Public worship involves obeying two clear commands. Last week we looked at private worship and learned that private worship begins at the altar of full surrender of everything that fills our lives.
Now we learn in verse two that there is another kind of worship that flows directly from a solid foundation of private worship.
“Do 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.” Romans 12:2
There are two commands here:
Negative: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world”
Positive: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
In essence this is “stop doing this so that God can do this.” You say no to certain things and yes to other things so that you can “test” what God’s will is. We are to say no to being conformed and yes to being transformed so that we might walk in and discover the will of God for our lives.
We do this for a reason and a result:
“Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.”
What the writer is teaching here is that when you really start walking with God you will discover His will. He goes on to describe God’s will.
Public worship is about living 7 days a week before God. The old reformers used to talk about “living before the face of God.” Every moment of every day.
How do you get there?
1. Do not be conformed to this world
This world system says: Me first, If you can just get enough stuff you will be happy, If you can always look young you will be accepted, Become a FAN-atic and get so wrapped up in watching sports that you try to live vicariously through people on a TV screen
There is nothing wrong with watching a ball game or working out but the question is, are we stewards of our life.
Do they have or us or do we have them. Stop allowing yourselves to be molded by this present world. Let’s take a step back and think about this for a minute.
How does the world get to your life? What happens about six or seven times between every show you try to watch on TV? There are these interruptions called commercials and the goal of every commercial is to point out what you don’t have and how you don’t measure up. Yes they are trying to sell something but to do that they need to convince you that you are not okay the way you are.
Conforming to this world is also known as worldliness. For many years this was identified by a list of do’s and don’ts but mostly don’ts. This will seem strange to some of you but worldliness was defined as things like women wearing lipstick, going to movies, playing cards and the length of women’s skirts. The focus was all external when talking or preaching about being conformed to this world.
Having spent a fair amount of my life in that environment I will tell you that worldliness is a deep symptom of the heart. You can line up to a list of man made rules on the outside and be as dead spiritually as last year’s bird’s nest. Worldliness is a condition of the heart and the litmus test should go far deeper than what you manage to control outwardly.
What the writer is saying here is don’t be conformed to the worlds system. Let me try to help you understand this better.
The worlds system says “now” is all there is. God’s word says that eternal things are all that matters. Are you living for now or do you have an eternal view?
Parents don’t give kids what they need they give them what they want right now because they don’t want to deal with the hassle.
We live in the now when it comes to money. There are a whole lot of people who have no control over their money. The idea of wanting something and saving for it until you have the money is a new idea they have never thought of. The thought is I have to have it now and so I’ll buy it now and pay for it later at 18% interest! Now that’s a really good idea.
The average American still lives financially month to month or week to week. Most of the time that is not because they don’t make enough money but because they live for the here and the now. The average college student has over $2200.00 of credit card debt. These are people that don’t even have career jobs or no jobs but they are wracking up the debt because it is about having things now. “I gotta have it now!”
There are people right here today that can’t give their time or their money because they are so entrapped by the world’s system and seduced into having to have it all now.
When you place yourself into financial debt for stuff you don’t need to the point that you can’t give like God wants you to give of your time or money not only does the kingdom of God suffer for it but you will pay the price for it in eternity.
You and I live about this long on this earth and it is called time. After our short life here we are going to go into eternity which has no ending and what we have done or not done here will have eternal consequences.
What you do with you time, treasure and talent has eternal dividends. We have a couple of generations of people who are investing in the here and now instead of the here after.
The problem is when you bump into other Christfollowers in the church you find out that they are in the same boat and that we have become worldly in these ways and it doesn’t even bother us. We have come to accept this low grade non-biblical living as acceptable.
Let’s look at another one:
Happiness versus Holiness
We live in the culture of happiness! It is the world’s system. You have to be happy and fulfilled. We have Christians that reach a point in their marriage where for no legitimate reason they just decide to call it quits and they go off in the pursuit of happiness.
People need to be happy every hour of every day. There are some poor diluted souls that sit around watching soap operas and think they are watching reality TV. We have people quitting life long commitments and covenants made before God so they can go be happy. Go interview them a couple of years later after the younger woman has left. She wasn’t interested in you anyway (seriously wake up).
God’s goal was never happiness for us. It has always been holiness! We are to be pursuing holiness and becoming more like Christ. Do you know what that means? It means discipline, sacrifice and self-denial. It means you endure.
Eleven out of twelve of the original disciples were murdered for their faith and the twelfth wound up exiled on an island until he was ninety. Can you hear them crying out “I’m happy. I’m happy.”
We want to be like Christ as long as every thing works out in our favor. We live in a bigger house, the minivan always runs well, our kids get upwardly mobile and we advance in our jobs and get the big SUV and our stocks pay off big and on and on it goes.
Naively we attribute this stuff as being blessed by God. That is the American gospel not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any part of that you get on this earth praise God for being blessed but don’t hold onto too tightly use it to bless other people.
We are living in a world addicted to happiness. What is the fruit of the Spirit? When you walk with God and pursue holiness and teach your kids to be holy there is a by product.
"Apart from me you can do nothing.”
The by-product is the spiritual fruit. The world always makes promises it cannot deliver on. It offers infatuation instead of love, it offers sedation in place of peace, it wants happiness, thrills and adrenaline rushes instead of joy. You can go right down the list of the Fruit of the Spirit and think of the false substitutes the world offers. When you focus on being holy you have love and joy and peace and relationships that matter. You will leave a lasting legacy because you loved and lived like Jesus on this earth.
How do we get there?
2. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
You cannot transform yourself. This literally means allow God to transform your mind.
It is a command and we need to take it as such. Now is the time. Not next year or after you’ve done your own thing a while longer. Just this week I once again expressed to the staff my deep concern and burden for many of us that call this church home.
I believe that God is going to call some of you out during this series and you will be faced with a choice of going deeper with Him or you will continue to live weak and unengaged lives conforming to this present world.
How will this happen in our lives? Little by little and step by step God will put His hand in areas of our life and bring things to our attention that we need to change. We will say to the world system and yes to God’s way and we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds about how we are to be living out our lives.
This is not about being religious or receiving a list of do’s and don’ts. It is about intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. You will be saying no to the world and you are going to do some weird things according to the world’s system of thinking.
Your in business but you don’t have to read the Wall Street Journal every day. You love sports but you decide no bible reading no ESPN. You have a busy life but you start writing some verses dealing with areas of temptation for you down on 3x5 cards and asking God to help you get that word down into your mind and heart and to change you little by little.
Remember this phrase: “. . .by the renewing of your mind.”
Renewing means: A continual refocus of the perspective of total commitment of ones self to God based on His compassion.
You get transformed by the renewing of your mind. It is a supernatural work of God but you have to want to change. You have to work hand in hand with God to make this happen. You have to be around the people of God.
How do you do this?
Understand that if you want to renew your mind these are not duties to do but these are things that will position you to get in deep relationship with Jesus.
If you make them a duty and try to start working your way to God you will miss the point.
Center: Let’s draw a wheel with four spokes. In the center write Jesus Christ and put Romans 12:1. When a wheel is moving all you see is the hub. You and I want to be so transformed that all people see when we are moving through life is Jesus Christ in us.
Bottom: Write The Word in the bottom spoke and 2 Tim. 3:16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
Top: On the top spoke write the word Prayer. This is how you talk to God. This is how you share your heart
John 16:24: “You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.”
You get your mind renewed by a steady diet of being in God’s word and spending time with Him. You know there are some things we are really good at being disciplined about. Do you know that I have incredible personal discipline every morning? I have developed this discipline to extend to noon and in the late afternoon and sometimes I even push myself to do it again in the late evening before I go to bed. I eat! I hardly ever miss a meal. This discipline has produced great growth. Do you get the point? I stand here today as a living illustration that discipline promotes growth!!
I have developed this habit until it is just natural. Morning eat, noon eat, evening eat and then when I really push myself sometimes I can even make popcorn or something right before bedtime. Amazing discipline.
You make time to eat and you make time for God’s word and prayer. It will revolutionize your life in two or three months time.
Side spoke: Write Community. You can’t do this alone. You need others around you that will encourage you in your walk. Write down Hebrews 10:24-25:
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
This is more than just going to church. This is placing yourself in an environment where other Christfollowers know what is going on in your life and will push you toward God and the center of His will. When we get into community with others it will stimulate our spiritual lives and motivate us to follow Christ with our whole hearts.
Final Spoke: Write the words Sharing Your Faith.
“Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” Matthew 4:19
“And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.” Philemon 6
Outer Rim: Write the word Obedience. The rim is where the “rubber meets the road.” You can be in the word of God and praying and in a small group but if you don’t live out your faith in obedience it is meaningless and powerless in your life.
John 14:21 says, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
How do we get to spiritual renewal? We say no to the world and yes to God. We obey what we know is right.
Psalm 119: “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have tried hard to find you— don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you”
If you are struggling in an area of your life whether it is lust or greed over money or envy or materialism or jealousy and you will start memorizing scriptures that are at the heart of your struggle, I challenge you to do this for three months and come back and tell me it was stupid and made no difference.
You will experience power and victory in your life. The church of Jesus Christ is living so far below it’s privileges because we never take this seriously and we have 40 million “Christians” in the United States whose lifestyles, and values and kids and marriages and drug additions and disciplines are all the same as the world. Do you know why? Because we are conformed to this world and have stopped short of pursuing the renewal of our minds.
Authentic worship begins with private worship and becoming a living sacrifice and move to the public arenas of our lives with public worship where out of a surrendered heart or public lives begin to change.
This is my lifestyle seven days a week. This is how I think. This is what I watch. This is how I relate. This is how I speak. This is how I love and I will live before the face of God. And when you do this you will experience the good, pleasing and the perfect will of God.
It can’t get any better than that.
Many years ago, executives of the Time-Life publishing organization discovered that the company’s profit margin had shrunk to an alarmingly low level. Consequently, they began an intensive effort to try to cut costs. Efficiency experts suggested that substantial savings could be affected in the renewal department. There were 350 people working full-time sending heartbreaking pleas to readers whose subscriptions were about to expire. Enormous quantities of these letters were being prepared manually. It was calculated that if a machine could be found to replace the manual labor, millions of dollars in overhead would be saved. In time, IBM came to the rescue with an enormous computer, delivered to Time-Life in a blaze of lights and fanfare. Then the new system was installed. The name of each subscriber was put on a separate little plate and run through the vast machine. Whenever a nameplate came along that was within six weeks of expiration, a series of dots and dashes at the top of the tab triggered an electronic impulse that caused it to drop into a slot. The name was then affixed to one of the "heartbreaking" letters which was then folded, stuffed into an envelope, labeled, stamped, and dropped down a chute to the basement where a United States Branch Post Office was set up--all without a single human hand touching the operation. The system worked flawlessly for a while, until that fateful, hot, humid, sticky day in New York City when one of the nameplates stuck in the machine. A few days later a lone sheepherder in Montana received 12,634 tear jerking letters asking him to subscribe to "Life" magazine. The sheepherder, who hadn't received a letter in years, took his knife, carefully slit open one of the mailbags and began reading his mail. Three weeks later, red-eyed, weary and up to his hips in 12,634 opened pieces of mail, he made out a check for $6.00, filled out a subscription coupon and sent it to the President of Time-Life personally, with the following note: "I give up!"
That's a story to remember, when you begin to wonder about the limit of God’s mercy. You don’t have to plead or beg for it. You don’t have to ask Him 12,634 or 1,000 or 100 times for it. God’s mercy is always there, always being offered, always presented to you.
You can have as much of God as you want. How much do you want? How much do you want Him in your life?
As we watch and listen to this video allow the music and images to search your soul. Make a commitment to turn your eyes and mind and heart to Jesus.