Summary: To be a Christian is to be transformed by the Holy Spirit for our entire lives.
Pointed in the Right Direction: Fundamentals
August 1, 2010 Rom. 12:1-2
How many of you have ever studied the book of Romans – not just read it, but actually dug down deep and worked hard to understand it? If you haven’t, I suggest you need to. This morning as we’ve worshiped we’ve scanned some of the book and allowed it to lead our worship, and so you’ve had a taste. But there is an entire feast for your soul here, a foundation for understanding what we really believe as Christians. If you want to study and need some help or direction, let me know.
The most simple internal division in the book is to see it in two major parts – part 1 is chapters 1-11, which is a detailed theological treatise, beautifully created and masterfully written, laying out what Christians believe. Part 2, chapters 12-16, lay out what we need to do because we believe. Our worship has rehearsed some of the things we believe, some of the incredible truths we affirm and celebrate, and now we return to the pivot point, chapter 12:1-2. But first a little story…
Wednesday morning Pastor Sue and I were returning from Canterbury where we had just finished leading our monthly chapel service in the seniors home. A van stopped us on the road to ask for directions to “the Edmonton mall”. I smiled and said “you are close, and it is easy to find. Just go up to the traffic circle, and go three-quarters of the way around it so you are headed west (and I pointed), and just go straight down 87ave and you’ll see the mall. It is just past 170 street, you can’t miss it.” They smiled and thanked me, and then Sue and I watched them drive away, get to the traffic circle, and drive one-quarter of the way around it in a CLOCKWISE direction. Yes… the wrong way… heading straight INTO oncoming traffic. We just stopped, saying “oh no… please Lord… oh my…” Praise God the rest of the traffic stopped, the van made it through, and presumably they found the mall and made generous contributions to the Edmonton economy.
But I reflected later on that helpless feeling, after confirming with Sue that I really did say “go three-quarters of the way around the traffic circle”, watching someone not follow my instruction and endanger their life, and that feeling resonated with my life as a pastor. Week after week I stand up here and make suggestions from Scripture about how we should live, which way we should go, how to get where we all want to go (living a full, holy life of purposeful and meaningful participation in the Kingdom of God), and then I watch us walk out the front door and I just pray that when we get to the “traffic circles” in our lives we will choose to follow the directions God has given us so we don’t end up in head-on collisions. I confess to you that I find that hard to do sometimes, because of how much I love you all after 20yrs of life and relationship together, and my deep desire is for us to follow the way of life God has laid out, and thus experience the Life God desires for us.
I think the Apostle Paul would understand that feeling, because I hear it in our text this morning, as he “pleads” with us to live differently because of the truth he has just expressed.
Rom. 12:1-2 (NLT)
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Walking Through the Text:
This is familiar territory, but let’s slow down and just walk through the text.
• “and so”… This is the big transition from the theological treatise to the practical application. It is hugely significant – After 11 incredible chapters of deep truth Paul says, “ok then… here’s what we do with all that…”
• “I plead with you”… do you hear it also? Paul’s heart that his readers, including you and me, would hear the truth and follow the directions he is about to give.
• “give your bodies to God”… does that sound strange to you? I went back to the original language to check on that word “body”; doesn’t God want our hearts? Our best intentions? Wasn’t Jesus’ message that it was the heart that mattered most, the internal, the stuff unseen? What do you think – why does Paul center this whole application of amazing theological truth on the physical body, and how do you understand it in light of what Jesus said? This is important, it is the clause in the verses that everything else revolves around, and if we miss this or skip past the essential physicality of what Paul is saying we may miss the very heart of what he is teaching us it means to be a Christian. Your thoughts? What is more important, that we believe the right things in our minds or that we do the right things in our physical living out of our lives? I ask these questions because I see that we sometimes have a tendency to divorce our belief from our action, rooted in a subtle assumption that affirming theological truths or saying the right spiritual words or praying a “sinners prayer” is what makes us Christians. But from a Scriptural point of view, that simply is not true. What makes us Christians is the transformation of our entire lives by the Holy Spirit, whom we accept by faith in Jesus AND RECOGNIZING that faith is not just intellectual truths or right words or prayers, but rather faith is a way of living every day.