September 8, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God for this is your true and proper worship [or your proper service to God.] Do not, therefore, conform to the pattern [of thinking] of this world but be transformed [into the pattern of the Kingdom of God] by the renewing of your mind. It is then that you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; that is, what is His good, pleasing and perfect will for us all.” (Romans 12.1-2)
Romans 12.1-2 is Paul’s declaration of the answer to the disciples’ question “What then are we to do to do what God intends for us to do?” Jesus said simply, “Believe in the One whom He has sent” which would then be extended to say “and by that belief you will be able to do what God intends for you to do. You can’t do what you are intended to do as God has designed unless you are willing to believe in what He has done: sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross after having walked among God’s people and thus become a “living sacrifice” for all who believe in Him that they might not perish but have everlasting life.” Isn’t that what we believe as disciples of our Lord Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, our Messiah and Lord and Savior? Peter said simply, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus, every one of you and you will be blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” which would then be extended to say “and under the influence of the Holy Spirit you will be able to fulfill all righteousness and bear witness to the world the greatest manifestation of God’s love, mercy and grace.” You cannot have the blessing of “first fruits” unless you actually become “first fruit yourselves” and be planted into the world to bear more fruit being one grafted into the True Vine which is Christ. Isn’t that we Jesus taught us about the joy of our salvation as we put our faith into action, believing by faith far more than we believe what the world would have us see and say is true? According to the world, Jesus is no more than a man who did good, said a few good things and then was killed; the rest is made up by those who failed to admit the truth he is dead and have chosen instead to “live a lie.” Isn’t that the way of the world? Aren’t we appalled by the gall of the enemy to denounce the love of God for all people just as Goliath did when he taunted the King, the army, the nation and thus the God of Israel? We certainly need those who are willing to present themselves as a “living sacrifice” to stand for the truth, to denounce the lie and to defend the honor of God now through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus as the Christ. Time for us to capture the essence of the shepherd King, David, and the shepherd Apostle, Peter, and the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ!
So, what is Paul saying to the community of faith in Rome and by extension to all nations under the banner of the Roman Empire? What we are to do is to present ourselves as “living sacrifices.” Simply understood as Paul described speaking to those who were beginning to feel the heat of persecution at the hands of the Empire, “we are to die to self but live for Christ as Christ lives in us in Spirit and in Truth.” Jesus invited the woman at the well to experience this same kind of transformation with the invitation to “draw from the well that will never run dry- living water.” He offered her the opportunity to confess her sinfulness in exchange for her righteousness. She had exchanged her righteousness as a “daughter of God” for the meeting of a need she could never manifest in the world. This was symbolized by her commitment to draw water for others as her livelihood. She had to keep going back to the well time and again to draw water. Each time she believed there would be water in the well but she never could guarantee it. For her efforts, she was paid a meager wage which in turn would support her habit of “keeping men” as husbands until the one she was living with was not even her husband. I dare not even imagine, though I have, what price she must have paid to “keep her man” or worse “to be kept by this man.” What kind of relationship had she settled for in order to have some kind of relationship? It could have been as bad as prostitution and the man she was with was who she worked for. Wow! What liberation she experienced at the word of Jesus! Imagine the same for the woman caught in adultery who then was freed from the self-condemnation of the “men” who brought her before Jesus to be judged as they judged her. Jesus refused to treat her as they did in so many ways! She was presented as a living sacrifice to justify their means. Jesus accepted her as a living sacrifice to prove the power of God’s Word in prophesy, truth-telling and admonition. What then of our own lives as Paul tells us we can be free from conforming to the pattern of thinking which this world promotes? Have you considered to whom and how you are beholding to? How are you enslaved to the world for your very survival? Are you truly living by faith or are you living day to day by sight? Are we living out the prayer of “freedom from debt, debtors, sin, sinners, trespasses and trespassers”? Are we living out the prayer of “living by manna, quail, living water and the word of God”? Are we living out the Acts 242 “and they lived in one accord (and not the Honda vehicle) having all things in common”? Are we living boldly, confidently, spiritually in the pattern of our true and right worship/service which is of God? Are we duped by the thinking of this world which defines then what the Kingdom of God is like (a dream, a fantasy, an unsolvable and irrelevant mystery)? Or are we willing to allow and be determined to embrace the transformation of the world in which we live by laying out the template of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness as the pattern for our lives? Isn’t that what is right, good and pleasing as the will of our Heavenly Father who loves us so much that He would sacrifice His own Son on our behalf so that we would never have to die or live as dead people? It is a lot to consider, I grant you; but what does it profit a person to gain the whole world (as if they could) but forfeit their soul (which they would have to.) Jesus said that very thing and I have this understanding that when He said it, He was remembering His own season of temptation in the wilderness of sin as Satan, the Accuser, presented that very offer to Him. Jesus refused it by the power of God’s word and the Devil fled. We can do the same by the power of God’s word under the influence of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus the Christ! If we do so, then we are transformed in the renewal of our commitment to have the mind of Christ, the heart of God and the power of the Holy Spirit working together for the good, true and right worship liberating those who are of the “living dead” to be brought to life again!
Father, it is in the name of Jesus that we can offer perfect praise to You and proper thanksgiving for the joy of our salvation which is our strength. This we do gladly, humbly and resolutely knowing we desire Your will not the world’s be done. AMEN.