January 17, 2009

Resolutions Become Transformations

So we're seven and a half weeks into the new year - how are you doing keeping those resolutions? More importantly - how are you doing bringing glory to God? (These questions are directed towards myself as much as anyone else.)

Even though I haven't blogged about Romans 12 in a while, I have been continuing my study of this amazing chapter in God's Word. When I last blogged I shared that God revealed to me three commands found in Romans 12:1-2. Today I will focus on the second command: "Be Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind."

Paul is addressing a huge issue here: renewing our minds! Making resolutions are all well and good, but here in Romans 12 Paul is leading us to a higher calling: Transformation. I guess for the purpose of this blog we might describe transformation as putting those resolutions into daily practice through sacrificial living. I don't know about you, but I find that very hard to do!

Let's look at some other passages in the Word of God that discuss this transformation by the renewing of our minds:

1. Ephesians 4:17-24 "With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy."
  • In writing to the church at Ephesus Paul instructs his readers to "throw off" the old sinful nature of the flesh. When I was in high school I had the great experience of having a junebug placed on the back of my arm by one of the boys in the youth group at my church. Seriously. I recall very vividly how quickly I flung that creepy bug across the room - and I did so with quite a loud outburst! This is how I imagine Paul is instructing us to "throw off" the old sinful nature - if a girl wrote this she would say: "Fling it away, be repulsed by it and try to get it as far away from you as you can!"

James 1:21-22 "So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves."
  • James was most likely the first of the New Testament books to be written, and in the first chapter of the book the author is already having to remind Christ Followers to get rid of the "filth and evil" in their lives! I think this must be a common struggle. And this is exactly what is so hard about putting resolutions into daily practice! Get it done - don't just talk about it, do it!

Ephesians 5: 8-11 "For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them."
  • When Christ Followers allow the Light of the World to transform their minds, Christ expects (in fact commands) them to live like it! Paul tells us here in Ephesians 5 that we are to take no part in the evil deeds of darkness, and he goes a step further and instructs us to expose them.
I encourage you to read and re-read Romans 12 for yourself. It is full of instruction for living a life of worship through sacrificial living. And one of the "gems" of wisdom that I found is that authentic transformation is necessary in order to live a life of worship through sacrificial living.

January 3, 2009

Resolutions and Romans 12

I'm not much on making New Year Resolutions. Mostly because I'm not much on keeping them! My guess is that most people have a hard time keeping New Year Resolutions. When I did a google search for "Keeping New Year Resolutions" google found nearly 18 million websites. Unfortunately, few of them address the most important reason for making and keeping New Year Resolutions: God's Glory. While making New Year Resolutions are beneficial and often enrich our lives for the better, we must remember to dedicate our goals to God. Whether your resolution is to lose weight, get in touch with a long lost family members, or to decrease your debt, if it is not done for God's glory it will be in vain. Colossians 3:17 instructs us: "Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father." (NLT)

I've been reading in Romans 12 (my favorite passage in the Word of God.) In this passage Christ Followers are given detailed instructions for living Christ-centered lives. Paul writes, "Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age (world) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God." (HCSB)

Paul is telling the Christians in Rome that the purpose of our day (and the purpose for our New Year Resolution) should be to worship Christ. I love how The Message phrases it: "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him." Our daily duties, our yearly resolutions should be wrought out of a desire to bring Him glory, not for personal gain.

Romans 12:1-2 gives three directives for Christ Followers. Two of them are positive commands, one is a negative command. The two positive commands are: 1. Do present yourself as a living sacrifice to God, and 2. Do be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The negative command is: Do Not conform to this world!

Today I will focus on the first command:

1. Do present yourself as a living sacrifice.
This is hard to do on a daily basis! Taking everyday activities, from the time you get up to the time you go to bed and dedicating them to God and for His glory is tough! Yet the Word of God is clear when it comes to discussing God's desire for our living sacrifice.

I Samuel 15:22 "Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention [is better] than the fat of rams."

Psalm 51:16-17 "You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering.The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart."

It doesn't really mean anything to God for us to make New Year Resolutions, regardless if we keep them or not. He asks for our daily, sacrificial living intent on bringing Him glory. As 2009 begins, let's resolve to live sacrificially before Almighty God.