Our call to worship this morning comes from Ephesians 3: 20, 21:
Silent Prayer: Brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus, let’s take a moment as we continue to prepare ourselves for this morning’s church service.
Let us come before our Lord God in silent and individual prayer…
Lord God, may what we say and do and think, be to your everlasting glory,
In Jesus name we pray,
Greeting: Congregation of our Lord Jesus, our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit
Singing: Let’s remain standing as we sing some more, praising our Lord
Please turn with me to Lords Day One in the Book of Forms:
Father God, we stand before you, deeply humbled.
We realize Lord that we have again sinned against you in so many ways. Please forgive us Lord.
Forgive us and give us continuing strength, father God, to live our lives in honour of your great mercy to us.
Lord, and even as we pray for your forgiveness now, we come before you deeply thankful.
Thank you Lord that we may know that you made it possible for us to approach Your throne, through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.
As we worship you now, Father God, make us wholly aware of all these things, and guide us in your love - In Jesus’ name we pray - Amen
Brothers and sisters, let’s respond in song. Let’s sing BoW 103A (Praise My Soul)
Just before we call on to lead us in pastoral and offertory prayer, lets take time for the offering this morning. The offering is for
Prayer ( )
Bible reading: Roman 11:33 – 12:2 ( )
Lets sing again, this time BoW 432 (A New Commandment)
Our text is the firs two verses of Romans 12…
Brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus, I want to start by saying something we might not want to hear.
I want to start by saying…
– to be a Christian - is exceptionally difficult!
It is the kind of stuff that potentially will make you sweat blood …
like it did our Lord Jesus the night he was betrayed in the garden at Gethsemane.
Have you found this to be true, or is it just me?
Let me stick my neck out even further …unless you struggle with your daily walk with the Lord, while living in this world,
you are either exceptionally blessed or
…we need to reconsider how serious, how committed we are about our Christianity.
Why? Because the price Jesus paid for our salvation, is just too high to gloss over what it means to be a Christian.
We really need to be serious about it.
And we should stop living in denial.
We do actually know how we should live our lives – that part has never changed – and it is still all there in the Bible.
All to often, however, we read the Bible …if we still read it at all …to endorse our own lifestyles, don’t we? – not to learn from the Word of God what he wants!
The bible, read this way, then becomes, of course, our permission to live the way we want to … and yet still claim we are Christians.
That way we can have it both ways…
When we read it this way, we can get the bible to say
that it is ok to cheat a bit on our taxes;
it’s ok to be homosexual or adulterous;
And so we don’t have to change the way we live.
– No! That’s just too difficult.
Brothers and sisters, many of us have become really good at justifying our worldly lives – and we are getting better at it - we practice at it daily…
But how much do we practice at being good Christians?
Can it be that we have forgotten the reason why we should…
and should want to …
live lives holy and acceptable to the Lord, to live Christian lives?
Paul in our text, reminds us that that it is because our reward has already been secured for us… that is why we should do our utmost to want to live lives that are right with the Lord – not live “holy” lives so that we might get ourselves into heaven!
And that’s where our text kicks in…
Therefore…Paul says in 12:1
Paul is saying, I am going to remind you how we should live our lives so that it will reflect a Christian sincerity – and why?
The reason I am now going to call on you to consider how you live your lives, Paul says, is that which I have just shared with you in the preceding chapters of Romans.
"Therefore" clearly refers here to all the blessings of salvation that are ours in Christ. Let’s look at a few:
-in Christ we are (already) justified by faith (4:1f) – Therefore!
-in Christ we have peace with God (5:1f) – Therefore!
-in Christ we have been made righteous (5:12f)
-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 free not to walk after the flesh but after the Spirit (8:5f)
-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 we are elect (8:29)
-in Christ no charges are laid against us (8:33)
-in Christ we are conquerors (8:37)
-in Christ nothing can separate us from God's love (8:38f)
-in Christ we are grafted into the tree of Israel and are now part of the people of God (11:11f)
Because of "God's mercy," Paul is saying… "Therefore … I urge you, brothers and sisters, to do something ..."
To do really only two things specifically…(which by the way, brothers and sisters was quite different to the many laws that the Jews felt they had to adhere to be right with God.
No, Paul says, do these two things, I urge you …
Lets look at the two things…
Firstly, you are to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, he says;
And secondly, you are to avoid becoming like the unbelievers in world we live in; to not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but transformed.
Offer Your Bodies as Living Sacrifices
How are we to offer our bodies living sacrifices?
The short answer is found in 1 Cor 6:20, where we are see we are to glorify God in our body. Our body is to be used to give thanks to God for His wondrous mercy in Christ.
Here of course we have to admit, we already run into the concept of it being difficult to be a Christian, even more so for those caught up in the ways of the unbelieving world.
It is really difficult to be set apart, as the Bible says?
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle in some cases, our Lord says
It is so much easier to conform to the world, isn’t it? Lock, stock and body, we might add…
For in our own time, we know all too well what the world suggests we should do with our bodies…the media for one forces it down our throats. And it is easy to get caught up in it,
not stopping for a moment to even try and consider whether, or how, we may or may not be honouring God in the way we act.
But we should consider it…in honour and thanks for the biggest sacrifice ever made … Jesus on the cross on our behalf.
– that’s why we should offer our bodies as sacrifices.
And that doesn’t mean we should be killed, or tortured, or kill each other – it means we should love one another to the extent that we do so even if it is a self-offering on my part.
But instead … we squeeze every last bit of sensual pleasure out of our bodies, for our sake…by means of drugs, or alcohol abuse; sexual freedom (which really means I want to sleep with whom I want when I want);
we flaunt the human body (the temple of Christ) so that we may get material or sensual mileage out of it.
Brothers and sisters, Paul, I am sure does not suggest we be prudish.
Paul does not say we should not enjoy the many pleasures this world, God’s world, offers us, also in our bodies.
For example, Paul does not say that sex as such is sin – on the contrary – he says a man and a women, a married couple, should enjoy their sexual union.
He even cautions them not stay away from each other, sexually speaking, for too long – for that indeed may lead to one of the two or both succumbing to undue seduction and to sin.
Just so, partaking in a little wine is good for the body…
– but it is when we take to unnatural practices regarding our bodies, that we sin.
Like the new phenomenon (or perhaps an old phenomenon but with a new name – binge drinking! And everything that springs from it!
But how difficult it is, we say, when everyone else is doing it, and we stand out like a sore thumb!?
Well, are we Christians or aren’t we?
Is everyone else a Christian?
So how can we want to be like them who we say are not like us because they do not confess the Lord as Saviour and King?
You see, Paul, too, lived in a world filled with sexual immorality: premarital sex, homosexual and lesbian sex, adultery. He knew it, saw it, and said to the Christians – do not be like that!
Parties at which guests drank themselves into an alcoholic stupor were common.
To them – and to us – Paul says …”Don’t do it. Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”
If you are a Christian, you are not to do these things – and again, not because our salvation depends on it
– No! Because we owe it to God in thanks… we should refrain from doing the things that will bring dishonour to our bodies … indeed His body – for already he paid the price for our sins – we have already become part of His body!
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
And this of course includes the many guises the devil clothes these sins in to make them look less like the sins they are, to make them look civilized!
Is that a fair report of the pattern of this world?
(I think it may be, I have been known to be guilty of much of it!
"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 is saying.
Paul says, by the authority of the example set by Jesus, that we should be different, we should be conformed to the pattern Christ has set for us, by transforming our minds.
Is it difficult?
It is really difficult in a modern world where our easy wealth and decadent norms have become the standard the world has set for all to follow …or be swallowed alive!
But are we Christians or not?
If we are, Jesus says we should not be like these people but be fair, honest, loving towards one another, even our enemies.
This is the new law that Jesus brings.
And by worldly standards, Jesus’ law of loving one another is certainly difficult. We are considered weaklings when we give in to others, when we allow someone else to be more important than I am.
“Love one another as I have loved you!” says Jesus!
If you do, honestly do, people will know you are Christians by it. And I will prepare a place in heaven for you!
And Paul spells out how this transformation is to take place: "be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Transforming our minds into what?
Shaping our minds according to the will of God! That’s what. Not my will, Lord, but Yours!
And here’s the beauty…the unfathomable love and grace of it all…
All God really asks for is that we become more and more like Jesus, everyday!
Now our sinful nature that may be difficult, but not impossible!
Every time we feed a hungry person, the Bible says, it is like you are feeding me, says the Lord;
It’s all in the little things, the pure things – that’s the beauty of it all!
We should transform our minds by practicing holy living one day at a time,
one act of love at a time – till we get really good at it!
Every time you give a thirsty person a drink of water, it is as if you are doing it for me, for in such a simple act you are showing my love to the world, says Jesus!
Every time you become less so that someone else is more, you are mimicking me, says the Lord. Serve one another, gladly, happily, sacrificially!
That of course includes serving your wife… or your husband; your neighbour
– even your enemy, says Jesus!
Serve one another!
And forgive one another!
Isn’t it amazing brothers and sisters, how we have become conditioned in the ways of the world…
How easy is it to think…” If you are waiting for me to be friendly to you, you have a long wait coming; I still remember well how did me wrong …
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 continue to make every effort to avoid,
or you are down right really angry with them - and they had better not cross your path, or else…?
Are we being Christian when we act this way?
No! Christ did not act this way!
Transform your minds, Paul says, or you are no different to the many who do not declare Christ as their King, but who have made the ways of this world their lord and master.
Transform your minds!
Is that all just too difficult?
Well then maybe we should rethink our status, or our claimed status as Christians!
You see, there is no middle way, no easy way out of this – just as there was no easy way out for Jesus when he had to walk to the cross to pay for our sins.
While we adhere to the ways of the unbelieving world, we are not honouring Christ!
It was difficult for Him 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.
Thank God that he does not call on us to repay the debt of our sins…no, instead,
because it is so difficult for mankind not to sin; because it is totally impossible for mankind to make good for our sins, God sent His son Jesus to pay the price for us!
And that…therefore…that is the reason we should live our lives according to God’s call!
Now let’s tell each other again how difficult it to show our thanks to God, how difficult it is to love one another… and to love Him, and as we do so, feel justified that we have not yet taken a step to change our ways, to renew our minds.
How difficult is it?
Not nearly as difficult as it must have been be to die on that cross for the sins of a sinful world that even now will not transform their minds!
Not as nearly difficult as it must be continuing to feel the rejection of a people for whom He offered His life, all because because it is just too difficult for them to change!
And we can change!
We can change because God Himself gives us the strength to do it!
But we need to acknowledge God, pray to God for His strength, His patience in our lives.
How often do you pray for change in your life?
Or is the world at the moment still just too seductive – we will change later, can’t we?
At the moment we are just a bit too busy…
We have to wake up and rush to work …. There is no time to pray?
Oh, we do pray on Sundays, well actually, the minister does, but we listen … well most Sundays … if we don’t have something else to attend to…
Brothers and Sisters, we have become really great at practicing the worldly ways;
but we can find time to practice the Christian way, like praying, or personal devotion time…
only when it does not interfere with our worldly commitments.
And still God loves us…
You see, part of God’s love, His grace, is that he gives us the potential, the strength to change our ways if we really want to.
But to do that, we need to transform our minds.
And to do that, we sincerely need to turn our lives over to the Lord
…denouncing the ways of the unbelieving world…
We can not be pears, yet want to taste like apples!
We need to practice at being Christians.
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 yet.
Over time, though, you are able to do your job automatically, seemingly without thinking about it.
It becomes second nature to you.
The same thing happens when we seek the will of God.
At first it seems new, different, and strange.
You have to think twice about anything and ask, "Now what does God want me to do here?"
Over time, however, as you live and practice the redeemed life, God's will becomes second nature to you.
That’s what we should be working towards - to transforming our minds, by offering our bodies as living sacrifices!
Sooner or later, (hopefully not too late) however, we will have to decide…
And the choice is clear – either we really want to be Christians;
Or, we want to be like everyone else
- or we want to be called Christians, but not live Christian lives
– which really is wanting to be like everyone else, and therefore, not being Christian at all!
Brothers and sisters, let us not wait too long…
we know that we are already chosen by God;
We know that we have been saved by God, made righteous and Holy through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.
Let us show we know, and are grateful, how?
By offering our bodies as living sacrifices to this truth; by acknowledging it by renewing our minds
May God continue to strengthen us to do this!
And as we part today, let us say to each other anew …”brother, sister let me be your servant, let me be like Christ to you – just like the Lord became our servant – that’s how!
Lets sing: BoW 434 (Brother let me be your servant)
BoW 531 (I will arise)