Romans 12:1, 2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Pastor Tim Keller says Chapter 12: 1-2 are a summary of the whole of the Christian life! If someone asked you what is your motivation for Christian living? What would you say? When I was younger, my motivation was based on fear. Specifically, to avoid the fires of hell. In these two short verses, Paul explains the motivation for Christian living. It can be summed up in two words. “Therefore,” and “in view of God’s mercy."
What does he mean by “Therefore”? This is a summary of the preceding chapters, Romans 1 – 11. “Therefore” means, in one statement, we are justified by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. We have done nothing to earn our salvation. In fact we did everything to ‘un-earn’ our salvation. In spite of our rebellion and callous hearts, Jesus took upon his body the punishment of sin that we fully deserve. Jesus died the death that we fully deserve. Jesus dying on the cross is an act of undeserved grace. We did nothing, Jesus did everything! Because Jesus died for me, I am justified before God. The second word, “in view of God’s mercy,” essentially says the same thing. God had every right to condemn us because he is the righteous God. However, he had mercy by forgiving us through the atoning sacrifice of his son. This is truly good news! The true motivation of Christian life is how we respond to the good news! As with any good news, all we can do is respond with excitement, humility and thanksgiving! If you win the lottery, you will jump for joy! Last Wednesday the Chicago cubs won the World Series in a memorable Game 7. It was good news for the cubs’ fans and the city of Chicago. Many fans jumped for joy and cried. The joy of victory helped them forget their mundane existence, their pain and suffering. It was especially sweet after waiting 108 years for a championship. When we truly understand the gospel, then every day will feel like we won the World Series! Unlike the cubs’ victory, this eternal victory last a lifetime!
Practically, how can we live? ”Offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” Paul uses temple terminology here. The metaphor he uses is that of a worshiper at the temple who comes in with an offering. The burnt offering was always burnt totally and it represented complete consecration and devotion to God. Our lives are like a ‘thank you’ card to Jesus. Because God did not spare himself. Practically, it means to honor God in all areas of your life whether we are at school, work, in our public and private lives. We do this not because we have to, but because we want to.
But it is not easy to live as a living sacrifice. Look at verse 2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Paul understood the reality of Christian life. He knew the ‘patterns’ of this world would challenge and demolish a Christian’s conviction and resolution. The patterns of the world are often diametrically opposed to patterns of God’s word. There are so many deceiving ‘patterns’ of the world. There is one pattern that is popular called ‘YOLO-You only live once.’ In other words, enjoy life without constraints since death is the end! Paul tells us to recognize the deception and reject the pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that characterizes the world, and to embrace God’s will for all character and life. Once we do, we can confirm that God’s way is good, pleasing and perfect.
Which do you prefer God changing your mind or your circumstance? Usually, we want God to change our circumstances. We want God to take all our pain, problems all sorrow, sickness. God understands our pain, but most of all, God is far more interested in changing your mind than your circumstances. If you think about it, even if God changes your circumstances, there is no guarantee you might fall back into the trap of your circumstance. Nothing happens in your life until your mind is transformed. “Transform” is the Greek word ‘metamorpho.’ Transformation and renewal beings with our minds.
How do we not conform to the patterns of this world? How do we transform and renew our minds? We can make three important choices about our minds on a daily basis. Making these three choices initiates transformation and renewal: 1. Feed our mind 2. Free our mind 3. Focus our mind.
First, Feed our mind. There is a parable about a boy who had a dream about two wolves fighting to the death. Two wolves –one good and one bad. He doesn’t know who will win. So he asked a wise man who will win. The man said, “That’s easy, it is the one you feed.” What we feed our bodies is extremely important the longevity of our health. Process food, high fat and high fructose, junk food, and smoking things harm your health. Our minds need to be fed. Plus, our minds need proper nutrition to be healthy.
Jesus said in Matthew 4:4 “Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" On another occasion, he said Mark 14: 22, “While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is My body." The word of God and Jesus is the real 'soul' food. This soul food makes you healthy and alive!
When should we feed our minds? The answer is ALL the time. Nutritional studies show that there is an obesity epidemic in our nation. We should refrain from food that causes obesity. However, it is healthy to be ‘spiritually’ obese! The word is not like empty calories! Rather, it is full of spiritual nutrition. It gives us energy and strength! David fed his mind until it became spiritually obese! He couldn’t stop eating the word! Psalm 119:7 “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Psalm 119:147 " I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word." David is saying I start every morning with a healthy meal of 'spiritual breakfast' by crying to God and centering his hope on the word. A spiritual ‘obese’ mind is healthy mind!
David spent most of his life running for his life. He lived as a fugitive for many years. Saul wanted him dead. However, it was the word of the Lord that sustained him in such desperate circumstance. Psalm 119:95. "The wicked people have waited for me in order to destroy me, [yet] I want to understand your written instructions." If someone is trying to kill you, would you be thinking about the word of God? Probably not, you will be thinking about calling the police or bolting out the back door. In his desperate situation, David thought of God’s written instructions! Essentially, David was saying I don't care what is going on with my life, I keep my mind on the truth of God. I pray God may lead you to his Word in times of crisis.
In the Bible, there are approximately 7,000 promises in the Bible. If you want your mind renewed, you need to become a PROMISE person. All you need is just one promise, and it will change your life. Everything you need is found in HIS word. Through many difficult circumstances and difficult decision in my life, God has helped me to hold on to his promise. When I was suddenly laid off and my wife was pregnant with my first daughter, God gave me Matthew 6:33 to believe He will provide. When I was at a fork on the road with marriage, Proverbs 31:30 enabled me to make the right decision about my future. When was in graduate school and while working full-time, Hebrews 12:11 strengthened me. What promise are you holding on at this moment? I pray God may bless you with one promise in your heart!
Second, Free our mind. Renewal means your mind needs to be liberated, delivered, redeem from the old patterns of the world. There are many patterns of the world that captivate and deceive us. There is a saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Breaking old ways of thinking is extremely difficult. How did Paul describe it? 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Paul described it with war metaphors. The average circumference of the human head is about 21 inches. Within that area there is a great war happening moment by moment. There is a great battle between your ears!
How do you fight this mental battle? We take captive everything thought! “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought” Christian life is not like a walk in the park. It is spiritual warfare!! What is a stronghold? IT IS A LIE I BELIEVE! Strongholds come in philosophical, personal and spiritual lies. If you want to be healthy mentally, you have to learn to demolish strongholds! These strongholds are rooted in a lie. They are planted by Satan who is the father of lies (John 8:44).We can become prisoners of these lies. A philosophical stronghold can be value systems: Hedonism-All life is to have fun. Materialism-all that matters is making money and finding my value in material things. Secularism-All about me! I’m the center of the universe! A personal stronghold can be lies we hold about God and others. For example, God doesn't love me because of my past or I know better than God. I'm never going to forgive that person or I can never forgive myself. Something bad is going to happen to me because of my sins. A spiritual stronghold is holding on to the lie that you are a ‘good’ person and God should or better bless you. You might say, “I’m a better Christian because I go to church or attend prayer meeting.” A healthy mind is to be recognize these strongholds and demolish them!
How do fight this battle? We can’t ignore it or forget about it! We need to take them captive! Ack-molo-tizo…in Greek to capture or control. We make it obedient to Christ. Literally means to bring it into submission. Practically, how do you do that? To make it obedient to Christ means we can only replace a captive thought we another captivating thought. Thomas Chalmers said in his sermon called The Expulsive Power of the New Affection: “The best way to disengage an impure desire is to engage a pure one; the best way to expel the love of what is evil is to embrace the love of what is good instead. To be specific, we must replace the object of our sinful affection with an infinitely more worthy one-God himself…the expulsive power of our new affection weakens and even destroys the power of sin in our hearts.” Only the word of God or the knowledge of God that enables to demolish and destroy these strongholds. This is a serious battle that cannot be ignored. The battle of the mind will dictate how you will live, whether you live in freedom or captivity.
Third, Focus my mind. There is an old saying, “You become what you think about most of the time” Hebrews 12:3 "Think about Jesus" Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Brother Lawrence lived in tumultuous 17th century France. There was political strife and social unrest. In this difficult time, he practiced spiritual disciplines by focusing on Jesus. Brother Lawrence focused his mind to see God in everything such nature and mundane task. Winter and spring reminded him of the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ. Making pancakes for his brothers was an expression of the love of God! He said God was there in the kitchen as much as he was in the chapel. What happens when our thought world becomes centered in Christ? As the hymn says, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, the things of this world will grow strangely dim." The temptation and power of this world lose their grip when we are allured and seduced by the beauty of our savior. I pray you may see God in everything. His ‘fingerprint’ is evident in everyday life. You can see God’s glory in your biology and math class. You can learn spiritual lessons watching movies, watching baseball, and events in life. May God help us to live with the good news in our hearts. May we feed, free and focus our minds on Christ!