Transformed Living, 13 January 2019

Transformed Living
Series—Romans: Walking in the Spirit
Romans 12:1-8

Series Overview: The book of Romans guides us into a life of freedom as we follow Jesus by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Big Idea: We can know and do God’s will when we are transformed by the Holy Spirit from worldly to godly living.

One of the most common questions I get asked as a pastor is, "How can I know God's will? Do you want to know God's will? Do you really want to know God's will?

Walking in the Spirit and today we’re in chapter 12, another passage packed with inspiration and information for the purpose of transformation: transformed living.

One thing I’ve noticed about humans is most don’t like change. It’s easy to get comfortable, in a rhythm. The problem is, if we aren’t changing to become like Jesus, we’re stuck—at best—and likely losing our faith, backsliding, drifting.

In Romans 11, Paul talks about how we have all been disobedient to God, yet He has extended His mercy to all followers of Jesus.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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 12:1-2)

One of the most common questions asked by Christians is, “How can I know God’s will?” We know Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,” but what does that really mean? The answer is found in these two verses. We must be transformed. We must…change.

I love you all deeply, but none of you has yet achieved perfection. We are all in need of what is called sanctification, the process of being set apart, consecrated, made holy. There are actually two aspects to sanctification for the Christian.

First, there’s positional or internal sanctification. All believers are sanctified or set apart unto God when they receive Jesus as Savior and LORD. In another book, Paul, the writer of Romans, said,

“…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justifed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

Tragically, this is where so many Christians stop. You’ve heard me call them vampire Christians—they just want Jesus for his blood. He’s their Savior but not LORD. They
think they’ve been given a Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free card because they prayed a prayer and do religious things, but they’re nothing more than modern-day Pharisees. They’re not walking in the Spirit.

The second type of sanctification is progressive or eternal. This is the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion. This is what Paul is describing in Romans 12:1-2.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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 12:1-2)

Sacrifices are rather uncommon today, but at the time of this writing, the slaughter of animals was a part of life for many, killed and placed upon an altar. The problem with living sacrifices is they can wiggle off the altar!

This is such a challenging text because Paul is basically saying to surrender our bodies…and our minds. See, we often make the mistake of thinking Christianity just about our soul, but we are multi-dimensional creatures…and God wants all of us.

Do you want God? Do you really want God?

Let’s face it, in the next life it will be easy to follow God. Satan will be removed, temptation will be a thing of the past, we’ll be forever in God’s presence…but we’re in this world now. We’re expected to live as citizens of heaven while being in Toledo, Ohio!
What does Paul mean when he speaks of the pattern of this world? One of Jesus’ best friends, John, described it this way:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:15-16)

Let me break this down a bit.

The lust of the flesh refers to our comfort, prosperity, sexual activity, eating, etc.

The lust of the eyes includes greed, coveting, jealousy, envy, etc.

The pride of life
involves pride, the quest for fame and power, desiring a sense of importance, or what we call “the American Dream.

This is what it means to follow the pattern of this world. This is why I meet so many Christians in this country that are different than their non-Christian neighbors. Most of us are pursuing the American Dream instead of God’s dream, God’s will.

Most of us are too busy to pray.
We’re too comfortable to fast.
We’re too greedy to give generously.
We’re too distracted to study the Bible.
We’re too prideful to serve.

If you want a wake-up call, here’s the very next verse from John:

The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17)

So how do we begin to do God’s will? It begins with renewing the mind. All of our actions begin in our head. Here are two simple steps:

Fill your mind with God’s truth. Study the Bible.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)

Focus your mind on good things.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

This can be really difficult in a culture of cable news, Facebook posts, and online porn.
Paul continues to describe what it means to renew our minds:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:3)

I think pride is the root of most, if not all, sins. It manifests itself through both arrogance and insecurity. It got satan kicked out of heaven. It’s what drives us to seize power and control. It seeks comfort and safety. Pride may be my greatest sin throughout my life.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:4-5)

I’ve heard people say they love Jesus but not the Church. That’s like saying you love Christ but hate his Wife! The Church is imperfect, yes, but it is the Body of Christ. A Christian without a church is like a football player without a team. We need others!

I need you. You need me. We belong together. We need to love and serve one another, not only for the sake of the members of the church, but also for our mission field: Toledo and beyond.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8)

This is not a comprehensive list of spiritual gifts, but one of several in the Bible. The Alliance affirms all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in scripture. In fact, one of our seven core values states

Without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, we can accomplish nothing. - 1 Cor. 2:4-5

A quick note about prophesy, it is not necessarily predicting the future, but rather forth-telling or revealing God’s truth. Perhaps you’ve heard God speak to you about someone or something and didn’t know what to do about it. We’re hosting a three-week seminar on Wednesday nights beginning February 27 to discuss the spiritual gift of prophecy, what it is, how to use it if you have it, and how to avoid misusing it as so many have done.

I want you to see a living example of what happens when a family is filled with the Spirit, surrendered to God, using their gifts, and
being the Church.


Did you notice spiritual gifts in use? At least five from Romans 12 are clear:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8)

serving (the needs of the mother and daughters)
- teaching (discipling the mother and children)
- encouraging (the four new daughters through their myriad of problems)
- giving (of their time, home and funds)
- showing mercy (to the mother who was incarcerated)

So What?

Do you want God? Do you really want God?

Transformed living is possible. It begins with renewing our minds and surrendering our bodies. Here are a few notes about the process of transformational sanctification:

1. Growth takes time.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

Transformation is a lifelong journey. It’s like a slow dance between the Spirit and us as the Holy Spirit guides and we respond. Don’t ever stop growing!

2. We must take obedient action by taking off our old self and putting on a new self.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

3. We must remain submitted to God to experience lasting transformation.

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

4. We must remain humble. Christians often become prideful about how much they have been sanctified or transformed. How much you have been transformed is not so much the issue – rather the direction in which you are currently changing is much more important. 

…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5b-8)

5. Growth will likely lead to both troubles and a more abundant life.

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:30)

Do you want God? Do you really want God? If so, as we sing this closing song, I want to invite you to the altar. The new year is still getting started. Today is the perfect day to publicly declare your desire for more of God, to surrender, to let go and let God, to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Credits: I’m grateful for the research and assistance of Doug Oliver.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Timing: Old & New, 18 June 2017

Timing: Old & New
Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
Mark 2:18-22

Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

Big Idea: God is always doing new things, even though He never changes.

My fellow graduates, I want to encourage you to lead. I know you might not consider yourself to be a leader, but my favorite definition of leadership is simply “influence.” Each of us has countless opportunities every day to influence others, whether it be friends, a family member, co-worker, Facebook acquaintance, or even total strangers in public. Follow Jesus and lead/influence others to do the same.

But for all of the talk of leadership in our day, remember one thing: every leader has followers and opponents. Whether you’re a politician, CEO, store manager, or little league coach, there will be people who support you and people who can’t stand you!

Just ask Jesus!

We’re in the middle of a series exploring The Real Jesus from the gospel—or good news—of Mark, a biography of King Jesus.

Last week we saw Jesus questioned for inviting Levi into a meaningful relationship. “How dare he associate with sinners?” the religious leaders asked. But the criticism is still just beginning.

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” (Mark 2:18)

Fasting is an ancient practice which seems to have periodic surges in popularity. I’ve noticed several authors recently writing about the benefits of fasting, especially for weight control. This is not the context of our passage today.

Fasting was a popular practice in first-century Judaism. Some thought they could ward off demons by fasting. Others thought they could earn God’s favor by fasting, perhaps making their prayers more likely to be answered in a way that pleases them. Still others fasted in hopes of prompting mercy or attaining the forgiveness of sins. The most self-righteous would use fasting as a way to show their piety and gaining the applause and admiration of others.

This is not to say fasting is a bad thing. Hardly. Jesus fasted for forty days. It was sometimes connected to sorrow for the loss of a loved one. Jesus’ own death likely led to the fasting of the disciples as they grieved.

But there is an appropriate time and a place for everything.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens: 
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build, 
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away, 
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

There is a time to fast…and a time to feast!

Jesus answered,
“How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. (Mark 2:19-20)

I love weddings! There’s no celebration like a wedding. Last week Heather and I traveled about 3000 miles to California just to participate in a wedding.

The day was filled with joy, smiles, laughter, food, and feasting. And why not? Is there any greater party than one focused on love? If there is ever a time to eat, drink, and be merry, it is a wedding.

Jesus tells the religious leaders now is not the time for his disciples to fast. He is the groom. It’s time to party! There will be a day when he will be taken from them. He’s previewing his death on the cross. There will be no celebration on Good Friday, though Resurrection Sunday will be another story!

Jesus came to proclaim and practice the kingdom of God. The kingdom is God is not a funeral but a wedding party! You don’t fast at a wedding. You can’t fast at a wedding! It would be offensive to the host. It’s time to feast! Religion and the kingdom of God are completely different.

Jesus continues

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. (Mark 2:21)

This is a universal truth. I’m no seamstress, but I know garments will tear when they are washed and the patch of new, stronger fabric shrinks. The old and new are incompatible.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this reality. Replacement parts for old products often fail to fit. When my wife gets new glasses, she gets new lenses and frames because the new lenses won’t fit in new frames. I recently had to explain to someone a DVD will not work in their VCR!

Jesus is saying the old and new are incompatible. He didn’t come to abolish the law or add to it. He came to do something new.

Weddings are filled with fancy food, fancy garments, and fancy drinks, too.

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)

This is not a verse about alcohol, per se, but rather about another truth concerning the incompatibility of old and new. Animal skins, often goatskins, were used as containers for fluids. Old, stretched wineskins will burst when new wine is poured in and expands.

David Garland notes, “The question, ‘How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?’ (2: 18), is answered with proverbial sayings about not patching old cloth with new or putting new wine into old wineskins (2: 19, 21– 22).”

Jesus came to do a new thing. He will die for the sins of the world, the new garment, the new wineskins. Jesus will not merely reform the old, he will transform it. He announces the end of the old and the birth of the new.

Religion is like a ball and chain, weighing people down with guilt and shame.

Jesus showed us how to party, how to experience abundant life, how to soar with joy.

Why do you do what you do?

This is an important question for us all. What is behind our behavior? Why are you here this morning? Is it to impress others? To try to score points with God? Or to worship our LORD with others, knowing Jesus and making him known to our city and world?

It’s hard for us in our day to understand the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, but suffice it to say they were bold, loud, and arrogant. They judged, condemned, scorned, and criticized. They were stuffy, proud, fuddy-duddies!!! And they were no fun at all!

What about you? Do you live like you’re at a funeral or a wedding? Again, there’s a time and place for everything, but I wonder if more people would follow Jesus if we looked more like him. I wonder if the world sees Christians as boring, gloomy people depressed by Fox News rather than hope dealers filled with joy, peace, and love.

Jesus rocked their world…and the world of everyone he encountered. He replaced gloom with joy, death with life, despair with hope, and hate with love. This is why I love Jesus! Even if you skipped his death and resurrection—the climax of his ministry—his very attitude was refreshing. He hated organized religion!

Jesus announced the kingdom of God, saying God was becoming king in an entirely new way. Something powerful and explosive was about to take place…and history has never been the same since! We are invited to participate in the kingdom, the reign and rule of King Jesus.

Because of Jesus’ teachings, life, death, and resurrection we must think differently, think bigger, live more passionately. God never changes, but he’s always doing new things. Our church history is a great example of this. In 1930, we began a live radio broadcast. In 1966, we started a Christian radio station, WPOS, Proclaim FM. In 1996, church members launched a TV station, WLMB. Today you can download our sermon podcasts online. The message of King Jesus remains the same, but medium changes.

I can’t imagine what lies ahead for us as a church, but God knows, and it will be exciting. It won’t always look like the old, but it shouldn’t. There are great things in the rear view mirror, but if you look ahead you’ll see even more exciting things. And most exciting of all will be the ultimate party, the ultimate feast, the day when the groom returns for his bride, when Jesus returns for the Church. What a celebration that will be! Are you ready?

Credits: some ideas from Matt Carter (Austin Stone Community Church), Warren Wiersbe, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • E13U796O04I5BEO0