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About this series
Becoming a Romans 12 Christian
Being a genuine disciple of Christ flows out of a relationship with Him. It's about experiencing God's grace, not earning His love through performance. A real relationship with Jesus Christ will produce a follower whose life looks progressively more like His life. Romans 12 provides a relational profile of an authentic disciple: someone who is surrendered to God, separate from the world's values, sober in self-assessment, serving in love and supernaturally responds to evil with good. Christians who live out this kind of lifestyle are what we call r12 Christians. God is willing to go deeper and grow you into a real disciple - are you ready?More from this series
I want you to know that every parent has a dream for your child. I want you to think back, if you’re a parent – if you’re not, just listen – and think about… This is what your parents were thinking. Every parent, I want you to go back to that first born. You didn’t have any kids and your wife was pregnant, or you were the wife and you are pregnant. And you thought about all the things that went through your mind about what this little boy or what this little girl might be like and the dreams, and the thoughts, and the hopes, and the aspirations.
And what I want to tell you is that God has a dream for His children. But what we do is we get sort of theological over there, and somehow we think He’s more like the transcendent force out there some day some way, and there are rules and standards to live up to. And so for you to capture the emotion of how God feels, I want to share a very brief and personal story about when I understood how deeply God plants desires and dreams for us for our kids.
It was our firstborn for Theresa and myself. We were at a banquet. Middle of the banquet, Theresa says, “Chip, it is time.” I said, “Theresa, let’s go.” You know, you don’t know what you’re doing. The contractions had been about three hours. We go home, get things set up, we go to Baylor Hospital. For the next 27 hours, Theresa and I will be together. It’s a long labor. There are complications.
For a number of reasons, they can’t take the baby. They find out something’s wrong. They put a monitor on this little boy inside of my wife and I sit next to her for 27 hours and that little monitor… If you know a baby’s heartbeat goes like this – beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. And then she would have a contraction and it would go beep, beep, beep, beep, beep…beep. Then doctors and nurses would run in. Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.
And we went through that, about three times in 27 hours. About every eight hours, we just stopped, and we prayed, and we cried, and we gave that little boy back to God. And I thought, “We may have him, we may not.” And then I start thinking about Theresa and I may not have her. What’s going to happen?
And with 27 hours, I had a lot of time to think about all the dreams I had for that little boy that came to the surface–that I thought I might lose. And I want you to know that something deep, deep inside of me was so fearful and grieving at what I might lose.
And then, when that little boy who was born 27 hours later, that nurse wiped him off. Theresa was wiped out. I think she said, “Hi.” And then, they put that baby in my arms. And it was one of those places where they really thought the dad was important, and I got a half hour with my son. And I held that little baby and I just… I held that baby with tears streaming down my face, thinking, “I didn’t know if this was going to happen,” and I thought of all the dreams I might have lost.
And I still remember, it was a linoleum floor and I had such a sense of gratitude. I remember getting on my knees on a linoleum floor, and holding that little boy, and just crying and thanking God.
And I want you to know – why? Because I’m made in the image of God. And embedded in the heart of a father and embedded in the heart of a mother is a dream and a desire for your kids because God made you. And that’s how He feels about you.
And for many of us, when our kids are small, the dreams – and we’re sort of young, immature parents – we have dreams like, “I hope he’s a baseball player” or “I hope she’s musical” or “it’d be great if she’s, you know, athletic or artistic…” And then, as you get a little bit older and they go through some stages in life, then you, “Well, I hope they get a good job” and “hope they do well in school.” And a lot of the dreams are about kind of what they do.
Then the older you get and the older they get, you get to where, “I don’t care what they do. I just want a kid that loves me, loves God, tells the truth…” Your dreams turn into what kind of person will this be, because here’s what I will tell you. Potentially the greatest joys you will ever experience on this earth will be connected to the relationship with your child. And the greatest heartache and the greatest pain you may ever experience is related to your children.
No one can hurt you as deeply as your kids. They’re part of you. Your heart is tied up in them. And if I could get a microphone and pass it around here tonight and we could tell stories about kids that have made really bad decisions, or kids that are in addictions, or kids that don’t talk to you anymore, or kids that…
Tell you what – how many of us would say, “I could care less what school they went to, I could care less what kind of job; if we had a great, loving relationship and we were friends as they’re adult children, I wouldn’t care about any of the rest,” would we? Because see, at the end of the day, the real dream in your heart is not about what your kids do, it’s about who they become and it’s about their relation and genuine connection to you.
And you’ll notice on your notes, I want you to know this–that our heavenly Father has a dream for every one of His children, and God’s dream is to make you like His – write the word – Son. “Be ye mature or fulfill your design,” Matthew chapter 5, verse 48 says, “be ye perfect even as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
In Romans 8:29, he says God uses every circumstance, every up, every down, every relationship, everything we ever go through to conform us to the image of His Son. He says in Ephesians 4 that the whole purpose of the Church is designed so that through the relationships that we have and the gifts that God places in the body, is that we would all grow up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
You need to understand – primarily your life with your Heavenly Father is not about what you do, not about what you accomplish, not about what kind of job you have, not how many points you’re scoring spiritually. His primary dream is the kind of person you become, the kind of relationship you have with Him. He wants you to be a loving, kind, gentle, holy person who walks in integrity.
He wants to have casual conversations and have you talk with Him when you’re driving in the car. And when you come to the crossroads of big decisions and everyone says do this and your Heavenly Father says do that, He wants you to say, “Father, I want to do it Your way. I want to please You.” He wants intimate, loving, deep relationship with you.
Unfortunately, in our day, we have a crisis in Christianity. Something has happened in the last 40 to 60 years that is unprecedented, and it’s awesome, and it’s amazing. Literally, more millions and millions and tens of millions of people have come to Christ in the last 40 to 60 years than in the last two or three centuries.
The gospel’s gone around the world like never before. More people have authentically said, “Lord Jesus, I recognize that You’re the God of the universe. You paid for my sin. You rose from the dead. I trust in You.” And He comes into their hearts.
But in the words of John Stott, the former great statesman who traveled all around the world, he said, “Christianity has never had growth like it’s had in the last four or five decades. But it’s about 16 million miles wide and about a 16th of an inch thick.” He said, “The greatest need in Christendom today, in every country of the world except where there is persecution or focused discipleship, is spiritual maturity.
All the Barna reports, all the Gallup reports…many of our own experiences tell us what? About eight out of ten people who claim the name of Christ have very little family resemblance. You know what I’m saying? When you’re spiritually mature, you think like Jesus, and you walk like Jesus, and you love like Jesus, and you’re selfless like Jesus, and your priorities and your money and your time are just like Jesus living inside your body.
But for many, many, many people, the great vast majority, their words and their intellectual belief system about Jesus and God is over here and their actual lifestyles are over here. And that’s why there are an awful lot of people that are outside of Christ that look at Christianity and they look at churches and they meet people who are “genuine” followers of Christ and they say, “You know something? If that’s it, I don’t think I want it.”
I think it’s the greatest need in the world today is for Christians to live like Christians. And here’s what’s exciting. It’s not guesswork, it’s not about trying hard, it’s not about being religious. God gives us a very clear picture of what His dream is for your life in Romans chapter 12. God’s dream for every child is to become a disciple or a follower – and you can write it in – a Romans 12 Christian. That’s His will. Are you ready?
His will for every child of God on the face of the earth, regardless of background, nationality, gender, denomination – God’s desire, God’s will for every single follower is that they would become a Romans 12 Christian.
Now, I’m not saying that Romans 12 is all there is to being a disciple, but here’s what I’m saying. I’m saying it is the executive summary. It’s the snapshot. It’s like this amazing mind that God gave the apostle Paul; he takes all the teachings of Jesus and for 11 chapters, he writes about the work of Christ and the sin of mankind, all that God has accomplished and how much He loves people.
And then in chapter 12, he stops and he gives us a snapshot. And he gives us this very quick kind of Cliffs Notes snapshot.
It’s like some of those people in the venture capital world and someone has a big plan and they’ve got a new product and… You know, it might be 20 or 30 or 50 or 80 pages of research… but my experience when I talk with those guys is if you can’t give me on one or two pages the whole game plan, what you want to do, how you want to get it done, I won’t even read it.
And the apostle Paul gives us the executive summary of what it means to be truly spiritual. What we’re going to learn as we go through it, number one – are you ready for this? It’s relational. Look in your notes. Will you open your notes and just look at them completely open? And if you have a pen, circle a few keys words just as we go through the passage. All we’re going to do is give an overview and we’ll dig into each of these sections, but circle the word…
It says, “Relationship with God.” Circle the word God. Verse 1 is going to talk about: what’s the snapshot of spiritual maturity, of true spirituality with God? Then, go down. It says… Look, it’s the relationship with the world. Circle the phrase “the world”. There’s a world system that we’re going to learn about; a world system that’s anti-God, that’s energized by the enemy of your soul, seeking to seduce you away from your love for Christ.
And then, it’s going to talk about your relationship with yourself. Circle the word “yourself”. We’re going to learn a little bit later that God wants you to have an accurate, sober, self-assessment.
Then notice that we talk about a relationship – on the second page – relationship with believers. Circle the word “believers”. There’s a way that spiritually mature, authentic followers relate with other Christians in a way that does amazing things in them and amazing things in others.
And then, finally, circle the last one. It’s a relationship with non-believers. There’s a way that people that love Jesus, where His Spirit lives inside of you, respond to the harshest, most difficult, painful evil that comes into your life.
The second thing you learn about a Romans 12 Christian is that it’s practical and it’s measurable. Okay? This isn’t just an ooey, gooey spiritual feeling. Follow along if you will. Notice what it says in verse 1. “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.”
We’ll look at this, but this word for “offer” is at a point in time. And what he’s going to say is that here’s what you can know practically and measurably. A spiritually mature, authentic follower is surrendered to God. On a certain day, at a certain time on their spiritual journey, a man or a woman or a student has realized how great and how powerful God is, and that His will is good, and you have bowed the knee, and bowed the heart, and said to God, “I’m all in. I will do whatever You want me to do. Your Word will be the guide of my life. I want to arrange my life, my relationships, and my priorities around whatever You say.”
And that answers one of the biggest questions that you’ll ever face in your life. And that question is this: how do you give God what He wants the most? Have you ever thought about that? God is a person. He’s not some invisible, transcendent, impersonal force. He’s a person. And if you have a good friend and they have a birthday, don’t you ask questions like “I wonder what he or she would want for their birthday?” Or if you’re married, you say, “I wonder what my mate would want the most?” Or if you’re a parent, “I wonder how I could really help or bless my kids the most?”
Have you ever asked yourself, “I wonder what God wants the most from me?” And you know what you’re going to learn? He wants you. He wants you. Not your religious activity. I mean, there’s a place for Bible study, there’s a place for church, there’s a place for prayer, there’s a place for all kinds of things. But you can do all those things and Him not have you.
My observation is in most Christian’s lives there’s a missing ingredient. And Romans 12 not only is relational and practical, it answers this big question and it also gives us the missing ingredient in every relationship. And the missing ingredient in most Christian’s lives – and you just jot this on the side of your notes – is power. We’re anemic. So many Christians try really, really hard.
We’ve had tens of thousands of small groups in America and around the world go through this material, so I’ve got, like, research. And there’s still one email that I remember reading and thinking, “Wow.”
A lady said, “I was at the kitchen sink, doing the dishes, and that morning I woke up and I felt kind of distant from God. I’d been a Christian about 22 years. And for some reason, I just thought about… I wonder if any friend described me, if they would even use the word ‘good Christian’ or someone who really loves God with my name.”
And she said, “You know, I’ve tried, failed, tried, failed, tried, failed. I know that I’m born again. I’ve been a Christian 22 years. I have an alcohol problem that I presently have right now and I have an immorality problem and a porn problem. And I don’t like me.”
“And those thoughts, that guilt because of how I’m living were popping up. And I’m doing the dishes, and the radio was on, and this message comes on about becoming a Romans 12 Christian, and it was the one on surrender.”
And she said, “As I was doing the dishes, the tears just started streaming down my face.” And she said, “I’d never heard that before. I’d never understood that before.” And she talked about drying her hands, going to her bedroom, kneeling by her bed, and telling God, “I can’t do this. I can’t live this life. I surrender to You.”
And the rest of that email was, “That was four and a half months ago and let me tell you what God did in my life since then.” Power.
You know, if you’ve ever been in one of those water fights in the backyard and someone starts with a squirt gun, right? And if you’re smart, what do you do? You get the hose. And so they’ve got one of those guns and you get the hose… But what does someone really, really smart do if you get the hose? They go over here and they grab the hose and they kink it. And when they kink it, how much water comes out? None.
What I want you to understand is you can be a legitimate, sincere, born again believer in Jesus, and if your hose is kinked, if your life isn’t surrendered, you don’t experience His power. And so all it becomes is this moralism and attempts to live a life that’s absolutely impossible.
Becoming a Romans 12 Christian begins in your relationship with God by being surrendered to Him. But notice, beginning in verse 2, it says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is – that which is good and pleasing and perfect.” There’s a negative and a positive command, and we’re going to develop this and talk about it.
But in essence, what he says is with regard to this world’s system that tells you that money and stuff and sex and power and prestige will deliver on security and significance and great relationships, he’s saying, you’ve got to live separate from the world’s values. You can’t let it… But notice, he doesn’t say try hard to be a good Christian. He says, “Let your mind be transformed.” Then you’ll test, you’ll experience.
You know the question, the big question in life this verse answers? How do you get the very best from God? How do you get the very best from God? Verse one answers, “How do you give God what He really wants?” Verse two says, “If God really loves me and He died for me and He rose from the dead, He has a plan for my life.” How do you tap into that? We’ll explain from this verse exactly how it works.
And the missing ingredient I find in the great majority of Christians that I talk to is not just lack of power because of an unsurrendered life, but a lack of peace. There are Christians that can’t come in, you’ve got to turn on the TV. You’ve got to go to the refrigerator. When you get in the car, you’ve got to put sound and music on because absolute dead, deathly quiet times make you very uncomfortable.
There are few positions, I think, in all the world that are more miserable than a legitimate, born-again follower of Jesus in whom the Spirit of God lives, who lives with one foot in walking with God and the other foot in the world’s system.
I happen to be an expert on this. I’ve done extensive personal research. I know what it’s like to be at Bible study on Thursday night and hit every bar on Friday night. I have been over here where I’ve, oh, Bible study and talking about sexual purity and lusted like crazy over here and telling God I’ll never do this, this, this, or that again.
And I will tell you, I was the most miserable Christian in the world for the first three years. That is the place the great majority of believers live. And we forfeit God’s peace. The guilt and the shame of logging on, the guilt and the shame of flirting over here, the guilt and the shame of all the kind of stuff that you’re lured into as the world conforms your thinking to a bankrupt system that never delivers.
See, God loves us too much for that. We’re going to learn – are you ready – we’re going to learn how to break that cycle; how God’s Spirit and God’s power can help you live the kind of life that you long to and that He wants for you. And we’ll learn that’s how you get His best.
Beginning in verse 3 and through 8, we learn that in our relationship to ourselves, God desires a sober self-assessment. Notice the little phrase, “for by the grace of God.”
What I want you to hear in all, where he sort of sets the bar of holiness and righteousness and what it means to have true spirituality, I want you to hear behind it this compassionate heart of love. “For by the grace of God, I say to every man among you, don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but think as to have sound or sober judgment as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
He talks about how you get that and how you’re a part of a body. And we’ll discover that He’s deposited a supernatural gift – if you’ll look at verses 6 through 8. We’ll cover all those later.
But he wants you, in your relationship to yourself, to look in the physical mirror and to look in the spiritual and the relational mirror and say, “I like that person. God made them. That personality, those gifts, that height, that eye color, those struggles, that family background.” In the sovereignty of God, He wants you to have an accurate, sober view of yourself.
In that one verse, that word sober, think, think, think–four different times. God wants you to see yourself the way He sees you – dearly loved, valuable, precious, forgiven. And you know the big question this answers? “How do you come to grips with the real you?”
I mean, do you realize how much time, and energy, and money, and posing, and image management we do just as normal human beings, even as Christians, to try and project to all these different people that “I’m like this,” and “I’m like this,” and “I’m dressed like that,” and “I’m cool like that,” and “I know this,” and “did you know I know so-and-so,” and “this is how many people report to me,” or “my son or my daughter, they got this on their SAT scores,” and “he hit two home runs,” and “I want you to know I went to an Ivy League school,” “this purse is not a knock off; it’s really real” and “this watch, it really is” and “I got promoted and”…
And then you spiritualize it all and you get in a Bible study. “Well, according to so and so’s commentary, when I was reading the Greek text a little bit earlier in preparation for this…” Ehh. We do it, we do it, we do it, we do it. This section will teach you how to come to grips with the real you, and then it supplies the missing ingredient.
Verse 1 supplies the power, when you understand it. Verse 2 supplies the peace. And verse 3 supplies your purpose, because see, God made you specifically. You are His workmanship. You’re created in Christ Jesus unto a good work, which before the foundations of the earth… So guess what. He’s gifted you to do something specific. In His sovereignty, He has you in relationships that have been difficult in some ways and empowering in others.
But God has a purpose for your life. When you’re always pretending to be someone else or comparing yourself with someone else and not accepting: these are my strengths, these are my weaknesses, these are my gifts, this is my background, this produces some difficulty and dependency, this produces some great things…
Until you get a sober self-assessment, you end up playing games your whole life. You try to fulfill your mom’s purpose, or your dad’s purpose, or the culture’s purpose, or the company’s purpose, or what other people think. Do you know how freeing it is to understand, “This is why I’m here. My purpose is this. And this is what I’m good at and this is what I’m not good at. This is where I need help and this is where I need to step out and let God use me.” It’s revolutionary. It’s absolutely revolutionary.
I have a good friend over in Santa Cruz and he was a fellow entrepreneur. He ran half of the United States of one of those really, really giant companies and saw that he was kind of losing touch with his family and the travel, and so he decided that he would start a business of his own. And so he developed these, about 26 of these stores around, kind of like Jo-Ann’s or Michael’s, but he called it by his wife’s name, which I thought was very nice.
And he became a mentor of mine. I’d spent a lot of time and he would help me. And I was teaching through, I was sort of in the infant stages of my journey about a sober self- assessment and a part of that understanding was what your primary spiritual gift is. And he went through that.
And you know what? People are people. And in his world, okay, he was a good business guy. He became very successful. When you’re very successful in business, he made a lot of money. So there he was a good leader and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Because you know what his whole like 25 years of church experience was? Sitting on committees, in meetings, where everyone wanted to talk about money and then counting money afterwards. And if there was ever a capital campaign, “Dick, you do it.”
And he said, “I hated it all.” And we went through a journey and he discovered his spiritual gift. And he discovered what he likes to do is launch things, and what he likes to do is equip people, and what he likes to do is bring together networks. And so he said, “You know what? I just decided I’m not going to be on anymore boards.” This was a spiritual decision. He said, “This is what I’m going to do.”
And he actually was the one that launched Living on the Edge. It was his idea. He’s the guy that got it going. And I can now tell you four or five, six, seven, eight different ministries, he’s launched. And he just says there’s such joy when you figure out how God made you and you fulfill your purpose.
Do you know yours? Do you kind of start to get what I’m talking about is so different than: “All right, it’s Sunday morning, it’s Saturday night, we’d better go to church. Oh yeah, this is great. Oh, we’re going to hear about what we ought to do and I’m not doing very much of it. I’m going to try really hard. It’s not really going so I better fake it a little bit better than I’m faking it right now. I was really convicted. Oh, boy. More to do, more to do. They want you to do this…”
Do you realize how so much of Christendom is like people have another job, and often a job you don’t like, and often a job you don’t like and you’re actually not doing very well at? That’s not true spirituality. True spirituality is relational, it’s practical, it’s measurable. It’s normal people like us that are surrendered to God, on a day where we actually cross that line, and then progressively we’re separate from the world’s values. And then we develop a sober self-assessment and we start to discover our purpose and why we’re here. And it actually gets downright exciting.
The fourth thing you see is that it’s a relationship of believers, is it’s serving in love. True spiritual maturity is, “Love must be sincere.” The word literally is “without a mask or without hypocrisy.” “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good; be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”
And then the rest of that passage, we’ll unpack it and it’ll talk about honoring one another and giving preference to one another. And it’s really about people that actually know each other, and like each other, and sacrifice for one another, and pray for one another, and do whatever it takes to help one another. And it’s like doing life in community. But you serve in love, but it’s real love. It’s not a meeting I go to. It’s not, “Okay, we made it three out of four times this month. I’m feeling really good about that checkbox. I read the Bible four times this week…”
It’s so different when it’s a relationship with this God who loves you so much, and you open His Word with a sense of holy trembling, that He would so love and want to speak to you today, and He would love to hear what’s on your mind and on your heart. And actually, His Spirit lives inside of these other people called other fellow Christians, and He’s deposited gifts in them, and He wants to hug you through them, and He wants to love you through them, and He wants to hold you accountable through them. He wants to encourage you through them. And are you ready? He wants you to do that right back.
And there’s this amazing thing in the early church. Remember what Jesus said? “A new commandment I give unto you” – to the early disciples, John 13 – “that you love one another” – how – “just as I’ve loved you. By this” – not by buildings, not by external morality – “by this the world will know that the Father has sent Me, by how you love one another.”
And this section of true spirituality from Romans 12 answers the question that we all struggle with: how do I experience authentic community? Boy, there are so many lonely people. I don’t mean just being in a group, I don’t mean just being a member of something. I mean, how do I experience where there’s someone or two or three in my life that I can unzip my heart and I can risk putting it out there and I can tell them things and I won’t be condemned and they’ll support me and love me. And when I’m going through a horrendous time, they’ll be there for me and they know I’d be there for them.
You ready? Having some friends who would literally – not figuratively, not metaphorically – friends who would die for you. That’s authentic community. And I’ll tell you what. When you get around people that love each other like that, it’s powerful.
You know what’s missing in most Christians’ lives? It’s not just power, it’s not just purpose. You know what’s missing in most Christians’ lives? Experiencing God’s presence. Somehow it’s like we do these things and we hope God will do this and like He’s out there somewhere, somehow, someway. Do you know God’s primary plan apart from when you read His Word or you’re talking to Him or meditating? Do you know His primary way to manifest His presence? It’s through other Christians.
I mean, if an angel comes at the middle of the night at the foot of your bed tonight, go for it. Tell me about it later. And if he hugs you and fixes you a meal and says, “Tell me what’s really going on inside because I really want to hear because I really care,” God bless you.
But for 99.9% of all the rest of us, you know how Jesus is going to show up in your life? He’s going to show up in the body of another person. A man or a woman or a fellow student where there’s kind of this chemistry, and this safety, and this love, and you’re devoted to one another in brotherly love, and you give preference to one another in honor, and you do life together.
The final portion of becoming a Romans 12 Christian isn’t just your relationship with God, or your relationship with the world, or yourself, or believers but the evil in the world – relationships with nonbelievers that are hostile to the gospel. And unfortunately, sometimes relationships with believers that are evil and hostile toward you. But it’s supernaturally responding to evil with good.
Hear the apostle Paul. You can just hear him reaching into the Sermon on the Mount by the Spirit of God. “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and curse not. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God. Vengeance is Mine. I will repay.” If your enemy’s hungry, what do you do? Feed him. If your enemy’s thirsty, what do you do? Give him a drink. “Do not be overcome with evil.”
See, we’re humans. Evil is going to come into all of our lives on your little journey on this earth. Some of you have had more than others. You’re going to get ripped off, you’re going to get betrayed, you’re going to have mates walk out on you, you’re going to have kids say terrible things to you, you’re going to…people who you’ve loaned money and they promised to pay it back and guess what – they’re not going to.
And there’s evil that’s sort of systemic. You can love God with all your heart. Guess what. Christians that love God with all their heart get cancer. They get hit by drunk drivers. They get swooped into down economies and lose their homes. And they’ve been faithful with their finances. Evil is coming your way.
So what’s true spirituality? What I love about what God says–true spirituality is how the Spirit of God lives the life of Christ out in relationship with my Heavenly Father, with the world, with myself, with believers, and then with unbelievers when the raw deals are coming my way.
The question it answers is, “How do you overcome the evil aimed at you?” And the thing that most Christians – listen carefully – most Christians have missing in their life is perspective.
We all could probably take out a 3x5 card or get out your mobile device and press the little app where it says notes and we could probably all list four or five people that used to walk with God that don’t walk with God now – after their mate walked out on them, after the car wreck, after they got ripped off at work. Right?
See, there’s a reason that almost 25% of the book of Genesis is dedicated to the life of Joseph, because Joseph is a picture of true spirituality, of: how do you respond at the evil aimed at you? And it wasn’t easy–he was betrayed, falsely accused, forgotten, sold. But that little phrase – “the Lord was with Joseph” – and do you know what Joseph had? Perspective.
Joseph kind of took – even though they didn’t have them in those days, follow it – Joseph took the helicopter of spiritual perspective and in those days in prison or falsely accused, he just kept taking that helicopter up really, really, really high and looking at all of it and saying, “You know something? There’s a sovereign God that either decreed or allowed this, and He loves me, and I don’t know how it’s going to work out but if I don’t bail out and trust Him, He’ll work it for my good and He’ll do in me and through me what could never happen. And so I refuse to be bitter, I refuse to not forgive, I refuse to become a victim, I refuse to let the world shape me. I will trust my God because I have perspective.”
And he would say to his brothers, at the very end of the book, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” If all those difficult things wouldn’t have happened, he would have not been the second most powerful person in all the world and he would have not saved the Jewish nation.
And God has a game plan and you have a Joseph story to live out. It’ll be a big one for some, a smaller one for others. Are you starting to catch what true spirituality’s all about? It’s about relationships. It’s measurable. You can measure, “Am I surrendered? Am I separate from the world’s values? Do I have a sober self-assessment? Am I serving in love? Am I supernaturally responding to evil with good?” And then it helps you ask and answer those questions.
And little by little, as we walk through this together, you will begin to experience–as you trust and obey by faith–God’s power, God’s peace, God’s purpose, God’s presence, and God’s perspective. And that’s why I’m so excited. And you know what I love about this?
Guess whose book we got this out of? This text, it’s just the Bible. It’s true!
What Jesus said to them, He said to us, “If you abide in My Word” – and that word just means if you take it in for the purpose of applying it by faith – “then you’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
As you turn over the notes, I want to close with this one very important perspective. There is a danger on our journey. Like every journey, there are dangers. But there’s a danger on our journey to begin to very subtly begin to think that sort of the R12 journey or the Romans 12 journey is like a moral code and a set of bars to live up to.
“Okay, I’m going to be surrendered, I’m going to be separate, sober self-assessment. I think I got that down. I’m going to serve in love and…let’s see, I can’t remember the last one…supernaturally respond to something with something.” And you can turn it into the very thing we’re trying to avoid.
And so I want to remind you that true spirituality has nothing to do with living a good life so that God will love you. True spirituality has everything to do with beginning to grasp the height and depth and length and breadth of how much God has already loved you, has demonstrated that love, and you living out of the freedom of that love.
And so I just put the little chart of the entire book of Romans. What did he do? Chapters 1 through 3, all of us fall short of the glory of God. We sugarcoat this. This isn’t just being “not a nice person”. We have sinned. We’ve betrayed God. We’re people that have committed treason and He’s holy and His just wrath is upon us for what we have done. And that’s the problem.
In chapters 4 and 5, there’s a solution. The solution to the sin is salvation. Jesus, fully man, fully God, lived a perfect life, died upon the cross to pay for your sin and rose from the dead and offers a free gift to whosoever would believe and receive it.
Chapters six through eight goes on to talk about how this new life is lived and He didn’t leave us alone, it wasn’t a moral code, “Try hard.” He said, “The Spirit of the Living God in the new covenant will take up residence inside your mortal body.” After He takes you out of the kingdom of darkness, He places you in the kingdom of light. His Spirit takes up residence, and the living presence of Christ and the power of Christ by the Word of God and the community of God’s people births.
Literally, Paul talks about “until Christ is formed in you”, and that’s called sanctification. And it’s a journey, and often it’s two steps forward and three back and then four steps forward. But you grow.
And then finally, he reminded them that God always keeps His promises. So chapters nine through 11, His promises to the Jews will be fulfilled; that they fumbled the ball in terms of their responsibility as a blesser and an instrument of God. So He says, “I’m going to take them out of the game and I will fulfill everything I made promises to Abraham and to David, but the Church is going to be My agent of blessing until I call timeout and bring the very final days of history to a close.”
And after 11 chapters of, regardless of where you’ve been, God loves you, died for you, puts His Spirit inside of you and will keep every promise– “Therefore I urge you, brothers,” to what? “Offer your bodies a living sacrifice.”
Have you ever placed your faith in Christ personally to forgive your sin? Because what I’ve seen over and over is people just unconsciously think “I’m trying hard to be this good person” and it’s interesting and they begin to experience some change. But what sometimes they never realize is you need, on a certain day, at a certain time, to be born from above or to be born again.
And that’s back in chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4 and where you come to God on a day like today and you just honestly admit, “God, I need Your help. I’ve violated a Holy God. Today, I believe Your blood paid for my sin and Your resurrection proved it’s true and on this day, I want to ask You to come into my life forever, to forgive me and to be my Father.”
And if you’ve never done that, that’s the smartest, wisest, best thing you’ll ever do.