Romans 12: Things to Do
Paul always ends his letters with the practical, to-do list . What we believe should determine how we behave as Paul moves from doctrine to duty- to practical, everyday application. In this chapter Paul will deal with : our relationship with God; our relationship to other believers and our relationship to our enemies. Paul addresses our relationship with God first, for if we do not have this relationship right, we will never be get the other relationships right.
We now encounter the fourth-therefore in Pauls epistle. The others were : therefore no one will be declared righteous- the therefore of condemnation ( Romans 3:20); the therefore of justification in Romans 5; the therefore of assurance that we are no longer condemned in Romans 8 and now the fourth therefore- the therefore of dedication in Romans 12.
OUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD
Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of Gods mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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 Gods will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.: ( Romans 12: 1,2) NIV. Adrian Rogers said this is a formula represented by : P+T= R. Presentation plus transformation equals the revealed will of God.
These two verses are about our dedication to God and involves three steps. Lets notice first the reason Paul lists as why we should dedicate ourselves to God. Paul said when you consider the mercies of God, this should be reason enough. What has God done for you and me? He saved me from sin and ruin and death. He saved me from self. God did this for me at great costs to Himself, for to save my soul and make me whole, it took the life of His Only Begotten Son. He, who knew no sin, became sin for me. He paid my sin debt with His own blood. When the Resurrected Lord Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene on that Easter Sunday morning, He told her to not take hold of Him for He had not yet returned to His Father.( John 20) In Hebrews 9, we read, the Resurrected Lord Jesus as our High Priest He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man made, that is to say not a part of this creation. In other words He entered into heaven. He was saying in effect to Mary, do not hold on to me yet, for I have not returned to heaven yet to pay for the sins of the world. Hebrews 9:24 tells us: ..he entered heaven itself. There the Lord Jesus paid our debt in full, and cleanses our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God. ( Hebrews 9: 14b) In other words, we were saved to serve. And because of Gods mercies toward us, we should serve Him as this is our reasonable service. God does not force us to serve Him. It is a privilege we have. Paul urges or beseeches us to present our bodies, ourselves as the response to this amazing love, amazing grace, mercy and compassion that a king would die for us.
Michael Smiths song, ABOVE ALL, captures what the Lord did for us:
Above all powers above all kings, above all nature and all created things. Above all wisdom and all the ways of man- You were here before the world began. Above all kingdoms, above all thrones; above all wonders the world has ever known. Above all wealth and treasures of the earth- Theres no way to measure what Youre worth! Crucified and laid behind a stone, You lived to die, rejected and alone. Like a rose trampled to the ground, You took the fall and thought of me, Tim Fortner. ABOVE ALL!
Now tell me- He does He not deserve our dedication? Paul says this is the only reasonable thing to do. Lets take a look at the three steps of dedication:
Step 1. Present your bodies a living sacrifice. Give God your body. Before we were saved and trusted Christ, we used our bodies for sinful ,selfish pleasures and purposes, but now we belong to Him, we are to use our bodies to bring glory to God. We are told our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. ( I Cor. 6:19-20) God the Son had a body prepared for Him to take upon Himself. He clothed Himself in flesh in order to accomplish God the Fathers will. Now He wants to use our yielded bodies to accomplish the Fathers will on earth. Paul told us in Romans 6 to yield our bodies as instruments of righteousness for the Holy Spirit to use to do Gods work. He does not want dead bodies, He wants living bodies, living sacrifices. Every day when we awake, we must as an act of worship yield our bodies to the Lord.
Step 2. Give God our minds. The world wants to conform us to its pattern of thinking. It works from the outside in. It puts pressure on us to alter our convictions to adapt to social whims. It wants us to compromise and in the end, we have a culture which now calls evil good and good evil. The Holy Spirit transforms our minds by releasing the power from within. If the world controls your thinking, you are being conformed. If God controls your thinking you are being transformed. How do we transform our minds? God transforms our minds and makes us spiritually minded by using His Word. Remember, the Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than a two edged sword. The Word of God is life giving, life changing and life transforming. We must meditate on it day and night, memorize it, obey it and God will change us from the inside out as we become spiritually minded. Our view of the world is then a biblically based view of the world based on Gods Word which we believe is true. Jesus said, if you continue, abide in My Word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. ( John 8) Alex de Tocqueville, who wrote the classic Democracy in America, as a result of his visit in the early 1800s made the following observations: The greatness of America is not in her enlightenment; but in her ability to repair her faults. They combine the notions of Christianity and liberty so intimately in their minds- they cannot conceive of one without the other. He went on to explore what made it so great from its harbors to fertile fields but after visiting her churches and seeing them aflame with righteousness, he concluded: America is great because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good- she shall cease to be great.
Then he concludes: in the end the state of the union comes from the character of her people.
That used to be us.
Step 3. Give God our will. Our minds control our bodies, and our will controls our mind. If you think you can control your will with your own will power- you thought wrong. Whereas, there are some areas where we will succeed, there is always that area as described in Hebrews 12- where sin so easily entangles us and hinders us. For me, I discovered I was powerless over alcohol and needed a Higher Power. How do we surrender our will to God, so that we may live victorious lives? We surrender our wills to God through disciplined prayer. We follow the example of our Lord, who prayed- Not my will but your will be done, Father. PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING. LET GOD HAVE HIS WAY IN EVERYTHING. Let Him have His own way- He is the Potter- we are the clay. Mold me and make me.
So here is the plan: I will begin each day by surrendering my body to the Lord. Reminding myself, I am not my own. I have been bought and paid for and my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Then I spend time in His Word to let Him transform my mind, so that I can have the mind of Christ. I pray to yield my plans to Him and let Him work through me this day as He sees best. For those things and tasks that upset or worry me- I pray especially for my Heavenly Father to help me depend wholly on Him. He always sees me through. I yield my will to His will- so I am using His power not my will power. This gives me the ability to say no to temptation. By yielding my will to His will power, I have the power to say ; I wont take a drink today .I wont do this addressing whatever sin hinders you and so easily entangles you. Thy Word have I hid in my heart-( through prayer and meditation) that I might not sin against you. ( Psalm 119)
Now as believers seeking to serve the Lord, we must be aware of which plain of life we are living on. . We live on one of three plains in life- sensual, soulish and spiritual. The sensual is ruled by the five senses. We make decisions each day based on these five senses: taste, sight, smell, feel, and hearing. Making decisions based on these five senses alone, is living on the sensual plain of life. These can be subtle in the life of a believer. We do not like a certain person, because of the way they talk, or smell or their appearance. We may not admit this, but underneath this is our motivation.
Those who live on the soulish plain are ruled by their intellect, emotions or will. For the soul of man is comprised of these parts. You may have in the body of believers – the intellect who studies the Bible and languages of the Bible and is able to quote scriptures from memory and is considered a great theologian, but Paul wrote if you have all knowledge and have not charity (love) you are nothing. Others are controlled by their emotions and moved to tears by passages of scripture or the plight of others or become so worked up in a meeting, he/she shouts hallelujah or amen with great gusto! Others possess an iron will. They seem to have self-discipline in abundance. Not realizing apart from Him we can do nothing..
To be spiritual is to allow the Holy Spirit to have control of your body, mind and will. In this way, the sensual and soulish are controlled and the person is in balance in their relationships. Now if you are wondering how do we determine if we acting in the soul or the spirit? God has given us an instrument for just such a purpose- the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit. For the Word of God is alive, and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit , and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. ( Hebrews 4:12)
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER BELIEVERS
Our relationship with other believers- our horizontal relationships begins with an honest evaluation of ourselves. So often when I study the Word of God, I am reminded of the 12 steps of AA. Listen to these biblical principles contained within these steps to sobriety:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Substitute sin in the first step for alcohol and you see how this fits. Step 4 in the 12 Step AA program is to make a fearless moral inventory of ourselves. This is what we are to do according to the Word of God as Paul instructs us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. I would also say to you that implied here is to also not think less of yourself than you ought to think. If you are saved, you are Gods child, blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, and joint heirs with Jesus. Nothing causes more damage in the body of believers than pride that results in one believe thinking he/she is better than another believer because of their spiritual gift, or status in life. In other words, we are to make an honest evaluation of ourselves, a fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Some of us put on a front of false modesty because we want to solicit praise from others. Like a guided missile we seek out compliments from others.
Paul says in our relationship with other believers, we are to view ourselves as members of the same body- interdependent upon each other. We each have been given spiritual gifts and these gifts are tools that God has given us to build up the body. Since these are gifts from God we cannot take credit for them, all we can do is use them to serve Him and honor Him. With each gift that God bestows on the individual believer, it is accompanied with a measure of faith that will enable the believer to fulfill his/her ministry in the church body.
In this section, Paul lists the following spiritual gifts: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging or exhortation, giving, and leadership. The gifts are given for the building up of the body for spiritual growth with maturity of the believer the ultimate goal. When we look at these gifts, often one will think the one who preaches( prophesying) or teaching is more important. Not so- each gift is important and necessary for the body to grow in a balanced way. Paul speaks of gifts in more detail in I Corinthians 12. In fact, it was because the Corinthians had the wrong view of spiritual gifts that Paul had to address the right view of the gifts. Listen to what Paul wrote to them concerning gifts: Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?( I Cor. 12:29-30) The answer to all those questions was NO. Paul said: Now to each man the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. ( I Cor. 12:7) In fact in I Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter, Paul says if we have not love, though we speak with the tongues of men and angels and have not love, we are nothing. Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily provoked- it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Thus Paul admonishes us in our relationship with other believers to love one another. Jesus said this how men would know we are His disciples because we love one another as Jesus loved us. This is love that is sincere,no hypocrisy. Hate what is evil, cling to that which is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Do you realize what would happen to our country if our leadership placed the good of our country above their own good and their partys own good? What would happen in businesses and corporations if the president or owner of the company placed the good of the employees above his/her bonus and compensation. I tell you what would happen- we would have a country that showed the world what this type of submissive love and servants heart could accomplish. Do you know why marriages succeed? Because the husband places his wifes welfare above his own and she places his well- being above her own in mutual submission.
Paul says we to never be lacking in zeal. This means we keep our spiritual fervor in serving the Lord. The next verse tells us why this is so- because when we are serving the Lord, we will incur affliction as the enemy will attack us and our family. We need each other. As a body, it is love that is the circulatory system that connects us one to another. And just as any part of the human body that is cut off from the flow of blood dies, so will a church without this type of love become dead. Love is a verb for Christians, not just a noun.
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR ENEMIES.
If you seek to obey God you will have enemies. The Lord Jesus had enemies as did His apostles. In fact the Lord Jesus warned us in this world we would have trouble and people who hated us, but to rejoice for He had overcome the world. Do you know how Jesus overcame the world? With love. For God so LOVED the world, He gave His only begotten son .. That is how. It was the love of God that drew up the plan of salvation, it was grace that brought it down to man. John the apostle marveled and proclaimed: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. ( I John 3) And there are so many verses that tell of this everlasting love, the depths of which we cannot comprehend.
Therefore it should come as no surprise we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Live in harmony with one another- do not be proud but willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Here is our instruction : If it is possible as far as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone. In other words, our responsibility is to NOT be the ones disturbing the peace. Jesus said in his sermon on the mount- blessed are the peacemakers.
Do not repay evil with evil. Repay evil with good. On the contrary- Paul says if your enemy is hungry- feed him; thirsty- give him something to drink. In doing so you will heap burning coals upon his head. What do you think the purpose of burning coals is? Perhaps it is to melt his/her resistance.
We are to overcome evil with good. Have we as a country overcome the evil of those who hate us by returning evil?
It is clear Paul is telling us we were saved to serve. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has ordained that we should walk in them. ( Ephesians 2)
God has a to-do list for each of us.