A New Year's Resolution
A New Year’s Resolution
January 7, 2007
Of the making of New Year’s resolutions there is no end. I’ve decided to make one. I resolve to follow the admonition of Paul in Romans 12.1-2…specifically “not to let the world around me squeeze me into its own mould, but let God re-mould my mind from within, so that I may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.”
As Christians we are called to be witnesses. That is, we have a message to proclaim, we have a life to live, and have a service to render.
That won't happen if we neglect verse 1.
Romans 12:1 (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.
Not even if we speak with the tongues of men and of angels – there will be no commending of the gospel in any real sense.
Whenever there is a ‘therefore’ we should ask, why is it there for? The word, therefore points us back to all that Paul has said regarding our sinfulness, and God’s mercy which was demonstrated in this while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8) or this
Romans 3:21-26 (ESV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
All that Paul has said about the gospel, he summarizes in one word – mercies –
The gospel imperatives (what we are called to do) always are preceded the gospel indicatives (what God, in Christ has done). Beginning with chapter 12, we have Paul’s ethical instruction – his giving us a world view; but that world view is preceded by the good news of the gospel.
Believe it or not, we started a series on Romans in September. We’ve also had Dr. Toon and Dr. Culver preach, as well as Pete Newton, but we have traversed from Romans 1-7 – although I wish I had gone a bit slower. Nonetheless here we are.
Next week, we’ll backtrack a bit and resume the indicatives of grace as given in Romans 8; then to Romans 9-11, and then we’ll eventually move forward from these verses. That’s the plan, God willing.
Back to the gospel imperatives which begin with Romans 12.
Paul appeals to the Romans, and to us, to live in accordance with the new relationship in which we have been brought by the justifying grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And of course, it is not as if Paul has waited to this point in his letter to give exhortations. We have seen a number of them already.
Romans 6:11 (ESV)
11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:12-13 (ESV)
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
But Romans 12 is a bit different in that he spells out in practical terms what it means to present “your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”
I’m going to make 2 points. Verse 1 & 2.
POINT ONE: We are called to be True Worshippers or To Live by Faith
1. The Catechism: confession is good for the heart. I’ve not used the catechism sufficiently in confirmation – not the one in the 79 Book – it’s horrible! I mean the one in 1662 & 1928.
But do you know what it says about us?
Q. What dost thou chiefly learn by these Commandments? (10 c’s)
A. I learn 2 things: my duty towards God, and my duty towards my neighbor.
Q. What is thy duty towards God?
A. My duty towards God, is to believe in him with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength; to worship him, to give him thanks, to put my whole trust in him, to call upon him; to honor his holy Name and his Word and to serve him truly all days of my life.
The 28 BCP Offices of Instructions puts it this way:
1. What is your bounden duty as a member of the Church?
A. My bounden duty is to follow Christ, to worship God every Sunday in his Church; and to work and pray and give for the spread of his kingdom.
Not bad. Only, it misses one important point which is made in Romans 12.1.
How is worship described in the BCP – what we do on Sundays? True enough – but what does the word, worship refer to in Romans 12.1?
Romans 12:1 (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 (reasonable) worship.
He then goes on to talk about renewing our minds, and that is followed by using gifts of grace for God’s purposes, then life within the fellowship, followed by the need to live peacefully in the civil order God has created.
In other words, worship is all of life, not just 10.30 on Sunday mornings. Worship is in fact more aimed at what you and I do once we leave this building than what we do when we are here. As we gather here, the BCP tells we do so for specific reasons:
1. to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received
2. to set forth God’s most worthy praise.
3. to hear his holy Word
4. to ask for those things that are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul. (1662)
Another interesting point. In verse 1, Paul uses three OT technical terms which had to do with temple worship…present or offer, sacrifice, holy, acceptable and applies them to all of life. There are no more priests, temples or sacrifices. How am I to worship God now?
By offering my body as a living sacrifice. I can only worship God through my body and my members.
Everything we have said about being a true worshipper of the Lord is also true of what we mean by faith.
What we have done to this word – my, my. A person of faith – even a good program, Faith based organizations has added to the downgrading of this word faith.
Romans 12.1 is faith in action. Faith is my response to the mercies of God. It involves offering my body as a living sacrifice…
Faith is my response of obedience to the grace of our Father.
Faith is expressed in Philippians 3:8 (ESV)
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Romans 6:17 (ESV)
17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
Chrysostom:4th century, “golden-mouthed” preacher and Bishop of Antioch
Let the eye look upon no thing and it has become a sacrifice; let your tongue speak nothing filthy, and it has become an offering; let your hand do no lawless deed, and it has become a whole burnt offering. That’s not enough. Let the hand do, the mouth bless them that cross one, and the hearing find leisure evermore for lections of Scripture…
Point Two: How we Grow in Faith; or how we live as worshippers
Romans 12:2 (ESV)
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.
Notice how verses 1&2 form the foundation for a Christian ethic – world view? –
V 3-12, speaks of everyday life
Chapter 13 of civil relationships
Chapter 14-15 – special problems that arise in Christian experience.
Being transformed by the renewal of the mind is to say in different words what has already been expressed in Romans.
Romans 6:12 (ESV)
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions..
A Christian is called to non-conformity.
Paul in Romans has also been saying that there are two great powers facing us – the world and God; the old order and the new one.
We are called to be in the world, but not of the world. We must resist allowing the old order to fashion us.
But truthfully, we do allow the old order to fashion us by breathing its atmosphere, being influenced by its standards, and conditioned by its policies and gradually, just ever so gradually being conformed to it.
We either are conformed, or we are transformed. Conformed or transformed – that’s the choice.
The world appeals to our senses – think of the Eve in the garden. The appeal was made through her senses. She is tempted by Satan to eat fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden.
God’s new order, first and foremost, appeals to the mind, not just the senses.
And notice this: the moral life issues from a transformed mind. Of course, Paul doesn’t mean the mind apart from the heart and will – but the true understanding of the Biblical position – what we think and think about affects our heart and our will.
Truth is not what I feel at a particular moment. Truth is objective, and it corresponds to the reality created by God. Yet, how many times I have heard people say – well, that’s your truth. As if to say true truth is not available.
We are not given exhaustive knowledge, but we are given real knowledge of the world, especially as it concerns God’s word to us.
I receive a newsletter entitled Think on these Things –
Hebrews 10:24 (ESV)
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Hebrews 12:3 (ESV)
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)
5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
1 Peter 1:13 (ESV)
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
My testimony. When Christ took up residence in my heart, my mind was turned on. I began to think differently.
And so, Paul is calling the Romans and us to live as true worshippers, or to live by faith as God continues to transform our minds, and therefore our lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord.