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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.

Forgiven

Forgiven

Think back to the moment you realized that Jesus was God, that He died in your place for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the 3rd day. Do you remember where you were, what you were doing, why you changed your mind and believed? Do you remember that feeling of burden and weight being lifted off of you? That is the feeling of forgiveness. You had been carrying a burden your whole life up to that point, a burden that only after it’s been lifted do many realize that they don’t have to carry it. The moment you decided to leave it at the cross with Christ He traded his burden, the one that’s easy and light, and took that burden of yours and carries it for you. Notice that I said you didn’t have to carry that burden. Let’s look first at 1 Peter 3:18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,

the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.”

Jesus died once for all sins, it doesn’t say that He died for just your sins or my sins, it doesn’t say He died for the Jews sins, He died for ALL. The burden that you carried, and some still carry, was paid for nearly 2,000 years ago, we just had to let it go and accept God’s grace and forgiveness. Let’s look at another passage, of several, that say this same thing Hebrews 9:24-26 “For the Messiah did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that He might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer Himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, He would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now He has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Christ entered into the Heavenly temple and made the payment for the sins of everyone who was, is, and will be. From the moment Christ said “It is finished”, your bill was paid. You just had to accept it.

So what does that mean for our daily lives today?

For many of us we struggle day to day with some sin or another. The issue is that this struggle often times hinders us from serving as we should, but what we have to do is remember each day that we’re already forgiven of these issues! Does that mean we should just keep on sinning? Of course not, Paul was pretty clear in Romans 6 (a few times) that even though grace may abound when we sin it doesn’t mean that we can just keep on sinning. He even went so far as to tell the Roman church “not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Let go of the chains that so easily entangle us, when Christ set us free I don’t believe that He intended for us to go back and bind ourselves up again. We often times decide that these chains are where we belong and as such go back and pick them up. Let them go! Leave the chains where the belong, at the foot of the cross and serve God today!

When we finally recognize and begin to live like we’re truly forgiven then we can let them go, we can run the race with joy and gladness, we can be that new creation that we’re meant to be. Do you recognize the forgiveness of God in yourself? Do you still bind yourself with the chains of the past? Give them up, place them at the cross and leave them there where they were paid for long ago. When you do recognize a sin in your life, it’s not to be ignored, but don’t let it bind you up and keep you from serving as you should. Go and be the new creation that you are! 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”

If you haven’t reached a point in your life where you recognize that Jesus is Lord, you’re carrying a burden that hasn’t been yours to carry since Calvary. Stand up today and declare that Jesus is Lord, believe on Him and let him have your burden and free you from the chains that bind you!

New Beginning

New Beginning

New growth

I’m sure you’ve all figured it out, but I struggle to keep this thing going… Well starting today I’m going to do my absolute best to post a little something at least a couple of times each week.

I like the photo I picked for this post because it’s such a representation of what life is, what growth is, and what this page is supposed to be. Every idea begins as a seed. Whether it was planted by someone else directly or indirectly, it was planted at some point in the past. Life is full of seeds in the daily routine, our weekly trips to the store (or daily if you’re like me…I always forget something), they’re present in our conversations with friends, and they’re vital to our growth. What’s more as they begin to grow and take root they bring about change. Change in our thought process, change in our actions, and change in our beliefs. If we recognize that our day to day lives are full of seeds planted in ourselves, how much more should we recognize that every action or word to another is also planting, or in some cases watering, a seed.

Paul explains that the gospel is kind of like a seed in that “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” – 1 Cor 3:6-8

In our day to day walk are we planting gospel seeds, are we watering gospel seeds planted by others, are we watching God cause growth among our friends, family, neighbors? It is our responsibility as believers to lead others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news of an end to sin and a new beginning in relationship with the Father. Plant and water the good seeds in others! Notice here however that Paul didn’t say that he planted, Apollos watered, Matthew came along and pulled roots, John did the pruning. No he simple says that they planted and watered and God handled the rest. It’s God’s job to bring about growth by removing the weeds and dead limbs, not ours. It’s our job to plant and water the seeds in others. But it’s also our job to look at ourselves and our own “garden”.

Before you really dig into what seeds you’re planting in others, it would be worth asking which seeds are you watering within yourself? There’s all the seeds that we have planted of goodness, kindness, love, and patience that we see and witness in those around us that get planted, but at the same time there’s all the seeds of sin and darkness that come from those around us all the same. Are you allowed seeds of goodness to get planted, watered, and letting them grow by spending time in environments, with people, taking in media (books, movies, TV, etc) that bring about those seeds? Or are you letting seeds of darkness and sin get planted and sprout up by spending time in environments, with people, taking in the wrong media?

The Messenger

The Messenger

So it looks like my poll wound up with a few votes, but put three of our choices in a tie. So that means I get to pick from the tie right? Our choices that were tied are Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Sadly Uriel didn’t make the cut; he was my original choice, but my second choice was Raphael. So unless you guys post a lot of comments complaining that I chose Raphael that’s who we’ll go with. I feel like using him will give me a little more leeway in his existence because of the fact he’s not Gabriel or Michael who most protestants know. I have been thinking quite a lot about this book lately and plan to (if time allows this weekend) finish chapter 1.

The purpose of writing this book in the way that I am, is going to be help modern Christians see and experience early Christianity and potentially see things differently when they finish. There are several areas of modern Christianity that don’t seem to mesh with what the early church writings show, and in some cases what the Bible says it should be. Hopefully this book will allow me, and you, to illuminate some of these differences and bring the Church back to it’s roots and begin a great revival. The book is likely to turn into a series of books not because of the number of differences, but because I want to illuminate the differences while also revealing where we’re headed into history. It’s going to be a lot of fun, a friend and I have had lots of discussions around the theologies that will be present, regarding the historical areas I want to focus on, and even discussed what the future may hold for us. This is going to be fun!