As we continue in our study of Romans 12:1-2 I remind you of the two major divisions of this Epistle. Chapters 1-11 deal with the doctrine of our salvation, concluding with the doxology of praise to God in 11:33-36. Chapters 12-16 deal with the practical applications of the doctrinal truths of the earlier chapters.
In these chapters we deal with our relationship as Christians with the world, the church, our enemies, human government, our neighbors and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
THE WORLD SYSTEM
First, let’s consider our relationship as Christians with this world. We’re not referring to God’s beautiful creation which He has given us for our enjoyment and for our reflection on and worship of Him who created it. Instead Paul in Romans 12:2 and II Corinthians 4:3-4 warns of the cosmos; the world system presently under the domination of Satan, “the god of this world”.
This includes the man-centered religious system, educational system and entertainment system: including music, art, the Hollywood film industry and the immodest clothing fashions. Most of this comes from the minds and hearts of the wicked and unregenerate of this world and it enters and affects our lives through television and the internet.
Let me warn Christian parents of little children. Guard the influences you allow to come into your home. Guard your children from them as you would guard them from child-molesters.
HOW THIS SATANIC WORLD SYSTEM AFFECTS US
All of us; both sinners and saints, are touched, influenced, permeated and contaminated by Satan and his wicked world system. It’s sad, but it appears that most Christians are enamored with and influenced by Satan and his polluting world system, even though Paul warns us to not be conformed to it in Romans 12:1-2.
In John 17:9-19 the Lord Jesus, in His last evening before His crucifixion, prayed for His disciples and for us that we would not be trapped and enslaved by this Satanic world system.
Not one of us is untouched by the world’s philosophies and influence, Paul writing to the Christians of Ephesus in Ephesians 2:1-3 reminds them and us that “we all” have been enamored, touched and indoctrinated by Satan and his evil world system. No one escapes it. It taints our thinking and influences our values in every area of our lives. We are permeated and contaminated with Satanic influences every day. We have been blinded and enslaved by it, II Corinthians 4:4 reminds us.
In I John 2:15-17 we are warned not to love this world system. We are reminded that it is headed for damnation and destruction.
THE CHRISTIAN’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS WORLD
It’s God’s plan that we live in and are surrounded by this wicked world system. God could have saved us from it and instantly whisked us off to Heaven, nevermore to be contaminated by Satan and his world system. Instead, He leaves us here after we are saved to share the Gospel and impact this world for Christ.
Jesus reminds us in His High Priestly prayer in John 17:15-20 that He desires His redeemed children in this world throughout their lifetime to be a witness and a blessing to others. We are IN the world, but not OF it, John 17:16-17 reminds us. But we are to separate ourselves from the lies and false, sinful philosophies and contaminating influences of the world by our immersion in His Biblical Truth.
Do you know what we are as Christians? Hebrews 11:13 teaches that we as Christians are to recognize ourselves as pilgrims and strangers in this sinful world. Think of it, pilgrims and strangers; not at home and well adjusted and comfortable in this world!
Furthermore, although we are never to be hateful towards others, we are to expect the hatred and persecution of this world. Jesus said so in John 15:18-21. The reason most of us in America do not experience persecution as Christians is because we are so at home and well-adjusted in this world. At the same time, many Christians in other parts of the world are being persecuted and martyred for their faith in Christ, perhaps more than at any time in history.
HOW ARE WE TRANSFORMED?
Our hearts are immediately transformed at the moment of salvation. We call it conversion. The moment we are saved, we are converted and God begins the process of transforming us by the renewing of our mind. The Christ we once ignored or even hated, we love. The sins we once loved we hate. Salvation is more than an instant mental transformation.
It is far more than that. It involves a supernatural transformation that begins in the heart and gradually extends to every area of life. That’s the message of Romans 12:1-2. It involves first a receiving of the Truth of God. Then as we yield out lives to Christ we are constantly being renewed in our thinking as we read God’s Word and receive it into our hearts and lives. We are constantly being renewed in our thinking as we read and ponder this and other biblically-based web sites and books and as we hear Biblical messages in churches where the Bible is faithfully preached. That’s the major reason for faithfully attending a church where the Bible is faithfully exposited and taught.
The attraction and affection for this sinful world system is gradually changed by the cleansing and renewing of our minds as we receive and absorb the engrafted Word of God into our hearts. It is an ongoing process that gradually drives out the contaminating thinking of the world. The Psalmist refers to it in Psalm 119:9, Paul talked about it in such passages as Colossians 3:16-17.
DANGERS AND REWARDS
This decision as Christians as to whether or not we are going to yield our lives to Christ and allow Him to direct our ways in every area of our lives: including marriage, education and life work, is not a casual take it or leave it decision. It is a life and death matter.
The danger of refusing to surrender to Him means staying in the world system and suffering the consequences. James 4:4 addresses such unfaithful Christians. “You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship with this world system means that you are at enmity with God? Whoever is a friend of this world system is an enemy of God.”
To get a picture of how things are going to turn out for such a Christian, read the story of Lot and the choice he made in Genesis 13:1-13 and the consequences of his wrong choice in Genesis 19.
My wife and I, now in our late 70’s, rejoice together that life for us has been a wonderful adventure. We don’t regret receiving Christ as our Saviour, nor do we regret turning our lives over to God as young people, even before we met each other. God has given us wisdom for every decision and has blessed us with fulfillment and joy beyond measure, meeting every need of our lives. We highly recommend God’s perfect will for you. “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed in the man who trusts in Him.” Psalm 34:8-10
The first eleven chapters of Romans are about what God in His love and grace did for us by sacrificing His Son to die on the cross for our sins. We gratefully receive His salvation, His gift of eternal life, as a gift of His grace, apart from any works of self righteousness.
Now, beginning in Romans 12, we begin to learn in verse 1 what our response to God should be as Christians for His wonderful Gift of salvation. Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore brethren” (fellow Christians) in the light of what you have learned about your salvation in the first 11 chapters. “present your body as a living sacrifice to God.” Nothing less than the total surrender of our bodies; including our life, time and strength is worthy of Christ who made the supreme sacrifice for our salvation.
This surrender of our bodies, our time and our strength to God our Saviour is the theme of not only Romans 12:1-2; but also I Corinthians 6:19-20 and II Corinthians 5:14-15.
Notice that Paul does not command our submission and obedience to Christ. That would be painful, useless legalism. Rather he beseeches us to voluntarily present ourselves and surrender ourselves to the control of Christ by His indwelling Holy Spirit in consideration of the great sacrifice He made for us on the cross.
WHY SHOULD WE PRESENT OURSELVES TO CHRIST?
Let me give you ten reasons for your consideration. These are all reasons that drew me to make that surrender to Christ as a young man. I had already received Christ as my Saviour at the age of nine.
1. In the light of what I had learned about Jesus and His Great Commission I was aware of my responsibility to share what I had learned and experienced. In Luke 12:48 Jesus says. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”
2. Jesus bought me, body and soul, with His precious blood sacrifice for my sins. I am rightfully His, according to Acts 20:28 and I Corinthians 6:19-20.
Let me share a story I heard as a child that illustrates this. Bobby carved from a block of wood, a little sail boat and then took it to the lake to see how it floated. Suddenly a gust of wind took it out on the lake beyond his ability to retrieve it. He was saddened, but could do nothing about it. It was gone!
Several months later he happened to be in a small town miles away on the other side of the lake. There in a hobby shop show window he spotted his boat for sale for $25.00. He went to the owner of the shop and told how he had lost it. The owner insisted that if he wanted it back he had to pay the $25.00. Sadly he walked away and returned home.
In time, he finally earned the money needed and returned back to the hobby shop. There was his boat in the shop with the $25.00 price tag still on it. He went in and laid the money on the counter and asked for his boat. The owner sold it to him. As he walked out the door with his possession, he was heard to say, “Now little boat you are mine twice. I made you and I bought you.”
That’s exactly what God did for us. He created us to be His. In our sins we wandered away from Him. But because of His love for us, He purchased us back from Satan with the shed blood of His Son, Jesus. We are twice His. He made us and He purchased us from Satan’s slave market of sin.
3. A third reason I should present my body to God is because He needs me. He could have chosen to use angels, but He chose to use you and me, redeemed sinners. All that He asks is that we be clean II Timothy 2:19-20 and available for His use. Ezekiel 22:30
4. I ought to present my body to Him because it is the least I can do for Him, in the light of all He has done for me.
5. I ought to present my body to Him for His use because it is my reasonable service. Romans 12;1
6. It is the safest investment of my life. There is no way I can lose. Jesus, the owner, assumes all the risks. He keeps me and provides for all my needs. II Timothy 1:12, Philippians 4:19
7. It’s the most rewarding investment I can make. Take it from me. I’ve served him all my adult life, and though I have made personal sacrifices, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices. I’ve been richly rewarded in this life and look forward to the eternal rewards yet to come. Hebrews 11:26-27 and II Timothy 4:6-8
8. It’s the most worthwhile investment of my life. I’ve remembered this little verse since childhood. “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
9. The life not yielded to Christ is open to the devil’s control. Romans 6:16-18 You are either being used by Christ or the devil. Which will it be for you?
10. Do you love Jesus? Is He your Lord and Master? Read the story of the pierced ear in Exodus 21;1-6 Read II Corinthians 5:14-15. Who is your Lord? Christ or Satan? It’s one or the other.
HOW DO I PRESENT MY BODY TO GOD?
1. Come just as you are with your strengths and weaknesses. He made you as you are for His special purpose. He has all kinds of vessels. Each one is different. II Timothy 2:20-21 He can use us with our strengths and weaknesses, if we are clean.
2. He’s cleansed and made us holy by His shed blood.
3. Trust Him. He loves you more than you can imagine. He’s concerned for your happiness and your fulfillment. Will you trust Him with your life?
4. He wants you as a living sacrifice while you are young and have energy.
Don’t wait until you are old when you can only offer him your wasted life.
God does not promise to reveal all your future to you now. He leads us one day at a time, one moment at a time. Will you trust Him? As a Christian, you have no rights to your body. You belong to Him. II Corinthians5:14 God doesn’t let you test His will on a 30 day free home trial.
I entrusted my life to Him as a teenager. He’s never let me down. My wife and I can testify that His will is best. Life has been an exciting adventure for us throughout. He has already rewarded us beyond our wildest imagination. “As for God, His way is perfect!” Psalm 18:30
As we come to the end of Romans 11, we not only conclude our immediate study in this chapter of God’s plan for Israel as it relates to our salvation; but in these first 11 chapters we conclude the most exhaustive and complete study of God’s plan of salvation found anywhere in Scripture; unless it would be Ephesians 1-3 which is rich in the doctrine of salvation.
If you are still without understanding and assurance of your salvation, I encourage you to go back to the beginning of this series; and with your Bible opened to Romans, read through these studies again asking God to give you a clear understanding and assurance of your own salvation.
Remember, our recognition and confession of our sinful condition before God and our rejection or acceptance of Christ as our Saviour from sin, determines our eternal destiny in Heaven or in Hell.
Now in Romans 11:33-36 we conclude this section of the book with a doxology of praise to God for all we have learned, some of it perhaps too deep for any of us to fully comprehend.
I. THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD
1. The wrath of God
That wrath is described in Romans chapter 1. All are born sinners and are described in this chapter. Until we understand our fallen state and God’s wrath on our sin; we have no desire nor ability to move on to understand the love of God. John 3:36 explains the two categories of people who end up in Heaven or in Hell: those sinners who refuse to recognize their fallen condition and continue to reject Christ, continue under the wrath of God. Those sinners who have seen their fallen condition and reached out in faith to Christ to save them are regenerated and made fit for Heaven. Each of us stands this very moment in one of those categories. Which is it for you?
2. The Love of God
The song writer describes the love of God as an ocean, far greater and deeper than anyone can fathom or explain or understand. Think of it! God, reaching down in His love to a world who hates Him and reviles Him and providing our salvation by sending His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, into this world to be hated and despised and eventually crucified on a cross, thus paying the death penalty which each of us who deserved to suffer in Hell fire for eternity.
Thank God, He rose from the dead on the third day and is in Heaven today, willing and ready to save anyone who puts his trust in Christ’s blood sacrifice onCalvary’s cross. That, according to Romans 5:8 is the way God shows His love to us as sinners. You and I must take our place as sinners and receive that love by faith, or suffer the eternal consequences in Hell.
3. Justification by Faith Alone
Romans 3:21-5:21 clearly teaches God’s plan of salvation, through faith in Christ alone. Our own works, including our efforts to try to keep God’s holy laws do not save us, nor add even one ounce of righteousness to our account. Observing religious ceremonies, including baptism and partaking of the Eucharist, that is, the Lord’s Supper, do not help us gain Heaven. Read Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5-6, and Romans 3-5. You must grasp and rest in this truth of justification by faith alone apart from any works of self-righteousness, before you are saved and ready to learn more about the Christian life.
4. Our Sanctification through our identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
Once we’ve come to the place of saving faith and rest in the sacrifice of Christ’s shed blood for our sins, then and only then are we ready to progress in an understanding of the truths that enable us to experience victory over sin, and grow and mature in the Christian Faith.
The basics of these sanctifying truths are found in Romans 6-8. If you struggle with victory over sin, I encourage you to review the previous studies covering these chapters.
5. The on-going sinful desires of the Old Nature
All of us, regardless of how long we have been Christians, struggle with sinful desires. Why does God not remove the temptations of Satan and our old sinful nature when we are saved? Romans 7 teaches us that God does not presently remove Christians from the temptations of this world of sin nor deliver us from our sin-loving flesh natures. Instead, God gives us as Christians His overcoming power to live victorious lives in the midst of the sin all around us. In Heaven we will be delivered from the very presence of sin forever; but not until then.
6. The power to live out the righteousness of God’s Law
That’s the theme of Romans 8. That power to live victoriously over sin is the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit as we stay surrendered to Christ.
7. The dual truths of God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility.
How and why God chose us to salvation from before the foundation of the earth and yet how and why we are given the responsibility to choose to receive or reject Christ are both true facts, and yet mysteries beyond our full comprehension.
8. How God hardens our hearts and yet man hardens his own heart.
That again is a mystery Paul discusses in Romans 9. But more than a mystery, Read the sober warning in Hebrews 3:7-19 to Christians to guard our hearts from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
9. The Fall and Restoration of Israel and how the Gentiles are blessed through Israel‘s Fall.
This is a great mystery and theme of both the Old and New Testament, which Paul explains in Romans 9-11
II. HOW DO WE RESPOND TO SOME OF THESE DIFFICULT TRUTHS OF SCRIPTURE?
Are we so brash and foolish as to think that we have a full and complete understanding of God’s sovereignty and all of His ways?
Or do we, as the unbelievers, rebel at His ways?
Or do we reverently humble ourselves, knowing that our understanding is finite and limited, and bow in reverent praise and submission to all His ways which are beyond our ability to fully understand in this life. Read Romans 11:33-36. and simply worship Him and give Him praise for His inscrutable ways.
Take time to read through the wonderful doctrine of salvation as it is found in Ephesians 1-3. Note also how Paul ends his explanation of these wonderful truths by bowing his knees to God breaking once again into a doxology of praise to God in3:14-21 for these wonderful truths that are almost beyond our power to fully grasp.