That's poor English but it makes for a rich life.
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Romans 12:1-2 ESV
Blessed New Year Calvary and friends,
How sweet it is to wake up to -1 degree temps outside but see the sun shining bright! Today is one of the days I love to talk about what make New Hampshire special. Throughout the winter, no matter how cold it gets, no matter how much snow may pile up, we will always have these epic crystal clear blue bell days. They warm my soul even while my body may be chilled and the tip of my nose could be in danger of frostbite. God's incredible creation on display! I pray you enjoy this beautiful day.
How tall will you be this year?
It's the beginning of a new year. I realize, as many of you are experiencing much more than me, that life doesn't really care what the date is on the calendar. Just because it's now January, 2016, doesn't mean that the challenges, troubles, suffering, or sickness that began in 2015 suddenly end. Life doesn't reset every January 1st. That being said, what January 1st does provide is an opportunity to take a measurement. Some people do this with their children's height every birthday. They measure the height of a child each year with a little tick mark on the back of the pantry door. Done every birthday consistently throughout the life of a child these measurements will not only tell you how tall your child is but what years of their life they grew most quickly.
To the adults out there. Do you still measure your height every birthday? Probably not. Hopefully not. Why? Because we've long since stopped growing taller. The tick mark placed at the exact same place every year wouldn't be very interesting. It certainly wouldn't be informative. Taking a measurement of height only makes sense when a person is still growing.
As adults we may have stopped growing physically but we should never stop growing in other ways. We should always grow in understanding. We should never cease to learn new things. We should never stop growing in our relationships with other people. More than any of these, we should never stop growing spiritually. Imagine, if you will, the Father in heaven placing a tick mark on the back of the pantry door each year at this time to show the growth in your life, spiritually. What would those spiritual tick marks reveal?
If you were here with us in Wolfeboro this past weekend for worship then you heard Cris preach on Romans 12:1-2. In this passage Paul "appeals" to his brothers and sisters in Christ. In the NKJV the word used in "beseech". This is strong language. Paul is almost begging his listener. Begging us to do what? In the context of our purview today I would say Paul is begging us to never stop growing spiritually.
Paul first makes this clear by asking us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Many followers of Christ claim to be willing to die for Jesus. Today, especially in the Middle East, many followers of Christ are dying because of their faith in Jesus. This is certainly a possibility for any believer. We may be asked by God to offer our bodies in death as a sacrifice. Some Christians will be martyrs. Some will be asked to die for their faith. But not all. Not everyone will die a martyr. Every Christian, however, has been asked to live for Christ. Here's the thing. A martyr only has to offer his or her body once unto death. A living sacrifice must be offered repeatedly.
Living sacrifices must be offered repeatedly.
Therein lies the rub. This is why Paul included such strong language, begging the church to listen. To present yourself as a living sacrifice must be done every moment of every day of every year. This is why the text includes a very unique conjugation of the verb translated "be transformed" in the ESV. English cannot capture the meaning of the original Greek so I have in subject line of this email. The closest we can get to what the Greek means is to translate the text into poor English. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be being transformed by the renewal of your mind." It's a perfect.
You should be being transformed...
This is a complement to the idea of being a living sacrifice. It's not a one and done transformation. It's an ongoing, perpetual state of transformation. It's the difference between saying, "I worked it out" and "I am working it out". Paul isn't dealing with conversion here. He isn't talking about the new birth. That was a one time completed event. His focus is the stage of our spiritual lives between new birth and physical death. This is the time of our sanctification. A time very much contingent on our will, our obedience, and our dependence on Him and His Spirit to renew us and guide us.
Back to the idea of January 1st. What a great opportunity to take a measurement. Or even better, ask our Father in heaven to place a spiritual tick mark on the wall. Only He really knows. We might have a pretty good idea. We might see the big things like the victory over a life-long struggle or the faith that grew in the face of fear and doubt. Only God knows whether the majority of our year was spent conforming to this world or transforming by the renewal of our minds. My advice? Ask Him.
One thing is still certain. Jesus is our only hope, the anchor for our souls!
For His Glory,