God's Plan for the Church
Towards Becoming so that…
Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 28:19-20
September 7th, 2008, Richmond Baptist Church
Pastor Jeff Germo, Candidating Sunday
How many of you ever made it downtown to Coal Harbour to see the sculpture of the upside down church before they removed it and brought it to Calgary?
It’s an interesting piece of work isn’t it?
I kind of wished they had left it where it was because it opened a lot of doors for conversation.
Do you know what the title of this sculpture is?
[“Device to Root out Evil”]
What do you think the artist was trying to say through this sculpture?
It seemed quite out of place where it sat juxtaposed against the busy city.
It looked like it was picked up by a tornado in Kansas, along with Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz, and slammed upside down and crooked in the middle of Vancouver.
What was he trying to say? [discussion]
To me, it sort of looks like the artist is saying that the church is not doing the job that it was called to do.
It’s upside down, it’s crooked, it’s falling apart, it’s obsolete, it’s out of place, and it’s lost its way…
But in reality, the church is supposed to be upside down in relation to the world around us.
If we, as God’s church, are doing our job we will be a people that stands out from our society in such a way that it makes us noticeable, not because of the clothes we wear, or anything external.
We will stand out because we will be characterized by the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control.
In other words, we will look more and more like Jesus.
And the world will stand up and take notice.
God has a plan for the church. That plan has always been the same. It has never changed.
He is building for Himself a people, a society, or culture within a culture who is all about His business on earth, so that His mission that He gave us can be accomplished.
Each one of us here today is in process. None of us, at this moment in time, is all that we could be.
As a matter of fact, if I become your pastor at RBC, you will eventually discover, and maybe sooner than later, that I am not a perfect pastor.
You can talk with Ruth after the service and find out that I am not the perfect husband either.
I might as well tell you that right now to burst any illusions.
Like you, I am in the process of becoming the person that God has called me to be in Christ Jesus.
Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish theologian and philosopher from a century and a half ago famously wrote, “With God’s help I will become me.”
Sometimes, even as Christians, we have a picture of God as someone who wants to spoil our fun, and that if we truly follow Jesus He will strip of us of our real selves.
But, the opposite is actually true. By His grace and power, God wants us to become fully who He has made us to be so that He can do His work through us.
And when we enter into that process with Jesus life becomes very exciting. We enter into a thrilling journey towards the heart of God that is satisfying like nothing else on earth.
And so my main job as pastor is to keep all of us attentive to God so that we are always aware that He working in our lives so we can join Him in that process of becoming.
When we get towards the end of our lives we will all look back and wonder, did I invest my life in things that were important, or did I waste my life on things that didn’t really matter.
Nobody, on their deathbed, says, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”
We have been brainwashed in our society to have values that are not priorities to God.
We are bombarded with images all day long on TV, radio, billboards, magazines, etc. that it is important to drive a certain kind of car, or wear a certain kind of clothes, or live in a certain kind of house, or have a certain kind of job.
We look at people who have these certain kinds of status symbols and assume that because they have them they are successful.
Basically, what our society does is encourage us to live lives of debauchery. Debauchery means that we do what ever we feel like doing at any given time.
This kind of living is totally opposite to the life that Jesus has called us to.
And so, what God wants to do with us is an extreme makeover so that the things we do are not the things that come naturally to us, but the things that Jesus would do through us so that His mission can be accomplished.
Turn with me to the book of Romans in your Bibles.
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./*
Paul begins this section with an appeal to the Roman Christians. There is an urgency in his voice.
He says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…”
Now, remember whenever you see a “therefore” you need to ask what it’s there for, because it always refers to something that has just been said, so to make sure that we are staying in context we need to find out what came before this statement.
In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul has expounded the truths about all that God has done for the believer, and all that the believer is and has in Christ.
By God’s great mercy and grace, Paul says, we have been saved from an eternity in hell, if we believe, not because of anything that we have done, or could do, but simply because it was His sovereign will to love and redeem a people for Himself.
We have been given freedom from sin, not freedom to sin, peace with God, power to live, and an eternity in heaven with Christ.
And all of this and more because of what Jesus did on the cross two thousand years ago.
It takes Paul eleven chapters to expound these glorious truths of the Christian life.
And then he says in 12:1, “therefore…, because of all these wonderful and glorious truths that I have just told you about…, because God is merciful… present your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual worship.”
Now, what does Paul means by “spiritual worship?”
We have two Greek words here; ‘logikos’ and ‘latreia’.
Now, what English word do we get from the word logikos? Logical, and logic.
It means reasonable, logical, obvious.
Or another way it is used is “to be true to the real nature of something”.
Keep that definition in the back of your mind for a minute.
Now, ‘latreia’, *the Greek word that is translated, “worship”, here, is one of those words that we have difficulty translating with just one English word.
It is the word that was used of the Levites when they would perform their priestly duties at the altar of God.
They were performing a service of worship to God.
So, the word latreia is “a ministry, or an act, that is done for the glory of God.”
Now, the KJV instead of “spiritual worship” says, “reasonable service,” which seems to be a little bit better translation.
But really, I think that the NASB translates it best.
It says your “service of worship.”
It combines both of the ideas that are in the Greek words to make this phrasal word.
Now, I am not a Greek expert.
I know just enough to get myself in trouble, but I do have some resources that I use, and one of the Greek scholars translates verse one like this;
I therefore beg of you, please, brethren, through the mercies of God, by a once for all presentation, to place your bodies at the disposal of God, a sacrifice, a living one, a holy one, well-pleasing, your rational, sacred service.
If I was a Greek scholar, which I’m not, but if I was, I would translate it like this;
“Duh… Isn’t obvious because of all that God has done for you, and because it is actually what God made you for, that you should surrender every part of your life in service to Him? This is how you worship God.”
God created us to worship Him. That is our purpose for being.
It is our logikos – “true to our real nature.”
Our true nature, the reason that God created us, is to worship Him. In this, and only in this, will we find satisfaction in our lives.
This is key, and everything must start from there.
-Paul then goes on in verse two to say that in order for this to be possible, we’re going to need a new way of thinking, because this does not come naturally to us.
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,…
You can’t think like you used to think, Paul says.
You need to be transformed to think like Christ, and the only way that you can do that is if you are changed from the inside out.
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.
If we are going to know what God wants for us, His good, acceptable and perfect will for us then we need to think like Him.
In our natural selves this is not possible.
And if we are going to think like Him we will need an overhaul of our mind.
We will need an extreme makeover.
And Paul says that through the power of the Holy Spirit a transformation is possible.
Does that excite anyone?
Now, the starting place is, of course, to place your trust in the fact that Jesus died for your sins, and that He was raised from the dead to give you new life.
You need the Spirit of Jesus residing in you. That’s the starting point.
He exchanges His life for yours based on that fact you are forgiven by the shedding of His blood.
And thus begins a wonderful relationship and spiritual journey with God where His Spirit will begin to transform your heart and your mind so you will begin to think and act like Him.
God is inviting us on an incredible journey.
It’s a journey of becoming; becoming the people that He intended us to be all along so that we can be used by the power of the Holy Spirit to infect the world around us with his love, grace, mercy, joy, peace etc.
And so when others look at us a year from now they should be able to the difference that Jesus has made in our lives.
How many of you like yourself exactly the way you are right now and don’t want to change? You think you’re loving enough. You’re patient enough. Your joyful enough, even when things are difficult.
I’m hoping that none of us think that way because God has so much more for us.
He has an exciting life planned for us where we can experience His presence in new ways and where we would cooperate with what He is doing in our hearts so that we can infect those around us with His love and His grace.
Does that excite you?
When I was the director of the youth centre in Calgary we would take some of the kids on backpack trips deep into the Rocky Mountains.
And in preparation for this trek we had an orientation meeting with them so that they would know what to expect and so they would have all the necessary tools along to make the trip possible and meaningful.
I would tell them what kinds of clothes they should wear, and what not to wear, and to make sure that they had proper foot wear because their feet are their only mode of transportation and they have to treat them well.
And we would talk about what to do in the event that we meet a bear, and the importance of not trying to make the journey alone, that they need each other, and that it is important that we work together as a team.
And then I would tell them the most important thing, and that is that it is not going to be easy.
“As a matter of fact”, I would say, “much of the trip will not be enjoyable for you, and you will wonder what you got yourself into.
And not only that… you will blame me, and some of you will not like me very much because you will be in so much pain from the gruelling journey of carrying a 40 or 50lb backpack up steep hills that you would not normally ascend.”
And you will want to quit. But, there is no turning back. Once we have started you are in it for the long haul.
“But,” I said, “If you persevere, you will be changed. You will return a different person than when you began.
New vistas will open up for you like you have never experienced before, and you will be prepared for life in a new way.”
I asked them if they understood. And they all said, “yah, yah, sounds good.” And I said, “If you want out now is the time.”
“No sweat. We’re up for it.”
And the theme verse for our trek was James 1:2-4.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
And we all memorized this passage and tried to get it into our psyches so that we would see the difficult process of the journey as the goal.
So, with that group of about a dozen high school kids plus leaders we prepared for several weeks.
And everyone was excited. I was their hero. I could do no wrong.
And then we all loaded up in our vehicles and drove to the trailhead from where we would begin our fateful journey.
The trip was about six or seven days of hiking through the mountains.
And by the middle of the first day… most of them were complaining.
“This is too hard. How come you didn’t tell us it would be so hard?”
And they said, “We hate you.” And in some of their minds I became enemy number one.
Well, a couple days later we arrived at our destination where we would camp out for two days and take it easy.
And I can remember when rounded a bend and peaked up over the crest of a hill so that we could see an awe-inspiring panorama of Mt. Assiniboine and the lake Magog at the foot of the mountain where we would set up camp.
It was so gorgeous it literally took our breath away.
And then the most amazing thing happened. They all changed instantly. They saw that great vista and we all stopped and stared in amazement at the beauty of God’s creation.
Some of them were even moved to tears at the sight.
After letting them enjoy this for a while I broke the news to them that we still had to make it down the mountain, which is going to seem interminable.
“You are going to walk down switch back trails that seem to never end. Your legs are going to feel like rubber, your knees are going to be in pain, and you will pray for a helicopter to come and rescue you.
But remember, how you respond to the process will determine how much you get out of this trip.”
And then every night we would take a deeper look at James 1:2-4, and I encouraged them to consider it pure joy and focus on the process, watch what God does in their hearts.
To make a long story short, it was a very difficult trek down the mountain. I could tell that they were all in pain and most of them were not enjoying themselves very much.
But this time nobody complained.
And when we reached our vehicles the girl who did the most whining on the way up ran up to me all excited, gave me a great big hug and said, “Thank you so much. You were right.
It was so painful and difficult, but it was so worth it. I feel like I can handle life so much better now.”
This is so much like the Christian life. God calls us into a process of becoming.
Romans 12:2 (ESV)
2Do 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.
Friends, if we are going to live the life that God has called us to we need to have a transformation of our minds.
We need an extreme makeover of our minds and hearts so that we think like He thinks, so that we want the things that He wants, and so that we ultimately do the things that He would do.
The Greek word that is translated “transformed” in English is the word, metamorphoomai.
What other English word do we get from this? – metamorphosis.
Now, metamorphosis is the process that the ugly caterpillar goes through as he wrestles in his cocoon to break free so that he can be transformed into a beautiful butterfly that has the ability to soar to new heights.
This is God’s plan for us. He wants to take us from where we are and transform us into something beautiful.
But not just for the sake of being beautiful as an end in itself. Not so that we can pat ourselves on the back for being a bunch of beautiful people.
God has not saved us just so that we can be saved. He has saved us for a purpose.
God has saved us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and He is taking us through a transformation of heart and mind for a reason, and that is so that we will become a people who are so filled with the fruit of the Spirit that others in the world will look at us and want what God has given us by His grace.
We are to be infectious Christians.
That’s God’s plan.
And Jesus, in the last words that He said to His disciples before He ascended into heaven told us how to do it.
He gave very specific instructions as to what His mission for us is.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
18And Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age."
What’s the mission? Make disciples by teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commanded.
What does it look like?
Bring them in…
Build them up…
Train them well…
Send them out…
There’s a little song that I taught at GBC, to help us remember this. [sing song]
This is God’s call on the church. He hasn’t called us just to make converts.
He has called us to make mature disciples who are in the business of making other mature disciples.
Bring them in, build them up, train them well, and send them out.
 Dennis Oppenheim's Device to Root out Evil
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ro 12:1-2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Jas 1:2-4). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.