Month: August 2019

The Transformed Christian

The Transformed Christian

True Christianity, true belief in Jesus as Lord, true following of Christ’s teaching, and true acceptance of the grace of God stems not just a transaction occurring, but a transformation taking place throughout the life of a believer. It’s this transformation that Paul talks about in Romans chapters 12-15.

Side note: Yes that’s 5 whole chapters, I’ve found that when reading Paul’s letters you don’t just read one chapter at a time, but rather one thought at a time. When they were originally penned there was no chapter markers, no verse markers, these things have been added to make it easier to reference for us. However we often times find ourselves relying on these markers to break apart ideas and sections and as such fail to keep following a thought. You can see this in several places in Romans especially where Paul’s train of thought keeps going long past the original chapter and verse. When you’re reading Paul, or any scripture, you have to make sure that you’re not stopping in the middle of a thought just because that’s where the verse or chapter ends.

Let’s pick up in Romans 12:1. I’m not going to read all of these chapters to you, but I will pick out certain key verses and texts to elaborate on, I do suggest going back and reading all of these at the same time in your own time. I believe that you will get a lot out of it as I have.

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

Many of you already know these verses by heart I’m sure, but let’s break them down real quick as we press on toward the goal. If you’re a keen reader you will have already noticed that Paul starts this chapter with a connecting word “therefore” ουν a word translated often as therefore or because of, in many use cases it was a marker of the continuation of a previous line of thought: “As I was saying…” So given this continuation you probably want to add chapter 11 to your assigned reading. In chapter 11 Paul explains how the rejection of the Jews has allowed for the Gentiles to be grafted into the tree of Christ. He goes through several times explaining how grateful we should be for the grace of God, and so because of that grace, that grafting in onto the tree, we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. We’re able to do this to God not because we’re perfect but because of His mercy towards us.

This first verse seems to be have a few key points the first being physical, that not just our hearts and minds should be given to God but our very bodies. The second being living, our sacrifice wasn’t just one time and it’s done, it should be a constant sacrifice. Our sacrifice should be an expression of our living and continued faith. This sacrifice should be holy, it should be set apart from the world towards God. It is a picture of the heavenly worship that is constantly going on (see Isaiah and Hebrews). We offer this sacrifice not just in the offering of it, but by following the very next verse that we are not to be conformed to this world, but transformed and different. When many think of being conformed to the world, they immediately jump to the obvious sins and troubles in the world, but Paul here is talking much deeper than that. To be conformed to the world yes is sin and strife, but it’s also to pursue the world’s values and pleasures. We all know someone or have have known someone so worried about making the most money in the neighborhood because they want to drive the best cars, have the biggest house, send their kids to the nicest schools, but this is all just worldly desire. There’s many more that we could discuss, but I want to get to the heart of this verse, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. What in the world does that mean? In this verse the mind νους is more than just the thought process or the conscience but rather everything that makes you, you. So the way you think, your worldview, your habits, you character, your personality, literally everything that makes you unique. Your walk with Christ should have your mind νους being renewed daily, transformed daily to be more and more like Him. If it’s not daily changing and growing then there’s something wrong with your walk with Christ.

So how does one go about this transformation by renewing one’s mind? First you have to know where you currently stand. Are you perfect? If yes, you can leave because there’s nothing more I can show you, if not let’s look at some of the attributes and characteristics of a Christian according to Paul. As I said earlier Paul’s thought process often carries on well beyond our section headings, chapter markers and verses, this is very much one of those sections. Look at verses 3-5

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.

You can see here first off Paul reminds the believer no to think more highly of themselves than they should. Pride can be a major stumbling block for a believer, in Rome or in the US. It’s easy to begin to think and act a certain way as life goes your way, but Paul here (who had every reason to think of himself higher due to his social status) reminds the reader to think sensibly. He also begins to point out here that as a believer we’re no longer individuals, but a singular part of the greater Body of Christ. This isn’t the only place he talks about being a part of the body or community, but it’s definitely a clear statement here. He says that we are one body in Christ and individually members of one another meaning that if one falls we all fall and when one rises we all rise. As members of one another we should strive to lift each other up that all may rise with them. He then goes on to talk about gifts given by grace that if we have a gift it should be used in accordance to our faith.

One of the more difficult sections, especially in today’s world starts at verse 9

Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. But

If your enemy is hungry, feed him.

If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

For in so doing

you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

Notice here that so far there have been very few “do nots”, Paul isn’t writing a rule book for life full of all the things we can’t do, but rather he seems to be writing an instruction book for all the things we should do as believers. Love without hypocrisy, detest evil, cling to that which is good. These are simple “hey a believer looks like this” kind of instructions that we should all be reading and learning from on a very regular basis. What’s more is Paul continues this train for several, several, paragraphs. Let’s jump to 13:8

Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments:

Do not commit adultery;

do not murder;

do not steal;

do not covet;

and whatever other commandment — all are summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

Do you see a bit of a common thread here? Love. Love should flow from a believer like the rivers of the Amazon flow into the ocean. There should be so much love flowing from us that we change currents around us and people begin to wonder what is so different about that person. All of the law is summed up in one word, Love, Jesus summed up the law into two statements, Love God, Love your neighbor. Brother David mentioned it briefly this morning that God loves everyone, where they are at, who they are, and desires that all come to Him. We all know that not everyone is going to turn to Christ, but we are called to love them anyway. Jump with me to chapter 14, Paul returns to the “you’re one family, one body” idea when he begins to talk about how we are to behave around other believers.

Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues. One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables. One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him…Romans 14:1-3

Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. (I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.) For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy that one Christ died for by what you eat. Romans 14:13-15

This chapter has caused many discussions around our house on what exactly does it mean to put a stumbling block in someone’s way? I think the key element here is that Paul is reminding us as one body that we are to look out for each other as much as ourselves. We’re supposed to be individuals of each other. A great example of this is Augustine (I think) who wrote in one of his many many books that when he would go to Milan they would fast on Tuesdays and so he would fast on Tuesday, but when he went to Rome they fasted on Thursdays (or whatever days) so he would fast on Thursdays. His point, and I believe Paul’s point here is that instead of tearing down a believer over something so small he would join them and celebrate the Lord. What good does does it do to tear someone down over something as small as what day they fast or whether they eat meat or not. Is it not much more important to celebrate the Lord? At the same time, Paul tells us not to put a stumbling block out there, if someone says they’re fasting on Tuesdays don’t invite them over to watch you eat a steak. Be considerate of each other and remember that building each other up lifts us all. Paul once again returns to love as the key. We are to walk in love every day. We are to consider others before ourselves, lift others up, pray for others, strengthen others, pursue peace with others, praise God with others. Our lives are no longer our own, individual, lives, but rather a life as a part of the Body of Christ. Renew your mind today, go and remember that Paul gave us a full instruction list of things to do as a believer. Go and read all of these chapters 11-15 together in one sitting and see how Paul told the Roman church how to be transformed and be a different creature than the rest of the world.