Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Renewing our minds

Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, 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. 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.”

Paul speaks of spiritual renewal “in view of God’s mercy”, the theme of the previous eleven chapters. Our standing before God is entirely due to His initiative mercy. We “offer” or “present” ourselves; the aorist tense indicating once-for-all time, like the commitment of a bride and groom…or like a soldier; our response to God’s mercy is giving up our old life and reporting for duty! We are set-apart for God, at His disposal, to work through us.

Why are we “living sacrifices”? Or perhaps a better question, What is a living sacrifice? R.C. Sproul notes: “There is a New Testament sacrificial system. It is not a sacrifice that we give in order to make an atonement, but a sacrifice that we give because an atonement has been made for us.” We respond with gratitude to the One who gave His all for us, Who provided all we need for this life and for the next. The faith-response is commitment.

What hinders us from doing this? Our priorities; God doesn’t have 1st place in our lives; we haven’t died to self; “my will” is #1; we haven’t committed to living for God.

Paul wants us to “conform” to God. As military personnel, we’re accustomed to conformity. But as followers of God, we are non-conformists. We have a distinctly different worldview & lifestyle.

The Phillips translation renders verse 2: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” We live in culture; we're affected by it, yet warned in Scripture against it. We live and function in two worlds--the Kingdom of God and the fallen world about us…these are at odds with one another frequently, and we at times have to appraise to what extent we have become “worldly”. We’re so well-adjusted to our culture that we may fit-in too well.

To be “transformed” means to be changed from the inside-out…an indicator of true conversion. Paul uses the same Greek word used to describe Christ’s transfiguration, where we get our word metamorphosis. Not conformed but transformed. Do we have a distinctive spiritual identity, or have we adapted to a secular worldview? We need to be counter-cultural; in the world but not “of” the world.” By God's grace, we can.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What Easter does...

The resurrection does many things...

>First and foremost, the resurrection happened. This historic event was visibly observed by over 500 witnesses, proving that this was not some fable or legend. Even the Jews and Romans knew that Jesus was dead, and also that the tomb was empty on Easter morning. They all knew that it was heavily guarded and blocked with a 2-ton stone sealing Jesus’ body within. They knew Jesus was heavily wrapped in cloths that were soaked with myrrh, enough to suffocate anyone. They had seen the severity of his scourging and execution. And without doubt, they knew Jesus had returned to life. The empty burial clothes were left behind as a testament to His victory over death.

>The resurrection takes away our fear….A father and son were driving along a country road on a warm spring day, when suddenly a bee flew into the car. The boy was deathly allergic to bee stings, and began to panic as the bee buzzed inside the vehicle. The father reached out and caught the bee in his hand, then winced in pain. He opened his hand and showed his son the stinger still in his palm. “Relax, son,” he said. “I took the sting—the bee can’t hurt you anymore.” The empty tomb is God’s way of saying to us, “Relax, My child; I took the sting—death can’t hurt you anymore.”

>The resurrection gives authority to our witness in the world. In every evangelistic sermon in the book of Acts, the early church leaders pointed to the fact that Jesus was risen from the dead. This Easter event gave weight to their message that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah and Savior of the world.

>The resurrection gives powerful significance to the Lord’s Supper. Without Easter, this meal would be no more than a memorial service. But when we remember Christ’s atoning death, we also recall His resurrection, the death of death. Holy Communion is a victory banquet! The resurrection gives us hope for the future. Without Easter, Communion--and life itself would be meaningless. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we break bread with our risen Lord, and our eyes are opened, our hope restored.

>The resurrection unites all Christians, even our Eastern Orthodox friends, who observe Easter on a different day. We may worship differently, we may not see eye-to-eye on all issues…but one central belief unites and inspires all Christians. We are united in our celebration that the power of death has been forever conquered through the resurrected Christ.

>The resurrection showcases Jesus’ authority. In Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, King Herod learns about the raising of Lazarus and is enraged. He cries out in protest, “I forbid Jesus to raise the dead. This man must be found and told I don’t allow people to raise the dead.” Herod the tyrant felt threatened; he knew that if somebody is going around raising the dead, then his power has met a greater power.

>The resurrection matters. We may differ on minor doctrines, but this is a critical, essential truth of our faith. Scripture tells us that the payment of sin is eternal death: “the soul that sins will surely die”. We all deserve eternal death…but when we look at the empty cross we have a reminder of God’s promise that we are forgiven.

This key fact of history is something we cannot be neutral about. Everyone knows about Jesus, but not everyone knows Him in His saving power. For that to happen, we have to respond to His love by trusting Him for salvation.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Are all?

  • Are all politicians corrupt?
  • Are all pro athletes on steroids?
  • Are all journalists biased?
  • Are all soldiers war-mongers?
  • Are all lawyers unethical?
  • Are all CEO's pragmatists?
  • Are all Christians hypocrites?

When people disgrace their profession, rebuke them, not their profession or what it stands for. Don't dismiss theism because some "professing believers" aren't living their faith.