Grace For The Journey
In my last few posts, I have told you the stories of missionaries and their efforts to reach the unsaved with the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Both Jim Elliot and Stanley Dale were men that were living and holy sacrifices, acceptable unto God. In both cases, these men not only lived for God, but they eventually died as martyrs as well. In a world that has turned inward and selfish, such sacrifices as these men and their families made in moving to distant lands and living in primitive conditions is thought of as foolishness. These men and their families went out to gain something the world does not understand – the pleasure of serving their Creator and desiring to hear from God at the end of their lives, “Well done, though good and faithful servant.” Jim Elliot was correct when he said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.”
The society in which we live is marked
By its pursuit of the things of this world
Instead of the things of God.
Their desire is for the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. Pleasure, comfort, wealth, beauty, fame and power. It really is the opposite of Jim Elliot’s maxim. Our world considers it foolish to give up what you could have had in order gain something you cannot see or hear.
Being that all Christians come from out of the world . . .
What is it that causes us to
Pursue a different kind of life?
What is it that prods some, and tragically, it is far too few, to sacrifice of themselves so radically as did the Elliots, Dales, and so many other missionary families both past and present?
Today we will look again into Romans 12:1-2, quickly review the meaning of these verses, and then spend the rest of our time putting them into very practical application, “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 reasonable service of worship. 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.”
The basis for the radical difference
In the way Christians live their lives
As compared to non-Christians
Is salvation through faith in the person
And work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s urging of believers to present themselves as living and holy sacrifices, acceptable to God, is based upon the mercies God has given to us in Jesus Christ. In addition, Paul stresses at the end of verse one that this type of life is the only reasonable response of worship of God because of what he has done for us in saving us from our sins through Jesus Christ.
Remember that all of us were born dead in our trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). Paul points this out in the first three chapters of Romans. None of us were righteous before God. No one even sought after God, and so we were all under His just condemnation for our sins. It was God in His mercy that extended His longsuffering patience to us so that we would continue to live while His Spirit worked on our hearts to convict us of sin and enlighten us to the truth of His word. Out of God’s great love for us sinful creatures, He sent His only begotten Son, the second person of the triune Godhead, to become a man, live a sinless life and then be a substitute for us and pay the penalty of our sin when He died on the cross. Then Jesus proved His claims and conquered sin and death when He rose from the dead on the third day. Jesus’ promise is to forgive and impute or give His own righteousness to any sinner that will place their faith in Him. Abraham is the great example of God reckoning faith for righteousness. We can stand clean and holy before God because of Jesus Christ.
The true Christian is changed radically at salvation.
Their old self was crucified with Christ
And a new nature is given to them
(cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17).
There is still a struggle with sin, and that struggle will continue until we are given our glorified resurrection bodies, but now we can resist our old master, sin, as we submit to obey our new master, righteousness. Christians will face tough things in this life, but no circumstance and no entity past, present or future can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. What God began in us with His foreknowledge, predestination, election, and justification of us, He will finish in our future glorification. His promises to us are as sure as His promises to Israel.
In view of God’s mercies to us in Jesus Christ, it is only reasonable that we offer back to Him our life as a holy sacrifice acceptable to Him. We are not our own anyway, for we have been purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20; cf. 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Remember that the essence of being a living sacrifice is
That your life is no longer about you, but about glorifying God.
You purposely place your body, mind, emotion and will
Into submission to God to live, think and do what He desires.
How is the change made from being a self-centered sinner to a living sacrifice who is holy and acceptable to God?
By the outworking
Of the internal change
That is made at salvation.
When a person becomes a Christian, they become new creatures in Christ. The basic desires change in response to Jesus’ great love. The natural fruit born out of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is an increasing rejection of the things of this world in favor of a pursuit of godliness. The specific desires change as the new Christian grows in their knowledge of God and His will. This does not mean that there will not be struggles in giving up old habits and desires in exchange for new ones. Those struggles will be there, but the fact that the struggle takes place is evidence of the change that has been made in the inner man.
The Holy Spirit is doing His work of convicting us of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). He will be about teaching us about God through His word and enlightening our minds to God’s will (1 John 2:27). The indwelling Holy Spirit will also be interceding for us with God the Father (Romans 8:26-27) as well as strengthening us to live for God Ephesians 3:16, etc.). But there is also a part that each individual must also play in order for these changes to be made. In Romans 12:2, Paul is very direct about man’s personal responsibility in this change from sinner to saint, from living in selfish lust to being a living sacrifice, “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.”
This is given as a command, not a suggestion. Every Christian is to refuse to be pressured by society to think and act like the rest of the world.
There is a lot of pressure
To be molded into
Being like everyone else,
But the Christian is only
To be conformed into
The image of Jesus Christ
When people look at us they should see glimpses of our Savior. We Christians should be living models of Jesus Christ to the world, and not living after the pattern of the world.
We become living models of Jesus Christ to the world through the transformation that takes place as our minds are renewed. As I explained in an earlier blog, 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 changed
From one kind of being
Into another kind of being
That is completely different.
Just like an ugly caterpillar is metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly, or common sandstone is metamorphosed into beautiful marble, the Christian is changed from being like the world into being like Jesus Christ, and this is accomplished through a renewed mind.
The result of having renewed mind that transforms us into the image of Christ is that our lives prove out the will of God, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect. The power of God unto salvation is lived out in practical example because we are living according to God’s will. As people watch our lives, they will see what is good, what is well pleasing to God, and what demonstrates godly maturity.
The word “good” refers to “what is upright, beneficial, and honorable.” Goodness is one of the character qualities that is to be part of every Christian’s character for it is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:20-21). That character in turn will demonstrate itself in good deeds. Ephesians 2:10 tells us “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
One of the purposes of our salvation from sin
Is so that we might carry out these good deeds,
Which Jesus said in Matthew 5:16,
Should be done in such a way
That they bring glory to God.
The word “acceptable” means “that which is well pleasing to God.” This is the same word as used in verse 1. Man desires to determine according to his own standards what is good, but what is good can only be determined by God. That which is good is well pleasing to Him. That which is not is bad.
For example, many people think they are demonstrating they are performing good works by giving to the poor. They often do so without thought to the person they think they are helping. Several Proverbs (22:9; 28:27) tell us that giving to the poor is a good thing, yet, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 gives us the principle that. “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.” Charity towards those who are unable to work and those who are working but still unable to provide for themselves is good, but charity towards those who are either too lazy to work or unwilling to take a job “beneath their dignity” is bad. That is the reason that government entitlement programs created such welfare problems. They give without Biblical restraint. The sad thing is that they destroyed the charities that used to operate under these Biblical principles (See The Tragedy ofAmerican Compassion by M. Olasky). In addition, Jesus rebuked those that called attention to their charitable giving and told them that their only reward would be the honor given to them by men (Matthew 6:2)).
“Perfect” here means “complete” or “mature.” It is used in James 1:3 which tells us that the trials that come into our lives test our faith, and tested faith produced endurance, and the outcome of endurance is being “perfect” [mature] and complete, lacking in nothing.” In Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul tells us the purpose of spiritual leadership in the church is “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.” In other words, the outcome of each part of the Body of Christ
working in harmony with one another is that each member becomes mature. In 1 Corinthians 14:20 Paul tells us, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.”
That passage of Scripture brings us back to the subject of our minds. The Christian has received the wonderful mercies of God through salvation from sin by faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Christian is to be a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God, which is the reasonable response of worship of God. This is a life that demonstrates the will of God being done through its good works which are acceptable to God, and its behavior and attitudes which demonstrate godly maturity. Becoming such a living sacrifice is accomplished by refusing to become like the world and instead being transformed by the renewing of the mind.
The mind, then,
Is the central issue
Of Biblical Christianity.
Other sects of Christianity as well as other religions may play upon the emotions as the means to generating belief and behavior, but . . .
Biblical Christianity is concerned with what is thought,
For it is what is perceived by the mind as truth
Will determine belief, values, emotion, and action.
The goal of Biblical Christianity is to bring what is perceived as true into conformity to what the Bible declares as true. It is in that way that the renewed mind results in an utterly transformed life.
The natural state of man is having a mind that is blinded by the god of this world resulting in an inability to see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). This is a foundational aspect of the doctrine usually referred to as total depravity which we talked about some months ago. It is not . . .
That man is as bad as he can be,
But that he has no ability within himself
To be anything other than sinful.
He cannot understand the world except through his depraved mind. The things of the Spirit of God are discerned spiritually, but the unsaved man is dead in his trespasses and sin and for that reason considers the things of God to be foolishness and so will not accept them because he is unable to understand them (1 Corinthians 12:14). Lost people in the world have their minds set on the things of this world. For them life is about what is in the world, the desires of the flesh, the eyes, and pride of life. Life for them is about pleasure, comfort, beauty, power, and fame. Those with this mindset do not understand the truth, so they strive to appease God’s wrath and achieve His favor through their own efforts. That does not appease God’s wrath or win His favor, for God is so holy that all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6).
The Christian can be transformed
Because he has been given a new mind,
The mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:16).
We can understand God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible because the Holy Spirit teaches us (1 John 2:27). Understanding the Bible and God’s will still require diligent study. Remember that the Bereans were commended because they were careful to examine the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was telling them was true (Acts 17:11). Remember as well that Paul charged Timothy to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” The difference is that the Holy Spirit guides us into truth (John 16:13) and enables the Christian to make spiritual sense and application of what they are studying. The non-Christian cannot do that.
Because the Christian is born of the Spirit (John 3:5-8), he can “set his mind on the Spirit” which brings life and peace. The non-Christian is of the flesh and so has a mind set on the flesh which is hostile to God and unable to please Him (Romans 8:5-8). Because the Christian can have a mind set on the Spirit, he can also walk in the Spirit which prevents him from carrying out the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
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 . . .
We must put into practice that
Which God has given to us.
We must study the Bible to learn about God, His will, and His desire for our lives. We also must become surrendered to the Holy Spirit and sensitive to His leading, 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.
Every Christian is commanded to, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). 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 problem for most professing Christians in living a transformed life as a living sacrifice is right at this point.
As someone has said, “They are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good.” What they let their minds dwell on is little different from the non-Christian next to them.
The Christian is not free to think on whatever he would like. We are to be wise concerning what is good and simple, and we are not to be 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 (Philippians 4:8). We should consider everything through that grid, and if there is something that does not fit, then it should be set aside. Our minds will reflect what we let them dwell on.
Let me give you a serious challenge on this issue. What do your fill your mind with? What do you let control you? Here is what our minds should be filled with and what should control us . . .
True: This is that which conforms to the facts of reality. That which will be eternally the same. What is true? Not the philosophy of men. Not the religions man has created or man’s pseudo-science which has denied the Creator. Jesus said in John 17:17, “Your Word is Truth!” The Bible is our source of truth. We need to have a thought life filled with the truth of the Scriptures. Think on truth, think on the Scriptures.
Honorable: This is that which corresponds to truth and brings honor and glory to God. Would the things you think about bring praise to God if they were known by others? Do they conform to His standard of righteousness?
Right: Only God Himself is truly right and He sets the standard for what is right. Anything else that can be considered right is right only because it is a reflection in some way of God’s own righteousness. You are to set your mind on those things which are in accordance with God’s character and commands.
Pure: These are those things which are unpolluted by sin. They conform to the standards and will of God. A dirty mind views everything with a bent toward sin. A pure mind views everything with a bent toward God’s standards of righteousness. If you put garbage into your mind, you pollute it. What do you feed your mind?
Lovely: Someone once said that “beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is to the bone.” The loveliness spoken of here is not some shallow covering but the outward display of something that is intrinsically true, honorable, right, and pure. A literal interpretation of “lovely” is “that which grace attracts.” Your mind is to be attracted to those things that are lovely in their graciousness.
Good Repute: This speaks of those things of good reputation before God and men. A good reputation is something that has to be earned. That which has good repute is something that has been tested and found to be true, honorable, right, and pure. Think on those things that can be reported to God in a favorable manner.
Excellence: This is excellence in moral judgement and character. It is something or someone that possesses virtue. What is the moral character of the things you think about? Are they things that are ethically correct before God?
Things worthy of Praise: These are things that are worthy of glory, honor, commendation, and acclaim fit the characteristics described earlier. They reflect the character and attributes of God.
The world we live in does not think this way . . .
- Instead of truth, they are deceived by the lies and half-truths of the evil one.
- Instead of honor, they contemplate things that are shameful.
- Instead of righteousness, they ponder wickedness.
- Instead of justice, it is manipulation of the law.
- Instead of purity, their minds dwell on filthiness.
- Instead of what is lovely, their minds reflect on what is shameful and lustful.
- Instead of things of good reputation, they consider it just as well to muse on those things of bad reputation.
- Instead of excellence and virtue, it is pondering what is immoral while often claiming it to be amoral.
- Instead of things worthy of praise before God, they give hearty approval to practices opposite of God’s commands (Romans 1:32).
If you are a Christian, then your mindset needs to be different from that of the world. If you are of Christ, you need to set your mind to dwell on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of Good report, things that are virtuous, and praiseworthy.
Consider this as a simple means to evaluate if you are thinking about the things that you should. The Bible tells us in Revelation 2:23 that God searches the minds and the hearts. God knows what you are thinking. You cannot fool Him. Ask yourself if God is pleased with your thought life. If so, you are demonstrating a proper Christian mindset. If not, then put into practice the commands of Scripture, set aside your old ways, renew your mind, and set it to think about what is proper.
Previously, I shared with you that one of my greatest frustrations as a pastor is the very limited spiritual input that most professing Christians have as compared to their consumption of secular input, much of which is directly against godliness.
You need to be aware that
What you fill you mind with
Is going to have a direct effect
Upon what you believe
And therefore on your
Emotions and actions.
Psalm 1 is very direct that the blessed man is the one that does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, but in contrast to that he is the one that delights in the law of the Lord and meditates in it day and night. What are you allowing to influence you, to counsel you, in how to understand the world around you?
Many parents understand the importance of this when it comes to the education of their children, but do they understand it when it comes to other areas of life or for themselves? What good does it do for you to go so far as to put your kids in a private Christian school or home school them if you let them be involved with and influenced by the many other evil things in our society. The Christian parents whose children are in public school may have the advantage because they already actively trying to
counteract the negative influences of our culture.
- What books and magazines to you let your children read?
- What games do you let them play?
- What do you let them see on the Web?
- What music do you let them listen to?
- What TV programs and films do you let them see?
Ask those same questions of yourself. What are you letting influence you, perhaps without you even being aware of how much it is influencing you? What you choose for entertainment is more dangerous to your spiritual health than attending a lecture by an avowed atheist, because you attend the lecture by the atheist with your mind on the defensive, but most people are more accepting of what comes to them by means of entertainment. Most people, including Christians, do not develop their discernment well, and then they fail to apply what they do have to what they read, hear, and watch for entertainment.
I believe this is a very serious issue for everyone that wants to be a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God. We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds and therefore we must become more discerning in what we think about.
One final point this morning on being transformed by the renewing of your mind.
The Christian who is going
To be a living sacrifice
Must operate on the truth of
God’s Word and not on emotion.
We are not to deny our emotions as if they did not exist, but neither do we let them determine either truth or action.
Life is filled with emotional ups and downs. We must not let them determine our actions or the course of our lives.
- There are times we feel very close to God.
- There are other times when God seems very distant.
- There are times when it is clear how God is answering our prayers.
- There are other times we wonder if our prayers are getting beyond the ceiling.
- There are times when we are walking closely with the Lord and marveling in the joy of simply being His servant.
- There are other times when selfishness can creep in and we can be upset that the Lord is not giving us what we want.
Emotions are fickle. They can rise based on things that have little or nothing to do with what you are currently doing. Basing belief, decisions, or actions upon emotions sets you up for a roller coaster ride that may have little connection to the truth of reality. No matter how you feel at any given moment, God loves you and proved it in Jesus Christ paying the penalty of your sins. At no time will God change. The truth remains. The Holy Spirit is always with us and Jesus will never forsake us. If there is a problem in our prayers, they are on our side, for God is ever ready to listen to us. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit make intercession on our behalf even when we don’t know what to pray. God desires our best and knows what we need, even if it requires going through tough times. Having a renewed mind means that you press on past the difficulties and past the emotion to come to grips with the truth, and then in humble submission to our great God, you give yourself to Him to be used as He sees fit for His glory. That is why you were created. That is why you were saved from your sin. That is why you exist.
If you are reading this today and are unsure why you exist or where you would spend eternity, talk with someone you know, who is a committed follower of Christ, or write me and we would be happy to introduce you to our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, so that your life can also be transformed by Him.
If you are a believer, but you are struggling with controlling your thought life, apply this truth in your life personally and practically. It is time to set aside the wisdom of the world and be transformed into a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God through the renewing of your mind.
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.”