A Renewed Life

June 27, 2021 Series: Romans

Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Romans 12:1–2

[1] 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. [2] 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. - Romans 12:1–2

ILLUS: A few weeks ago I was working on a fence in our side yard. More specifically I was working on the gate. There was just a small section that needed to be fixed and in order to do so I had to loosen one of the bolts on the hinge.

A few minutes later the work was done and I tightened the bolt back up and stood up thinking it's great to have that done. Only to realize, the bottom hinge was still in place but the hinge at the top of the gate had come completely loose.

My focus on one thing threw another thing off and it didn’t work as it was intended.

Romans 12:1-2 represents a significant “hinge” from what Paul has been saying in the first 11 chapters of this book of our Bible, the correspondence he was sending to the church in Rome.

Last week, as we looked at Romans chapter 11 see, we finished out our study considering the foundation of the mercy of God as what we can build our faith on. Romans 11:36 reminds us that from him and through him and to him are all things - we might say that Romans 1 through 11 has addressed in some detail the from him and threw him aspects of the Christian Life.

Romans 12 makes the transition, helping us understand what it means to live our lives in a way that declares: to him be the glory forever!

We're going to spend the next few weeks in this chapter, but I don't want us to get away from this theme of Mercy because it keeps us from straying into new forms of legalism or moralism in the way that we live our lives for the glory of God. So if you hear the theme of Mercy in the coming weeks either in worship or in our time in the word that is very intentional.

Why is that? Well, in Romans 12 Paul helps us understand that…

The mercy of God aligns our lives to experience transformation - meaning, what we believe makes a difference in how we live

Much like the hinge on the gate, Paul wants to make sure that our faith and practice align with one another that we are not unhinged in the way that we live -or- that we are not unhinged in the way that we believe.

It may even help to start out by looking at the broader context of Romans 12 - that is, the Gospel’s effect on our relationships, let’s consider the variety of ways we’ll look at over the next several weeks:
TODAY: With the Lord (v.1-2)
With Ourselves (3)
With The Church (4-16)
With Our Enemies (17-21)

We've talked about it a few times before but I want to make sure that we understand the word worship properly today.

Oftentimes we’ve talked about worship being the part of our service where we sing.

Singing is an act of worship, but it is not our only act of worship. The very way that we live our lives, the things that we give ourselves to, viewing, hearing, thinking about, acting upon… the sum of all of these things are in and of themselves worship.

We Are Always worshipping you see, the question is what is the object of our worship? To best answer this question it’s best to look again at the foundation of our lives… as we saw last week, as Paul reiterates this week, it’s the mercy of God.

See, the act of worship is not something that is only inward, it's not some abstract or mystical act. Worship expresses itself in tangible ways

Let’s look back to V.1 together...

[1] 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.

We’re going to take our time exploring what Paul says in these two verses… let’s start with his appeal.

Appeal: Paul is urging, beseech, exhorting as some of your translations may say - this is a favorite verb of Paul’s - He’s calling his hearers to something, in the same way that a leader may call out to troops who were about to go into battle.

Therefore: in the ESV, which is the Bible translation I most preach from this is the 9/17 ‘Therefore’s in the book of Romans - many commentators I’ve read would say it’s the most significant, because the deep truths of chapters 1-11 set up the rich, gifted, spirit-filled, fruitful life of the believer we see through romans 12… consecration -setting apart for the things of God- consecration of life precedes bodily service

As we’re building from the previous 11 chapters, let’s just take a moment to note the 4 "strategic" uses of therefore by Paul in Romans

(1) the therefore of condemnation (Romans 2:1)
(2) the therefore of justification (Romans 5:1)
(3) the therefore of assurance ( Romans 8:1)
(4) the therefore of dedication (Romans 12:1)

Mercies: PLURAL!

Made me think this week or the Hymn: “Great is thy Faithfulness” lyric that says - morning by morning new mercies I see

Unless God had granted us mercies, not one of us could or would desire or be enabled to obey Paul's exhortation to "present ourselves"

Paul appeals for our lives to reflect an inward change,
but he makes this appeal based on the mercies of God

The mercy of God, His kindness toward us, even when we deserved punishment for our sins, reminds us that we’ve been saved FROM something. This is the foundation that we build lives based on what we’ve been saved FOR in the way we live for God.

So, what are the mercies of God? Here’s just a few from Romans 1-11
· Justified (saved by grace alone, by faith alone)
· Dead to sin, alive in Christ
· Adopted into God's family
· Under the power of grace not law
· Possessors of the indwelling Holy Spirit
· Peace and reconciliation with God
· No condemnation in Christ
· Promise of future glory
· No separation from God
· Confidence in God's faithfulness based upon His faithfulness to Israel

Present: participate - Paul here is building on what he told us in Romans 6:13,16,19 - don’t keep presenting yourself to those things, present yourself before God… that is, yield to him //

It’s important here to make the connection here: The body is the instrument through which we express ourselves. - setting ourselves aside for his purposes is a deliberate action involving the thought of finality.

Often in our faith we talk about our hearts being changed, softened, made new - Paul sees a direct connection between our hearts and our bodies - David acknowledged this in Psalm 139 and Jesus often speaks of outward actions coming from the heart. Throughout the scripture the heart is shown to be the drive of outward actions…

so there’s a direct connection between the bodies we’re called to ‘present’ as living sacrifices and the heart that’s driving them… I love what A.W. Tozer says about Presenting our bodies that helps make this whole being connection:

"Present your bodies..."—that is, present your vessel. That must come first. A vessel that has not been presented will not be filled. God cannot fill what He cannot have. Present your vessel.

If you will not present your personality, you will not get the fullness of the Spirit of God.

Are you ready to present your body with all of its functions and all that it contains—your mind, your personality, your spirit, your love, your ambitions, your all? This is the first thing. It can be a simple act—presenting the body. Are you willing to do it? - A.W. Tozer

Note how we’re presenting our whole-self… that’s important to understand - the Gospel makes a claim on our whole self, all of who we are, everywhere that we go.

Yesterday we had a wedding here, what a wonderful day of celebration but the bride did not turn to the groom and say, “I give you this ability.” Nor does he say to her, “I give you this aspect of who I am, alone.”

No, in a marriage ceremony there is a vow, “I give you myself.” And so the dedication of ourselves to serving God begins with a decisive commitment.

In the same way that keeping the vows spoken in a wedding ceremony requires continual reminders and recommitment, so dedicating ourselves to the Lord involves a moment-by-moment awareness of the pledge we made.

Why are these covenant reminders (like what we’ll celebrate in communion shortly) needed? Because the world relentlessly appeals to our selfishness and pride.

Through an attitude of continual submission to God, however, our hearts and lives will be transformed by God's power. And we will then know, with an assurance that comes from the Holy Spirit, that God's ways are "good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). This enables us to live confidently, joyously, and sacrificially.

Living Sacrifice: Although the Lord may ask some of us to physically die for Him, -don’t miss this, church- He calls all of us to live for Him.

Under the Old Covenants: The Old Testament worshiper would bring animals to the temple, to be killed and laid on the altar to be consumed by the fire.

See, Paul reversed the imagery. Bring yourself to the altar. But do not DIE for God: LIVE for Him!

To be a “living sacrifice” is to be fully at God’s disposal. It means, actively, to be willing to obey God in anything he says in any area of life; and, passively, to be willing to thank God for anything he sends in any area of life - Tim Keller

You may wonder: why does it matter that it’s a living sacrifice?

Saying that the sacrifice is living means that it’s a constant sacrifice… no matter how long you’ve experienced the salvation of the Lord -whether a day, month, year, decade or so long ago you don’t recall- the sacrifice is constant before the lord… if we combine the meaning of sacrifice -that is, a killing- it’s a living killing, a constant killing… a LIVING SACRIFICE.

My question for us today is this: do our lives reflect this, church?

Are there ways that we’ve stopped short and accepted the heart change, the salvation, the blessings but we’ve not started to experience the transformation on the outward… I ask this because in the temple service a sacrifice that was offered was consumed in whole. There was nothing left un-charred by the fire on the alter, it was a complete offering.

I love what D.L. Moody once observed,

“The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.” - D.L.Moody

May our offering be complete, consumed in whole - what does all of this amount to?

Answering this appeal, based on the mercies of God, to offer ourselves in this living death is a Spiritual Act of Worship...

Spiritual Worship: another way to render that phrase from the original greek is: rational service // that is, not just singing, showing the inner life, spiritual ‘worth’-ship of Jesus through our outward actions.

Just as a reminder, wanting to live our life as an act of worship is absolutely a rational, logical thinking that flows from a right understanding of the mercies of God… freely available to us -to you and me- today, right now.

When we rise: mercies
when we lay down: mercies
As we go throughout our day: we experience and can freely receive as well as live in the good of the mercies of God.

As I said earlier:

The mercy of God aligns our lives to experience transformation -
meaning, what we believe makes a difference in how we live

We’ve looked at the first part of this statement, God’s mercy aligning our lives to experience transformation… but how does the second part happen? How does what we believe inside begin to make a difference in how it is that we live?

It’s important to understand this as a foundation so we don’t lean toward legalism or moralism so, Let’s look at verse 2 together….

[2] 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.

Another way to paraphrase the opening of verse 2 might be: “don’t be molded by the ever-changing spirit of the age…”

Doesn’t that kind of capture how the world can feel at times: constant change, not the good kind, the kind that gets more discouraging by the day. I’m not telling you to stop watching the news but I can tell you this, it’s not going to lead to transformation… it’s going to highlight the challenges of a fallen, broken world wrestling with being molded by the spirit of the age.

There’s certainly beauty in the world and that’s absolutely worth highlighting and fighting for but Paul’s concern is that we’re aware enough of the world to be “in-it-not-of-it”, not floating along blithely, aware of your surroundings, their created purpose, your role in redeeming it for the kingdom that you’re an ambassador for: the Kingdom of God!

So, don’t be conformed - what a slightly offensive word, even today, who wants to participate in conformity?!

Revolutions aren’t animated by conformity, making a difference in the world around us doesn’t have as it’s mission statement “conformity” and yet, there’s something about going along with the things of the world that is a form of spiritual conformity that we must be on guard against.

Why is ‘not being conformed’ important to Paul? Because, for the believer, it’s an outward representation that does not reflect what is on the inside, in their spirit, driving the desires of the heart...

Transformed: BE, what?, be transformed.

Perhaps it would help to think of it this way:

Conformed: molded
Transformed: recreated

Cookies are conformed, butterflies are transformed.

Paul’s point here is to contrast two constant actions: conformity and transformation… as believers we’re called to be TRANSFORMED.

To be sure, Paul is playing some games with the greek language that can, at times, be difficult to bring the weight of to the english language.

Needless to say; this is not a passive tone that Paul is striking. He’s not just putting in filler words to make some kind of word count to turn this paper in.

This matters to Paul because if we don’t get this right, if we’re focused on the wrong things, we slip into a self-righteousness, an ability in ourselves to accomplish something and that would go against the past 11 chapters of his writing.

If we were to try to live any of the things out that are in the coming verses on our own, in our own strength, without the power of the spirit we’d fall short again and again. But for those who are being transformed… there’s power in that supplied by the same source who provides the mercies that are the foundation for the change.

Isn’t it kind of God not to leave us ‘unhinged’ like a fence and gate in the way he provides for our faith? He doesn’t leave us wondering how to live, how to receive and love Him. He gives us the answers, he aligns and brings light to our understanding...

What’s the point of this Transformation we’re called to through the renewal of our mind in going against the schemes of the age?

“...that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Testing, discerning… the will of God: Good → Acceptable → Perfect

Here then are the stages of Christian moral transformation: first our mind is renewed by the Word and Spirit of God; then we are able to discern and desire the will of God; and then we are increasingly transformed by it. - Stott, John

We’ll see more in the weeks ahead about the things that God says are Good, Acceptable and Perfect as well as how they affect our relationships in the ways that we live out of the good of the mercies of God.

For today, let’s make sure we have a sure foundation in our understanding that:

The mercy of God aligns our lives to experience transformation -
meaning, what we believe makes a difference in how we live

There’s one who was provided for us in Jesus Christ who sets the perfect example for us to look to.

He offered his body on our behalf, he did not conform to the world but he transformed the world everywhere that he went. He is good, he is himself acceptable and perfect.