Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Moving Beyond the Cliches Pt. 2-Rom. 12:14-21

Last week we reexamined seven clichés that are common in the church world and reclaimed the truth behind each of them. Though these oft-repeated maxims have nearly been hackneyed into oblivion, their truth is just as relevant today as it was in the early church, especially as it pertains to how the church loves well and, as we will learn today, relates to all kinds of people. As promised, today’s list of clichés is even longer. Today we are going to reexamine 9 clichés that instruct God’s people how to relate well with others from Romans 12:14-21.  As proved the case last week, these familiar statements are utterly compelling as they challenge believers to live peculiar lives in a superficial world.

1) Kill them with Kindness-12:14-“…Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse,…”

As chapter 12 closes, Paul provides another list of encouragements. However, in contrast to verses 9-13, the encouragements found in verses 14-21 are given in the form of imperatives. Also, instead of primarily dealing with how to love within the context of the church, the final encouragements of chapter 12 deal with how to relate to all kinds of people. The first command offered to this end reads as follows—“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (12:14). The heart behind this command is often portrayed with the familiar adage—“Kill them with kindness.”

What Paul demands of the church here is perhaps one of the most difficult imperatives to follow. Literally, it envisions God’s people seeking good for those who are actively oppressing them! John Murray writes “No practical exhortation places greater demands upon our spirits than to ‘bless them that persecute us’” (Murray, The Epistle, 134). After all, persecution is not exercised against God’s people because of wrong done, but as a result of godly performance. “It is the unreasonableness of this persecution that is liable to provoke resentment in the minds of believers and with resentment thoughts of vindictive retaliation” (Murray, The Epistle, 134).  However, something different, peculiar, and altogether unexpected is required by God’s people in such circumstances. Rather than behaving as the world would, they are to take their cue from Christ Himself and seek blessings for their persecutors. After all, Jesus died for the very people who sought his life and ask God to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross! Similar sentiments are to be expressed by God’s people on the world’s stage, even and especially when they are suffering persecution. Perhaps, in so doing, haters of the faith might say something similar to what the Romans soldiers did following the Passion episode—“truly, these people are the children of God.”

2) Time and Place-12:15-“…Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep,…”

In the second imperative of this passage, Paul moves from a believer’s relationship with persecutors to her relations with fellow brothers and sisters saying, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (12:15). One way of distilling this down in today’s vernacular is “be sensitive to time and place.” What Paul envisions here is brothers and sisters meeting each other right where they are to provide sympathy and support wherever and whenever appropriate. Such is more difficult than meets the eye. Think about it. Which do you think requires more? Weeping with those who are grieving (really sympathizing with other’s pain) or truly rejoicing alongside those who have blessing you may or may not know? “To rejoice with others (even when we are deprived of their joy) and to weep with others (even when we have not suffered their loss) requires a selflessness” that is only found in a regenerated heart made new by the grace of Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit (Edwards, Romans, 297). Believers are not to trade in joy and grief for personal gain. Instead, Christ’s presence in their lives ought to propel them to genuinely and appropriately rejoice with and weep alongside their brothers and sisters as needed.

3) Be on the same page-12:16a-“…be of the same mind toward one another,…”

To relate well with others, one also must “be on the same page,” especially within the context of the church—“be of the same mind toward one another” (12:16a). Encouragements toward unity are commonplace in Pauline literature.

Romans 15:5-“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.”

2 Corinthians 13:11-“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”

Philippians 2:2-“make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, 
united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

All these encouragements demonstrate how important it is for the church to have a united front as they seek to spread the gospel and edify the saints. According to these references, unity provides endurance, peace, and an understanding of purpose. In a world that continues to tear itself apart along the seams of copious divisions—gender, sexuality, grievance, race, political affiliation, socio-economic classification, etc.—the church and its people ought to be held together by means of their unity. Unity concerning what? Unity concerning integral beliefs like: Jesus is God made flesh, the reality of Christ’s death and the resurrection and the implications thereof is the only means of salvation from our very real problem of sin, the Bible is the inerrant, inspired, authoritative Word of God on all matters, and the church’s called to spread the gospel to all the world. If the church is not on the same page concerning these values and teachings, it will disintegrate. Paul knew this would be the case in the first century, and the same is true today.

4) Get over Yourself-12:16b-“…do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation,…”

Such unity demands, as do so many of these imperatives, humility. Paul’s next instruction reads “do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation” (12:16b). Put another way “Get over yourself!” Paul speaks against pride here by warning the church of the danger of arrogance. This is a theme that Paul continues to revisit time and time again in his admonitions (probably because it bears repeating). Human nature is to seek self-advancement and self-advocacy. Often this involves associating with those who can elevate one’s own status. However, believers “should not avoid those who are of lower repute and relate only to those who can advance their own reputation” (Schreiner, Romans, 669). Instead, God’s people are to associate with the lowly. Such requires that believers are not “wise in their own estimation (believing themselves to be superior in wisdom to the next guy). Jesus teaches the same in Luke 14

Luke 14:7-11- And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, “Give your place to this man,” and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”

The Bible consistently teaches that the humble will be exalted and the prideful will fall. This rings true with the church and how it relates to all kinds of people. God’s people are those who have gotten over themselves and treat all people as valued persons made in the image of God. These understand that this life is not about building one’s own prestige, but about directing all people to the Lord—the only one deserving of glory, honor, and praise.

5) Turn the Cheek-12:17a-“…Never pay back evil for evil to anyone….”

The fifth imperative that Paul issues to his readers is “never pay back evil for evil to anyone” (12:17a). A New Testament phrase associated with this teaching is “turn the cheek (See Matt. 5:38-39; Luke 6:27-29). While many in Paul’s day believed that the Old Testament gave permission for people to exercise retribution as they saw fit (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth), Jesus dispels this rumor (that people get to enact their own revenge for injustices committed against them) and places this responsibility on higher authorities (like the state, and ultimately, God Himself). Jesus and Paul both teach that individual believers are not to repay evil with evil. “Retaliation is a response of the natural person…to exact justice for a wrong incurred” (Edwards, Romans, 298). No longer duty bound to their natural reflexes, believers are not to return fire with fire in knee-jerk fashion.

This is becoming increasingly difficult in a world that has made it easier, faster, and safer to respond to accusations, attacks, and aggressors. With one click and a couple of keystrokes people can post their rebuttals, fight back, or retaliate in kind under the cloak of virtual cyberspace. No longer are people held accountable for what they say, giving them license to say just about anything. This is unholy and, at least as far as God’s people are concerned, should not be our practice. Turning the cheek means that every comment doesn’t get a response, every attack does receive a counter attack. This is our higher calling as we seek to relate well with others.

6) Respect is a two-way street-12:17b-“…Respect what is right in the sight of all men,…”

Very much connected to this is what Paul encourages next—Respect what is right in the sight of all men…” (12:17b). A common colloquialism that sympathizes with what Paul says here is “Respect is a two-way street.” Literally, the command reads “think about what is right in the sight of all men ahead of time.” In other words, a lot that matters to most people ought to matter to God’s people as well. Values of justice, fairness, protection, opportunity, certain freedoms, etc. ought to be shared principles in which believer and unbelievers can relate. If and when the church does not demonstrate that it cares about some of the values that the world seems to care so much about, it will find itself unnaturally isolated and altogether unprepared to relate well with those that God has placed within reach. 

7) Bury the Hatchet-12:18-“…If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men,…”

So many of these imperatives are required of believers so that they are able to “if possible, so far as it depends on (them), be at peace with all men” (12:18). Believers are those who seek to “bury the hatchet.” One commentator puts it this way, “one of the marks of Christians is a winsome and friendly spirit that delights in peace and harmony, not arguments in division” (Schreiner, Romans, 672). Such requires kindness (see 12:14), behaving appropriately (being sensitive to time and place) (12:15), being on the same page (12:16), humility (getting over oneself-12:16), and respecting what is right in the sight of all men (12:17). When the church endorses these behaviors, it relates well and proves useful to the kingdom-advancing objective.

That said, it is important to note a qualification that Paul assigns to this imperative—“If possible, so far as it depends on you” (12:18). This assumes that peace with all people is not possible in every situation. When might peace with someone not be possible? Two scenarios come to mind. First, when it requires the violation of the truth of gospel and/or devotion to Christ to make peace, it falls outside the realm of possibility. Second, when everything in a believer’s power has been exhausted for peace and yet such is not reciprocated by the other party, it may fall outside the realm of possibility. Other than that, Paul suggests that to relate well, believers are to be peacemakers and peacekeepers.

Matthew 5:9-“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”

8) Give it to God-12:19-20-“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’”

Only TWO LEFT! Stay with me! Paul’s next admonition might be summarized in yet another familiar line—“give it to God.” He says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’” (12:19-20). The Bible is clear both here and elsewhere that “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (James 1:20 RSV). This is especially true when, in the heat of the moment, people are tempted to place justice in their own hands and react in kind. As difficult as it is to remember and as hard as it is to apply, believers must remember “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the LORD (not say you!).

Instead of going to one’s own defense, Paul encourages the church to give it to God. However, Paul doesn’t stop there, he continues by quoting Proverbs 15:21-22—“if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’” This reference is in keeping with what the apostle said earlier about killing people with kindness (even persecutors –12:14). Although this reference might seem to suggest that doing good for those who have done wrong is a roundabout way to get back at them, this interpretation doesn’t appear to be in keeping with the significance the New Testament places on motives (see Matthew 5-7). Instead “heaping burning coals on his head” might more nearly imply bringing shame on wrongdoers so that they might repent of their evil. Therefore, good done to bad people is not a roundabout way to get revenge on antagonists, it is a redemptive means of revealing their need for saving.

9) Be a Light in this Dark World-12:21-“…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,…”

In this way, believers will satisfy the last imperative offered—“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (12:21). In fact, this final imperative successfully encapsulates all the previous ones given in this passage. Ultimately, Paul is calling the church to “be a light in this dark world,” especially in the way that it relates meaningfully with all kinds of people. Here, the “evil” mentioned is the evil of God’s enemies (i.e. persecutors of the faith and the faithful) and the misery that they inflict. God’s people are not to let the evil they experience at their hands master them so that they fall prey to evil themselves. Instead, they are called to overwhelm every evil inflicted on them by doing good. Only those who are “being transformed by the renewing of their minds” (12:2), “loving each other well” (12:9-13), and seeking to relate properly to others (12:14ff), remembering that God is their Father, Jesus is their salvation, and the indwelling Spirit is able to usurp their flesh can do this. Only God’s people can follow these principles in a world that has turned them into clichés.

So What?

Are you such a person today? The commands Paul gives this this passage ought to be challenging, but they shouldn’t seem altogether foreign as they are most beautifully exemplified in the savior Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? Are you familiar with His example?  The principles we’ve read about might seem difficult, but they aren’t impossible for those who have the power of Holy Spirit active in their lives. Do you have Him? Are you able to live better than your flesh allows? The calling that is summarized in this passage may seem high, but it should not seem out of reach for a member of God’s family. Is God your Father? Are you counted as one of His sons and daughters?

If so, are you living this way or are you just repeating the clichés? Unfortunately, mediocrity in these areas has become commonplace in the church today and the resulting hypocrisy has become so familiar to the world that it doesn’t want a part of what we are claiming when we say these things. In these and in many other ways, the church looks/behaves/talks/relates to others and itself in much the same way the world does. May it not be said of us! Let us choose this day to live peculiar lives in Christ, with the Spirits help, unto our heavenly Father!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Moving Beyond the Cliches-Romans 12:9-13

I hate clichés and do my best to avoid them at all costs. There is just something about saying what has been said a million times before (in the same tired way) that doesn’t interest me in the least. Add the “cute” factor and sprinkle a little “Christianese” on top and I’m even more disinclined to use certain catch phrases. In fact, some of these well-meant sound bites actually promote falsehood! Here are a couple of examples:

“When God closes a door, He opens a window”
“You are never safer than when you are in God’s will”
“Let go and let God”
“God will never give you more than you can handle”

Yuck! Add to these those common phrases that our world loves (you can be anything you want to be, shoot for the stars and you might get the moon thrown in, etc.) and you can end up with a superficial spiritualism that is a poor substitute for saving faith.

That said, some phrases that have become commonplace do offer an element of truth that ought to be celebrated. For the next couple of weeks we are going to reexamine a couple of these that might be illustrated in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Today I am going to take a deep breath, swallow hard, and reexamine seven clichés in Romans 12:9-13 that, once revisited, reveal how to love others well in the context of the church.

1) Be real-12:9a-“…Let love be without hypocrisy,…”

The next set of comments that Paul makes in Romans 12 appear to be a “hodgepodge of various teachings. Little structure or sequence of thought can be discerned.” This makes it difficult to organize a sermon on these verses, at least in a cohesive way. That said, one organizational tool that Paul provides exists on the grammatical level. All of the verbs in verses 9-13 are present participles that describe ongoing activities that are to be considered alongside what is introduced at the beginning of verse 9—“Let love be without hypocrisy.” As a result, nearly everything that Paul discusses in verses 9-13 in some way highlights how people in the context of the church are supposed to love each other well.

Encouragements given to this end (loving one another) have often become repeated so much that they have been reduced to clichés. This is unfortunate and, hopefully as we reexamine these important teachings, we can reclaim their truth and commit ourselves to applying them in our lives.

The first of these “clichés” is simply “be real”—“Let love be without hypocrisy” (12:9a). The NIV translates this “Love must be sincere.” Interestingly, no verb exists in this opening phrase in the original language, making it possible for “sincere love” to behave more like a title for this passage than an opening remark. If “sincere love” or “love without hypocrisy” is the title of this section, what does it mean? Perhaps the adjective used provides the answer. “Sincere” translates a word that means “not playing a part, indicating that a believer’s love for others should not be faked or merely external. It should be consistent with what is true in one’s heart” (Moo, Encounters, 180).

Certainly, this is just as relevant today as it must have been in Paul’s day. People in general and millennials in particular are looking for authenticity in their interpersonal relationships. “Being real” in the way believers show love to others is not just good church polity, it is an effective witness to the lost. It is not enough to simply say “be real,” the church must endorse what Paul describes here an insist that sincere love is the order of the day. But how? The remainder of our passage answers this important question.

2) Keep it holy-12:9b-“…Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good,…”

To “be real” and demonstrate sincere love, Paul encourages the church to “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (12:9b). There are many ways this two-pronged admonition has been hackneyed in church culture and yet, my favorite iteration is “keep it holy.” In fact, I often say “keep it holy” to students or friends in jest/when I’m leaving the room. However, Paul suggests here that holiness is not just a cute idea, it is a profound calling.

This calling requires two ongoing activities. First, holiness requires that believers “abhor what is evil” (12:9b). “Abhor” calls to mind revulsion and avoidance of that which is detestable. This is how a believer ought to treat sin. Rather than dance on the edge or see how close one can get to something without committing a transgression, believers are to run full speed away from iniquity and treat evil like the plague. Second, holiness demands that believers cling to what is good. If a believer’s hands are filled with things that are good, not idle or empty, it becomes more difficult for her to grab what is forbidden. “Keepin’ it holy” is not a throw away phrase as much as it is a pithy delineation of a life that is actively avoiding evil and embracing righteousness.

3) We are Family-12:10-“…Be devoted to one another in brotherly love,…”

Another encouragement that Paul provides in an effort to spur the church on to sincere love is “be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” A common cliché that sympathizes with this sentiment was the inspiration of a popular song entitled “We are Family.” However, even this declaration—“we are family”—is more than just a familiar lyric. Two Greek words in verse 10 utilize the phil root—a root that was often used to denote the affection of family members for one another. In fact, Philadelphia is known as the “city of brotherly love.” Applied to the church, Paul suggests that the body of Christ is a kind of extended family in which believers have natural affection for one another. This affection is demonstrated in encouragement offered, support given, and love shared.

I can’t express how thankful my family is for the extended family that we have in our church. To say that “we are family” is not without any application or significance for me. This family prays for us, supports us, helps take care of us, encourages us, and loves us in ways that are inspiring, refreshing, and needed. “We are family” is a glorious declaration of a miracle God has brought about through our shared position in Christ. Certainly this is much more than a lyric to an annoying song.

4) Put others before Yourself-12:10b-“…give preference to one another in honor,…”

Paul’s next comment is very much connected to the idea of family and the interpersonal relationships therein. At the end of verse 10, Paul says, in so many words “put others before yourself”—“give preference to one another in honor” (12:10b). Instead of thinking too much of oneself (see 12:3), believers are to think of others first. This familiar virtue is repeated by teachers to preschoolers in the context of a classroom, parents to their children as they settle sibling disputes, premarital counselors to an engaged couple as they prepare for marriage, and in many other contexts. However, this oft-repeated rule also applies in the church and is required if its members are to love each other well. A church filled with a bunch of entitled and self-centered sycophants is no longer a church—it’s Hollywood, it’s Washington DC, it’s any number of other things; but it is not a church.
Illustrations of placing others before oneself abound in the life of Jesus. He demonstrated this virtue by washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:14-15); predicted this when he said “greater love has no one than this, than for someone to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13); taught this when he said things like “if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matt. 5:41); lived this when he took precious time to meet with and heal people; and expressed this in dying on the cross. As the church is made up of the followers of Jesus, it ought to follow Christ’s example of putting others first. In so doing, it loves well and demonstrates to the world that its members belong to Christ.

John 13:34-35-"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

5) Have a servant’s heart-12:11-“…not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,…”

How many times have you heard someone describe another with a phrase like “she has a servant’s heart”? This description is a familiar way to express what Paul encourages in verse 11 when he says “not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (12:11). This statement betrays the kind of person who does not hold back or hesitate in serving the Lord. Such service, like abhorring what is evil, clinging to what is good, devoting oneself to one another, and giving preference to one another, is a continuous and ongoing activity that ought to be second nature in the life of a believer. Not only that, but Paul adds that this kind of service is executed after one is set on fire by the Spirit—“fervent in Spirit” (12:11). Paul views the Holy Spirit as the agent who creates enthusiasm within believers for the things of the Lord. This is true of a believer’s service to the Lord. Believers, in other words, are to be those who, having been galvanized by the Spirit’s presence, do not hesitate to serve the Lord consistently. This is vital if the church is to love the Lord and each other well.

6) Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel-12:12-“…rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,…”

Next, Paul calls the church’s attention to the future so as to provide encouragement for the present—“rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer” (12:12). If/when individuals find themselves in present difficulty/trial, people will often say something to the effect of “Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel” (12:12). Whether this is shared with a student who is working toward graduation, a patient who is undergoing treatment, a builder who is completing a project, or a campaign manager who is looking to election day, the idea of having people looking to the end in order to maintain hope and motivation in the present is commonplace. Hope is a powerful thing and its loss can prove to be a fatal blow to the human heart and will.

This is true for the church. As the church faced persecution and pressure from Rome and elsewhere in the first century, Paul understood how important it was for them to remind themselves of what they could expect in the end. This, he did, so that the church might find resolve in their present circumstances. By consistently rejoicing in the world that is yet to come (glory, heaven, etc.), the church could endure the world that they faced (fallen, broken, etc.). One might say that a believer’s capacity to persevere today is directly related to his capacity to remember tomorrow. Those with hope in tomorrow and perseverance for today are freed up to love well.

One of the ways a believer can focus on their hope and find endurance for what they face is through a dynamic prayer life—“devoted in prayer” (12:12). Communicating with God allows believers a forum in which to praise the Lord for his completed work, confess their dependency on Christ for all things, hand over issues that need attention, and look forward to what is coming. All these prayer practices help kindle the fire of hope in Christ and provide much needed encouragement for each day.
 “Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel” is not just an encouraging remark offered to the discouraged in passing; it is a biblical principle involving three activities—rejoicing in what is coming, persevering in what is happening, and praying to that end—that frees the church to love well, even in the midst of difficulty.

7) It is better to give than receive-12:13-”…contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality,…”

One final ingredient to loving well in the context of the church that Paul offers is “contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” (12:13). This principle too has been redacted to cliché status with statements like “it is better to give than receive.” Certainly, this comment is true, but something of its weight has been lost in translation. Borrowing from the ideas of verse 10—“ Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…”—Paul suggests that “our family affection for brothers and sisters in Christ should motivate us to share with those of them who are in need and to provide hospitality to those who require it” (Moo, Encounters, 180). A beautiful picture of this is painted for us by Luke in Acts 2.

Acts 2:43-47-“Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through  the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people,…”

In the first century, hospitality was a championed value. “Putting up travelers for the night and providing them with a meal was a very important service in a culture without many hotels. Such inns as did exist were often hotbeds of crime. Thus, believers would depend on fellow Christians, their extended spiritual family, for hospitality.”

Though hospitality and contributing to the needs of others may look different today, the encouragement still rings true. It is better to give than to receive, and when everyone in the church gives, it is loving well.

So What?

How does a church demonstrate love in edifying and winsome ways? By demanding that the following are consistently practiced: authenticity, holiness, devotion to one another, selflessness, service, hope, and giving. To be sure, in some places these values might be relegated to cleverly worded clichés. May it not be true of us! Which of these needs to become more than a catch phrase in your life?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Healthy practices for a Healthy Church-Rom. 12:3-8

Last week we began our journey through the more practical applications of the soteriology that Paul has been outlining thus far in his letter to the Romans. So far, we’ve learned what a believer ought to do—worship God and be transformed by the renewing of our minds (12:1-2). However, knowing what to do and how to go about doing it are two very different things. Therefore, as Paul continues his message to the church in Rome, he outlines three encouragements that believers should follow if they hope to execute their activities well in the context of the ministry. Not only will these encouragements help the church achieve spiritual health, they also help prevent spiritual diseases that are unfortunately all too common in many contexts.

a. Hold on to your Faith with all Humility-12:3

Now that Paul has outlined what believers are to do—worship God and be transformed—he moves on to describe how they are to do it in the context of the church. After all, a believer’s faith, although personal, is witnessed, proven, and exercised in the context of Christian community. Believers do not ultimately worship nor are they transformed in a vacuum. They worship corporately and are being made into a royal priesthood. However, because people are involved in these processes and program, there is always the potential for issues. This is why Paul provides three encouragements for the church in Rome to heed as they do their best, in God’s grace, to execute their activities faithfully in the context of the church.

The first encouragement he gives is “hold on to your faith with all humility.” 12:3 reads, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think…”. As was the case in the garden of Eden, proved to be the case in the first century church, and continues today, pride suffers devastating consequences, especially among God’s people. It introduced death and sin into the world, saw many devastating results among the churches we read about in 1 Corinthians, and Galatians, and continues to break up ministries and give the people of God a bad name on the world’s stage today. This is why Paul calls on his readers not to entertain an inflated view of their own importance (Mounce, Romans, 233). J. Denney writes, “To himself, every man is in a sense the most important person in the world, and it always needs much grace to see what other people are, and to keep a sense of moral proportion” (Denney, St. Paul’s Epistle, 689).

Instead of living one’s life perpetually impressed and increasingly infatuated with oneself, Paul calls the church to “think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (12:3b). That Paul is made to use such strong language in his correction of those in the church at Rome betrays just how out of touch with reality the believers there really were concerning their opinions of themselves. One might say (and Mounce does), that they were in danger of becoming “egoholics.”

Alcoholism is a very real disorder that renders its victims at risk of endorsing habitual behaviors that can lead to the destruction of all kinds of things. Regardless of what kind of drunk someone proves to be—a crazy drunk, silly drunk, or even violent or abusive drunk—alcoholism claims marriage, families, friendships, jobs, even lives. It is a serious issue requiring serious treatment and should be seriously avoided at all costs. Like alcoholism, egoism is a very real disorder that renders its victims at risk of self-promotion, using others for personal gain, deception, etc. Regardless of what kind of egoist someone proves to be—a self-righteous zealot, busy-body, or braggart—egoism claims relationships, hinders one’s usefulness in building the kingdom of God, and even divides churches. It is just as real as alcoholism, only more widespread. This is why the encouragement Paul gives first is so important. As believers worship together and are transformed together as the people of God, they will be significantly inhibited, if not completely derailed in that endeavor if they “think more highly of themselves than they ought.” Instead, they should have “sound judgment” concerning where they’ve been and how they have arrived where they are. They were desperate sinners and saved only by the grace of God. What is there to be proud about in this? Nothing! Save from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In fact, everyone is in the same boat—saved by faith. This is what is meant by “each one was given a measure of faith.” As a result, all are equally a part of the same united and diverse body of Christ. This leads directly into the second admonition.

b. Embrace the Beauty of Diversity and Unity within the body of Christ-12:4-5

The second encouragement offered by Paul is “embrace the beauty of diversity and unity within the body of Christ.” Paul describes the nature of church as follows: “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function” (12:4). Here, the apostle reminds the church that just as the human body is made up of many members performing various functions, so also are those in Christ the many distinct members of one spiritual body. On this diversity, Paul says the following in 1 Corinthians 12:14-21,

“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’…”

In 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and Romans 12 diversity in the body of Christ is portrayed as essential to the function and success of the church. An eye cannot do the job of a hand. A foot is not capable of performing all of the functions necessary for life. Neither is everybody equipped to do the same thing in the church. Neither is one person equipped to perform all the functions necessary for a healthy ministry. Believers are limited in what they bring to the table much as individual organs are limited in what they contribute to the health of the body. These limits require the kind of diversity where multiple varieties of uniquely equipped people come together for the sake of the whole.

This “coming together” is just as important as the diversity already described. After all, you might have a variety of gifted organs, but if they never come together appropriately, they will do more harm than good. Paul continues “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” The diverse body of multiple organs and systems must be united so that people can worship well and be transformed in the right way. If unity breaks down and this encouragement is not heeded, an entirely different problem may emerge.

There is a medical phenomenon called ”host verses graft rejection” that takes place when a transplant recipient’s body rejects a received organ/graft. Though the organ was chosen and applied to the body to save or improve the quality of life of the recipient, when the host rejects the graft or transplanted organ, severe medical complications could occur that lead to sepsis or even death. Similarly, as people are being added to the church, it is important that they unite with the people of God so that complications don’t arise that potentially inhibit or kill a ministry. Diversity is essential. However, equally important is unity in Christ. This requires that believers follow the first encouragement—holding onto faith in humility.

Ephesians 4:2-6-“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one LORD, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Holding onto one’s faith in humility keeps the church sober and free from becoming a collection of destructive or impotent “egoholics.” Embracing the beauty of diversity and unity in the body of Christ keeps the church from suffering from host verses graft rejection/syndrome and falling prey to system failure.

c. Utilize your Giftedness Accordingly-12:6-8

The final encouragement that Paul provides in this passage is “utilize your giftedness accordingly”—"since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…”(12:6a). This statement suggests that every member of the church is quipped by God with special abilities. Such abilities are bestowed to individuals out of grace and are to be used appropriately. Taken with what has already been discussed, appropriate use of a variety of gifts ought to encourage and build unity within the body and be exercised with all humility.

1 Peter 4:10-“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.”

Both Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4 highlight the use of gifts alongside a recognition of diversity, commitment to unity, in the context of humility. So what might these gifts be and exactly what is involved in their use?

Paul lists 7 gifts in the remainder of this passage that help provide an idea of how God equips the people in the church in special ways. Given that lists of spiritual gifts found elsewhere in the New Testament are different and of varying lengths (Romans 12 has 7; Ephesians 4 has 5; 1 Corinthians 12 has 9), it is important to understand that what Paul describes here is not intended to be exhaustive. Instead, it is a representation of some of the ways that God empowers people for service in the context of the church (perhaps a customized representation of those gifts that were especially significant for the church in Rome).

The first of these is prophecy—“If prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith” (12:6b). The New Testament prophet was a person who spoke for God. According to Ephesians 4:11, prophets served together with apostles, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in the preparation of God’s people for service. This gift does not assume people can predict the future as much as it implies that some people are especially gifted to spur the church of God on through proclaiming what God has already revealed. Those quipped with this gift are called to exercise it in proportion to the faith that has been given. This is important because those who proclaim the Word can only do so as much as they are willing to trust what it says and buy into its implications. As the adage goes, “one can only lead someone else to a place that he/she (the leader) has already been.” This is true when it comes to faithful preaching and proclamation of the Word of God.

Ask yourself, what would a church be like if no one present was gifted in proclaiming the Word of God?

Next, Paul discusses the gift of service—“if service, in his serving” (12:7a). Quite simply, if someone is gifted in serving, they ought to be serving somehow. . . Brilliant! The Greek word group implicated in the term “serve” is related to the word for “deacon” and envisions people carrying out the practical needs of the church, especially on behalf of those who need special help or assistance.

Ask yourself, what would a church be like if no one present was serving the people in general and those in need in particular?

Third, Paul indicates that teaching is a spiritual gift—“or he who teaches, in his teaching” (12:7b). Teaching was an ancient and honorable profession in the Jewish culture. This was doubly true in the context of the church. So much reverence is associated with the gift of teaching that James even says “let not many of you become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Paul says elsewhere that “the elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). In other words, teaching was a big deal and plays a vital role in the vitality of any church. Therefore, those who are gifted in teaching ought to be supported in their endeavor to rightly divide the Word of God and stave off false doctrine in the context of the body of Christ.

Ask yourself, what would a church be like if no one was teaching the doctrines of Scripture?

Alongside preachers, servants, and teachers there are those uniquely gifted to provide necessary encouragement—“of he who exhorts, in his exhortation” (12:8a). One commentator defines this gift as “the stimulating of faith in others” (Philipps). It is one thing to know what to do after sitting under good teaching. It is another thing entirely to be encouraged to do it. Luther says of teaching and encouraging “teaching is meant for the ignorant and exhortation for those who know” (Romans, 156). Paul assumes that there are those who are gifted encouragers who spur people on to righteous living through challenge, conviction, words of affirmation, and helpful admonitions. Such people ought to be allowed to provide such to the body of Christ.

Ask yourself, what would a church be like if no one was following up with people and encouraging them in their faith?

Next Paul identifies the gift of giving. If a person’s gift is contributing to the needs of others, then generosity is what is called for—“he who gives, with liberality” (12:8b). After all, if God had not given people means, then the church would be unable to execute a fruitful ministry, people would not be served in practical ways, and teachers/proclaimers would not be adequately supported as the Bible demands.  Paul shares this admonition with Luke.

Luke 12:48b-“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
On giving and those who do elsewhere Paul says the following:

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). 

People who have been uniquely gifted with a capacity to give ought to do just that—give (generously and cheerfully)!

Ask yourself, what would a church be like if no one gave to the ministry or if people who could give much decided not to at all?

Leadership is another gift Paul identifies in this passage—“he who leads, with diligence” (12:8). “Although leadership in the contemporary world is often seen as the fruit of ambition, persistence, and good fortune (cf. Matt. 8:9), biblical leadership is essentially a service carried out for the benefit of others” (Mounce, Romans, 235). Leadership is vital because “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14). However, such leadership ought to be handled and exercised very carefully so that this role is not abused and the glory is pointed in the right direction—heavenward!

Ask yourself, what would a church be like if there was no vision—no leadership? 

The final gift that Paul describes is mercy—“he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (12:8d). This describes those who are inclined to provide sympathy, empathy, and emotional support to those who are afflicted, needy, or discouraged. Showing mercy also implies supplying what is needed in a multiplicity of situations and, therefore, is very much related to the gifts of service and giving.
Ask yourself, what would a church be like if no one showed mercy toward others?  

In this last gift, Paul reveals that many of these different gifts are related to each other. Certainly teaching and leading are related. So too is giving and serving. Again, these gifts are not given nor are they exercised in a vacuum. They instead are areas of special aptitude that can overlap other areas to some degree. No one is exclusively gifted in only one area and not everyone is especially gifted in all areas. However, those with special God-given abilities in any of these areas ought to be contributing meaningfully in their appointed lanes of service.

All these gifts (and more) need to be exercised in the context of the church so that the church is equipped, supplied, motivated, and supported in its God-given mission. A church filled with gifted people who are not employing their gifts might be comparable to a person who, because of a lack of movement or muscle use, suffers atrophy or paralysis. The saying “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” applies in the context of a church and her members with respect to their God-given gifts.

So What?

Certainly worshipping God and being transformed are noble activities (Romans 12:1-2). However, divorced from the encouragements found in this passage, these processes will be significantly inhibited. Any church/church member that fails to walk humbly, embrace diversity in unity, and/or exercise his/her gifts, runs the risk of becoming an “egoholic,” suffering from host vs graft rejection, or bringing atrophy and paralysis upon his/herself. As real as these physical/psychological maladies are, so too do these spiritual issues surface in churches who go about their activities in the wrong way. Maybe today in lieu of this passage you need to go in for a spiritual examination and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal whether or not you endorse any of these afflictions. Are you prideful? Are you disconnected from the body, unable/unwilling to really relate to those around you? Are you inactive in the ministry for which you have been equipped? The good news is this! We serve a great physician who can cure us of these habits, inhibitions, and diseases.

A healthy church is a church that is used of God to grow His kingdom. Therefore, let us demand of ourselves and of this place that we are spiritually fit so that we are used of God mightily and draw much attention to the Son.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

What do I do now?-Romans 12:1-2

I can always remember feeling a sense of frustration when it came time to learn something that I was really excited to get out do. Whether it was playing the piano, performing science experiments in grade-school, driving a car, or even preaching, instead of immediately performing a Sonata, dissecting a frog, merging onto the highway, or standing behind the pulpit, there were many hours spent in theory books, science texts, driving manuals, and in the classroom. It was only AFTER proper instruction was provided that could I get out there and execute what I had so longed to do. As we return to our journey in the book of Romans, I cannot help but think that some of us might have had the same feeling. Often the church is eager for the practical and looking for the application, and, if I’m being very honest, Romans 1-11 (especially Romans 9-11) has read more like a theology textbook than a call to action. However, proper application and practicality, as with playing the piano, must be rooted in proper instruction and this is what Paul has been providing the church so far in his letter. I, for one, am thankful that I serve a church that is willing to listen to the WHOLE Word of God—not just the easily applicable.

That said, today as we begin Romans 12, we are finally going to put our hands on the keys, put on the goggles, pull out of the driveway, etc. Armed with what we’ve learned so far, we are ready to hear how all of this instruction on salvation applies practically to our everyday living. Even here, though, we must start out with the basics—what are believers to do? Paul is going to answer this question in chapter 12 as it pertains to the context of the church and in today’s message on Romans 12:1-2, we are going to witness two activities believers ought to happily endorse in light of their salvation in Christ. In so doing we will answer the question, “What do I do now with what I’ve learned?”

a. Worship God-12:1

As we open Romans 12, Paul begins with “Therefore, I urge you brethren” (12:1a). As far as “Therefores” go in the Bible, this is a big one! Therefore 😉, it is especially helpful that we ask ourselves the salient question that one asks anytime such a conjunction is present—“What is this ‘therefore’ there for?” In answering this inquiry we must summarize everything that Paul has articulated up to this point in this letter. Chapter 12’s “therefore” is not just building off of chapter 11, or even solely off of chapters 9-11. Instead, 12:1 begins the second half of Paul’s letter—the practical half that depends on everything contained in chapters 1-11. In other words, the “therefore” here is the lynchpin that connects two halves of one great work.

So what has Paul articulated up to this point? After introducing his letter, Paul set out to explain justification as the imputation of God’s righteousness (1:18-5:11). Everyone needs this because all—Gentiles and Jews alike—are guilty before God in their sin. The remedy for this is faith in Christ, resulting in peace with God and escape from his wrath. Next, Paul explained sanctification—that is how righteousness works itself into the life of someone who has been justified (5:12-8:39). Just as faith in Jesus justifies, the same is shown to be the major force behind sanctification which, in spite of present sufferings, leads to future glory and the assurance thereof. Finally, Paul spoke at length about God’s people—those who are/will be justified and sanctified by faith in God. These include a remnant of Jews and many believing Gentiles. With all of this firmly in mind—the imputation of God’s righteousness (salvation past), the ongoing impartation of righteousness (salvation present), and the explanation as to whom this applies, Paul decides to elucidate the practical implications of these truths. One might say that Romans 12:1-2 is the line of demarcation that divides Paul’s theological presentation and his practical application.

Paul wastes no time in moving his readers in this direction when he begins with an urgent exhortation—"I urge you” (12:1). Paul employs this verb (“urge”) often in his writings to do more than just introduce good advice or personal preferences. Instead, “I urge you” “represents the authoritative will of God and is enjoined upon churches in a solemn manner” (Schreiner, Romans, 642). Taken in context, the occasion of this admonition is clear—“in light of what God has done in Christ, believers are summoned to obey the following injunctions” (Schreiner, Romans, 642). That Paul is writing to believers is indicated by “brethren”—i.e. those who have embraced salvation in Christ and, as a result, have been justified and are being sanctified.

However, before we get to the instructions believers are to follow, Paul strengthens his call upon his readers by identifying its cause—“Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God,…” (12:1).  
Not only should Paul’s readership perform the activities he is about to call their attention to based on God’s authority, they also should follow these instructions in light of God’s mercy. The plural term “mercies” beckons the reader to reflect on the depth and variety of God’s merciful love that has rendered salvation possible in the first place and every other gracious gift that has been bestowed. Mercy is seen in God’s patience, his revelation (general and special), the sending of his Son, Jesus’ sacrificial death, the establishing of the church, the sending of the apostles, the spreading of the good news, etc. It was mercy that justified believers while they were guilty and it is mercy that keeps God’s program of sanctification going.

Ephesians 2:4-5-“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.”

Lamentations 3:22-23-“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Therefore, believers are not only supposed to perform the following activities simply because God said so through Paul, they are moved to obey the call because of the rich love and conspicuous mercy God has shown them. Paul, in essence, makes the following demands by appealing both to the head and to the heart.

So what are believers called to do? First, they are called to worship. What does this involve? This involves the presentation of one’s body—“to present your bodies” (12:1). This does NOT mean that only our physical selves are to be offered to God nor does it merely call to mind that which is external/outward. Instead, “’bodies’ here refers to the whole person and stresses that consecration to God involves the whole” self (Calvin, Schreiner, Romans, 644). A better interpretation that more directly identifies what Paul is referring to might read “I urge you brethren to present yourselves.” As Schreiner concludes “Genuine commitment (and worship) to God embraces every area of life…” (Schreiner, Romans, 644).

The presentation of oneself to God in worship must also be conducted in the right manner/nature. Paul says, “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” (12:1). The adjectives used to describe the “bodies”/”sacrifices offered to God indicate something about those who make such offerings. First, they are “living”—living now because they have been made alive to God in Christ.

Romans 6:11, 13-“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus . . . and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

This, taken with Romans 12:1 means that those who are alive in Christ are called to give their lives to him.

Second, they are “holy” sacrifices. Anything less would be refused by God because he himself is holy.  Thankfully, believers have been given God’s holiness and have been declared righteous before God through Jesus Christ, rendering their worship and their very lives acceptable to the Lord.

That said, presenting one’s life in worship to the Lord (after being made alive in him and righteous in his sight) is, as Paul indicates here, a “sacrifice.” A sacrifice of what? A sacrifice of personal agendas, autonomous control, and oneself entirely! This is what Jesus meant when he said the following in Luke 9:23.

Luke 9:23-“…If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

In other words, after being made alive in Christ and declared righteous before God, believers are, in response to the authority of God and the mercies that have been bestowed upon them, to give their lives back to the Lord. After all, they were created by him and for him to begin with. A life of sacrifice to the Lord is the only responsible and fulfilling way to live!

This “is your spiritual service of worship” (12:1). In fact, worship might be defined here as “presenting your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.” Those who worship God are those who give their entire lives over to him in this way so that he is honored and praised in everything that they do (D. Peterson, Romans, 276).

Item one on the agenda of every believer is worshipping God. More than church activities and singing, worship, as defined here, is the offering of one’s entire life to the Lord—a life that is living because of what Christ accomplished and a life that is acceptable because Christ’s righteousness has been bestowed.

b. Be Transformed-12:2

Such worship is dependent on the second activity Paul calls believers to execute—transformation. Few things can be counted on more in our world than change. However, Paul wants to be sure that, as far as believers are concerned, change happens in the right direction. The change to which Paul would have the believers endorse does not involve conforming to the patterns of this world—“and do not be conformed to this world” (12:2). The verb used here describes an ongoing forming or molding of one’s behaviors in accordance with particular set of standards. In this case, the standards fall exceeding short of God’s own—after all, they are the standards of this fallen “world.” Also interesting about this verb is that it is in the middle voice. This indicates that the action taken—conforming—is being done to and by the subject (the believer). Believers are not, in other words, to be conforming themselves to that which falls short of the pattern of holiness witnessed in Christ.

To be sure, the world is a factory that produces the following molds/patterns: impatience and frustration, deception and manipulation, short-cuts and cut-corners, immorality and self-indulgence, pride and self-centeredness. Fitting into these molds not only changes the outward appearance, it also affects the thoughts and motivations of a person in a way that is contrary to God’s will. These molds and the worldly factories in which they are produced ought to have no part in the lives of believers.

Instead of actively conforming to inferior molds both externally and internally, believers are called to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (12:2b). Like “conformed” earlier in verse 2, “transformed” betrays an ongoing process. However, the voice is passive, indicating that the subject is not ultimately responsible for the program of transformation indicated. It is, in other words happening to them…or is it? Certainly, the transformation that Paul is looking for occurs at the deepest level and is far more significant than the conformity to the world’s pattern that is distinctive of so many lives (Morris). Such transformation must be, at its root, caused by the only one who can truly transform (that is change essentially in form or nature [Louw Nida])—God Himself.

However, Paul suggests that this is done “by the renewing of your mind” (12:2). Here we have, at least potentially, another verse that describes the paradox of Man’s role and God’s role in sanctification. Certainly God is doing the real transforming, but believers are also called to be involved in the process.

Phil. 2:12b-13- “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

In Romans 12, God’s role is radical transformation; a believer’s role is “renewing” their mind. “This ‘reprogramming’ of the mind does not take place overnight but is a lifelong process by which our way of thinking is to resemble more and more the way God wants us to think” (Moo, The Epistle, 757). Though this is framed by Paul in the context of the “mind,” make no mistake that Paul has the whole person in view here, just as he did when he used “bodies” earlier—"For as a man thinks within himself, so he is…” (Prov. 23:7).

So how might one “reprogram” her mind to think more like God and be more like Christ? Here are a few verses that might point us in the right direction.

Joshua 1:8-“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Psalm 119:11-“Thy word have I hid in my hear that I may not sin against God.”

Philippians 4:8-9-“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice”

2 Timothy 2:2-“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”

It would appear that meditating on the Word, committing the word to memory, reflecting on what is holy, and teaching others to do likewise are all helpful practices believers mighty employ as they seek to renew their minds and, in God’s grace, be transformed more and more into his likeness.

Such behaviors will ultimately reveal the reason behind this program—“so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (12:2). Those who are being transformed by the renewing of their mind will be able to “approve” of God’s will—that is “agree with what God wants of us with a view of putting it into practice” (Moo, The Epistle, 757). In other words, believers who reorient their minds in God’s direction will understand what he wants and will willingly submit to his plans which are, according to Paul, “good and acceptable and perfect” (three adjectives that cannot be said of the plans/will of this world). 

So What?

What are we to do with what we’ve learned so far in our journey through the book of Romans? Two things: worship God and be transformed. Those these activities might be easy to articulate, they are profound. Worship involves handing ourselves entirely over to the Lord. Transformation involves reprograming our mind towards the things of God in a world that is bent against Him. That said, we have every reason to perform these activities without fail. First, God has commanded them. Doing anything else would prove disobedient. Second, God has proven himself merciful. His love compels us to love him in return.

Classroom time is over, now is the time to get out there and do it!