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The Transformed Life – Romans 12

Stonebrook Community Church http://www.stonebrook.org

Romans 12a: The Transformed Life

In 1962, a young missionary named Joanne Shetler went to the Philippines to bring the gospel of Jesus to a remote tribe called the Balangaos. The Balangaos were a pagan and spiritually dark people.
They were head hunters. Not the kind in the U.S. who find new employees for businesses.
No, they were REAL head hunters. Killers.

The Balangaos were very religious. They had various gods who were routinely angry.
And when bad things would happen or OMENS would occur, it was because the gods were angry.
So the Balangaos would offer animal sacrifices.
There was constant fear and worry that the gods would hurt them.

So if their child was sick, they would kill a chicken to appease their gods.
If they saw a RAINBOW in the sky, this OMEN meant they needed to sacrifice a pig.
If they walked on ground that was the home of these angry spirits, they would offer up a water buffalo.

Because of such frequent sacrifices, the Balangao people were impoverished, for they spent much of their money on these animals.

Bizarre, isn’t it? Dark. All these sacrifices. Sounds very foreign to us.
Do you realize that the Bible calls on you and me to offer a sacrifice?
This is not some obscure passage buried in Leviticus.
No, this is in the NT.

But it’s a very different sacrifice. For different reasons. And to a different God.

Verse 1

Open your Bibles to Romans 12.
Verses 1 and 2 are some of the more well-known and well-loved verses in the Bible.
A favorite of many Christians over the centuries.
Let’s start with verse 1.
Romans 12:1 ESV “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.”

There’s that word: SACRIFICE. More on that in a minute.
This verse is a hinge, of sorts, and Paul is turning us on this hinge.
The first portion of Romans has a focus. (We have spent 28 Sundays so far on Romans.)
The second portion of Romans has a different focus.
But they are connected.
Verse 1 here is that connection point. The hinge.

At the risk of oversimplifying Romans, let me offer this:
By grace… God has given us life. (Romans 1-11)
By grace…..we give our lives back to God. (Romans 12-16)

And Romans 12:1 is sandwiched in between, tying this all together.
What is Paul saying here?

“In VIEW of the indescribable mercies that God has shown us by sending his Son to deliver us from his wrath….in VIEW of that….. now our only reasonable, rational act is to offer our bodies…our very lives…to him in worship.”
We cannot PAY God back.
We cannot earn what he gives by grace. Otherwise, grace is not grace.

By the compassion and kindness and mercy of God through his Son, he has saved us from eternal judgment. From hell.
We would be DEAD without God’s mercy.
That’s the message of Chapters 1-11.

So now in VERSE 1, Paul is telling us how we should respond to that.
Not with apathy.
Not with indifference.
Not with guilt.
Not to pay him back for what we owe.
How could you ever pay him enough? He sent his SON to redeem you. You could never pay enough.

No, our salvation is a GIFT. It is by GRACE.
And now we are to respond in WORSHIP. In adoration. In gratitude. In thanksgiving.
And how do we do this?
By offering up our lives to him as a….LIVING SACRIFICE.
You don’t offer up an animal.
You offer…YOU. Your life.
You don’t offer something DEAD. You offer yourself ALIVE.
You don’t offer yourself because you sinned and God is angry. You offer yourself because he loves you and has shown great mercy through the sacrifice of his own SON.

God has given you life. Now he asks you to give your new life back to him….in worship.
You come before him and offer up your life. “My life is yours now. I love you. I belong to you. Do with me now whatever you wish.”

When I repented of my sin and believed in the Lord Jesus as a 19-year old sophomore at Iowa State, I didn’t know much about Christianity.
But I did know this: That my life now belonged to Christ. I knew I couldn’t….and I didn’t want to…go back to my old way of living. My new life in Christ was a brand new life.

Paul here is saying that we are to offer our bodies to him, that is, our entire lives.
• Not merely some time or activities.
• Not our trinkets or our money.
• Not frantically going about our Christian activity, with a low-grade guilt that we’re not doing enough.
• It’s not scurrying busily about like Martha in John 11 who was upset at her sister Mary, who was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him.

We offer us. When we put us on the altar, we are offering our entire lives as WORSHIP.
And this sacrifice, Paul says, is HOLY. Pure. Sacred. And it is acceptable. The Lord gladly says, “I like it. I will take it. I am pleased.”

One author said this:
“It is not only what we can give that God demands; he demands the giver.” (Moo)
This is not a demand in the sense of an angry, selfish demanding like the DEMONS would demand of the Balangao people.
But God is commanding us. He is not offering a suggestion.
He is commanding us. He is our LORD.
But is his command based on some angry threat? NO!!!! His command, his appeal, his urging is founded upon his mercy and grace and kindness.
He says, “Walk with me. I have loved you. I have shown you mercy. I gave you life. I adopted you as my son. My daughter. Now walk with me.”
He wants us because he loves us.
If you want one verse to guide the rest of your life, verse 1 would serve you well.
If you want one verse to give clarity on God’s will for your life, verse 1 is a good one.

Verse 2

Verse 2 is married to verse 1.
Romans 12:2 ESV “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.”

Paul knows well that we are saved. We have been justified by faith. Never again are we under condemnation.
He also knows that we don’t always LIVE like who we ARE in Christ and who we will BE in eternity.
We still falter at times. We don’t always walk like Jesus.
So he tells us, “Don’t be conformed to this world. Instead, be transformed.”

What does it mean to be conformed to the world?
One author paraphrased it:
“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.”
I like that. The world has all kinds of philosophies and values and moral views, and they typically don’t line up with God’s.
The easy way…..the natural way….is to conform to the world’s ways.
Paul says, “No, don’t go that direction!” “Instead, be transformed.” The Greek word for transformed is like our word, metamorphis. Like a caterpillar radically changing into a butterfly. A radical transformation.

How are we transformed?? By the renewing of our minds.
Renewing means a remodeling. Reconstruction. Like a Total Home Makeover. And we REMODEL our minds. Our reasoning. The way we think. This is not overnight; it is a lifetime of effort. More and more we want to line up our way of thinking with God’s.

Contrast a renewed mind with our minds before knowing Christ.
Romans 1:28 ESV “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”
A debased mind. Depraved. Inappropriate, wrong thinking.
We all tend towards that. But when the Lord saves us, he begins a transformative work in our hearts and minds. This work is both an event and a process.
“The reclamation of my heart is both an event (justification) and a process (sanctification).” (Paul Tripp)

I vividly remember my early years as a Christian. One of my passions was to know and understand this Book, the Bible. And to live by it. But I found myself having trouble holding on to it. My mind would wander. My emotions were up and down.
Perhaps you would say I wasn’t the most stable person in the world emotionally.
I was prone to anxiety. Worry. Even PANIC, at time. About school. Money. Health.

But through the example of many of the Christians in this church, especially my roommate Stu, I learned to read the Bible a lot. And to memorize Scriptures. I memorized hundreds and hundreds of verses. My goal wasn’t simply to know a lot. I wanted to have a renewed mind.

And I would go out on long prayer walks. Worshiping. Thanking God. Asking him for help. Time after time, I found that the Spirit would flood my mind with Scriptures as I was praying. Truth came in. The lies went out.

I was being transformed by the renewing of my mind. Those early years were highly formative, to help me grow up in Christ.
And I’m still growing.

Then Paul says the outcome is, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God. You will know God’s will. “What is God’s will?” Isn’t that one of our most common questions??

So how will we discover God’s will? Paul says, “Don’t be conformed to the world’s ways. Instead let God transform you from the inside out by renewing your mind.” Do this, and God’s will for your life will become clearer.

Action steps for vs. 1-2:

Let me give you 2 action steps for vs. 1-2.

Know his mercies.
Read and study and review Romans 1-11
Ch. 1 His fierce wrath that hung over your head
Ch. 3 The justification, redemption, and propitiation of Christ. Made right with God.
Ch. 5 At peace with God through Jesus.
Ch. 6 Liberated from the bondage of sin and death. Free!!!
Ch. 8 No condemnation. Been given the Holy Spirit. Adopt by God as his children. He works all things for good. Nothing can separate us from his love

We may know these things now. But each year we can and will go deeper in our grasp of them. And our amazement over them. Know his mercies. And be amazed. Marvel.

Make these 2 verses your prayer.
Start tomorrow morning. The first thing in the morning.
I pray something like this many mornings. I don’t always remember to start my day like this, but it’s my goal.

Pray, “Lord, in view of all you have done for me— your mercy and grace and kindness— my life is yours today….and for the rest of my life. I yield myself to you today.

My time is yours.
My family is yours.
My money
My heart.
My hands are yours.
My mouth is yours.
My Thoughts.
My car.
My toys.
My ambitions.
My dreams.

“I don’t want to conform to the world’s ways.
“I want to be transformed by your Spirit and your Word through the renewal of my mind.
“Shape my thinking to be like yours.”

Commit each day to the Lord like this.
This is WORSHIP. This is how you will discover God’s will.

If you want a passage to guide your life, Romans 12:1-2 is an excellent choice.
My life verse has a similar flavor to this and it guides me. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.
Memorize these verses.
Tattoo your life verses on your arm, like I did!!!
[You 14-year olds, don’t nag your parents about getting a tattoo now. If you nag them, they will have to tell you how old I was before I got a tattoo. You won’t like their answer. ]
Make these 2 verses your passion for the rest of your life.

Romans 12:3-15:13

Now for the rest of the letter, Paul gets very specific.
He offers specific ways that you and I can offer our lives to him as living sacrifices.
Very specific ways that we can worship him.

We will see today and in the coming weeks what those specifics are.
For example:
• Why we shouldn’t take personal vengeance on someone who hurts us.
• How to show honor and respect to governing authorities.
• How love is supreme.
• How to stay united with fellow Christians when you have different views on what is spiritual and what is not.

Verse 3-5

Today, we will start with verses 3-5.
Romans 12:3-5 ESV “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, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

Here in verse 3, Paul warns us against arrogance concerning our spiritual gifts.

If you are a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit has given you a spiritual gift.
An ability empowered by the Spirit to help the people of God. The Body of Christ.

We all want to be needed. Useful. You are one part of the body. An important part. A necessary part.

At the same time, you need the rest of the body. You need others, and others need you. There is interdependence, not independence.
The body is characterized by both unity and diversity.

I find it interesting that in 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul also talks about gifts, he addresses two groups of us:
1. Those who want to BOAST in their gifts. “Look at me. I am so important. I’m better than others. I am God’s gift to this world.”
2. Those who think TOO LITTLE about their gifts. “Oh, I am nothing. I have nothing important. Others have all the good things. I am worthless.”
So in that letter to the Corinthians Paul addresses both.
But here in Romans, he focuses only on those who are tempted to BOAST.
He says, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Don’t get a FAT HEAD. Be sober minded about this. Remember….it’s by GRACE. God has given you a GIFT. Not a WAGE.”
Why would you boast in something that was given to you as a gift.
You didn’t get it because you’re more special than your friend sitting next to you.
You didn’t get it because you’re inherently more righteous than your friend.

God has given you a gift. But….You are not God’s gift to this world.
God’s gift to this world is his Son, Jesus. You do not qualify.

Verse 6-8

Now vs. 6 he tells us some of those gifts.
Romans 12:6–8 ESV “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 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.”

Paul lists 7 gifts. This is not giving an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 have some different gifts listed. And it’s possible that the NT in its entirely doesn’t list all gifts of the Spirit.
• Prophesying
There are many opinions as to what precisely this gift is, and even if it is active today.
I will say this: I do not believe that this gift, if active today, is in the sense of getting inspired, divine revelation.
The Canon of Scripture is complete.

These other 6 seem easier to understand.
• Serving
• Teaching
• Exhorting (encouraging)
• Giving
• Leading
• Showing mercy.

Let me give you a few brief points to consider.
First,
Know what our gifts are
For some of us, our gifts are very obvious. We know it. Others know it.
For others of us, we’re not so sure.

And as the years go on, it’s possible the Holy Spirit gives us other gifts.

How do we know what our gifts are?
There are assessments. Surveys. These can be helpful.
One very good way to know is simply to SERVE. Serve the people of God in all kinds of ways. Eventually, it will become obvious how you will contribute to the Body of Christ.
Another good way to discover your gift is to counsel with wise, spiritually mature friends in the church. Basically we learn our affect in community.
Ask them: “What am I good at? What do you think my gifts are? How do you see me being effective at helping my fellow Christians?”
Then if you are humble enough, ask this: “How can I be more effective? How can I grow?”
By the way, I am less concerned about having a specific name or label to our gift (although that is still useful).
The greater point is understanding how you can best serve.
Don’t stress if you’re not sure how you fit in. Be patient. Simply pray that the Lord will use you to strengthen God’s people.

Use your gifts
Go do something. Find ways to help the people of God.
There is extraordinary variety to this.
• Serving. Yesterday we had a very unique event with making weighted blankets. Well, the needs there were varied. And many servants were needed to set up, to sew, to cut, to clean up.
• Teaching. It might be public like I am doing now. But we also teach in smaller settings, even one-on-one to our own children and in Sunday school.
• Giving. You have a passion to EARN more money, to SPEND less money, and to GIVE away as much as you can. To help people in need. To show love.
• Showing mercy. You are a compassionate person, and the Spirit leads you to weep with people, to care for them in their pain.

NOTE: We should all have a willingness to serve in any capacity. That is the heart of a servant. I shouldn’t too quickly say “NO” to an opportunity because it’s not my best area. I’m willing to help wherever is needed.
YET….yet at the same time, I want to ensure my gifts are being put to use. In fact, Romans 12 here MANDATES that I do that.
The Holy Spirit has given me a gift. I should not store it away in a DRAWER and not use it.

Pray for power and love
We should never try to employ our gifts in mere human strength.
We want and need the power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s not simply about some TASK getting done. It’s about God in his POWER working through you.
We MUST walk by faith to walk in power
I could be the best public speaker in the world, but if I don’t walk by faith and ask God to fill me with his Spirit, my ability is WORTHLESS.
I could be serving my tail off, but if God’s Spirit is not working through me, the impact of my task is quite small.
Since our goal in our gift is to strengthen the BODY of Christ, ultimately helping people is God’s work. He WANTS to strengthen us as we strive to strengthen others.

And also pray for love.
We must employ our gifts with a heart to love God and love people.
If I’m acting in love, the Lord is pleased and the Body of Christ will be built up.
But I LACK love, Paul says my gift is essentially worthless.
1 Corinthians 13, the great chapter on love…..Do you know how he begins?? He says, “If I speak in tongues and can speak with prophetic ability, and if I understand the great things of God, and if I have a faith that can move mountains…..but if I don’t have LOVE in my heart, then it’s worthless. Worthless. Pointless. There is no profit.”

So if I teach without LOVE…I am angry…impatient…. I should shut up on the spot. I should stop talking….take a timeout…walk into the room behind the stage….spend some time repenting and praying, “Lord, help me to love others like you love me.”
If I am serving someone but without a genuine care, and am actually bitter towards them, I should stop.
If I am leading, but I am PROUD and RUDE, I should take a back seat.
If I am administering an act of mercy, but I’m actually annoyed and irritated at the person, take a time out. Stop, Repent, and start over.

Pray for God’s power and love to course through our veins.
Conclusion

I urge you therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your body…your Life…Your time…your spiritual gifts…your ambitions….Offer them to God. This is TRUE worship.

In view of his mercy….and by his grace….we do this.

Romans 5:1 ESV “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 5:8 ESV “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 6:23 ESV “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:1 ESV “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:37 ESV “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

In view of this indescribable mercy, we WORSHIP the Lord in the truest and purest way by offer our lives back to him. It’s a beautiful offering to the Lord.
He takes whatever we give him….even though has flaws in it….even though it’s not done perfectly…even though someone else might do it better than I do it….He is honored and pleased by our act of FAITH and LOVE.