We have been going through the lessons taught by Jesus from His Sermon on the Mount. The last posted was on “Revenge”. I believe that lesson provided a segue to move to Romans 12, teaching on what the Apostle Paul has to say about our Personal Responsibility, falling inline with our goal of teaching Christianity in relevance of Community. It is evident, Paul’s words are directed to all believers however, even non-believers can learn from Paul as well. This series of lessons will help each of us to better understand that it is okay to have a difference of opinion. These opinions no matter what they are should not be a knife that cuts the common thread of which community is based. Due to the length of this lesson, it will require us to be posted as a series. So, please keep checking back for continuing posts. Our challenge is to understand, although there are differences of opinion, it is imperative we be a community.
Some background – Paul is writing to the church in Rome encouraging or instruction the people of the Church how they are to behave. We are to be living sacrifices to Christ, obey the laws of the government, love our neighbor, and take special care of those who are week in faith. In this, we learn to live out our faith each day of our life.
12:1 “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. 2 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. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12: 1-5).
In the Old Testament times, there were laws that were to be followed for a sacrifice. The preparation of the animal and what types of animals depended on what the sacrifice was being made for. Today or in the New Testament, there is no need for animal sacrifice because of the crucifixion of Christ. He was the last sacrifice because of His perfectness that needed to be made for the forgiveness of our sins. When Paul says we are to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” he means we are to give up, or lay aside our daily desires. This allows us to put all of our energy and resources into trusting in Him who guide us.
The Creator has a good and pleasing plan for each one of us whom He calls His children. He wants us to be changed, no longer living out our lives in worldly abandon, but living within His will. This non-conforming aspect of life means that we do not conform to the ways of the world but to conform based on the renewal or changing we go through as His children. People ask how can we change. We change the moment when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. When we make this decision, recognizing we have been called to Him, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit as well as Spiritual Gifts (we will talk more about spiritual gifts in the next post). This, to some may be confusing because not everyone knows the Fruit of the Spirit, which is; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. As we become closer in community with Jesus, these fruits become more evident within us. It is not an over night process, for some the fruit will take time to ripen. As transformed, people through the renewal of our minds we begin to think differently than perhaps those around us. The language we use the way we act, the way in which we treat people all begin to change. We should always remember, it is because the Creator only wants what is best for us, He made that perfect sacrifice on the cross. Whether you are a believer, follower of Jesus, or a non-believer it does one no good to follow the ways of the world. A non-believer can be a good person and treat other rightly, love their neighbor, now how to act in community. However, if they are not in relationship with Jesus like believers they will continue to fall short and there sins not be forgiven.
We should not think of ourselves to highly either. We all know someone that thinks very highly of him/her self and can see the affect this has on the people around them. This goes beyond having a healthy self-esteem and may even border on narcissism. In any case, we should want to feel good about our selves but we should not let it overtake our personality. We must make an accurate self-assessment of ourselves. Can this be done when we are immersed in the worldly culture? The simple answer is no. We need help with our evaluation of self; this help comes in the form of Jesus. We need to place our self-value understanding that our self-worth is based on Jesus. One could then ask why is my self-worth based on what Jesus thinks about me. Apart from Jesus in other words, without a relationship with Jesus, we are not capable of much by eternal standards, but in Him, we are valuable and capable of eternal standards. If we evaluate ourselves by worldly standards, of success and achievement we run the risk of thinking too much of ourselves. This can cause us to completely miss the value the Creator has put on us.
Paul uses the concept of the human body for his teaching of the way Christians are to live and work together. Just as our arms, legs, fingers and eye are different parts of the body, they continue to function as one body. So too is how Jesus taught about the Church, each of us as a member of the Church is but a part of the whole. How much greater work can be accomplished when we work together as the body of Christ.
Our challenge for today is to assess our self through the eyes of the Creator. Even non-believers can do this. Do not assess yourself with worldly affirmations but through those that you believe that Jesus would use. Ask yourself, am I being all I want to be or am I being all the Creator has planned for me? Do I want to change and become, not a better person but a forgiven person?
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