Thursday, May 8, 2014

40 Day Challenge - Draw Closer to God & Your Hubby (Day 11: Living Sacrifice, Spiritual Worship, Renewal of Mind)

Right now I'm reading through the book of Romans and am stuck on chapter 12, verses 1 and 2. I've been stuck there for weeks and here's your result: a 40 day challenge! Let's look at the verse itself and talk about why I've waited until now to discuss it with you... 
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
This verse is T-H-I-C-K. So thick that I can't think about it without my mind exploding. I wish I were kidding, or even exaggerating a bit. So let's break this down.

  • What does Paul mean when he says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers"?
  • Who are the "brothers"? 
  • What are the mercies of God?
  • What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?
  • What is spiritual worship?
  • How do you keep from being conformed to this world?
  • How do you transform and renew your mind?
  • How can you determine the will of God?
  • How can you determine what is good? Acceptable? Perfect?

You have the same questions, right? Let's answer them one by one.
  • What does Paul mean when he says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers"? To appeal is to request something, but it's more than asking, it's more like a demand. He is demanding that the audience of this letter do something. The "therefore" in the sentence ties us to something he stated previously (we'll get there).
  • Who are the "brothers"? (Read 1:7) "To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints..." If you dig a little deeper you find that Paul wrote this letter right before they were going to experience the worst possible persecution in Christian history (AD 56-58). Just Google "Nero" and you'll find what he did to these people because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
  • What are the mercies of God? This is a loaded question. In order to understand the mercies of God that Paul wrote about previously (remember the "therefore"?) you must read the first 11 chapters of Romans! Each piece points back to the purpose verse in 1:16-17, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" What is the gospel? That Jesus lived, died, rose again and is seated at the right hand of God according to Scripture (remember Day 1?). The GOSPEL is the power of God! Because we are granted salvation through faith in Jesus Christ - the righteous (made righteous through Christ) shall live by faith. We (Jews and Gentiles) receive salvation through faith alone in Christ alone - that is the power of God. Do you see why Day 1 was the Gospel? IT'S THE POWER OF GOD! There is nothing else that can transform you more than the work of God in your life through Jesus Christ. Nothing. You begin to understand why it's the power of God when you read chapters 1-3 which explains how our sin is so grotesque that we need the gospel. ALL of us. Our sin is so grotesque that not one person seeks God (3:11), "...our throat is an open grave..." (3:13) in other words we are a mess unless God gives us something. HE GAVE US JESUS! Chapter 4, using Abraham as one example, explains that righteousness, or justification, comes through faith alone. Even Abraham, the Jew's father of faith, cannot be saved by works. Chapter 5 starts out with "therefore" since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God! Do you know how big that is?! Think about this: God is at war with sin. Right? Before He breathed life into us through faith in Jesus Christ we were dead (read 4:17), because of our sin. If God is at war with sin He is at war with sinners. YOU WERE AT WAR WITH GOD because of your grotesque sin. We were His enemy (5:10). THEREFORE we have been cleared of that sin, it has been removed from us, we are justified through faith alone in Christ alone and as a result we are STANDING IN HIS GRACE. Is that not a wonderful mercy of God? We can't lose it! Christ died for us while we were still sinners! (5:8) Since it has absolutely nothing to do with what we can or cannot do (remember Abraham, one of our examples) and it has everything to do with the work GOD is doing in our life, we cannot lose His grace. Thank goodness. Chapter 6 explains the simple question that He knew they were going to ask, If we are standing in His grace, why not keep sinning? He answers that with a question, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (6:2) When we accepted Jesus as our Savior our old self is gone and we are a new creation! (Mercy of God? Um, yes!) Chapter 7 is beautiful because he uses another example that the Jews would understand: the law of marriage. Oh my word this is so HUGE that I might need to spend an entire blog session writing about it, here's the gist: the law is gone. We serve a new husband: Jesus. Period. (Mercy of God? HA! Absolutely! We cannot keep the Law perfectly because we are sinners! Remember chapters 1-3? Remember the purpose verse? What makes us righteous? OUR FAITH!) Is the enormity of this gift of God through Jesus Christ sinking in yet? Welp, it gets better. When we didn't deserve a single thing He keeps giving us mercy, more mercy, and more mercy... so much mercy that we can give Him nothing in return except our life. Which brings me to chapter 8! "There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus." (8:1) That's one of my favorite verses! If you have faith alone in Christ alone, you are standing in His grace, you can't out sin it, and you can freely and joyfully give your life to HIM! The Israelites were so focused on all 300 some odd Laws (and traditions they made up themselves) that there was no room for loving Him, enjoying Him, and Joyfully giving your life to Him. Mercy of God? I'd say so! And yet, it gets better... Remember chapters 1-3 how we are so sinful that no one seeks for God? (3:11) If no one seeks for God what is our hope? Well, chapter 9 explains that. God found us. He calls us. Why? Because it is about GOD and therefore we boast IN GOD and what HE DID in our lives. "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." (9:17) When we realize that it is all about GOD and HIS WORK, our self fades into the background as we praise an almighty God who saved us when we didn't deserve it AND WHEN WE WANTED NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. HUGE mercy of God? Yes! Chapter 10 explains why we preach the gospel. If God did the work and if God calls us, why do we minister to one another? Well. Verse 17, "... faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." How can they believe if they haven't heard? How can they have faith in something they know nothing of? God calls us to minister. If for no other reason we'd better do it. Also by ministering to one another, our faith stands strong! Chapter 11 explains how God is faithful to His Word! He grafted in a group of people that were not Israelites, but Paul gives us a warning: just as easily as God grafted us in, He can rip us off. So do not become prideful. BOAST ONLY IN GOD! And celebrate the fact that all Israel will be saved. (11:26) I don't know how God will do it, I don't understand that piece but He keeps His Word, so I believe it. I can rest in this amazing fact: He keeps His Word. Mercy of God? Heck yes!
  • What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? Remember God's Mercy's? How can we owe Him anything? What do we sacrifice? OUR LIFE. We live for Him. Think of it from the Roman's perspective. They were going to lose everything as a result of their faith. Do you see the enormity of that statement: be a living sacrifice? Because they were literally giving their life for the sake of Jesus! HOW MUCH MORE should we offer our life? We are not persecuted for our faith, we are not losing our homes, families, children for our faith. We can open our Bible without fear. We can attend worship services without fear. How much more of our life should we offer for His Namesake?!
  • What is spiritual worship? When Christ ascended into heaven, what did He give us? A Helper: the Holy Spirit. Where does the Holy Spirit reside? Within us! Our innermost self should be consumed with Jesus Christ. Our heart, our mind, and soul. WE ARE HIS TEMPLE. When and where does not matter. We need to worship Him while doing the dishes. We need to worship Him when we're with our husbands! We need to worship Him while changing a diaper! In all that we do our minds should be so focused on Christ that our life exudes HIM. 
  • How do you keep from being conformed to this world? By the renewal of your mind. How do you do that? Through God's Word! Know it. Memorize it. Go to church and constantly learn how to read it correctly. If you don't focus on Christ and HIS MERCIES you lose sight of Him and begin to accept the world's doctrine: self first. 
  • How do you transform and renew your mind? Through God's Word. He gave you this book so that you can KNOW Him. Read it like this: God I want to know YOU! Reveal YOUR purpose to me. Otherwise you'll be conformed to this world: HOW DOES THIS VERSE APPLY TO ME? Do you see the danger? God first. Others second. Self last. Always. Renew your mind according to God's Word given to you to reveal HIMSELF.
  • How can you determine the will of God? Through God's Word. What is His will? Well He says He exalts two things above all else: His Name and His Word. (Psalm 138:2) If you want to know God's Will, read His Word!
  • How can you determine what is good? Acceptable? Perfect? Yup. You guessed it. Through God's Word.
According to Paul all of life is worship because once we understand the mercies of God poured out in our lives (the first 11 chapters of Romans) and acknowledge that by faith in Christ alone we are made righteous (the entire purpose of the book of Romans in chapter 1:16-17), our lives should exude CHRIST. I love how John Piper pieces this together in his sermon, What is the Will of God and How do We Know It? He argues that our "... thoughts, attitudes and actions are spontaneous. They are just spillover from what's inside." When I read that I asked myself, what is my spillover? I truly hope my spontaneous thoughts, attitudes or actions reflect CHRIST. That's what all Christians want right? How can we make that happen? How can our day-to-day living (everything we say and do) be an act of worship?

Now that you know the mercies of God you are fully able to present yourself as a living sacrifice! You are able to give your life to Christ! If you are transformed by the renewal of your mind and are constantly discerning what is the will of God, you will exude Christ, thus worshiping Him!
Consider the first 11 chapters that describe the absolute sovereignty of God and understand that all of life should become spiritual worship, you'll whole heartedly serve Christ with fervor. But how do you know the will of God? How can you constantly renew your mind? How can you not be conformed to this world? Saturate your life with GOD'S Word! The mind of God is revealed in Scripture and in order to focus and worship HIM, our minds and hearts and bodies should EXUDE HIS WORD.

Do you see the reason for this challenge? I needed a renewal of mind. I needed to be reminded of God's Mercies through the Gospel on Day 1, I needed to understand GOD and His sovereignty and His greatness (Day 2 and 3), I needed to consume my thoughts toward HIM through music, through prayer, through Scripture, through self-sacrifice, through my purpose in life, through my innermost desires. I needed to understand that EVERYTHING I do, everything, is a direct reflection of my walk with Christ! EVEN THE THINGS I DO AND SAY TO MY HUSBAND reflect whether or not I'm a "living sacrifice" ready to worship CHRIST in all that I say and do. Am I using my mind, heart, body (yes, body) to worship God? If by denying my husband my mind, my heart, my body I am in essence denying the command of God that states I need to give it all to HIM and him. 

Today, there is no task, I simply want you to let that soak in. I've been thinking and reflecting on it for WEEKS and this challenge is a result of it. So let it soak in... and if you are struggling to understand it, reread it, and ask God to "enlighten the eyes of your heart..." (as Paul says in Ephesians). 

None of that will make sense if you ignore...
  • Day 1 - The Gospel 
  • Day 2 - Stop & Consider the Wondrous Works of God
  • Day 3 - Trust in God's Sovereignty
  • Day 4 - Using Music to Focus Our Hearts & Minds on God
  • Day 5 - Sanctify Me
  • Day 6 - Memorize Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Day 7 - Deny Self
  • Day 8 - Pray
  • Day 9 - What is Your Purpose?
  • Day 10 - Your Innermost Desires
I'm so glad you decided to join me.

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