I’ve been reading Romans 12. Today I listened to another awesome sermon by Pastor John Piper on the first verse in Romans 12.
I love the way that Pastor Piper pointed out the connection between Romans 1-11 and Romans 11-16. The first part of Romans is foundational meaty Christian doctrine and the second part is worship- my heart’s response to God’s truth, by the Holy Spirit, that manifests in my actions. I am amazed when I read in Romans 12 about the counter-intuitive and counter-cultural ways that God calls me to present my body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him, as my spiritual worship. These ways do not make sense to me. If I were left to my own to determine what would be "holy and acceptable" as sacrificial acts of worship to Almighty God, I would likely think of grand, lofty, prestigious, notable things- the type of things that would look impressive on a sort of “heavenly resume”. This thinking is worldly! Sadly, I do not even need to look to the world to find this kind of thinking- it is the default mode of my own heart, it is my own flesh. God doesn’t need my grand lofty deeds, and they certainly will not earn what God gives me freely by grace! Indeed, my effort to earn from God is like spitting at the very grace for which He alone paid every bit of the costly price.
God cares more about our hearts than the magnitude of our accomplishments in our sacrificial acts of worship. Here are some Scriptures that illustrate this:
Psalm 50:8- 15 “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds.For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. ‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."
Psalm 51:15 “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Hosea 6:6 “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Not only does God care about our hearts in worship, the heart He desires from us is radically different than what the world values or what comes naturally to me. Perhaps that is why verse 1 is followed by verse 2, which tells us not to be conformed to this world. In other words, I am not to be conformed to the egotistical worldly “resume” thinking that comes so naturally to me. As Romans 12 illustrates, the heart to which God calls me involves:
· Not thinking of myself more highly than I ought (If I have a gifting, big deal! Any gift I have is given by the grace of God to be used humbly for the benefit of the body)
· Having genuine sincere love (rather than lip-service or contrived actions…meaning the all my service needs to come from a SINCERE heart of love!)
· Rejecting evil and clinging to good (rather than compromising in these, even when not compromising comes at a cost)
· Loving my brother with affection (sincere affection)
· Outdoing others in showing honor to them (rather than seeking honor for myself)
· Serving God with zeal and fervor (not with dullness and out of mere duty)
· Rejoicing in hope (my joy is not supposed to be circumstantial!), being patient in tribulation (So hard! This is especially true in my heart that wants instant gratification), and praying constantly (instead of worrying or wallowing as my heart so quickly does)
· Contributing to the needs of believers and show hospitality (at a sacrifice to myself and my comfort)
· Blessing those who persecute me (not even just tolerating, actively blessing!)
· Rejoicing with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (even when the joy or sorrow is not mine and even when I may be experiencing my own joy and sorrow at opposite ends of someone else’s sorrow and joy. This is inconvenient.)
· Hanging out with/loving/investing in people the world calls “nobodies” (i.e. those of us who may not be cool or popular or rich or beautiful or charismatic or easy to love. We are to love lavishly without expectation of gain to ourselves.)
· Recognizing my dependence on God for wisdom (acknowledging that my “worldly wisdom” may have the appearance of the real thing, but in reality is no wisdom at all)
· Seeking to be honorable even when others are not honorable toward me
· Seeking to live peaceably (rather than fighting for my rights… going to lengths to seek reconciliation when possible)
· Leaving justice to God when I am acted upon unjustly (so hard for a lawyer!:)
· Lavishly loving those who hurt me and giving grace and mercy to them as God has done for me (stop focusing on my hurt and instead actively seek out ways to love and bless those who hurt me)
Because these things are not natural to me, the only way I can serve in worship sincerely from this kind of heart is by the power of the Holy Spirit! Fortunately, our Loving Father loves to answer the prayers of His children when they ask for help from the Holy Spirit!
Luke 11: 11-13 “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
The Holy Spirit empowers us and transforms us so that we can increasingly submit our bodies as a living sacrifice in these radical ways with sincerity from a transformed heart. I pray for this! I pray that the Spirit would give me discernment to know what Scripture means by "holy and acceptable to God" by knowing the difference between worldly/ fleshly thinking and Biblical thinking. I pray that the Spirit would give me sincere love for God and for those around me- especially for those for whom I find it difficult to love. I thank God for His grace, without which I would be overwhelmed with despair in all of this!
Romans 12: 1-21 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Marks of the True Christian
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Weekend A La Carte (November 18) - I am in (on?) Rhode Island today, speaking at a little church-based conference here. If you are in the area, feel free to drop by Perryville Bible Church a...
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