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Unchanging Will: The Disciple's Transformation
Scripture: Romans 12; 13; 14; 15:1-13
Track 11 of 14 in the Study of Romans series
Running time: 25 minutes, 09 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, August 10, 2003
"Unchanging Will: The Disciple's Transformation"
(Romans 12:1 - 15:13)
C. Sackett

As a church, we are not primarily interested in only making converts. Sometimes we get caught in the trap of thinking that what church is about is helping people who don't know Jesus, come to know Jesus and that, somehow, is an end in itself. Now that's an important thing. Don't misunderstand me! I'm not suggesting we're not interested in that. I'm suggesting that we're not interested in that ONLY! We're not here to make converts. We're here to make ______________

There is a difference you know. (No audio)

There are people who became Christians simply because of what Christ could do for them. And that's legitimate, because there is a great deal that he does for us. But if that's where it all stops, you stopped in the wrong place. Because this just isn't about getting from God what God wants to give to you, which is what the first eleven chapters of Romans have been about. This is what God has done for you. But being a disciple goes a great deal further than that. Being a disciple is one of those every day events that takes what God has done in Christ for you and turns it around and says let that impact who I become. This text that we're looking at is rather lengthy. We'll not read all of chapters 12, 13, 14 and 15 today. We'll spread that out. But I do want to focus particularly on just some select passages starting with the first two verses, which in my opinion are the hinge in the Book of Romans. Everything has led up to Chapter 12, Verse 1 and that first word - Therefore, because of all of this stuff I've told you about God's intention for you - all of these things that I've told you about sin and grace and faith and your experience with God and God's desire to see the world come to faith in his Son. Because of all of that, there is a response. It's the hinge, it's the turning point where we move from simply creed to life, from belief to behavior. It's where we go from theology to practice, if you will. It's God's part and our part. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, (all eleven chapters about God's grace and mercy, in view of all of that I urge you) 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.

Notice the worship language. It is so abundantly clear that this is about worship. We are to present ourselves. We are to offer ourselves. We are to be living sacrifices. We are to be holy, pleasing, offerings before God. Those are all worship terms which lead him to say this is your reasonable, your spiritual act of worship. It's worship language and worship transforms. And he says explicitly, be transformed, because see, the end of worship is always transformation. When we meet Christ, he transforms our lives. He changes everything there is to change about us. But notice that term. Here's just a wee bit of grammar for you this morning. Be transformed is a present tense verb. It's ongoing action. It is not something that happens once in your life. It happens ongoing. It is an every day experience. It is that process that God takes us through from where he found us to where he wants us to be. It's an every day kind of transformation. You wake up every morning knowing that there's more that I'm supposed to do, to develop, to grow, to change. It is a passive verb. It is what you allow God to do in you. You don't transform yourself. You be transformed. You let God transform you. It is his will that you're seeking, not yours. You're allowing yourself to be conformed to him rather than to the world. And it is an imperative verb. Be transformed is a command. This isn't an option. It doesn't come with some kind of selection. You get to say, okay, among the things that Jesus wants from me - I choose these, but transformation is not one of them. It isn't part of your choice to choose transformation. Transformation is something that God is calling from all of us. An ongoing process of changes we allow him to mold us into what he wants us to be. That he says is worship, the extension of worship. This every day experience of being in a relationship with God--well everything we do becomes worship. It's expression of that relationship.

If we could just walk through some of the pieces in anticipation of what we'll do over the next couple of weeks. For example, Christ transforms our relationship to ourselves. The very first thing he turns to in Verse 3 is this.

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 judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 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 who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

In other words, when Christ transforms our relationship to ourselves, we begin to serve appropriately. That's the nature of being a Christian, finding the place where we plug in, where we begin to serve in the right way. All believers, according to Scripture, are ministers. You don't have to be one of the people who wears the title of being Minister to be a minister. In fact, that's why we don't have titles around here, rather descriptions. Because we want to describe what you do. My description is to preach. That's what I get called to do. What do you get called to do? Somebody was called today to light candles. Somebody else was called today to serve the Lord's Supper. Somebody else was called to be a greeter. What was your ministry today. Maybe your ministry is the ministry of encouragement as you turn to somebody during the greeting time and you welcomed them and made them feel part of this particular community of faith. Some of the folks have been expressing their gifts long before this morning in other ways and they'll express it outside of this building for sure. But it's Martin Luther's priesthood of all believers. He's the one who called the church in the reformation back to this basic biblical principal that every person who is a Christian is a priest before God who ministers in God's name. The question is, what do you do?

You won't hear us talk a lot about membership around here. Because, quite honestly, that's not our highest concern--are you a member of Madison Park. Oh, we'd like you to be, but that's not our concern. The question is, if you're a member in the body of Christ, what do you do? So if I could paraphrase Verse 6, If a man's gift is. . . let him use it find something to do. Find a place where you plug in. Our goal is for 100% of our people to be involved at some level, that every Christian will find a place where they can serve--that you will find a location that satisfies your gifts and you'll express them. And if you don't know what they are, that's why we have our 301 Class, so that you can plug in this fall and find out what those gifts are and begin to say--here are places where I can serve. If you don't know where to serve and you don't want to wait until fall to go through the class, come and ask. We'll help you identify where to plug in. There are places for you if you're willing to serve.

Well, Christ transforms my relationship to myself. He also transforms our relationship to others. You start in Verse 9 of Chapter 12 and it runs all the way down to Verse 21. I'm just going to pick some select verses but for example, Verse 10.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Verse 14, Bless those who persecute you. Verse 18, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Verse 21, Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Christians who are transformed in their relationship with others learn to love inclusively. We no longer limit our love relationship to the people who are like us or to the people who like us. In fact, this is an all encompassing passage. You are to love one another, you're to bless those who persecute you, you're to love your enemies. As far as it's up to you, you live at peace with everyone. Transformation means that we are no longer the same. We have been absolutely, radically changed. We've learned to love our friends. We have learned to love our enemies. We have learned to love strangers. We have learned to love our brothers and sisters. You don't have to like everybody, but if you are a Christian, you are called to love everybody. To do for them what is best for them. To love is to show that kind of committed concern to another person's well being without thought for what you're going to get in return. You want to know the solution to marriage problems? Practice this particular transformation. Stop worrying about what your getting out of it, and begin to wonder what you can contribute to it. You have trouble with other people in the church? That's a distinct possibility. There are a lot of personalities here. We don't always get along with each other.

We don't always agree with each other, but we do come to this principal of transformation. I will do for you what's best for you without concern for what your going to give back to me. And so we have greeting times, where you can turn to somebody and share with them. We have times in our "Coffee House" where you can sit around a table and just express your relationship with other people. We have work crews that come Monday through Thursday and Saturday, and you may work along side people you've never met before, but it allows you the privilege of getting acquainted and learning to love in the context of a transformed life.

It's amazing when you begin to love someone who is your enemy, how it can change who you are in a hurry. It not only transforms ourselves, our own relationship to our self, and our relationship to others, he transforms our relationship to the state. There's a civil direction that this text goes in Chapter 13. We're going to look at it more thoroughly next week, but for example, Verse 1.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Or down here in Verse 6. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him; if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Christians are those who live Christianly in their culture, in their society. We ought to be the best citizens in the world. Of all people who ought to care about the world in which they live, the state in which they live, the city in which they live, the neighborhood in which they live, it ought to be Christian. This is our contribution to the world, to demonstrate how to live a life of respect for those who are in authority over us. We'll spend a lot more time on that next week because there's so much more to say. But it simply strikes me that one of the things that ought to happen is that we ought to be the ones doing two things; showing the most concern for our community and showing the most anger over social disruption. Because we have been transformed in our relationship to the state in which we live when social decay occurs, it ought to anger us more than anybody else. When people are discriminated against, it ought to anger us. When people have been violated, it ought to anger us. When there is injustice, it ought to anger us because we are Christians and we've learned to love people differently by the transforming power of Christ. Read his story and see if it didn't bother him when people were mistreated and abused.

William Bennett wrote a book called the "Death of Outrage". I wonder where outrage has gone? Oh, I'm not talking about those people who are outraged on the interstate and run you off because they don't like the way you drive. I'm talking about those people who are outraged at injustice. I'm talking about those people who are angered when things are not right, who will stand up and take a stand even in a culture where your not supposed to be intolerant of anything.

One of the things that I'll simply hint at this morning and suggest that we talk more about next week is that there is a place, always, for civil disobedience, if you are a Christian. Because not everything the government does is in align with what God wants and there is a time when the church stands against its culture in spite of what it costs the church to do so.

Well, he transforms our relationship to the state. He transforms our relationship to the future. I wasn't exactly sure how to phrase that, but down here in Verse 8, he talks about both law, the Old Testament, and also license the way we live as it relates to the future, as we anticipate the coming of Christ. He says in Verse 8

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. And then he simply quotes the majority of the Ten Commandments.

Verse 11 he says, And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

We anticipate correctly. We know that we will stand before God. We know that there's a day coming when all of us are going to give an account for who we are and that's going to show up in Chapter 14 and so he says we live in anticipation, not thinking that we can be saved by law. He's been fighting that since Chapter 1. This isn't about doing all the right things in the right way at the right time. This is about a relationship where you have learned to love God and therefore, you learn to love people and if you love people the way Christ loves people, he says, that fulfills the law. You will never murder. You will never steal. You will never commit adultery. You will never commit false witness if you love people. No one will take the life of another person if they love them. No one! No one would force another person into an immoral relationship if they loved them and if they love God, they will love them. And so he says, we no longer live according to law, but also we no longer slumber. We no longer sleep. We are alert to Christian living. We have been clothed with Christ and we're beginning to live out a life that is not characterized in these things that, well frankly, characterized American culture. We will stand out and be different because we know there's a day coming when all of us are going to stand before God and we're going to give answers for what we have been in this life.

Well, he says in Chapters 14/15 that Christ transforms our relationship to the weak. Brian is going to preach about this in a couple of weeks. These two chapters are so full. Let me just read a handful of verses.

Chapter 14, Verse 1. . .Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. Verse 9. . .For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. Verse 13. . .Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Chapter 15, Verse 1. . .We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Verse 5. . .May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the context of worship we learn to live and to relate respectfully to one another. We treat people with dignity. We respect the fact that no everybody is where we are spiritually. We create a healthy space to disagree with one another over things that don't matter ultimately.

In church we need to come to grips with some famous old slogans that have been around the church for a long time. We are not the only Christians. We are Christians only. It's what I like about this particular church body, is that I don't have to think that I'm the only person who has a relationship with Jesus and all other people in all other buildings this morning are in trouble. That's just not true! But if you ask me what I am, I can answer honestly and I have on a number of occasions, I'm a Christian. No, I mean, what are you. I'm a Christian. No, I mean are you a Baptist or Methodist . . . . No, I'm a Christian. . . .that's all I am . .

I have no other handle to put with it. Doesn't mean I'm the only one. Just means I am one. And then this famous old slogan--In matters that matter . . . in issues of doctrine and faith, unity. In matters of opinion, liberty. In everything, love. The things that matter, we stand for. The things that we're not so certain about, we give some latitude on. That's how we relate to people, with dignity and respect, and if you don't happen to agree with me, it's okay.

Are you aware that probably the most condemned sin in the New Testament is the sin of divisiveness and a strife filled spirit. It's not what I would have expected. But it's true. And maybe it's because Jesus understood that if we can't get along with each other, if we can't learn to live in a relationship with each other, the world will never be convinced that we have a relationship with God. And so he says we learn to treat each other respectfully. In the context of a relationship with Jesus, having come to faith in him, the text says be transformed.

Allow yourself to let God change you. It's an ongoing process, something that occurs on an every day basis. In fact, it happens to you fairly regularly, doesn't it? . . . . .in the middle of a conversation, and all of a sudden you realize, that's not what I should be saying. Called transformation!! You've just got done laying on the horn at the intersection and all of a sudden you realize it - Nah - No - transformation! It's an ongoing thing. Not one that you try to stir up within yourself but one which you simply submit yourself to his transforming power, by his spirit working in you, as he begins to shape and mold you and it is a command. You don't get the choice of being transformed, not being transformed, it's just what happens when you become a Christian, when you come to faith through Jesus Christ. . . when you meet him and he takes up residence in you. . . you should just expect that he's going to begin to transform you. At Madison Park Christian Church we're not just interested in converting people. Oh, we want to do that, and if you don't know Jesus, if you've never come to faith in Him, if He has never taken residence in your life, if you have never identified with Him and found a personal relationship with Him of course that's what we want for you. But that's not all we are about. We're about discipleship. We're about transformation. We're about those people who know Jesus, becoming like Jesus. That's what we're asking you to commit yourself to, a life of transformation, a life where He changes you into his character so that you look a lot like Him. And then when the world sees you, they've seen Him and they just may want to be converted and be like that too. Maybe the words of these hymns will help you make that statement to the Lord.

Would you stand with me while we sing.