WHAT SORT OF PERSON DOES GOD WANT US TO BE?
Reading: Romans 12
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Because of the privilege and authority. God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honouring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Today is the age of celebrities! But people have always had idols (an interesting word!)…
Who is/was your favourite celebrity?
- Perhaps an actor or actress or singer or sportsman/woman
- Perhaps a dancer or magician or presenter or politician…or preacher!
Celebrities are all talented and entertain large numbers of people… They enjoy a huge following…
In short, they were famous… idols! But look more closely at their lives and the brightness of the outward appearance sometimes concealed inner darkness!
- The lives of many modern stars of stage and screen have ended in tragedy
- And some “idols”… applauded and adored by their fans… are not necessarily very nice people in their private lives
Truly, we look at the outward appearance and admire the great talent of such people; God looks at the heart
So ‘outward appearance’ may or may not not be a good guide to what a person is really like!
Have you ever bumped into someone, who obviously knows you… but you can’t think who on earth it is?
- You know the face but can’t recall the person’s name or where you have met her/him! It can be very embarrassing!
Perhaps there’s a spiritual parallel…
- We can know someone’s “church face”…but not how close the person is living to Jesus Christ… the “real” person!
Pretence can have serious consequences in life…
Have you ever been deceived by someone pretending to be friendly but with evil intentions?
- An old lady I know answered the door to a man who claimed to be a police officer checking that elderly people were safe, as there had been reports of ‘distraction’ burglaries in the area
- He offered to carry out a safety check around the house and asked the lady to make sure that her valuables were safe
- You can guess what happened subsequently, as this fraudster helped himself to her money!
So how do we discern the “real” you and the “pretend” you?
The answer is harder than it seems because adults learn to adjust our behaviour according to the circumstances or situation…
- We don’t behave the same way when relaxing with friends on the beach, as we would if we were on jury service at a murder trial (say)!
The majority of churchgoers invariably warm and friendly … though most of us have our good and not-so-good days!
- A small number of people always seem to be a bit grumpy… A lady I know has a nickname, the Rottweiler…
- With a few people, you’re never quite sure how s/he will respond… One time, they are smiling and chatty, the next they brush past you!
However, the most important issue for each of us is to find out what sort of person God wants “me” to be on the inside … because our ‘inner’ state will be reflected in our outward behaviour
What would Jesus say to you and about you if He were here in person and stayed with you for a few days?
Here’s a famous old poem in which the writer asks that question…
If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two
If he came unexpectedly, I wonder what you’d do?
Oh, I know you’d give your nicest room to such an honoured guest
And all the food you’d serve to him would be the very best
And would you keep assuring him, you’re glad to have him there
That serving him in your own home is joy beyond compare?
When you saw him coming, would you meet him at the door?
With arms outstretched in welcome to your heavenly visitor
Or would you have to force a smile before you let him in?
Or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they’d been!
Would you turn off the television set and hope he hadn’t heard?
And wish you hadn’t used that last, loud, hasty word.
Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymnbooks out?
Could you let Jesus walk right in…or would you rush about?
And I wonder if the Saviour spent a day or two with you
Would you happily go on doing the things you always do?
And would you go on saying the things you always say?
Would life for you continue as it does from day to day?
Would your family conversation still keep up its usual pace?
Or would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace?
Would you sing the songs you always sing and read the books you read?
And let him know the things on which your mind and spirit feed
Would you be glad to have him meet your very closest friends?
Or would you hope they’d keep away until his visit ends?
Would you be glad to have him stay forever, on and on?
Or would you sigh with great relief when he, at last, was gone?
It might be interesting to know the things that you would do
If Jesus came, in person, to spend some time with you!
The wonder and challenge for each one of us is that when we accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and believe that He rose from the dead, His Spirit comes to live within the “house” of our lives!
So the real test for “knowing who we really are” is the nature of our relationship with Christ through His indwelling Spirit in our lives…
As Paul writes to the church in Rome (Chapter 8 v 9) …
You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all!
The Bible makes it clear that the MIND (‘heart’) lies at the ‘heart’ of the issue…
- Paul reminds his readers in the church at Corinth that committed believers ‘have the mind of Christ’! Thus:
Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach Him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ
Of course, we have the right to resist the Spirit of God working in our lives and to say to Him, in effect:
“I accept you as Saviour and claim all the benefits that salvation brings… but I won’t allow you to have your way in my life.”
“I trust you, Lord… but not that much!”
It’s possible to pretend that we are living close to God…
- To say the right things… smile at the appropriate time… use the right ‘spiritual’ or ‘church’ language…
- To give the impression that we’re walking in step with the Spirit …
- But inwardly, to be empty and burdened and anxious
What we think and the way we view life, matters…
- Our mind controls our decisions, actions and priorities in life
Jesus said: You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
In Romans 8, Paul writes:
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
So who is controlling your thoughts, your mind?
Paul wrote to the church in Philippi…
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable and right and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Imagine that I’ve invented a machine that can read minds and display thoughts as text on your forehead… It’s called a “thoughtavision”
- Whatever you are thinking is displayed on the screen in words that anyone can read…
- For instance, I would be able to see what you were thinking of this message!
- You would be able to see what I am thinking about you!
- Would you like to wear one?
When we look at Jesus Christ… What you see is what you get!
- No pretence… no showing off… no ‘playing to the crowd’ … no celebrity status!
- Here is a man (and Jesus was God become man) whose sole aim is to do and to be what God the Father requires of Him
And God demands nothing less from you and me!
- He wants to go much deeper than making minor alterations in our lives… He wants to ‘transform’ us into the likeness of His Son
- It’s a lifelong process and requires us to be willing to allow the Spirit of God to change and shape our lives
God won’t force His will on us… He invites us to place our complete trust in Him and let Him make us the person that He wants us to be
- There will be ups and downs… We will have questions and times of uncertainty… It’s all part of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit
It’s not a “one-off” decision to let God have His way in our lives… It requires constant renewal, day-by-day, moment-by-moment
- Paul describes this “moment-by-moment” experience as walking in step with the Spirit
The BIG QUESTION is whether we are willing to respond to God’s gracious offer?
- Jesus paid the price for your salvation and mine… Are we going to accept His free gift of eternal life?
- Are we going to muddle through life without any real purpose? Or are we going to ask God (by His Spirit) to lead and guide us?
- Are we going to live ‘on the fringes’ of the Christian life? Or are we going to be wholehearted in our devotion to Him?
BIG QUESTIONS… BIG CHALLENGES!
But we have a BIG God