Conformed or Transformed
Sunday, May 24, 2015
1 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. 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.
3 For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20 "But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. NASB
Don't think the way the rest of the world thinks. Don't think like the flesh would have you think. You know, the way you think when you are not your best, when you are allowing the self to rule you instead of listening to the Spirit. We are loved by God. He saved us. We have come to believe this to be true. We no longer need to go looking for love in all the wrong places.
“I am loved, I am loved, I can risk loving you
For the One who knows me best loves me most.
I am loved, you are loved – won't you please take my hand?
We are free to love each other – we are loved.
You are loved, you are loved, you can risk loving, too,
For the One who knows you best loves you most.
I am loved, we are loved – Won't you please take our hand?
We are free to loved each other – we are loved.
Bill and Gloria Gaither
A living and holy sacrifice – we are to consider ourselves to be a sacrifice to God. We no longer belong to ourselves, we belong to God. We worship most truly, we worship in Spirit and in Truth, when we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. We must give up what we think is best for us and submit ourselves to the Lord. He has proven He loves us. Will we accept that love and begin loving Him and loving others? Not to earn their love for us, not to prove to them we are worthy of their love, but because we know that God loves us and loved us while we were at our worst, while we were His enemies.
Any time we live less than this, we are walking in the flesh and not in the Spirit. Any time we live less than this we are living as if the Word of God is not true. We are loving ourselves instead of offering ourselves as living sacrifices to God.
Here in the middle of chapter 12 of Romans, Paul moves from teaching us the truth to showing us how to live out the truth. What does it mean to trust God? How will we live differently now that we have come to believe that God loves us and that He is the Lord of our lives? How do we think now that we are committed to being transformed by the renewing of our minds?
It starts with this kind of commitment to God – offering ourselves as living sacrifices. It moves to how we think of ourselves, not too highly, but with sound judgment. Humility is not thinking yourself as at the bottom, but it is thinking rightly about yourself. God loves me. This puts me at the top doesn't it, but wait. He loves everyone this way. That brings me back to the real world and puts me on a level with everyone else. I am not better than anyone else, God loves them all. But I am also not worse than anyone else. He loves me. This is the value that has been given to us. If it were possible, God would give His life for me, for everyone. O, wait, He did give His life for us.
From this understanding of our great value, Paul moves us to consider that God gives each of us abilities to build up the body of Christ. He gives us gifts to use for His glory and for the good of all people. Gifts, like teaching and preaching, like giving liberally, leadership and others. Gifts we are to use to bring glory to God and good to others. We are not to exalt anyone above another, but are to recognize that we each have a part to play in the work of God in this world.
We are to do this work cheerfully, trusting God to reward us in His way. We are to see ourselves as equal with others and not below them. We are to see ourselves as God sees us, as precious gifts to the world to help Him in His work of showing them how much He loves them. No function that anyone performs in the church is to be seen as better or less than another.
Paul moves on to describe what our relationship to others will look like when we love them the way God has loved us. Look at verses 9 to 21 again:
“9 Let love be without hypocrisy.” What does that mean? It means we are to love in deeds as well as in words. It is easy to say, I love you. But sometimes it is a little harder to love genuinely... to love in our actions as well as in our words. Honestly love them. That does not mean you will like what they do, many times you will not. It is not about how you feel toward them. Loving without hyprocrisy means we treat them in a loving manner, even when they do not deserve it. Paul goes on...
“Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” Hate evil, especially in yourself. Hold on tightly to the decision to love others even when they do not deserve it. Remember, we did not deserve it, or do not deserve God's love, but He gives it any way.
10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” Trust God to meet your needs and follow Him as He leads you to places and circumstances where He will use you to meet the needs of others. Treat others the way you want to be treated. The golden rule is always a good standard to follow.
11 “not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;” Don't go at life half heartedly. Love one another like you really mean it. Put your whole self into it. This is how we offer ourselves as living sacrifices.
12 “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,” Sometimes we will have those opportunities at the same time, to rejoice in hope while we are persevering in tribulation. We know where our hope lies and while we are locked away in a prison we can rejoice with Paul and Silas who were singing and praising the Lord while in chains in a dark, cold dungeon. Rejoicing in hope, hope that will not disappoint, even when things here are not going so well, we are devoted to our ongoing conversation with God, who promised never to leave us or forsake us as we carry out His mission in the world.
13 “contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” When we are trusting God to meet our needs we will be able to joyfully share what God has given to us, we will share when we are blessed, we will share even when we do not feel we have enough, because we are trusting God to love us and meet our needs. We can share our time, our talents, our possessions, our food and even our homes with others. God will use us to love them and prove to them that God loves them.
And even our enemies: 14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not.” Paul says. I think perhaps, Paul has been talking to some of the saints who had the privilege of walking with Jesus when He taught those witnesses and heard Him say similar words. Our love is to extend even to those who persecute us.
15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” When we put off the old man an put on the new man; when we walk in the Spirit instead of walking in the flesh, we feel the pain of those who are crying and we are glad with our brother or sister who is rejoicing. We are not dwelling on what we want or need, but we are thinking of others and not just ourselves.
16 “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” Pride goes before a fall. The world's way of thinking leads to pride and haughtiness. God's way of thinking helps us to have a proper view of ourselves.
17 “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.” The world and the flesh would have to get even, to always be thinking of ways to balance the scales, to get our fair share. At the same time, the world knows this is not right and so Paul goes on and says:
“Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20 "But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head."
How many times have I heard this verse quoted out of context. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” They leave out the “says the Lord.” They do not even consider the idea of feeding their enemy or giving him a glass of cold water in the name of the Lord. The world wants their idea of justice and they will not leave room for the wrath of God. When we think like the world, we are living according to the flesh and not walking in the Spirit. God is the only Just judge, and it is not our place to usurp His authority.
And finally, at least for this chapter:
21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” NASB
Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus. This is God's way for us to live. Don't be conformed to the world. Don't think like everyone else thinks. Put off the old man and put on the new man. Don't think like you used to think.
The Proverbs say, (Prov 14:12) “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” NASB Just because an idea looks and feels right does not make it right. Look to God and ask Him to lead you by His Spirit. Trust Him to love you and to lead you.
We have a choice, we can go on thinking like the world thinks, but its end is death. Or we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds, give up living for self and begin living for God and others. The end of one is death. The end of the other is life and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Choose this day whom you will serve, said Joshua. And I ask you today, who are you serving? The gods of this world, or the One True God, the Creator and Sustain-er of all things, the God who loves you and sent His Son to die for you?
I invite you to change your way of thinking, to seek God's way and live.
Be transformed, not conformed.