Romans 12 Part 1 (Jordan and Keith)
Romans 12: Metamorphosis — Be Transformed
Nov. 26, 2013
Teachers: Jordan and Keith
In the Terminator, a woman named Sarah Connor is hunted down by the Terminator because he wants to kill her son, John Connor, because he is going to lead a future revolution. To protect her son John, Sarah manages to kill the Terminator. After experiencing being hunted down by some futuristic robot, imagine if Sarah were to just go back to day to day life and not tell anyone what happened or acting like nothing happened. She was a waitress and lived a deadbeat life, yet this amazing thing happened to her. That would be ignorant and stupid! Sarah has a real agenda: A plan and importance because of what happened. Her son, John Connor is going to be leader of the human race. She has a huge task at hand.
The strange thing is that Christians, like Sarah, have this amazing life ahead of us, yet we often don’t take advantage of that. While Christians can experience true joy and excitement, we often give it up for our old, deadbeat lives, as drones. We stay conformed to the world, not doing anything useful, even though we have this new identity in Christ.
Romans 12:1 — Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Paul is talking about the “brethren” or the Christians who have a relationship with Christ in the verse above. Specifically, he is talking about a second decision we have in front of us. Paul is urging the Romans to “present their bodies as a sacrifice. The past few weeks, we discussed the first decision of asking for a relationship with Christ, asking for God to forgive you of your sins and for that to fully apply to your life. Now, we have a second decision to make.
Paul mentioned sacrifice, though. What is this sacrifice? When we think sacrifice, we might think of giving up a goat or animal for sacrifice like in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, animals were given up for their blood as payment for their sins. But that was just a picture of what was to come, as Jesus later served as the ultimate sacrifice on the cross for sins. We no longer need to give up animals to God for our sins. This new sacrifice is not about animals, but it is about giving your life entirely over to God.
Paul argues that “this is a reasonable act of worship.” A good way to define worship is a life that is grateful and thankful for what God has done because Christ died for us. From that, we can serve other people with joy. It is not legalistic where we have to give up all our relationships or possessions as sacrifice — he is not urging all of us to become monks or nuns — but instead, he calls us to hand over our lives to God and see things from God’s view instead of ours. Are we willing to give up our personal values and priorities for God’s kingdom, something that is honorable? Working with God is a pretty honorable thing, as we are working to build up a future eternal kingdom. Essentially, we are trashing our menial uselessness for something way cooler. We are not actually giving much up, but instead, we are gaining a lot, which is true redemption.
The first decision we talked about is mandatory for eternal life, but this second decision is not mandatory. Paul “urges” us; he did not “command” us. He never said, “Make this second decision, or else!” He urges us that it is important. If you have a relationship with Christ, you are going to have to decide on this second decision one way or another. It can be made many times, as opposed to that first decision which is made only once (you do not have to keep asking God for forgiveness). However the second decision might be made once or many times after you accept Christ. It’s a decision that determines whether, despite tough circumstances on earth, you will trust God with your life or not? Will you trust God or yourself? It is not something conditional because you cannot argue that, “Well, I will trust my life to God on the condition that it is in God’s will that I will never have to teach people or become a missionary. I do not want that, God. But everything else, you can count me in.” If you try to make terms with God when making a second decision, then you do not understand the magnitude of that decision.
Luke 14 paints a picture of this decision: A guy sets out to build a tower. He builds his tower up halfway, but then he runs out of money, and is forced to give up and quit building the tower. The same goes for the Christian. This guy building the tower did not count the costs of building a tower. As Christians, we must count the costs. Are we willing to give our lives to Christ or are we going to half-ass it and give up a couple years down the road? You might think, “Well, I am well off and saved. Why should I make that second decision?”
A reason why is because God is in charge of the universe and created everything. A better argument would be why not trust him? We have no reason, especially if you made that first decision to trust God with salvation in the first place. Yet often our egos get in the way of choosing to trust God in a second decision. We argue, “My life is set. I have eternal life, so I can go on doing what I did before with my life. I’ll see you in heaven, God!” While God will let us do that (he does not take away salvation), it is a poor choice. If you ever tasted the compassion of Christ or the joy he will offer you for your life, then you know damn well it is worth it to make that second decision to trust God.
Another thing: The alternative route is disgusting. If you do not give your life over to Christ as a Christian after making that first decision, then you are living as a lukewarm Christian, simply content with that and then not doing much. You are half-assing it. Maybe you are living half in the world and half following God. 1 Peter 2 describes this way as living as a dog that chases after vomit. Imagine that you are trying to serve God by loving people and getting involved in ministry having a great time, but then, at times you go back to your old ways of excessively drinking every night, having sex with multiple people and lying to get your way. That is like going back to lick your old vomit. But so many Christians fall into this! It does not have to be as extreme as this example. It is simply compromising the Christian life. And even if you argue, “Well, it is my vomit — my shit. Why not go back to it?”, it does not make it less disgusting. You are still resorting to vomit.
To anyone who does not have a relationship with Christ, you are probably thinking of all this as an insult — that you are stuck in vomit. However, I am contrasting that with the life that Christ has to offer everyone. What Christ has to offer is way better than what you are living. What God has done is so cool, and he wants to help you step out of a world that might seem black and white and dull into a world full of color. He wants to show you how amazing it is to walk with him.
Do not come here, hearing this awesome opportunity and then disregard it later. There are so many lives around you that have been changed. God does not want works or rituals. All he wants is to let you experience real, vibrant peace and life. If you feel there is no peace in your life, then God will gladly give you life as a free gift.
John 4:13 – 14 — Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
God wants to hand out eternal life. Our lives on earth are temporary, as we live an average of 70 to 80 years. This is trivial compared to eternity in heaven. And for the Christian, we do have options, as there is that lingering second decision:
Romans 12:2 — And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
We can be pressed into a mold or be transformed. With conformity, we are talking about what people on earth tell us to value. Maybe it is your professor, screaming at you that “You better get straight A’s or else you’ll never make it!” or maybe it is your friends pressuring you to just sit at home all day, watching Netflix or playing video games. Or maybe it is some other friends who tell you to come out with them getting wasted every night and then having sex and then repeat the process later. Or maybe it is an employer, telling you it is ok to disregard all your family and friends for your job, just as long as you are successful. We are pushed and pulled many directions in the world.
Imagine a man who liked to collect shoes. He starts collecting shoes after he buys a cool pair of Nikes. Then he finds a retro pair of Nikes, then some cool Jordan shoes and then he even moves on to different colored Crocs. He is so obsessed with footwear that he even goes out to see new shoe releases, shoe shows and he built a room dedicated to shoes. He is hardly home, and his family is concerned. When he gets home hours late one night, his kid asks, “Dad, where were you? We miss you.” He argues, “Oh, I was just out buying these new Jordan shoes! Aren’t they cool?” His kid is like, “Oh,” and wonders why his dad puts more value on shoes than on him or the family. Dad argues, “Well . . . these shoes are important! They give me power!”
The perspective of this man is absurd. But the sad fact is that many people do this same thing. Maybe it is not with shoes, but people do put a lot of stock into money, our jobs and our stuff. The money is behind all of that — society draws its identity from money, which for the record is fake and is a false sense of power.
We need to stop conforming to this world (1 John 2:15), and instead, get off our asses and do something useful. We have to stop being Christian drones. Often during the holidays, we might just sit in front of a TV for hours and indulge in relaxation. Yet that is foolish and it is letting our guards down, going back to conformity. Instead, salvage the usefulness you have in your life in Christ.
There is conformity, but there is another option.
I am on this positive side of the verse, that tells us we can be transformed by the renewal so we can prove what God’s will is like. It says God’s will is good, acceptable and even perfect.
When someone tells you to dedicate yourself to God, you might think, “Oh, so I have to be a nun or a monk?” It is not like that. It is more like this: Imagine you are on a bumpy, icy road. Your car is going 50 miles per hour on ice. The next thing you know, you are sliding into the curb, where you could run into trees, shrubs and rocks. Then, thankfully, your traction kicks in, and you are back on the road, safely. Your car starts to run smooth again, without ever hitting the curb or the trees. That is such a relief, and you can see clear again and are going strong.
This is what it feels like to be transformed and the result of making that second decision. You were living like a slave, formerly, your car was being whipped about every which way on the road, but now, you are going straight, strong and steady. You have direction and control. And when that traction is back, it is a relief and like, “Thank you, God!” and is nice to be in touch with reality. You are not conformed to the ways of the road, but are transformed. It’s a metamorphosis — a dramatic change from slavery to freedom. Slaves are not allowed to think, read or write. But freedom gives you all new opportunities. It is a beautiful thing, and God wants us to experience that.
John 15:15 — No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
This is proof that what God wants is a friendship with us, and he has told us everything that is important. God is a great king, and he invites us all to sit in his throne room with him. A king’s throne room is scary, unless the king happens to be your friend or you are his child. In that case, you can freely jump right up to the throne room for a visit. That is the type of relationship he wants us to have with him. This concept is not discussed in any religion on the planet or in history because this is the only real voice of God.
God promises us that we are going from being slaves to his friend, and he says he will never leave us nor forsake us.
Now, all friendships need a basis, something in common. If not, it is hard. You will need to be able to share things with a friend and need to be engaged in one another’s lives. With a friend, you will go to parties together. God is exactly like this: He agrees to go with us, and he knows how to party. The problem is that we are not like God. Maybe you think you are, but you are deceived (Romans 3:10). So the solution? God became like us, stooping to our level, sending Jesus as a human. He said, “You are my friends” and became like us.
God’s goal is to take us from being how we are and making us like him now. He purified us on the cross; the big goal now is to become like God. We can have friendship on both levels. Becoming like God means sitting next to him; he offers that to everyone who accepts Christ. If you do not have a relationship with him, he wants you to accept him freely, to call you a son or a daughter. Then this second step is becoming like him, understanding how he thinks: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
To think like God is honorable, for it is wisdom. Wisdom is found throughout the whole Bible. God is the author of wisdom, so come to Him for wisdom. Wisdom is more powerful than all the money in the world, more valuable than armies or jobs or money or even a Kent State degree.
Matthew 11:28 – 30 — “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Our lives are filled with heavy burdens. If you are weary, come to God and he provides rest. It is relieving to go to sleep at night, knowing you are plugged into the creator of the universe. He is gentle and humble as a teacher; he will help us find rest for our souls, as his yoke is easy and burden is light. Our new lives are at rest, and you know what is going on. One at rest is not scared. When you are transformed, it will prove that God’s will is good, acceptable and perfect. It is not bad nor flawed nor unacceptable.
Yet those three excuses above are why we shy away from God: We wonder if following him is bad; we wonder if we will not like following God; we wonder whether there are mistakes to God’s plan. Wake up, though! God is perfect. Rule number one of being transformed: You need to have wisdom, not folly! And wisdom plus folly still equals folly. We are all fools.
Isaiah 55:8 – 9 — “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
In other words, we are fools, and we knew that. Maybe you do not think yourself a fool, but consider what you were like in the seventh grade. What were you like? You probably look back and laugh, thinking, “I was stupid, crazy and ignorant.” You probably did not think that of yourself at the time, but now, you look back and think you were a fool because you understand more.
Or think about the politicians we watch on TV: We often say, “Oh, Obama’s plan is so foolish! How could it work?” Or a Republican creates a crazy debate and we think, “But that is so foolish!” So we are all fools.
God tells us to sacrifice folly to let God take over because we cannot mix folly with wisdom.
In John 15, Jesus tells us he told us everything that God told him, which makes us his friend. In the U.S. today, Christians often spend more time singing and dancing and building new buildings, ignoring God’s word. Christians seem dumb to the outsider today, which is pathetic. In the first century, the audience was illiterate, filled with slaves, yet Christianity spread like wildfire. These guys who started it were not experts or well-educated, yet they became experts on the Bible, learning to read and write because of it. They gained true respect in the body of Christ.
And it is not hard to know the way God thinks. Even slaves and high school students can understand it! My handicapped son stood up as an 11th grader, making an account of the gospel to many students on a retreat. If even he can do it, then it cannot be that hard. Yet that is the difference between wisdom and folly. After two to three years, any Christian can become an expert in the Bible.
Hebrews 5:11 – 14 — Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
If you want to get your mind transformed, know the way God thinks. Use the word of God for answers. The answers are there and are better than answers you’ll get from random Joe across the street. Open the Bible and the answers are there. It is written by God. Why worry if you don’t have to? Why not get to know God’s word? One of the best ways to learning God’s word is to teach. This is why it is cool seeing teachers; peoples who know word of God.
Another way to know God’s word is by reading the Word before going to a teaching.
Read it. So:
- Don’t be conformed.
- Be transformed.
It begins with this decision to sacrifice yourself. And things start happening, life makes sense and it’s cool.