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Sunday, January 3, 2021

An Imperative Regarding The Negative And The Positive





This is the manuscript of the sermon delivered at Christ Church on January 3, rd the first Sunday of 2021. This is the first sermon in a three sermon series "Great Imperatives For Effective Living"

Even with all the struggle and uncertainty of 2020 let's us rejoice that we find ourselves in 2021 with all of its opportunities for ministry to others and service to our Lord. So that we might do a better job for our Lord, ourselves, and others, we are going to look at some of the important and crucial things found in the writings of the apostle Paul as he wrote to the churches that were so dear to his heart.

In his letter to the church in Rome Paul provides us with some crucial things with which to begin the new year. Our text requires us to give careful attention to the things that affect our lives both negatively and positively. 

Romans 12:2 NIV 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.

For an audio recording of the sermon click the YouTube link at the end of this manuscript.  

To see a video of the entire service click this link https://youtu.be/ifjUvcrlU7A


Scripture Reading:

Romans 12:1‭-‬2 NIV 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.


Text: 

Romans 12:2 NIV 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.

 

Introduction


Even with all the struggle and uncertainty of 2020 let's us rejoice that we find ourselves in 2021 with all of its opportunities for ministry to others and service to our Lord. So that we might do a better job for our Lord, ourselves, and others, we are going to look at some of the important and crucial things found in the writings of the apostle Paul as he wrote to the churches that were so dear to his heart.


On Wednesday mornings, in Bible Study, we have been studying Paul's letter to the church in Rome for a  number of weeks.  Paul’s great challenge to the church at Rome provides us with some crucial things with which to begin the new year. Our text requires us to give careful attention to the things that affect our lives both negatively and positively. 


The negative imperative in our text calls attention to a great danger we all face—the danger of being contaminated by the world and the toxic environment in which we live. 


The positive imperative calls upon us to experience a spiritual transformation that produces a radical change in our conduct in the midst of this toxic environment.  


I. In Romans 12:1 Paul issues a challenge to all disciples of the Lord Jesus, and that includes us, to present their bodies as a living sacrifice in service to God and others. 


"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."


The Phillips translation and paraphrase of the Bible says it like this;


“With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him.” 


Romans 12:1 is a pivotal verse in Paul's letter. The first eleven chapters of Romans are doctrinal, and that which follows, beginning at chapter 12, is very practical. The first portion of the book deals with our beliefs, and the balance of the book deals with the expression of those beliefs. 


II. An imperative regarding a great peril.


Our text,  Romans 12:2 says


Romans 12:2 NIV 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.


Here's the powerful way that Phillips translates this warning to not conform


“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.”


Remember now that we who are the redeemed children of God, we've been made new creatures in Christ Jesus. 


2 Corinthians 5:16‭-‬17 NIV So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!


Yes we're new creatures but we live in a world system that is under the dominion of the Satan


1 John 5:18‭-‬19 NIV We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.


The sinful world in which we live is not passive. Evil it is aggressive, and we must put forth effort to withstand and prevail against the squeezing, conforming power of the world system we live in.  We're in it not part of it so we have to put in the effort because God calls us to be different. We are to be dead to sin and alive to Christ.


Romans 6:4‭, NIV We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 


And then 

‬11‭-‬14 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.


Instead of responding affirmatively to temptations, we are to respond as dead persons, and that is no response at all.  We must not permit either our own old sinful nature or the world around us to dominate us. 


We are to conduct ourselves as beloved children of God, walking in the light rather than in darkness.


Let’s look at Ephesians 5:3‭-‬13 to see what walking in light rather than darkness looks like.


Ephesians 5:3‭-‬13 NIV But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.  For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.


Paul also told the Colossians to put some things to death and then put on some other things 


Colossians 3:5‭-‬10 NIV Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.


What is the new we are to put on:


Colossians 3:12‭-‬14 NIV Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.


III. Paul, in our text, puts great emphasis on being transformed by renewing our minds, which is an exciting possibility.


Romans 12:2 NIV 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.


The Greek word that Paul uses for word translated as transformed is metamorphosis.  We are familiar with this Greek word which means to change nature.  Like a caterpillar changing its nature and becoming a butterfly, or a tadpole  becoming a frog. 


Some insects and amphibians go through a metamorphosis and so can  Christian. 


Paul was urging his readers to experience a remarkable transformation that is possible by a renewal of the mind that comes when someone is born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings about a mental and spiritual transformation that is evident in a change in conduct and lifestyle.  It becomes evident through the fruit of the Spirit. 


Galatians 5:22‭-‬23 NIV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.


If you want to change your behavior, you first have to change your beliefs. If you want your conduct to become Christlike your thinking must become Christlike. For only by a revolutionary change in your thoughts can you experience a revolutionary change in your conduct. Repentance is in reality a call to a complete change in our thought patterns and decision-making processes with reference to God, to sin, to self, to material things, and to others.


Philippians 4:8 NIV 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.


Let's take a look at ourselves. How much change took place in our thinking about God, about ourselves, others, and stuff during the past year?


Paul challenged the Philippian Christians, and I challenge us today to have the mind of Christ.  What does that look like?


Philippians 2:5‭-‬8 NIV In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!


Only as we let the Holy Spirit change our thinking and cause us to think like Christ can we experience the transformation that needs to take place in our lives.

 

Conclusion


The glorious end result of refusing to be conformed to the world and of experiencing inward mental and spiritual transformation is to prove in our own experiences that the will of God is good and acceptable and perfect.


You can never really know that God’s will is best for you and for others until you make this complete commitment of yourself to God’s will as he reveals it to you. 


Romans 12:2 NIV 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.


Sermon Audio






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