MESSAGE DELIVERED: OCTOBER 2, 2016
The two verses we just read from Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome, point out the need for believers to commit themselves to service to the Lord. And I wanted to examine closely what he said, because these statements go deeper than what immediately meets the eye.
There are two different words used in these verses that are used in only a few places in the New Testament. And the first one is “I BESEECH you…” that comes from a Greek word that means “to come along side”, or “to help”. Probably the best contemporary translation would be “I ENCOURAGE you…”
The same word is used by Jesus in John 14, where he was telling His disciples that He must leave them, and return to the Father. But He told them “I will not leave you helpless. I will send another COMFORTER…” Comforter, in Greek, is PARACLETE, and it is variously translated as “helper”, “encourager”, “supporter”.
That’s what Paul is saying. “I want you to do this, and I will HELP you…” or “I will ENCOURAGE you…”, or “support you…” so you could read this as “I am encouraging you therefore…”
And as you well know, when we find the word, ‘therefore’ in the text, we have to find out what it is “there for”.” And in this case it refers back to chapter 11, verses 33-36. I want to read those four verses for you, from “The New Living Translation”, because it’s easier to understand. You know this is a PARAPHRASE, and not an actual TRANSLATION, but it might help with understanding.
“Oh what a wonderful God we have! How great are His wisdom and knowledge. How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and methods. How can we know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be His counselor? And who could ever give Him so much that He would have to pay it back? For everything comes from Him, everything exists by His power, and is intended for His Glory. To Him be Glory forever!”
That is why Paul said “therefore”. Since God made all things, and we are creatures that He made, and since God is so far above us in every aspect you can think of, and the things he made were all made to glorify and honor He who made them…“Therefore”, Paul said, what else can we do but to offer ourselves to Him?
OK, Paul said “because God made us for His own purposes, because God is so far superior to us in every conceivable way, I therefore encourage you, brothers, BY THE MERCIES OF GOD…”
He has spent eleven chapters expounding on those mercies. He has spoken about God’s GRACE, His RIGHTEOUSNESS, His LOVE…we know that we have no right to live. We know that we have all sinner. We have fallen short of the Glory of God, and yet, in His Righteousness, He has FORGIVEN us!
We don’t deserve that. That’s why it’s called MERCY. But, because OF that Mercy, Paul says “we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice.” Under Old Testament Law, the forgiveness of sins required a sacrifice in return. A sacrifice of blood! That sacrifice could be a bullock, which is a calf, or maybe an innocent little lamb, or sometimes a dove.
But stop and think about that…who was it that committed the sin? Wasn’t it the MAN? What did that sad-eyed little calf or lamb have to do with the sins that the MAN committed? I’ll tell you what: absolutely nothing! The calf is INNOCENT. The lamb is INNOCENT. And not only are they innocent, they are also perfect, without spot or blemish! They have to be perfect, before they can be offered AS a sacrifice, for the MAN’S sins!
And that’s the whole point! God demanded a perfect sacrifice, an innocent sacrifice, for the remission of man’s sins. And then, in the fullness of time, God provided His own Perfect, Innocent sacrifice, in the person of Jesus Christ…God’s Own Son…born into flesh, as we are , so He could become that only possible Sacrifice for sin.
But look…that Perfect Sacrifice HAS been made. And once that which is Perfect has been given, what can man offer to God? Only himself! In humble, obedient service. THAT, Paul said, is nothing more nor less than what is expected of you. If you offer yourself to God, and then think that you have done something wonderful, then you have RUINED the sacrifice, because it is no longer humble, and therefore no longer worthy. It has become PRIDE, and God HATES pride!
Alright, we are told in verse 2 to “not be conformed to this world…” “Conformed” means assuming an outward expression that does not reflect what is inside. Here’s an example. Once a month I cook and serve breakfast for all the men of the church. And I always set out bottles of salsa on the table. Some guys like it with their eggs. But for a long time, there was a ‘running gag’ where the guys would examine the jars to make sure they weren’t “made in New York City!” Like that TV commercial.
What they don’t KNOW though, is I bought those jars of salsa some time ago, and as they get emptied, I refill them from a gallon jug I bought at the warehouse store. So they really have no idea WHERE that stuff is from. And that’s the point: what it says on the label might not CONFORM to what is inside!
And that is what Paul is talking about. He says if you’re a Godly person…if you’re a Christian, on the INSIDE, then BE a Christian on the OUTSIDE, too.
He said ‘don’t be conformed, but be TRANSFORMED’…that’s the second word I was telling you about. THAT word is only used TWICE, in the entire New Testament, in a POSITIVE context. In Matthew 17:2, it is used to describe JESUS, as He took Peter, James and John, and climbed a mountain, and there, He was TRANSFORMED! The King James Version says ‘transfigured’, but the Greek word is ‘metamorphoo’. He was TRANSFORMED before them, for a brief time, as He conferred with Moses and Elijah. That is the same word we get our English word ‘metamorphosis’ from. It means to be COMPLETELY CHANGED. As a caterpillar is ‘completely changed’ when it becomes a butterfly. There is NOTHING of the caterpillar LEFT, it has become a BRAND NEW CREATURE!
That is what WE are supposed to do…become brand new creatures. Paul said the same thing in 2nd Corinthians 5:17, where he said “If any (one) be in Christ, he/she is a NEW CREATURE. Old things have passed away, behold, ALL things have become new.”
We are to no longer follow the ways of the world, but follow instead the ways of God. On the mountain top, Jesus was TRANSFORMED, and for a short time He displayed, OUTWARDLY, his INNER, DIVINE nature: His GLORY!
So Christians are called to let their lives and their actions reflect their INNER, REDEEMED nature. But, not just ONCE, and not just for a BRIEF time. We should reflect our Savior ALWAYS!…so the WORLD can see Him too.
Paul not only tells us what to do, but like a good teacher, he tells us HOW to do it: “by the renewing of your minds”. The kind of transformation Paul is talking about is IMPOSSIBLE, from a HUMAN standpoint. It can happen ONLY as the Holy Spirit of God works within you, through reading and studying, meditating on God’s Word…on God’s Love, as it has been revealed in the person of God’s Own Son.
As you allow the Holy Spirit to have free reign in your life, the MIND that is SATURATED with God’s Word, and CONTROLLED by God’s SPIRIT, will become RENEWED!
Now, the reason Paul is BESEECHING you to be TRANSFORMED by the RENEWING of your mind, is because YOU control the PROCESS! Whether or not this occurs in your mind is completely up to YOU! God will NOT force Himself on you. The DEVIL will! But not God. He will take exactly as much of your life as YOU are willing to ALLOW Him to have!…and not a bit more! So YOU control the PROCESS Paul is telling you that you should have, and it comes down to the question: How GRATEFUL are you, for what God has done for you?
Here’s a supposedly true story that kinda illustrates that last point. And it will show you that things like this can happen to rich folks too. A very wealthy man and his wife…I won’t mention his name…were stranded in their Mercedes alongside the New York Thruway, with a flat tire. The rich guy had made a lot of money, but he had never in his life changed a tire. He had phoned for a tow, but it was rush hour and a tow truck would be a long time in coming. But a guy on his way home from work stopped and volunteered to change the tire for him. The working guy had just received a small promotion at work and was feeling generous, and it only took a few minutes to fix the flat. The rich guy asked the working guy how he could repay him, and the guy said “Oh, just send a big bouquet of flowers to my wife”, and gave him his address.
Two weeks later, the guy has forgotten all about changing the tire, and his wife answers the door to find a deliveryman standing there with a huge bouquet of orchids, and a note attached to the vase that read…”These flowers are to thank you for your husband’s kindness. We also have paid off your mortgage.”
That little gesture of gratitude cost the rich man something like $100,000. And brings up the point I’m trying to make. God has done SO much more than just fixing a flat tire. He gave up EVERYTHING for you. And now, how GRATEFUL are you? You don’t need to give up your FORTUNE, if you have one…He’s asking for your HEART!
The more you allow…of your life…to God’s Holy Spirit, the more He will RENEW your MIND…the more He will make your mind like His Son! And that renewed mind will manifest itself in your church, and in your world, to bring GLORY to GOD! Out there in the world, that renewed mind will EMBOLDEN you to WITNESS for the Son of God.
Here’s another true story about a rich person…in 1988, Gloria Vanderbilt’s son Carter, walked into her 5th Avenue apartment. Gloria Vanderbilt is the great-great-granddaughter of the “railroad Vanderbilts” and has inherited MILLIONS of dollars, all of which would one day be made available to her son.
But her son Carter, despondent over the breakup with his girlfriend, walked out onto her 14th floor balcony, and as his mother desperately tried to stop him, jumped to his death. His last words to his mother, just before he jumped, were “what’s it all about, anyway?”
As a Christian, you have the answer to that rich boy’s question. But apparently nobody ever shared it with him. Your renewed mind will allow you to DO that! And you never know how many lives you will touch and change.
Within the church, your renewed mind will equip you to take on positions of leadership, and to help others to find that same result. There has NEVER BEEN a church that had ENOUGH workers…and certainly not THIS one. So if you will ALLOW the Spirit of God to have control of your mind and life, if you are grateful enough TO God for what HE has done FOR you…to allow Him to RENEW your mind, and CONFORM your mind, into the likeness of His SON, EVERYBODY WINS!
And at this point I’d like to remind you of just WHAT God HAS done for you…He sent His SON, to come and teach us HOW to live, and then to DIE, to pay our DEBT to God, to FREE us from the BURDEN of sin.