Be Transformed

Romans Chapter 12 

 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

This!

 

These are some of the wisest words that Paul shares in Romans.  And that is saying a lot.

 

“In view of God’s mercy.”

After the abundance of mercy that God has shown us, we should desire to please him and properly worship Him.  So how do we do that?  By offering our bodies as sacrifices to God by being HOLY and PLEASING to Him.

 

How do we know what holy and pleasing looks like to God?  By renewing our minds in God’s word.  Paul lays it all out right there for us.  Isn’t this easy?

 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world.”

This warns us that the world’s system – the popular culture and manner of thinking that is in rebellion against God – will try to conform us to its ungodly pattern, and that process must be resisted.  And yet, many of us find ourselves being conformed to the world all the time.  It sneaks up on you sometimes.  Is our mouth just as foul as our coworkers?  Do we covet the latest ‘thing?’  Has your position on the sin of homosexuality moved?  Is viewing pornography ‘no big deal?’  Do you seek revenge against someone if they have wronged you?  (That one is addressed later in this same chapter.)

 

How do we know if these things are wrong or not?  By being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  This is the OPPOSITE of being conformed to the world.  Our minds start out being ruled by feelings, rooted in the flesh.  At that point we look just like the world.  But we need to have a source of truth – God’s world – that tells us what is right or wrong, despite what our feelings tell us.  Feelings lie.  The world lies.  But God’s word never will.

 

We can only be transformed in our minds by becoming more and more familiar with what God’s Word says.  Do you really stand out from the world?  As a Christian, you should.  The transformation you experience, from your old way of thinking and acting, should be as complete as Bumblebee or Optimus Prime from the Transformers movies when they transform from vehicle form to robot form.

 

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Finally, Paul is not calling us to be completely separate from the world, but instead to not be like the world.  We need to stand out in the world in such a way that we attract attention, and hopefully then draw others to God.  If we completely separate ourselves from the world, changing the lives of unbelievers would be impossible.

 

Greg Landry

 

 

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Don’t Step on Superman’s Cape

Romans Chapter 9 

In Romans 9 through 11, Paul deals with the problem associated with the condition of Israel. What does it mean that Israel has missed its Messiah? What does this say about God? What does it say about Israel? What does it say about our present position in God?

 

Paul first expresses his grief over his lost Jewish brothers who have rejected their Messiah.  It had to be very difficult for Paul to fully believe that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and yet see his brothers reject this truth and thereby reject the potential that accepting that truth held for them.

 

Do you similarly mourn for the lost today, especially people you are close to?  If so, have you ever attempted to share the life-changing good news with them?  If you haven’t, maybe you are the one God has always intended to share the gospel with that person.

 

Paul then responds to a concern that people then must have had.  If the Jews are God’s people, and yet they have seemingly been rejected by God, then how can the Gentiles have confidence that God will not similarly reject them.

 

Paul makes the point that the nation of Israel has not been rejected as a whole.  There has always been and always will be at least a remnant remaining.  Just because someone is a member of the nation of Israel does not not mean they are necessarily a follower of God.  Similarly, not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is truly following Christ.  If such an individual is missing out on the promises of God, it is not because God is a promise breaker.

 

Beginning in verse 14, Paul explores the topic of God’s mercy.  It is important to remember what mercy is. Mercy is to not get what we deserve. God is merciful to us every day that he does not smite us down for whatever sin we have just committed.  At the same time, God is never less than fair with anyone, but fully reserves the right to be more than fair with individuals as He chooses.

 

But if God uses the disobedience of someone like Pharaoh to fulfill his plans, then how can God still find fault with Pharaoh?   Did Pharaoh have freewill or not?

 

It is tempting to want to question some of God’s decisions.  How foolish.  There is an old song with the following chorus:

 

You don’t tug on superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger

And you don’t question God’s choices.

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OK, I changed the last line.  But that is Paul’s response to the previous question of freewill.  I will expound upon that and say that indeed we do have freewill.  But God will allow the direction of our heart to be used for His glory, even if that direction is away from Him.  And He doesn’t need to explain himself.

 

We should all aim to be used for God’s glory due to the goodness of our hearts, not the hardness.

 

Greg Landry

 

 

Conversion for All

Acts 9 5 (1)

Acts 9 

Saul is the worst kind of person. In our human eyes, he is completely undeserving of love, grace and patience. We would have tried to avoid him at all costs. I­n this chapter we see a true miracle happen, Saul becomes a person we don’t recognize anymore, and God does it all to show us how much he loves us.

To understand this further let’s read what Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15-16:

“though formally I was a blasphemer, persecutor and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example”

What he means by this is that God had you in mind when he redeemed Paul. He showed his “mercy”, “perfect patience” and “overflowing grace” so that we can take hope for our own salvation and the salvation of others even when it seems like there is no hope at all. God changed Paul suddenly and without warning; Paul wasn’t preparing his heart or life to accept God, it just happened.

 This is a perfect illustration of Jesus’ suffering done for you. Saul persecutes the name of Jesus and rebels against God for YEARS. He abuses, mocks, and tears-down everything that God had built up. Jesus asks him in verse 4, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul doesn’t have an answer but drops everything to listen to the voice of Jesus.

 God chose Paul way before Paul chose God.

 The same love that God showed Paul, He wants to show you even when you think you’re too angry, or are too far gone, or can’t be converted, or don’t think a loved one can be converted, or aren’t good enough, or aren’t strong enough, or don’t think He can do it, God can and will suddenly and unexpectedly move and with more mercy, patience, and grace than you ever thought possible.

Grace Rodgers

Hi all! I’m Grace! I live in Michigan and attend Garden Park Church of God.  I’m an Industrial and Graphic designer and you may recognize my work at FUEL, mid-west family camp or in various projects throughout the conference. When I’m not designing you may find me rock climbing, gardening, or giving piano lessons. I’m excited to spend this post-Easter week with you!

Who Will Stand in the Gap?

Ezekiel 22-23

ezekiel 22

Saturday, March 25

Throughout Ezekiel there are certain themes that keep circling back around: God’s judgment against Jerusalem, Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  In today’s reading we see another very graphic depiction of Israel’s immorality.  This time, it’s the northern kingdom of Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah.  They are likened to two sisters who prostitute themselves.  They again perform lewd acts shaming themselves before their neighbors.  It’s very sad, indeed.

God searches for someone to help:  “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”  God could find no one righteous to fill the gap and act as the mediator between God and His people.

We know the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom.  One day, Jesus would stand in the gap to keep God from destroying the earth.  Jesus on the cross fills the gap between a holy God and a sinful people.

I hope that these devotions from Ezekiel will help you to see some important truths with greater clarity.  God loves His people very much.  God wants His people to be faithful and obedient.   Some are and some aren’t.  When His people are unfaithful, God brings calamity and judgment, in order to turn people’s hearts back to Him.  It’s not the judgment that ultimately turn hearts, but it’s the fact that despite all of our wicked acts that deserve punishment, God is faithful to His promises and His steadfast love remains.  Ultimately, its God’s mercy that leads us to repentance.  May you know His love and His mercy through Jesus Christ, the man who did stand in the Gap for us.

-Jeff Fletcher

Consequences for Evil Overflow

Ezekiel 20-21

ezek 20-17

Friday, March 24

In Ezekiel 20 God reviews Israel’s history.  Over and over God provided for His people, over and over He warned them to get rid of their idols, keep His commands and observe His Sabbaths.  Over and over Israel failed to obey God and experienced the consequences.  Over and over God was compassionate and loving and forgave His people and restored them to blessings.

Israel has repeated this history again.  They failed to get rid of idols, they failed to keep his commands and observe his Sabbaths, and now they were about to experience the consequences of their sins.  God would once again treat them with mercy, not as their sins deserved and restore them to their land.

Ezekiel juxtaposes God’s promise to be merciful and restore His people with the threat that His judgment is coming and that both the evil and the good will be cut off from the land and the city and the temple.  Yes, everyone will suffer the consequences of the evil behavior of some.

There is tension throughout Ezekiel.  The wicked will suffer for their sins and the righteous will not suffer, except that at first they will suffer for the sins of others.  Sometimes when God brings his judgment designed to bring people to repentance there is collateral damage.  Good people suffer when bad people sin.  It’s how it was then, it’s still how it is today.  God’s salvation is coming, earth will one day be restored and made whole and good, but in the meantime, good people will suffer alongside the wicked.  Christians are martyred in places like Pakistan and Syria.  Christians sometimes suffer persecution in the United States.  Trials may come to God’s people during times of judgment, but those who trust God and repent of their sins will be saved.

-Jeff Fletcher

(photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Ezekiel_20:17)