Monday, December 2, 2013

Grace And Personal Responsibility by Martin Wiles

Romans 12:1-2
A. It’s my body. I can do with it what I want.

B. This is a typical argument in the abortion issue. The woman-and others who are proponents, use this argument to justify their decision. They may even propose what’s inside them is just a fetus and not a living thing.

C. Those who use legal and illegal substances often use the same argument. What I’m doing is not hurting anyone but me.

D. Paul has set forth a great deal of theological truth up to this point, but he will now move to practical application.

E. Recalling how monumental the sacrifice of Christ was, and how painful it was for Jesus to endure the cross and for God to allow him to do so, it stands to reason that this places some type of responsibility on believers.

F. If our bodies are indeed temples of God’s Spirit, then it matters how we treat them.

G. If our bodies belong to God, we must place them at his disposal.

I. Believers Are Living Sacrifices (vv. 1)
A. Our sacrifice is different from Old Testament sacrifices.
1. Under the Old Testament economy, individuals would bring animal sacrifices to the priest who would offer them in their behalf.
2. The animal brought was to be without defect as far as the worshiper could determine.
3. The blood of the sacrifice provided a covering for the sins of the individual and in some cases the nation.
4. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, this blood could not actually take away the sin. (10:4) The sacrifices foreshadowed what the coming Messiah would do.
5. Even during the time when sacrifices were required, God made it evident that obedience from the heart was more important.
6. The prophet Samuel said, What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. (I Samuel 15:22)

B. The Believer’s Sacrifice
1. Now that Christ has sacrificed himself on the cross, we no longer bring the animal sacrifices. Rather we bring ourselves.
2. We are to give our bodies to God as living and holy sacrifices.
3. Old Testament sacrifices died when sacrificed. We don’t. We are living sacrifices or offerings of a gracious and saving God. We don’t offer ourselves to God one time and then take ourselves back. We continually offer our lives to him each day.
4. Remember Lazarus. The religious leaders wanted to kill him because he was a living testimony of the resurrection power of Jesus. Because of him, many were abandoning them and following Jesus.
5. Our lifestyle should have a similar affect on others.
6. For this to happen, the second word-holy, must characterize our lifestyle.
7. Our testimony for what God has done in our life will mean little if anything when our actions, words and attitudes don’t match the teachings of Christ.
8. As mentioned before, even unbelievers have an idea-and sometimes it’s pretty accurate, of how a Christian should act. When our message and manner of living doesn’t match up, it is evident to them and our testimony is marred.
9. God’s people in the Old Testament were often rebuked by prophets and accused of bringing shame on God’s name because of their disobedience and ungodly lifestyles.
10.  So it does matter what we do with our bodies. We bring harm to ourselves, others and God’s cause.
11.  Believers should never conclude; What I’m doing is not hurting anyone but me.
12.  Our sacrifice is not done out of drudgery. It is with joy and appreciation that we put God’s desires above our own and put all our energy into following his plan for our life.
13.  Had the animals been able to foresee and feel what was about to happen to them, they would not have been excited, but we should be ecstatic about our opportunities to serve God with all our abilities.
14.  Paul concludes his admonition with a logical question based on what he has already taught: Is this too much to ask when you think of all God has done for you?
15.  The anticipated answer is No! Knowing where we were headed and realizing how God has intervened in our behalf, giving sacrificially to him should be the natural result.

II. God Gives Believers The Method To Use In The Sacrifice (v. 2)
A. Avoid the behavior and customs of the world.
1. True to predominant biblical usage, world is not the created order but rather the system opposed to God’s teachings.
2. It attracts to it people who are opposed to his teachings or who simply choose not to follow them.
3. When something is proposed by individuals, communities, political figures or governments that is opposed to God’s teachings, it represents the world’s philosophy and is off limits to believers.
4. Not all parts of the world’s system are opposed to God’s commands. For example, it’s a crime to steal, so obeying the world’s command not to steal doesn’t put us at odds with God’s system.
5. It is only when the system is at odds with God’s that we have to take a different direction.
6. As we will see later, believers are also required to obey the government as long as it doesn’t require them to disobey God.
7. God’s purpose for government is to reward good and punish evil, and as long as it fulfills those functions, we have an obligation to obey it.
8. All of us must decide how much worldly behavior is off limits to us. Some things are not necessarily wrong but may be questionable and unwise. We always have to consider our testimony to others.
9.  Paul once said eating meat sacrificed to idols was not wrong in itself, but if it offended a brother he would abstain. (I Corinthians 8:13)

B. Let God transform your mind.
1. The Greek word for transform is metamorphoo (meta mor fah’ o) and means to be changed into another form.
2. The believer’s transformation begins on the inside and results in outward changes.
3. We’ve probably said to someone who is dressed up; “Boy you sure do clean up good.”
4. What we think is vitally important. What we think leads to feelings, and we act on feelings.
5. No action is taken that is not thought about first, no matter how spur of the moment it might seem.
6. If we are to be living sacrifices holy before God, we must let God transform us by changing the way we think. One translation says we do this by renewing our mind.
7. Much of the renewing is done by God’s Spirit as we read and meditate on His Word since this reflects God’s standards, values and requirements.
8. The writer of Hebrews says God’s Word is sharper than a two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit and joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
9. Why is renewing our mind important? Paul tells us. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.
10.  In another epistle, Paul tells us what we are to think about: Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)
11.  When we think on things that fall into those categories, our minds will be renewed and we will know what God wants from us.

C. The Importance of Healthy Self Esteem
1. We might think that taking Paul’s message about humanity’s sinfulness to heart would lead us to have a low view of ourselves, but the complete opposite is true.
2. We may be sinful from birth, but we are declared righteous in Christ.
3. We may be born with a sinful bent that results in sinful actions but Christ makes us new creations with a new sense of direction.
4. It is important that our minds are at peace for we have been made at peace with God, but some thoughts will destroy that peace-thoughts that are not part of a renewed mind and thoughts we must take captive under Christ’s authority.
5. Of course, sinful thoughts fall into this category. Anytime we think about sinful actions we set ourselves up to follow that thought with a sinful action. Thoughts lead to actions.
6. Thinking on those things Paul listed in Philippians will help us avoid that scenario.
7. We should also avoid self limiting thoughts. We are more than conquerors in Christ (Romans 8:37), and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13), are two important verses for us to remember.
8. God will not call us to a task he does not empower us to carry out. The Bible is replete with stories of this truth.
9. Realizing who we are in Christ and experiencing his daily love and care should drive self limiting and defeating thoughts from our mind.
10.  The only limit is the one we place on ourselves or the one we realize if trying to do something God has not led us to do.
11.  Erroneous thoughts will also destroy peace. We’ve already addressed this. Thinking unbiblical thoughts about ourselves will destroy peace.
12.  Rebellious thoughts are similar to sinful thoughts. They involve intentions of wanting to go our own way instead of God’s.
13.  Obsessive thoughts can enslave us. Some messages that play in our mind have been instilled by parents, teachers or other relatives. Messages that have told us we will never amount to anything.
14.  Thoughts such as the above are not part of a renewed mind and will not clue us in to God’s plan and will for our life.
15.  When our minds are transformed we begin to understand God’s mind. Therefore we can pray in God’s will because we will know his will.

A. Let God transform your mind daily as you read his Word.

B. Then allow those inner truths to transform you outward actions.

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