Thursday, November 8, 2018

"The Far Look"

There are many distractions in our lives that can draw us away from God's truth and promises. Distractions that can rob us of our peace. Simply turning on the news can cause great discouragement and anxiety. Different circumstances that come into our lives can cause us to think wrongly and rob us of our peace. Certain trials may cause us to think that God no longer cares for us. There can be any number of things that may trigger alarm in our lives, but it is imperative, especially as Christians, that we learn to think rightly about all things that come into our lives.

I have recently attended a conference where one of the speakers challenged us to take a long view of things- to see the big picture rather than focusing on the immediate circumstances. I have thought much about that message, and wouldn't you know it, today when I opened up Oswald chambers book "Conformed To His Image," The very portion I read challenged the reader to take a far look. Basically Mr. Chambers said the same thing as the conference speaker did. Coincidence? I don't think so. God was reminding me of the same thing I want to challenge you with today; don't get bogged down and discouraged over your immediate circumstances, but learn to look at the "big picture."

In Numbers 13 we have the account of Moses sending out the twelve spies to observe the Land of Canaan. This was the "Promise Land," the land promised to the Israelites. God promised the Land to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:8 "And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites." God also promised the Land to Israel in Numbers 13:2 "Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them." Therefore, the promise has been given. The Children of Israel were to possess the Land.

Once the spies returned from their mission, it was time for them to give their report. They confirmed everything God said about the Land. In verse 27 the spies stated "and surely it floweth with milk and honey..." But, they also reported that there were walled cities, giants in the land, and the people be strong (v.28).  Unfortunately, ten spies declared that Israel could not take the land for the people "are stronger than we (v.31)." They were looking at the immediate circumstances, but they failed to believe God's promise.

Thankfully two of the spies were thinking properly. They had the "long view," or "far look." Caleb and Joshua trusted in God's promise! They considered the big picture! They trusted in God's promises and Sovereignty! They believed God would give them the Land! Caleb declared in v.30 "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it."  That is the right perspective friends. The obstacles did not phase Caleb or Joshua because they trusted in the big picture of God's work.

At times the circumstances of our lives are going to look daunting. We may not understand how things will work out, but these are times we must lean on God, His loving care, and his promises. Go back and read Hebrews chapter eleven. We have a list of people who all walked by faith. they were not perfect people, as a study of their lives would reveal, But they learned to look ahead- to have "the far look." Notice especially Hebrews 11:13 "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." We must learn to look at the "Big Picture" of God's working out of His will for this world and for our lives.

God is working out His plan for this fallen world. Things may look chaotic, but God is still on His throne. Psalm 47:8 "God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness." Revelation 21:5-6 "And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  (6)  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." You are on the winning side dear Christian. Whatever trials or difficulties you are facing today, don't allow them to rob you of hope and peace. God is with you. Hebrews 13:5 "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." 

Turn your troubles over to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him for strength and a proper vision- the "far look." Don't become distracted by the circumstances of life. The Lord has a plan for you. Wants to use you. Wants you to become more like His Son. We are victorious in Christ. Look at the big picture of God's Word! Take some time and meditate on Psalm 1.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Living Sacrifice- The Only Way To A fulfilling & Purposeful Life:

The Book of Romans is a wonderful book to study and meditate on when it comes to the doctrine of our salvation. In the first eleven chapters of the book, the apostle Paul describes and explains the glories of God's redemptive plan for mankind. Then, when we come to chapter twelve, Paul begins the application part of his letter. He goes on to apply the doctrine of salvation as taught in chapters one through eleven. It is here in chapter twelve that Paul presents a foundation in the first two verses for which we may enjoy the blessings and benefits of our salvation. Paul will call for a sacrifice, no, not of animals, but of the self. Not a blood sacrifice for the blood has already been shed by our great Savior, but a living sacrifice where we wholly give of ourselves to God for His use and glory!

Take notice of our text. Romans 12:1-2  "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  (2)  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

I want you to first notice with me THE PRESENTATION OF SELF TO GOD, V1:

Notice that in verse one Paul urges or exhorts the Roman believers to present themselves to God instead of using an imperative for a command. This word "beseech" is a strong urging here but a bit more gentler than a command. Paul desires to encourage them, to plead with them to make a willing surrender.

Observe next that Paul offers a strong motivation for his urging- a motivation based on God's mercies! These mercies are found in the first eleven chapters of Romans. God took pity on rebellious sinners. And yes, that includes you! In Romans 3:10-12 Paul quotes from the Book of Psalms (14 & 53) to reveal that no man sought God and that "none doeth good." Then in Romans 3:23 Paul clearly taught that all have sinned! No one deserves God's free gift of salvation and yet our merciful and loving Heavenly Father sent His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross to pay for the sins of those who place their faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation! What grace and mercy? God shows favor on the undeserving, pardons our sins, justifies us freely by faith, adopts us as His children, provides us with the world's greatest benefit package, and sends us the great gift of the Holy Spirit to equip, assist, and sanctify us. What mercy! and what a great motivation to lead us to surrender ourselves to the Lord!

Notice now the call to present ourselves to God. Paul calls upon all believers to present themselves a living sacrifice to God. Paul uses the language of an offering/sacrifice picturing the Old Testament burnt offering. There were two major blood offerings in the Old Testament: sin and burnt offerings. Excluding the hide of the animal, the rest of the animal used in a burnt offering was completely consumed by fire on the altar as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. This was a voluntary offering as an act of consecration to God. Here in our text Paul calls for us to completely surrender ourselves to God and His will. A complete resignation! We are to offer our bodies- our complete self- to the Lord. Even though it seems that Paul uses the term body for the entire self, the body is the vehicle for righteous or sinful acts.  Observe some comments by Alexander MacLaren:

"...that all our activities done by means of brain and eye and tongue and hand and foot shall be consciously devoted to Him, and laid as a sacrifice upon His altar. That pervasive, universally diffused reference to God, in all the details of daily life, is the thing that Christian men and women need most of all to try to cultivate."
Paul is calling for a deliberate choice of deep commitment  to God because of God's mercies. Our actions, reactions, decisions, activities all matter to God. We are His ambassadors (2Corinthians 5:17-20) and we are to live like it! We must guard everything we do and consider how it all reflects back on our God.

Paul goes on to explain some characteristic of an appropriate sacrifice. It is to be first a living sacrifice. Alive in Christ and energized by the Holy spirit, we are to walk in newness of life (6:4, 13) offering ourselves to God until He takes us unto Himself. Next, it is to be a holy sacrifice. a life set apart unto God and renouncing and battling sin. We are to be maturing in Christ and in obedience to God's Word! Thirdly, it is to be an acceptable sacrifice. The Greek word would probably be better translated "pleasing". It is a compound word meaning well-pleasing. This is a kind of sacrifice that God wills and recognizes as acceptable. It is pleasing to the Lord when we give Him our whole self (body, mind, and heart) for His use and glory. We are to give God pleasure by the way in which we live. Lastly, this sacrifice is reasonable service. Some other translations will use "reasonable" or even "spiritual." The word does have the idea of thoughtful, rational, pertaining to reason or agreeable to reason. The word is rare in the New Testament, but is found used by ancient philosophers since the time of Aristotle. The philosophers often used the word in the sense of "carefully thought through", or "thoughtful."  The word for "service" is a word for "worship." So putting the two words together, it is only reasonable and logical to fully surrender to the Lord because of all that He has done for us. He deserves our intelligent and deliberate worship including our life and activities. As a Christian, all of life is to be worship to God!

Secondly, I want you to notice THE PROCESS OF PRESENTATION, V.2:

Paul next explains to us the process of presentation to God in verse two by giving two commands: a negative and a positive one. First, the negative command: "And be not conformed to this world." We are not to adapt to or be squeezed into the world's mold in habit, manner, or lifestyle. The "world" is an anti God system led by Satan, the "prince and power of this world." The Greek construction is "stop being fashioned to this age." We are to resist all of the world's pressure tactics. We are not to give in to the world's ideals, consumerism, ideals of success, pleasures, etc. William Hendrickson explains well in the Baker New Testament Commentary:

"He is warning the membership then and now against yielding to the various manifestations of worldliness by which they are being constantly surrounded; such as the use of dirty or offensive language, the singing of scurrilous songs, the reading of filthy books, the wearing of tempting attire, engaging in questionable pastimes, associating, on intimate terms, with worldly companions, etc. There is hardly any end to the list."
Just think with me for a moment on the foolishness of following this world's ways.  1John 2:17 tells us that this world will be "pass away." And Galatians 1:4 tells us that Christ gave of Himself to deliver us from this "present evil world." This present age/world is antithetical to growth in true holiness. But also, believers will never be able to reach the lost by acting like the world. Therefore we must live according to God's world and guard against the influence of the world!

Notice secondly, the positive command in verse two: "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." This transformation is a radical and thorough change of our life, desires, and habits. But here especially, our minds need transformed because our thinking and understanding will drive our actions. Our word transformed here is a present, passive, imperative. As a present, it emphasizes continuous action; keep on being transformed. We are in a process of change. as a passive, something else is performing the action. Therefore, it is God that must change us and He does this through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But, even though it is God that does the changing, we are not passive in the process for our word is also an imperative- a command. We must voluntarily place ourselves at God's disposal. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit's working by dealing with sin, spending time studying and meditating on God's Word, praying, and fellowshipping with brothers and sisters in Christ.

How are we to be transformed? "By the renewing of your mind." We need a re-programming of the mind! We have been corrupted by sin. Satan continually battles us- he is "a roaring Lion looking to who he may devour." Our minds are under constant attack. Many public schools and universities brainwash our young people with anti-god ideals. Humanism, evolutionary thought, environmentalism, etc. are all being pressed upon them. Media, entertainers, sports stars and the like constantly espouse ideals and behaviors contrary to God's truth. Unfortunately, even many Christians have accepted worldly ideals corrupting their testimony and effectiveness for Christ. So how are our minds renewed? By the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and transforms our thinking. Therefore, we must spend quality time in God's Word. We need a daily intake to inform and mature us. We need a Biblical Worldview! And that only comes by spending much time in God's Word in personal study, by spending time under the teaching and preaching of God's Word, and by fellowshipping with fellow believers. The mind is where spiritual maturity occurs for our thinking truly affects our actions.


When, and only when we truly present our selves to the Lord as a living sacrifice and allow our minds to be renewed, can we discern God's will and know how to live a purposeful life for the Lord! Do not expect to know God's will/direction for your life, if you ignore or take lightly His Word! God will direct us in life as we spend time with Him. He informs our thinking and gives us the ability to make good decisions based on Biblical principles.

Notice that God's will is always good, acceptable, and perfect. As good, it is always best for us. We could never improve it. He knows what is best. He sees what we don't see. He knows what we don't know. He is God, He cannot make a mistake, so trust Him! As we saw above, the word acceptable is a word for well-pleasing. When you accept God's will and live in light of it and His wonderful truths, you bring great joy to the Lord- you please Him! And finally, God's will is perfect. It is complete in every way with nothing lacking. It will perfect or mature us. Therefore God's will found in His word provides all of the instruction that you will need to fulfill the purpose for which He created you!

People are looking for purpose! Happiness! Completeness! Contentment! Well, these things can only be found as we completely give of ourselves, unreservedly to God so that He can do with us whatever He desires to. If you try to live life your own way, you will fail to be ultimately satisfied and to fulfill the reason for why God created you! God's way is always best and leads to blessing and contentment. Don't take my word on it, Take God at His Word and trust Him! Life cannot truly work without these foundational verses here in Romans 12.