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A Renewed Mind

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A Renewed Life

Romans 12

March 11, 2007

 

I listened to a sermon series, called The Ride of Your Life.  It was introduced with the song, Born to be Wild – by a rock group, called Steppenwolf – who are older than I am and I gather still doing their rock n roll thing.

The title of the series likened the Christian life to the ride of your life – assuming that most non-Christians think of the church and the Christian life as boring – which it sometimes is! 

Of course, the lyrics of Born to be Wild also say ‘head out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure, And whatever comes our way, Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen.

Reminds of me Exxon (then Esso) telling us that their gas was like putting a tiger in your tank.  Apparently, our cars need for zip even as we do!

What has this to do with Romans 12?

In Romans 12, we have the beginning of Paul’s ethical instruction to the church of Rome.  In Romans 1-11 the focus was on God’s action in Christ on the cross to give us new life through his sacrificial death and justifying resurrection. 

Now, he applies that to the way we live.  It isn’t the first time he has done this; but you can see how this section emphasizes what we are do think & do in response to his grace.

He doesn’t, however, call for us to take the ride of your life, but to offer yourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord – not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of your minds.  Specifically he calls the Christians in Rome to be True worshippers.

In some ways, thinking of the Christian life as the ride of your life, you are actually thinking as the world thinks and behaves.  Rather, we do better to think in terms and images the NT uses.  Let’s think of ourselves, therefore not as on the ride of your life but as offering yourselves to the Lord as true worshippers

First he defines True Worshippers

Then:

True Worshippers as Members of the Body of Christ

True Worshippers as residents in an evil world

Point One:  True Worshippers – 12:1-2

The temptation in these verses is to apply them to ourselves without considering their application to the people they were first written to.  We’ll try and do both.

As a friend has said, The Way to Anchorage is through Rome.  We must embed the text in its original context, and then bring to bear on our circumstances.

One other point.  In Romans 12.1, he begins by saying, I appeal, therefore, to you…The therefore reminds us that Paul is expanding on what he has said before.  He does not mean that we by being true worshippers we shall gain God’s favor.  Having gained his favor, or having been justified by his grace through faith, we now, in light of that are to walk in the newness of life to which the Lord has called us.

No, as believers, saved by grace, we want to please the Lord.  We want to do his will; in a word we want to be true worshippers.  And that requires a renewed mind.

Now look at verses 1&2.  They explain another verse in the Bible you may know – from John 4 – Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well of Samaria.  She says to Jesus…

John 4:20 (ESV)
20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship."

 

Jesus responds:

John 4:23-24 (ESV)
23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

A true worshipper needs a renewed mind in order to do the will of God. 

Further, what Paul does in these 2 verses is to radically reinterpret the word ‘worship.’  In Romans 9:4 (ESV)
4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.

 

The Jewish heritage included the worship – priests, ritual, sacrifice. 

True worship, Paul says, has nothing to do with priests, rituals and sacrifice – it is the offering of my life to the Lord. 

It has little to do with Sunday, and more to do with Monday through Friday.  It has to do with our day-to-day existence – with the whole of life.  Our Sunday worship includes:

Confessing our sins,
rendering thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands,
setting forth his most worthy praise,
hearing his most holy word, and
praying for our own needs and the needs of others.

That is what makes Sunday’s gathering unique.  But worship is more than this, according to Paul.

It is to do the will of God 24/7 – as they say.

Well, what is the will of God?

To the Jew it was simple:  the law of God.  However, Paul has explained that the law is not adequate by itself – it reveals our sinfulness – it testifies to our inability to keep it. 

No what we need is a Christian mind – a renewed mind which of course will be governed by the law, but will also be led by the Holy Spirit and express itself in love.

My renewed mind will feed on God’s law, it will come to grips with it, but only a mind renewed by the Holy Spirit, expressing itself in love, will be able to do the will of God.

Point Two:  True Worshippers as Members of the Body of Christ – the Church v 3-13

Romans 12:3-13 (ESV)
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

What is the connection between 1-2 and 3-13?  We are to apply our renewed minds to the local fellowship – the church. This is the point of these verses.

Notice verse 4:  Romans 12:4 (ESV)
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,

 

I am to be a blessing to the body of Christ.  And how?  By exercising my gifts, not just for myself, but for the body of Christ. 

What good will my gifts be if my mind is still conformed to this world.  If my mind is controlled by this world, I will begin to think of myself as in some way a person of distinction.

The gifts that we are to employ for the good of the community begin with humility.  In chapter 1, the tragic condition of humanity’s plight began when we worshiped the creature, rather than the creator.

V 3 sets things right.  We worship the creator, God, and when we do, we yield to his authority in humble submission i.e. humility.

The world says we should act with power – confidence – the gospel indicates we begin with submission to others.

Ex.  Francis Schaeffer ran a kind of Christian hostel in Switzerland for young people who wanted to investigate the Christian life.  The first assignment they were given was to…clean the bathrooms. 

He mentions various gifts:  prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, financial generosity, leadership, and acts of mercy.

We should use whatever gifts we have for others according to the grace given to us – that is within limits.  We can do only so much –

As you look at these gifts, some are natural; some are not. 

The world we live in thinks in terms of individual rights.  Even in the church, we tend to think this way.  However, Paul says that a renewed mind – that is a mind renewed by the Holy Spirit will begin to see things differently.  We don’t begin with me, and my needs, or even my gifts; but the needs of the body of Christ and ways we can strengthen it.

We should ask, “Not what is my gift?”  But, “what are the needs?.”  And as you meet those needs – wha la!  There’s your gift!

Look at verses 9-13.  They are still part of the 3-8.

Let’s look at them for a moment:

1. Love in verse 9.  These are all necessary if we are to contribute to the building up of the body of Christ. 

You may know that 1 Cor 13 is all about love.  But, it is put between chapter 12 & 14 which are all about spiritual gifts.  They were ‘gifted’ but they couldn’t get along.  They lacked love & so Paul wants them to seek the greatest of God’s many gifts – love – and to exercise within the Christian family.

I’ve heard it said, that the more gifted a person is, the more necessary is that they pay attention to verses 9-13, because there is a danger of our gifts becoming corrupted.

The more spiritual the claim the more dangerous the corruption.

Ex.  J Baker & Ted Haggard of the NAE – the super church leader – who certainly had many God-given gifts. 

 

Some Christians no longer think that good and evil apply to themselves.  They are somehow past those concerns.

Look at verse Romans 12:11 (ESV)
11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

This zeal. However, is to be used to serve the Lord and to build up the body of Christ.

How important is verse 13 – .

Verse 9-13 are given here so that spiritual gifts are earthed in real Christian living and church life. 

Point Three:  True Worshippers In the World, 14-21

The focus shifts in these verses from concerns with in the body of Christ to concerns of the community we live in.

Certainly, these principles should apply to all of life, but the mention of persecution, and vengeance in verse 19, the mention of enemy in v 20 and evil in verse 21 lead me to think that Paul’s thought expands to the community.

The point is that true worshippers whose minds are being renewed by the Holy Spirit will have a transforming influence in that society. 

I can’t separate myself from the evil world I live in.  Nor should I. 

V 14 – Romans 12:14 (ESV)
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

 

This is a way of extending love  to our enemies.  In deed verse 17 is explicit about this.  Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

I am to share in the sorrows and joys of those around, whether in the church or elsewhere.

Look at verse 18 – Romans 12:18 (ESV)
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

It may not always be possible to do this.  You may have to call the police about some testy neighbor – but, we should make every effort to live peaceably with others.

Verses 19-20.  Leave vengeance to God. 

Do nots – the individual do nots remind us of verse 2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…

ESV Romans 12:2 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.

 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,

 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Summary

We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and we are to be transforming of the world we live in.

Here’s a question for me and for you.  How might we go about loving those who ignore or ridicule us for our faith, or those from within the church who may oppose us, and how, instead of merely gritting our teeth (or rolling our eyes) we might actually go out of our way to seek their good.  We should pray for them, serve them and consider how we can tell them God’s gospel. 

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