Mar 19 2023 - Romans 12 - What is worship?
19th March 2023
Romans 12: I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
I am guessing that you have either memorized this verse (and forgotten it!) or remembered it – or attempted to memorize it at some point in your life.
You have probably heard many messages on this passage.
Paul is laying out what it means to be a disciple of Christ – and what we must do in order to implement these teachings and practices: We must focus on God’s mercy and love.
Discipleship flows out of that understanding.
We love because He first loved us.
Everything – even those who don’t believe in God – love their friends and family because God loved them!
We – as disciples – knowing His mercy – should present our bodies as a sacrifice.
Living our theology – living an embodied life.
Bodies – Spiritual service of worship – renewing of mind.
Body/Spirit/Mind – must work together as one, engaging in this process of transformation into the image of Christ.
I think we tend to take the spiritual and separate it from the body! Yes, it is a spiritual thing, but it is also a physical thing – in our bodies!
This is all temple language – sheep/lambs being offered on the altar – now it is US – this is what discipleship is – offering our bodies in worship. That is worship!
We talk about worship – singing and praise – but that is not worship! To fully understand worship – it might be good to not say it that way (singing and praising) – but it is a living sacrifice, meaning it doesn’t stop.
It is also called a holy sacrifice.
God is holy.
He is separate.
In His presence, there is no evil – no darkness – no sin.
We become holy (small h) – by learning to live in His presence moment by moment.
We do not become holy by practicing sin management! That is not how you achieve holiness! Good luck with that too – as it does not work!
The practice is to learn to live moment by moment in the presence of God. Once you are fully in His presence, you will no longer need to ‘manage sin’
Also – the context of this passage – bodies, and whole context – is PLURAL. All of us, as a community – a living and holy sacrifice
In a lived and embodied life for God is to live with other bodies in the Body of Christ. You cannot do this on your own. It must be done in community – in a family – what is called a church.
The next thing we see is in verse 2 – do not be conformed to this world. World = age – don’t be conformed to the surrounding or environment we live in.
We tend to throw the word ‘culture’ in there – and that is unhelpful as it means so many things to so many. It is easy to turn culture into a very narrow, self-righteous word.
I like the word ‘age’ here.
What we must understand – not conforming to an age – not conforming to the controlling narratives of our world. These determine values, virtues, priorities and beliefs.
If we hope to not conform – we need to understand these narratives that try to get us to conform.
In the Roman world –
- Age of idolatry
- Age of sexual immorality
- Social stratification (have versus have nots – small group versus large)
- Honor and shame (we talked about this when we went through Acts) All relationships were built upon that construct! These determine how you relate to one another. Like the caste system.
- Concentrated political power – filled with violence. We talk about the peace of Rome – like when they went into these places – the way they got peace was by total destruction!
In our world –
- Age of consumerism – greed and materialism – We would say that is bad, but have we conformed to it? All of us?! We say it is bad, but don’t get into it too much
- Age of sexual immorality – this is often a primary focus
- Age of self – me/I – our whole language. Cindy and I have been dealing with some extended family issues – sermons and podcasts I’ve been listening to – there are surveys regarding depression and suicide – starting in 2007, depression began to rise – then between 2011-2013, there was a massive jump. As you look at the statistics, it is unreal how big of a problem it is.
- Age of anger – we demonize anyone who doesn’t agree with us!
- Age of political idolatry.
What happened in 2007? Cell phone. 2012 – self-facing camera – Twitter/Facebook – and everyone getting on social media and this pressure started to build on the younger generation.
The incredible amount of pressure is focused on our brand and image and how we fit in! It is having a horrible impact on our world!
For many – politics has become their religion – do you know what that is? Idolatry!
To be transformed, we need alternative narratives – a whole new way of living in our bodies, with our bodies, in the body of Christ.
Then we need a whole new way of perceiving everything! Looking at everything new – in a different way.
In Romans 12-15 – Paul talks about how to be transformed as a people and community.
He is talking to the weak and the strong and the people in the church in Rome. He is not talking about the world! We like to talk to the world! But He is talking to US! In the city of Rome – under Nero – the guy who would burn Christians at the stake at his parties for candles. And he is going to tell them how to live in that world!
3 For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment
Weak/strong – both think they have it. Highly – super-mindedness – don’t think you are smarter than everyone! Don’t think you are the one who knows everything – you are not the gatekeeper to biblical understanding. Weak/Strong – each of you has some good things – but you are not listening! You think the other does not know what they are talking about.
, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
When I see this – I think – O gosh – God gave more faith to others! Do you read it that way?
4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
What he is saying – and this is really – the scholars say – when he talks about measure of faith – not how much you believe God will answer prayer – but rather that everyone has a portion of what God is doing! So that we learn to recognize that we can’t be superminded – we need one another – no one has it all –
IN our world – Baptist, Methodist, reformed – etc. – Some of those believe themselves to be the gatekeepers of biblical theology – and each has some good stuff – so that we would be humble in a diverse and united body – needing one another – serving one another.
Body – is a political word – the body politic – and Paul gets political – and will continue that through chapter 15 – but don’t worry – politic does not mean what we think about it – not voting, not being in a party – but the church being a political body – meaning – the organizing of a community to promote the well-being and flourishing of all in the community. He will lay out instruction how to promote well-being and flourishing.
We do this within the church – but Paul will move back and forth for how we do that with the world.
Scot McKnight – why call the church body? Romans and Greek used body (soma) – as a body politic –
It was impossible for these terms to not have political overtone. Combine church with Body – and the local house churches were a body politic.
So to be faithful disciples we need to learn to promote an alternative politic – to promote flourishing and well-being. We need to learn to practice the politic of Jesus. That does not mean who you vote for – or what party you are in – Matthew 5-7 – the Sermon on the Mount – that is the politic of Jesus. If all Christians followed the sermon on the Mount – my, how things would be different. Paul gives his take on the Sermon on the Mount in Romans 12-15
At the core of it all – gospel – and love of enemy. To promote flourishing – it is important that Christians learn to love their enemies -and they had real enemies in Rome! People who were putting them to death because of their faith.
6 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
I won’t go through the gifts, but every time Paul lays out gifts – he talks about love – 1 Cor. 12/13 – Ephesians 4-5
Everyone has gifts – and the purpose – to benefit one another.
McKnight – Each of these gifts – it needs to be noted is a function – each gift is something practiced or done, not owned or possessed!
9 Let love be without hypocrisy.
Who is he talking to? The weak and the strong! The way you relate to one another is the hypocrisy. Not because you had a beer Friday night and come to church on Sunday.
Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
Where does that come from? What is that surrounded by? Love! Their love for one another. When we see – Abhor what is evil – it is not about those evil people out there – but rather – to the weak and strong – abhor what is evil IN HERE!
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
All of these things go against their world – honor and shame – a person accumulates honor for him or herself. Make your name great! But Paul is saying, no, spend your life making others great!
11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
Fervent – fiery zeal – keep the fire of brotherly love!
12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Here, he starts to talk about how we take this into our world. Bless those who persecute you! World/Church/world/church – moving in and out.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not.
To be transformed into the image of Christ – we must bless our rivals – those who disagree – not to dehumanize or demonize! We are to NOT EVER dehumanize or demonize ANYONE
The Bible is FILLED with this.
Talk about your rival the same way you would want your friends to talk about you!
Now, if I said – talk about them the way they talk about you – you wouldn’t care! But if your friends talk about you the way you talk about your rivals – that would be awful!
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
There is a bible teaching that says that the Bible teaches a divine preference for the weak, lowly, poor, and marginalized. It seems like God is playing favorites when you say that! And I say to that? He is! He plays favorites for the weak/poor/lowly/ and marginalized.
Here is my solution – everyone – without Jesus – is weak, poor, lowly, and marginalized. You might say this person is rich – but not in God’s eyes.
Being wise in your own estimation – Do not think too highly of yourself – “Our opinion and convictions are simply not God’s final word on the subject” – Mike Marette
God will have the final word on every subject. It is best to let Him!
17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.
There is just not an option!
Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
This is in the context of your enemy – because then it says:
19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
Does this verse describe my relationships – that I am doing everything to pursue peace? No.
If we take revenge, we take God out of the story. God will judge – you don’t have to! Do you know what that leaves you free to do? Love your enemy! It leaves you free to love the one who disagrees with you.
20 "But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I won’t go into what that might mean…
If we retaliate or seek revenge, we have been overcome by evil!
This is Paul’s ultimate conclusion to Romans 12:1-2 – this is what it means to offer yourself as a living and holy sacrifice – because that is what Jesus did. Who put Him on the cross? His enemies – and he just offered himself to them – to put Him on the cross.