Grace For The Journey
Don Richardson’s book, The Lords of the Earth, tells the story of missionary Stan Dale and the effort to bring the Gospel to the Yali people who lived in Irian Jaya’s Snow Mountains, far from any mission base. These were a people engulfed in fear of their demon-gods. Their evil practices included cannibalism.
Stanley Dale was born in 1916 in Australia and raised in a non-Christian home. His father was an atheist, an alcoholic, and abusive. At 14 he was forced to quit school and go to work to help the family. It was not until he was 17 that he first read something about God and heard someone preach from the Bible. Stanley responded and instantly and irrevocably converted. He was diligent in Bible reading, devout in prayer, and would witness to others even when scorned. When he was 22, he enrolled at a Bible college, but before he could complete it, WW II began. He became part of a commando unit in the Australian army. He did not expect to live through the war, but God did bring him through it and introduced him to New Guinea where he would later spend his life as a missionary
By 1947 Stan Dale had completed his training and was in New Guinea on his first Missions assignment. He married in 1949 and he and Patricia had their first child in 1950, but little David became ill and died at only one month old. Later that same year, he and Pat began pioneering missions’ work among the Wapi people of New Guinea. In 1960 he began work in planning for new missions’ work in the interior of New Guinea. In 1961, Stanley Dale, at the age of 45, along with several co-workers, hiked over the 12,000 foot Snow Mountains and into the Heluk Valley where the Yali people lived.
Life would not be easy there. There was a lot of mental work to be done in learning the Yali language and figuring out how to communicate the gospel to them. But there was also a lot of physical labor in building an airstrip on a mountain ridge, building a home with whatever materials where available from the forest around them and what could be air dropped. And Stan would be separated from his family until the air strip and house could be completed. There was also a sacrifice in diet. There were no fruit trees producing fresh fruit, so their iet normally consisted of canned bully beef with rice. Stan Dale did not mind this though. His own thought was that he was a front-line soldier of God in the midst of spiritual warfare. As a former soldier, Stan was well aware that luxury items including good food were rare on the front lines. Stan Dale understood well what it meant to be a living sacrifice. The same was true for his wife, Pat, who left family and friends for the loneliness of living in primitive conditions among people she could not understand.
Yesterday we learned the first key principle in becoming godly from Romans 12:1 in which Paul says, “I urge you therefore, 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.” Stan and Pat Dale counted themselves as having been crucified with Christ and no longer alive to themselves, but now alive to God as His servants. The comforts that other people seek, they gladly left behind in order to take the Gospel to people who had never heard it before. What are you willing to sacrifice of yourself in order to take the gospel to others?
Over time, Stanley Dale and his co-workers eventually were able to explain the Gospel to the Yali people and many of them responded to it and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. They also then wanted to take that news to others including those that were hostile to them. In 1966 there was initial success, but there was also strong resistance. On June 12 of that year, two of Stan Dale’s disciples were murdered and he had five arrow wounds including one to the stomach. Wounded, Stan Dale still had to hike all night to get back to the air strip so that he could be evacuated to medical help.
I am sure that many if not most people would conclude that such an experience was enough sacrifice. It was somebody else’s turn. That was not true for Stan and Pat Dale. It was not even a thought to be considered. Within two months they were back in their Yali village and resumed their teaching and translation ministry. Within a few more months Stan was trekking once again into neighboring valleys to see the work God was doing through the Yali men he had discipled.
Some would say that would be enough sacrifice. But it was not enough for Stan Dale. There were still other valleys that had people who had not heard the Gospel. They also needed to be reached even if it meant encountering those who were so hostile to it again. In September 1968, Stan Dale and Phil Masters set out with four helpers to the Seng Valley with the Gospel. They met hostile resistance, for the villages they had to pass through had already been told years earlier that if these white men ever came to their village, they must be killed or they would be cursed. A large war party followed them and caught up as they were crossing a stream.
Stan was at the lower end of a gravel beach. Phil Masters was at the other end about 50 yards away. Their helpers were a little farther on. Stan raised his hiking staff as a barrier to the advancing tide of warriors and told them to leave and go home. They did not. Don Richards records the events that then took place – One of the pagan priests came from behind Stan and shot an arrow at point blank range under Stan’s upraised right arm. Another priest shot another bamboo-bladed arrow into Stan’s back, just below his right shoulder. More arrows entered his flesh and Stan pulled them out one by one, broke them and cast them away. Dozens were coming at him from all directions and Stan Dale kept pulling them out, breaking them, and dropping them at his feet until he could not keep ahead of them. 30 arrows, and Stan was still sanding facing his enemies. He was unwavering except for the jolt of each new strike. Fifty arrows – sixty! Red ribbons of blood trailed from the many wounds, but Stan still stood his ground.
The attack that had begun in hilarity was now one of fear and desperation bordering on panic. “Fall!” they screamed at him. “Die!” It was almost a plea – please die! Their attention now turned to Phil Masters. He made no attempt to flee or struggle. He stood as courageously as Stan Dale had stood. It was the same priest that shot the first arrow into Phil and it took almost as many arrows to down Phil Masters as it had Stan Dale. Three of their helpers escaped to tell the story. One of the helpers, Dengen, was not seen again.
The martyrdom of Stan Dale and Phil Masters touched off a series of events that resulted one year later in their co-workers being invited by the village that had killed Dale and Masters to come and teach them the Gospel. Their deaths were not in vain, but instead resulted in the salvation of hundreds and then thousands of people who had previously only lived in fear of their demon gods. As missionary Jim Elliot had said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Paul urges those who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation from their sin to be living and holy sacrifices pleasing to God. His basis for this is the mercies of God. We were dead in our trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). All of us were unrighteous before God and none of us sought after God (Romans 3:10-12). We, like all mankind, were under God’s just condemnation and wrath. Yet, God extended compassion and sympathy toward us and provided the remedy for our sin problem which separated us from Him. Jesus Christ, the second person of the triune Godhead, became a man, lived a sinless life, and then willingly became the substitute sacrifice for our sins. He took the penalty of our sin upon himself. He then proved who He was and the validity of His promises by conquering sin and death and rising from the dead on the third day. He offers to justify all who will place their faith in Him and His work of atonement. We no longer are held guilty for our sins because Jesus has paid the penalty for us. In addition, we are clothed with His righteousness so that we stand clean before God.
In view of all that God has done for us in saving us from sin and its penalties, we should give ourselves to Him as living and holy sacrifices acceptable Him. Remember from last week that a living sacrifice counts themselves to be dead to self and alive to Christ. Or as Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” Crucifixion brings death. Paul considered himself to be dead to self and alive to God, and so should we. As Paul explained in Romans 6, our baptism was to be this very identification. I died to my old self and was raised to newness of life in Jesus Christ.
Remember, as well that, being a holy sacrifice means that I am set apart from sin to righteousness and from self, the devil and the world to God. The Christian is to give themselves to God in physical body, mind, emotion and will. Our bodies are no longer our own, but have been purchased with the precious blood of Christ and I am to glorify God by my use of it (1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Peter 1:18,19). My mind is to be set on the things above instead of the things of this world (Colossians3:2). I am not free to think about whatever suits my fancy at the moment. My will is to be submitted to God’s will. My desires become subservient to God’s desires. This also means that though I experience the full range of emotions, I do not let my emotions lead and control me. I live and do what glorifies God instead of what satisfies my emotions.
Paul concludes verse one by saying that being a living and holy sacrifice
acceptable to God is my “reasonable service.” In other words, offering yourself as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God is the logical or reasonable response to the mercies God has shown us. It would be unreasonable to respond in any other manner.
In addition, that manner of life is the central aspect of our worship of God. It is sacrifice made in the service and worship of our God. The tragedy is that so much of what is claimed to be the worship of God is liturgical ritual which has lost its meaning. Many of you come from such religious traditions in which worship of God was reduced to the things you did when the people gathered in a church building and performed the religious rituals. You would watch the processions, and then at the proper time you stood up, sat down, or kneeled. You sang the songs, and read or quoted from memory the scripture passages or prayers. You listened to the special music and to the sermon. Many of you also would take communion as part of the liturgy. Once you left the building there was little thought give to how you were to actually live for God. True worship of God is how you glorify God as you live moment by moment in daily life. It is
done at home, at work, at school, while traveling, and while carrying out the chores of daily life.
Another tragedy that is similar in nature is how often what is claimed to be worship is really self-centered entertainment or religious exercises designed to excite the emotions. This false worship is readily exposed when people judge a “worship service” by how they feel when the leave. Often it is judged by whether the music was according to their taste. Such so called worship is man centered and not worship of God at all. True worship can only be judged by whether it was acceptable to God or not. Our sacrifices to God in worship of Him must be according to His desires, will and plan and not according to our own designs and preferences.
The logical result in responding to the mercies that God has shown us in Jesus Christ is to offer ourselves up to Him as living and holy sacrifices that are acceptable to Him. That is to be the central aspect of our worship of Him. I can also guarantee that when you worship God by serving Him and sacrificing yourself for Him throughout the week, you will find that your worship of Him when we all gather on a Sunday morning will be far greater, more meaningful, and even have a greater emotional impact.
But the question now arises of how can we actually do this. Paul has already explained his own struggle with the sin that resides in this body of flesh. How do we overcome the temptations that beset us and the influence of this world? How do we change from the selfish self-centered creatures that we are to those that will offer ourselves as living and holy sacrifices to God? Paul explains how in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Do Not Be Conformed.
In order to be a godly person, you have to stop being one thing and start being another. The gospel is the good news that you can stop being a slave to sin and start being controlled by righteousness. Being justified by faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ we become new creatures with new desires. God judicially reckons the death of Jesus as the substitute payment for the penalty of your own sins, and then imputes Jesus’ righteousness to you, but that does not automatically translate into it a holy life. As much as we would like to receive a spiritual “zap” that would result in never sinning again, the truth, as we saw in our study of Romans 7, is that you will continue to struggle with sin. Why? While you have new desires to walk in holiness and serve Christ as a living sacrifice, you also have old desires that compete for your mind, will and action. The desires that you fulfill will be according to your choices made on a moment by moment basis according to a plan to accomplish those desires.
For example, men, you might desire to be able to bench press 250 pounds, and run a four minute mile, but that is not going to happen unless you suppress a lot of other competing desires that would hinder you from reaching your goals. You will have to set aside the desire to be lazy and sleep in and instead you will have to get up and exercise. You also have to curb your appetite for junk food and instead eat foods that will build and strengthen your body. Ladies, you might desire to be a size eight, but that will not happen unless you exercise properly and curb your appetite too. You might desire to have the finances for a nice family vacation, but that will not happen if you are spending all your money window shopping. There are competing desires. Unless there is self-control, the long term ones will be left unfulfilled because the desires of the moment will preclude them.
Do you want to be godly? Then you must not allow yourself to be conformed by the world. Paul gives a command here. It is not an option, though many professing Christians live as if it were an option. You cannot pursue godliness and worldliness at the same time. Jesus said that plainly in Matthew6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
The idea of “conform” here is one of being placed into a mold and pressured into taking on its shape. “World” here refers to the evil system of the world in the present time, a system which dominated by its master, the god of this world, the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4) who has blinded their eyes to the truth. The shape that the devil wants you to take on is the opposite of the shape God wants you to have. God wants you to be “conformed into the image of His Son” (Romans8:29). The devil wants you walking in the desires of your flesh and mind as sons of disobedience and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:2-3).
As much as people say how important it is for them to be individuals who are different from the world, the world will quickly pressure them into being like everyone else. Perhaps the classic case of this are teens who tell their parents that they want to wear odd clothes and do strange things to their hair so that they can show they are individuals and different from everyone else – except of course all the other teens that are wearing odd clothes and doing strange things to their hair. Adults are often the same way, except they call it “fashion” and are less likely to claim that their “style” is unique.
Never underestimate the pressure that the world places upon you to conform you to its image. Part of the struggle is that very few people really are willing to stand out from the crowd and be different. The vast majority of people want to be readily accepted by others. This results in them adapting and adopting whatever is common to the group. Experiments have been done many times to prove this.
The classic example placing a test subject in a room in which all the other people have already been told to answer a question a certain way even though it is not true. The test subject can measure line A and know it is longer than line B, but if everyone else says B is longer, he will often agree with the group despite the facts. Let’s face it, a lot of marketing, including political persuasion, is based on this pressure. Everybody, or at least the people you want to be like, are doing this, buying that, or voting this way, so you should too.
Another factor that makes it difficult to resist the pressure of the world is that what the world desires is what your old sinful nature also desires. That is why the apostle John warned in 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”
If you want to live a godly life as a living and holy sacrifice to God, then you must not yield to the temptations the world places upon you to return to the selfishness of sin. God provides for you to have victory over temptation by faithfully providing a way of escape that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Our part is to take that way of escape and not to court the temptation.
Refusing to be conformed to the world is the negative side of our struggle to be godly. The positive side is that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is also a command. It is not an option. We are to be transformed. The Greek word here for “transformed” gives us our English word, “metamorphosis.” That is the nature of what is supposed to happen to the Christian. We are metamorphosed from one kind of being into another kind of being that is completely different.
Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies. Some of them can be quite ugly, but even the ugly ones spin a cocoon in order “to pupate.” It then goes through metamorphosis. All the physical structures that had made up the caterpillar are dissolved within the pupae into a sort of protein soup. Then all those proteins are reorganized into new body structures. Eventually, a beautiful butterfly emerges. The butterfly has a completely different anatomical structure from the caterpillar. It also eats different food too.
That is the nature of the radical change that is to take place in the Christian. All that we once where in our sinful state is to be changed into a new state which is holy. People who once had character traits that could only be called vile and ugly develop into people who are virtuous and lovely to be around. Big bad Bill is metamorphosed into sweet William. Boisterous Betty is metamorphosed into Elegant Elizabeth. Something that I have noticed over the years is that often there is a physical effect too. People who had once looked hard will develop a soft and tender countenance.
This process of metamorphosis in the Christian takes place over time as sinful practices are exchanged for righteous practices. The pressure of the world is resisted and the process of change is sought. How do those changes actually occur? The renewing of the mind.
A Renewed Mind.
Again it must be stressed that as much as we might like God to “zap” us so that we would never sin again, the truth is that though we become new creatures in Christ at the moment of salvation, there is much for us to learn and put into practice. There is much for us to learn about God, His will and His desire for our lives from the Scriptures. We also must become sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, so that we might apply the truths of the Scriptures into our daily lives. At the same time, we need to purge our
minds of the wrong ways of thinking that previously marked out lives.
Scripture has much to say about the importance of this. You are to “Set your mind on the things above , not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). If you are setting your mind on the things of this earth – pleasure, wealth, fame, etc., then you are being conformed to this world. While there may be some people that are so “heavenly minded that they are no earthly good,” such people are indeed rare even if the adage is true. What is true is that the vast majority of professing Christians are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good. We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and
make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).
The Christian is not free to think on whatever he would like. We are to be wise concerning what is good and simple or ignorant of what is evil (Romans 16:19). We are to think on those things which are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy (Philippians4:8). We should consider everything through that grid, and if there is something that does not fit, then it should be set aside.
We are also to learn to think of life from God’s eternal perspective instead of our own temporal one. Remembering what the future will bring is very helpful in this. 2 Peter 3:10 describes that the present heavens and earth will be destroyed with intense heat. Peter adds in verses 11-14, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.”
What do you let your mind dwell on? Is it being renewed through the truth of the word of God? O r are you continuing to feed it on what the world is offering you.
Proving Out God’s Will.
Paul concludes the verse by pointing out what being transformed by the renewing or our mind will result in – proving out “what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” As our minds feed on God’s word we learn what His will is. We learn the true definition of what is good, acceptable and perfect. The world claims many things that are evil to be good. It advocates that we accept things that are
abominations before God. It sets a standard for perfection that is not only far less than God’s standard, it is often the opposite. As we are transformed through renewed minds, we demonstrate by our very lives the nature of the God who has saved us from our sins. Others will be able to see Jesus Christ living in us.
In a few days we will be looking at the importance of these things in more depth as we consider the battle that exists for our minds. But for today, I want you to consider the transformation that occurred not only to Stanley Dale, but also his co-workers. There thinking was radically different from that of the world, and from what they themselves had once thought. As their minds were renewed and their lives transformed, they began to value what God valued. The result is that they willingly became living and holy sacrifices that were pleasing to God. They were enabled to suffer hardship joyfully because they were able to see God at work. They were even willing to lay down their earthly lives in the effort to reach new people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. What you think about people like Stanley Dale and Phil Masters reveals how much your minds have already been renewed. “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.”
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”