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If we “know” something then we are thinking of it, speaking of it, treating it as it actually is.
Children will often say “I know” when told something they had no clue about.
Adults, likewise can act as if we know what we in fact don’t.
But when we do actually know something…then what we think in our heads about it, matches what it is in reality.
We can however believe something that is not true, or fail to believe something that is true.
If I have knowledge of something its true.
If I believe in something…it may or may not be true.
If I believe I have plenty of gas I will ignore gas stations as I drive by them.
Of course I can be wrong in what I believe (not have real knowledge about the gas in my tank)…(my gas gauge has been broken for years so I have to use the odometer)
If I really do believe God exists, I will tend to act as if he does.
What if my belief is not based on what is true (actual knowledge)?
“Well, at least you did good things, went to church, had faith…that can’t be bad, right?”
Paul would disagree…he said if Christ has not risen (if the resurrection account is not knowledge but just belief) then pity us above all men.
Why would he say this? Why would it make such a difference as to warrant such great pity, whether his belief was based on actual knowledge or not?
Because if his belief (what he was giving his life for) was not based on what is actually real then he is wasting his life.
Of course the implications of that are, if Christ has risen from the dead…then to not live in line with that reality would a life worthy of pity…a waste.
Ideally, what I believe aligns with what is real (actual knowledge of the facts).
Paul began with knowledge, 11 chapters of the factual basis of the gospel.
Last week we saw his transitional doxology, his worship of the God who has revealed himself to us…the one being whose knowledge is absolute, complete…he knows everything.
Now he launches into the practice of the knowledge of the truth of God…that is how he will finish his letter.
For those who actually believe what is factually true…here is what they will do with their lives.
Not to earn God’s favor but because this is what people who have experienced God’s favor will do
If you believe this (which is factually true)…here is what it will look like in practice.
Orthodoxy (right thinking about God)
Should (will) lead to:
Orthopraxy (right actions): A life that aligns with the reality of God.
Notice he didn’t start with: Act right…then God will accept you.
He started with: God accepts you in Christ Jesus…now this is how “God’s accepted people will act”
So Chapter 12 begins with a “therefore”
Rom. 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. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, 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.
Therefore: (So what now?)
In response to all he has said in the first 11 chapters…he is going to help us understand what those 11 chapters are “there for”
Therefore, I urge: parakaleo (Call alongside me)
He us urging them, us…to join him in a certain way of living based on the reality of the knowledge, true truth he has given us.
He is standing with them, encouraging them to join him.
You see this is how he addresses them…
Brothers (and sisters): He has put away for now all the discussion of the Jewish, Gentile differences and issues and addresses them as they in fact are: His Family
I urge you…as my brothers and sisters…
In view of God’s mercies (Plural):
Last week we talked about climbing the Manitou Incline, step by step…then he stopped and looked around at the greatness of God.
He said “Oh my…look at that!”
This week its not…”Okay, that was great…good climb, great view…thanks God, back to life as usual.”
It’s…”Okay now that you have this view, now that you have seen and experienced this, know that you know this…let me tell you what you are supposed to do.”
With this view of God’s mercies that you have…you are to live a certain way.
He has given them the foundation of the gospel and how God in Christ has accepted them.
Now he addresses them as a single family…and he is going to instruct them on how to live in view of the mercies they have experienced.
We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices:
This word used here is sometimes translated “your selves” but it means physical bodies…the implications are we are to offer our whole selves to God.
The background is the OT animal sacrifices that were offered in order to receive mercy.
Those sacrifices are no longer necessary; Christ has given himself for us…now we offer our bodies in everyday life to him.
Unlike the animals who were taken to the altar and killed…we willingly give our lives as living sacrifices because of the mercies of God in our lives.
Why “bodies”? Why not “selves”?
There was a form of thinking then (and now) that the physical is unimportant, or not as important as the “Spiritual”
God has my soul, but I decide what to do with my body.
This silly dualism is another form of a two-story life…God lives upstairs in the unreal world (spiritual me), I live downstairs in the real world(physical me).
But Paul will have none of that…we are to offer our bodies…the place where our inner selves actually interfaces with the world, with others.
With our hands, feet, eyes, ears, mouths, brains…whenever we go whatever we do…we continually offer ourselves to him…in view of his mercies to us.
There is enormous irony and tragedy in the lives of people who are fierce in their devotion to defending Christian doctrine but who do it in ways that don’t treat others with respect.
1 Tim. 1:5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
A living sacrifice implies a life of ongoing surrender to God…that in view of his mercies to us…continually shows mercy to others.
So truth matters, actual knowledge of God is important…but it must then show up in the way we live with others.
We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God (revealed in relationships with others)
This Paul wrote is our…
Spiritual act of worship:
The word translated “spiritual” can mean informed, intelligent, deliberate…a chosen action.
Its translated spiritual in some cases but the idea is this is intentional…my choice.
This is in contrast to the animals that were forced to be sacrificed…they did not make the choice.
Our life of worship is not “blind faith” it is based on the facts of his mercy given to us and therefore its is a long series of deliberate choices to live a life that reflects him in the way we love others.
Again, there is a real disconnect when people attend worship services, make professions of faith, understand correct doctrine…then fail to be kind to the real people God has placed in their lives.
Orthodoxy (right doctrine) must show up in orthopraxy (right actions)…love for others in view of God’s love (mercy).
Verse 1: “What now?”
“In view of these mercies of God we are to offer our lives completely to God.”
Verse 2: “How?”
The beginning point is to choose who will and how you will be shaped.
Do not conformed to the pattern of the world (don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold)
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
World is literally “Age”
Paul called the devil the “god of this age/world”…same word.
(World: people, cosmos, system) Think of it here as a system…of thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, habits…in opposition to God.
I don’t believe in worldwide human conspiracies, I don’t think people are that smart
But there is a worldwide demonic conspiracy.
It changes its strategies and tactics…and uses and then discards human agents along the way…but the overall goal is to squeeze humans into a shape that is the opposite of the image of Christ.
To deform us rather than allow us to be transformed into his image.
This shaping pressure takes on different forms at different times and places…but the pattern of the world is anything that is contrary to the image of Christ.
It can be misguided religion or it can be completely nonreligious…the enemy doesn’t care what it looks like, only what it does to us.
Notice its not a choice of whether will be shaped…its just a matter of how we will be shaped.
Paul presents a binary choice, an either/or…either you will be shaped by the world, or by God.
Either you will be pressed into the mold of a system in opposition to God or you will be transformed into the image of Christ.
There is no middle position…somewhere between Christ and the world.
The reason is it is a choice of masters…what will determine who you will be…who will have the power to direct our lives, to shape our beings.
You can only one master…especially when they have totally different visions for your life.
One is commanding “Go there, be that”
The other “No, go the opposite way, be other than that”
So Jesus said:
Matt. 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
And there is no neutral space in the world and no neutral moments in your waking life…everywhere you go, everything you watch, hear, the thoughts you allow to stay in your mind…has a shaping effect on who you are becoming.
Much of the shaping effect of the choices we make is in what we are habitualizing in our physical brains.
What we do over and over, what think over and over…forms neural networks in our brains.
Ruts, if you will, that the wheels of our emotional and volitional vehicles fall into and carry us down that path.
This is really good in habits that are healthy…but not good in ones that are not.
Learning to speak, read, ride a bike…habits are so helpful.
Our bodies are designed to automate what we practice.
Norah’s body is missing a gene that automates breathing.
She can forget to the point of passing out…normally this would not be possible…her body is missing an important automation.
But we can also automate things that are not good…ways of thinking, choosing, responding, even ways of feeling…by the things we practice over time.
This is why when a person becomes a Christian they get a new heart…they have the Spirit of God in them…but they don’t get a new brain.
Old habits die hard (because physical networks have formed to empower those habits)
Even when new desires are in place and empowered by the Holy Spirit…it takes time and effort to form new habits.
I’ve seen it my life, I’m sure you have in yours as well.
God gave me new desires when I gave my life fully to him, and over time he is helping me reshape my habits.
By the world wants to shape us as well.
I walked down Michigan Avenue…Called the Magnificent mile…its all designed to shape hearts and determine behavior.
Not that marketing or purchasing is bad…because the larger issue is not one of commerce it is the issue of how are hearts are being formed by the world around us…what we are allowing to happen inside of us.
Our choices flow from how we have been shaped…and are at the same time those choices that are helping shape us.
What do hope do we have to change…if we are shaped by past choices?
We have the hope of God…new desires, new power…but its not magic…we must apply that power and those new desires to make a long series of new shaping choices.
The thoughts, beliefs, attitudes that are contrary to the truth of God are constantly trying to squeeze us into a shape.
We are responsible (and able because of the gospel) to refuse to be shaped (or misshaped) in this way.
We don’t do this simply by walking around saying “no” but by choosing an alternative “yes”
We cannot simply concentrate on not being shaped by the current age we must give considerable effort to be transformed by renewing our minds.
*Don’t misunderstand “effort” here.
We are not discussing Justification (that is entirely a work of God for us)
We are discussing sanctification…this is collaborative effort with God.
1Pet. 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
One approach to not being shaped by the pattern of the age has been to try and escape from it altogether.
It is an external “no” to the world without the internal “yes” to God.
Mosquito Coast: Harrison Ford film from 1986.
-He tried to take his family out of the corrupting influences of the culture…he is fed up with American Consumerism where all they do is “Eat junk, buy junk, sell junk.”
-He has utopian vision of escaping the corruption of the world.
-In their jungle paradise, things go very badly…his children come to hate him, he becomes a murderer and eventually he himself is killed.
Notice its not beautiful coast, or utopian coast…it is appropriately “Mosquito Coast”
-Not a great date movie (I took Christy back in 86, she didn’t like it)…but it is an accurate description of the reality that the problem is not primarily “out there” rather it is “in here.”
-Ford failed to understand that the culture was corrupted by people like himself…and unless he experienced transformation on the inside…then changing locations wouldn’t make any difference at all.
In regards to the world/the age we can opt for one of several courses of action:
- Join them: let the age dictate our life direction (this is to be shaped by it)
- Leave them: this is the attempt to avoid the corrupting influence of culture but living in a form of Christian isolation from it. (the Mosquito Coast approach)
- Be transformed by Christ and be transformational in the world. Transformed not conformed.
These three descriptions are overly simplistic, of course there are times we join in and times we must oppose and leave…but overall the point is clear.
We cannot allow the age to shape us into its mold.
And we cannot think the solution is to try and escape the age in which we live…we cannot.
But what Paul is advocating is possible and necessary…transformation from the inside out.
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.
Only a renewed mind can discern, appreciate, and determine to obey God’s will.
First our minds are renewed by the Word and Spirit of God
Then we can discern and desire the will of God
Then as walk in obedience to his will we are transformed into the image of Christ over time.
John 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified
Sanctify is a word that means to make holy, to set apart for a purpose.
- I’m not going to take you out of the world but I’m going to send you out into the world.
- My prayer is that you would be protected from the enemy (the god of this age) who wants to squeeze you into a shape that is in opposition to Christ.
- As you go into the world I will set you apart by the truth…sanctifying you, transforming you from the inside out
A life lived in ongoing surrender is a life of ongoing worship.
So worship is more than public services and private experiences…but it is not less than them.
We are shaped by what we habitualize.
Worship is an important shaping “habit”
“How dare you call it a habit!”
Not at all, we hope to turn as many good things into habits as possible.
If I get in the habit of saying “Thank you for this day” every morning when I get up, does it mean I have forgotten how to be thankful…or I am more frequently remembering?
Certain habits keep us where we need to be…they shape us in the right direction.
Worshipping as a matter of habit is a good thing.
Of course it is important to engage the habit with all of our minds, hearts, wills.
But the habit of worship will shape us in the right way.
- The Will of God
Paul said that if we are transformed by renewing our minds we will know the will of God.
Who doesn’t want to know the will of God for their life, right?
Paul is not implying that if we are transformed by the renewing of our minds we will easily know what cars and houses to buy, who to date or marry, what to do in regards to a job…this is not a spiritual fortune cookie.
These things will remain a struggle…we will have to seek God and struggle with discerning his will in life’s details…these things keep us turned towards him.
But as we are transformed by renewing our minds with the reality of God…his will for us will become and remain clear in the way we are live out our lives.
This will is what Paul is going to be discussing in the next few chapters.
It is his will that we relate to God in faith…trusting him.
It is his will that we relate to others with grace…loving them.
In day to day situations we will understand his “good, pleasing, and perfect will”…it will become clear to us…as we live as people whose hearts and minds are more frequently saying “yes” to him.
Its important to not see “habits” as unspiritual things…we want to be “led” by the Spirits…not by robots on automation or animals living by instinct.
Actually the way God has designed us habits are either our best friends or worst enemy.
Question: If you tell your child to say “thank you” when someone does something for them (and I hope you do)…do you want it to be a habit or authentic?
That is, do you want them to learn to say those words reflexively or do you want them to be grateful people?
Its a silly question…it is both, they are tied together.
Ultimately you want grateful hearts…but grateful hearts show up in external ways (words in this case) and hearts and actions are aided by forming habits.
It matters what things you are choosing to make habitual…actions, words, thoughts.
These things shape us…we choose them…then in a real sense they choose for us.
Not that we cannot reform or reset them…we can…but our habits are the things we will do and think (and feel) when we are not actively choosing otherwise.
So spiritual disciplines, saying “no” to certain types of entertainment, saying “yes” to certain actions…allowing certain thoughts to stay, putting others out…these are important habits in regards to spiritual formation.
Some have mistaken Christian’s attempting to form certain habits and avoid others for legalism, or earning salvation.
In fact it is (or should be) Christians choosing freedom by choosing what they allow to become habit.
1Cor. 6:12 “Everything is permissible for me” — but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” — but I will not be mastered by anything.
Paul is not saying “Do whatever you want, you are free in Christ”
He is making a contrasting point…”Ok, I’ll give you that…you are free in Christ, accepted by him so you can do any number of things…but not all that you can do is smart or helpful to do.”
As for me, he said…I am free to do certain things…but I will not be mastered by anything…I already have a master and he is good one
Habits can lead to liberty or bondage…choose what is shaping you carefully.
If you have been or are being squeezed in the mold of this age…then you can choose and God will help you do so…to be transformed rather than conformed.