1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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. 3 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 faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. ~Rom 12:1-5
These are the key verses for our church for this year. If I had to choose a couple, I’d say verses 4 and 5. And I pray that we can live out these verses and become the church that brings glory to the name of Christ more and more this year and for years to come.
Title: Is it Possible to Have a Facebook Faith?
From the way, I framed the title, you can probably guess that I think the answer is no.
I pray that God would help us to arrive at an answer to this question based on Scripture. And this brings us to the end of this 3 part series. Part 1 was Jesus is the culmination of the law. Part 2 last week was Jesus is the root of salvation. Now, Part 3 is Jesus is the head of the church. We’ve reached the climax of the book of Romans here in chapter 12. The verses that we just read are Paul’s main thesis statement, it’s the big idea, and assuming we’ve been tracking what Paul has been saying in Romans chapters 1-11, then here is how you ought to live. Romans 1 through 11 was all setup, we were dead in our sins and from the Fall of humanity, God initiated his redemption plan which involved a calling of a particular people, the nation of Israel. Then, Jesus came upon the scene and the people who knew the law backward and forward failed to recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and because of their rejection, the gospel message shifted more explicitly to the Gentiles. And as we have been covering in the past 2 sermons in this series, it’s all about Jesus. He came into the world to save sinners and we call this act the gospel, Jesus is the culmination of the law, he is the root of salvation and as we’ll study today, he is the head of the church.
Starting in Romans 12, we read how recipients of this gospel are to live it out and the practical ramifications of one who is touched by the mercy of God are spelled out from Romans chapter 12 to 16 in very specific and concrete terms.
Verse 2 reads —
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.
We often ask what is God’s will for me? What is his plan for my life? Especially, college students start asking this question as they approach their senior year. But even as a thirty something, this question still crosses our minds and then a few years from now, I’ll be 40 and that’s when people generally have a mid-life crisis and people at the midpoint of their lives start asking, am I doing what God wants me to do? I thought I knew God’s will when I was younger, but now I’m not so sure. And have you noticed that there are many grumpy old men and women? It’s because they are looking back at their lives and they are wondering, what did I do with my life? And there’s a lot of regrets.
So if God’s will for your life is important to you, then listen up. I am not offering career advice or my personal opinion about God’s will or a seminar on how to not live with any regrets in your golden years. None of that. It is my firm conviction that God’s will is clearly laid out in these short verses, and therefore there are principles here that apply universally to all believers.
This is a message that has been on my heart and it’s been in the back burner simmering, it’s been in the making for several years now. And in my final message before I get ordained, the timing is such that I will get to preach on Romans 12. I didn’t plan it this way. Truly, God is sovereign.
What is God’s will for your life? Well, I think among many things you can say from this passage, there are 3 things that we can clearly point to that represent God’s will for all believers.
1) To know personally how much you are a recipient of God’s mercy.
2) In view of this mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.
3) To be a living and active member of Christ’s body, the church.
First, it is God’s will for you to know personally how much you are a recipient of God’s mercy and this is tied intimately with the second point, it is God’s will to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.
From Romans 1, it talks about the human predicament.
Romans 1:21-23 – For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Failure to glorify and thank God – this is a result of a futile mind and a darkened heart. And there was an exchange of the glory of God for idols. So idolatry is rampant.
Then, in the following verses…
Romans 1:24-27 – Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Sexual impurity and degrading of their bodies with one another. Then, another mention of idolatry.
Romans 1:28-32 – Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity…
Depraved mind and then Paul goes on to list all the sins that follow when a mind is depraved.
It seems hopeless. How can someone who has been given over by God to their sinful desires, whose mind is depraved and heart darkened, who engages in idolatry and every kind of wicked act, how can that person be saved? It is hopeless. We are not saved through our works. We cannot will it to be. We cannot earn our way to salvation. Salvation is not based on merit or race or background.
Even if we had a million years to live and all the resources and technology at our fingertips and the advances of modern society to back us up, we could never save ourselves. This is what the Bible says about us, this is the human predicament.
A good illustration of the human predicament is given in the book of Ezekiel. The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision in chapter 37, a valley of dry bones.
Ezekiel 37:4-6 – Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”
Dry bones are utterly dead. And this was symbolic of the spiritual state of Israel and all of humanity apart from God. Dry bones, you can’t do anything to them. You can put clothes on them and pretend that the skeleton is alive, but it’s obvious, those bag of bones ain’t moving unless you are watching Pirates of the Caribbean. And because it is dead, no amount of effort to reform it makes sense. Because they are dry, dead bones. This is the human predicament — we are a bag of bones, utterly dead spiritually.
But the good news is that the word of the Lord was spoken and those bones came to life. Tendons were formed and began to attach themselves to the bones. Flesh appeared and life was breathed into those bones through the hearing of the word of the Lord.
And of course, this is a foreshadowing of Jesus. In John 1:1 & 14, we read
John 1:1 — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God… and the Word was God. And the word became flesh.
Logos, the embodied Word, Jesus entered into human time and space. Because speaking a word from heaven to a nation of Israel was insufficient. God had to roll up his sleeves and reach down into the mess we made by sending his Son into the world because we had no other recourse. This is the theology of the incarnation. God came near to us. He took on flesh and bones and through his death and resurrection, we, the valley of dry bones, have a chance to be forgiven of our sins and saved and given a new spiritual life.
Do we agree with this assessment of yourself? This is critical. We are helpless and hopeless sinners and until you realize this, the gospel will not be good news to you.
Salvation is not just upgrading ourselves from Windows Vista to Windows 7, although I must admit that this is a substantial upgrade. Salvation is not self-improvement, which basically says I am okay and I just need a few tweaks for the good that is already inside of me to come out. We are not the way we are because of a bad childhood experience or a lack of parental affections. No, the problem is our sin and the only solution is a Savior.
Salvation, in the words of Jesus to Nicodemus, is a second birth. Not an improved life. No, Jesus said, you have to be born again. That means, to be saved, you have to hit the reset button. Our first life was a failure. It’s game over. Jesus gives us an entirely new life when he saves us.
If this is true about the human predicament, as a believer, do you recognize that you have reached this point in your life purely by the mercy of God? Our salvation, our life, all the blessings we enjoy, the fact that we are alive today and have breath in our lungs, everything is in view of God’s mercy.