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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #30 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 2

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 12 each day this week.

I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter. Let’s continue our multipart study with verses 1-2.

The first critical imperative that I suggested was —

1. The believer is to OFFER HIS BODY AS A LIVING SACRIFICE! (v. 1).

The second critical imperative that I see is —

2. The believer is NOT TO CONFORM TO THE PATTERN OF THIS WORLD (v. 1)

“World” can mean the planet, the people of the planet, or the pagan system opposing God and the things of God. We are not to adopt the pattern of the pagan system opposing God and the things of God. That means we have to recognize the lies of this world and of the Evil One — and turn away from them!

We choose not to conform. We recognize the sinful thoughts and actions and attitudes of this world and we make choices. I have found much help in the following C.S. Lewis quote:

“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.” (C.S. Lewis)

Today’s Challenge: What choice will you make today NOT to conform to the pattern of this world?

 

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (Choices)

The catastrophe of too many choices! One needs to travel only a little to other countries to see that we in America are choice-addicted! Don’t get me wrong — I like extra-crunchy peanut butter. But it does give one pause, doesn’t it?

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2020 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (Choices)

Various internet sources estimate that an adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day [in contrast a child who makes about 3,000] (Sahakian & Labuzetta, 2013). The choices — the decisions  — we make each day add up, don’t they?

There’s a great statement from John Boykin about choices in general: “Our life is made up by the choices we make, writes John Boykin in his book The Gospel of Coincidence. He critiques the viewpoint that suggests we are victims in decision-making. “My favorite absurdity comes from a renowned historian who, describing the origins of World War I, wrote that `planning for war assumed its own momentum until 1914, military expediency dominated the decision-making process, and war declared itself.’!   Whatever happens is the direct result of decisions people make and things people do. Decisions affecting your circumstances are not necessarily all made by you, by anyone available for you to argue with, by anyone recently, or by any one person alone — but they are all made by people. And groups of people are nothing but people, whether they are a congress, a mob, or a refreshments’ committee.” (The Gospel of Coincidence, p. 23)

But it’s hard to beat C.S. Lewis’ quote about the kind of people we become through our choices:

“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.” (C.S. Lewis)

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2020 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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Developing a 2020 Vision for the Lord (Part 6 – Conclusion)

Friends: We are thinking about the incredible possibility that awaits us as we anticipate a brand new year — 2020. The expression “2020” reminds me of my first eye exam in high school — when I memorized the eye chart before going to the doctor’s! (I don’t know why). As we face this new year, we have the opportunity to focus on several priorities for our lives.

First, we can commit ourselves to becoming more like the Lord Jesus, Second, we want to focus on the truth that we are not to be conformed to this world. Third, we need to have a deep desire to get into God’s holy Word! Four, we would deeply care about the salvation of those around us. Five, we should desire to use our gifts to build up God’s people in the local church.

Those are a lot of priorities for this upcoming New Year! If you and I commit ourselves to becoming like the Lord Jesus, we are opening ourselves up for significant change! If we choose not to be conformed to this world, we will have to become much more vigilant in recognizing “the world, the flesh, and the devil” and their influence on us. If we decide to get much more serious about getting into the Word of God, time and our priorities will wage war against us! If we begin to deeply care about the lostness of people around us, we will find opportunities everywhere to sow the seeds of the gospel. And we will realize that we desperately need the local church and we will choose to use our gifts to encourage other believers.

Would you pray this prayer with me? “Lord of Eternity, You know this New Year — 2020 — provides a great opportunity to grow in Your grace and make significant progress in our becoming more like the Lord Jesus. Help us, Lord! Left to ourselves this year will barely surpass the mistakes we made last year. Help us, Father, by Your grace to make this year different. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2019 in resolutions

 

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The Choices We Make — Time for a Great Quote from C.S. Lewis (reprise)

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2019 in choices

 

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Making Good Choices — Time for a Great Commercial!

Love this commercial! Don’t some choices seem like you’re going down in an elevator to the dark nether regions? CHOICES — they are so critical in life, right?

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2019 in choices

 

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The Explosive Redefinition of Love in 1 Corinthians 13

The most famous Scripture passage associated with marriage is 1 Corinthians 13, because it’s the passage that the vast majority of married folks had read at their weddings.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

It’s a beautiful description, isn’t it? This is how love should always be described: patient, kind, trusting, hopeful. But for most of us, that’s where it stops: it’s a beautiful description of what a marriage should look like, and hopefully it is. But sooner or later, the honeymoon ends. Then you’re chasing careers, having kids, paying bills, fixing toilets, just doing life, and it’s amazing just how quickly this feeling of love that we see here in 1 Corinthians 13 gets lost in the chaos of life.

That’s why so often married couples look at each other after several years and say, “I just don’t love you anymore. Whatever feeling that was there is gone.” It doesn’t help when we get a constant picture from society telling us exactly what love should look like and what should feel like. Culture would tell us that love looks like a romantic getaway, but doesn’t mention the debt that comes from trying to maintain a lifestyle you can’t afford. Culture tells us that love is like The Bachelor, with exotic locations, background music, script writers and seven takes to get your lines right.

But that’s not what marriages look like. Marriages look like conflicting work schedules, folding laundry at 10 pm, biblical marriage looks like monogamy, one man, one woman, together forever. From a sexual standpoint, when’s the last time tv and movies celebrated monogamy in marriage? It just doesn’t happen.

So, on the one hand, we’ve got this beautiful picture of love in 1 Corinthians 13 that is read once at our weddings and then promptly forgotten about, and after that we’ve got a constant bombardment from culture of a false narrative of what love is supposed to look like.

From culture’s standpoint, love is a feeling. Here’s the argument I want to make: I don’t think culture’s definition of love and marriage is working, because I think culture’s definition of love is flawed. That’s why so many marriages, even good Christian marriages, are struggling. So, what I want to humbly suggest is that we go back to 1 Corinthians 13 and see what we’ve missed. If the Bible is true, if it’s authoritative, if it’s inspired by God, and I believe it is, then the 1 Corinthians 13 definition of love should have practical application and should improve our marriages even today.

So, let’s look back at this passage again, and I’m going to simply pull out one small but absolutely marriage-changing truth from 1 Corinthians 13, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4

Right here, we see it five times. This one statement flies in the face of how culture defines love. You’ll see it in the words that are italicized: patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. What’s significant about these words? They are all verbs. They are all actions. None of them are feelings. And that’s the whole ballgame right there.

Culture would have you believe that love is primarily a feeling. The Apostle Paul taught that love is a verb, love is an action. Love is a choice.

How would this change marriages? Well, think about what typically happens a marriage breaks down. At some point, the husband and wife look at each other and say, “I’m sorry, I just don’t love you anymore.” And if love is a feeling, well then, you can’t control your feelings, can you? It’s just one of those things. You can’t be held accountable for how you feel, can you? If love is a feeling then you’re off the hook.

But if love is a choice, well then, that changes things. When you look at your spouse and say, “I don’t love you anymore,” in reality what you’re saying is “I’m choosing not to love you anymore. I’m making a choice, and I’m choosing to stop showing you love.” Wow, that’s a bit more harsh, isn’t it? Now, here’s the pushback to all of that: are you saying that marriage is supposed to be an emotionless void of feeling where we just stay married out of obligation even if the feeling we associate with love is long gone? No, God created feelings, God created emotions, and He wants and designed marriage to be filled with romance, feelings of elation, contentment, laughter, ecstasy. But that’s the byproduct. Let me put it another way, because this is a deep concept and if we can understand it we can fundamentally improve all of our marriages.

Let’s say you want to be happy. Let’s say that your goal is to be happy in life. It’s a very common goal and it’s not necessarily a bad goal. Who doesn’t want to be happy, right? Well, there are different ways you can be happy. You can go for immediate happiness. What does that look like? Well, it’s more enjoyable in the short run to take a vacation and skip work rather than have to earn a paycheck, so you could say that skipping work and dropping out of school will lead to happiness. And in a very short-sighted way, it will. You could also make the argument that drugs lead to happiness, at least in the short-term. That’s why people take drugs, to try and find happiness.
So what’s the problem with quitting your job and taking drugs if you want to be happy? Well, that momentary happiness will quickly give way to a longer term unhappiness as now you have no job, no money, and a drug addiction.

But, that is one way to be happy, at least in the short-term. What’s another way to be happy? Go to school and get a good degree, which doesn’t sound like fun in the short-term but leads to a higher income and a higher quality of life, which results in happiness. Find a job that where you can make a difference, and alongside the paycheck, you’ll discover that when you’re living your purpose you’re a happier person. Even when you become a giving person, when you give back towards others, it actually makes you a happier person.

So, there is a much better way to seek happiness in life, even if it means a bit of hard work. Let’s carry this concept back into marriage. Everyone wants to be happy in marriage. We want a marriage filled with love and laughter. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that the world’s definition of love, that love is an elusive feeling, that will lead to only short-term happiness. And then when the honeymoon is over and the feeling is gone, you’ll break things off and search for the feeling somewhere else, never mind the relational scars that will remain in you and kids in your ever elusive quest for happiness. What Paul presents is a different way, the harder way, the staying in school and working hard in your career way to achieve a deeper, longer lasting form of love and happiness in a marriage.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2019 in marriage

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (chapter 26) A Deep Sleep from the Lord!

The Ziphites, the same ones who ratted out David back in chapter 23, do it again! They tell Saul where David is hiding. Saul takes 3000 “select Israelite troops” to search for David.

David sees where Saul and Abner, the commander of the army, are sleeping. Abishai accompanies David and when they get to Saul (who is sleeping), he says to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust. I won’t strike him twice!” (v. 8).

David refuses, asking who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? David is confident that the Lord will strike him or his time will come to die or he will go into battle and perish. “But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed” (v. 11). They take Saul’s spear and water jug near Saul’s head.

Lest one think that David’s stealthiness was world-class, the text tells us that “the Lord had put them into a deep sleep” (v. 12).

David calls out to Abner, mocking him that he had failed to protect the king (the evidence: the missing spear and water jug). Saul speaks to David and David asks him why he is pursuing his servant.

David asks what the source of Saul’s actions are. “If the Lord has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, people have done it, may they be cursed before the Lord!” (v. 19). David describes himself as “a flea” — “as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”

Saul says he has sinned and acted terribly wrong. David returns Saul’s spear and Saul blesses him. But David does not return with Saul (v. 25).

Some takeaways for me:
1. Don’t let others interpret the will of God for you. Abishai was certain that “God has delivered your enemy into your hands”, but David refused to touch the Lord’s anointed. David’s conscience trumped Abishai’s certainty.
2. Although he will not kill Saul, David nonetheless uses the occasion to plead with Saul to stop pursuing him. David took advantage of the Lord’s action of putting Saul and his soldiers in a deep sleep. [I wonder if David knew that the deep sleep was a work of the Lord?]. God often works “behind the scenes” of what you and I see.
3. Even though Saul repents of pursuing David, David chooses not to trust Saul. Yes, love “believes all things” — but is not foolish and gullible!

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2018 in I Samuel 26

 

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Thinking about . . . Decisions! (Time for a Great Commercial)

Rather than following the crowd in crossing a crocodile-infested stream, two wildebeests discuss their best options!  This kind of dangerous crossing actually happens every year with hungry crocodiles and hippos waiting for lunch.  How convenient (in this commercial) is a bridge that these two stars decide to take instead!

Decision-making.  We make thousands of decisions every day.  Some good.  Some not so good.  For believers, we can’t always escape the risks of the choices we make.  But sometimes, just sometimes, God provides a bridge for us to cross to avoid unnecessary danger.  Looking for any bridges today?

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2018 in decisions

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (chapter 20) Murderous Jealousy and Friendship!

[Our text is a bit long this morning!]

Jonathan doesn’t believe that his father Saul is trying to kill David. David is convinced that “there is only a step between me and death” (v. 3).

David comes up with a plan for Jonathan to lie to his father about David’s hiding in the field. Jonathan asks David to show kindness to himself and his family. They make a covenant, a covenant out of love (“because he loved him as he loved himself”- v. 17).

Jonathan’s lie about David being ordered by his brother to observe a sacrifice (v. 29) in Bethlehem isn’t believed by Saul who tries to kill his own son who defends David (v. 33)!

Jonathan leaves the feast in “fierce anger,” grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David (v. 34).

The three-arrow-plan is enacted; David is informed of Saul’s threat. Jonathan and David weep together. Their sworn friendship is reaffirmed. David leaves and Jonathan returns to town.

Some takeaways for me:
1. Isn’t it true that for each of us, “there is only a step between [us] and death”?
2. The genuine love and friendship between Jonathan and David is admirable (and sadly perverted by the gay community). Oh, to have a friend like that! [Oh, to be a friend like that!].
3. Saul’s jealousy and murderous heart causes him to try to kill his own son Jonathan! We must never underestimate the evil power of our sinful nature!
4. There is no despair in either Jonathan or David’s heart about the sovereign power of the Lord. But they make human decisions to remove David from the wicked intentions of King Saul.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2018 in I Samuel 20

 

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