August 23, 2020
Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-8
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in
view of God's mercy, to offer your
bodies as living sacrifices, holy and
pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act
2Do 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
God's will is--his good, pleasing and
3For 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
measure of faith God has given you.
4Just as each of us has one body with
many members, and these members do
not all have the same function,
5so in Christ we who are many form one
body, and each member belongs to all
6We have different gifts, according to the
grace given us. If a man's gift is
prophesying, let him use it in proportion
to his faith.
7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is
teaching, let him teach;
8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if
it is contributing to the needs of others,
let him give generously; if it is leadership,
let him govern diligently; if it is showing
mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
(Scripture for September 6 - Exodus 12:1-14)
"The Animal School"
preaching draft/notes for August 23, 2020
In his fascinating book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that the so-called “10,000-hour rule” explains how some people become world-class specialists at whatever they pursue. They make a huge sacrifice in order to pursue and achieve success. They must live and breathe their craft. But some critics have pushed back.
In January 2019, Russian pianist Elisey Mysin strode onto the stage of the concert hall in Naberezhnye Chelny, an industrial city of more than a half million people on the Kama River, about 600 miles due east of Moscow. He smiled confidently at the audience. The hall was packed. He was dressed in a concert-style black tuxedo, which contrasted nicely with a mane of flowing blond hair. He sat on the piano bench, and then took a few moments to adjust it for height and distance to the keyboard, rested his hands on the keyboard and nodded to the conductor.
The orchestra began to play and soon Mysin was coaxing magic out of the grand piano, playing the challenging “Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Major” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who composed the three-movement concerto when he was only 11 years old. Mysin played without music, typical of professional, classical pianists, and played, according to one critic, in a way that showcased “his incredible sense of style and interpretation.”
At the end of his performance, Mysin received a huge standing ovation, two bouquets of flowers and demands of an encore. So he played another piece, and again received the adoration of the music-lovers who had crowded into the venue to see and hear the virtuoso, and then he walked off the stage, and into the arms of his mother, who took him home, where she read him a bedtime story and tucked him in. Mysin, at the time, was 8 years old. (Search for Mysin’s name or “Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Major” and choose one of many videos of him playing this concerto.)
Now consider Anna Ji-Eun Lee, who had her debut as a violinist when she performed Paganini’s “Violin Concerto No. 1” with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Lan Shui, conducting. She was 6 years old.These are just two of many stories of child prodigies whose expertise and virtuosity astounds and amazes. But why bring this up?
The stories of Lee and Mysin have a bearing on our understanding — or misunderstanding — of the so-called “10,000-hour rule” that Malcolm Gladwell popularized several years ago in his bestselling book, Outliers.
Gladwell suggested that expertise, world-class success and virtuosity can be achieved simply by practicing a certain specific task for 10,000 hours. If you spent 20 hours a week doing this, you could reach success after about 10 years.
But wait! How about little Anna Ji-Eun Lee? (Search her name and you will find links to her Paganini performance.) When Anna played Paganini, she was just 52,560 hours old. Subtract 21,900 for sleep, 5,000 for playing with Beanie Babies, 2,000 listening to mum read a bedtime story, 2,000 for getting a bath, 2,000 for watching Sesame Street and cartoons, 200 for going to Sunday school with parents, and — most importantly — learning how to use a spoon, how to talk and how to use the potty, 15,000 … Well, at this point she’s at 48,100 hours.
She only has 4,460 hours left to practice the violin. She doesn’t have 10,000 hours available to become a world-class violinist. Yet she is … a world-class violinist at the age of 6.
Gladwell explains that the 10,000-hour rule doesn’t apply to sports or concert pianists and violinists, and he confesses that, “I could play chess for 100 years and I'll never be a grandmaster. The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.”
One must make a huge sacrifice in order to pursue and achieve success. Even these prodigies must live and breathe their craft. Paul uses the language of total sacrifice in our passage from Romans 12.
Romans 12 and Living Sacrifices
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
· Paul’s call for a sacrifice evokes in the minds of his readers what was then a well-known image: the shedding of blood on an altar particularly set aside for sacrificial purposes. The blood of a lamb, calf or bull was shed for the propitiation of sins. This practice was routine in the lives of the Hebrews for millennia. The ritual details are still available to us in the first five books of the Old Testament. Getting our sins atoned for invariably involved a death. So Paul’s readers understood that the point he was making was that followers of Jesus need to be all in.
· But Paul doesn’t just simply say our lives should be a sacrifice, blood and done. Instead, he suggests in a quite oxymoronic way that we present our bodies as living sacrifices, that is, sacrifices that do not die! Living deaths! Most who are at the top of their fields are examples of this. They are all in, and their lives are given entirely to their music or their sport (like golf or tennis). They do not surrender their lives; they offer their lives. They give up almost everything else. They live for it. It is their life. (See Philippians 1:21 and 3:7-14 for more on this theme.) And so it is for us today.
Let's think about this a little harder
· A young lady approached me when I was at a conference speaking (John Macarthur), and she was very tearful and very distraught. And she said to me essentially what I have heard in different words many times in my ministry. She said, "I just can't seem to live the Christian life the way I should." She said, "I am frustrated. I am without victory, without a sense of accomplishment. I struggle seemingly with the very simplest forms of obedience in my Christian walk. I'm constantly defeated. Can you help me?" I said, "Well, what has been your approach to solving the problem yourself?"
· She said, "I have tried everything." She said, "I...I've been going to a church where they speak in tongues, where they have healings, where they have all kinds of spiritual experiences." She said, "I've entered into all of them. I've spoken in tongues. I've had certain ecstatic experiences, gifts of prophecy, certain supposed miracles. I've been slain in the Spirit. And in spite of all of this, I am not pleased with my life." And she said, in a rather telling remark, "I've tried to get all I could get out of God."
· And I said, "That's your problem." The key to spiritual victory is not getting all you can get, but giving all you have. There's a big difference. And there are people literally flocking to churches and spiritual experiences to get more of God when the issue is not what they need to get but what they need to give. And that's the essence of this tremendous passage of Scripture.
· Having concluded eleven chapters of profound and thrilling doctrine that defines what God has done for every believer, Paul does not say, "Now here's what you need to get." He says, "Now here's what you need to give." The key to powerful living is not getting something more, but giving all we have.
Same verse - next piece: Offer Your Bodies...
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God...
· The text tells us the body must be given to God. Now "offer/present" here is a temple term too, just like sacrifice is. It has the idea of surrendering up, of yielding. It also is a technical term for the Levitical offerings, to bring it as an offering, to bring it as an actual sacrifice. And what God wants here is our body.
· Genesis makes clear that God created the body as good - that the Lord created our bodies for himself. And, in this life, he cannot work through us without in some way working through your body, isn't that right? If you're going to speak, you've got to speak through your mouth. If you're going to hear, you've got to hear through your ear. If you're going to see, you have to see through your eyes. If you're going to go, you have to go with your feet. If you're going to help, you have to help with your hands. If you're going to think, you have to think with your mind. The body is for the Lord. And the Lord is for the body.
Same verse - next piece: Holy...
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God...
· From the very beginning, God's first and most important requirement for acceptable worship has been a faith-filled and obedient heart. Our living sacrifice also is to be holy. Holy has the literal sense of being set apart for a special purpose. Under the old covenant, sacrificial animal was to be without spot or blemish. That physical purity symbolizd the spiritual and moral purity the God required of the 'offerer' himself. Like that worshiper who was to come to God with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:4) the offering of a Christian's body not only should be a living but also a holy sacrifice. Through Malachi, the Lord rebuked those who sacrificed animals that were blind and otherwise impaired. When you present the blind for sacrifice, is not is it not evil? And when you present the lame and the sick, is it not evil?
· Are you like the people before Malachi? The Lord, through the prophet Malachi, said, "You offer polluted flesh upon the altar." You know what you're bringing. Instead of bringing the best you have, you're bringing the rotten meat. You're giving me a blind or a lame or a sick or a maimed animal. He says, "Would you offer that to the governor when you go to pay your taxes?" Not on your life, but you're offering it to God. Will you do out of fear what you will not do for God out of love? Only a holy sacrifice is acceptable to God. The word “acceptable” means “well-pleasing,” “satisfactory.” God is not satisfied with anything less than that, not satisfied.
· In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul says, "19Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." Dwelling within our humanness, dwelling within this flesh is the Holy Spirit.
· This is important! Think of how often Scripture uses "flesh" to denote the ways of the world. Think of how many pleasures are associated with our physical being. Think of how our physical being sways our behavior. Sways are thoughts. Decides how we view ourselves and how we judge others. How many decisions in the course of your day pertain to your very body. How many sacrifices do you make? How much depression? How much pride? We must love the Lord God with all of our body - tame those passions and desires of the flesh, the ways of the world. How many decisions are made for the comfort of our body, physical comfort?!
Mark 12:30 - "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (body).
Holy, Living, Full Sacrifice...
· Most Christians never really come to that place fully. They flirt with the world, they flirt with the flesh. They flirt with their own personal indulgences and desires. They become victims of the philosophy and psychology of the world around them. They buy into the world's ways. They entertain themselves with the world's mode of entertainment. They think along the lines the world thinks. And so they never really come to the place of total commitment that is discussed in this first verse and therefore they forfeit the fullness of the blessing that God would have for them.
· Tragically, we are told that victory in the Christian life is to have more of God and to have more from God – although "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, already has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ," Ephesians 1:3. In Christ we already have all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, so that in him we have been made complete, Colossians 2:3-10. Peter said that in the true and saving knowledge of Christ, we have everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). In the deepest, eternal sense, therefore, we cannot have more of God or from God then we now possess. It is more than obvious, however, that most of us do not have the fullness of joy that this fullness of blessing should bring. The joy and satisfaction for which so many Christians are vainly striving can be had only by surrendering back to the Lord what he already has given to us, including our inmost being.
This living sacrifice, this surrender of self in a humble submissive act to God, this, as Paul put it, bearing in my body always the dying of Jesus Christ, this kind of living sacrifice is the basis of true worship. It is the foundation of all Christian dedication. It is what Paul meant when he said, "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." He said, "I have many things but," in Galatians he said, "I count all things manure compared to what I have in Christ." There can be no genuinely effective service, genuinely reciprocated service — that is, service in which we are blessed — unless we have first offered ourselves as a living sacrifice. Otherwise it is self serving, not God serving
Verse 2: Renewing of Your Mind
2Do 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 God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
· Malcolm Gladwell concedes that natural ability is a factor in world-class success. He admits he will never be a grandmaster. So are some people “natural Christians,” and others not so natural? Why is it easier for some Christians to be nice, humble, caring, loving and kind than for others? There are no Christian prodigies, but there is the Holy Spirit renewing our minds...
· 5,000 advertisements bombard the average American each day. 5,000 reasons for discontentment, right?!. 5,000 ways to be distracted. 5,000 messages about how to conform to the taste and values of society. And every day, 5,000 more.
· In the midst of a world teeming with options and pressures, the best we dare hope for is balance. This aim can surely seem demanding enough! Equilibrium with all of our options open; that is the middle-class goal that drives our cultural conformity. And if that goal shapes the church as much as it does society, the Body of Christ disappears in the crowd. We mirror the image that absorbs our attention. As Augustine says, "we look like what we value most."
· Jesus Christ did not call us to go on living the same old life, only with better balance. The Gospel isn't about how to keep more plates spinning more of the time. Instead, we are invited to a life that is all in an d all made new. The apostle Paul underlines this assumption that the way we live needs to be fundamentally transformed. The door for such change is Jesus Christ, and when we present our bodies as a living sacrifice that that door opens. Basic to God's meaning of changing us is the work of renewing the way we think. Let's consider the context of this injunction.
· Paul has just spent 11 chapters explaining the most painstaking way how he wanted the church at Rome to think, setting forth a rich new pattern of how they are to understand God, themselves and the world around them. The apostle's assumption has been that human thinking is never unattached, unbiased, neutral. Rationalizing forbidden "wants" and desires is as easy for us as falling off a log. And we have. Every day we show our commitment to ways of thinking that are hostile to the truth of God's grace.
· We suppress the truth, Paul writes in Romans 1:18-20. "18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." We conveniently and adamantly hold the truth down, for our own selfish purposes. Growth in grace necessarily requires the truth take hold and win this contest. The aim is not for each disciple to have a brilliant mind. At best that might allow us to keep more plates spinning. The goal instead is that our minds be filled with truth and grace which then shows up in transformed lives that look like Jesus Christ. Paul's view of our minds stems from both his Hebrew and Greek contexts. Minds here certainly connotes reason and thought; hence, 11 chapters of tight, measured argument to ponder. The mind is not mere rationality. Instead it refers to that reality that, as human beings made in God's image, we are vested with the capacity for thought and feeling, insight and understanding. "Minds" in verse 2 cannot be limited to brains any more than bodies in verse 1 can be limited to physiques. Paul urges the church, let your lives be transformed by the renewal of how you perceive, interpret, value and respond.
· Meanwhile, 5,000 advertisements later, where are we? Most of the time we are just where our world/culture wants us, listening to those 5,000 voices.
· In better times, our longing for renewal may cause us to hear the invitation: be still and know that I'm God. But even if we can be still, which is hard with all the spinning plates, voices of a thousand different kinds make listening for God's voice very hard. Especially if we have to think about what is being said. We talk about renewal and hope it means "pizzazz." Or alows us to do more of what we are already doing instead of being transformed.
· Kenneth Wuest had the idea when he wrote, "Stop assuming an outward expression which is patterned after the age, an expression which does not come from within nor is representative of what you are in your inner being as a regenerated child of God." Stop the masquerade. Instead "be transformed," metamorphis is the root idea, totally changed. And here the idea is to change your outward appearance. No, change your outward appearance to match what you are within, right? That's the word. It's a perfect use of words. In fact, it's the word used in Matthew 17 where it says Jesus was transfigured, metamorphised, that is his outward appearance was made to be exactly like His what? His inward. He was God in human flesh and for a moment His human flesh manifested the God that He was inside it. And you are to be transformed on the outside to match what your redeemed self is on the inside.
· Renewal can be great, we say, as long as it doesn't require more than just a coat of paint. But what God offers as renewal is the work of re-creation. It means more than just a coat of paint, or even two. Of course, God is the one who has done and is doing the real work. It's labor-intensive. It's very costly. Pain and suffering are assumed. Taking every thought captive to Christ can't be accomplished with a once over lightly technique. It's the remaking of our whole being that God wants, and it requires reclaiming our minds.
· Study after study seems to indicate that, at best, only marginal differences can be found in the values and choices of Christians and non-Christians in our society. Whether measuring issues related to money, marriage or family life, behavior seems to be roughly similar despite claims of faith. The ways Christians approach public debates and consider ethical issues often seem to be driven by pragmatism and individualism, just like anyone else. Does it work for me? Seems to be the standard we use, whether we are considering detergent or doctrine! The renewal of the mind requires that we allow the whole counsel of God to shape the way we think about any and every issue. Among other things, this calls us back to careful, thoughtful Bible study. (Mark Labberton)
Humility and Rightful Thinking
3For 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 measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Let's practice some Good Bible Study skills here (even if this seems tardy at this point of the message). - Let's back it up to Chapter 11
· Our reading begins with, "Therefore..." so we know that we must read it in context and back up to Chapter 11 to understand this transition. In reading Chapter 11 - it is a long back up (beep beep beep...) - all the way back to Abraham and God's promises to him.
· Romans 11 concluded Paul’s chapter dissertation on Israel which he began in Romans 9. The three chapters of Romans–9, 10, and 11 interrupt Paul’s main argument in his epistle. You can place chapter 12 right next to chapter 8 and not miss a beat. Having said this, these three chapters are critical to understand God’s overall plan for Jews and Gentiles. In other words, while Romans 9-11 is an aside to Paul’s main argument, it provides a framework and the context for his main argument (Romans 1-8 and 12-16).
· In chapter 11 Paul continues the conversation he is having with the Gentiles in Rome that he is writing to. The Gentiles got the impression that Israel is out of God's favor and that they are in - implying that it lent them a little superiority against a people who historically wouldn't have anything to do with them and called them Godless and pagan.
· Paul has acknowledged that Israel has, for the most part, rejected faith in Christ. He begins this chapter by asking if that means that God has rejected Israel. His response is another resounding "no." After all, Paul himself is an Israelite who has come to faith in Christ and has been saved, showing that this is possible for all Jewish people.
· Secondly, he uses the story of Elijah’s discouragement under the persecution of wicked Queen Jezebel when God revealed that there were seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal (11:2-4). Just as there was a remnant in the days of Elijah who were the real people of God demonstrated by their active faith, so there was a remnant according to the election of grace in Paul’s day (11:5).
· So what about the rest of Israel, though? What of those who refused to believe in Christ as the Messiah? Paul's startling revelation is that God has hardened their hearts in their initial unbelief. He has caused them to trip over the stumbling block of Jesus, but not permanently. Their hardening is only for a time (Romans 11:7–10).
· Paul uses a third image - saying that the Gentiles were like wild olive branches being grafted into the root/tree - God. Any unproductive branches, unbelieving Jews, would be cut/broken off, making room for these new additions. To counter any superiority, he reminds them that the branch is dependent upon the root rather than the root upon the branch. This speaks of how the original community of God's people have adopted the Gentile community into them through Christ rather than becoming something completely new. They in fact do this. As a result two things happen. First, the wild branch begins to produce good olives. Secondly, the old tree is newly invigorated. This speaks of Israel's eventual renewed interest in Jesus Christ.
· Paul warns the Gentile Christians not to be arrogant toward these unbelieving Jews, however. The time is coming, after the right amount of the Gentiles have believed in Christ, when God will remove the hardening from the unbelieving Jews. They will turn to faith in Christ and, as a people, be grafted back onto God's symbolic olive tree, from which they had previously been pruned. God is not done with Israel (Romans 11:17–24).
· (Paul concludes this section with what has become a beloved poem, like a hymn, about the vast un-knowable-ness and independence of our merciful God (Romans 11:33–36). We used it for our Words of Greeting.)
"Therefore" connects Chapter 11 (9-11) to Chapter 12 saying - "...in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." In other words, Paul is emphasizing (Galatians 3:28), "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
· More background on this at the end of these notes
We are one in Christ even with Differing Gifts...
6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
· Paul's teachings on the "one body" and "spiritual gifts" are a good illustration of this unifying tendency. Although his most famous thoughts on this topic are found in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul's concern for the one body and its many gifts also connects to this particular situation in Rome. In some ways, the apostle's unique use of "body of Christ" imagery for the church community is even more important and poignant for the Roman Christian communities than for those quarrelsome believers in Corinth. Paul's letter is addressed to "all God's beloved in Rome" (Romans 1:7) and was intended not just for a single audience, but for reading at the many different synagogues/church communities that were struggling to establish a large community of Jews in Rome — but they had never been gathered under a single jurisdictional authority. Each synagogue maintained its own independent identity. Furthermore, these various faith communities had enjoyed a history of preferential treatment under the rules of both Julius and Augustus Caesar. This combination had nurtured strong-minded, self-oriented congregations within the large Jewish community. As Gentiles and God-fearers (Gentiles who followed the Jewish law and teachings) began to join Jewish believers in Christ's redemptive life and death, there was plenty of room for jealousies, competition and self-interest to be generated within these new "Christian" communities. Just as fragmentation and independence had been the hallmark of the pre-Christian, Roman Jewish communities, these characteristics and attitudes threatened to put their mark on the newly formed Christian communities as well.
· Particularly notice those words, "having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…" Often people are afraid to get involved in ministry or take responsibility for an area unless they viewed themselves as superstars. There is a failure to understand what the Bible says about spiritual gifts. God has designed things so all of us have areas where we can contribute, and all of us have areas where we need the contributions of others. The trick is to do those things that we can and not sit idly by because we are incapable of excelling in other areas.
· Remember, it is to God's purpose we offer our gifts (not our own purposes). The great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said that, "Most great moral achievements depend not upon push but upon pull. You may be able to compel people into certain minimal ethical acts, but the greatest deeds are done from love, out of affection, attraction to the good, rather than out of shame or coercion." That's what Paul says, gifts – plural; grace – singular. Our gifts are offered unto God - we need to get over ourselves.
6We (ALL) have different gifts, according to the grace given us (and God expects us to use them). (emphasis mine)
A fable by George Reavis, “The Animal School”, originally written in 1940, when he was superintendent of the Cincinnati Public Schools.
Once upon a time, the animals decided that they should do something meaningful to meet the problems of the new world, so they organized a school.
They adopted an activity curriculum of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer, all of the animals took all of the subjects.
The duck was excellent at swimming. In fact, he was better than his instructor. However, he made only passing marks in flying and was very poor at running. Since he was so slow in running, he had to drop his swimming class and do extra running. This caused his webbed feet to become badly worn, meaning that he dropped to an average mark in swimming. Fortunately, “average” was acceptable, therefore nobody worried about it – except the duck.
The rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but developed a nervous twitch in his leg muscles because he had so much makeup work to do in swimming.
The squirrel was excellent in climbing, but he encountered constant frustration in flying class because his teacher insisted that he start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down. He developed cramps from overexertion, so he ended up with a C in climbing and a D in running.
The eagle was a real problem student and was severely disciplined for being a non-conformist. In climbing class, he beat all of the others to the top, but insisted on using his own way of getting there!
The principle here is that we each have our own strengths and need to be working hard to maximize them, not handicap our potential by becoming good at something that isn’t natural for us. Whatever we have - we are to use them... What are your gifts?
Just a funny aside... since so many claim not to know what they can do...
· A number of years ago there was the film, crazy people. It isn't that great a movie, but it's thesis was very funny. It tells about inmates of a mental hospital who, through a strange turn of events, are given high-paying jobs in the advertising industry because, being crazy, they know no better than to write advertisements that tell the truth! One of the advertisements reads, we know you love them, but if he dies, would you like to have $100,000 in the Mercedes-Benz? John Hancock life insurance. The American public, having been told lies for so long, here's these truthful advertisements is something strange and wonderful. These crazy people become highly paid advertising executives. It is not odd with the world calls saying what it calls crazy?
This Is Worship
The astonishing truth hits us: This is our “spiritual worship” (v. 1)! The sacrifice, the blood, sweat and tears, the self-denial, the transformative mindset, the relentless practicing — it’s our worship. It is a sweet incense that floats pleasantly into the very presence of God.
We don’t know what will become of Elisey Mysin. He’s only 10 years old or so. He’s still playing the piano in the heart of Russia.
But at age 6, Anna Ji-Eun Lee was accepted as a student at the Pre-College of the Juilliard School to study under Masao Kawasaki. She graduated from the Juilliard School in 2013, and went on to study at Harvard. She’s been working with Ana Chumachenco as a Young Soloist at Kronberg Academy. She has performed in the most highly acclaimed venues in the United States, including several performances at Carnegie Hall. She has played Wigmore Hall in London and performed with several renowned orchestras, including the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. She knows all about sacrificing for success. We know what has become of her. But what will become of us?
How will we bless the world? How will our “audience” thrill at the virtuosity of our transformative ministry? How will we serve Jesus in our church, our community, among our friends, among neighbors, co-workers, the lost and needy, the lowly and downcast?
For the apostle Paul, bringing his letter to the church at Rome to a close, these are the important questions. He knew then that the world needs Jesus people who are all in, who will sacrifice for success — the kind of success that reconciles and connects people to God.
If a man's gift is prophesying, let him prophesy...
If it is serving, let him serve;
if it is teaching, let him teach;
if it is encouraging, let him encourage;
if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;
if it is leadership, let him govern diligently;
if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Conclusion: Where is your witness?
We are a colony of heaven... and such values are not the same as this world. Our future is not the same as this world. Our king is not the same as what this world offers. So where is your witness? Where do you stand for the kingdom? Where are you building the kingdom? Where are the points of conflict between God's ways and the world's ways? Since you have been gifted, since you are a living sacrifice, then at every point that you utilize those gifts and lay your life down, there you have a witness. IT is at those points that you do not look like the world. It is at those points that you give honor and glory to God. It is at those points that your allegiance to Jesus Christ as The Way, The Truth, The Life - is made clear. You stand apart from this world. You stand above this world - you are not consumed by the circumstances of this world. You will not succumb to the fears of this world.
Where is your witness? If you are a living sacrifice - then you automatically have a witness to the God as you utilize your gifts for the King and Kingdom.
This is our “spiritual worship”! (v. 1)
Certain Bulletin Pieces for August 23, 2020
Sermon Seed: Philippians 3:20 says, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ..." We are a colony of Heaven." I use this language a lot when we did our study through the book of Ephesians. We are a colony of heaven. That's where citizenship truly resides. This is not Dexter - we are a colony of heaven. This is not Chaves County - we are a colony of heaven. This is not a club - this is a colony of heaven. We are not defined by these four walls - we are a colony of heaven. The people in this room are not the only citizens - there are others in this town, and joining us from around the nation and world (looking into the camera). We are a colony of heaven. As such - we are just sojourners. We have a job to do. We have a message... Let's get to it...
Words of Greeting: Romans 11:33-36
One: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
All: How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!
One: "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?"
All: "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"
One: For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
All: To Him be the glory forever! Amen.
Unison Prayer of Confession
Forgive us, Lord, for measuring Your will by conventional standards. We assume that what we think is right or that what we think will make us happy must be Your intentions for us. We assume, all too often, that our half-truths are close enough to Your truth, and that our halfhearted gestures are close enough to Your goodness, and that our grudging halfway advances are close enough to Your second-mile love. Forgive us for forgetting how much larger is Your will for us and Your expectations for us than what we ever admit to ourselves. We dare to pray because we know how much larger Your mercy is than we ever deserve. (Silent Prayer and Reflection)
Assurance of Pardon: Romans 5:1-2
One: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Friends, believe the good news of the Gospel!
All: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
What does a "renewed mind" look like - think like?..
Affirmation of Faith: Romans 12:9-18
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
More background connected to Romans 11 and the Jews/Gentiles BOTH called to God
· Read Ephesians 3:1-6 and Paul's call to convert Gentiles
1For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner
of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles--
2Surely you have heard about the
administration of God's grace that was
given to me for you,
3that is, the mystery made known to me
by revelation, as I have already written briefly.
4In reading this, then, you will be able to
understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
5which was not made known to men in
other generations as it has now been
revealed by the Spirit to God's holy
apostles and prophets.
6This mystery is that through the gospel
the Gentiles are heirs together with
Israel, members together of one body,
and sharers together in the promise in
· Define Jew and Gentile: It starts with Abraham and God calling him out, making a promise/covenant with him and to make him into a nation. God promises to settle him in a land (Genesis 12:2-3). Understand that God didn’t promise this to everyone.
· The promise is passed on to Isaac, Jacob, the 12 Tribes, Moses, then the Israelites and Joshua entering the Promised Land.
· In particular (Deuteronomy) Moses reminds the people that God did not choose them because they were the biggest, best, or special… but that they were special because God chose them.
· As they enter the Promised Land remember the strict orders not to mix/marry with pagans/gentiles… they would lose purity/holiness and be led astray by false Gods (which is exactly what happened).
· After 1800-2000 years of this (Abraham to Jesus) there is a lot of animosity built up between Jews and Gentiles... but then something new happens – this is the mystery (something not understood or revealed) Paul refers to in Ephesians 3… namely that now the Gentiles are being included as Children of God.
17I will surely bless you and make your
descendants as numerous as the stars
in the sky and as the sand on the
seashore. Your descendants will take
possession of the cities of their enemies,
18and through your offspring all nations
on earth will be blessed, because you
have obeyed me."
· Now – after what Jesus did for us and for all, and now – because the promised Holy Spirit has been poured out on us – this promise and prophecy was being fulfilled and Paul is on the cutting edge of it.
· Here is how minds and hearts were being changed, the mystery was being revealed…
Read Acts 10
· Chapter 10 is focused on 2 people: The Apostle Peter and a new character named Cornelius. Cornelius is a Roman Centurion (he’s in charge of 100 men) based out of Ceaseara. Cornelius was a gentile but "God Fearing", meaning he believed in God in the same way a Jew did.
· God sends an angel to Cornelius and tells him, “Go get Peter & bring him to you. Meanwhile, Peter, while praying sees a vision of a great sheet filled with animals. Some of those animals are “forbidden-food” for Jews.
· God tells Peter in this vision to “kill and eat”.
· Peter says no as it is against Jewish custom. God reminds Peter of who’s in charge!
· Peter figures out the vision is about the Gentiles receiving the Word of God
· Meanwhile, the Centurion sends men to get Peter and bring him back to hear the Gospel.
· Peter goes to Cornelius’ house to preach Jesus. In the middle of the sermon, people get saved.
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
· People started speaking in tongues like they did at Pentecost in Chapter 2.
· The difference between this experience and Chapter 2, is that this time Gentiles get saved. These are the first recorded Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews) to get saved.
Acts 10:47 – they have been given the Holy Spirit. There can be no argument that they are God’s children. Galatians 3:28:
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."