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Sermon - Romans 12.1-2 - Fiji

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·        Bula – thank you Pastor __________ for inviting me.

·        Excited about _________. 

·        Sulu and sandles __________.

·        My topic for today is God’s Will.

○       I’m going to start with a conservation that my wife Megan had with another Christian.

○       Crazy Miller Lady - purchase of disposable cameras

·       My text for __________ is Romans 12.1-2..

·        !!1Therefore, I appeal to you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.

 

·        Romans 12.1-2 can be broken down into five sections:

○       1.a The Foundation of our Sacrifice

○       1.b The Character of our Sacrifice

○       2.a The “Dont” Command

○       2.b The “Do” Command

○       2.c The Result: Knowing God’s Will

 

·       The foundation of our sacrifice is the mercies of God, as Paul so clearly states in the opening of verse 1, “Therefore, I appeal to you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God …”

○       What does Paul means by “mercies of God?”

○       He is talking about the mercies of God as spelled out in the eleven preceding chapters of massive theology – he is appealing to God’s mercy given to the terribly fallen human race through the provision of his Son.

○       He had described how radically sinful man was radically lost. 

○       But God provided a righteousness through the radical person of his Son, which made a radical new life and view of history possible!!!

○       In view of this mercy, God calls us to commitment.

○       I really like how John Stott describes this, “the gospel is precisely God’s mercy to inexcusable and undeserving sinners, in giving his Son to die for them, in justifying them freely by faith, in sending them his life-giving Spirit, and in making them his children.”[1] …

·       The greater our comprehension of what God has done for us, the stronger our foundation will be.

○       When we practically apply Christ’s gift, when we mediate on, accept it, and take it to heart, it becomes a magnet drawing us to deeper and deeper commitment to him. 

○       And this is what God’s mercies is all about.

·        The Character of our Sacrifice is given in the last half of the verse, “to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”.

○       This Character of our sacrifice has three important characteristics: it is total, it is living, holy, & acceptable, and it is reasonable.

·        The totality of the commitment comes dramatically to us through the language of sacrifice. 

○       The Greek term parastesai, translated as to present, is a technical term used for the ritual presentation of a sacrifice.  It is an aorist infinitive which means it is something that has happened in the past. 

○       When I first learned this verse, I thought that to present here meant it was something that Paul was telling me to do, not just one time but that I must do it over and over again.

○       !!You see, I read to present as a present tense verb with continuous action.  But this is not the case.  It is not something that we are to do over and over again.

○       Paul is commanding the Roman believers to make it their top priority to live out of the sacrifice that they have already made, and as such to repeatedly strive not to be conformed to this age but to be repeatedly transformed so that they can attest the will of God.

○       For Paul and the early church, as well as for us today, the rich heritage of sacrifice in Judaism is a thing of the past, rather than offering animals as a sacrifice, believers are to present themselves to God as the sacrifice. 

○       When Paul says, to present your bodies he means more than just your skin and bones, he means everything you are – your totality.  So I am to present all of me, I am to present everything that I am to God and you are to do the same.  You are to present everything that you are to God as well.

○       “Once a sacrifice has been presented to God it becomes His property and therefore holy because it now belongs to Him.  The uniqueness of this sacrifice is that rather than the victim being killed, he or she remains alive as an instrument of righteousness. [2]

 

·        The sacrifice is to be living, holy, and acceptable to God.

○       The believer is not killed as in an OT sacrifice, but remains alive.  We are to be a living sacrifice in the deep theological sense of “a new life”.  

○       We are also to be “holy” in that we have renounced sin and are set apart to God. 

○       Finally, we are to be an acceptable sacrifice not because we deserve to be accepted, but because the offerings are true to God’s specifications.

○       The sacrifice is the free surrender of one’s self to belong to God and to walk in the newness of life. As such, it is living, holy, and acceptable to God. 

 

·        Not only is commitment to be total, it is also logical.

○       Translating the last part of verse 1 can be a little tricky.  The text reads, logiken laterian, which literally means reasonable service.  But it is still not quite cut and dry.

○       However, reasonable service carries religious overtones, especially when used in the context of Christian worship. 

○       These religious overtones come to the forefront because of the sacrificial language and provide for the translation spiritual worship.  However, we still should not lose the root idea of logical service.

○       One of my hero’s, Gordon Fee, has noted that spiritual is anticipating the renewing of your minds in 12.2. [3]

 

·        It is the worship we are expected to do in light of the sacrifice that we have both offered and become.

○       For Paul, true worship was offering ourselves to God.  It was reasonable, it was logical, because it was consistent with a proper understanding of the truth of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

○       What Paul is calling for here is a total commitment as the only rational course to taken when you really see who God is.  Nothing else makes any sense. 

○       Halfway commitment is irrational.

○       To decide to give part of your life to God and keep other parts for yourself – to say, “Everything is your Lord, but this relationship, this deal, this pleasure …” is beyond spiritual logic.

 

·        If we are worshipping apart from commitment to God, it is false worship.

○       We are deceiving ourselves if we are doing “Christian things” but are not living out of our sacrifice to God.

·        2.a The Don’t Command, Do not be conformed to this age,

○       With this command, Paul is distinguishing between this age and the age that is to come.

○       This age was described in 1.18-3.23, as that of sinful humanity and is no longer the age in which believers are to live, and Paul stated in 6.4 the believer’s baptism into the death of Christ has brought them newness of life. 

○       In Christ believers have entered into the newness of life, into the new age. 

○       Therefore, they are living with the tension of the already but not yet.  They have received the first fruits of the Spirit[4] and are debtors not to the flesh but to the Spirit.[5] 

○       Because of the tension of living in this present sinful age and knowing the future hope and glory of the age to come, believers are not to conform to this age. 

○       They are not to live in the sinful flesh, as Paul has earlier described in chapter 8. 

○       Being committed means saying no to the world and yes to God.

 

·        2.b The Do Command, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds,

○       Instead of conforming to this word, believers are to be transformed by the renewing of their mind

○       Just as conformity to this age results in the unfit mind as described in 1.28, transformation through the renewing of the mind results a lifestyle that is considered a sacrifice, living, holy, and acceptable to God.

○       How does this happen?  How are we to be transformed?  Gordon Fee writes that the work of the Spirit seems to be the underlying cause of the renewed mind.  So having a renewed mind is equal to having the Spirit. 

○       Therefore this renewed mind works in two directions. 

○       First, through the work of the Spirit believers no longer live in conformity to this present age.  The result of this will be behavior that no longer resembles the conduct of this age.  This new conduct is only possible through the renewed mind that is brought about by the Spirit. 

○       Second, this renewed mind through the power of the Spirit is the key to discerning the will of God.[6]

·        2.c The Result: Knowing God’s Will - so that you may discern what the will of God is, the good, acceptable, perfect will

○       This last section of verse 2 is why this short passage is so well known.  As believers we are in the midst of a daily journey to discover God’s will for our lives. 

○       First, I want you to notice what Paul actually says, so that you may discern.  He doesn’t say find, he says discern. 

○       The Greek word for discern is dokimazw and it literally means to test, to examine, or to prove. 

○       In order to test something, in order to examine something, or in order to prove something, we are going to have to use our mind.  We must put on our thinking cap and then put our critical thinking skills into high gear to see if whatever we are testing, examining, or proving is true or false, good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, loving others or being selfish?

○       So Paul is not saying that the will of God is going to fall into your lap.  But he is saying that you can know God’s will.  How can you know God’s will?  By using your renewed mind and dokimazwing.  That is by allowing the Power of the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts as we test, examine, and prove whatever we are thinking about in order to discern God’s Will.

○       The second thing I want to point out, so that you may discern what the will of God is, the good, acceptable, perfect willNotice that Paul does not merely say the perfect will of God, he says the good, acceptable, perfect will.. 

○       I grew up thinking that I had to find the perfect will of God for my life.  That if I basically did all the right things, if I looked under all the right bushes, if I lifted and turned over all the right rocks, if I denied what I really wanted and went for something I really didn’t want to do, then I would be able to find God’s perfect will in the decisions that I had to make. 

○       You see, I thought that finding God’s will was like looking for something that I’d lost.  Have you ever lost your car keys and looked everywhere for them but couldn’t find?  And then suddenly there were right there, a place you’d looked what seemed like a thousand times?  That’s what I thought finding God’s will was like.

○       But on the other hand, I thought if I did the wrong things or didn’t look under the right bush, if I didn’t turn over the right rock, then I would not be able to find the perfect will of God and therefore I would be out of the will of God, and although I might be able to get back on track, it would never really be perfect again..

○       Good, acceptable, and perfect, are all adjectives in the Greek text.  And what is the function of an adjective?  It modifies a noun.  Will of God, is the noun, and it is being modified by this string of three adjectives.  So it is the good, acceptable, perfect, will of God.  As such they are all equal in rank and position. 

○       It is not the perfect will of God as we tend to make it in our theological systems.  It is the good, acceptable, perfect will of God. 

○       What does this mean?  It means that since it is God’s will you can rest assured that it is good.  Since it is God’s will you know without a shadow of a doubt that it’s acceptable.  Since it is God’s will you don’t have to lay awake at night and wonder, it is perfect.

○       But it does not mean that there is only one perfect decision for you to make.  It does mean that through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your renewed mind you will be able to test, examine, and prove what is the good, acceptable, perfect will of God.

○       God’s will is not going to find you, knock you over the head, and bless you.  You are going to have to use your renewed mind in order to discern it.

○       You see, the woman in the story I opened with also misunderstood God’s will.  She was not discerning, she was allowing life to happen and then equating life with God’s will.  This is the exact opposite of what the text is telling believers to do.  We are not to sit back and passively let life happen, we are to actively discern what the will of God is.

 

·        But wait, here is the best part of all!!!!  I just get goose bumps when I even being to think about this.  You’re going to have to forgive me.  This is just so much fun.  The best part is that Paul doesn’t leave us hanging here.  He doesn’t just end his discussion about God’s Will and go on to something else.  But most Christians think that he does.  They get to the end of 12.2, close their Bibles and begin to run around looking for God’s will. 

 

·        But Paul doesn’t end his discussion of God’s will here at 12.2.  He actually spends from 12.3 to 15.13, giving examples as to what God’s good, acceptable, perfect will looks like.

○       Now he doesn’t give a blueprint.  He doesn’t say, “pray this, then do that, talk to this person, etc” and then you’ve made it. 

○       Instead, he beings a discussion about the life of the Roman church and models how they are to make their decisions, in order to come to their conclusions concerning God’s Will

 

·        Let me stress this point: the only way to find the good, acceptable, perfect will of God is through the renewing of the mind by the power of the Holy Spirit, because only a renewed mind can test, examine, and prove the will of God.

 

·        Paul did not leave the Romans believers wondering as to what the good, acceptable, perfect, will of God was.  And he does not leave us wondering either.

○       You see, he continues his discussion as to how a believe should live his or her life.

○       He provides the necessary key’s that should be used in discerning the good, acceptable, perfect, will of God.

○       He is stating the type of thinking process a believer should use in order to discern the will of God.

○       He is giving clues as to what the will of God should entail.

○       Why do I say this?  Because of how the Greek text starts in 12.3.

○       Just as, the therefore in Romans 12.1 points back to everything Paul had said previously, here at 12.3, he uses the conjunction for

○       This means he is linking what he is about to say to what he just said.

○       This means that everything to follow depends upon what he just said in 12.1 and 2.

 

!!!!·        With this in mind, let’s take a tour of Romans 12.3-15.13 in order to discover the good, acceptable, perfect, will of God.

 

·        12.3-8 – Use of Spiritual Gifts

○       Paul is trying to correct the problem of creating a hierarchy of spiritual gifts.  He explains that all believers are part of the body of Christ and interrelated.  He is teaching that no spiritual gift is of higher value when considered in relation to the body of Christ.

○       All believers have gifts.  To be a Christian is to be a charismatic.  It is the reality of being apart of the body of Christ.  Realize that gifts differ.  Gifts or charisms denotes any word or action which expresses God’s grace.

○       How are we to embrace them?  With love.

 

!!!!·        12.9-21 – Our relationship to one another in the body of Christ and to our enemies

○       The hinge he uses in each case is that of love.  Believers are to love one another and also to love their enemies. 

○       Charisms (gifts) are the function of the body, but love (agape) determines our character.  Paul is emphatic – exercise your gives in love (just live in 1 Cor. 13).

○       Love speaks about weaknesses and failings. 

○       Also recognize strengths and give praise.

○       Paul also draws from ancient Israel’s obligation to care for the disadvantaged. 

○       There is no compartmentalizing of Christianity.

○       Embrace the sacred and the secular.

 

·        13.1-7 – Life as Good Citizens

○       This section addresses the relationship between the body of Christ and the secular authorities in the world. 

○       Christianity is part of larger group and must answer to the secular authorities who are acting as God's servants. 

○       Judaism was both a state and a national religion.

○       Christianity includes the political, social, as well as the religious.

○       Christianity lost its ethnic identity.

○       Christians are part of a larger group.

○       Political authority comes from God.

○       This is no new principle (cf. Dan. 4).

○       The political becomes a part of our responsibility as Christians to live and work with a good conscience.

 

·        13.8-10 – Relationship to the law of Love with Your Neighbor.

○       Love is not to be limited to the community of faith.  It must include neighbor and enemy.

○       Love is the fulfillment of the law.

○       Neighbor is the person we encounter every day.

 

·        13.11-14 – Live as Unto the Lord

○       Examines the manner in which believers are to continually live their lives

○       It is not just a beginning but each and every decision.

○       There was the imminent expectation of the second coming of Christ.

·        14.1-15.13 – Relationship to the weak

○       Evidently both the weak and the strong were having problems with the conduct of the other side and had become involved in a game of pointing fingers and passing judgment.  Paul instructs that rather than passing judgment they should resolve never to put a stumbling block in front of another.  Aligning himself with the strong, he admonishes them to lay down their freedom if necessary and not to despise, judge, or offend the weak. 

○       Welcome the weak

○       Do not despise the weak

○       Do not judge the weak

○       Do not offend the weak.

 

·        So, what is the good, acceptable, perfect will of God?

○       Know and exercise your gifts

○       Love those in the body and your enemies

○       Live as good citizens

○       Love your neighbor

○       Live as unto the Lord

○       Love and accept the weak.

                                   

·        Pastor _____, I’m about to turn this back over to you, but first, let me review.

○       All believers in the body of Christ want to be in the will of God.  I don’t think that there is a single Christian alive who would say, “God’s will, that’s not for me.”

○       But we spend far too much time looking for God’s will, wondering about God’s will, and doing nothing, when in fact, God’s will has been there right in front of us all along.

○       If you want to be in God’s will, if you want to do God’s will, if you want to live the rest of your days in the midst of God’s will, it’s actually quite simple. 

○       All you have to do is:

○       First, accept the mercies of God and live out of the sacrifice that you both offered and became to God.

○       Second, allow the power of the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so that you will be transformed.

○       Third, test, examine, prove, in other words, discern the will of God in each and every situation. 

○       How should a person with a renewed mind live?  They should:

Ø     Know and exercise their gifts

Ø     Love those in the body and their enemies

Ø     Live as good citizens

Ø     Love their neighbor

Ø     Live as unto the Lord

Ø     Love and accept the weak.

○       If you are doing this, then are in the good, acceptable, perfect will of God.

Cranfield, C. E. B. The Epistle to the Romans. 2 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1975.

 

Fee, Gordon. God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994.

 

Stott, John. "Our Relationship to God: Consecrated Bodies and Renewed Minds." Romans: God's Good News for the World. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1994.

 


----

[1] John Stott, "Our Relationship to God: Consecrated Bodies and Renewed Minds, Romans: God's Good News for the World Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1994), 320.

[2] C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans 2 vols. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1975), 2:599-601.

[3] Fee, 601.

[4] Romans 8.23

[5] Romans 8.12-13.  See Barrett, 232.

[6].  Fee, 602-603.

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