Betsy’s husband died when she was 41. She had five children and was pregnant with twins at the time.
This was in 1841 there was no welfare, no help from the government…the creditors came in shortly after her husband’s death and stripped the house of everything they could take…they even took the wood for the fireplace.
She was urged to send her children to live with other families so they could survive but she refused…she worked tirelessly (silly word…extreme tiring) and successfully to keep her family together.
She had a profound but simple creed for her life “Trust in God”
I thought about her life this week…how “unfun” it would have been, how tedious, how mundane…how little time she had for “making a difference in the world”
You might say…”Wait a minute, she was making a difference in those 7 children’s worlds.”
I agree, but often, in today’s vernacular…that would not count.
Making a difference…has to be more spectacular than the mundane that would have been her life.
By the way one of her sons, who was four when her husband died was named Dwight.
Later known as DL Moody
He would go on preach to millions of people
On a single day over 130,000 attended evangelistic meetings he coordinated. (19th century)
He trained an army of people to work in the inner cities.
Garnered worldwide fame…President Grant came to hear him preach.
He founded a large church, a publishing house, a university, a couple of other schools…all still in existence 130 or so years later.
Now that is making a difference…right?
But Dwight credited God and his mom for the outcomes of his life.
Do you see how God used his mom…in the unspectacular, mundane life she lived?
There was also a kind businessman who shared the gospel with him as a boy who had a lasting impression…Moody spoke of this man often.
Later, a Sunday school teacher, who was a normal businessman as well…was instrumental in him coming to Christ.
DL Moody…now that was a life of impact.
But so was his mom’s, some normal businessmen, and a host of others…who chopped wood for the family, brought meals…gave Dwight jobs…on and on it goes.
Mundane is a word that means…””yawn’ boring, uninteresting.”
The background of the word is an old word for “earthly, profane, of the world” versus “heavenly, spiritual”
The word developed during a period of history where there was a strong separation of the sacred and the secular
This was a two-story idea of reality…where the normal, the mundane was of little importance compared to the spiritual, heavenly.
Now that order is often reversed…downstairs is more real than the spiritual.
But the problem is…downstairs is only meaningful if it is spectacular…it cannot be mundane.
*I heard a professional musician questioned about what he would tell a young person who asked him whether they should pursue a career in performing.
He said “I would tell that young person to find what you are obsessed with and do it over and over.”
That may be the worst advice I’ve ever heard…clearly if you are obsessed you will do it over and over…but what if the obsession is the opposite of what you should be doing?
Jesus was born to a woman who lived for the most part, a mundane life, in a place where existence was mundane…took a lot of time just to do normal stuff back then.
Jesus’ first 30 years were largely mundane (not really, but using the popular conception, they were)
For his last three years there were spectacular things that happened…but they happened in the midst of the mundane life of a not well-off person in the first century…lots of walking, waiting, talking, sleeping…waiting on fires to get hot to make food to eat.
Normal, earthly, mundane life…where the gospel was being unveiled.
Christ is where the heavenly and the earthly…the spectacular and the mundane merged…or were clearly revealed.
God’s history among humanity as revealed in Scripture is the spectacular occasionally popping into the mundane…but more than that.
It is a world where nothing is mundane(merely of the earth)
The mundane and the spectacular are one and the same…this is my Father’s world…all of it…seen and unseen.
The mundane is where God has most often shown up in the lives of people…because it what human lives mostly consist of.
A fully formed Biblical view of the world…is that there is no separation between the spiritual and the sacred….the mundane and the spectacular
Our culture (and many of us here) have developed an aversion to the mundane…we have a nearly unquenchable thirst for something more than normal…or usual…we have spiritualized it.
But we often want God to do something “big”
In some ways this is because we live in the already/not yet kingdom…we are made for more than this just life.
But in many other ways…it has to do with our inability to see and experience God in “normal life”
We often hunt for meaning apart from where it is going to be found…right here, right now.
God’s purposes for us are in the mundane…the earthly, the normal.
Our search for more than mundane, or other than mundane…means we often miss God.
My granddaughter Norah has been sad lately because she has been on her external vent since the summer…an internal wire broke in her body and had to be surgically repaired before she can go back on her diaphragm pacers that allow her to be mobile.
Her sadness…makes all of us sad.
I can see my desire to try and figure out how to make her, me, us…not sad.
I’ve always tried to “fix” life for me and others…but since I can’t always do that…it has meant…trying to make everything “okay.”…talk myself or others into it.
I don’t want sadness…it is tedious.
And since I can’t fix everything…my alternative has often been to avoid thinking or dealing with the sadness…this of course is wrong as well.
So I spoke with Norah Tuesday night…I told her that I know she is sad and we are sad…and it is okay to be sad.
But we all have each other, we love each other, we are with you, God is with us…we still have fun together…even with the vent.
Fun is my four-year version of saying we have purpose…so what I meant…”we are still living a purposeful in spite of our sadness.”
She said “The vent is not fun”…
Again…translating four-year old speech. “Where is purpose in this?”
I agreed that the vent is not fun…but I said “We have fun anyway…we are all together…we are having fun tonight.”
Parts of all of our lives make us sad…for some it is loneliness.
Mother Teresa said “Loneliness is the leprosy of our day.”
Loneliness is tedius…mundane.
But we must see what God is doing in the mundane…even the sad and the lonely mundane.
Because humanity’s aversion to the mundane is making us more and more desperate…lonelier, more addicted, more discontent, more unhappy
We are often missing the life God has for us to live.
Let’s stand together and read Romans chapter 12, verses 1 and 2.
Romans 12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
In chapters 1-11 of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he gives the most thorough presentation of Christian truth ever written.
He outlines the essence of the gospel:
-Our problem: sin
-God’s solution to our problem: Salvation
-Our purpose: Sanctification (become like Christ)
-Our hope: God’s Sovereignty: God’s purposes will prevail
Now, here in chapter 12 to the end of this letter Paul shifts his focus to the implications of those great truths.
Some say there is more packed in these two verses than in any other two verses in the Bible.
Verse 1 is where theology (ideas about God) begin to combine with life practice.
Seminaries are grad-schools where pastors go to get theological training…the word “seminary” comes from a word that means “seed bed”…like a “seminal” idea…the seeds of ideas.
It is a place where ideas are formed and grow…but unfortunately apart from involvement in a local church…the idea “seeds” lack healthy soil to grow in.
When I was in seminary…I overheard a fellow student talking about how he didn’t have time for a QT…too busy learning ideas about God to pursue relationship with God.
Others I knew were not involved in a local church…they were too busy studying about Christ…to be involved with Christ’s body.
This made no sense to me then…it makes even less sense to me now.
Information about God…has as its purpose…our transformation.
Relationship with God and others…all centered around participation in Christ’s body…the Church…this is God’s purpose for us.
Let’s unpack these two tightly packed verses
Therefore, his first word, indicates a shift towards application.
Therefore…or now…With God’s mercy in full view…I urge you.
He uses the word’s “God’s mercy” to summarize all of chapters 11.
All that God has done for us can be summed in “mercy.”
With this mercy in view…he urges us towards a lifestyle of gratitude.
To urge means to press someone forward, in a direction.
It is a cousin to the word “urgent”
Urgent care means…”get me help now!”
Urgent message…”pay attention now!”
To Urge is…”With all God’s mercies fresh in your mind and fully in view…I press you forward into a certain kind of life.”
Okay…Paul you have our attention…what is so urgent for us to do?
“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship”
Worship was always accompanied by sacrifice in the OT but the form of sacrifice has changed since Christ made the final sacrifice for us.
In the Old Testament (Covenant)
-We make offerings of dead sacrifices to God
In the New Testament (Covenant)
-Be offerings of living sacrifices to God
In the OT there were sacrifices made for sin as well as of gratitude in worship.
Christ has fulfilled the sacrifice for sin once for all…there is nothing we can do to add.
To be a living sacrifice…in view of God’s mercy…is to offer ourselves as sacrifices of gratitude.
God is not asking you to “give him something”
“God here is some of my money, my time, my talents”
That is the old idea…the old sacrifice..now…in view of God’s mercy…he gets all of us.
He wants all the money, time, talents
We offer ourselves…not pieces of our lives to him as living sacrifices.
But Paul doesn’t say offer “ourselves”…I used that word…Paul uses a word that means “bodies”
Offer your bodies (soma, as in pyscho-somatic.)
Does he use the word “Body” and he really just means “ourselves”?
Like me saying to my grandson “Ellis…bring yourself over here!”
Or “Ellis…bring your body over here!”
But if I say that…I mean I want Ellis…to use his feet, heart, lungs, muscles…moved by his mind and will…to actually walk across the room to me.
So there is purpose in Paul being specific…using the word “Body”
Remember he is transitioning from the realm of ideas, theological truth…to practice.
To say “offer yourselves to God”…still sounds a bit theoretical…kind of spiritual.
“Oh God, I will offer myself fully to you.”
Then I go and say unkind things, or do things that clearly are not pleasing to God.
No…He says body because this is real stuff…not theory…it shows up in the real world…the world we live in with our bodies.
The body is the power pack for the soul…it is with arms, eyes, brains, mouths, feet…that we “do the stuff” that reveals who we are…that we worship God in the world he has made.
So we offer our bodies as living sacrifices.
Move from the world of ideas to the world where touch, taste, see, hear, smell…engage the world…reveal God, worship God with our bodies.
Recently Ken Burns produced a PBS series on country music
During one episode the theme of the “Saturday night/Sunday morning” reality of Country Music was discussed.
The idea is that country music has these twin themes…do what you want, live life, party, live hard(that is represented by “Saturday night”), but go to church, get cleaned up, get right (that is represented by “Sunday morning”)
Here’s a quote from Wynton Marsalis from the series that describes this idea…
Human beings, what do we think about? We’ve got very basic things. We think about our sexual relationship that we need to propagate our species and makes our life sweet and also bitter; and our relationship to whatever our Lord is. So we put those two things right together: the Saturday night function and the Sunday morning purification. And you’ve got to get purified on Sunday so you can do the same thing again next Saturday. (Laughs) Come on, now.
The point being made was that country music mirrors real life…and this Saturday night/Sunday morning theme…mirrors how many people live their lives.
Perhaps this mirrors your life…if so…it is tragic…because of what you are missing.
This description of what is often true for people (life hard Saturday, Fear God Sunday)…does not mean it should be true…God has a better way for us.
A life where Saturday night and Sunday morning are both filled with joy, and fun…and meaning…and relationship…and God.
*When I was in college I had some unchurched friend go to a party with me…afterwards they told me how surprised they were that it had been fun…they didn’t think it was possible to have a party that…this is my words…Was all Saturday and all Sunday at the same time…full of fun and full of God…no disconnect.
Your theology (idea about God)…mean very little if it doesn’t show up in how you use your body…what you actually do.
What happens in your body…starts with a specific organ…your brain…the place your mind lives.
Go to verse 2.
2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Conformed and transformed roll off the tongue…but they have two distinct meanings…they are not similar…though they seem to be.
“Conformed” would be like squeezing bread dough into a human shaped bread mold…but a person doesn’t emerge from the oven…bread shaped like a person does.
“Transformed” would be like bread dough…miraculously changing in its essence into a living person…person walks out of the oven.
Very different things.
Don’t Conform=don’t be squeezed into the world’s mold…real change is not happening…at least not good change
There is change…but it’s bad…change like “rust is to metal” or “wood to rot.”
Be transformed=transformational change into the image of Christ.
The word “age” here is also translated “world”…it’s hard to use a single word to describe what this means.
The word “world” or “Age” means…the ideas, actions, direction, the affections of human culture in opposition to God.
When you look around and see people with great sincerity and passion…valuing and pursuing things that are upside down from what you value and pursue as a believer…and this is puzzling…because they are not off by an inch from how you see the world…but by a mile.
Not on everything…but on many things.
You are understanding what this word means…these are not necessarily “bad” people…but their minds have been squeezed into a mold.
The verbs used indicate that these processes of being conformed or being transformed are both ongoing.
We are to continually be transformed to the image of Christ so that we will not be continually conformed to the shape of the world.
Conformed is not transformation…it is malformation…to become misshapen.
If we allow ourselves to be squeezed into the shape of the world in opposition to God…there is no life there…our hearts, minds, relationships…become disfigured.
God is after transformation into the image of Jesus.
This is inside out…not merely being squeezed into some mold.
Remember…Paul has gone in chapter 12 into the realm of real-life experience.
His theology, truth about the gospel are not just ideas…they are a practical way to live life.
So someone who believes…”I’m now a mature Christian…because I can articulate ideas about God and the Bible…I understand Romans chapters 1-11.”
No…you are mature if you are being shaped into the image of Christ…from the mind/heart outward…you must live Romans 12-16.
Those ideas, truths in chapter 11…must show up in your life…their purpose is not merely to educate you…but to change you in your essence.
If transformation is not happening…then it doesn’t matter how much you know…nothing real is happening.
So…be transformed (continually shaped into the image of Christ)…by the continual renewing your mind.
Then what Paul?
“Well…then you will discern the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
Some translations have “test and approve” God’s will…this is because although Paul only used one word…translated here by “discern”
It means more than what we think of by “discern”
Discern for us means to “discover” or “understand”
But we think you can understand something without doing anything about it.
“I have discerned my health is bad because of my choices…but I don’t intend to change any of my choices.”
What Paul intends here is an understanding leading to application.
To live this kind of transformational life…inside out…will position us to know and do…what God wants done with our lives.
Here’s my paraphrase of these two verses
“Want to know how to live the God has for you and also have the power to actually live it? Then get on the altar…see your whole life as a sacrifice of gratitude to God. But this will be ongoing…we keep crawling off the altar so we need to keep getting back up there. For this to happen you will need to keep turning your mind to the reality of God away from the unreality of the culture you live in. If you do you will know how to live the good, pleasing, perfect life God has for you.
This month we have been looking at what it means to be human…how and why has God made us and what does this mean for our day to day lives.
We are spiritual, relational, emotional, physical beings.
We are prone to take a two-story approach to life…where either the physical is most real and most important…or
Like we discussed last week…only the spiritual is most real and most important.
Either of these imbalances creates its own share of problems.
The Biblical balance is not either/or but both and…we are spiritual and physical beings.
We will experience a resurrection someday of our bodies and souls.
Full experience of God and full expression of God now…requires a biblically balanced view of who we are.
We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices…this is our spiritual worship.
Paul is not making a logical error here of mixing categories…he is expressing the reality that…honoring God with our bodies is true spiritual worship.
It you search the Bible for verses that discuss physical health you will find quite a few but all are in the context of an overall lifestyle committed to Christ.
- 1 Cor. 6:19 “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, glorify God in your body.”
- 2 Cor. 9:24-27 “I discipline my body, and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
- 1 Tim. 4:8 “Physical training is some value, but godliness is of value in every way…”
- 1 Cor. 10:31 “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do…do all to the glory of God.”
There are more but these and all the others I’ve found…have as their context a life devoted to God’s glory…the focus is not on physical fitness as an end in itself.
But there is a clear focus on overall human fitness…relational, physical, spiritual, mental, emotional…as we live the lives God has for us to live.
What I believe you find in the Bible is a holistic approach to human thriving.
Human thriving…is the result of the Gospel…God, in Christ…has redeemed us and is in the process of transforming us.
Now…or as Paul said…therefore…we are to offer our bodies starting with our minds…as sacrifices to God.
We belong to him…and when we live this way…more and more we live like as God intends it…his will is Good, pleasing, and perfect.
So…should you diet more, exercise more, work less, work harder?
Should you play video games, or watch less TV…should you spend more time playing golf, or less time?
Does the Bible tell me this stuff? No…and yes.
We are to get on the altar and offer our bodies…the real choosing, living “us” as sacrifices of gratitude to God.
When we get off…we get back on.
This will be ongoing…the more consistently we stay there and more quickly we get back there…the more clearly we will understand God’s will and the more powerfully we live it.
See why these two verses are thought to be the most tightly packed in the Bible?
Chew on them this week…let them chew on you this week. (sign up for Devos)
I urge you…don’t look for the spectacular…the unusual…something that is not mundane…to “fix your life” to give what you don’t think you don’t have.
Even a “spiritual” version can take you off track…by that I mean…”I don’t want great things for myself…I want to do great things for God.”
Good…Get on the altar…stay there…get back there when you crawl…the altar is mostly mundane…the altar is spectacular…the altar (where we are his living sacrifices) is where God shows up in our lives.