We apologize for posting three sermons back-to-back-to-back, we know you would rather hear about the kiddos (yeah we’re looking at you Grandma). This will be the last one for a little while though. Keep your eyes out for the next blog as we look back at one of the kids sharing the gospel at the mall.
Anyways, this sermon was given by Scott at Kisha Ungjillore i Tiranes (Evangelical Church of Tirana) as the last sermon of a three sermon series on “doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The first sermon can be found in our Week Three blog on Colossians 3:17:
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Last week’s sermon (our Week Nine blog) was focused on Romans 12:1:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
This week’s sermon is focused on Romans 12:2:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
As always we hope this builds you up in Christ as you read. May God’s Word do the work that only it does, for we know it never comes back void.
Scott read Romans 12:2 and then prayed. Here is what followed:
As many of you remember, this sermon is really part three of a sermon I began more than a month ago. We looked at Colossians 3:17 and we looked at the “who, what, when, where, how and why” of the passage. That message was focused in on what it meant to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. If you recall, when I came to the “how” of the passage, I told you I didn’t have time to go over it in detail but I promised we would look at Romans 12:1-2 in my next sermon to explain how we could do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Last week we looked together at Romans 12:1 and to recap, here’s what we saw:
In this passage of “therefore… living sacrifices,” the “therefore” at the beginning of the verse pointed us back to all the amazing truths of chapters 1-11. In light of the unfathomable greatness and glory of God, in light of the fact that God chose people like us despite who we naturally and thoroughly were, in light of the fact of all that Christ has done for us, and in light of Father, Son and Spirit interceding for us, “therefore… living sacrifices.” In light of all of these amazing truths, Paul is lovingly and graciously exhorting us, his fellow brothers in Christ, because of, in and through the abundent mercies of God that He so graciously lavished on us, we are to place all of ourselves as a possession at God’s disposal. That includes our wills, our hearts, our minds, our hands and feet, our emotions and feelings, and our joy all being placed on the alter as living sacrifices. Christ cleared the alter of the dead sacrifices, Himself being the final sacrifice, so that we can live on the alter as living sacrifices. And not just living sacrifices, but holy sacrifices set apart for our Lord and our God, because staying on that alter means holiness.
Last week we skipped over “acceptable to God” but we will cover it today as it ties with the end of verse two as well.
Then we finished with “which is your spiritual service of worship.” Which is a beautiful phrase meaning the only logical way to worship our God and our King, in light of all that He has done for us, is to be living sacrifices.
Which leads us to our verse for today. “And do not be conformed to this world…” I know the word “and” seems unimportant but I just want to quickly point out that the “and” here points us back to what Paul is doing here: he is still exhorting us. He lovingly is exhorting us to- living sacrifices AND transformation by the renewing of our minds.
So, we are not to be conformed to this world. “Conformed” here in this passage is the Greek word syschēmatizō meaning to mold according to a pattern. Think of a place that sells pots and the potter makes a pot that he thinks is just right, so he starts to make a bunch of pots to sell, one after another, in the mold of that first pot. That is the idea, the idea of molding and shaping you into the image of the world.
The Greek word syschēmatizō is in the present, continuous, negative tense in the middle voice. Okay, I know that sounds scary and I am by no means qualified to give big lectures on Greek but let’s break this down. The fact that it is in the present tense means do it now. However, because it is in the present negative tense, this does not mean, “Do not let this happen.” Actually, it is closer to “stop it!” Stop being conformed to this world. It assumes some amount of prior conforming to the world. And the continuous tense conveys to keep on “stopping it” continuously or forever. So “stop it!” and “keep on stopping it!”
The middle voice is important, and the voice will be even more important for the words “transformed” and “renewing” in just a few minutes. Let me explain this as best I can. There are three voices: passive, middle and active. If something is passive then it happens to you regardless of what you want. Think of Satan roaming the earth looking for those he is going to devour. Satan isn’t going around asking permission from people- he is looking to eat you up! That’s the passive tense. The active tense is something that you actively do. An example is we are called to “Go” and “make disciples of all nations.” That is something active that you are to do. The middle voice is, as you would expect, closer to the middle. It is something that happens to you from outside pressures, but you are either allowing it to happen or want it to happen to you.
So, stop allowing the world to conform you, and then keep on fighting against the world to continue to stop being conformed.
Conforming has the idea of pressure. The world is constantly putting pressure on you to look like it, to dress like it, to talk like it, to act like it. The world wants to conform you to its image rather than Christ’s image.
Think about all the pressure the world puts on you if you watch just one hour of tv and commercials. The world is telling you, “Don’t be content with your life. You deserve more. You need more. Stuff is going to fill that need.” But look how that conflicts with Scripture: look at what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13:
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
The world is telling you through your television that the pursuit of, and obtaining, money and wealth will make you a better and happier person. All you need is more money and you will lead a happier life. But look at what Christ said in Matthew 6:24-34:
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Watch one hour of television and the world will tell you that it’s okay to look at half-naked or mostly-naked women lustily. It’s normal and okay and it feels good and its harmless. Christ disagrees (Matthew 5:27-30):
You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
Watch one hour of television and the world will tell you its okay to get drunk when you are out with your friends. Getting drunk is fun, funny, and it makes for a great time. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,
I see some of you are looking at me like, “Okay, Scott, we get the point.” I wish I had time to keep going on and on though. The world is putting pressure on us from all sides like the potter shaping his clay. The world wants to shape you into a pot of its liking- a broken pot that isn’t useful to God. So the world is constantly bombarding us with its ideas of what is good and acceptable and perfect.
So option number one here in this verse is being conformed to this world. And the truth is, some of us are letting the world shape us and we don’t even care. We just don’t worry about it, or we blame our faults on our culture, or we just excuse them as “its just who we are.” And either because we think it doesn’t really matter or because we don’t know the Scriptures well enough to realize we are being shaped into the image of the world rather than the image of His Son, we walk around content with ourselves being conformed to this world.
This is a problem and we know there are so many warnings against this. It looks really bad when a messenger of the King is too intimate with the Kings enemies.
Even small inconsistancies in our lives are dangerous. Small thorns make big blisters, small moths destroy beautiful clothes, and little sins will rob you of much joy.
You know we aren’t to be conformed to this world. Look at James 4:4:
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
And look at 2 Timothy 2:4:
No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
And we are soldiers! We have to fight in order to not be conformed. If you don’t feel like you are fighting, if you right now don’t feel like a soldier, and at the same time you think you are walking in a manner worthy of your calling, as living sacrifices, then let me ask you this: Does every person you share the gospel with place their faith in Christ? Because my experience, and the testimony of Scripture backs me up, is the more I evangelize, the more hostility I get. It’s a fight to share the gospel sometimes. So, is every person you are sharing Christ with, whether with your family, or at work, or on the streets, are they all accepting Christ as Lord OR are you just not sharing Christ with people?
Let me also ask you, is there no sin in your heart? Because I can testify that it is a struggle to rid yourself of sin. It is a battle to keep sin away. The world is pressing and pressing and pressing. It is a HUGE battle to get rid of sin. So, is there no sin in your heart OR are you just okay with it being there?
Let me also ask you, is your family never tempted? OR are you just okay with the sin in those you love.
This is dangerous. Conformation is dangerous. If you don’t believe me, look at the testimony of Scripture: look at Lot. At first he lived in a tent toward Sodom; then he lived in Sodom; by the time the city is going to be destroyed, he had absolutely no witness with anybody! When the people of the city came for the angels, Lot couldn’t convince them to stop this terrible evil, he even offered his virgin daughters to them. When he warned his son-in-laws of the impending danger, they didn’t even believe him. He loses his wife, and then his two daughters get him drunk in order to commit adultery with him. He loses just about everything that matters to him and he has little-to-no witness with his family. If we didn’t have Peter’s epistle, we wouldn’t have any idea he was righteous, but even so, look at how much conforming to this world cost him!
The last thing I want to mention here about being conformed is it has nothing to do with what is actually on the inside. Being conformed is changing the outside pattern of what you see. I will come back to this in just a minute.
Now lets look at option number two: “but be transformed.” Transformed in the Greek is the word metamorphoō. This is to change the form of something but it does not refer to that which is temporary and on the outside, but that which is real and internal. The contrast here is this: being conformed means despite who you are on the inside, the world wants you to look and act a certain way so that you appear the way they do, but being transformed means letting the Holy Spirit change you on the inside and then having who you are, the new man, come out of you.
You see this same word used of Jesus at the transfiguration. Look up Mark 9:2-3 with me:
Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
It’s the same word here. The reason I bring this up to you is to show you, it wasn’t that Jesus changed by some pressure on the outside. No, he was always that glorious on the inside, Christ is God! He just let His closest disciples get a small glimpse of who He always was on the inside.
Paul wants us to let the Holy Spirit change us on the inside and then let God shine through us. We need to shine in our actions and deeds and in our words. They all need to reflect that our old self has died and now we are new creatures.
Metamorphoō is in the present, continous tense and it is in the passive voice. If you remember, the passive voice means Paul is calling you to something that is being done to you. Transformation is not something you can do to yourself, it is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Well wait a minute Paul, that doesn’t make much sense. Why exhort us to do something we can’t do? That “living sacrifice” thing makes sense because that is something you can actively do, but why call us to do something we can’t actually “do?” Let’s keep reading and see if we can figure out what Paul wants us to do.
“by the renewing of your mind”
“Renewing” here is the Greek word anakainōsis. This word means renewal or renevation. It has the idea of “out with the old, in with the new” if you will. So surely this word will be in the active voice, right? Actually, no. The word anakainōsis is the same as metamorphoō, it is in the present, continuous tense and in the passive voice. Another passive word. And it makes sense, right? You can’t renew your mind, can you? Has any of you tried to throw out your mind and bring in a newer, better mind? It doesn’t work, right? As a matter of fact, there have been plenty of times I wished I could take a big eraser and get rid of the some of the things in my mind and start with a more righeous mind. But we all know, that isn’t the way it works. The renewing of the mind is also the work of the Holy Spirit. It takes God intervening on your behalf to renew your mind.
So then what in the world is Paul asking us to do? Look at the rest of the passage: there isn’t an exhortation there, its just describes the result of a renewed mind. So, what is Paul exhorting us to? Better yet, why when we looked at Colossians 3:17 did I tell you this passage is the key to how to live your life “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” There doesn’t appear to be a how here.
Okay, so the question is, if transformed and renewing are passive, what is Paul exhorting us to do. The better question to ask, though, is this: if transformation comes from renewing your mind, then what does renewing your mind come from? The passage says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Okay, so transformation comes from renewing your mind, does this passage tell us how to renew our minds? Actually, no. But I think most of you know the answer. What does the Scripture say, throughout its entirety, that if we let it abide in us, it will change us? (Half of the group says the Bible) Correct, the Word of God. When we let the Word of God abide in us, the Holy Spirit does His work, that only He can do, and He uses the Word to change us and renew our minds.
Now there are a ton of Scriptures we could turn to for this but I will quickly point out just a select few. It is the Word that, when it is preached, the Spirit uses to bring men to faith in Romans 10:14-17:
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
Next, the Holy Spirit uses the Word to sanctify men that He has brought to faith in Christ. Look at Christ’s prayer to the Father in John 17:17:
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
I could keep going but you already know that the Scripture is clear on this. We need to be memorizing the Scripture. We need to be like Joshua, in that verse plenty of us know (Joshua 1:8), we need to meditate on the Word, day and night. We need to let the Word of God abide in us. And when we are memorizing the Word, and meditating on the Word, and it is abiding in us, the Holy Spirit uses it and changes our minds. Out with those old ways of thinking and in with the new ways of the thinking- the God approved, from His Word, ways of thinking. That’s what renewing your mind is all about. Renewing is a work by the Spirit through the Word.
So Paul is exhorting us, do not let the world pressure you into behaving as the world does, but instead let your actions and words be changed from the inside-out as the Holy Spirit changes you through the renewing your mind, which we know is through the Word of God.
Now to finish this off let me ask you the question: why? Why do we do this? Why do we work so hard, and fight so hard, so that we can be changed by the Word rather than be molded into the image of the world. Follow along with me as I read the verse again:
(Scott pretending to read) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that it may go well with you, and you will have a great life with no problems or struggles, so that you can be rich and God will bless you with every earthly blessing. Amen.
(Everybody is saying “no” and laughing at this point)
No! Of course not! What does it say: “so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Okay, let me tell you one thing before I get to the point here. This is an amazing promise here. When you saturate yourself with Scripture, and you let the Word abide in you, and the Holy Spirit is renewing your mind, you will actually begin to see situations go on around you and you will know what the will of God Almighty is. Wow, what a promise! You mean to tell me that when people come up to me with problems, I can know for certain what the will of God is? Yup, when your friend comes up to you and tells you about this problem in their lives you will know that God says they are doing something wrong. You will be able to test a situation and compare what the Scripture say about it, and know what God’s will is for that situation. Does this mean God gives us all omniscience and all-wisdom. Obviously, no. But you better believe the more the Word of God resides in your mind and heart and the more it has transformed your thinking, the more wisdom you will have in knowing what the will of God is.
And that is an amazing promise. We, I mean just look at me, a person like me, can know what the will of God is in a difficult situation. That is just mind-boggling.
But let’s keep going though. So, why do we do it? Look at this last part with me: “that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” I told you at the beginning that I would eventually get to talk about “acceptable.” The word in the Greek actually means “well-pleasing.” When we live our lives as living sacrifices we are well-pleasing to God. When we are being transformed by the renewing of our mind, we will be able to know and do that which is well-pleasing to God. That”s why we do it: to please Him. Because we are people who are all about bringing glory to Christ.
That’s what the book of Ephesians is all about. When you get a chance to look it up at home, look up Ephesians 1:23 and Ephesians 3:21. The book of Ephesians is all about Christ’s glory being all in all. That’s what we are about! In light of all the amazing truths that Paul wrote about in the first 11 chapters of Romans, we are people that are all about Christ’s glory being magnified, because He is worthy! We are living sacrifices because it is pleasing to our Father when we bring glory to Him! We are memorizing scripture and meditating on it because we want to be ready in all situations to know what is most pleasing to Him! Because that glorifies Him! We want to see the glory of God and the glory of His Son magnified here on this earth, because that is our chief concern: seeing the glory of Christ magnified everywhere we can! We want to see His glory magnified in us as we give ourselves as living sacrifices and we want to see His glory magnified through us as we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds and as His will is being done around us! My friends, this is what it is all about, the glory of Christ!
So, how do we do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, so that in all things He might receive glory and honor and praise?
We present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices and we stop being conformed to this world but instead we are transformed by the Spirit, through the Word of God. And when we do this, Christ gets all the glory and honor and praise that is so rightfully due Him. Christ, the all-in-all!
Thank you, brethren. Now, go and do likewise!
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, NASB)