Sean Duncan speaking on the response to God’s mercy and God’s grace is worship. We don’t worship to get a response out of God. We worship as a response to God.
On monday I saw the total eclipse from Corvallis Oregon. I was reluctant to go and have to drive in traffic for something that I assumed wouldn’t be that cool. But once the eclipse actually started it was slightly enjoyable. It was fascinating to see the moon slowly creep across the sun. And it was impressive that you would only know that was happening if you had your eclipse glasses on, otherwise it just looked like the sun in the sky.
Then it happened. Totality. The most amazing thing I have ever physically witnessed in my life. It produced a sense of wonder and of awe. High in the sky was just a black circle, and the edges was surrounded by pure white light reaching out into the surrounding sky. The temperature at the moment of totality dropped another 10 degrees, there was a 360º sunset, the stars burst out of the sky, and all the animals went silent. At the moment I literally spoke out “WOW, THIS IS AMAZING! OH MY GOSH. THIS. IS. AMAZING!” I was jumping up and down on my friends roof in wonder. In that minute and a half I saw God’s glory in a new way.
But let’s be clear on something. I did not say “WOW, THIS IS AMAZING!” so that the moon would perfectly block out the sun. I said “WOW, THIS IS AMAZING!” BECAUSE the moon perfectly blocked out the sun.
And this is what we see in Romans 12 where paul begins to unpack what worship looks like, and how it plays out in our life as Paul begs us to see that we don’t worship to get a response out of God, We worship as a response to God.
1I 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. 2 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. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.4 For jas in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity;the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
An Owen Wilson movie came out a few years ago in which he and his family move to a southeastern Asian country. Owen Wilson’s character Jack worked for a company that was taking over the water supply in the country. Well, Jack’s family, the Dwyers, quickly found themselves trapped in an uprising rebellion. The city was flooded with chaos by the nightmarish events of this rebel group hunting down foreigners and executing them. This spurred on Jack Dwyer’s fight or flight reflexes combined with Dad powers, as the rest of the film is the Dwyers frantically fleeing from the rebels trying to reach freedom. Towards the end of the movie they are hiding out in a buddhist temple, but the rebels come in looking for them. While they are searching Jack sees that one of the rebels has left his rifle unattended, so Jack goes for it! But the rebels catch him, with a gun to his head about to kill him Jack’s wife comes out of hiding yelling for them not to kill them. Now the rebels have Jack’s wife as well, and of course, the kids come out of hiding and are captured. Now they are all on their knees with guns to their heads.
The dwyers are begging. PLEADING. With the rebels not to execute them. THey know that they don’t deserve to die and that it wouldn’t be justified, although they are not appealing to justice in this moment. They know justice would save them, but the rebels are not acting in accordance to justice, they have taken matters into their own hands putting themselves in the position of Judge and executioner. The dwyers are begging for mercy.
Justice would set the Dwyers free. But their captors don’t hold to the model of justice. They’ve made themselves the ultimate judge. So the Dwyers aren’t appealing to justice. They are trying another appeal. Mercy. Put yourself in their shoes. What a scary place to be. Facing a death you do not deserve where your only appeal can be to beg for mercy.
Now imagine this. You also are standing before a judge. But this judge that you stand before is a just and good one. And this Judge has found you guilty of a very serious crime, and you really are guilty of it. How much MORE in this case will you appeal for mercy. Saying “your honor, I know I am guilty. I committed the crime. I have no excuse. So I do not ask for justice. Justice would condemn me, and rightly. I simply ask, can the court have mercy in my case?” And if against all expectation the judge gives you mercy letting you go free, you would weep with joy as you walk out into the sunshine and sweet breezes of freedom. Or maybe fall to your knees in unbelief and thankfulness for something that was done completely apart from yourself.
Paul in Romans 1-11 has been trying to show us that that mercy has come. And not only has the judge given mercy to the guilty criminal (you and I). But the Just and Good Judge has also offered to provide for your needs for the rest of your life. The judge actually offered his son up, offered himself up, to pay for your crime, but to also give you a righteous image so that the judge could call you son. Could call you daughter. And for those who say yes to this offer and act of mercy and grace by the judge on their life they would respond by being overwhelmed with emotion. Overwhelmed with joy. Overwhelmed with acts of gratitude. Overwhelmed with a transformed life. But the offer from the judge is only finalized when you accept the offer.
Paul starting here in chapter 12 going to 15 lays out what it looks like to respond to God’s mercy and God’s grace. He even has a name for it. And that is worship. Worship is not just the music we play and raise our hands to, yes that is worship, but that is not only worship.
As we dive into the text we will see that worship is also every action, every performance, every work, every appearance, every spoken word, every thought, every effort when done in response to experiencing a peice of God. Worship is response to revelation. And the order of Romans is very important. Chapters 1-11 lay out the theological foundations that display God’s mercy and God’s grace. While chapters 12-15 are the response to God’s mercy and grace. They are built only upon chapters 1-11. Chapters 12-15 are not instructions on how to request God’s mercy and Grace. They are pleads and encouragements of how to RESPOND to God’s mercy and Grace. We don’t worship for God’s mercy, We worship because of God’s mercy.
The rest of 12 is about showing mercy to others but before being merciful you must be worshipful.
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.
I appeal to you: in greek parakaleō can also be translated as “I urge you”, “I plead with you”, or “I beg you”
There is gravity of what paul has told us to this point and in turn how he calls us to respond.
And when we respond correctly that is our spiritual worship. And maybe your thinking “sean you’re saying that I have to respond a certain way for it to be worshipful? For it to be right?” Yes. yes I am. If you came home with a report card and you had a D in math class, and you hand it to your dad. If he explodes and yells at you telling you how disappointed he is in you and how you’re a failure, that’s probably not the right response is it..that helps no one. So yes, there is a right way to respond. There is a right posture. Im not saying that worshipful acts are like cookie cutters and that all will look the same, but they do all have the same posture towards God.
So, I want you to see 4 words in regards to your worship. Bodies, Living, Holy, Acceptable. All of which are descriptive in some way of a sacrifice we are to give as worship, or response, to God. I beg you to respond to God’s mercy by present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. So worship is present this type of sacrifice. Sacrifice is very common old testament language, so how is that word understood?
In the old testament a sacrifice was usually a bull, sheep, or goat that would be brought to an alter pure and blameless. It’s throat would be slit and it would be satisfying to God. It displayed God’s willingness to take a substitute on behalf of a sinner since a sinner can not be accepted by a holy God. Something must bear the sinners punishment. God for a time being, allowed the offering of animals in the place of man’s’ sin. But all the animals merely pointed to Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 5:7 says “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Hebrews 10:4, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” and 10:12, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,”
So all this to say, our sacrifice does not look like those in the old testament. Presenting our bodies as a sacrifice indicates: every action, every performance, every work, every appearance, every spoken word, every thought, every effort. Presenting our bodies as living sacrifices indicates: we are alive and our sacrifice is continuous, moving, active, within and throughout life.
- We work because of God’s grace, not for God’s grace.
- We are Not to offer ourselves up as one to die from bloodletting, or being burned up, or consumed like an ordinary sacrifice.
- Romans 6:6 tells us We have been Crucified with Christ sacrifice on the Cross. We died with christ already the moment we believed so that we can now live in Christ.
- We are to actively Sacrifice desires of the flesh for commands of God’s moral will (Romans 6:19) living as slaves of righteousness leading to holiness.
As a sacrifice we are to be holy: Romans 6:13 – “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Holy tends to refer to God’s perfection both revealed and unseen but holy can also indicate something set apart and dedicated to God as opposed to something common. We are made righteous and holy through the holy spirit (14:17) and We are empowered by the holy spirit for righteousness and holiness (15:13). And finally our presentation of this sacrifice should be acceptable: pleasing to God. Now understand that what is holy is already acceptable to God. But by saying “Acceptable to God” paul is reiterating that God is the focus of the holy sacrifice. It is not just a holy living sacrifice of the body. It is a holy living sacrifice of the body FOR God.
2 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.
Before covering what it means to be transformed by the renewal of our mind we should first clarify what Paul means by ‘the will of God’. Often times in scripture we see ‘the will of God’ used in two ways. In one sense of God’s will we have the Sovereign Will. the Sovereign Will of God will always happen no matter what. We see this played out in Romans 9. Another sense of God’s will is His Revealed Will, or Moral Will. God’s Moral Will sometimes happens. A good example is the ten commandments. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. These are all part of God’s moral will although they do not always happen. And this is the will that Paul is referring to here. Discerning the will of God in this sense is being able to go through life and make decisions in accordance to God’s moral will. Knowing what is good, acceptable, and perfect to God.
To be transformed is to have a radical change of mindset and of life. The same word used for transformation here is also used in the Gospel of Mark for the transfiguration of Christ. Transformation is profound and it happens from the renewal of the mind. In regards to being transformed by the renewed mind ephesians 4:22-24 says this.
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
It is like taking off muddy tattered clothes and putting on a clean tuxedo.
But Paul first tells us not to be conformed to the world. So what does the mind of the world do? Since this similar language that we saw in Romans 8 “The mind that is set on the flesh is death, but the mind that is set on the spirit is life and peace.” Well, Roman 1:18 tells us that the mind of the world suppresses knowledge of God and Romans 1:23 shows us that the mind of the world exchanges the glory of God for images that resemble mortal men, or animals. But the renewed mind reverses that!
The renewed mind doesn’t suppress knowledge of God, it Praises knowledge of God.
The renewed mind doesn’t exchange the glory of God of false images, it rejects false images and clings wholeheartedly to the magnificence of God’s revealed Glory.
So you’re probably asking yourself, How does the renewal of the mind happen? Titus 3:5 gives us great insight, as it is the only other place we find the noun for renewal. It says,
“he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,”
So renewal happens by the work of the holy spirit the moment we are place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. And Paul is asking us to be transformed by that. The key to a transformed mind is a steady gaze at the glory of Jesus Christ and trust in the work done by the holy spirit.
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Our level of faith is how much we see/value Christ in juxtaposition to our self. It is seeing Christ high in his Glory as perfect and sinless while seeing ourselves as helpless and in need. So paul reminds us not to think of ourselves closer to Christ in standing of glory in comparison to what you know to be true.
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
Differ according to the grace given to us: Before paul speaks of the gifts people have HE MAKES SURE that we know that any gift we may have is by God’s grace and His grace alone, not because of our own doing.
When it comes to prophecy here there are multiple different views held by scholars and theologians today. Here are the two most common ones.
Views on Prophecy
Richard Gaffin: Perspectives on Pentecost: New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
*argues that New Testament prophecy has complete divine authority and should be thought of on a par with what the apostles wrote (p. 72) as inspired and inerrant. And therefore he believes prophecy has ceased. Therefore Romans 12:6 is not valid for today. If it were, then prophetic words today should be written down and the New Testament would be getting larger and larger with every fresh revelation.
Wayne Grudem: The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today
*argues that New Testament prophecy is not inspired in the same way Scripture is, and is not inerrant. Rather, it is a human report of something that God has brought spontaneously to mind. It is different from teaching in that teaching is based on a written text of Scripture, while prophecy is based on the immediate impression that God is directing our thoughts to information that we would not otherwise have known or spoken.
So, for example, it would be an exercise of the gift of prophecy if someone in a small group or prayer meeting was led by God to say, “I feel that chances for children in haiti is spiritually struggling and undergoing attack,” and the next day an email comes confirming that was the case and that the prayers of the people were answered.
It is not an exposition of scripture – that’s teaching
I hold to the view that Wayne Grudem puts forward. In which case, here is a concise definition of prophecy: A spirit guided expression of something we otherwise would not know or say which is powerful for the particular moment in which it is spoken to bring conviction, exhortation, consultation, awakening, upbuilding of faith. It is NOT infallible.
And in regards to prophecy paul reiterates verse 3, for those with this gift to use it in proportion to their faith. To not think of themselves more highly than they are. When using any gifting from God it should be done in a way that is exalting to Christ. Remember the gift itself is from God alone and not due to you, therefore give the glory to Christ. And it should be done with humility and boldness. Humble knowing it is not your power that speaks, it is God’s. Boldness by take a confidence stance knowing it is God’s strength and not yours.
Some final Do’s and Don’ts for the gifts given to people by God’s Grace.
7 if service, in our serving;
If service is your gift. Do it worshipfully. It it in joyful response to God’s mercy.
Dont serve in hopes of receiving Gods mercy.
Serve to point to God’s glory
Don’t serve to point to how great you are.
the one who teaches, in his teaching;
If teaching is your gift, do it in a way that points to the truth of the glory of God.
Don’t teach in a way that only points to how smart you are.
Teach of the Grace of God in response to the grace of God.
Don’t teach to try and receive God’s grace.
Teach to help others see God more clearly, as God sent so many to help you see Him.
Don’t teach just to be seen by others.
8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation;
The one who encourages, encourage those around you towards christ and His glory. Don’t encourage others to chase their own glory.
Encourage those around you to be like Christ. Don’t encourage others to be more like you.
Encourage others to see God’s mercy. Don’t encourage people to try and earn God’s mercy.
the one who contributes, in generosity;
The one who gives of himself, his time, his money. Let him do so sacrificially and with joy. Don’t contribute just to check off a box and then leave.
Contribute generously in response to experiencing the greatest generosity there is, God’s grace and salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Don’t be generous in attempts to buy God’s grace and buy your salvation.
the one who leads, with zeal;
Lead others with energy. Don’t lead others uninterested.
Lead others with enthusiasm. Don’t lead others without energy for the cause.
the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Be happy to give someone something better than what they deserve. Especially knowing God was happy to give us something way better than what we deserved.
Don’t be bitter about not getting to punish someone.
Be joyful in showing forgiveness when someone doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. In Christ we are forgiven when we didn’t deserve forgiveness.
Don’t be sad that someone seemingly doesn’t get what they deserve.
I don’t feel confident saying each of you have every single one of these gifts. But I do feel confident saying each one of you have more than one of these gifts. And as Paul says, in proportion to your faith. All of these, as well as all moments of our life, when being done rightly in response to God’s mercy and to God’s grace is our spiritual worship.
We don’t worship for God’s mercy, We worship because of God’s mercy.
We don’t worship for God’s grace, We worship because of God’s Grace.
We don’t worship to get a response out of God, We worship as a response to God.
So my question to you is how do you respond to God? Is your posture one of worship seeking to point to God’s glory after you experience His mercy and grace? Or do you overlook the magnificent work of God on the cross and within your everyday life and go about your daily routine only looking to point back to yourself? Paul pleads with us to see God’s mercy and to respond worshipfully.