Romans 12:1-2, “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.”
As we enter chapter 12 the point is, “what are the practical implications of 1-11?” It is the start of a five chapter section on how we can put what Paul has said into action. In the first section of the book we learn that we all have sinned, but through faith we have received justification. This gift of justification should motivate us to faithful service.
Paul begins 12:1 by saying “I urge,” which is the powerful petition verb (parakaleo). It is always used by Paul to indicate a significant point.
Here it represents a transition from the doctrinal discussion to the practical. It also represents a key thought, that we must present ourselves to God as a “living sacrifice.” This is in contrast to the dead sacrifices of the Old Testament (slaying of innocent animals that wasn’t enough).
We must give to God while we are young, alive, and capable of service.
We must present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice that is Holy and acceptable. Holy means we are free from moral filth. Holy means that we are devoted to serving God. Holy means that we are an instrument of righteousness.
Then we come to verse 2 where Paul says, “Do not be conformed.” As Christians that are wanting to build our character we cannot let the world be our standard when it comes to:
Our morals (the way we act)
Philosophy (the way we think)
In context the way we dress and the way we worship.
Rather than being conformed to the world, we must “renew our minds.”
In intellect (change the way we reason, and think about things)
In emotion (Renew our state of mind, the way we respond to different circumstances)
In will power (have the strength to restrain our human impulses)
Have we found ourselves living without righteous thinking? We must renew our minds. When our gym membership runs out, we renew it. When our car insurance policy period is over, we renew it. When our thinking isn’t in line with God’s, we renew our minds.
Why do we sacrifice, and renew our minds? To prove/discern:
What the good will of God is
What the acceptable will of God is
What the perfect will of God is
And by discerning these things, we can be known as Christians who think righteously.
How do you get along with people you don’t have anything in common with?
I read an article on this very topic. It was a parenting article that was geared towards helping parents build a relationship with their kids. Honestly it was useless. Bottom line was “just love and accept them and show them you are willing and open to change.” This article teaches what most of the world is pushing for– “love and acceptance.”
If you don’t morally agree with someone, do you just accept what they do? If you have nothing in common with them, do you just pick up some of their hobbies? These questions are important for the Christian to answer because our lives should be based on building relationships: Relationships in the world (so that we can hopefully save souls) and relationships in the church (so that we can have unity and growth).
It’s no secret that the world is different from those in the church. They act differently, they think differently, and they speak differently. The world at its core is driven by sin and selfishness. The Christian is driven by a fear and love for God and His word. Our motivation is different, and our view of sin is different. No one in the church or even in the world, if they are honest, will argue that we are the same. With that in mind, we need to ask a very important question. How should a Christian Interact with the world? There are two extremes that we should avoid: Acting like everything is fine and treating everyone as a friend. And acting as if we are holier than the world and wanting nothing to do with them.
The Christian life is balanced. We need to find the perfect balance between loving the world, but also having a clear set of morals that keeps us from joining them in sin. At its core, all of mankind has a sin problem, and God loves every person and wants us to be saved. So how should we interact with the world? God in His wisdom knew that we would struggle with this problem, so through His inspired Word, He tells us how we are to act. In Romans 12, Paul begins a section dedicated to the Christian and their relationships. In Romans 12:17-13:14, Paul talks about our relationship with the world.
When it comes to our relationships and interactions in the world, Paul gives us five tips to help us in this task:
Don’t Treat Them the Way They Treat You (v. 17)
“Repay no one evil for evil,”
Be Respectful (v. 17)
“but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”
Seek Peace When Possible (v. 18)
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”
Don’t Take Revenge (v. 19)
“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.’”
Overcome Evil With Good (20-21)
“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.”
The danger we face as Christians is that we can let the world rub off on us. In trying to get along with the world, we may become like the world. But keep in mind, God doesn’t accept the world as they are; there must be repentance and change. In our interactions we need to remember Who we are trying to please. And be cautious so as to not become like those we are trying to save.
The Bible is filled with so many helpful verses on daily living. Many of us can find it difficult at times to work with people, especially if we’re having a stressful day. Here are eleven practical passages that will help us in our interactions with others this week.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1)
The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21)
Be gentle and show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:2)
Do good to everyone (Gal. 6:10)
Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31)
Discern your own thoughts, identify your intentions (Heb. 4:12)
Treat others like you would treat Jesus. How would you interact with Him? (Matthew 25:40)
Season your speech with grace. It’s the Savior’s All-Spice for every relationship-building goal (Col. 4:5-6)
Praise God and be joyful, it attracts people (Psalm 100:1-5)
Be ready for every good work, speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, be gentle, show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:1-15)
One thing you might notice about these scriptures is how many of them deal with our speech. According to the book of James, the tongue is incredibly difficult to tame. Reading these verses, it becomes clear that there are several advantages of placing the bridle over our lips.
When I get discouraged, I read a few specific verses. They will hopefully encourage you, too!
Philippians 3.20f: But we are citizens of heaven, where the lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
Romans 8.1-4: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death…God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. In that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
I Corinthians 15.51-53: But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
II Corinthians 4.16ff: That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
II Corinthians 5.1-4: For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.
A researcher at the Royal Society of Medicine in the UK published a paper called “The Spoilt Generation.” He ties the alarming rates of child depression, teenage pregnancy, obesity, violent crimes by adolescents, and more to a basic lack of respect for authority (Daily Mail). The Cato Institute published a study simply entitled, “Respect For Authority.” One of its most basic findings is that the public believes social instability follows disrespect for authority (Cato).
What do you think? Have you noticed a decline of respect in society for parents, teachers,the police, employers, and others in a position of authority? Most of us would agree it’s happening, and that it is not good. Peter warns about it in the most sobering of terms, speaking of the unrighteous who face eternal punishment as those who, in part, “despise authority (2 Pt 2:10). Jude offers a very similar warning, describing those who turn God’sgrace into permission to do whatever they please (4), and this includes their “rejecting authority” (8). So why do we often have a problem with authority?
We have a problem with rebelliousness. Saul, the earthly king, had a problem with rebellion (1 Sam. 15:23). Paul writes Timothy, discussing why the Law of Moses existed. It was for unrighteous people, and at the top of that list were the lawless and rebellious (1 Tim. 1:9). Rebellion is insubordination. It characterized the period of the Judges, when everyone did what they thought was right to them (17:6; 21:25). As we look at crime in our current society, we see the fruit of rebellion. CNN reports a 33% increase in homicides in major U.S. cities from 2019 to 2020, and now it is up another 24% since the beginning of 2021 (CNN). Yet, cities like Baltimore no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, and other low-level offenses. In California, shoplifting has in some places ceased to have any legal ramifications. How many looters in major U.S. cities have never served a day in jail or paid a penny in fines? Romans 13 clearly condemns this. Paul says “whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (2). Most of us would condemn this nationally, but do we struggle with rebellion against authority closer to home? Do we struggle with it against employers, elders, and parents? Rebelliousness can be milder than murder and more limited than against government. Do we only submit if we accept what they lead us to do? Do we maintain meekness and gentleness only if we agree with them? Rebellion is not the mark of a disciple of Christ; such have a different master.
We have a problem with respect. Paul says, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Th. 5:12-13). Esteem, as a verb, is found 28 times and means to think, consider, or regard. Paul is telling the church how to regard their leaders (“very highly in love”) and why (“because of their work”). Interestingly, the noun form of this verbs is often tied to various types of leadership–“Ruler” (Mt. 2:6), “leader” (Lk. 22:26), “governor” (Acts 7:10), “chief” (Acts 14:12) and “leading men” (Acts 15:22). But in 1 Thessalonians 5:13, it is a verb and means to engage in the intellectual process of thinking of them with the highest respect. The word “esteem” deals with our character generally and not just how we treat elders and any other leaders. Philippians 2:3 says, “With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” But Peter speaks of some who “count it a pleasure to revel in doing wrong” (2 Pet. 2:13). Respect is a matter of how you set your mind. If we don’t have it in our hearts to respect those in authority, it can’t help but show in the way we speak to them or about them. Our children learn how to treat authority figures by watching and listening to us. What are we teaching them?
We have a problem with our religion. “Religion” is only found four times in the New Testament. It means appropriate beliefs and the devout practice of our obligations (Louw-Nida, 530). How do we properly express our religion? It is not just about worshipping the way God commands. That’s a vital part, but only one way. Paul tells us what his pre-Christian religion looked like (Acts 26:5). He tells us about the false religion of some, ruled by their fleshly minds (Col. 2:18). James uses the word “religion” twice, in James 1:26-27. He teaches that pure, untainted religion is proven or disproven by your thoughts, words, and deeds. When I show disdain toward those in authority in or out of the church context, I’m telling everyone who witnesses it about my religion. I am making an impression on them that will either lead them closer to God or farther away from Him. Whatever I tell them about the one(s) in authority, I am telling them far more about me. If they follow my lead, will they stumble (cf. Lk. 17:1-2)?
Our problem with authority is ultimately a problem with God. When Paul tells Rome that those who resist authority oppose God’s will, he was talking about a government ruled by wicked Caesars who murdered Christians. When I disapprove of or disagree with those in positions of authority, in the nation, church, workplace or home, I must respond how God says respond. I must leave the rest to Him.
The folks at Merriam-Webster define “common courtesy” as “politeness that people can usually be expected to show.” 1 One notes that courtesy doesn’t seem as ordinary as it once was, at least in the West. In the more collectivist societies of the East, people prize social harmony more than individualism. When you have millions of people packed into a metropolis, I suppose such a mindset is essential for survival. However, it translates into an attitude that suggests that I take great care not to upset or inconvenience the people around me.
I got to thinking about common courtesy as I was driving along a stretch of U.S. 129/U.S. 19 in the northeast Georgia mountains. Since slower traffic is expected, especially during tourist season, planners provided periodic passing lanes to allow for those conducting everyday business to pass the leaf-gawkers. For the spaces in between, these planners likewise added pull-offs for slower vehicles to pull off and let the faster traffic get by. Most of the time, this traffic arrangement works out nicely. However, you do encounter the occasional driver who lacks the aforementioned common courtesy, as I did when recently getting stuck behind a truck pulling a horse trailer hauling several horses.
As Christians, we are to extend courtesy as a matter of faith. Paul tells us that we are to esteem others before self and be as mindful of them as ourselves (Philippians 2.3-4). As lovely as that is when taking an earthly journey, we see how the mindset also benefits the heavenly journey. No, I am not saying that the act of utilizing a pull-off will win a lost soul to Christ. What I am suggesting, though, is that people take notice of how we conduct ourselves. As Edgar Guest famously stated, people desire sermons they can see. Since a courteous person is already mindful of others, it is but an extra step for him or her to adopt a servant’s heart. Note that following his admonition to esteem others first, Paul transitions to telling us about needing the servant-mind of Christ (Philippians 2.5-8).
With whom are you more likely to strike up a conversation? A rude person or a courteous one? Through the extension of common courtesy, you make yourself more amiable to others. And since common courtesy is no longer so common, you stand a better chance of making yourself stand out in a crowd. So, go the extra mile (cf. Matthew 5.38-42). Develop habits contributing to becoming more courteous and foster the heart of a servant within you.
We don’t know that much about the life of Christ between the ages of twelve and thirty, but many of us have this image of Jesus in our minds doing the work of a carpenter with His father, Joseph.
One Hebrew scholar, by the name of James Fleming, makes the argument the word “carpenter” in Mark 6:4 and Matthew 13:56, could actually be a bad translation of the Greek word “Tekton.” Fleming points out that the homes in Nazareth were largely made of Stone, not wood. We also know that the Herod at the time, Antipas, spent a great deal of energy making the city of Sepphoris (Zippori) his “Jewel of Galilee” by giving it a total makeover. This developing city was located only three miles away from the hometown of our Lord.
There was a rock quarry half way between Nazareth and Sepphoris where Jospeh, and perhaps Jesus, could have spent their time cutting stones for the Herod’s great project. An undertaking of this size would have likely employed all the surrounding builders, including those in Nazareth. Of course, Jospeh and Jesus working as stonemasons is pure speculation.
Scripture doesn’t give us a detailed account of Jesus’ childhood, but Luke 2:52 tells us that He, “…grew in favor with God and men.” This passage indicates that Jesus was well liked by those who knew Him growing up, but when you compare this verse with Matthew 13:57, that “favor with man” isn’t there anymore. Matthew records, “And they took offense at Him.”
In both Matthew and Marks account of Jesus’ returning to His hometown, the locals ask the question, “Is this not the son of a carpenter?” After Christ is questioned, He doesn’t perform any great miracle for all to see, but He heals a few of their sick. He doesn’t try to argue with them, but He goes through the town teaching. The gospels don’t tell us exactly what He was teaching, but there’s a simple lesson here for all of us.
Don’t be a carpenter.
Jesus lost favor with many when He broke out of their social mold and when He did things they weren’t accepting of. People no longer liked Him when He also began teaching things they weren’t used to hearing. The identity of Jesus was not wrapped up in the job He was trained to do, He was and is much more than that. If you’re a follower of Christ, your identity is not your profession.
Jesus is not the son of a carpenter, He’s the Son of God. He’s given us a new identity, and we should never cheapen who we are by seeing ourselves as doctors, engineers, truck drivers, preachers, teachers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. We’re Christians.
Even when He lost some positive popularity, Jesus looked for those who were willing to be healed and willing to hear. This is exactly what should be filling our time as well. Who do you know that needs to be spiritually healed by Jesus? Who do you know that needs to hear the wonderful soul-saving truth about the real Identity of Jesus?
Once I preferred laptops, but since the advent of Android and Apple tablets, I migrated back to the desktop PC. When attempting to accomplish work, there is something to be said for sitting at a dedicated workspace to help productivity. Even so, I usually choose desktop wallpaper to reflect my interests from the religious to whimsical. My capricious nature typically ensures that wallpaper is changed frequently.
One day after having selected an artist’s rendering of the Christ wearing a crown of thorns for my wallpaper, I noted how I had allowed the desktop of my PC to become cluttered with icons and files. Though they made finding things more manageable, they obscured the image I had chosen for my inspiration. I had to do some cleaning so that I could once again see Christ!
Spiritually, I feel as if we sometimes equally “mask” the presence of the Christ in our lives. It is not our intention to do so, of course. We are just going about our regular business. Yet, there comes the point in out lives in which we begin doing what we feel is most convenient, despite what this “convenience” does to the presence of the Christ in our lies. Soon, others are unable to readily see the Christ in our lives since He has become obscured by our ephemera. If this persists, others will be unable to see Him at all.
When this happens, it is time to clean up or bring order to the chaos. One needs to put things in their proper place so that the image of Christ becomes accentuated rather than obscured (cf. Matthew 6.33). It may take a bit of work, but the effort is worth more than anything else in this world because of its eternal implications.
Dear reader, are others able to see the Christ in your life? If not, perhaps it is time for spiritual cleansing. The only thing equal to the task, great or small, is the blood of Jesus Christ. For the one having never clothed him or herself in Christ (Galatians 3.27), baptism brings about the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2.38). For the immersed believer, the blood of Christ continuously cleanses us as we walk in fellowship with Him and fellow Christians (1 John 1.7).
Check your image in the spiritual mirror (James 1.22-25). If you cannot see the Christ, rest assured others cannot see Him either. Let us always strive so others can see the Christ in us.
It’s something they never tell you in the romantic movie. The ending of the storyline so full of twists and turns, where he and she might not have ended up together but seemed destined to be together, is so happy and perfect. Both are all smiles, with stars in their eyes, when we see “The End” and the credits roll.
They never tell you what happens after the fairy tale wedding or the long-awaited kiss. He refuses to ask directions as they fade into the sunset. They argue over where to eat that romantic dinner. He speaks without thinking and says something thoughtless, followed by tense silence.
I am not critiquing one of the sacrosanct principles of romantic movies and books. Happy endings can be a great escape from reality and a feel good experience. Yet, when we hold it up as the unqualified expectation for our own lives, we set ourselves up for trouble. Social media is rife with posts and pictures which can perpetuate the fiction that the people we friend and follow are constantly living out “happily ever after.” Life is always grand, and success and satisfaction is the constant.
Don’t misunderstand. So much of what we experience in life is shaped by attitude. Being positive can help us negotiate those hairpin curves in the road of life. But, coping through positivity is different from allowing disappointment to make us disenchanted with failing to meet the unrealistic expectation that every problem and adversity can be wrapped up into a pretty, neat package with a frilly bow on top.
It’s quite the balancing act, isn’t it? Scripture teaches to think on healthy, beneficial things come what may (Phil. 4:8). Or, as Solomon puts it, “All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Prov. 15:15). Yet, Job (14:1) and Solomon (Ecc. 2:23) do not sugarcoat the reality that life is often painful, grievous, and full of trouble both day and night.
May I offer some encouragement?
To the newlyweds, neither of you is perfect and there is no way you can always agree and get along without mutual compromise and effort. You will have so many great days, but there will be some mountains to climb and valleys you must pass through. No couple out there is breezing through married life. Turning to one another (and God) rather than on one another when marriage is hard will forge your bond come what may (1 Pet. 3:7).
To the new parents, though that baby looks perfect and angelic, he or she will introduce demands, needs, concerns, and challenges you never knew existed before. Each developmental stage will be accompanied by incredible highs and lows. As you look into the faces of your children, you will be looking at eternity and knowing the weight of your decisions and leadership. But, savor those little ordinary moments. You are placing puzzle pieces that will one day become your children’s picture of their childhood. How you handled the hard times will be at least as important as how you handled the fun times (Prov. 22:6).
To the new Christian, it is right for you to relish the feeling of relief and joy over being forgiven and cleansed from sins. The burden of guilt has been lifted. You are experiencing something in Christ that you never knew existed. But, there will be difficult days. The devil lurks (1 Pet. 5:8). Selfish desires can derail (Jas. 1:13-15). Suffering for your faith should be expected (1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 14:22), but by hanging on your eternal destiny is better than you can imagine. Along the journey, you will grow, mature, and develop into someone better and stronger as Christ lives in you (Gal. 2:20).
To the Christian who publicly repents, you had no idea how much support, love, and encouragement you were going to receive. You feel the relief of forgiveness and restored hope. There’s clarity and purpose where there had been confusion and distraction. Things are better now (cf. Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9), but the battles and temptations that led you away are still there. You will still have to face the consequences of bad choices, but you will not regret turning to God and your spiritual family for help. This is the first step of your rededication. Keep walking and never stop (Mat. 7:13-14; 1 Th. 2:12).
There are so many other phases and circumstances deserving the same kind of encouragement. The bottom line for each is the same. When viewed with heavenly eyes, each of us is staring at the ultimate happy ending. Even as our exterior deteriorates, our inner man is renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). Our momentary difficulties will give way to incomparable glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18). The best is yet to come (2 Cor. 5). But, between now and then, we all have to negotiate bumps in the road. That’s OK. Keep following Christ on this narrow road and the “ever after” will transcend your greatest hopes (Mat. 16:24ff).
We are supposed to be disciples. Discipleship is a mark of a healthy church. If we want to be true disciples, we must simply love God and we’ll know what it means to be disciples. Be a disciple. Discipleship is good.
You’ve heard these statements before. They go along the same lines as, “We need to love God,” or, “We need to be godly,” or, “We need to be good Christians.” These are all true statements, but – at best – are greatly impractical and – at worst – are greatly discouraging. Ambiguous statements with no specific instruction will never accomplish anything.
So, what is a disciple? The word used in the New Testament is μαθητής (mathetes). It describes someone who “engages in learning through instruction from another” and “who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or particular set of views” (BDAG 609).
A disciple is someone who passionately pursues something or someone in a specific subject field. A passing interest in pulmonology does not make one a pulmonologist. We know this. A passing interest in Christianity does not make one a Christian.
If we’re there every time the doors are open but our Bible knowledge is lacking, we are not disciples. If we claim the title “Christian” but the foundation of our faith is a political viewpoint, we are not disciples.
A disciple passionately studies. A disciple is an exegete. Disciples passionately incorporate and live out the teachings of scripture, which they get from their study. If we are as enthusiastic about our faith as we are about our hobbies, we are disciples. If we want to be called disciples, we must also be considered dedicated students of the word and of the One.