Sunday, April 19, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Therefore"

All Roads Lead to Romans
April 19, 2015 :: Romans 12:1-2 

Today, we are turning a major corner in our sermon series that we’re calling “All Roads Lead to Romans.”

Chapter 12 is the beginning of the last major section of the letter.

And it’s very connected to the first eleven chapters of the book, but it’s very different from them, as well.

It’s what we might call the “So What Section” of the book of Romans. Have you ever noticed that Paul does that with his letters? He’s often got several chapters of good strong more abstract theology and then some chapters at the end that bring home the implications and the applications of that theology.

The big grammatical and theological words for that are indicatives and imperatives. The indicatives are what is. What is true. The indicatives are theology. And the imperatives are what we are to do about it. What the commands are. What the implications and applications are.

Now, we’ve seen a lot of application already in the book. Paul hasn’t been shy about showing how his gospel relates directly to life. But he’s going to ramp it up significantly in chapters 13, 14, and 15. They are the “So What Section” of Romans.

And this relationship between what has come before and what is now coming is signaled by this very important but often overlooked word which we will make the title for today’s message:  “Therefore.”

I’ve always wanted to title a message, “Therefore,” and now I have!

And there are very few other passages in the Bible that would be more appropriate to carry this title.


Have you ever heard a preacher or a Bible study leader say, “Whenever you see the word ‘therefore’ in your Bible, you better make sure you know what it’s... there for.”, right?

That’s really good advice and it’s very important here.

Paul is going to look back over all of the preceding eleven chapters and draw a big, sweeping, comprehensive, life-altering, life-directing implication and application for us from them.

It’s a very big “therefore.”

Are you ready for it?

Let’s read; just two verses today. Romans 12:1-2. Very familiar and with good reason.
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. (NIV 1984)

Did you feel the bigness of that inference in verse 1?

That’s a big “therefore.”

“Therefore, I urge you brothers...”

That word translated “urge” is a strong one, as well. Some translations have “beseech” which we don’t use any more. Or “exhort.”

It’s a very strong word for a big “ask.”

God through Paul is going to be asking some big big things from us in the next four chapters. Some of them are going to be very hard to do. They will be simple words but big requests.

Like, “Return good for evil.”

Or “Submit to the governing authorities.”

Or “Don’t be judgmental.”

Those are easy words to say but difficult things for us to do sometimes.

And Paul is smart. He knows that he needs to ground those big commands in even bigger foundations. If you’re going to ask for big sacrifices, then you need to know that it’s all worth it. If you are going to ask for big things, you need to back them up with big reasons, right?

Well, Paul is not afraid to urge his brothers and sisters and us reading this letter to do big big things because he’s got big big things with which to anchor those requests in God’s mercy.

Do you see how he does that? V.1 again.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy...”

Have we learned anything about God’s mercy in the last few months? In the last few weeks?  Oh yes!

Last week, Paul ended Romans 11 by showing how God has shown undeserved but lavish mercy to both Jews and Gentiles.

The whole letter has been about the gospel of God’s grace and mercy.

How we don’t deserve salvation, but God has provided it for us anyway.

How merciful has God been to us Christians?

How merciful has God been to you?

Eleven chapters of God’s mercy.

I told Heather that was tempted to call this sermon, “Therefore,” and then just use the whole time to read chapters 1-11 to you again.

I probably couldn’t do it in the time allotted, but it would be good to read those eleven chapters again and remind ourselves of the mercies of God.

The Bad News.
The Worse News.
The Worst News of All.
The Good News of Justification by Grace Alone by Faith Alone in Christ Alone.
The Blessings of Salvation.
Our freedom from Sin, Death, and the Law.
The gift of the Holy Spirit.
The promises of God.
And the certainty that God’s word has not failed and God always keeps His promises.

Eleven chapters of the mercies of God.

So what?

How do we respond? What do we do with all of that mercy?

What’s the “therefore?”


“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 you see how Paul draws from the language of the sacrificial worship system of the Old Testament but changes it dramatically?

In the Old Testament there are sacrifices.

Lambs, goats, bulls, etc.

And there is a sacrifice here.

But what’s different about that this sacrifice?

They are both holy and pleasing to God.

What is different?

Well, for one, the sacrifice is you and me.

“Offer your bodies as ... sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.”

But, and thankfully, the second thing that is different is that we are to be living sacrifices not dead ones.

All of the bulls and lambs and goats they put on the altar in the Old Testament never jumped back off of that altar.

But our sacrifice here is to be a living one.

We are to live our lives for God.

Giving our whole selves to Him.

Now, I say our “whole selves” because of that word “body” in verse 1. I don’t think that Paul means that we just give God our bodies and not our minds or hearts or anything else.

We are not offering ourselves as mindless slaves.

But the body here stands for the whole person. When you give up your body in a sacrifice, you are saying, “Here I am. Take all of me.”

Now, we don’t live with a sacrificial system, so aside from the paradoxical language of living sacrifice, we just don’t really have categories for understanding this.

What would be a modern day illustration of living sacrifice?

I don’t know.

This is a comprehensive commitment.

This is saying, “Lord, you make take all of me. I am all yours.”

Marriage is like that.
Joining something like the military is like that.
Jumping into the deep end of the pool is like that.

You don’t just kind of jump into the deep end of the pool. You do or you don’t.

It’s like getting pregnant.

You aren’t kind of pregnant. You either are or aren’t.

This is giving your whole self to God.


Because of all that He’s given to you.

“In view of God’s mercy.”

Now, it’s important to say that this is not some kind of an attempt to pay back God for His mercy. You can’t do it. You can’t begin do that.

This is not “God-scratched your back, you scratch His.”

He doesn’t need you to scratch His back.

But in light of what He’s done, you should give Him everything about you.

Have you done that?

Are you living that way right now? All in?

There are two more adjectives than just “living” to go with this sacrifice. This kind of giving yourself to God is also “holy” H-O-L-Y and pleasing to Him.

It’s holy in the sense of righteous and right and good.

And (catch this!), it pleases God.

Did you know that you can please God?

Some of you have a parent or two that couldn’t be pleased. Your Dad or your Mom or both were always finding fault with you. You couldn’t do anything right.  Or at least there was something always wrong with everything you did.

You couldn’t please them.

And it’s easy to think that God is the same way.

But if you are in Christ, then you are already pleasing to God because of Jesus’ righteousness.

And by faith you can put a smile on His face each and every day.

Give your whole self to God.

“...this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Now that word translated “spiritual” in the NIV is a very difficult word to translate. It’s the word “logikos” that we get our word “logical” from.

And a lot of the time it means “rational” or “of the mind” or “of the spirit.” The NIV translators probably picked “spiritual” to correspond to the word “bodies” in that verse to show that doing this kind of offering yourself to God is a spiritual act. It’s not just physical. It’s all of you.

But I tend to think that the “logic” of this verse is that it’s more of the “therefore” kind of thing.

“This is the only logical response to the mercies of God.

This is the only rational or reasonable or appropriate reaction to how merciful God has been to us!”

Giving your whole self to God is the only right thing to do when you think about what Jesus gave for you.


And it’s worship. It’s every day, all day worship. “24/7" as they say.

Worship is not just singing.
Worship is not just something you do on Sundays.

This is worship that we’re doing here. But it’s not all that worship is.

Worship is everything.

Give your whole self–not just your voice or your song or your check in the offering–your whole self to God.

And what does that look like?


“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 gives us both sides of the coin.

What NOT to do and what TO do.

Do NOT conform and DO be transformed. Changed.

Just recently, we changed our purpose statement as church to say “Lanse Free Church exists to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.”


We are not content to just pretend to have a relationship with God.

We are pursuing full-on a life-changing relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Giving all of ourselves for Him to change all of our life.

That starts with saying NO to the pattern of the world.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world...”

Or as J.B. Phillips so memorably paraphrased it, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.”

Christians are to go against the flow.

We are to be different than the world.

That’s not always easy. There is an amazing pressure on us to conform.

Do you feel that?

The pressure to conform to the way the world thinks and acts?

How the world talks?
How the world dresses?
How the world does social media?
How the world does entertainment?
How the world thinks about things like race, guns, government, sexuality, work?

And we can get pressed into a worldly mode without realizing it and from different directions.

Some of you when I mention from time to time “CNN news” you think, “O, he should be listening to FOX news.” And some of you say, “O, he should be listening to NPR.” Or whatever.

But we need to realize that all of those news sources have slants to them. And hidden agendas. And hidden assumptions.

And the world stands behind them and tries to squeeze us into its mold.

Not just the news, of course, but people in general. Society, culture, is always exerting an influence, a pressure on us. Sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle.

Where do you feel the pressure to conform?

It should be your goal to be different, to push against that conformity.

And Paul says that because of the mercies of God, we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. By the truth of God.

We can think and act differently from the world.

We can stand out and operate from a very different angle than the world does.

We’re going to see over the next several months that Jesus’ followers think and act and live very differently than the rest of the world.

And if we don’t...then we need to ask ourselves if we are truly Jesus’ followers.

Jesus’ followers are constantly bathing their minds in biblical truth so that they get renewed.

That’s the reversing of the curse on our minds that we learned about back in chapter 1, especially verse 28.

God gave over sinful humanity to a depraved mind so that they did the things they should do.

But now in Christ, God is re-programming our minds, renewing our minds so that we do the things we should do.

That’s what I think the last sentence of verse 2 is getting at. When we are allowing God to change our thinking through biblical truth (v.2).

“Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If you are allowing God to change your mind through immersing it in biblical truth, then you will more instinctively recognize what is the right thing to do, what God’s will would be in a given situation, what is wise, what is God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.

It takes two words in English in the NIV “test and approve” to translate one Greek word “dokimozein.”

It doesn’t mean that we test God’s will to see if God’s will is good, pleasing, and perfect.

It means that we test whatever we think might be God’s will and approve a given course of action as God’s will when we recognize it.

It’s a litmus test. Yes, that’s God’s will.

How do I know?  Not just a strange feeling that comes across me.

Not even just a peace about something.

But, my thinking has been transformed by a renewed mind, and I can see what is right and what is not.

I can see what would be good and pleasing and perfect to God.

And I approve of it!

I’m going to do it!

That’s what I’m going to do.

Allow God to change your whole life.

As you give your whole self to God, He will help you to understand what He wants you to do and give you the grace to carry it out.

I have really been enjoying the worship music of Rend Collective the band that led us at the Challenge Conference last year.

They have a song that I think really sums up the message of Romans 12:1-2.

The lyrics say:

Everything's on the altar now
No holding back, no holding out
In view of Your matchless sacrifice
Take every treasure, take this life

All that I am for all that You are, my Lord
All that I have for all that You are, You're the
Pearl beyond price, greater than life
All that I am for all that You are

Selfish ambition and my pride
I'm giving up, I'm letting die
In these empty hands I have it all, have it all
The pure joy of knowing You, my Lord

It's only in surrender that I'm free
It's only in surrender that I'm truly free
It's only in surrender that I'm free

All that I am for all that You are, my Lord
All that I have for all that You are, You're the
Pearl beyond price, greater than life
All that I am for all that You are