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Showing posts with label Romans 12:1-3. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Romans 12:1-3. Show all posts

Monday, October 2, 2017

Think Different

Introduction
            Long ago God chose you to be holy and different.  Have you ever noticed that all the heroes of the Bible were a little different?  Some might say, they were a little off or weird; they were definitely different.  Noah built an ark out in the middle of dry land.  Can you imagine what his neighbors thought when he build the biggest boat they'd ever seen and there wasn't anywhere to sail it?  Abraham took his only son up on top of Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him, because "God told him to."  That's just crazy!  King David got so excited when he was bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, he started dancing so hard and worshiping God his clothes came off.  He embarrassed his wife and she had to scold him for exposing himself and not being dignified like a king should be.  david was different; his heart was different.  He loved God more than his own dignity.  The prophet Ezekiel ate a biblical scroll and said it tasted as sweet as honey!  That's different! 
            Jesus was the most different of all.  He is the divine son of God.  If He was going to be born on earth, he should have been born in the most majestic palace or temple with the most important people in the world gathered around, but he did things different.  He decided to be born in a manger with cows and sheep and shepherds gathered around.  The Son of God cae to change the world and he had the power to do it all by himself, but he instead he chose 12 mortal men to help him do it.  I would have chose the 12 most gifted, smartest, powerful, influential people in the world to help me, but Jesus did something different.  Instead of picking the best and brightest , he pick a bunch of smelly fishermen, a collaborator, and a terrorist determined to kill collaborators!  Peter was a bragger. Thomas was a doubter. James and John were a manipulators. And Judas was a betrayer!
            And instead of conquering his enemies by force, Jesus chose to be different—he let them crucify him on a cross and he forgave them.  And then he said to his rag tag team of disciples, “Alright boys, you know what to do.  Go change the world.”  And today, Christianity is the largest religion on the face of the earth!  Apparently God sees things different than we do and He has a thing for people who are different.  God wants you to be different! Don’t you want to be different?  
 
Romans 12:1-3 (Emphasis added)

1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
 
God Chose You to Think Different
            Let me first point out a few key insights about this passage that we need to hear.  First, don’t copy the world.  The world has a way of doing things and ideas about right and wrong, but we don't pattern ourselves after the world.  We should be different. 
            The Amish people seem to take this verse to heart.  They very literally choose to be different and reject the innovations of modern society.  They dress in old-fashioned clothes, refuse to use TVs or cell phones, and even still ride in horse and buggies.  I admire their dedication to being different, but I don't think that's how God wants us to be different.  The passage says let God change the way you think.
            We may dress like everyone else in the world, use modern technology, and do many similar things as everyone else, but God has changed the way we think.  And when you think different, you have a different attitude and you do things for a different reason and you will often act different.
            And finally, I want to point out the passage says, "Don’t think you are better than anyone
else—evaluate yourself honestly..."  I love the way the Word instructs us on this because it addresses to ends of the same spectrum.  There are some people who arrogant and conceited, who think they are "all that and a bag of chips."  To them the Word warns, "Don't think you are better than anyone else."  If you're full of pride or look down on others, you need to change the way you think.  But there are others who struggle with low self-esteem.  And the Word addresses that too.  It says, "Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us." God made you and God doesn't make junk.  You are special.  God's fingerprints are all over you.  So let God change the way you think.


Three Ways We Need to Think Different:
            I want to give you three ways we need to let God change the way we think.  First, stop thinking this world we see is all there is.  This world is an amazing place and it's full of wonders.  We are blessed to be able to enjoy this life, but there is more going on than just what we see.  In fact, this lifem this world, is not what it's all about.  We are tempted to think that because it's all we see right now.  However, the Word teaches us there is more.  There is a spiritual battle going on behind the scenes we can't see.  Eternity hangs in the balance.  There Life to come when this life is over.  And the rewards of this life aren't that important when measured in the scales of Eternity.  So, as the old hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of of his glory and grace.”  Stop thinking this world, this life, is all there is.
            Second, stop thinking this life is more important than the Life to come.  Since this current life is all we've known and is what's immediately pressing in upon us, we get so wrapped up in it's joys and concerns.  Have you ever thought about this when we are praying about those who are sick?  Suppose we pray for someone who has terminal cancer and God's miraculously, unexplainably heals them.  (The cancer was there one day and gone the next.)  We would praise God and be so happy!  But what was really achieved?  That healing--at best--is only temporary.  Even if they live 40 or 50 years more without any other traces of cancer, then they will still die.  Everyone in this life dies.  The True Healing comes when they are resurrected in Eternal Life.  And a million years fro now, when we are praising God on that Golden Shore, no one will give a second thought to the few measly years we lived in this fallen world or the joys or sorrows we faced here.  All the things we spend so much time fretting over will seem infinitely inconsequential. Romans 8:18 - “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”
            Some would say: “Yeah, but I want glory in this life and in the future one."  Why do you deserve that?  Do you think you are any better than the saints that have gone before you?  Think of those saints who suffered and died for Christ.  Think of Stephen in the book of Acts who was stoned to death simply because he preached about Jesus' death and resurrection.  What about the Disciple Peter who was crucified upside down or the Apostle Paul who was beheaded in Rome.  Do you deserve more rewards in this life than those protestant reformers who worked so hard to help the Church return to true faith in Christ and received as their only reward in this world to be hanged, drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, or drowned--simply because they believed what God said in the Bible more than what the Pope said in a corrupted church in Rome?  We need to change the way we think.
            And third, we need to stop thinking the rewards and consequences of what we do now are primarily realized in this life.  People ask, "Why do the wicked prosper?  Why do bad things happen to good people?"  First of all, I would say who is really good?  The Bible says, "No one is good.  Not a single one." (paraphrase of Romans 3:10).  We might think of someone who is especially good, but that's only because we are comparing them to ourselves.  But if we place them next to a holy God, all their imperfections and sins are immediately clear and we see they are far from "good."  
            Jesus said, "[God] sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." (Matthew 5:45)  And he also taught that we would have to wait until God's sorts out all the weeds from the wheat at the end of the age.  We have to accept that Some things will not be settled in this life.  Your faithfulness in this life may not be rewarded until you get to Heaven, but God will bring justice according to His perfect wisdom in eternity. 

Are You Ready to Think Different?
            Jesus changed the world—he changed eternity—by his death and resurrection.  Because He chose the cross instead of the sword, you can be forgiven, redeemed, healed and live different, holier life than you have been living before. Long ago, God chose you to be different and holy.  Chose to follow Jesus today and let His grace enable you to think different so that you will act different and be different.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Guest Blog - 6 Steps to be a Cool Christian


While I was out of town on vacation, Pleasant Grove's totally awesome music minister, David Crawford, preached about how to be a cool Christian.  He graciously agreed to let me share his message on my blog today.  Enjoy!
Romans 12:2 - 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.

When I read this it makes me wonder about how we “fit in” with society. I mean if we are to have enough influence to persuade someone that they should give their life to Christ, then surely they must respect us as a member of society, or at least their social circle. And our influence within society, or our social circle, will be greater if we don’t appear to be strange, odd, out of sorts with reality, or lost in space. I would think we need to have a modicum of normality, and perhaps even a bit of “cool” if we are to persuade someone else they would benefit from being more like us with regard to living out our Christian beliefs. So, can one be cool and Christian at the same time?

If not sooner, then usually by middle school, we all start noticing where we fit in socially, and most of us would like for the people we are around to think that we are “cool”. We want to fit in, and be accepted. And while the awkwardness of adolescence and our mission to be popular or cool doesn’t last forever, we always want others to respect who we are and what we are striving to be. While it may not be our main focus, even now, we want those with whom we associate to think we are cool. So how do we reconcile being cool, with being a Christian? Are they at odds with one another?
So, naturally the first thing I did was go to Google and type in “Cool Christians.” And one of the search results that caught my eye was something called “Hipster Christians” and I was intrigued. The “Hipster Christian” churches actually have a checklist you can follow to make sure you are staying cool while practicing your faith and here are some of the items that made the list:
  • Get the church involved in social justice and creation care. (Okay, I’m down with that)
  • Show clips from R-rated Coen Brothers films (e.g., No Country for Old Men, Fargo) during services. (Hmmm)
  • Sponsor church outings….(sounds good) to microbreweries……(really?)
  • Put a worship pastor onstage decked in clothes from American Apparel.
  • Print bulletins only on recycled cardstock. (Ehh, yeah I guess, that’s better)
  • Use Helvetica fonts as much as possible. (I had know idea I was such a rebel)

This wasn’t exactly the direction I felt pulled in, so I abandoned the hipster Christian train and searched, instead, for how to be cool. I wanted to see what a secular site had to say about how to be cool.

I found a wiki (I feel cool just saying the word "wiki") on how to be cool in school, and I thought I’d see if their advice was reconcilable with my Christian beliefs and ideals. I picked six of the steps to share with you today. I think you might be surprised, I was.

Secular Coolness Step 1: Don’t just think about it — do it. It’s all very well to read books and blogs about self-improvement, but you have to actually get out there and apply the theories that resonate with you. Let’s replace a few words there and it reads like this instead: It’s all very well to read the Bible, but you have to actually get out there and apply its teachings.

It would appear the first step in being cool within society sounds a lot like verse 20 in the 2nd chapter of James: “But are you willing to recognize, that faith without works is useless?”

Secular Coolness Step 1 continues: Do it! It’s scary but so, invigorating. Who knows who you’ll meet and what they might be able to offer you?

Stepping out can be scary. Expressing your opinion on a subject, especially religion, can open you up to ridicule and you risk a piece of your pride, but it is worth it, and while the first step to secular coolness ends with what you may gain from putting yourself out there, as Christians we must deviate a little from their script and I would challenge you to imagine what the people we share the good news with will gain, and perhaps scariest of all, what the people we do not share the word with may lose.

Thinking things through before jumping the gun is a great trait. But thinking things through and then not doing anything won't get you anywhere.

So the first step in secular coolness is to take action. And a major component of our Christian faith is to take action.

Secular Coolness Step 2: Be yourself. It will be something that other people will look up to. You are unique, and you don't need to join a clique. Make your own friendships.  Don't try to be like anyone else by copying someone else's moves or act. Live life for who you are. Don't lose sight of yourself or your morals. Being cool isn't about changing who you are, its about being confident enough to let people see how awesome you really are.

My dad always said, “Be who you is, ‘cause if you be who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is.” But sometimes we don’t feel like we are awesome enough to be “cool”. Not a problem, because Psalm 139: 14 and 15 says, "I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth..."

The article continues by saying, “If you don't let people see the real you, then what's the point? Being able to be yourself and to have people appreciate you is the coolest thing of all.” So let’s play the old word replacement game and say it like this, “If you don’t let people see the real you, and you have been made new in Christ, how will the world see Christ in you and come to know Him as their personal Savior?” 

Secular Coolness Step 3: Speak up. Observe people who are "cool"; they usually speak confidently and clearly, at a good pace. They don't chatter rapidly, pause, say uh, um..., or mumble. They say what they mean, and mean what they say. Be confident in your word and don't let anyone try to change it. If you state your opinion and people disagree, don't worry. Say what you feel and people will respect you for that, unless you say it knowing it will offend someone. Don't shout out your opinion just to be heard. Make sure it's relevant, and be ready to back it up soundly.

If speaking up and speaking confidently is cool, then I believe Paul is one of the coolest people in history, because Colossians 4:3 says, “...praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned..." Yep, you heard that right, he was in prison for speaking the living word, and while in prison he was praying he would get the chance to speak the word again to someone else who needed to hear it. I also like what the article says about people disagreeing with your opinion: the article says, “don’t worry.” I think sometimes we feel like if we speak about our faith or share the living word, and we are rejected or rebuffed, then somehow we have failed. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER THAN THE TRUTH. We plant the seed. God makes it grow.


Secular Coolness Step 4: Keep your "cool". The very definition of cool is being calm, composed, under control, not excited, and socially adept. This is especially true right now with so many highly controversial issues blazing through our society. There are people out there who will purposefully try to “get us going” when they find out we are Christians. They try to “set us off” by “setting us up” with questions about these controversial subjects. It is our job to remain calm. Know what we believe and be able to back it up with scripture, doctrine, and our beliefs. It is also ok to admit that we may not have the answer, but we trust in our God and know He is in control. I would say that most, if not all of us, have been fired up by someone pushing the right buttons, but if we can remain cool, it will be more apparent that we have faith in someone bigger and more powerful than all of our problems. And according to Proverbs 15:18, "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute."  So there must be something to staying cool. 


Secular Coolness Step 5: Have faith in your friends. There’s a reason they hang around you. The personality traits you may think make you socially awkward, may be the very quirks they find endearing. If you want to be cool, then you have to believe that the people around you genuinely like you and find your relationship meaningful. Remember that it's not cool to hang out with people who you think are cool just because you think it'll make you cool by proxy. Life doesn't work that way.

Another aspect is to consider the people who make up your social and work related circles. We have all been given gifts and abilities that we use to help build God’s kingdom on earth, as well as make a living within our community. Those gifts and interests have drawn you to a certain group of people and similar people are drawn to you because of your gifts and abilities. Contractors don’t always run in the same social circles as ballet companies. Because we are varied in our interests and abilities we have a chance to reach a multitude of people from very diverse social circles. Embrace where you are and look for opportunities within your circle to witness through your actions and when the occasion arises by sharing words of faith. The friends who make up your circle will be there for you. After all, they are your friends.

Jesus said it like this, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Secular Coolness Step 6: Don't be afraid to be different. Whether that means defending someone else, or taking interest in something that no one else does, like playing an instrument, try to be different and stand out. (16) The coolest people are the ones who occasionally break against the tide and make people question the status quo. Take that last statement and change coolest to Christian. The Christian people are the ones who break against the tide and make people question the status quo. Most of us have been involved in that conversation. You know, the one where everyone seems to be agreed in a course of action, or an opinion is shared by the majority; and then there you go having to interject your Christian morals and beliefs making everyone reevaluate their position. It is not always met with kindness, instead it is usually met with exasperated sighs, but it is the Christian thing to do, AND it is cool when you are part of redirecting a situation onto a Christ-like path.


So, can you be cool and be a Christian? I don’t think you can be a Christian without being cool. One of the online dictionaries defines cool as fashionably attractive or impressive. As I look out on the congregation I don’t think we need to worry about fashion or attractiveness, ya’ll are a pretty good lookin’ bunch. So I think we are talking about cool being impressive. And there’s really no denying Jesus was impressive. He calmed the storms, He turned water into wine, He healed the sick, raised the dead and saved the entire human race. That’s impressive, that’s cool, and that’s who promised to be with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We walk with Jesus because we are Christians. Because we are Christians we strive to be like Christ. We are most like Christ when we are least like ourselves and we surrender our body to the will of God. And in those moments we are cool and it is cool. Not because of who we are or what we do, but because of whose we are and what He can do through us for the rest of the world.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I Have a NEW Mind!

Copyright April 28, 2015 by Chris Mullis
Romans 12:1-3

Introduction 
           I was in the choir room with the choir warming up for our anthem just a few minutes ago.  Sarah asked if anyone had accidentally picked up her reading glasses from the piano.  Kathy, who'd just been sitting at the piano and was holding a pair of reading glasses in her hand said, "No.  I promise. these are my reading glasses."  Kathy's sister, Sally, said, "Uh, Kathy.  You have a pair of reading glasses on your head!"  Sure enough, she did!  And they were the exact same style as Sarah's!  Kathy Said, "I'm losing my mind!"  We all had a good laugh.
            We use that expression, "I'm losing my mind," as a bad thing.  But the truth is, if we follow Christ, we are losing our old mind and Christ is giving us a NEW mind.  And that's what I want to talk about today. 

Romans 12:1-3
1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

Explain the Passage
          The Apostle Paul gives us the image of a sacrifice placed on an altar.  At the time Paul wrote, animal sacrifice was a common religious practice—for both Jews and Gentiles.  A living animal was usually placed on an altar, its throat cut so the blood would drain out along with the animal’s life.  Then the animal would be butchered, cooked over fire, and eaten, or completely incinerated with fire.  As you can imagine, it was a startling thing to behold—something that left a lasting impression.  The point is a sacrifice was complete and irrevocable.  Right?  You can’t make half a sacrifice.  You can’t make a sacrifice and then take it back.  It’s an all or nothing proposal.  (At least for the animal!)
            But Paul turns the tables on us.  He invites us to leave the animals alone.  Instead, he urges us to put our life on the altar.  Give your own body—all that you are—as a living sacrifice.  It’s not human sacrifice he is asking; it’s self-sacrifice.  It’s surrendering all that you have and all that you are to the will of God.  It’s an “all-in” whole-hearted proposition that is true worship—truly pleasing to God—and it changes everything.
            It’s what Jesus did for us, you see.  Christ gave himself completely for us on the cross.  He didn’t just do some good things.  He didn’t just preach some great sermons.  Jesus gave everything.  He was whole-heartedly committed to God’s plan of salvation for you.  He willingly sacrificed his entire life for you—even when it meant dying on a cross.
            And Christ’s sacrifice makes it is possible for us to be made NEW!  We can have NEW desires, a NEW way of thinking, a NEW purpose in life, NEW peace and joy and confidence, and ultimately the promise of eternal life with a NEW heaven and a NEW earth.  But in order for the NEW to come, we have to let the old die.  In fact, we have to trust Jesus enough to place our old self—our old ways of thinking and living—on the altar as a sacrifice.  For when you sacrifice our old life, Jesus will make you NEW!

Thought Transformation
The key verse for us today is verse 2a – Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Most of us grow up copying the behavior and customs of the world.  We do the things people around us do because we think the way they do.  In fact, if we ever see someone who acts or thinks in a way that in noticeably different, we might even call them weird.  I know when I was in high school, I had a few friends who lived out their Christian beliefs very faithfully.  At the time, I thought they were very weird because they didn’t act and talk and think the way most high school students did.  They stood out.  They were “weird.”  At the time, I thought they should just “copy the behavior and customs” of everyone else.  Now I see they were the minority that was really doing what God wanted.  Now I wish I had been part of that minority when I was in high school.  Now, I am—or at least I am striving to be—because I am striving to let God transform me into a NEW person.  So what if it makes me different.  So what if it makes me weird.  If it makes me more like Christ, great!
We all need to let God transform the way we think.  Romans 12:3 says, Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”  So let’s apply this wisdom and think clearly and honestly about ourselves.
First of all, you are not the center of the world.  Regardless of what the unbelieving world insinuates, the world doesn’t revolve around you.  You are not entitled to “Have it your way.”  Your own personal happiness is not the chief goal in life.  In fact, if you faithfully follow Christ and live for God the way He intended for you, you will definitely need to give up some things you want.  It is a sacrifice.  (Remember how our scripture said to sacrifice yourself to God?)  Following Christ means letting go of our selfish desires, our self-centered motives, and serving others instead of ourselves.  This is tough for many people, but we need to let God transform our way of thinking.
Some people think too highly of themselves.  Others struggle with thoughts that they are not important or that they are not good enough.  That’s why I like Romans 12:3 so much.  It addresses both misunderstandings.  It says, “Be honest in you evaluation of yourself.”  And the Truth is, (though you are not the center of the world) you are very important to God.  God deeply loves you.  He has been working out your salvation since the beginning of time.  He cared enough to send Christ to die for you.  God wants you to be part of His mission to save the world.  That’s pretty impressive.  You must be important!  So if you struggle with low self-esteem, let God transform the way you think.  You are precious to Him.
Do you struggle with shame or guilty?  God has promised He will forgive you if you ask.  No matter what you’ve done—how big or how small—God will forgive you.  1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”  Shame and guilt can cripple us.  It makes us hesitant in our relationship with God and others.  Shame and guilt are constant burdens that weigh us down and slow us down in our spiritual life.  They sap the joy God wants us to have.  They can make life weary and full of worry.  So if you struggle with shame or guilt, let God transform the way you think.  The truth is, forgiveness is available through faith in Christ.  And if you believe, God does not think about your sins anymore.  They have been washed away.  God says in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”  If you asked God to forgive you, He has.  Now it’s time for you to let go of your thoughts of shame and guilt.  Let God transform the way you think.
Some of you may struggle with doubt.  The unbelieving world says this world is all there is.  Since science cannot verify the existence of an afterlife, they reject the idea as a fantasy.  Since they cannot see God, they reason He is just a myth.  But faith helps us see that there is more to life than just what you can see and hear and taste and touch.  Faith helps us to know that Truth is more than just facts and figures.  Faith helps us to see there is always hope even when all seems to be lost.  Faith helps us to know that the future is ultimately in God’s hands and so, there is nothing to fear.  Faith helps us to hear God’s still small voice leading us down the right path.  Faith helps us to feel God’s presence when we need assurance that everything is going to be alright.  Even if we lose this life, God has another waiting for us in Eternity.  And all the wrongs of this world will ultimately be made right one day.  It’s OK to have questions.  It’s OK to have doubts.  Sometimes they lead us to deeper understanding and faith.  But if your doubts control you or keep you frozen with fear, maybe it’s time to let God transform the way you think.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)  Take hold of the power, love, and self-discipline God wants you to have.  Let Him transform the way you think. 

Conclusion
            As I close, I join with the Apostle Paul and plead with you, give your bodies to God as a holy and living sacrifice.  Don’t hold anything back.  Surrender yourself completely to the Lord and He will transform your mind.