Tag: Romans

Therefore… in view of God’s mercy… (Rom 12:1a)

by on Nov.20, 2011, under Reflection

Some weeks ago, a friend suggested that most of us would feel pretty comfortable if Paul had not bothered with chapters 9-11. Surely it would have been the easiest thing to move on from the climactic conclusion of chapter 8 straight into chapter 12. Let’s try it on for size:

‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Rom 8:38–39)

‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.’ (Rom 12:1)

What do you think? Flows pretty nicely, doesn’t it? Why, then, does Paul get sidetracked into a discussion about the future of ethnic Israel in chapters 9-11? I believe it is because Paul wants to establish beyond doubt the credibility and comprehensiveness of God’s mercy.

Let me explain.

Recently, a well known Christian televangelist went on record as believing that it is OK to get a divorce from a spouse who contracts Alzheimer’s Disease. Quite apart from the ethics of such a decision, imagine if a man who had divorced his first wife for this reason – a technical ‘loophole’ – were to seek remarriage. How much credibility would he have with his second wife? Don’t you think she might harbour some doubts about what other ‘loopholes’ might crop up?

In the same way, chapters 1-8 outline the mercy that God has shown to the Gentiles, yet without chapters 9-11 that very mercy is thrown in doubt. God had chosen Israel as his people; Paul wanted to demonstrate beyond doubt that they were not being abandoned because of some loophole, but rather that this inclusion of the Gentiles was ultimately for their benefit as well. In other words, he is saying: ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy [to Jews and Gentiles alike]’ to act accordingly.

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Transformation of the mind

by on Nov.20, 2011, under Reflection

In her 1997 book Truly the Community, Marva Dawn relates the story of a child trying to open a flower bud. As a result of his sincere – though misguided – efforts, the blossom falls apart in his hands. Exasperated, he queries his mother, ‘Why does the bud fall apart when I try to open it, but when God opens it the flower is beautiful?’ Lacking assistance from his (speechless) mother, he reaches his own conclusion: ‘Oh, I know! When God opens a flower, he opens it up from the inside.’

No matter how hard we try to change an individual or community from the outside, unless the change is also driven from within it is ultimately doomed to failure. The Apostle Paul evidently knew this, instructing the Christians in Rome: ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Rom. 12:2). Few things in this world are more difficult to change than a closed mind, and that is an accurate description of all who are not in Christ. In fact, Paul implies that this kind of transformation requires an act of God, instructing that the Romans must ‘be transformed’, not that they ‘transform themselves’.

Yet, when such a renewal does occur its effects are felt in every area of life – the way we think, speak and act in every circumstance. For it is not just any old mind that God gives us; the Apostle says in another place that ‘we have the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor. 2:16).

When God opens a flower, he opens it from the inside… and it is beautiful indeed!

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The love of Paul for the Church in Rome (Romans 16)

by on Nov.20, 2011, under Notes, Sermon

Pick a city. Any city in the world, so long as you have never been there. Got one? OK, hands up if you can name a Christian in that city? Two? Five? Ten? As Paul reaches the conclusion of his epic letter to the Roman churches, churches in a city that he has never been to, he greets no fewer than 24 people by name! Some are people he has worked with, or been in imprisoned with. Some are family or close friends, others he may know only by reputation. Men and women alike are greeted with respect and affection. Paul is obviously intimately aware of the goings on in the churches in Rome.

This passage is all about people. Which is not surprising, really, since Paul has been talking about people and how Christians relate to other people – both Christians and non-Christians – since chapter 12. In that chapter he wrote about the renewing of the mind, and how that leads us to have transformed attitudes, actions and reactions to one another. In chapter 13, he spoke about the need to submit to authorities, which might not seem to be about relationships at first glance until the first person decides that traffic lights are simply providing suggestions of guidelines at which time relationships are both formed and broken very quickly. In 13:8 Paul wrote about our ‘continuing debt to love one another’. In chapter 14, and through into the first half of chapter 15, Paul is arguing very strongly that those who are ‘strong’ should nevertheless care for those who are ‘weak’ by not trampling their consciences.

From there to the end of the epistle, including the passage we are looking at tonight, Paul is recounting his own pastoral efforts on behalf of the church at large, and continuing to model his love for his fellow Christians, not least those in Rome. Where the previous chapters were about relating to people in general, this final chapter is very personal and specific, as reflected by the number of people addressed by name. Paul was a real person, writing to real people about real problems, and this is a fact we do well to keep in view as we read his epistle to the Romans.

Tonight, we’re going to consider Paul’s love for the Christians in Rome under three headings: (1) the foundation of love; (2) the promptings of love; and (3) the actions of love.

Love fellow believers because Christ has loved us and rescued us

On the 5th of August, 2010, a mine in San Jose, Chile, collapsed. 33 men were trapped 700 metres underground and 5 kilometres from the entrance to the mine they were working in. It was 17 days before those on the surface could even confirm the presence of any survivors. These men spent a record 69 days underground before their rescue could be effected. When they reached the surface, they all shook hands, waved goodbye, went home and never talked to one another again… What?

Of course, that’s not how the story ended at all! There was, in fact, great joy. An entire nation had collectively held its breath during the whole time they were underground; friends and relatives doubly so. For them, the response was great relief and joy at being reunited. But what about amongst the 33 men who had been trapped? These men, who were all but dead, had been rescued… together. I don’t know this, but I can easily imagine that the bonds formed underground were strong indeed. They had shared a terrible, harrowing experience and emerged from the other side of it alive. One thinks also of those who have survived wars, earthquakes, tsunamis and so on. Shared experiences, and particularly those charged with great danger or suffering, draw us together in a way that few other things can.

Paul recalls many shared experiences with those whom he greets, but the most repeated one may be seen in the phrases ‘in the Lord’, ‘in Christ’. These phrases are not empty, nor are they mere religious jargon. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that Paul’s entire epistle has been developing the theme of how and why anyone can or should be ‘in Christ’.

Christians have been rescued from a much greater peril than being stuck underground. They faced the death of their bodies; we faced the eternal death of our souls. It may have taken an entire nation to rescue those miners, but it took the God of the universe to rescue us! The foundation of love between Christians is the action of God in Christ to rescue us. We are to love our fellow believers because Christ has loved us and rescued us.

Do you think those Chilean miners ever talked about their experience again? I reckon they did. Why are we Christians so shy, then, about reminding one another about what we have been saved from, how and by whom?

Remind each other of God’s grace in your shared experiences

Paul does not stop short at recalling our shared experience of salvation, however. God has saved us in Christ, and this is the foundation of our love for one another but, sinful as we are, we often require further promptings to love one another. Paul has a good solution for this: with those he has had personal interactions with, he regularly makes brief reference to some way in which God has blessed one or both of them through their interaction. So, with his good friends Priscilla and Aquila he recalls their shared work together and the fact that they risked their lives for him. This is an expression of love, because he is reminding them of God’s grace to him through them. Similarly, Paul greets Andronicus and Junia who were imprisoned with him, thus reminding them of God’s grace in setting them free. And there are many other examples packed into these short verses.

By recalling these things, Paul is encouraging those he is addressing, but the encouragement is also for the rest of the church who are hearing this letter read, who can experience God’s grace second hand, and be encouraged to look for it in their own lives also. We should be encouraged as well. God provided ‘fellow workers’ for Paul, to help him in the mission that he was called to, and God will provide such people for us as well. Rufus was indeed ‘chosen in the Lord'; we have been also. You may be imprisoned for the sake of Christ, as Paul was, but God will provide encouragement for you in the form of fellow believers such as Andronicus and Junia. Be encouraged by the faithfulness of people who have been Christians for longer than you have, such as Epenetus. Rejoice in the service of Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis, and those who faithfully host house churches like Aristobulus and Narcissus.

Let’s be enthusiastic about reminding one another about God’s gracious working in our lives.

Turn your love into action

But, as the old saying goes, love is a verb. Paul does not just remember old times in order to ‘feel’ love toward these people. No, he uses these experiences as a motivation to ‘do’ love toward them. What kind of actions result from Paul’s love? Well, writing this epistle for a start!

Most obviously, Paul instructs his readers to ‘greet’ one another 13 times in this passage. Paul is physically separated from these believers, so he relies upon others to convey and express his love.

Yesterday morning, I was upstairs getting ready to face the day, whilst the rest of my family were downstairs having their breakfast. At least, Katrie and Elyana were downstairs. Aedan was having great fun coming up the stairs to see me before promptly asking ‘where’s Mummy and Baby Elly’ and heading back downstairs to look for them. After the first couple of times he did this, I suggested he go and tell Mummy and Baby Elly how much Daddy loves them. Then I sent him to give them each a kiss from Daddy. And so on. By doing this, Katrie and Elly were receiving expressions of my love for them. But, just as important, Aedan was learning about my love for them, and learning appropriate ways of expressing his own love for them.

So it was with Paul. He was unable to come to Rome and greet people in person. He did not have the opportunity to give Ampliatus a hug to reinforce his words of love. He could not sit down and have a beer with Urbanus and Stachys. And so he relied on others already in Rome to do these things on his behalf. And in standing in for Paul, these people were learning about Paul’s love for them and how to express it, much like Aedan learning about my love for Katrie and Elyana.
But they were also forming relationships with one another. It is hard to ‘greet’ someone – especially to greet them with a kiss, as commanded in verse 16 – without forming some measure of relationship with them! I used to be a part of a church where the two pastors made a particular effort to introduce people to one another, as the first step towards building relationships within the church. Paul does a bit of this too, introducing Phoebe (who was probably the person carrying this letter to Rome) and asking them to provide for her needs. I believe this is a good reminder to us to not be shy about introducing people to each other, particularly where we can see they can help each other in some way.

But… wait… kissing? Really? What’s with that? Kissing was the standard way of greeting a close family member. Paul is reminding us that we are family to one another, and our greetings and relationships should reflect that. So, if kissing is not appropriate for your family today, then what is? Find some healthy way of expressing the love that is appropriate amongst family members. We lose so much when cut physical interaction out of our relationships.

Let me ask, what do we do to promote relationships between Christians in this church? Let’s try an experiment. Introduce yourself to someone in the church you don’t know, and say, ‘The apostle Paul told me to greet you in the Lord.’ Do you know everyone? Go find someone in one of the other congregations… or another church… or a student fellowship group… or at Livewire… or somewhere else. Or else find someone you know well, and remind them of some way in which God has shown grace to both of you.

I also wonder what we can do to promote relationships with Christians in other parts of the world. It amazes me that, in a day where any news had to be carried by messenger that Paul could be so informed about the church to which he was writing, but we who can send a message to the other side of the world are so uninformed. What can we do to become partners for the gospel with those in other places? If you’re not already, why not make the effort to find out about how life looks for one (or more!) of our link missionaries? Who is in their church? What are their needs? What is God doing in their midst? How can you pray for them?
In these ways, you will be sharing Paul’s love but, more importantly, you will be sharing Christ’s love. Because, like Paul relied on the Roman churches to embody his love, Christ relies upon us to be his ‘hands and feet'; it is through his ‘body’ that Jesus expresses his love for his people and for the world.

So let’s love our fellow believers we have all been rescued together by Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of love. Let’s remind one another of God’s grace to us; these things are the promptings of love. And let’s turn our love into action, becoming the embodiment – the incarnation! – of Christ to one another.

Amen.

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The transformational power of a renewed mind (Romans 12)

by on Oct.11, 2011, under Sermon

It has sometimes been said that the great ‘therefores’ of Romans neatly outline the themes of the epistle.1 In chapter 5, Paul proclaims, ‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom 5:1); in chapter 8 he continues, ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,’ (Rom 8:1). Each time he uses the word ‘therefore’, it is to introduce a new theme, yet one which builds on what has gone before.

It is no great surprise, then that when we get to chapter 12, he offers us another therefore:

‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God’ (Rom 12:1).

Here he is introducing a new section which is dedicated to explaining how the great and wonderful things that he has taught in the preceding chapters are translated into daily obedience. The ordering is very important; it is only now that Paul has firmly established the priority and necessity of God’s gracious working to free us from sin (‘we have been justified by faith’) and the condemnation that it would otherwise bring (‘there is now no condemnation’) that he introduces the subject of obedient works.

Just in case we miss the point, he lays special emphasis on what he has been saying before moving on to give instruction: ‘Therefore… in view of God’s mercy…’, referring back to all of Romans.

But what is it that Paul commands? I’m going to suggest that Paul’s instructions can be summarised in one word found in verse 2: ‘transformation’.

‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ (Rom 12:2)

There are two different kinds of change pictured here. The first is a change brought about by outward pressure from the world. We’ve all seen it; we’ve all felt it. The world has certain attitudes about sex, money, power, justice, relationships and so on, and anybody who does not fall into line with these feels tremendous pressure to change their ways to meet the norm. This could be called ‘adaptation’. But transformation is completely different, for it originates with God’s working on us from the inside rather than the world working on us from the outside. J. B. Phillips captures it nicely in his paraphrase of this verse: ‘Do not let the world squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed’.

The specific object of this transformation is our minds. This is not altogether surprising, since we know that the way we think about our circumstances greatly changes both our attitudes and our actions.

This week our daughter, Elyana, has had a number of nights when she has been particularly grumpy in the evenings. I found that the way that I responded toward her at these times varied greatly, depending on what I was thinking about at the time. When I was thinking primarily about how inconvenient it all was that she should pick this week to be unsettled, when I was trying to write a sermon, and I was so tired, how dare she not go to sleep when I tell her to and I have done all the ‘right’ things and so on… guess what? I have to confess to you that there were two grumpy children in that room, one of whom is 30 years old!

But when I instead focused on my relationship to her, that this is my daughter whom I love, and who was clearly upset, I was able to show the tenderness and compassion that she needed. A renewed mind led to a transformation in my attitudes and actions.

When God renews a mind, the results are spectacular. Paul goes on to outline some of the consequences in three main areas: (1) our relationship with God; (2) our perception of ourself; and (3) our love for others.

A renewed mind transforms our relationship with God (vv. 1-2)

Let’s dive on into the passage then. The first thing that Paul commands in verse 1 is that we ‘offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God’. This imagery would have been much more accessible to Paul’s Roman audience than it is to us, for ‘they had stood by their altar and watched as an animal was identified as their own, as it was slain in the ritual manner, its blood manipulated, and the whole or part of the victim burned on the altar and ascended in the flames to the deity they worshipped’.2 Such sacrifices were required to be ‘without defect or blemish’ (Lev 22:21)3 in which case they would in the process of being sacrificed be made ‘holy and pleasing’ to the deity to which they were offered.

First century readers would also have spotted immediately the contradiction in terms – ‘living sacrifices’. For an animal sacrifice, by definition, was dead. What, then, does it mean to offer a ‘living sacrifice’? One commentator describes it like this:

The sacrifice of which Paul writes demands not the destruction but the full energy of life. It is positive and dynamic.4

Even though, as Paul has explained in chapter 7, the body contains much indwelling sin, he nevertheless emphasises the importance of offering the body to God. Our bodies – indeed, our entire lives! – are offered to him to use as he will.

Yet, the problem with ‘living sacrifices’ is that they have a tendency to crawl off the altar!5 It is only when our mind is renewed that our relationship with God can be transformed in such a way as to allow us to continually offer a living sacrifice.

When our mind is renewed, a second transformation occurs in our relationship with God. We begin to be able to understand and appreciate God’s will.

‘Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ (Rom 12:2)

‘Test and approve’ implies first-hand experience. I think we sometimes want to know God’s will from the outside, so that we can decide for ourselves whether it is really the right thing for us, or so that we can offer our own ‘helpful’ critiques and suggestions of things that God may have overlooked or could do better. But God’s will can only be understood and appreciated from the inside. The psalmist writes:

‘Taste and see that the LORD is good.’ (Ps 34:8a)

As the old saying says, ‘the proof is in the pudding’ – it is only by tasting that we see how good it is, only by taking the plunge into the river that we know its power. We are called to an active participation in God’s will, not just an objective assessment.

This can only be done with a renewed mind. Remember what Paul said back in chapter 1:

‘Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.’ (Rom 1:28)

Men and women rejected God, disregarding ‘the knowledge of God’, and as a result God ‘gave them over to a depraved mind’. But now, because God has renewed our minds, we can once more ‘test and approve’ God’s will.6

A renewed mind transforms our perception of ourself (vv. 3-8)

So, a renewed mind transforms our relationship with God, causing us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, and enabling us to be active participants in God’s will, appreciating just how ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ it is. It also changes the way we perceive ourselves:

‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.’ (Rom 12:3)

There are two traps that we can fall into when thinking about ourselves. The first is that we think too highly of ourselves. But the phrase ‘more highly than you ought’ reminds us that there is a sense in which we ought to think highly of ourselves. How, then, are we to achieve the right course in between these two extremes? Paul’s answer is that we must consider our place in the body of Christ.

‘Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.’ (Rom 12:4–5)

A couple of ideas are prominent here. Firstly, the image of the body highlights the diversity of the members. Each member of our bodies has a role that it is uniquely suited to fulfil. In rare cases, other parts of the body may be able to compensate for a time, such as when muscles provide some stability to joints when ligaments fail, or when other organs take on the functions of a removed spleen. But the body is inevitably weaker than it would otherwise be when this happens, since these members are operating outside of the areas that they are particularly suited to.

Paul develops this idea in verses 6-8.

‘We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.’ (Rom 12:6–8)

We don’t have time to consider each of the gifts Paul lists here, but we need to note that this list is representative rather than comprehensive. In other words, don’t worry if you don’t see your particular gift or gifts listed here; that does not mean that you have no gift to offer. On the contrary, every member of the body of Christ has some gift to offer; and if they don’t offer it then the body suffers. And this brings us to the second idea that the imagery of the body gives us: unity.

‘In Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others.’ (Rom 12:5)

What does it mean that ‘each member belongs to all the others’?

John Murray says of Christians, “They have property in one another and therefore in one another’s gifts and graces.” It would be correct to add that you, as a Christian, have a right to the gifts the other members of the body have been given, and they have a right to your gift. You cheat them if you do not use it, and you are poorer if you do not depend on them.7

I think most of us are mistaken in the way we exercise our gifts. We think that our calling is to be as self-sufficient as we can. We want to make sure we have taken care of our needs and those of our family etc., and only then do we offer our excess time, energy and gifts for the benefit of the church at large.

But this is wrong.

If, instead, we were to allow others to serve us in their areas of strength, all of a sudden we would have more time and energy to exercise our own gifts to serve others! Perhaps you can cook a meal for someone, which will free some time for them to clean for someone else, who can in turn mind someone else’s kids… and so on. Each is then spending more time working in their area of gifting, and less in the areas that they are not gifted for, and which are therefore more draining.

For this to work, we need to be willing to both offer our gifts AND to be willing to ask for and receive help from others.

Let me ask two questions, then. (1) Are you exercising your gift or gifts as part of the body of Christ? and (2) Are you relying upon other members of the body to use their gifts on your behalf? If the answer to either of these is no, then the body is weakened… and the mind needs to be renewed.

A renewed mind transforms our love for others (vv. 9-21)

This brings us nicely to the third and final section in this passage, that deals with the way we relate to other people. I am going to group my comments on these verses into 3 categories: (1) our attitudes; (2) our actions; and (3) our reactions.

Firstly, our attitudes towards other people. I already shared with you some of the differences that a renewed mind make to attitudes; in verses 9-12 Paul describes some of the characteristic attitudes that are associated with a renewed mind. These include sincere love; a hate for that which is evil and a desire for that which is good; devotion toward one another, honouring one another; zeal and fervour; joy; patience in affliction; and faithful prayer. As with the gifts we skipped over earlier, we don’t really have time to consider all of these in detail, so I will just make one general observation.

All of these attitudes are possible for the unrenewed mind… for a time. But it is only with a mind renewed by God that they become consistent and characteristic. So the unrenewed mind may ‘love’, but that love quickly degenerates into insincerity unless it flows out of love for God. Similarly, zeal that is born out of human capacities rapidly fades, but the zeal of a renewed mind is constantly refreshed as we consider God’s mercies toward us.

The next four verses speak of the actions we are to take toward other people:

‘Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.’ (Rom 12:13–16)

Notice how each of these actions runs against the grain of what the world would recommend. Share, where the world says hoard. Be hospitable, not just to your friends (who will be hospitable in return) but with those are not able to return the favour (Luke 14:12-14). Bless, where the world curses. Enter into both the joy and grief of others, where the world teaches us to envy their joy and pity their grief.
In short, ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ (Rom 12:2).

Finally, Paul shows us how a renewed mind responds to the actions of others:

‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ (Rom 12:17–21)

The first and last verses of this section describe the two alternatives. The unrenewed mind seeks to overcome evil by responding with evil, particularly revenge. The renewed mind, however, acknowledges that revenge is God’s right, and his only. As we know from Romans 3, all have sinned, which means that all have incurred God’s wrath. Any evil that is perpetrated against us is, therefore, only the latest in a long line of atrocities against God (not us), and it is God’s decision how to respond. He does so in one of two ways: either that person is in Christ, in which case their sin is paid for, God’s wrath has been expended upon Jesus, and ‘there is now no condemnation’ (Rom 8:1); or he will impose judgment, expending his wrath upon them directly. In either case, we have no business taking our own petty revenge.

Instead, we are called to ‘overcome evil with good’. Providing for the needs of our enemies, blessing them (which means to pray will bring good to them) rather than cursing them, is the response of the renewed mind. As a result of doing this, we will ‘heap burning coals on [their] head’, a phrase intended to signify bringing them to repentance. Without doubt, the best result for everyone is for our enemies to repent and seek Christ, so that they need not face God’s wrath on their own. In this way, also, we may gain a brother or sister for ourselves.

Conclusion

What shall we say in conclusion then? It is clear that the renewal of the mind has (and is supposed to have) far-reaching consequences. It is, first of all, to transform our relationships with God, leading us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices and to test and approve God’s will. When we have done those things, we will begin to perceive ourselves in a different way, being enabled to think of ourselves and our gifts with sober judgment. Then, and only then, are we able to relate properly with other people, with transformed attitudes, actions and reactions.

I have one final warning and encouragement. Transformation is not just an individual thing; it requires Christian community if it is to be truly effective. Yes, God is the one who does the transforming, and we should certainly pray that he continues to do so. But his usual method of doing so involves other believers. It is in the church that we learn most and most truly about God, ourselves, and the world. It is in Christian community that we are given opportunity to develop our gifts, to serve one another, to form lasting relationships with God and each other. It is with other believers that we are best able to test and approve God’s will.

So, West Pennant Hills Community Church, the challenge for us this week is to seize every opportunity to encourage one another to be transformed in our attitudes, actions and reactions towards one another. Let us serve one another with the gifts that God has given us, depending on them to serve us in return. Let us offer our body – this body of Christ – as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God in a joint act of spiritual worship. May we not be conformed to the pattern of this world any longer, but let us be truly transformed by the renewing of our mind.

Amen.

Bibliography

Boice, James Montgomery. Romans. 4 vols. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1991.
Dawn, Marva J. Truly the Community : Romans 12 and How to Be the Church. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1997.
Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1996.
Morris, Leon. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1988.


Endnotes

  1. See, for example, Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12 and How to Be the Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1997), 7.
  2. Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1988), 433.
  3. For instructions on the kinds of sacrifices the Israelites were to offer, see Exod 12:5; 29:1; Lev 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6; 4:3, 23, 28, 32; 5:15, 18; 6:6; 9:2; 14:10; 22:19, 21; 23:12, 18; Num 6:14; 19:2; 28:3, 9, 11, 19, 31; 29:2, 8, 13, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29, 32, 36; Ezek 43:22, 25; 45:18, 23; 46:4, 6, 13. cf. Eph 5:27; Col 1:22; 1 Pet 1:19.
  4. Ibid., 434.
  5. Dawn, Truly the Community : Romans 12 and How to Be the Church, 23.
  6. Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1996), 757. Moo notes particularly the use of ἀδόκιμος (‘depraved’) in 1:28 in comparison to δοκιμάζω (‘approve’) in 12:2.
  7. James Montgomery Boice, Romans, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1991), 1582.
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