Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Morning Devotional for Men's Retreat

2013 Calvary Baptist Church-- Men's Retreat
Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul exhorts believers to present themselves as living sacrifices in response to the lifegiving goodness of God's mercy. He then immediately instructs us how we are to go about this “spiritual act of worship”. Paul outlines the situation every believer will face: the temptation to not fight against the world, the temptation to fight against the work of God, and the primary means by which God will conform the mind of believers perfectly to the image of Christ.

Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed

The phrases “be conformed” and “be transformed” in the original Greek are both in the passive imperative tense. They could be better understood as “do not let yourself be conformed” and “let yourself be transformed”. This is an important distinction as we look at this passage. For a Christian, a born-again new creation, living in a world that is still groaning for its redemption filled with people who are still enslaved to the prince of this world, this life is a swim against the current. Add to that the sin nature that, while no longer reigning in our life still bears some residual effect, we are like a salmon looking to spawn. It is a struggle to get to where we desire to be. And like that salmon, if we stop struggling to get upstream, the current will grab us and lead us back to the place we started at the bottom of the stream. This is why Paul exhorts the believers to not allow themselves to be conformed to the pattern of the world, which stands in stark contrast to the ways of the Lord. He knows, and we should quickly learn, that there is no standing still in the Christian life. Either you are pressing forward to the prize awaiting you or you are sliding back to the place from whence you have come.
But, as is always the case in Scripture, God has good news for the believer. The phrase “be transformed” is also in the passive imperative tense. For the believer, transformation will occur. Jesus is not just the author of our faith, He is the perfecter of it. As we struggle against the temptations and assaults of the enemy, we must confess with the Puritans of old who prayed: “Calvary broke the dragon's head and I contend with a vanquished foe. Who with all his subtlety and strength has already been overcome.” We struggle against a roaring lion who desires to devour us, but due to the work of Christ, in His perfect and sacrificial obedience, this lion that roars has no teeth.
This transformation is a conforming of the believer into the image of Christ and it will occur. Done deal, no options, no chance of failure. If you are a new creation, the old has passed away. The new has come. Christ who is the author of your faith will perfect it (Hebrews 12:2). God who has begun a good work in you will bring it to a completion (Philippians 1:2). You will be, in that final day, conformed perfectly to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). The image of God that we bear, which has been marred by rebellious sin, will be restored fully. Paul, at this point, is encouraging believers to not kick against the goads. When the Lord is conforming us, we should not resist. We should not argue with the Lord or advise Him on a better way He can conform us. We should allow ourselves to be conformed with as much active fervor as we should fight against the temptation to allow ourselves to drift back into conformity with the patterns of this present age. It is the work of God in us, but He requires active obedience from us. But in order to obey Him we need new desires. We need new perspective. We need greater wisdom and a fuller understanding of our God and of ourselves. We need more than we have.
By the renewing of your mind

We need a new mind. We need the mind of Christ. We need to love what He loves and despise what He despises. We need to think like Him. Mercifully, we have a record of what God wants us to know about Him and about the world around us. “The transformed and renewed mind is the mind saturated with and controlled by the Word of God”1

We need the Bible. We need to have an unflinching allegiance to the truth as revealed in God's Word. But more than simply affirming the truthfulness of God's Word, we need to be familiar with it. “We begin to receive a new mind, a new worldview, by studying God’s Word, for there we find his thoughts. Only by studying God’s Word can we think his thoughts after him.”2

His Word is His revelation of Himself to man. It is how we know who He is. It is the means by which we will value Him more. It is the means by which we will trust Him more. It is the means by which we will continually fall head-over-heels in love with the Creator, Sustainer, King and Savior. God's Word is how we know Him--and there is nothing in the entirety of creation that is greater than knowing the one true God.

D.A. Carson, commenting on this passage, wrote:
Paul exhorts the Roman Christians, “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” (Rom. 12:2). Here the assumption is that the transformation of character and conduct brought about by the renewal of the Christian’s mind is precisely what equips such a Christian to test and approve God’s will—that is, to discover personally and experientially that his ways are best.3
That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Do you want to know what the will of God is? You have to study the Word of God. You have to think like God. You have to have a new mind. And if you want a new mind you have to study the Word of God more rigorously than you have ever studied anything in your life. There is no magical way to know the will of God, apart from knowing the Word of God.
Why do you need a new mind? So that you can know the will of God. This is why truth is so vital,why theology is so important. Theology is not speculating about the philosophical aspects of the character of God. It is studying who he is, what his character is, what he loves, what he hates. If God reveals that something is good, then we know it is good. When God reveals that something is bad, then the debate is over. We are not to wrestle within ourselves whether it is right or wrong. If God says it, then we know what the standard is of righteousness. If you want to live a godly life, then it is indispensable to your spiritual growth that you dig into the Scriptures deeply, to understand what God is revealing. This is part of the sacrifice of the Christian life. There is a sacrifice of your body and there is a sacrifice of your mind. It is not a sacrifice of the mind in the sense that you vacate your intellect, but in the sense of giving your mind as a present to God, to be instructed by him, so that your thinking will honour him.4
1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press.
2 Sproul, R. (1992). Before the face of God: Book 1: A daily guide for living from the book of Romans (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; Ligonier Ministries.
3 Carson, D. A. (1992). A call to spiritual reformation: Priorities from Paul and his prayers (101–102). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
4 Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (197–198). Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.