Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Becoming a Roman's 12 Christian, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 3 here.

Join me for another session of our Romans 12 Bible study? Get your Bible, get comfy, and let's pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

We love you. We thank you for your Word, for your Son and Holy Spirit. Thank you for your presence and for the hope of heaven. Thank you for the heart lessons, for the gentle nudges in Romans 12; we dedicate this time to you as we study and learn how to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Help us resist the world. Give us discernment in all things so we can please you and know what is "good and perfect". Forgive us our sins, cleanse us of pride, arrogance, stubbornness. We thank you for what you're going to do through us, as you renew our minds.

In Jesus' name we pray, Amen

Our text: Romans 12:1,2
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.

Here, Paul appeals to us "by the mercies of God", to be non-conformists. The term “conformed” (suschematizo) means to be molded or stamped according to a pattern. It's a passive verb, so it happens to us, unless we actively stop it. We will be molded by the world, unless we do something to stop it. 

Make a decision, we must. On what will we build our lives? What pattern will stamp us?

We have to choose our foundation. Christ reveals himself to us, awakening us spiritually, allowing us to understand the things of God. We can see Truth, but we don't have to choose it. Like the unbeliever, we can have as our foundation the exaltation of self. 

Basically, we have two choices: Self, or Christ.  

Be transformed--by mind renewal, because of the mercies of God. Be transformed from one who exalts self, to one who exalts God--because of the mercies of God. Don't do it because you owe God something, but because you love God's mercies and you feel compelled to run to the rooftops and proclaim his mercy in your life. Be transformed for the pure joy of it. Wow! I get to be transformed. I get to.

I asked that we read Romans 12 everyday for one week, and I also asked us to consider where we're at in our worship of God. How are we spending our time and our money and what are we saying and listening to and feeling, and what are our motivations? What do they indicate about our foundation? Is it Self, or Christ?

It isn't wholly about the movies we view, or the length of our skirts, or the amount of time and money we waste on entertainment, though these things are all telling. We miss the point if we tell a new Christian that to be unconformed means to wear your skirts below the knee, view only G movies, listen to only Christian music. 

What do these things focus on? A line in the sand--and that's not what Romans 12 is about. Rather, it's about the mercies of God and how we can and should exalt them. 

Eventually, skirt length will lengthen as we no longer have a reason to show significant skin, but the Spirit draws the line, not the nosy Christian. The line just might change over time, as the renewal of the mind proceeds. Sanctification is a process, not a destination. 

So look at your life not so much to see where your line in the sand is, but what foundation you're building upon. Self, or Christ?

The renewal of the mind is a regular phenomena. If you read Scripture and have a prayer session on Sunday...will your mind be renewed? Maybe, but very, very slowly, and probably not enough to reverse the influence of the world. You'd likely have one foot in the world all the time, unable to discern good and pleasing--unable to see, for example, that your nice legs are making the man in the next pew not concentrate on the sermon, but on his visual images--namely, the one you gave him, to start. His mind doesn't need much to go on, and he doesn't need a spiritual battle to stress him out and make him feel bad about the way God created him, which is visual. 

Believe me, now that I have a 13-year-old son who tells me everything, I get this in ways I never did before. Lots of skin, displayed, is stressful to a Christian man--or any man who wants to honor his wife in thought and deed. Prior to my son's adolescence, I felt it best to speak little of modesty, because it's a relative thing and changes over time and maturity, but now that I see my son suffering over immodest dress, I feel more bold in mentioning this phenomena. Our bodies don't pleasure a stranger, friend or acquaintance, as much as they stress him. That's a new way of looking at it, isn't it?

Women, for their part, want to feel and look attractive, and if a man stumbles, they say it's the man's fault for looking and thinking inappropriately. Really, this is an example of a woman intent on exalting herself--maybe for insecure rather than manipulative reasons, but it's still exaltation of self, over God. 

We will find that as we seek to exalt Christ, our purpose and identity are more rooted in Him, allowing us to let go of self. Before the renewing of our mind, we needed it to be about us. After the renewal, we ached with the desire to proclaim Christ.

In joy and worship, proclaim the mercies of God. And do so in ways that won't confuse your message. Your message is Christ, not self. 

How can we carry ourselves, spend our time and money, and use our eyes, ears, hands, and hearts--for the glory of God? How can we shout it, not whisper it? The more self that's in it, the more it comes out as a whisper, lost in the wind. 

How do we go about renewing our minds? Meditating on Christ--through His Word, through our prayers, through worship music, through our acts of mercy, through our journaling, through fellowship with the faithful. 

Actively seek the things of Christ, or you will be conformed.

1 John 2:15-16 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

Homework: Concentrate this week on renewing your mind. Set aside time to pray, to read, to contemplate, to listen to your favorite worship music or your favorite preacher, spend time with other Christians and take the opportunity to pray with them, extend mercy to those around you, and those in need. Give thanks every day, especially for God's mercy in your life. Ask for boldness in proclaiming Christ.

Thank you for being here with me, and I'd love to have you next time, as we continue studying Romans 12.

Feedback: What have you learned from Romans 12 that's new--or newly influential in your life?

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