Summary: Three stages in appropriately responding to God’s mercy as it is revealed in the good news about Jesus Christ.
The last few years my wife has been trying to help me be a bit more cultured. Some of you know my wife Chris has been playing in the Claremont College Concert Orchestra for two seasons, so I’ve been attending quite a few classical concerts lately. Now for me, classical music is 1960s rock, but I’ve been trying to keep and open mind, and I’ve been learning about things like sonatas, concertos, and so forth. Well my first few concerts I didn’t realize that there’s a special etiquette for the audience during classical performances. For instance, I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to applaud in between movements on a musical piece, so my first few concerts I started clapping as soon as the music stopped. It’s a good thing I don’t smoke anymore, because I probably would’ve gotten out my bic lighter and stood cheering for an encore. Well I eventually realized that there was an appropriate way to applaud at a classical concert that’s a little different from the Grateful Dead concerts I used to go to when I was in high school.
I’ve learned that it’s not only important to respond positively, but it’s also important to respond appropriately. This is a basic principle in life, that we need to learn how to respond to things appropriately. This principle applies to the spiritual life as well. There are both appropriate and inappropriate ways to respond to God in our lives. It’s important that we not only learn to respond to God positively but also that we learn to respond appropriately.
Today we return to our series through the New Testament book of Romans that I’ve titled Good News for Our Times. Back in September when we started this series we learned that the theme of Romans is God’s good news about Jesus Christ, and that this good news is relevant for every generation. This good news (or gospel) is God’s announcement about his Son that’s designed for all people everywhere. Chapters 1 through 4 of Romans present us with the good news about God’s integrity. We saw in these chapters that the entire human race has joined together in a mass rebellion God that’s resulted in the human race being alienated from a relationship with God. We also learned that through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, God offers us a way back into a relationship with God. Rather than God compromising his integrity and pretending that our rebellion never really happened, Christ’s death on our behalf satisfies God’s justice, so he can forgive us with integrity. Chapters 5 through 8 of Romans present us with the good news about God’s love. When we respond God’s good news about Jesus with faith, God drenches our lives with his love. This love of God empowers us to live a life free from the dominion of sin and death, a life that serves God freely, a life that’s secure in God’s love. Chapters 9 through 11 presented us with the good news about God’s faithfulness. In these chapters we saw the apostle Paul wrestle with his Jewish kinsmen’s lack of faith in Jesus, and we saw that despite Israel’s lack of faith in Jesus that God is still faithful to keep his promises. We saw that for now God working through the Church to fulfill his promise to bring God’s blessings to all nations of the world. But we also learned that a time will come when God will once again use the nation of Israel to fulfill this promises as well. We saw the need to keep the nation of Israel and the Church distinct in our thoughts, to not see the Church as replacing Israel and to not see the Church as joined into Israel.
Today we return to Romans to begin a new section in chapters 12 through 16, as we look at the good news about God’s community. In these chapters, Paul describes how God’s good news about Jesus that is embodied in the Church. Here we find how we live out the implications of the good news of Jesus in our daily lives with each other. Today we begin this new section by asking what is the appropriate response to God’s mercy? How can we avoid responding to God’s mercy in a way that’s not appropriate to the character of the good news? Today we’re going to look at three stages in an appropriate response to God’s good news about Jesus from Romans 12:1-8.
1. Surrendering Fully (Romans 12:1-2)
Let me just give you the first stage and then we’ll look in detail at the text: We respond to God’s mercy in Christ by first surrendering ourselves fully to God.
Now let’s look at the text together. The word "therefore" in v. 1 connects these verses with what Paul has already said about God’s integrity, God’s love and God’s faithfulness in the first 11 chapters of Romans. You could summarize everything God’s said so far with the phrase "the mercy of God." God’s mercy is his compassionate response to our human condition of rebellion and alienation from God. God’s mercy is what motivated God to send his Son to die for our sins and rise from the grave.