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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
You know it’s interesting. You think, this isn’t new. If you take the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and if we could take a video camera back to Genesis 3, Adam and Eve, and you study the passage very carefully, Adam and Eve, how are they tempted? Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life.
Take the video camera out of time, go over to Jesus with Satan in Matthew chapter 4, and He’s being tempted. Three temptations. How’s He tempted? Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life. How did He win? They lost, He won. Why? “It is written.” “It is written.” “It is written.” Each time. From memory. He reached back into Deuteronomy.
And the lie came: Bam! He knocked it out with the truth. And so in Matthew 4:4, it says, “He answered Satan and said, ‘It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
You cannot experience God’s best for your life without making this truth a part of your experience on a very regular basis. You don’t have the power. I don’t have the power.
You must take the raw material of God’s written Word, and get it into your mind, and share it with other people so the Spirit of God can take the written Word and make it the living Word, and change you, and change your desires in ways that you can’t understand. It’s supernatural. In fact, the apostle Paul would say it’s not only supernatural, but it’s a process. It’s not like you can just turn a switch, and now, “I’m like Jesus,” you know?
What does he say? In 2 Corinthians 3:18. I put the passage there: “But we all,” speaking of the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Between the law when it was given in Sinai and now with the Spirit living in us. “But we all, with unveiled faces, beholding, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord,” – notice the tense of this verb – “are being transformed.” How? “From glory to glory. Just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
He’s saying, Moses, when he was up on the mountain with God – see, you become like whoever you hang out with. And after forty days hanging out with God, he just glowed. He just radiated with the glory of God.
And so when he came down, people couldn’t take it, so he put a veil over his face so he could talk to them. And then, in his hypocrisy, when it started to fade he kept the veil on because he wanted people to think he still had it. None of us ever do that, of course. We don’t do any image management or any or those sort of things, but Moses did.
And Paul says, “We, with an unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror,” it’s not direct, but we get these reflections and snapshots and moments where Jesus reveals Himself. And a passage comes out of the Word, and you’re in a Bible study, and someone speaks a word or accepts you in a way that you’ve never been accepted. And you were vulnerable or you’re supported.
Or someone, in love, actually rebukes you and calls you on the carpet for something that in your heart you’ve known, and you realize that, “open rebuke is better than love concealed.” And you find a safe place, and God changes you. But it’s from glory to glory. That’s like four steps forward, two steps backward. We’re all in process. And notice, who brings about the change? From the Lord, the Spirit.
And so here’s the key. What I want you to get. Review: Stop allowing the world to conform you. Start being transformed. Here’s what I want to camp on: How? What’s your part? We said we can’t change ourselves. Allow yourself to be transformed. How? Here’s our part: The renewing of our mind.
Mind renewal, I think, has three key components. The first component of mind renewal, is renewing your mind as a continual refocus of the Romans 12:1 perspective. Colossians 3 says, “Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.” It’s a worldview. It’s a mindset that has eternity in mind, that has in Christ in mind, about what matters in mind.
See, when you come to that moment where you say, God, I’m all in, I will do whatever, it’s authentic, it’s real, it’s sincere. You make great decisions in that moment. But then there’s Monday morning, right?
And that was two football games, and an argument with your roommate, or your wife, or with your husband, and a kid who treated you dirty, and a boss who wasn’t very nice, ago. And a different person shows up after that, right? And so you renew your mind to keep that focus, and all of us have different issues that we face that keep us conformed to the world.
Let me give you an example. As I grew up in my home, my family of origin – I have one, you have one – the enemy uses the world in some ways in my life different than yours. There are people that can walk into a bar, love friends, have no problem, never think about this, this, that.
My dad was an alcoholic. Alcohol shaped our home. There are some people that: You’re not performance-oriented at all. Man, you are just balanced, and laid back, and you go to work, you shut it off, no problem. You’re not a people pleaser. You’re just so healthy, relationally and emotionally. And I envy you.
And so I realized that I was a workaholic, that I was insecure, that I was always trying to please people and then, after I got married, that I was very insensitive to my wife. Other than that as a Christian, I was really doing well.
No, I’m dead serious. I didn’t have a porn addiction. I wasn’t putting cocaine up my nose, OK? But I’m saying those were real. And when I started reading the Bible some, and I wanted to follow Jesus, and I kept trying hard. I tried hard not to be a workaholic, I tried not to be insecure, I tried to be more sensitive to my wife.
On my best days – and I’m pretty disciplined, willpower – I could only keep that up for about two weeks because I didn’t understand. Transformation isn’t about just trying hard. It’s renewing your mind.
And so I wrote down on some cards the truth. And now I prayed, and I asked God. Does it mean there’s not self-effort – of course I had to make effort. But, for example, I thought, Am I going to be insecure my whole life, or am I going to get my mind renewed?
And so I wrote this down on a card. I read it in the morning, the night, put it in my pocket, read it multiple times a day: “I’d like to be more authentic in every aspect of my life.”
I was trying to please everyone, and, “I am what I am by the grace of God. And His grace didn’t prove vain toward me, but I labored more than all of them, yet not me but Christ in me.” When you keep reading over, “I’d like to be more authentic in every relationship,” you know what happens? That gets in your mind. You catch yourself when you’re posing. You catch yourself image managing, and God begins to birth, where you say, I think I’m just going to like who God made me. Got a long way to go. Transformation.
My people pleasing. Anybody here ever struggle with: Everyone asks you to do this, and you either feel guilty if you don’t, or you’re trying to do everything? You’re multitasking, and you’re up early, and you’re back late?
I wrote this on a card: “I want to stop caring what others think, and apply myself and my schedule to what will make me the best I can be to honor God the most. I want to grow free of the invisible expectations that I allow to hinder my joy, my freedom, my schedule from pursuing the best.” These invisible – like I had this gun to my head. I still struggle some, but if you live your life to please people, it’ll kill you. But it’s the world. So you refocus.
My next one was on my workaholism. I just thought working a lot, performing, getting stuff done, I got approval, and so that was how I did everything. I even did the ministry like that.
And so I wrote on this card, I read it over, “I want to learn,” – this is almost sick to have to learn this – “I want to learn to take time and schedule in enjoyable, fun, refreshing activities without feeling guilty about them or caring what other people think.”
Anybody here feel like you should have more margin? That you’re not enjoying life enough? That it’s work, work, work, and yeah, you’re going to do that later? But you’re just so focused, and so geared, and you pick up your kids, and you’re on your phone, and everybody’s kind of an interruption?
My final one – and what I’m telling you, I kept reading this over. What happened was I just found myself putting it in my schedule. Pretty soon I didn’t feel guilty about having fun. Pretty soon I found out I had fun and enriching relationships, and when I came to work it didn’t take as much time, and it was like, Wow, this must be a part of God’s plan.
Finally, with my wife, I realized I was insensitive, and so I wrote on this card, “My desire is to love Theresa sacrificially and in a way that makes sense to her each and every day.” And so I just kept reading that over, and a weird thing happened. I started seeing little times on this day, and on Sunday night, and on this day, where I could be more sacrificial. But now, believe me, from glory to glory, and with plenty of relapses. But are you seeing how it works? Are you seeing how you refocus? Your mind gets renewed?
Second thing is, I want to tell you it’s a battle. Renewing your mind always involves a battle. The spiritual life, the battle for your soul primarily is happening between your ears. The apostle Paul would say in 2 Corinthians 10:4 and 5, “The weapons of our warfare,” – listen to that language. He’s in a battle for his soul. “The weapons of our warfare are divinely powerful for the pulling down of strongholds and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”
People pleasing, workaholism, having, possessing, working like crazy, accumulating, impressing, image management, addictions. The weapons of our warfare, he’s talking about the power of the Word of God. Community, fasting, prayer. The world is powerful. There’s a battle, and it’s for your soul.
There’s a reason why the second most optimal time for couples for divorce is about between twenty and twenty-five years, because she buys the lie that, It’s me and the kids, and all that I do for them, and he buys the lie that, Someday, someway, if I can work, work, work, do, do, do, do – and then they wake up twenty, twenty-five years: They don’t know each other. They’ve not shared anything.
And he feels middle-aged and like he doesn’t have “it” anymore, and what makes him feel like he might have “it” is if some young, good-looking chick is interested, and he’s got some money. He can pay his way. Try and make it happen. And he does stuff, either online, or actual in the office. And she starts realizing, I don’t look the way I used to look, and I don’t feel very attractive, and she signs up and gets a personal trainer, and now she’s going to go at it again. And they don’t have anything, and they both bought a lie.
And they used to teach a Sunday School class, and they’ve been married thirty years, and their kids now are young adults who grew up in that home, and Mom and Dad divorced, and they’re going, “What in the world? I guess this Jesus stuff isn’t true.” That’s reality, people. That’s, for some of you, that’s your experience.
The third thing you need to remember is that renewing your mind is supernatural. It’s a work of the Spirit. Reviewing cards, reading the Bible, doing this, doing that – I got news for you. The Spirit of God has to take the Word of God and do something in you. All of these things are about a heart-love relationship with Him.
Romans 8 says, “The mind set on the flesh is death. The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” And so in summary, let me just tell you: For me, for you, for every believer, you are what you eat. Period. You are what you eat physically, and you are what you eat spiritually and intellectually. You tell me how much time on your phone, how much time in video games, how many movies you watch, and the messages in those movies – time.
What are you putting into your mind, over against how much truth, how much of God’s Word, how much renewing relationships, and you know what? Plug, plug, plug, plug. It’s pretty easy – I can tell you your lifestyle because you are what you eat.
So my question is: What’s your diet? Are you getting God’s best? Now let me walk through now and give you some very practical, specific ways to renew your mind. Because it’s one thing – those are the principles. That’s the truth. Here are some practical methods for renewing your mind. To say “no” to the world, say “yes” to God.
First, hearing God’s Word. Romans 10:17 says “Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God.” On a regular basis, you must hear God’s Word. It births faith. One way to do that is to – this is a novel idea for some of you – come to church regularly. I’m not down on you. I just, the first three years I was a Christian, if I made it twice a month, I’m high-fiving myself, Way to go, Chip! I never did that before.
Second is: use your time in the car wisely. Hear God’s Word.
My seminary training hasn’t stopped.
Third, read God’s Word. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is he who reads, and those who hear the words of the prophecy and heed the things which are written in it for the time is near.”
And in your notes, if you don’t know much about the Bible and need some structure and a plan, for the first fifteen years, at least, that I was a Christian, I read the Daily Walk Bible.
And I just tell you, it was just like okay, here’s the structure, here’s what it means, here’s an overview, but you dig in for yourself. Or go on the Internet. There are enough reading plans. Just log on, on the App Store: Bible. Believe me.
Fourth is: Study. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman that need not be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of truth.” And you’ll notice, I have this a little bit later, but this is a little tool to help you study. And take this really well. God wants the best for you.
Some of us have been so trained, we eat all processed food. Can you imagine if you ate just only processed food instead of the organic, real good stuff? The picture that comes to my mind is some of that – you know, some of that processed cheese? And you take it out to that plastic, and you think, Hm. I don’t know where this has been.
Well, it’s a good start, right? But processed spiritual food is like – there’s a little book, and it’s a good little book – and it has two or three verses, and then someone who’s studied a lot, tells you a little inspiring story, and tells you a little something about those two or three little verses, and says, “And now here’s what you might do,” and you read for like – it takes almost three minutes to read these little things. And then you go, Oh, Jesus, Jesus, help me. Help me really follow you. I’ve really renewed my mind.
Now I spent, forty minutes in The Wall Street Journal. But now I’ve spent my four or five minutes, and what I know is what someone else thinks of that passage. The little card is how you can study God’s Word on your own. I learned this from a missionary about thirty years ago. I think it was Brazil. It’s called the 2PROAPT method, and that’s just an acronym.
And I’m not going to go through it all other than just to say, if you would choose a New Testament book – the book of John, the book of Mark, one of the small ones – and just read a paragraph or maybe two. And the P, pray. God, please help me. The second P, preview it. Read it quickly just to get a feel. It’s all written on here. And then the R is read it slowly. Methodically.
And then the O is read it one more time and underline maybe words that are alike, or thoughts that you have. The A, then, is that, What application from this paragraph is God showing me? Then, realizing since I don’t have the power to do it, you pray again. God, will you help me to…it says be generous in this passage, so will You help me be generous in some way specifically today? And then the T is tell someone. It’s just a very simple way to study.
Here’s what I can tell you. Processed food is helpful, and if you’re just beginning, that’s fine. When you are tempted sexually, when you want to break out of habit patterns, when there are addictions, when there’s a crisis in your marriage, when you’ve got a kid who’s going through a terrible time, and you’re trying to cling on to God, you have to have Him speak directly from His Word to you because that’s where convictions come from.
It’s great that those people who wrote those little devotionals – that’s what they believe. What do you believe? And what do you believe under pressure? It’s birthed in study.
The next is memorization. Notice it says in Psalm 119:9-11, “How can a young man, a young woman, keep your way pure? By guarding it,” or, “keeping it according to Your Word. Your Word I have treasured,” or, “hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” I don’t know if there’s any greater return in the Christian life than memorizing Scripture or one that’s probably more neglected.
I’ve got to tell you a brief little story. I was in school – and I think I’ve shared it – where there was four girls to every guy, and I was starting to grow. So now I’ve been a Christian for three years, and so I’m reading the Bible three or four mornings a week. I’m starting to go to church, which is really radical for me, and I’m making progress in a number of areas, but not in one in particular.
My roommate is going to go to this Christian-summer-something where it’s a para-church organization that they go there for training, and they get a job, and share Christ, and learn all good stuff. And I didn’t want any part of that. But before he could go, he had to memorize these sixty verses. It was called the Topical Memory System put out by a group called the Navigators.
And I’m just – I’ve always been very competitive, along with being insecure. And so he left the room one day, and I just thought – because he was going to memorize one or two verses a week, and he had it planned out, thirty weeks, and I just thought, You chump.
So my goal, secretly – he leaves – I literally copied all the verses down on these little cards. In fact, I still – these little cards – I still have them. And I’ve got these sixty verses down, and then I had an amazing gift.
I had a psychology professor who was about ninety-nine years old who’d been tenured for forty years because he couldn’t get a job anywhere. And so he would drone on and on, so I would put my psychology book up an hour every day. I’d memorize one verse the first day, so I decided – sixty days, I’m going to be done.
And I was going to have them perfect because here was the goal. I was going to say “Okay, hey, Bob, how’s it going with that thing – that training program you’re going to? And yeah, why don’t you go ahead and list the verses.” And I was just going to go bam, bam, bam, bam, bam – sixty in a row, you know? “Ha ha!”
Is that sick or what? I mean, you know, hey. Memorizing God’s Word to impress someone out of your ego and your pride. Well, okay.
To show that God can use anybody even in our nuttiness, its day twenty-one, and I’m getting into this. I can still remember hearing my cleats when I was running to baseball practice like this. Putting it in the back.
Day twenty-one, I walk around the corner, and there was a very beautiful young coed involved in the ministry. And what men will tell you, if they’re honest, is that we struggle deeply with lust, and I was struggling very deeply. The external things were changing, but my eyes were going everywhere, and my mind was going all kinds of places. And when you lust for a girl that’s not a Christian, you feel guilty. When you lust for a very godly girl, you feel really guilty.
And so – Oh, no. This is her. And so I turn around the corner, we started to talk, and we had a little conversation. We got done, and I remember walking away. I got about four steps. I didn’t lust. I didn’t know the correlation. I had no idea. I didn’t know about mind renewal, I didn’t know how to change. All I knew was, Following Jesus was really hard, and a lot of it’s not working very well for me. Some things, undeniably, are radically changing, but some other things – I just felt I was stuck forever.
Day twenty-one, I had memorized twenty-one verses, word perfect, and what I didn’t understand was the supernatural work. God had taken the written Word and made it the living Word, and changed my “want-to’s” and my attitudes, and I with my eyes – looked at a sister in Christ in the eye, and a new relationship with women completely changed my life.
When I got to sixty verses, it was like a drug. I couldn’t stop. Then I started memorizing chapters, and then I put my own topics together. And for the next five years, probably more than anything else, I memorized God’s Word.
And I will tell you – all I can tell you is how I looked at the world was completely different. Completely different. And there was a level of peace and joy. I remember I’d have a question. I’d be praying, and as I was praying, God would bring a verse. Oh, that’s the answer. Or I’d be in a conversation, and I wouldn’t know what to say or what’s going on, and God would bring a verse. And all of a sudden, I realized, We have the mind of Christ. The Bible says it. We have the mind of Christ, but most of us don’t know what His mind is. But it’s in His Word.
The final thing he says is that you meditate. See, this isn’t like you do all these little things to become a little religious robot that drives other people crazy. There are some people like that. This isn’t about how many verses or how – and the word meditate here, it’s the idea of ruminating. It’s a picture, a cow has four stomachs. If the cow chews on some truth, swallows it, regurgitates it, swallows it, regurgitates it.
This is reading, and God speaks to you through a verse, and you write it on a card, and you stick it in your pocket, and then as you’re driving to work, you try and see if you can remember it.
And so you’re at a light, and you’re in at a doctor’s office, and you just bring it up. And something happens. “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you should mediate on it day and night in order that” – what? “so you can obey it. For then you’ll be prosperous and have good success.”
And so on the back I put a few tools that I think would be very helpful to you.
Can I just close with this? Why, why, why? Why do this? If you’re listening, you’re thinking to yourself, You mean I’m going to limit my games, and limit my movies, and limit this, and limit that, and limit that, and limit that, and say “no” to some stuff that are just a part of my life, and start saying “yes” to God’s Word, and do some things probably some of you have never ever done? Why would I do that?
So that you could get the best from God. So that you could experience and taste what He wants normally for every person: His good. His good. It means winsome, beautiful, attractive, richly satisfying, well. Well pleasing. Well pleasing to Him, and well pleasing to you. Perfect.
There’s a will that’s according to a specific design just for you that when you fulfill it, you explode with joy, live with peace. How does that happen? No, I won’t be conformed to this world. Yes, I’ll be transformed by the renewing of my mind, so that…Would you like that?
As I close, here are two questions, because you could feel overwhelmed. I don’t want that. What one thing do you sense God is saying you need to say “no” to? What’s going into your mind, or what relationship, or what? What’s one thing that woos your heart away from God?
And just say – first step – “no.” And what one thing of all the hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, meditating – because we’re all in different places. What one thing do you sense God would want you to take a baby step and begin to renew your mind?
Lord, I pray that You would show every single person right now what they need to say “no” to, that is drawing their heart away from Your deep, abiding, amazing love. And, Lord, what You want them to say yes to in order to enjoy and experience Your grace, Your goodness. Will You please do that, Lord? And then will You birth faith in people right now? Would You even give them the idea of what one person could they share this with and ask them in a couple days, “Will you give me a call? Will you text me? And I’ll tell you how I’m doing.”
Oh God, what would happen if hundreds and then thousands of people started to experience Your good, well-pleasing, and perfect will? That’s our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.