church steeple

Why is death important to the Christian? – Part 2

“God does not ask us to bring in our livestock and burn it on the altar; he asks us to give ourselves, to put ourselves alive on the altar. To be a Christian means to live a life of sacrifice, a life of presentation, making a gift of ourselves to God. Some people think that all it takes to be a Christian is to scribble a cheque or to give a few hours of service here and there on special projects for the church. But that’s not what believers are called to. My life is to be set apart and consecrated to God. That is what is acceptable to him; that is what delights him; that is what pleases him; that is the appropriate response to him and for him.”

R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 195.

If Sproul is right, and I believe he is, how do we daily die to self?

How Can We Die to Self, Giving Ourselves fully to God?

In Romans 12:1-2 Paul says,

“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 will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

(Ro 12:1–2)

Not only does Paul argue for why we should die to self in these verses (see my last post), he also tells us how.

(1) We can and should be motivated to die to self and give ourselves fully to God because of the gospel (the mercies of God).

The gospel is supremely about God’s love for us. It is His desire to bring us into the Trinitarian love relationship. In other words, it is the outworking of His desire for us to experience the eternal love, joy, delight, and satisfaction that He and the Son and the Spirit have experienced from eternities past.

Consistently reflecting on God’s love for us, should motivate us to get to know Him, it should cause us to delight in Him, and to love Him, as well as it should create a sense of gratitude in our hearts. Gratitude is important, because as one author puts it,

“All Christian living and ethics are ultimately rooted in a deep gratitude for what God has done for us… [so that our] [e]very decision and every action…[is] a response to His mercy.”

READ MARK LEARN Romans , 222.

In order for us to constantly be reminded of the power and motivation of the gospel, we must preach the gospel to ourselves. Constantly reminding ourselves of God’s love and action for us. The gospel, then, is both the power and motivation for us to die to self daily, not just the ABC’s of the Christian life.

(2) We can die to self and give ourselves fully to God by purposing to no longer be conformed to the world.

In the beginning of verse 2, Paul says,

“Do not be conformed to this world…”

(Rom 12:2a)

Paul’s use of “conformed” is meant to paint a picture for the reader. A picture of a mold. My son has a play-doh set. Not only did it come with several containers of play-doh, but it also came with several molds that allow you to form or mold the play-doh into cool things like alligators, dolphins, monkeys, and dogs.

The molds that come with the play-doh set are easy to use. All you have to do is push the play-doh through the mold and wa-la you have an animal or mammal that looks like one of the molds.

Just like it’s easy to mold Camden’s play-doh into something that resembles one of those shapes, it is easy for the world to mold us into itself. Which is something Christians must fight against because the world’s values and goal are antithetical to God’s.

While conforming to the world is something we have to avoid, it is also something with which we need to approach with caution. Why is that? On the one hand, we are naturally nonconformists who don’t conform for nonconformities sake. But we can’t just be blanket nonconformists so that: If the world wears lipstick, we don’t. Or if the world goes to the movies, we don’t. Or if the world plays sports, we don’t. We can’t reject the world outright. We were created to live in the world, to be a part of the world, and to extend God’s glory into the world (Gen 1-2). But on the other hand, because we are natural conformists, we must be careful not to allow ourselves to conform to the world’s sinful patterns. The point being, we must not run to either extreme. Instead, we must carefully balance between conformity and non-conformity, which we do by (1) purposing to no longer be conformed to the world, and (2) by being transformed by the renewal of our minds so that we know the will of God.

(3) We can die to self and give ourselves fully to God by being transformed by the renewal of minds.

Starting in the middle of verse 2, Paul says,

“but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

(Rom 12:2b-c)

Paul tells us that our minds must be renewed so that we can test what is the will of God.

While renewal is necessary, we can’t renew our minds apart from God first working in our lives. We can’t do that – renew our own minds, because we are fallen. In our fallen state, we are totally depraved. Our mind has a spirit all its own — a viewpoint, a mindset, a bent that is different than and opposed to God. Until God works in our lives to change us, we will remain incapable of knowing, understanding, and accepting His will.

By God’s grace, He doesn’t leave us to wallow in our own sin. He exercises grace by giving us what we don’t deserve – renewal.

He works in our lives bringing about renewal through the Holy Spirit, who changes us both from the outside-in and the inside-out.

Outside-In

The Holy Spirit changes us from the outside-in by:

  • Presenting God’s Word to us.
  • Drawing us into prayer, and into relationships with other godly Christians.
  • Leading us to hear the Word preached and to meditate on Christ.

Inside-Out

But the Holy Spirit also changes us from the inside-out by changing our heart. The heart is what the Bible refers to as the seat of the person. It is our will, wants, and desires. The Holy Spirit works in us to change these desires so that we will want God and His will for our lives. Without the Holy Spirit working heart change in us first, we won’t accept the truth of the gospel no matter how much preaching and teaching we receive.

Have you ever wondered why someone can grow up in a Christian home, attend church every week, meet with godly mentors, and even read the Bible cover to cover, but reject God as soon as they move off to college? It’s because an external change occurred without heart change. Unless our hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit to accept the things of God, we can hear all the preaching in the world, meet with the godliest people, and read God’s Word cover to cover, but we won’t accept God’s truth, nor will we apply it to our lives.

That is why it is so crucial we experience change both from the outside-in and inside-out.

Our Part in the Renewal Process

While I have argued thus far that the Holy Spirit is the primary changer, we can’t forget that we play a part in the renewal process. We must work alongside the Holy Spirit, which we do by.

  • Reading God’s Word.
  • Attending weekly worship services.
  • Going to the Lord in prayer.
  • Meeting with godly Christians.
  • Memorizing Scripture.
  • Reading Christian books and commentaries that help us understand and apply God’s Word.

While these things won’t bring about an initial change in a person, they are the means the Spirit uses to expose us to God’s will, as well as they are the means God has given for us to continue to change and renew our minds once the Holy Spirit has worked in our lives to bring about initial heart change. It is important, then, that we use them so we will see continued renewal in our lives, thus protecting us from accepting the world’s mentality, which will allow us to continue to live as living sacrifices who remain on rather than crawl off the altar.

Questions for Reflection

(1) Have you been renewed by the Spirit?

(2) Are you using the means of grace to daily continue the renewal process?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why is death important to the Christian?

Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission? – Part 2

Recently, I started watching a new show on Netflix entitled: Manhunt. The show chronicles the last few years that the FBI tracked and ultimately apprehended the UNA Bomber. If you remember, the UNA Bomber alluded the FBI for close to 20 years as he carried out a serial mail bombing campaign. The turning point in the case was when Ted’s brother turned in a tip to the FBI after the UNA Bomber’s Manifesto was published. He believed the language in the Manifesto sounded similar to that of his brother’s. That tip and the letters they provided that Ted wrote them gave the rookie agent Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald the material needed to link Ted K. to the UNA Bomber. A link he formed through linguistic analysis.

While the show primarily follows “Fitz” and his journey to catch the UNA Bomber, what you discover is that he didn’t do it alone. He wasn’t a one man show. He was just one of hundreds of agents assigned to a task force that worked together to bring Ted to justice.

In a similar way the body of Christ — the church — is made up of many different people. In order for the church to accomplish its mission to make disciples, all its parts must work together, just like all the parts of the FBI task force had to work together to bring the UNA Bomber to justice. Why is that?

Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission?

(2) The body of Christ must work together to make disciples (vs. 20-21)

You see, we have to remember that the local church isn’t all about us. Yes, we all can receive a number of benefits from the church, especially a church that operates according to God’s plan and purpose. We can experience community and friendship, support and encouragement, as well as education and teaching. Those are all benefits of the local church.

But again, we have to remember that the local church isn’t all about us. Instead it is about us working together to accomplish God’s mission to make disciples.

In another one of Paul’s letters, specifically the letter to the Ephesians, he hits on the same theme of us working together as a body to make disciples. He says in Ephesians 4:11-16,

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph 4:11–16)

Now, there is a lot here, but what I want you to notice is that we need each other in order to make and grow as disciples.

  • We need people to reach out to those in the community.
  • We need people inside the church to teach and train us.
  • We need others who will hold us accountable, encourage us, help us, be there for us in times of need.
  • We also need others who can physically serve the surrounding community, who can organize events, follow up with visitors, manage the finances and operations of the church.
  • We need strategic thinkers, planners, and visionaries.
  • And much, much more.

There is a lot that goes into accomplishing the mission of the local church. A mission that takes place both internally and externally.

Reading that should clue you in to the fact that no one person can do all those things. It takes a team, it takes a church working together to accomplish that mission.

In 1989 the rule that NBA basketball players couldn’t play in the olympics was removed. With that rule removed one of the greatest teams ever to play together was assembled for the 1992 Summer Olympics. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton. All all-star players — most of them are hall of famers or will be — came together to play on what became known as the “Dream Team.”While all of these guys are uniquely gifted, there was some apprehension as to whether they all could play together. But when the games began it was clear that they were able to play as a team. They were able to play as a team because they knew they had to work as one unit in order for the team to function properly.

The church is the same. We are all gifted to play a unique role, but if you take one part away or just let one part do all the work, the body doesn’t function properly and it’s not going to accomplish the church’s mission. In order for that to happen, then,

We have to recognize that we have been brought together for a purpose and that purpose is to accomplish the mission of God.

It’s easy for church’s to get distracted and start focusing on something else. Often times that something else we start focusing on is our own personal preferences. But as one author says,

“The strange thing about church membership is that you actually give up your preferences when you join. Don’t get me wrong; there may be much about your church that you like a lot. But you are there to meet the needs of others. You are there to serve others. You are there to give. You are there to sacrifice.”

 Rainer, I am a church member, 34.

The point, then, is that we need to get past our own personal preferences because they not only lead us to forget about the people around us that we need to reach, but it also takes our focus off what we need to do inside the church, and that’s help each other grow in Christ. The only way that is going to happen is if we get to the point where church isn’t about me but something greater than me. And that something greater than me and you is us coming together to accomplish our God-given mission to make disciples. Unless we recognize that we have been called to a God-given mission to make disciples and begin actively working together that end, we won’t accomplish God’s mission. We might serve to benefit one another, we might create a cool atmosphere for us to come hang out in. We might even make ourselves feel good but even so we won’t be accomplishing the mission God had given us — to make disciples.

Conclusion

So do you recognize that? Do you recognize the church isn’t about you but about something greater than you? Do you recognize that you have been pulled into this church by God to use your gifts to accomplish His mission? Do you recognize that when you don’t use your gifts, when you don’t participate in the life of the church you are hindering its mission? It’s like the church is walking around with a broken or missing limb, and you are that broken or missing limb.

We must not only realize that all Christians are members of the body of Christ, but we must also realize that the local expression of the body of Christ — the church — must work together to accomplish God’s mission to make disciples.on’t sit on the sidelines. Don’t allow what God has given you to go to waste. Use it for the glory of God and the benefit of His church, as you seek to accomplish His mission to make disciples.

Question for Reflection

  • Do you recognize the church isn’t about you but about something greater than you?
  • Do you recognize that you have been pulled into this church by God to use your gifts to accomplish His mission?
  • Do you recognize that when you don’t use your gifts, when you don’t participate in the life of the church you are hindering its mission?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission?

Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission? – Part 1

Recently, I started watching a new show on Netflix entitled: Manhunt. The show chronicles the last few years that the FBI tracked and ultimately apprehended the UNA Bomber. If you remember, the UNA Bomber alluded the FBI for close to 20 years as he carried out a serial mail bombing campaign. The turning point in the case was when Ted’s brother turned in a tip to the FBI after the UNA Bomber’s Manifesto was published. He believed the language in the Manifesto sounded similar to that of his brother’s. That tip and the letters they provided that Ted wrote them gave the rookie agent Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald the material needed to link Ted K. to the UNA Bomber. A link he formed through linguistic analysis.

While the show primarily follows “Fitz” and his journey to catch the UNA Bomber, what you discover is that he didn’t do it alone. He wasn’t a one man show. He was just one of hundreds of agents assigned to a task force that worked together to bring Ted to justice.

In a similar way the body of Christ — the church — is made up of many different people. In order for the church to accomplish its mission to make disciples, all its parts must work together, just like all the parts of the FBI task force had to work together to bring the UNA Bomber to justice. Why is that?

Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission?

In order to answer that question, the first thing we need to understand is that:

(1) All Christians are Members of the Body of Christ (vs. 12-20; 27)

Paul writing to the church in Corinth says in chapter 12 starting in verse 12,

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Co 12:12–13)

Skip down to verse 27,

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Co 12:27)

So by the very nature of our salvation, we are all members of the body of Christ. We may be from vastly different backgrounds, but in Christ we form one body.

The body comprises both the universal and local church.

The universal church is basically all those who have professed Jesus as their Lord and Savior in the world.

The local church is comprised of those who are a part of the universal church, but they form a local expression of the universal church as they gather together in covenant community with one another for the purpose of worshipping God and making disciples.

The local church to which Paul is writing in chapter 12.

We know that is the community to which he writes because his letter is directed to a particular church. The Corinthian church, which is a local church. In verse 14, he continues when he says,

“…the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Co 12:14–20)

The local church is a body.

The body metaphor Paul uses is genius because it’s something to which we all can relate. Almost every task we do — whether it is eating, drinking, dressing ourselves, playing a sport, driving the car or tractor, whatever it may be — our entire body is active and working together to accomplish that task. You see, it takes more than a foot to drive a car. Our legs, trunk, harms, eyes, brain and more all have to be engaged in the act as well. Just as our body parts form one body and are all needed to accomplish our daily tasks, the many different parts of the universal church form a local church that must work together to accomplish it’s God given tasks.

There is no such thing as an isolated disciple of Jesus.

You see, the church, the local church, has many members, which means we can’t form a church on our own, nor can we be a church unto ourselves. We need one another.

When I was in high school, I played soccer for the school I attended. Talent wise the team was really split. There were about half of us who really wanted to play soccer and half who were required by the football coach to play a spring sport to keep in shape for football.

I don’t want to dog on those guys too much. I mean they were just doing what the football coach required. But, as you could probably imagine, the football players who didn’t care anything about soccer, but just played because they had to, weren’t very good. But even though those guys weren’t very good, even though those guys often let us down, we needed them. We wouldn’t have been a team without them. Even if half of us were all-stars when it came to dribbling and scoring, there is no way we would have won a game because there would be no defense, no goalie, no one to pass the ball to when we were trapped by the other team.

Just as we needed the rest of the players on the soccer team, no matter how good or bad they were, we need the body of Christ. We need one another. You see, there is no such thing as an isolated disciple of Jesus.

Now, that doesn’t mean that people don’t isolate themselves from the body of Christ. They most certainly do. There are a lot of people out there who think all they need is Jesus and their Bible, and maybe a podcast or two. But we need more than that. We need each other. And that’s what Paul is really hammering home here.

Why do we need each other?

Well, we need each other because we all have been given different gifts. Starting in verse 28 Paul mentions these gifts,

“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Co 12:28–30)

Now, we don’t have the time to go through each of these gifts, but what I want you to see is that no one person possesses all these gifts, which means that we all have a part to play. We must play that part in the context of the local church with others who compliment our gifts.

The reason we all have different gifts is because that’s the way God has designed it.

Look at verse 18 again. Paul says,

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (1 Co 12:18)

In His infinite wisdom and providence God designed us to depend on one another. I believe this design not only originates in the mind of God but in God Himself. Just recently we have been studying the Trinity on Wednesday nights. Throughout that study we have learned that the Father, Son, and Spirit have existed in an eternal interdependent relationship with one another. Within in that interdependent relationship, each member of the Trinity — though all are God — have different roles that they fulfill. Those roles compliment the other members.

In some sense, the local church is similar in that design, which means that you could say that the local church is an earthly expression of the interdependent nature of the Trinity. So just as the Trinity depends on one another to fulfill different roles, those in the church depend on one another to fulfill different roles as well.

The local church, then, exists as an interdependent body because God has designed it that way.

A design that seems to mimic the very nature of God Himself.

God has not only designed the local church, He also builds the local church.

In His providence, God takes members of the universal church and specifically places them in a local church based on the gifts He has given them. I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but that means you aren’t at the church you are at by accident. God led you to and placed you in that specific church at this specific time. He placed you there because your gifts compliment others in your church. In other words, He has given you to your church because you are needed. When you aren’t there. When you don’t play your part, it is felt. Look at verses 21 and 22,

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” (1 Co 12:21–22)

In the immediate context of the Corinthian church, Paul is seeking to unify. But as you can see, he also tells us that we all must play our part. Each one of us, then, are indispensable to one another and to the mission that God has given us.

Question for Reflection

  • Do you believe you are God’s gift to your church and the church does not operate properly without you?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission?