Rom.12.1 thru 2 Sermon
Title: Justifiable Legalism: A Marriage Made in Heaven, Part 2
Series: Transformational Christianity: God’s Design for Discipleship
Text: Romans 12:1-2
3rd Sunday after Epiphany, 2007
I know we don’t usually use a microphone for this service and I hope that this isn’t too loud for you, but I have to have this videotaped for the seminary. So, please nod and smile throughout my sermon and, if you would, just chuckle at the appropriate times and that would be helpful.
Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
You have been transformed by the mercies of God. The Word of God has come to you in a way in which you were transformed. This is a quick and rather tricky way to start to tonight but I wonder…what is in your thoughts now…you have been transformed. Sometime in the past you were brought into faith by the Word of God coming to you. As good Lutherans, I hope your mind has gone to your baptism. This is when the Word of God has transformed you. In that act of baptism you died to sin and were made alive in Christ.
Most of you were baptized before you even remember. Since then there have been any number of Sunday school teachers, family, and friends that have instructed and supported your continued transformation.
You might be an adult convert to the church. The beginning of your transformation is a fresh memory. It started with a friend or neighbor sharing Jesus with you. You started visiting church, hearing the Word of God preached. You were baptized as an adult, transformed by the mercies of God.
Your story might be similar to mine. I grew up in a home with no real understanding of faith being modeled ever. I was baptized as an adult. I came to know the Lord late in life but there was a distinct transformation that took place through God’s mercy. Christ’s death and resurrection came alive in my life and made me alive. The discipleship of pastors and other brothers and sisters in Christ, through God’s mercy are, even now, renewing my faith every day. My faith in Jesus Christ now directs our decisions, actions, and way of life.
No matter what path you or I have walked down, we are united in faith as God saves the world. No matter the path, there has been a mix of Bible teaching and study. You have learned some of the doctrine of the church. You have also learned about Christian practices like prayer and worship and taken part. And hopefully you have experienced God using you to share his Word with a friend or family member. No matter the path, we have been transformed by the mercies of God.
Paul's letter to the Romans speaks to us today about being transformed by the mercies of God. We are to "offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God." This is worshipping God in your life and in my life. Paul calls us to complete offering today. This includes our physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies. We worship God in service of others. We worship God in loving our neighbor. This is our living sacrifice so we are not conformed to this world but are transformed by the mercies of God.
You will be transformed by the mercies of God. This goes directly to the forms of discipleship here at Concordia Kirkwood. There is purpose in discipleship. God will transform your bodies and lives as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Here at Concordia this will occur in four areas: Biblical Knowledge, Doctrinal Knowledge, Practice of Christian Faith, and Mission and Ministry.
Let’s look at each of these opportunities for growth and transformation in our lives. You can grow in Biblical Knowledge. You can grow in knowing the Bible's people, places, events, and God's salvation history through time. The salvation history is now your history. You are part of God's working salvation now and into the future.
Let me help you understand through story. I know we have all heard the stories of people that hung on to the scriptures in times of dire need like the people in prison camps that had only the verses that they could remember to hold on to but got together with other inmates to put together as much of the scriptures as they could to get them through this difficult time. Or the account of a couple that was lost at sea in the icy northern Pacific but repeated the Psalms and other passages over and over until help came to their aid. Well, I think we have all found a time when we have leaned on the scriptures in our everyday lives and through His mercy the Word of God has brought us through a difficult time of our own.
My wife went to have an MRI done recently. By the way, she said it was Ok to tell this story to you. She was not concerned about it when the attendant asked her if she had any issues with claustrophobia or needed a sedative…she replied she had none. She elected to use the headphones that were offered and got up on the table and laid back while the attendant assured her they would be right in the next room and could hear her through the microphone. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an MRI but the machine is pretty tight around you and it is a little strange. As the table slowly moved her into the x-ray tunnel she began to get a little clammy to here surprise but she wasn’t too worried. Her appointment was at 3:00PM and she hadn’t eaten, so as she moved all the way in to the machine she was hearing commercials for food on the radio station that was supposed to relax her, and she was getting hungry now. She had her eyes closed to relax but was wondering how close the surrounding machine was to her face and became afraid to open her eyes now. Then she decided maybe she should have the attendant pull her out to let her catch her breath and she called out for her but there was no answer…this raised her anxiety level exponentially. She called out a second time but still no answer, now she felt trapped and alone with no way to get out. She was now in the throws of a full scale anxiety attack, she was experiencing shallow breathing, clammy hands, and her mind was racing through what might happen and how she could get out. This is when it occurred to her to go to the scriptures. She began reciting Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer over and over and in doing so took her mind off of the situation at hand and put it on God and His loving care. She became focused on the way in which He had always taken care of her and seen her through many situations and was now feeling herself breathing more regularly and her hands drying up…This is the gift that we have in the knowledge of the Word of God! We have the ability to go to Him at any time and mine this treasure that He has given us through our having absorbed His Word into our minds with His help and mercy.
You can grow in Doctrinal Knowledge here at Kirkwood. The Scriptures teach us our doctrine and this roadmap keeps us on the right road. We can learn the teachings dealing with things such as sin, grace, End Times, or church and state. These teachings impact life in a practical way for your faith. Again, I think we can all remember times when we have called on our doctrinal knowledge to explain our position on the teaching of our church.
Barbie and I have some friends back in California that were relatively new Christians at our church there. They had jumped on the latest rage at the time for the Christian community…the “Left Behind” series by Tim Lahaye. These books are fine for people that are fully grounded in their understanding of end times and know that the books are fiction, but with a new Christian that loses the fictional aspect in the repeated quoting of scripture…we might have a problem. This couple was taking this interpretation to heart all the way to the understanding that we will have second chance to initiate our relationship with Jesus after the “rapture”. This is a trap and our friends were falling right into it. We got together to go ahead and watch the movie on the first book at our house, we were worried about them and, after clarifying our own Lutheran doctrine, this would be a good time to talk to them about our scriptural understanding of the end times. Our grounding in doctrine enabled us to bring them around to a concise scriptural understanding that was well supported and they were grateful for the help we were able to provide through God’s grace at a time when they were traveling down a road that was not scriptural.
You can grow and be transformed in the practice of the Christian faith. Here you can focus on developing your prayer life, understanding of worship, and approach to Bible study. These are all means God has provided for the renewing of our minds according to God's ways.
Our prayer life can sometimes be taken for granted. We pray in church, before meals and when our children go to sleep. But what about when you are at gunpoint?... My sister in law is a missionary in Nigeria and, until a recent transfer, lived at the orphanage that they worked at in the compound outside of the capital city of Jos. This is a country at war between Moslems and Christians throughout the country. My sister-in-law Jackie was married with four children and they were all involved in the ministry to the children of Nigeria. But this was also risky work and there were people there that wanted to take what the Americans had. One evening a group of men entered their house armed with guns while the Anderson family was asleep. They were awoken at gunpoint and immediately separated. Jackie with the children, and her husband Paul in another room to answer as to where their money and valuables were. Jackie and the children immediately began to pray…And with guns pointed at her children, her husband, and herself she prayed to God that they would be allowed to live through this unharmed…God answered that prayer…in fact the assailants had taken there wedding rings at Paul’s objection but one of the men stepped in and let them keep them after Jackie spoke to him. Prayer is a direct line to God at any time in our lives. When we pray we open the line of communication between ourselves and God and He does communicate with us. We pray with His Word in mind. We can’t lie or deceive God so we speak frankly, sometimes more frankly than when we think about things when God isn’t in the conversation. This is a time of discipleship and God comes in His mercy to renew our minds.
Finally you can grow in mission and ministry. You can broaden the reach of the gospel through your gifts along with God's work in this world. Through the renewing or your mind, the Holy Spirit will share the gospel to those you encounter. This is the heart aspect that takes place after you have internalized the first three parts of this Christian template. This is where we move from the mind in its understanding to the heart and its response. We respond to our understanding of scripture and doctrine with our faith life and then we go out and tell others about these wonderful gifts and this to is transforming. Concordia Lutheran is a sending church. We send people out to tell others about the saving grace of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection.
In these next four weeks we will consider each of these one by one: Biblical Knowledge, Doctrine, Practice, and Mission. These are the components of God's template for discipleship and transformation here at Concordia Kirkwood.
You will be transformed by the mercies of God. God has begun this good work in you, God sustains this working in you, and God will bring the transformation to completion in the coming of Jesus Christ. Amen.