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Romans 12

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Paul’s normal rhythm in a letter is to give theology first and application second
This is for two reasons
First, what we do is always driven foundationally by what we believe.
“Actions speak louder than words” - actions speak what we truly believe
A.W. Tozer: What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Aways the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.
In other words, what we believe is true about God (Theology) informs and shapes the way that we live
Second, the Christian faith is different from all other faiths and worldviews in that it is fundamentally oriented not around what we must do to earn something, but around what God has done first that changes everything
All throughout the scriptures we find this pattern: God initiates and humans respond
The nation of Israel: God rescued Israel out of the land of Egypt and claimed them for his own, and THEN gave them the instructions by which they were to live
The gospel: God in his great love has initiated salvation, redemption, and abundant life for us, and we respond
In other words, Christians do not obey God in order to be loved, redeemed, and saved; we obey God because we are loved, redeemed, and saved
is where Paul moves from the vast amount of theology he has given us in the first 11 chapters into a practical section where he will tell us what our right response should be
We will get into some really challenging and convicting things here, and we have to have as a backdrop the idea that none of this is about earning God’s love for us, it’s about genuinely responding to his love
So we can hear difficult and convicting things because we know they come from the heart of God for our ultimate good and his ultimate glory
Romans 12:1–2 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. 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.

I. Worship is a response to the mercy of God

Paul makes an appeal
Paul’s appeal is based upon the mercy of God
Therefore = Paul is giving a logical conclusion to what he has already written
In chapters 9-11, where he has focused heavily on the mercy of God
Romans 9:15–16 ESV
15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Romans 9:22–24 ESV
22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 11:30–32 ESV
30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
In the whole book of Romans, Paul has been making the argument that God justifies sinners by his grace and mercy received through faith in Jesus
By Jesus offering his perfect life as a substitute for ours upon the cross:
God justifies us
God makes peace with us
God sets us free from the law
God sets us free from our sinful nature
God lives in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit
God adopts us into his family as sons and daughters
God gives us a future hope for the restoration of all creation and eternal life
How have you seen God’s grace and mercy in your life?
What sin and brokenness has he redeemed you from?
What despair and guilt has he delivered you from?
What good gifts has he given to you?
What chains has he broken and set you free from?
What assurance of his love has he given you through his presence in the Holy Spirit?
What community and family has he given to you in his church?
What hope has he given to you for your future?
Transition: All of that is his mercy, and Paul appeals to us, by the mercies of God, to what? To present our bodies as a living sacrifice.

II. Worship is a sacrifice of our entire lives

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.
Living sacrifice
Paul is drawing upon OT imagery here. Why? Because
Remember Paul’s argument through
God has always been about forming a chosen people for himself, but he does not form that people based upon ethnic heritage, national identity, human merit, or ethical stamina. He forms that people based upon his grace, received through faith.
Through the disobedience and lack of faith of national Israel, God has brought salvation to Gentiles and enabled them to become part of his chosen people.
Therefore, us Gentiles owe our spiritual existence to Israel; in a sense, we become part of spiritual Israel, God’s chosen people, with a heritage of faith that stretches back beyond the NT.
This is why the OT is important, and it’s why even in NT writings to Gentile Christians we find near constant references to the OT - the OT matters.
So Paul is drawing upon OT sacrificial imagery to join both Gentile and Jewish Christians in Rome to a common spiritual heritage.
But there’s a twist here
The OT sacrifices were a form of worship of God for Israel
Flawless, perfect animals and even agricultural produce were given as a symbolic gesture of worship
In essence, they were saying, “God you can have the best I’ve got to offer right off the top”
This actually consecrated the rest of what they had - it was a symbolic act of placing their entire lives and livelihood in God’s hands as a demonstration of their trust and worship of him.
Paul says in response to the mercy of God, we should give a sacrifice
But the sacrifice isn’t the carcass of an animal upon the altar, it our very selves upon the altar
Present your bodies
Elsewhere in Romans, Paul has said that we can use our “members” for either good or evil ;
In Paul’s mind, our response to God is not simply an intellectual agreement with the informational content of the gospel; it is lived out through our bodies and what we do with them
What you do with your physical body is a reflection of what you believe, how you have responded to God in faith
Your sexual ethic and practices
Do you yield your body to whatever feels right in the moment or do you consider what most honors God?
The way you spend your free time and energy
Do you give your energy and time to the things of God or your personal entertainment?
What you do with the products of your labor
In essence, every sphere of life
Free time
Vocation and work
Ministry and service
Holy and acceptable to God
Holy is acceptable to God
Holy means set apart, separated, consecrated for the purpose of God
Holy means different from what everyone else says
To present our bodies as a holy and acceptable sacrifice is our reasonable worship
Application: It’s not true worship to give God the minimum required of me so that I can do with the rest as I please.
Transition: This sacrifice of our bodies should be holy and acceptable to God. How do we know what is holy and acceptable to God?

III. Worship requires wise discernment

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.
Do not be conformed
Holy means separated, set apart, consecrated for the Lord’s use
There is a pattern of thinking, deciding, and acting in the world around us
Paul is saying in order to know how to live lives that are holy and acceptable to God in response to his mercy, we cannot look to the world around us as the pattern
We do not live according to the pattern of the world
This does not fall upon the lines of conservatism and liberalism
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
“Let yourself be transformed”
Transformed is used in only two settings in the NT
In and , Jesus transfiguration
Jesus is both fully God and fully human, and he shows us what it means for a human made in the image of God to actually display what God is like
In these gospel accounts, the veil of Jesus’ humanity is being pulled back and a couple of disciples saw his divine nature
2 Corinthians 3:8 ESV
8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?
2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:8 ESV
8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?
Christians are being transformed into the image of Jesus - we are being changed to look like him in our lives, character, thoughts, desires, and actions
We don’t transform ourselves, we are transformed by Jesus, but Paul’s command in shows that we participate in that by submitting ourselves to Jesus and allowing him to transform the way we think, speak, and act.
So that we can discern what is the will of God
Testing and discerning = one verb in Greek
The reason they render it with two words is that it carries both the idea of critical thinking and approval of something but also the resolve to act on it
The result of being transformed into the image of Jesus is that we test things to see if they are the good, acceptable, perfect will of God, in order that we may live in them
Put yourself in a context for Jesus to transform you
Reading Scripture
Self awareness
Evaluate your service to God
Is it comfortable and convenient for me?
What questions are we asking?
How do I live a life that is holy and acceptable and pleasing to God?
What is the minimum requirement for me to not feel guilty?
Questions to evaluate this:
Is my life oriented around what is convenient and comfortable for me, or what will most honor God?
Does what I give to God cost me anything?
The essence of sacrifice is that it affects how you would otherwise live
Is my ability to live life according to my desires affected by what I give God?
Showing up to serve in church once a month doesn’t cost you anything because you’d be doing that anyway
In what ways does my life tangibly differ from the culture around me?
This is not along liberal/conservative lines, but around Christ centered and not Christ centered lines
Do I do different things with my free time, with my home, with my money, with my family, with my friendships, with my work.
What time and space do I give to Jesus to allow him to bring transformation to my life?
Do I spend time in scripture and meditating?
Do I spend time in prayer?
What role, if any, does my community play in keeping me accountable to a life of worship and service?
What spheres or sections of my life do I view as off limits to God?
Giving God a portion of my money so that I can spend the rest of my money however I want
Viewing Sunday service as my spiritual deed for the week and living the rest of the week however I want
Communion is where we both celebrate and renew the covenant relationship we have with God
We celebrate it in that we remember how God loved us enough to give us his son
We renew it in that we again pledge ourselves to live in response to the gospel
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