Thursday, November 17, 2011

Refining Grace: Lessons from Romans 12

Refining Grace: A beautiful phrase. But not always easy. Refinement is the act of removing impurities or unwanted elements - or by improving by making changes. That in itself sounds painful especially if it involves things to which we hold tightly. And we all have those things, don't we?

God has directed me lately to an in-depth study of Romans 12. A mantra for my life for many years, in this most recent study, I am coming to realize how much I have missed in this chapter. It is a chapter strategically detailed and precise in every way - as is the entire Word of God!

Today I simply want to paraphrase Romans 12:1-2 in a way that has breathed new life in the entire passage - at least for me! Here's the deal: we know verses 1 and 2. But if we continue reading the rest of the chapter, we tuck verses 1 and 2 away and try to make sense of verses 9 - 21 all by themselves! But without verses 1 and 2, the rest of the chapter is vanities and impossibilities.

Follow me through.

I take you back to chapter 11, verse 36. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To HIM be glory forever. Amen." That should be a Christian's singularly most important desire. It is the foundational essence of chapter 12.

NOW read Romans 12:1 and 2: "I appeal to you, therefore (in light of all disclosed in chapter 11), brothers, BY THE MERCIES OF GOD, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (rational action). 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."

Here's some things to remember as you explore the entire chapter 12 of Romans:

1. What Paul is saying in chapter 12 is so important that he uses compelling language to get his point across. To urge, to appeal. It is the same word he used in the opening verses of I Corinthians, II Corinthians, and Ephesians. A plead to act as a Christian should. To be holy as God is holy.

2.  None of the gifts or services encouraged in this chapter can be done except by the mercies of God. You may think you have the gift of mercy - and maybe you do - but much of what is required of us in this chapter (and in our Christian life) will stretch us beyond our own strength. Explore God's mercies in your own life. Then it can spill over into what is asked of you today.

3.  Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice requires more than the cursory prayer, "God use me for your glory. I give you my life." This is the walk, not just the talk. Verses 9 - 21 acted out is being that living sacrifice. There is no other way around it.

4. Not being conformed (or reconformed) to the world means this: Don't be influenced or swayed by the world (culture) around you. Nor be intimidated or enticed by its expectations. DON'T WATER DOWN YOUR FAITH AND CALLING IN CHRIST.

5.  The renewing of our mind is a daily exercise. This isn't just the rededicating our lives to Christ - though that does have its place. (II Corinthians 4:16; Psalms 51:10; Titus 3:5).

How do we "Renew our minds"? Colossians 3:10 says, And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.
Simply put: Get to know God through the life of His Son and through the might of His Spirit and the means of His Word. When we begin to see God for who He truly is, He can then begin to renew us into His likeness. Easy? Not at all!! Doable? Absolutely!

Now, with these five things in mind, take time today to read Romans 12 in its entirety. Tomorrow, we'll explore the gifts inserted in verses 3 and 8. They are also there for a purpose.

YOU are here for a purpose.

Father, I ask today that you would direct us to the importance of Romans 12, the urging of the Spirit for us to pay attention. Please, Heavenly Father, pour down your mercies so that we can do all that you require of us today. This week. For without YOUR mercies, we are not able to carry through with Your will for our lives! Help us not to just TELL you that we want to be a living sacrifice us. Help us to walk out your calling for our lives. This world is loud and enticing. It is difficult sometimes to become who you desire that we become. Help us to walk away from the chains and snares that this world is capable of putting on us. Father, give us Your mind. Refresh our spirits with the power of Your spirit. Help us to see you in Your beauty, Your holiness. AMEN.