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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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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 6)

THREE DISTRACTIONS: As we saw in our last post on FOCUS, there are distractions that get our eyes off Jesus. One distraction of THE WORLD is entertainment.

Let’s think about the second of three distractions this morning. We know from Scripture that our three enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil. How does our flesh distract us from focusing on the Lord Jesus?

The second distraction is . . . ourselves! Sometimes the expression “the flesh” refers to our physical bodies. But often Scripture uses that expression to refer to our sinful nature, our desires that run counter to the Word of God.

After conversion, we learn that our own internal desires often distract us from focusing on the Lord Jesus. So, are we to become passionless, desire-free, Zen-like monks who have no desires? Absolutely not! We read the following about our desires:

BEFORE CONVERSION:

Prior to conversion, we are described as —
>> “the unfaithful who are trapped by evil desires” (Prov. 11:6).
>> those who allow “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things [to] come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mk. 4:19).
>> the natural man is described as those whom “God gave over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (Rom. 1:24).
>> We as believers are charged by Paul — “therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Rom. 6:12).
>> We learn that we live by choice. We read, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Rom. 8:5).
>> We read in 1 Peter 2:11 we are to “abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”
>> We also learn in 2 Peter 1:4 that there is a “corruption in the world [that is] caused by evil desires.”

How do we choose not to follow our sinful desires? Romans 13:14 says, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” Similarly we are told in Galatians 5:16-17 that we are to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”

>> Prior to our conversion we are described as follows: “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3)

Ephesians 4:22 says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires . . .”

The believer is to be engaged in the execution business, for we read in Galatians 5:24 – “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Colossians 3:5 commands the believer: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

But what about AFTER CONVERSION?

We read in Psalm 37:4 “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” In Psalm 103:5 we learn of the Lord “who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” And we are reminded in Psalm 145:19 that “He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.” 1 John 2:17 tells us that “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Here are several specific steps we can take to develop and pursue godly desires:

1. We can run! We read in 2 Timothy 2:22 that we are to “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

2. We can choose not to conform: 1 Peter 1:14 tells us, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”

3. We can decide to live for the will of God: 1 Peter 4:2 says, “As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2020 in desires

 

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Developing a 2020 Vision for the Lord (Part 2)

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 use our EYES to become more like the Lord Jesus. We can study His life in the Scriptures. And, by God’s grace, become more conformed to His image.

The second truth that I want to focus on for this New Year is not to be conformed to the world! The expression “the world” is used in three ways in the Word: the planet, the people of the planet, or the pagan system opposing God and the things of God. It is in this third sense that the Jesus-follower should determine, “I will NOT let the world around me determine my life, set my priorities, rule my heart!”

The classic passage on this issue, of course, is Romans 12:1-2 where we read —

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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.

We must (1) recognize the world’s influences in all its many forms and (2) determine to resist being molded by that system!

Would you pray with me this morning the following prayer? “Lord, the world, the system opposing You, is all around me! Please give me wisdom in identifying its many efforts to squeeze me into its mold and to turn me away from the truths of Your Word. I don’t want to become a hermit, Lord, but I want to live a godly life right here. On this planet. But I need Your help. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2019 in vision

 

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Developing a 2020 Vision for the Lord (Part 1)

Friends: What an incredible possibility awaits us as we anticipate a brand new year — 2020. When I hear the expression “2020,” I can’t help but think of one’s eyesight. I remember memorizing the doctor’s eye chart when I was in high school, not knowing that I would one day need to wear glasses all the time!

As you and I face a new year, a year that will challenge us to have 20/20 vision, may I suggest several major truths that we must understand and focus on if we are to be faithful followers of the Lord Jesus? I want to use the eyes God has given me to see His plan for me in this coming year.

What is His plan for you and me in this New Year? Let’s notice this morning that His plan is to make us more like His dear Son. We read in —

Romans 8:29 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

If you and I are to daily be conformed to the image of His Son, we must study what the Scriptures say about His Son!  We also read in 2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

The follower of Jesus is to “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Col. 3:10).

Would you pray the following prayer with me this morning? “Lord, I want to become more like my Savior in 2020. Please work on me through Your Holy Spirit and Your Word to bring about some serious growth in my likeness to Your Son. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2019 in vision

 

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Church That Believes Exactly What the World Believes . . . – Babylon Bee Satire!


PORTLAND, OR—Lifeforce Community Church prides itself on believing exactly what the surrounding culture believes. On issues ranging from intersectionality and identity politics to the existence of God and the nature of sin, the church takes great pains to match every single one of its core doctrines to that of secular American society.

Yet, somehow, attendance continues to decline. The church’s pastor is totally baffled, saying he has absolutely no idea why no one bothers coming to church anymore.

“I just don’t get it,” said Pastor Bryan Lindell. “I tell our congregation that we’ll offer them the exact same worldview as secular culture, and they abandon us for secular culture. What gives?”

“I mean, does the world have a second-rate band, laser lights, and a fog machine? Does the world offer a hot dish potluck every fourth Sunday? I don’t think so.”

Lindell was quick to point out that his church has premium coffee selections and lots of free pastries every Sunday. “I mean, not as good as real coffee shops, or even Starbucks, but it’s decent,” he said. “If that doesn’t get people jumping out of bed and rushing to church on a Sunday morning when they could be watching the NFL, I’m not sure what would.”

One member of the leadership team suggested they start teaching the Bible to differentiate their church from the surrounding culture and offer something the world cannot offer. The leader was called a bigot and forced to resign.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2019 in satire

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel! (Part 3)

We are focusing in this series of posts on our failure to truly follow Jesus in one specific area.  We read about that area in Matthew 11:

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Jesus’ contemporary culture was acting like a bunch of children.  Both He and John the Baptist were being mocked for not dancing to their music.  Neither in joy nor sorrow did these two religious leaders measure up, conform to, what was appropriate and expected.

John the Baptist’s frugality was met with the charge that he was demon-possessed!  That’s an incredibly serious accusation for someone living an abnormal lifestyle.  John did not calibrate his life around his appetites.  And he was thought to be ruled by the devil!

But Jesus goes on and speaks about how He was criticized.  He says, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'”  Jesus’ indulgence seems to be the focus here.  He speaks of Himself as coming “eating and drinking.”  Jesus fully participated in His social surroundings.  He did not stand off to the side or on a holy hill condemning His contemporaries.  He joined them!

And that opened Him up to the double charge that He was a glutton and a drunkard!  Whereas the criticism of John the Baptist was about what he gave up, the criticism of Jesus was about what He enjoyed!  John’s lifestyle was extreme, counter-cultural.  Jesus’ lifestyle was normal, but exposed Him to the charge of excess. (to be continued)

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel! (Part 2)

Jesus followers fail to follow Him in many ways.  But one way that seems to receive little attention in Christian circles is brought out in Matthew 11:16-19.  There we read,

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

In evaluating His contemporary culture, Jesus says they are a lot like children hanging out in the marketplaces engaged in mocking and ridicule.  They call out to their friends, “We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.”

They are critical of both John the Baptist and Jesus.  Both did not meet their expectations.  Neither was joyful or mournful when they thought appropriate.  Both the forerunner of the Messiah and the Messiah Himself didn’t dance to their music.

Jesus goes on to say, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.'”  John’s frugal lifestyle matched his in-your-face message of “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  We read in Matthew 3: “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.”  John wasn’t into fashion or food.  He wore the least expensive clothing one could find — and ate whatever he could gather for himself.  He placed no priority on the expectations of others.  What did he get for his bizarre lifestyle?  He was accused of having a demon!  Wow!  He did not “fit in.”  He did not try to.  He was laser-focused on proclaiming the message of repentance and getting ready for the coming Messiah.  (to be continued)

 

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in discipleship

 

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Time for a Great Tozer Quote: Christianity’s Surrender

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Posted by on October 12, 2016 in secularism

 

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Living for Jesus in an Un-Christian World (Part 1)

Friends:
Please remember me in prayer for my conference in Detroit, Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 9.03.37 AMNov. 6-8. The theme we have chosen is “Living for Jesus in an Un-Christian World.” We’ll be working our way through the little epistle of Jude.

In this series of posts I would like to touch on several of the issues we will be discussing during our weekend together.  I’m working on a booklet with the title of the conference that I hope can be done by the November weekend.

Introduction:

Before we look at the little letter from Jude to a group of Jesus-followers, let’s think about the issue of life in this world.  How is the Christian to conduct himself or herself in this God-forsaking, Bible-rejecting, Jesus-ignoring culture?

Although we could multiply such negative descriptors of our world, we must first acknowledge that there is much good in the universe that God has made, and we are commanded to enjoy His physical blessings with thanksgiving (I Tim. 6).  However, we find ourselves in a progressively unchristian or post-christian or even anti-Christian environment.   The Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2015, legitimated same-sex marriages, forbidding all states from banning such unions.

The 1973 Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision, one which has cost the lives of an estimated fifty-five million children made in the image of God, rocked the Christian world — and we have been unable to do anything to have that ruling overturned.  The third most populous country in the world with 321 million people, the United States, one might argue, has systematically executed almost 1/6 of its citizens.

What are the believer’s options in living for Jesus in such an un-Christian world?  There appear to be only four possible choices that a Christian can make.  The first option is:

CONFORMITY:  The believer in Jesus can choose to not rock the boat, to Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 9.09.04 AMbecome exactly like the world around him, holding the same ethical values as his culture, and live a relatively conflict-free life in comfort.  The world will then see no discernible differences between believers and unbelievers, but will also have no reason to persecute those who claim to be Jesus-followers.  They will be seen as people who have nothing better to do on Sundays than attend half-empty churches, sing ancient songs to each other, and occasionally enjoy a pot-luck meal together.  The Christian can choose to conform.  (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2015 in CHRISTIAN LIVING

 

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