J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Living Sacrifice Part 2 – Sermon Notes on Romans 12:1-2

This is part 2 of the sermon notes for “Living Sacrifice – Romans 12:1-2” –  you can find the first set of notes at http://wp.me/pBHzf-gY

Audio for this sermon will be at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

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.

We live out this worship by not being conformed to this world.  Now let me make one thing clear right from the beginning:  I wish folks agreed on what not being conformed to this world looked like.  Unfortunately, the differences of interpretation about not conforming to the world have not only split families, but churches and even denominations.   There is one thing though that is held commonly by most folks about not being conformed to the world and that is that everyone hold’s fiercely to their interpretation of this verse.  That we have in common.  Typically if you disagree with most people’s convictions on this matter, the worst type of self-righteousness ensues.  With that in mind, let’s agree on this:  in light of the fact of the verse we just looked at, that nothing we do can be found acceptable and holy without the empowering mercies of God, let’s walk humble with each other in the interpreting and living out of this verse, okay?

Now before we jump into the interpretation of not being conformed to this world, let’s brainstorm for a minute about some of the examples of non-conformity that have been

pretty prevalent in Christianity over the past say 20 years or so.  By no means exclusive, these are examples that I have heard preached or enforced.

Not conforming to this world means…

  • Not drinking any alcohol
  • Not smoking any tobacco
  • Not saying damn or hell or a few other slightly more blue words.
  • Short hair for men and long hair for women
  • Not going to R rated movies or even better yet, not going to the movies at all
  • Home schooling your children
  • Classically training your children
  • Sending your children to a Christian school
  • Listening only to Christian music
  • Not handing out or trick or treating for candy
  • Not reading Harry Potter

Now, you can imagine why some of these things have been considered as avenues to avoid not conforming to this world but I can say that you can follow the command or prohibition in each one of those and come no where close to avoid being conformed to this world.  Why?  Because none of them are expressedly forbidden in scripture.  What is required in not conforming to the world is pursuing the wisdom of God and seeking the scriptures on what God calls conformity to the world.

How do we do we know?  Verse 2 tells us how not to be conformed to the world.

  • Step 1 is renewing your mind.
  • Step 2 is testing
  • Step 3 is discerning the will of God.

Let’s look at each one in detail.  Step 1 Renewing your mind.

Well, how does one renew their mind?  Well there are multiple ways mentioned in scripture but for the sake of brevity I’ll focus on the one scripture mentions most:  reading God’s word.  Listen to the promises surrounding God’s word.

  • Colossians 3:16 tells us that the word of Christ dwells richly in you to transform you.
  • Psalm 119:9, 11 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
  • Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
  • Deut. 32:46-47 “he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. [47] They are not just idle words for you–they are your life.

And about a hundred more along those same lines.  Essentially, without the study of the word, which is God’s revelation of Himself, then you can no more worship God through avoiding the conformity of the world than anyone else can.

You know, I once had a guy come up to me in the coffee shop and ask me what I was doing as my bible was open.  I told him I was preparing my sermon.  He responded by saying he never prepares.  He just walks up to the podium and waits for the Spirit to tell Him what to say.  He then asked me why I didn’t do the same and I told him that I had just spent 20 hours with the Spirit in reading God’s word in preparation for the sermon.

Renewing your mind by the reading of scripture doesn’t forgo trusting God’s work through the Spirit – it intensifies it.

Secondly, once you have renewed your mind through the Spirit inspired word of God, you test what conformity to the world or avoiding conformity of the world looks like.  God intends for there to be a process in your working out of worship through not conforming to the world.  Some places in this world, living out your sacrificial worship is incredibly clear but some places it is not and God intends for you to study the scriptures both in command and principle, pray, and test each situation in life.  Still that isn’t always clear about how we decide what our sacrificial worshiping lives should look like.

So let me offer a couple of tips about studying the scriptures so you might know how to discern the will of God and thus worship by not conforming to the world.

Borrowed from Cross Talk – First of all, let me speak for a minute about what the bible is not.

  • The Bible is not primarily a book of do’s and don’ts.  Though there are do’s and don’ts in the bible, if it is reduced to that, then large sections of the bible become utterly useless.  A lot of the Bible is more descriptive of the Christian life than it is prescriptive.  Treating the Bible like a list of do’s and don’ts completely misses out on the process of testing that God intends to use for increasing your faith.
  • The Bible is not primarily a book of principles for the problems of life.  Though the Bible does of course contain principles for the problems of life, but if that is all it is to you then you will have a tendency to overlook the history and culture of the Bible which are intended to help you learn how to apply God’s word.  When we approach the scriptures like this, we reduce life to a phrase or a commandment and miss out the interaction that God intends with His believers and other people.  Parents can do this so often when they refuse to interact with the children because their children have disobeyed a 4 word phrase of the Bible.  If God did that, the world would have ended with “Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
  • The Bible is not primarily a casebook of characters for you to imitate and avoid.  We treat the Bible like this when we think, “What should I do?” and then you find a Bible character to imitate.  For example, you wonder what how to act in a certain situation so you look at the King of a Jewish nation who was bound to laws of which you are not bound who is held accountable for things that you will never be held accountable who also had 100’s of wives and concubines and we say, “Well Solomon did such and such so I will too.”  Really?   Now Biblical character application can be helpful but you cannot reduce the Bible to just that.  Why?  Merely imitating people in the Bible doesn’t highlight the character of God, it highlights the character and walk of people which always falls short.
  • Finally the Bible is not primarily a system of doctrine.  Though the Bible of course contains doctrine and we value doctrine, treating the Bible like a systematic theology text book minimizes the wisdom of the Bible and makes the Bible a proof text for things you already believe.  So the Bible does have do’s and don’ts, it does have principles for the living of life, it does have Godly people who could be imitated and it does have doctrine, but studying scripture just for those things doesn’t always help you understand how not to be conformed to the world.  You might say, “What does then?”

Well, discerning how to worship God by not conforming to the world looks like this:  You should obey what is expressedly commanded.  For example:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14 says marry only fellow believers in Christ
  • Ephesians 6:4 says raise your children by God’s standards
  • Ephesians 6:1-2 says children are to honor and obey parents
  • 1 Timothy 5:8 says you should work to support yourself and your family.
  • Psalm 1:2 says you should meditate on the scriptures
  • I Corinthians 13 says you should love others

And there are hundreds of other very clear biblical exhortations like these.  But then you ask what about all the other stuff?  Well if scripture forbids something, it is forbidden.  If it doesn’t forbid something, don’t forbid it.

Yet, still how do we know how to avoid conforming to this world?

  • Remember God promises to help you discern and know His will.
  • Be patient
  • Reflect on what God has taught you before.
  • Consider all your options.
  • Remove anything in your life that is clearly non-biblical
  • Pray pray pray
  • Seek Godly counsel
  • Then make your decision by faith.  If your decision does not require any amount of faith then it is sin as scripture says anything that is not of faith is sin.

Folks today God wants all of you.  In giving Jesus Christ as a perfect sacrifice,  He has enabled you by His mercies to live sacrificially.  He has enabled you to die to sin sacrificially.  He has enabled you to serve others sacrificially.  Your living out of these truths is your sacrifice today.  Doing this causes you to look and act and believe and speak in such a way that your life stands in contrast to every person that you interact with that doesn’t yet know Jesus Christ.

Jesus has perfectly equipped you to live sacrificially by giving you His scriptures so you might discern God’s will about how to live and love sacrificially.

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January 4, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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