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The Difference Mercy Makes

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The Difference Mercy Makes; Romans 12

Part I, January 27, 2002

Part II, February 3, 2002

 

Prayer/Scripture Reading:

Introduction:

Paul has been making a series of escalating statements in Romans as he builds a case from beginning to end regarding our need for the gospel and its intended result.

There are a number of what we call "inferential coordinating conjunctions" interlaced throughout the book that act as intermediate landings on this staircase of solid spiritual logic where we can pause and catch our breath.

Some of these are translated from the Greek as "therefore" in the various English versions, and although this is certainly not all of them, we can get an idea of the course of Paul's argument if we look at them progressively as they are listed in the NIV.

Romans 1:24  Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

Romans 2:1  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Romans 3:20  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

Romans 4:16  Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring— not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

Romans 5:1  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 5:12  Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—

Romans 6:4  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 6:12  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

Romans 8:1  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Romans 8:12  Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation— but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.

Romans 9:16  It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

Romans 9:18  Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Romans 11:22  Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Romans 12:1  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God— this is your spiritual act of worship.

Romans 13:5  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

Romans 13:10  Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 14:13  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Romans 14:19  Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Romans 15:9  so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name."

Romans 15:17  Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.

So Paul takes us all the way from our need for the gospel due to our sin condition, to the glory of our transformation in worship and in service.

Our chapter for today, chapter 12, begins an imperative section of the book.

It is the practical application of what he has said so far.

The gospel should and does make a difference, and Paul has been reiterating the gospel all along here to make a difference in the Roman church.

These are the ethical implications, the "so what" of the gospel.

This is where the rubber meets the road, the key areas where Christians need to display the reality of God in a new way of living.

Paul addresses the areas of real dispute in the Roman church, the same areas all people in all churches need help with.

This is what commitment to the gospel looks like in real life.

In Romans 12:1-2 we find the heading for all that Paul will unpack in the rest of the chapter and indeed in all the following chapters.

It is the succinct description of the essence of the believer's response to God's mercy in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mercy is "not getting what we deserve."

It is because of God's mercy in not giving us what we do deserve that we are offered the gospel of grace – something we did not deserve.

The person who ignores God's mercy doesn't know what he hasn't received.

The person who ignores God's grace doesn't know what he has received.

Our obedience is always the product of what God has done in our lives – and that is that he has given us mercy.

We see that God has given us mercy and that he will one day also give mercy to the Jews (11:30-32).

We all deserved abandonment to death but God has let us live (11:32).

So how should we live in light of God's mercy?

We should live as if we actually did die.

This is the meaning of "living sacrifice."

This is God's solution of how we are to get along together in the church and advance the KOG.

We each live in such a way that we can all enjoy the benefit.

ILLUS:

Our world is presently embroiled in a theological tug-of-war that has brought us to an actual state of war.

This is nothing new for the world as a whole over historical time.

But it is our war at the present and we must fight it.

What has brought it to a head is the idealism of what it is that truly makes a difference.

For the Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, it would seem that the value of human life is quite expendable.

The way to truly make a difference is to become a suicide bomber (cartoon).

Somehow, a confused John Walker bought into that mess.

A Muslim suicide bomber is idealistically willing to kill himself to promote his beliefs.

Ironically, such a person must know that they then have absolutely no chance of seeing victory for themselves or of enjoying the outcome of what they fight for.

But even though Christians are willing to die for their beliefs, we uphold the right of each individual to see victory and enjoy its benefits.

The way of the Muslim extremist is to become a dead sacrifice.

The way of the Christian is to become a living sacrifice.

The contrast can be seen in the story played out in "Blackhawk Down" about our brief involvement in the war to bring stability to Somalia.

The outcome of this unsuccessful mission was 18 American dead and 73 wounded against over a thousand Somalians loyal to the despotic warlord, Mohamed Farah Aidid.

The movie shows one after another of the innumerable Somalians throwing themselves against the much smaller force of 200 Americans.

The fighting was brutal against overwhelming odds.

But what impressed me was the dogged tenacity of the American troops to remain true to the collateral objective of bringing every man back, even if he was dead – none would be left behind.

Time after time it seemed that we would lose another soldier or two or three just to get to one who had been fatally wounded in order to bring him back.

It seemed senseless, and we lost the engagement. I think we might have won it if we would have kept the mission in mind more than the men.

But would we really? The value of human life was the reason we went in – to save those who were being brutally oppressed by the warlord, Aidid.

I am proud to be an American because I know that my life has value here.

And our God values life since he sent Jesus Christ so we would not die in our sins.

He was willing to give his life that we might "get out" alive.

And even if we die, our bodies will be brought safely home.

That is the God and the country I want to serve – one who loves and provides.

So since our God is merciful, then how should we live in light of God's mercy?

Big Question:

Therefore, what difference should God's mercy make to us who have received it?

Play Song: "Mercy" by Ray Boltz.

"God's mercy changes us."

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (v. 1)

          B.      Implication

A true understanding of God's mercy enables us to live sacrificially.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (v. 2)

          B.      Implication

A true understanding of God's mercy enables us to think transformationally.

          C.      Illustration

An incorrect view of the Christian life would be the idea that there are two natures in constant conflict; the old nature and the new nature, without substantial change in the believer. This is the classic fight between "black dog/white dog."

A correct view of the Christian life would be the truth that there is an old self (man/person) prior to a "crucified with Christ" conversion that is characterized by the following:

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— (Romans 6:6 NIVUS)

 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5 NIVUS)

 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIVUS)

 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIVUS)

 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (Ephesians 2:1 NIVUS)

 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. (Ephesians 4:17-18 NIVUS)

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NIVUS)

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— (Romans 6:6 NIVUS)

But at conversion the old person you used to be no longer exists.

The old person is no longer operative because there is now the creation of a new "God consciousness."

It is not now a new nature in conflict with the old but a new nature that has now entered to make the old person different than he was.

There is still struggle, but the new person is not habitually and unquestioningly given to the old way any longer.

The old love for sin begins to die as the flesh is defeated by the mercy of God in Christ.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, (Colossians 2:13 NIVUS)

 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:10 NIVUS)

 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—  because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:6-7 NIVUS)

 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,  because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13-14 NIVUS)

As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. (Romans 7:17 NIVUS)

-- Struggle with indwelling sin --

 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:20 NIVUS)

Now there is a practical application to all of this in how it works out for us.

It is the contrast between the indicative (Rom 6:2-3) and the imperative (Rom. 6:11-12).

Those in Christ have died to sin.

But this now stimulates human responsibility and arouses our cooperative activity.

The redemptive indicative of dying and rising with Christ is not to be separated from the imperative of the struggle against sin.

Having died with Christ does not relieve us of responsibility to put the flesh to death, but is precisely the great and urgent reason for doing it.

The imperative is founded on the indicative; the order is not reversible (if/therefore).

Because God works and has worked, therefore man must and can work (Php. 2:12).

The imperative is grounded on the reality that has been given with the indicative, appeals to it, and is intended to bring it to full development.

We are repeatedly challenged to bring our new life into compliance with God's act of mercy toward us in Christ.

If the "therefore" doesn't take place, then the "if" didn't take place for us either.

The "therefore" cannot exist without the "if."

The activity is the outcome of the receptivity.

The imperative is grounded in the indicative and is to be accepted in faith once for all and time and again anew.

The imperative preaches rebellion against sin, to which faith must know again and again that sin has been defeated.

The imperative is filled when faith is active and vigilant.

It is a relationship between the continual and the actual as the reality of the new life becomes clear.

It is a militant life of faith to which you are now able because you have changed and become alive to God.

This is the renewed mind and the discernable will of God in transformational thinking.

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 3-8)

          B.      Implication

A true understanding of God's mercy enables us to relate graciously.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 9-20)

          B.      Implication

A true understanding of God's mercy enables us to love infinitely.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

V.      Cycle Five

 

          A.      Narrative (v. 21)

          B.      Implication

A true understanding of God's mercy enables us to make a difference, for this is how God has made a difference in us.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Conclusion:

Big Answer:

Therefore, what difference should God's mercy make to us who have received it?

A true understanding of God's mercy enables us to live sacrificially.

A true understanding of God's mercy enables us to think transformationally.

A true understanding of God's mercy enables us to relate graciously.

A true understanding of God's mercy enables us to love infinitely.

A true understanding of God's mercy enables us to make a difference, for this is how God has made a difference in us.

Timeless Truth:

The difference mercy makes starts with me and ends with thee.

ILLUS:

"Celebrate the Difference" by Joseph Stowell in Strength for the Journey, p. 36, Moody Press (a new daily devotional just released the beginning of this year).

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