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Romans 12

The Justice of God in the Culture of the Church

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“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God.”      Romans 12:19

How far will the gospel take us? What people will it provoke us to love and die for? The world has evil too dark to contemplate. Some of us have seen it. Some of us have been its victims.

 Last week I read Caroline Cox’s book: “This Immoral Trade: Slavery in the 21st Century.” The slave trade is active in Africa, in Asia and to some extent, here within the borders of the USA. Raids on villages in Sudan and Uganda yield women and children, for work, war and for personal pleasure. Those who resist are shot. In Asia, in Latin America and in the US, women are kidnapped,  drugged and held under threat of death as slaves for the profit of their “captors”.

Read the stories and a cry for justice rises within: “The criminals, the sinners, have to pay for the evil they do.”

Human justice says this is how we will bring justice:  “an eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. It’s retributive. “If you hurt me. I hurt you.” No one has to teach me human justice. I’m born with it. Faced with stark evil “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) can be contemplated only by a Buddhist or an ivory tower philanthropist or theologian.

The justice of God, however, is more severe than we would ever demand.In God’s justice the wages of every sin is death. But the justice of God is also more merciful than we would ever imagine. God provides a way of justice with mercy. God willingly suffers in the place of offenders. Paul’s words in Romans 3 call for wonder and awe at God’s justice: that Christ Jesus died on the cross as a propitiation, to satisfy the wrath of God toward sinners, to demonstrate the righteousness of God, that there may be no doubt — ever — that He is just and that He is the One who settles justice for those who have faith in Jesus.

 The justice of God is the justice of the culture the gospel produces. It is the kind of justice that grows in the church, God’s people.

What enables me to leave justice to God? I see God’s justice executed on Christ, on the cross, for me. I see the just penalty for sin and that sight produces an ever growing sorrow and amazement. The words of Isaiah 53:6 arrest me:  “but the Lord has laid on Him (Christ) the iniquity of us all” — not laid down gently, more like a mugging, violent, deadly. Peter describes that moment for Christ: “while being reviled , He did not revile in return; while suffering He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.”

In the cross I see the horror of my own sins and I am less and less horrified by others in their sins. Horrified by sin and the penalty for sin displayed in Christ, I can increasingly trust such a just God to “do justice” –  both the justice of God’s mercy in Christ and the justice of God’s wrath outside of Christ.

What enables me to love my enemies? an ever growing joy in the gift of eternal life. Since I have Christ and the eternal life He gives, nothing others can do to me or take from me can make me poorer. In Matthew 13 Jesus teaches us by parable that nothing compares with the value of knowing, or having, Christ. He is like the pearl of great price. He is the treasure in our field. Paul said it another way in Philippians 3: “Whatever was gain to me, I count as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord.”

Some people say revenge is sweet, but Christ is better than revenge.

Life along the Borders

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Paul’s appeal in Romans 12 is that the gospel create its distinct culture within us and in the church. Every culture has borders, and borders mean neighbors with a different culture. Neighbors are:

1. Members of our own family or household. There are border issues in every family.

2. Members of Covenant church ( or your church). There are border issues in every fellowship.

3. Those in your life who do not know and trust Christ. There are border issues of belief and unbelief.

 

So, Border life is challenging. And faced with those challenges people choose one of three options:

1. close the borders

2. erase the borders

3. cross the borders and make friends.

 

In Romans 12:14-16 Paul coaches us for life along these borders. We who are carriers of the culture of the gospel are to cross the borders into the lives and into the cultures of others.

How do we live along the borders of relationships?

1. We always bless

The culture of the gospel is a culture of blessing. In Ephesians 1 Paul tells Christians that they have been blessed with  “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies”:   We are blessed by the words of the gospel — they are coming true; We are blessed by the deeds of the gospel — they are changing our lives! Along the borders of relationships (Christian and non) we’re always launching fusillades of grace, overtures of blessing. Always blessing along the borders of your marriage transforms your marriage. Always blessing along the borders of fellowship in the church transforms the fellowship of the church. Always blessing those who don’t know Christ, who don’t even like you, may in fact show the way to life eternal.

2. We join our neighbors in their circumstances

The culture of the gospel is not local, we can take it with us wherever we go, so that frees us to move into the lives of others. How much? So much that we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. In identifying so much with people whose borders are next to our, we simply are living out what Christ has lived for us:

He became a stranger (John 1:10-11) so we welcome the strangers. He became poor (2 Cor 8:9), so we move in with the poor. He became sad (Isaiah 53), so we sink ourselves in their sorrow. He became sin (2 cor. 5:21) so we could be the friends of sinners without being afraid of their sins.

Saturday night we received a text from friends in Dothan (AL) asking for prayer for an injured nurse serving in Haiti and for our friends’ daughter, who is serving with her, sleeping on the roof of the local police station — and loving it. That’s joining our neighbors in their circumstances. 

The ultimate joy is that we love our neighbors along the borders so dearly that our greatest rejoicing is when they come to Christ and our greatest weeping is when they don’t.

3. We think with our neighbors

The gospel gets in our heads. We begin to think alike, not high-minded, enjoying the simplest thinkers among us, never claiming to be the “wise man”. We train ourselves to engage in our neighbor’s way of thinking.  Our job is to listen well and engage our spouse, our fellows and our enemies in the way they think, and why they think that way. Then we will know how and when the gospel can enter the culture of their lives.  

 The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe and it is creating a culture in us that is powerful when transmitted across cultural boundaries by always blessing, joining our neighbors in their circumstances and learning to think with them.

 

“God, so grow the gospel in us that we cross the borders of our lives into the lives of others so that Christ may draw and win them, through us, to Himself. AMEN”

Gospel Stew

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“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”                                                                                                                Romans 12:9-13

Have you ever entered into a home and the aroma of the dinner delighted your senses, then the appearance of the dish made your mouth water? Paul gives us the recipe for gospel stew – so we can enjoy it together, and so those who do not yet know Christ will be drawn to Him through the aroma and presentation of the culture that the gospel cooks in the church.

All Romans 12 depends on “the mercies of God”, the good news, which is you are desperately and helplessly sinful, but God in Christ loves you so freely that you are drawn into His life forever. So, this gospel is the stock for gospel stew and it permeates, and cooks into every ingredient. The Christian stews every ingredient of life in the gospel. Everything gets flavored and changed by it!

In the stew of gospel life our love for God and for one another is changed. Paul says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”  The gospel takes out the hypocrisy.

The love that comes to us from God is untainted. Romans 5 reminds us: “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” And Romans 8 tells us that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This Gospel love presses in to the core of our sinfulness and loves us there, forgiving, restoring and giving us peace with God. (Romans 5:1), but we have ingrained and habitual hypocrisy. The Greek word for “hypocrisy” refers to an actor’s mask. The face we show covers the face we are.

Evil is deep inside each of us. We pretend to hate it, but we don’t. We just cover it, hidden in the dark recesses of our souls. We pretend to cling to what is good, but we only use good to project a good image. We’re a mess. 

The gospel sinks in deep to show us how evil evil is.  And the gospel displays how good good is. It shows us the goodness of God in Christ. Without the gospel we cannot see how evil evil is nor how good God is. But when the life of the gospel gets cooking and penetrates behind our masks  we begin hating what is evil and clinging to what is good. Moms, remember some of those early days of pregnancy? How some smells you used to love begin to make you sick? Ahh, coffee in the morning! No more! So it is when love is stewed in the gospel. We grow averse to evil and attracted to good. We don’t have to pretend any longer, because we are safe, forgiven at the depths of our evil and we have a borrowed goodness from Christ Himself.

This kind of transparency creates a Philippians 2:1-4 culture, a gospel stew for the family and the church.

“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit,intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more importnt than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Brotherly love, honor, diligence, spirit, the Lord, hope, tribulation, needs of the saints and hospitality: all these ingredients of the Christian life get cooked together in the gospel and release their full flavor so we can enjoy it  and so those who do not yet know Christ will be drawn to Him through the aroma and presentation of the culture of the gospel in the church.

Jill and I recently befriended a Frenchman named Jean, who spent three months in Auburn immersing himself in the English language. With the help of David and Ruth Ann Graham, Jean worshipped with us and got to experience our gospel life together. On Jean’s last Sunday, he spoke to Jill with emotion: “I will miss your church. It is so different from my church in France. It is…how do you say it?…like ‘un fete’.” — a feast! He couldn’t have given us a higher compliment.

Connective Tissue

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 “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:4-5

Dr. Robert Judd, a brilliant AU professor at Covenant, is working for a cure for type 2 diabetes. He talks about engorged fat cells and the way they treat the rest of the body. To everyone’s surprise, healthy fat cells don’t just lie dormant, storing fat. They produce proteins that benefit the rest of the body. But when fat cells become engorged (obese?) they begin releasing proteins that  lead to type 2 diabetes. When members of our bodies no longer serve the body it is not just a travesty but it is often deadly.

Our bodies are a community of specialized cells that belong to and serve one another.You and I need a community to belong to and to serve. Post-modern generations indicate a higher degree of longing for community than earlier generations. But our culture in general is fragmented, independent, and experiencing more loneliness than ever.

There are three reasons for these intensified longings for lost community:

  1. Most people have little identity outside of themselves. And for that reason, many of us search for our true self. We  try to find or make the true “self” in everything we do.
  2. Our culture is characterized by weak relational boundaries. We form and keep relationships “for as long as it ‘works’”, even marriage. I call these “Play House” relationships: easy to enter; easy to leave. We are like c hildren who play house, but leave as soon as someone else calls.
  3. We long for relationship in a community, but we are too busy to build it. And yet, if we slow down we get left behind, because relationships often form by attraction. The implicit question is: “How long can you keep me entertained?” It’s as if we have relationship A.D.D. No relationship holds our attention very long.

 Christians have been compressed into this pattern, too. We tend to live as Christian satellites in constant orbits, whirring by one another, clustering once or twice a week. Our community in Christ is not our home. Our true home is on the circuit.

All this doesn’t mean we don’t work for community and experiment with the idea. For instance, Asian communities try to build community by enforcing uniformity. While Western communities build communities by promoting  individuality and diversity. Neither end of the spectrum satisfies, and we are cynical.

 The only Hope of Authentic Community is found in Jesus Christ. In Him we find both true identity and true belonging. A cell belongs in the body but how does it know? A complex series of proteins called DNA tells all the cells  where they belong with a single code of identity. Early research in the transplant of organs failed because the new organs had a different identity (DNA) than the original. And the recipient’s body rejected the unrecognized member.

 Followers of Christ have the transplanted spiritual DNA of Christ. We are born of the Spirit (John 3:3). We are born of God (John 1:12-13) and God has put His seal on us – “sealed in (Christ) by the Holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:13) Christ is our true identity.

Followers of Christ find their true belonging in Christ, too. We belong in Christ’s body. We have a place. Paul writes, “we all were baptized into the same body by one Spirit.” When we were born again, we were instantly and eternally bound to every other follower of Christ. As Paul writes in Colossians 1: “He (Christ) is  before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Christ is the cohesive power of Christian community.

Lou Giglio was once urged by a micro-biologist: “You’ve got to tell them (his audience) about laminin! It’s the cell cohesion protein. It ties everything in the body together, like the rebar in laminin photocement.” Later when Lou googled “laminin” he was amazed. Before him was the molecular diagram of this protein in the shape of a cross. Later he saw a photograph taken through an electron microscope. Laminin, the protein that holds our body’s cells together, is cross-shaped! Who would have ever imagined that Paul’s analogy would go so deep? Certainly not Paul. It took 20th century micro-biology to show it to us.

So Paul writes to the Ephesian church:

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who…broke down the barrier…so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man…and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity…”

Every time a part of my body is removed, I bleed. But Jesus bled, so that every part of His body might remain, held together by the blood of His cross.

In light of these things ask yourself one question: “Does Christ rule my relationship with the church?”

Cultures, communities and individuals are fragmenting. Christ has made us His body so that, in the culture of the gospel, formed and held together by the cross, others find their true home.

Paradigm Shift

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“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”  Romans 12:3

At first reading this verse sounds rather tame, akin to a verse you might memorize in Sunday School to remind you to be nice. But there is nothing tame about this verse. It has been given to us to turn our lives upside-down.

  • First, it identifies the core belief of the culture of this world
  • And second, it describes the life-changing new paradigm that shapes the culture of Christ.

In 1844 a young German university student, Karl Marx, underwent a paradigm shift. He abandoned capitalist economic principles and began to ardently propound a new economic theory called socialism, which when fully developed, was called communism. Marx’s economic ideals found fertile  soil among a small but bold group of Russian Bolsheviks in 1919, and the great communist experiment of the 20th century began. A paradigm is the framework through which one sees the world. It guides and shapes life. When a group shares the same paradigm, it guides and shapes a society; when a nation shares the same paradigm, it can shake the world!

The Core Belief of the Culture of this World

We don’t often realize it, but the world is telling us how to think. The pressure is invisible, but real. It comes to us in the classroom and through the media. And it’s so easy to simply follow along and not resist.

With a sharp rap of his apostolic authority – “for through the grace given men, I say…” – Paul commands the Roman church, and us: “Don’t think like the world!” He says, “Don’t approach your life thinking like this. Don’t be guided by such thoughts.” He wakes us up to the internal framework, the paradigm that shapes the kind of life we live. 

Our natural state of mind is to “think more highly of ourselves than we ought”, or as J.B. Phillips puts it in his translation,  “cherish exaggerated ideas of our own importance”. People naturally look at life from the point of view of their own interests and desires. This is the core belief of the culture of this world:  Everything exists, or should exist, for me. The sun rises every morning for me, the earth produces food for me, people are in my life for me. And ultimately, God exists for me.

 How many have heard the promises of the gospel and concluded: “I need Jesus to make My life better. I need Jesus to help me meet my goals, to fulfill my will, to fix my marriage.” The core belief of this world makes Christ adjunct and the individual primary!

Don’t think that this prohibition from Paul applies to the arrogant alone. The most humble man on the planet, in his natural state, makes himself the center of attention with his humility!

The Life-Changing paradigm that Shapes the Culture of the gospel

Paul calls this new way of thinking “so-phronein”. When you break down the parts of this Greek word, you find two roots. The root phonein means “to think”, and the “so” at the beginning of the word comes from the verb sodzo, which means “to save”.  Paul wrote to Timothy: “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but one of love, power and ” a saved mind” — a mind saved from foolish and perverse thoughts, attitudes, emotions and perspective. A mind given life and light, renewed, awakened, born again.

“Unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God.”

With a mind and attitudes rescued by God’s mercy, we enter a new paradigm, a new way of seeing ourselves and our world. We see everything more and more according to its true nature. We see Christ on His throne: the highest, the greatest, the most glorious Center of everything. And this God-centered thinking, attitude, perspective, emotions changes the way we live and shape the culture of Christ in the world.

Paul concluded Romans 11:33 with  “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. AMEN.”

In Christ’s life, with saved thinking, the content of our thoughts are renewed and we are transformed. The Word of God becomes the ruling truth in all our thinking. What God has said is the final authority for the renewed mind. Therefore, read, study, memorize, sing and pray the Word of God. Let is dwell in you richly.

 In Christ, with saved thinking, the attitudes of our mind are turned upside-down. We consider others more important than ourselves. We look out for the needs of others. We enjoy peace of mind and joy in the Holy Spirit. The “weather” of our inward self is warmed by the sun of the gospel.

And finally, in Christ, emotions are turned upside-down. Augustine used to teach his disciples that the final stage of Bible study is “delectio” – delighting in the subject of all of scripture: God Himself.

This new paradigm, the paradigm of the gospel, is already re-shaping the Christian on the inside, and like any paradigm, firmly believed, it will inevitably work its way into the whole of life, culture and the world. And for that, Paul says, we need the church. That’s where we follow Romans 12 next.

One Holy Purpose

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“With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him.”  Romans 12:1

Our passion for God makes us a church that embraces the purpose of God.

             Passion always points to purpose. God built this pattern into human nature. But unless our passion is for God, the pattern is broken, sometimes glorious, but always flawed.

            Soldiers can have such a passion for freedom that they are willing to give their lives. Athletes can have such a passion to win, that they are willing to offer their bodies. Men and women can have such a passion for success, they are willing to offer their health or their families to get it. But with eyes wide open to God’s mercy, the grateful believer responds, “There is nothing You cannot ask of me.” So, motivated by God’s great and free mercies, we step into the purpose of God.

  1. STEP ONE: Moved along by God’s mercies, we step into God’s purpose of intimacy with His people. His fixed purpose is to have His people “with Him”. Jesus promised: “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there you may be also.”  God, in Christ, has made our way into His presence. Draw near. Only there do we find God’s purpose for us.
  2. STEP TWO: Moved along by God’s mercies, we step into God’s purpose of possessing His people. God  has always said, “I will be their God and they will be My people.” In 1 Peter 2, we are reminded of God’s affectionate name for His people: “special treasure“. Therefore, offer yourself as a present, as a gift, to God.
  3. STEP THREE:  Moved along by God’s mercies, we step into God’s purpose to take pleasure in His people.

But what kind of gift does God want? What gift of ours gives God pleasure? : our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice

Are your surprised by the blatant material nature of the gift that gives God pleasure in His people? Don’t be. Remember, all creation accounts of history, except the one in the Bible, portray the material world as wild and menacing, and the gods subdue and tame it. Yet they remain aloof from and above the material and the physical world. But in the Bible, God creates the material. He gets His hands dirty: like an engineer, like a farmer, like a surgeon. Just as Revelation 4:11 says: “And for Your pleasure (all things) are created.”

 So here, Paul writes that we should present our BODIES as a living and holy offering to God. This language is as corporeal as it gets – “soma” is the common Greek word for “body”. God is saying to us: “My purpose comes through your body.”The essence of a believer’s service to God is the life of the gospel expressed in the tangible, the eternal operating in the temporal. ( 1 John 3: 17-18) The “messy” God, who got His hands dirty creating our world, got His hands  bloody redeeming this world, now calls us, by His mercy, to get our hands dirty and bloody, as the consequential privilege of knowing Him.

 More than that, what pleases God is that we offer our bodies as a  SACRIFICE . Immediately we think about the imagery of the OT sacrificial system, but this sounds more like HUMAN SACRIFICE on the order of the Mayans. In that cruel and evil system, the god required the life of the worshipper – often bound, gagged and struggling. But the gospel of Christ is sooo different! God has not taken our lives from us, but He has given us His life on the altar of the cross. Now, out of gratitude, we freely place our lives on an altar of service to Him. This is no sacrifice of atonement, but a sacrifice of thanksgiving and consecration in which we say: “In view of God’s mercies, there’s nothing you cannot ask of me.”

If you are sacrificing your life to something in order to get life, you’re dying. The sacrifice that pleases God always flows freely out of the mercies of God, out of a heart of repentance and faith in the One who loves us so much that HE sacrificed His life for us. 

Finally, God takes pleasure in a HOLY sacrifice . Romans 11:33 says : “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” The sacrifice acceptable to God is the sacrifice that is from Him, the sacrifice that is through Him and the sacrifice that is to Him — It’s all about Christ. Isaiah 53 promises: “the  results of His sufferings He shall see and He will be satisfied.” When God sees the glory of the sacrifice of His Son in us, He is well-pleased. He has pleasure in His people.

In God’s presence, in God’s possession and in God’s pleasure, we find God’s purpose for our lives and for Covenant Presbyterian Church.

A Necessary Passion

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“Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God…”

Roman 12:1a

Only the gospel can create a true passion for Christ and a life with Him. So, Paul points back to the first 11 chapters of Romans as an exposition of the gospel. He calls it “the mercies of God”.

 The gospel is this: God mercifully shows us our sin. We will not care about God if we do not care about our sin. So Paul shows us its horrors: Although we know that God created us and everything else; we refuse to honor Him and to thank Him; we worship what God has made rather than the God who made everything;We corrupt ourselves with every kind of impurity, dishonor and self-deceit. So that rather than having a passion for God, “we are handed over to degrading passions” (1:19-26)

 And if I try to avoid sin with religion, I only multiply the horrors of my sin. Religion is my effort to please God, to do right, to work my way into His favor. But religion only produces arrogance and despair, judging the less rigorous, and secretly, committing he same sins, while pretending to a veneer of goodness in front of others. Religious or irreligious, “there is none righteous, no, not one!” (Romans 3:9-18)

  The gospel also mercifully shows us Christ and what He has done for sinners.

Jesus Christ provided a new way to God. As God in human flesh, Jesus introduced His own righteousness as the only way into God’s favor. And He introduced it as a free gift to everyone who would simply trust Him rather than themselves in order to gain life with God. The gift of was secured by Christ, when on the cross, He took on Himself God’s just punishment for sin, and satisfied the justice of God on behalf of sinners. Paul makes it clear that it doesn’t matter if you are religious or irreligious, the free gift can be yours when you believe into Christ.[Romans 3:21-26] And the benefits are enormous. Christ’s mercy is no mere mercy, it is abundant: peace with God, grace from God, joy, hope, perseverance, personal transformation and love beyond our capacity to contain it! [Romans 5]

These are ours because Christ was the only Person who could ever take the place of sinners under Adam’s curse. [Romans 5] Now even if we sin again, in Christ, we’re covered [Romans 7]. “God is not mad with us any more!” as Steve Brown says. Through Christ, we are given the Spirit of God to accomplish all this in us [ Romans 8], and our assurance is sealed in the certainty of God’s perfect sovereignty over our salvation [ Romans 9-11].

God’s mercies, showing us the horror of our sins and showing us Christ and what He has done for sinners bring Paul to an empassioned doxolgoy:

Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable His judgements, and unfathomable His ways…

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.

To Him be the glory forever. AMEN!”

 

  So if our Christianity is so powerful, how did we get so stale?

The gospel must be applied. When the gospel is applied, it will begin to remove our apathy and ignite our passion.

 Applying the gospel is simple and it’s difficult.

 First, we pursue a biblical understanding of our sin, a biblical disposition toward our sin and biblical action regarding our sin.

We tend to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of our sin. Ask the question: “What is the sin?” Give it a name and understand its nature. Give it definition. Pursue the sin under the sin? “What/who am I really trusting with my life? ”

We tend toward a superficial attitude toward our sin. We don’t let ourselves feel it’s evil, to let sin’s horrible reality sink into our conscience. Often it’s too painful.

I once worked with a woman named Patti. One day, as she cleaned a top shelf in the church kitchen, she reached over her head and felt what she thought it was an old brillo pad. But it wasn’t. It was a dead mouse. Patti screamed when she saw what was in her hand and threw the disgusting creature out of her hand. I found her in hysterics at the kitchen table — just thinking what had been in her hand. 

You and I will get a similar response in our heart and mind if we pursue a gospel understanding and attitude toward our sin.

We also tend to ignore the consequences of our sin – for ourselves and for people around us.

  1. It’s easy to be satisfied with a verbal, but not a heart confession of sin.
  2. We respond to our guilt with a vow – to God and to ourselves ( and sometimes to others) as a way to avoid real action.
  3. We are unwilling to confess our sin to God in the presence of another person.
  4. We are unwilling to go to those against whom we have sinned, admit our sin against them, and ask for their forgiveness.
  5. We put off, then rationalize, restitution when our sins have created material loss.

I believe that Roman 12:1 tells us that if we seek out the sin from which Christ in the gospel saves us, our lives will be filled with a renewed passion for Christ.

 Second, we pursue a biblical understanding of Christ and what He has done, a Biblical disposition toward Christ and what He has done and Biblical action regarding Christ and what He has done.

We tend to be lazy-minded Christians who are happy with a summary of the gospel, a cliff’s notes version of Christ and His work. And it’s showing in our Bible literacy. This fall Jay Leno walked down into his audience and asked random people to name one of the ten commandments. No one could. How about one of the twelve apostles? No one could. How about one of the Beatles? They were all over it!

Some Christians say, “I don’t believe in theology – the study of God. I am “determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ , and Him crucified”, but many who claim Christ don’t understand who He is, nor why He was crucified. Faith then becomes meaningless, therefore “passion-less”

 We tend to keep the real Christ at a distance, to deal with Him as a religious concept rather than the real,divine Person that He is. So many of us avoid personalizing the gospel. We can be afraid of our own emotions, of the power of personal contact with the Savior: in His Word; in prayer; in the sacrament we miss His real presence; in fellowship,we miss Him in our brother or sister.

 Conceptual Christianity does not change us, and ultimately, is boring. But when Christ gets into our day-timers, our schedules; personal devotional life; family devotional life; shifting the balance of priorities; creating new commitments, new directions, life becomes an adventure, following Him.

 The more we pursue God, in the gospel of His Son, our sins will become more horrible to us, but His grace will become more beautiful to us and in the experience of those gospel truths, we will become increasing passionate in our Christianity, and the world will know it.