Date: March 14,1999 Where: SHMC
Sermon Title: Renewing of your Mind
Text: Romans 12:1-21
WL: Erwin Tessmann Invocation/Einleitung: Nick Dyck
4th Sunday in Lent – Renewal
God came to reconcile the world to Himself.
· Lent: Jesus suffered our pain & brokenness (experiences with parents, siblings, spouse, co-workers)
· our sin: no matter how far we have strayed from God – His offer of reconciliation counts for us.
· our lostness & confusion: when we’re seeking for answers in our lives, and all we’re getting is mixed messages.
God came to show us His love – not judgement.
· We’re often so afraid of the eternal Judge in the sky, that we become sour Christians.
· Just thinking about the possibility that one day God will call us into His private office and replay the Candid camera of our lives can make us into pretty insecure Christians.
· “Campolo, we’ve been waiting.”
· Thank God, there are no cameras is heaven.
· I don’t know about you, but I get the sense that a lot of people have difficulties just thinking about what God will do to them at the end of time.
· And this fear is reflected in how we make decisions as individuals and as a church.
· Because of our understanding of what kinds of sins God will tolerate and which ones are more severe, we put up barriers in our minds.
· The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12 that we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
· That is, our thinking about law & Judgment, Gospel and Grace needs to change.
· By the grace of God Paul had escaped the clutches of the Jewish legalistic ways.
· The Book of Romans expresses Paul’s profound struggle with sin and grace.
· Listen to his inner conflict in Rom 7:14f:
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 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.
· If a great man of God, like Paul, was confused about such things as Law and grace, then I don’t feel too bad, if we have to stick-handle our way through some pretty difficult issues.
· The question we must ask is this: how do we decide what is right and wrong?
· How do we know if we are doing God’s will?
· There are many theological questions that just cannot be answered with a simple black or white statement.
· How do we decide?
· Paul speaks of a transformation through the renewal of our minds.
· That’s strange: we usually think of repentance and renewal in terms of the spirit.
· “A broken and contrite heart/spirit God will not cast away”
· Paul also talks about the conversion of the mind, and that is what today’s sermon is all about.
· We live in a society that throws all kinds of hard issues at us, who are followers of Christ.
· We are faced with issues that did not exist (to our knowledge) in the time when the Bible was written: Smoking, Mercy-killing, Inclusive language, Organ transplants, Bungee-jumping, and a million others.
· How then do we discern God’s will in those situations?
· What criteria do we use in making decisions?
· And do we use our criteria consistently for a wide range of issues?
· Or do we select which sins are greater than others.
· How do we think theologically about these issues?
· John Cobb, in a book entitled, Becoming a Thinking Christian says, “If we want Church Renewal we will have to renew Thinking in the Church.”
· He says that we live in an age of professionalism: If stomach hurts we go to the Doctor, who after many examinations and a huge waste of time sends to a Specialist. If we want to know what to do with our money, we go to a financial advisor. Similarly, if we want answers to our spiritual or emotional problems we go to our pastor or counselor.
· It is often tempting to leave all theological thinking to the professionals.
· I.e. pastor knows best, or ask the counselor, or call in the church consultant.
· While professionals can help us identify information that we are missing – we still have to do our own thinking and take responsibility for our own beliefs.
· We have to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”
· The purpose of Cobb’s book is to encourage us to think as Christians – that is, to think about what we believe and why.
· One question that immediately comes to mind is this: Is the Bible always the only authority or is a Christian encouraged to look at other sources of authority?
· For example, can sociology, psychology, and the sciences help us to come to a more Christian answer?
· Let me give you an example: Up until the early part of this century, slavery was justified in the US on the basis of the Bible.
· Today, very few people (except for skin-heads, and members of the Ku Klux Klan) would even dare to quote the Bible in favor of slavery.
· The conclusion that most Christians have reached is that slavery stands in violent opposition to the Christian principle of justice and equality.
· (The same principle is also being applied to gender issues, and women in ministry).
· What is the most Christian thing to do?
· We don’t always know immediately how best to respond in a God-pleasing way.
· A big part of the problem is that the Bible does not give us full answers to every situation that we will ever meet in life.
· For example, the Bible does not address the issue of “Bungee-jumping”
· My guess is that few people in our church would advocate Bungee-jumping as a Christian thing to do because of the dangers involved.
· In fact, most people would agree that putting your own life in danger for the thrill of it is not pleasing to God.
· How do we take the Christian principles that the Bible teaches us and apply them to situations in such a way that God will be pleased.
· How do we arrive at our decisions or conclusions about what is Christian and what is not?
· The apostle Paul argues that we must not conform any longer to the pattern of our age, but that we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
· As Christians we have the challenge and the responsibility to think about why Bungee-jumping (and a million other issues) is or is not a Christian thing to do.
· We are required to think about our theology – that is, what would God want us to do?
· Thinking about our lives in relation to God is called Theology – our “words about God”.
· For example we might have a Theology of Worship – our thoughts about what God desires from us in Worship.
· We may have a theology of prayer, study, meditation, family, dating, marriage, sexuality, divorce, the Church, use of substances like alcohol, drugs & tabbaco.
· We have a theology of entertainment & finances.
· We also have a theology of conflict and how to resolve it.
· Each one of us is already a theologian.
· But often our theology is shallow and biased.
· We have our opinions and thoughts about what God’s will is in any given situation.
· We may not know or fully understand, where all our reasoning and our assumptions come from, or even, that we already have our own spiritual interpretation on issues, but we do.
· We have to admit that we are deeply influenced by the thinking of our parents and elders, our church, school teachers, our peers, TV, and countless others.
· We often incorporate their theologies into our thinking.
· Paul writes to the church in Rome: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual (lit. rational or reasonable) act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (age), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
· Paul is making an urgent appeal to us.
· The pattern of this world is to be swayed back and forth by every form of popular opinion.
· The pattern of the world says: “If it feels good, just do it” – Nike made Millions with that slogan.
· The pattern of this world says: “Three strikes and you’re out. There are only so many chances.”
· Paul continues in verse 9 Love must be sincere. (not based on what is convenient)
· What does this mean when
· 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
· Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
· 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
· What does that mean?
· Do we as a congregation see those who come to us for help as “god’s people in need”?
· Do we see them – regardless of their sinful past, and their broken lives – as God’s wonderful and beloved children?
· What is the Christian think to do?
· What does it mean to practice hospitality.
· Jesus accepted people the way they were.
· Regardless of their past.
· Even on the cross is stretched out his arms of mercy and said: Today you will be with me in paradise.
· As a congregation we are called today to open our hearts and our minds to God’s redemptive spirit, and to ask him to transform our minds.
· Let us be encouraged to continue to grapple with hard issues and not blindly accept the traditions of the past.
· Let us continue to ask: what is the Christian thing to do?