the temporal, rather than the eternal. Or we may eat the bread of idleness, neglecting everything.

The Lord would have us turn from all this--the pride of life and more--to bring Him glory. To behave in ways that seek to please him, not grieve Him, and all this through our response to the Spirit--the result of the renewing of our minds. Yes, we have freedom in Christ, but we must use that freedom to please Him, not ourselves.

Looking forward to next time, friends.

To recap the homework:

~ Read Romans 12 every day for one week.

~ Write down what you did with the relevant parts of your body this week (this would obviously entail how you spent your time, and what your motivations were). Then analyze it. Who was mostly glorified...you, and/or Satan, or the Lord?

If you don't know where you're starting, you don't know how far you have to go. Maybe you only have one or two things to work on, or maybe you're totally sold out to the enemy. For the glory of God, let us move forward, offering our bodies as living sacrifices.

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