Call to Worship: Psalm 115:1-3
1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.
2 Why do the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him.
Greeting: Brothers and sisters, our help is in the name of the Lord _Amen
Grace and peace be to you, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ
Confession - Apostles Creed
Father God, we come before you in humility and in thanks. Thank you Lord that you have gathered us here this morning. Thank you that you have given as the will to seek your presence in all that we do in our worship and in our day to day lives in this world. Forgive us Lord when we believe we can deal with life without you.
As we now unite Lord to serve you, to worship you, let us reach out to you and to each other, and as we do, give us sincere hearts Father God.
Singing – Let’ sing and worship our Lord, BoW 103 (Praise my Soul)
Pastoral Prayer and offertory prayer ( )
Reading (Romans 11:33 – 12:2 ( )
Singing – BoW 432 (A New Commandment)
Our text is the first two verses of Romans 12…
Brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus, I want to start by saying something that may be considered controversial: I want to say that I find it difficult to be a good Christian.
And sometimes I look around me, and think, I must be missing something about what it means to be a Christian, because it seems to me, many people take Christianity in their stride.
They don’t seem to find it difficult at all
– they certainly don’t display any conflict in their lives, as Christians living in a secular world.
And they do it so well, that when you see them in the week, you won’t be able to tell they are Christians; and when you see them on Sundays at Church, you would not believe they are anything but Christians.
But, how can this be?
I think there is much that is and always will be in conflict here.
For example, some Christians will find it difficult to explain to their children that they don’t want them to participate in sport on Sundays, because Sundays has been put aside as a day of meeting with and encouraging and being encouraged by fellow Christians.
Some might find it difficult to admit that they have not been seeking the Lord’s will in their daily business, but have gone ahead and made deals that would enrich them, even though they had to be …shall we say in a rather tense relationship with honesty.
They might find it difficult … but if they are Christians, and the Holy Spirit is acting in their lives …they will surely rather face that difficulty than live a life of ignorant bliss or denial of what it is that the Lord asks of us!
Do you find it difficult at times to be a Christian?
I’m not saying it will be difficult all the time – on the contrary, for the largest part it remains the most wonderful life there is
– but surely you agree that sometimes we are faced with choices
that turn into a clash between our worldliness…and our being believers
– followers of our Lord Jesus, as we say!
And those are difficult choices. The examples I used earlier are a case in point!
In fact, they are so difficult, that we are scarcely able to make the right choices under those circumstances without the grace of the Lord and the outworking of the Spirit
…so please, do not mistake what I have said so far as sitting in judgment on anyone.
When we choose right under difficult situations, it is not that we are so good, but it is by the grace of God that we choose for Jesus then …and for that matter, it is by His grace alone every other time that we do, too.
But the truth is, we don’t always choose for Him.
And when we don’t …well, do you agree brothers and sisters, we have become really good at justifying our worldly choices.
We have indeed become good and are getting better and better at… living life in the secular world.
And it is not surprising, really, that we’re so good at it
– after all, we practice it every day…
But how much do we practice at being good Christians? We who claim to be Christians, set apart by God for God’s glory?
And why is that? Why don’t we practice at being good Christians even nearly as often as we practice being great at the worldly things?
Can it be that we have forgotten the wonderful reason why we should…
This, really is where Paul is headed in this section of Romans…
In fact, Paul in our text, in the very first word of verse 1 of Chapter 12, reminds us why:
In gratefulness! because of everything that God has done for us!
Not so that we might get ourselves into heaven! As if that was possible!
That is not why we try to live our lives according to God’s will.
No! That part has already been achieved for us by Jesus!
But by living our lives according to God’s will, we endorse our claims of being different, God’s children, and we offer our humble thanks for that which we could never have achieved ourselves – to be right with God!
Therefore…Paul says in 12:1
What is Paul referring to by that “therefore”?
Paul says the “therefore” is this:
it is all the blessings of salvation that are ours in Christ, as he has just so painstakingly built them up in the preceding chapters of Romans!
Let’s take a look at just a few:
-in Christ we are (already) justified by faith (4:1f) – Therefore you should live your lives holy before the Lord!
-in Christ we have been made righteous (5:12f) – therefore!
-in Christ we are dead to sin and raised to new life (6:1f)
-in Christ we are set free from sin and misery and are able to follow the Spirit (7:1f)
-in Christ there is no condemnation (8:1f)
-in Christ we are daughters/sons and heirs of God (8:12f)
-in Christ we have a glorious future hope (8:18f)
-in Christ our prayers are heard (8:26f)
-in Christ God works everything for our ultimate good (8:28)
-in Christ no charges are laid against us (8:33)
-in Christ nothing can separate us from God's love (8:38f)
Because of "God's mercy," Paul is saying…
"Therefore … I urge you, brothers and sisters, to do something from your side, too – not for the sake of your salvation – that has already been secured,
but, to show you are seriously thankful and understand the price Jesus paid for all of the “therefore” reasons to come to pass!"
And then Paul continues to explain what it is we should be doing to express this gratitude and understanding.
And when we look at what Paul asks, it becomes clear that we can not be Christians,
and at the same time be fully committed to whatever it is that the secular world entices us into.
We are ////or we are not Christians – that is the starting point – and every other decision we make should be determined by where we stand on this …
but there is no half and half!
And then Paul gets serious…Paul in our text says: you should, for a start, do two things, No holds barred, no excuses… he says…do these two things …
“I urge you …” Paul says. He doesn’t pleasantly suggest, or kindly asks, he says…I urge you!
Lets look at the two things…
Firstly, you are to offer your bodies as living sacrifices
And secondly, do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind.
First things first
…offer Your Bodies as Living Sacrifices
Do we still do that stuff, we ask?
How are we to offer our bodies living sacrifices?
That almost sounds like that being born again business, doesn’t it?
The short answer is found in 1 Cor 6:20, where we see we are
to glorify God in our bodies.
Our bodies, are to be used to give thanks to God for His wondrous mercy in Christ.
And it is just here of course, where the trouble really starts for us …
This is where it becomes difficult to be a Christian, especially, for those caught up in the ways of the unbelieving world.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle in some cases, our Lord says!
Can you see where this is leading?
It is so much easier to conform to the world, isn’t it? Lock, stock and plastic surgery enhanced, drug induced, sexually abused body.
Hey, this is my body – I will decide what happens to it, right?
And the media enforces it at every turn of our lives,
affirms it, subtly, almost without our noticing,
and sometimes of course not so subtly – and then they stick an R rating on it and consider the job done.
Sadly, brothers and sisters, it’s is all so easy to get caught up in it all, isn’t it …
But if we are, and are hurt by it… there is hope!
There is hope, do not be disheartened.
Remember we want to live lives holy before our Lord,
not because that will ensure our pardon, but in thanks that our pardon has already been achieved, by our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ!
And our Lord rejoices every time a lost sheep is found.
What is worrying is that by far the biggest part of the world does not even know they are lost, do not stop even for a moment to even consider how we may or may not be honouring God in the way we act, or dress, or talk?
You’ve heard the slogan…Everyone is doing it! Why shouldn’t we?
And so we squeeze every last bit of temporary sensual pleasure out of our bodies, for our sake alone… drugs, alcohol abuse; sexual freedom (which really means I want to sleep with whom I want, when I want);
We want to be in control, to manipulate …
Brothers and sisters, an important interjection here:
Paul, does not suggest we should be prudish, spoil sports …dull
Paul does not say we should not enjoy any of the many wonderful joys and pleasures this world, God’s world, offers us, even as far as our bodies are concerned!
– but it is when we take to unnatural practices, or when we enslave ourselves to people or substances, or the world…when we forget we are the body of Christ
…that’s when we go against the will of God – and we know that!
But when we live our lives according to God’s will,
there is no end of pleasures and joys in this world
– again, it comes down to the choices we make as to how we conduct ourselves in this world – following the popular norm…or following in the example of our Lord Jesus, in the way we work, and play, and love, and relax!
After all, are we Christians or aren’t we? Are we God’s covenant people or not?
And is everyone else a Christian?
So exactly why do we want to be like them???
They who we say quite clearly they are not like us?
They who say our religion is a pie in the sky when you die – and then they laugh;
They who say God, Jahweh, being the Lord of all, is a myth!
Jesus was nothing more than a mere man, whose body lies buried in an unmarked tomb somewhere outside the ruins of the wall that once surrounded Jerusalem
(that’s a bishop speaking! The internationally quoted and hugely popular, even among non believers the adored …Bishop Spong)
How can we say we are Christians when we too fish in this pond of doubt, as is the popular way, even that Jesus was really raised from the dead; that He was the Son of God?
Of course, if you don’t believe…well then one can almost understand why we rush in where angels fear to tread
…why will one, if you don’t believe, give a hoot about the will of God?
But if you do believe…here is what Paul says you should do…
Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”
That’s the first thing!
The second thing we should do,
is to be Transformed, instead of Conformed, to the World!
(Rom 12:2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world."
What is the pattern of this world?
- glorifying possessions and money
- living only for the present – the old testament refers to it - let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die (Is 22:13; 1 Cor 15:22)
- revenge, unforgiving
-arguments and quarrels (Although Don reminds me.. some quarrels are of course sometimes called for and we sometimes have to stand up for the truth strongly! – That’s true!)
Is that a fair report of the pattern of this world?
(I think it may be – God knows I have been guilty of much of it myself!
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.”
Stop these worldly practices and practice living lives …holy before our savior, who by His death has made us holy with him.
Paul says, by the authority of the example set by Jesus,
that we should be different,
by the empowering of the Holy Spirit,
that we should be conformed to the pattern Christ has set for us,
and then he tells us ….how
by transforming our minds
Is it difficult?
But are we Christians or not?
If we are, …
Jesus Himself says we should not be like these people, but be fair, honest, loving towards one another … even our enemies.
And again …remember we do actually already have the potential to do this - how?
Because we share in the death and resurrection of Jesus, so we are already holy in Him, and we have the power of the Holy Spirit who guides us …if only we will take heed!
Brothers and sisters, the Spirit, like the Son, is a gift from God that we surely have.
It was a gift promised to us by Jesus (we read about it in Acts 1:40)
and we know we have all of us already received it, just as the first Christians received it in Acts Chapter 2 – and to this very day and forever more, the spirit continues to dwell among us and in us)
But… renewing our minds to do what?
Shaping our minds according to the will of God! That’s what! Paul says.
Not my will, Lord, but Yours …that should be our daily prayer!
And what is God’s will?
Every time you feed a hungry person, it is like you are feeding me, says the Lord;
Surprisingly, it’s often in the little things, the pure things – that’s when we practise our faith best! That’s when we are like Christ, best!
And that is when we live our lives holy before the Lord!
And in this pattern, this pattern of humble beginnings but a sincere heart to practise holy living … one day at a time, starting each act of every day in prayer to God for His strength and mercy through Jesus
…it is in this pattern that we should be transforming our minds, no longer conforming to the World, one act of love at a time – till we get really good at it!
And that way our minds remain focused on Him!
“Every time you give a thirsty person a drink of water, Says Jesus, it is as if you are doing it for me.”
“Every time you become less so that someone feels - even for a little while - they are more … you are mimicking me, says the Lord.”
“Serve one another,” says the Lord, “in the strength of your faith, gladly, happily, sacrificially!”
And don’t forget…that includes serving your wife… or your husband; your neighbour
– even your enemy, says Jesus!
And forgive one another! In short…Renew your mind!
Isn’t it amazing brothers and sisters, how we have become conditioned in the ways of the world…
Let’s do a little test: (please don’t answer out loud – just make a little mental list…) how many people can you name this morning with whom you are either not on speaking terms
or who you make every effort to avoid,
or even, you just can’t wait to straiten them out once and for all when next you do run into them! And I mean run into them
Is it difficult to be a Christian?
It was difficult for our Lord Jesus, too, brothers and sisters,
to walk to that lonely cross …but that is what God demanded
– for God is righteous and can not allow sin to go unpunished.
But Jesus never once faltered on his way to the cross.
Yes, Jesus was afraid; yes he was in pain; yes he felt the agony of hell on our behalf,
and yet he did not say – I have not done anything wrong – why should I be made to suffer for you who loves this world more than it does me!
He went to the cross willingly – because he was thankful that we would be saved by it, for the sake of the glory owed to our all-mighty God.
And therefore!… … that is why we should do it, renew our minds.
And we should continue to practice it!
And it is not too late!
We can change!
How often do we pray for change in our lives?
Not all that often? Why?
Is the world at the moment still just a bit too seductive?
– we may say… we will change …but later, please? Can’t we change later?
You see, its just that at the moment …well we are just a bit too busy…
We have to wake up every morning, rush to work
…. there is not much time to pray these days?
And then after a short pause…Oh, actually, we do pray … on Sundays, at least, well the minister does, or the elder…but we listen … most Sundays …
if we don’t have something else to attend to…something in this world…
Brothers and Sisters, we have become really great at practicing the worldly ways;
but we just don’t seem to be able to find time to practice the Christian way,
or personal devotion time… not even short bits of time anymore.
I know! struggle with it myself.
It seems to me we have all but lost the art of the quick prayer
– in Afrikaans we call it a skiet gebed –
that which at one time in many of our lives was our never ending communication with God.
You can do it while you are driving – with your eyes open preferably - while you are cleaning the house, before important meetings…
But these days, more and more,
we pray…only …when it does not interfere with our worldly commitments
– and of course sometimes when there is a crisis in our lives!
Transform your minds; offer your bodies as living sacrifices
…that’s what Christians should do…every day!
Jesus would suggest you start with the little things, I think, if you have not stared yet…
Think of it this way…When you first start a job, everything seems so new and different.
You have to think carefully before you do anything.
It doesn't come naturally to you, and yet…
over time, you get better at it. It becomes second nature to you.
The same thing will happen when we seek the will of God.
At first it may seem new, different, and strange.
You often have to stop and ask, "Now what does God want me to do here?"
Over time, however, as you live and practice the redeemed life, strengthened by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, God's will, will become second nature to you.
And your conscience, by the working of the Holy Spirit, will keep you on track – that’s the gift Jesus left us with!
And for this we should be thankful, and our lives should show it!
One last thought as we part:
How about we start right now to renew our minds, to offer our bodies as sacrifices! …no matter how difficult it may prove to be!
How about we commit ourselves to the words of the song we are about to sing… and say to each other, inwardly, or personally, this morning, or as often as we find the opportunity …
“Brother, sister let me be your servant, let me be like Christ to you
And pray with me …that I might find the strength, to let you be my servant, too
Let this be our prayer, in the name of Jesus …
Him who showed us how to do it when he was living in this world! Amen
Father God, we so want to do your will, and yet, all too often we do not do so, not in what we say or do or think,
Please forgive us Father God.
Help us to continue to find our strength in you, to offer ourselves for the sakes of those who know you and who are our brothers and sisters, and even those who do not yet know you, but whom we, as instruments in your hand, we might lead to you through the work of the Holy Spirit.
In the Words of your servant Paul, help us to put on the full armor of God so that we may take our stand against the devil’s schemes.
Dressed in it, grant that we may be able to stand our ground, and standing firm, with the belt of truth buckled around waists; with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Let us be quick to take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Let us take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Remind us Lord, to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
We pray this now Lord for each one of us, even now as we continue to feel your closeness.
In Jesus name we pray, Amen!
Lets sing: BoW 434 (Brother let me be your servant)
Please remain standing afterwards for the benediction, and then we will sing
The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
BoW 531 (I will arise…)