ROMANS CHAPTER 12: An Exposition
There are at least three key points to note from this passage:
- Do not be squeezed into the world’s mould
- Do not think too highly of yourself
- Use your God-given gifts to benefit the body of Christ
DO NOT BE SQUEEZED INTO THIS WORLD’S MOULD (vs 1-2)
Have you ever found a pair of shoes that you really like but they don’t have your size and try as you may to twist your foot, the shoes just don’t fit… unless you are prepared to suffer pain!
- A bit like Cinderella’s ugly sisters!
Paul writes: Do not conform to the pattern of this world (OR don’t be squeezed into the world’s mould) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Notice that Paul refers to the mind… that’s where the battle is lost or won…
- Not in procedures, rules, human preferences or habits… but by “having the mind of Christ”
- We can only have His mind by focusing on Him and making sure that His Spirit is in control of our lives
As Paul writes in a letter to the church at Corinth:
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- We “offer our bodies as living sacrifices”
- We decide the extent to which we allow the Spirit to take control of our thoughts, words and actions
- But He does the transforming
We sometimes express it thus: ‘Being in the world but not part of it”
- It’s a tricky balance, isn’t it? Being here on earth yet ‘seated in heavenly places’
- Paul exclaimed that he longed to be with Christ but was conscious that there was work to do here on earth
Jesus urges us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”
- And to do so regardless of the consequences
Of course, we are living in the world… not on another planet…
- We can become too exclusive… too guarded about interacting with the very people we should be influencing
But some decisions are not easy to make…
- Should you drink alcohol? Go to the pub?
- Buy raffle tickets? Watch a film after 9pm?
- Attend the office party or an Old Time Country Dancing event?
- Marry a non-believer? (Big problem for single Christian ladies)
- Spend money on costly holidays?
We need great wisdom from God to choose wisely and to act wisely, for the days are evil
- But we can help ourselves by paying careful attention to what God says in His Word and being part of a supportive fellowship
The world’s mould is shaped like self… the Christ-like mould is in the shape of the Cross
DO NOT THINK TOO HIGHLY OF YOURSELF (verse 3)
I am sometimes asked to look at book proposals from aspiring authors. I recently read one in which the author clearly thought that he was a much more talented writer than he was in reality!
- In fact, despite his grand claims, the proposal was quite poor!
We all meet people who have an inflated view of their own importance … but what does Paul write in verse 3:
- “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment” (‘Get real’!)
- How different from the ‘celebrity status’ that is so prevalent today
One of life’s challenges is to avoid being addicted to the praise and approval of other people…
- To accept praise with modesty… being sure to give thanks and glory to the Lord
- And not to be devastated by criticism … but thankful that someone has (however ungraciously) been willing to tell you honestly what he/she thinks… Far from easy, especially if the person is being deliberately offensive
- But Jesus said that we should actively rejoice when we are despised for being His followers… for we know that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life
Paul’s advice is NOT the same as saying that we should “do ourselves down” or be depressed about our own shortcomings
- On the contrary… we can celebrate the fact that we are known and loved by God, despite our sin and weakness
- Jesus reserved his greatest approval for the widow who gave two small coins… and the woman who wept at his feet and wiped them dry with her hair
The temptation to think of ourselves more highly than we ought is probably most acute for those in the public eye… including preachers and church leaders
In truth, however skilled and competent you are, there will always be someone with more ability…more skill… more success…
- Whatever we do, we must ensure that all we do and say is ‘unto the Lord’, who is the maker and the sustainer of all good things
- MOTIVE is the key factor…Is it for my glory or His?
And may the Lord also help us to celebrate when the Spirit chooses to gift and enable others…rather than secretly envy or even despise them…
May God be sovereign and glorified in all these things
USE YOUR GOD-GIVEN GIFTS TO BENEFIT THE BODY OF CHRIST (verses 4-8)
Where and what is the body of Christ? Look around you!
- Who is the most important member of the body?
- We are all significant and we need one another
We may not feel significant … but that’s neither here nor there!
- Christ died for your sin as much as my the person sitting next to you, and vice versa
- As a redeemed person, God wants to make you and me beautiful for Him and utilise the gifts He has given, as listed in our reading:
Prophesying… serving…teaching… encouraging… giving… leading … showing mercy
Where do you and I fit in?
God wants us all to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit… love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… such that everyone benefits and God is glorified
- But gifts and talents, though given individually… are primarily for the benefit of the body and blessing others
We also need to ensure that we adopt a positive attitude towards those whom God chooses to bless and empower ahead of us… and not to be envious or even slightly ‘despising’ of them.
It may be tempting to compromise the truth of the Bible to ‘gain access’ to those outside the body and present the Gospel to them…
- But such an approach will lead to a gradual weakening of individuals and of the church
In fact, the greatest growth is found among those churches that preach the Gospel plainly… yet present it in such a way that people’s hearts and interest are stirred… We speak courteously but with conviction
- We may be criticised, sneered at, accused, dismissed or vilified
- But as the hymn writer puts it:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I’d rather be His than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause,
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name…
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.