Living under the mercy

The Way God Works Through Us

Notes for Sept. 24, 2017
Romans 12:1-8

Biblical Background

  • Living Sacrifice: Paul’s readers, whether Jew or Gentile, witnessed the sacrifice of animals in the Jewish temple or in the temples honoring the gods of Rome. The shedding of blood, representing the death of an animal as a means of atoning for our sins or gaining favor from the gods was the norm. Paul catches his reader off guard by suggesting that they become a “living” sacrifice. No longer does the follower of Jesus Christ need to shed the blood of animals, for Jesus has shed His blood on our behalf to atone for our sin. However, our response to the grace and love of God should be one of gratitude and a desire to love and serve Him. We do that by surrendering our lives totally to Him and to His service – it is the least that we can do. Thus, we are called to become “living” sacrifices, daily offering our body, mind and spirit to the Lord for His purposes.

  • This world: the disciple of Jesus Christ faces three enemies, the devil, our own sinful nature and “the world.” The world is the culture, forces of darkness, evil systems, ways of thinking that are in conflict with God’s truth and will. We live in this “world”, but we are ultimately not of it. Thus, we must be on guard and become aware of the influences in this world that are trying to conform us to its image and desires rather than God’s.

  • Conformed: J.B. Philips puts it this way in his paraphrase, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within.” This is the image of a candle mold in which wax is poured in and shaped to fit the wishes of the craftsman, or a potter who may be shaping a jar as he desires. The world is trying to squeeze us, make us conform to its wishes. Instead, we are to let God “squeeze” us and conform us to His image.

  • Renewal of your mind: We are able to live out God’s will for our lives when we allow Him to renew our mind, our thinking, thoughts, and desires. What we put into our mind daily will influence how we live our lives. This is why the daily reading and meditation upon Scripture is so important for the Christian. We are bombarded daily with thousands of messages that are contrary to God’s will. By soaking our minds in God’s Word, we will then better be able to discern what is true and what is false. The best way to know a counterfeit dollar bill is to be so familiar with the smell, feel and look of an authentic dollar bill that the counterfeit is easily spotted. In the same way, we are to allow God to renew our minds through the His Word, so that we can then know what is right and wrong.

  • One body, many members: Roman culture was a class-oriented culture in which each person had his/her role. The Romans were well organized and as a result conquered the world and influenced many different cultures as they were able to put people into different roles for the well-being of the empire. Their culture, however, was often cruel and degrading. Paul is exhorting Christians to see the church as one body that needs all of the different parts working in harmony to be effective. In humility we are called to exercise our gifts and at the same time encourage others to share their gifts with the church.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is true spiritual worship? Describe what it looks like and when it takes place in the believer’s life.

  2. What is “the world”? Describe what it looks, feels and smells like?

  3. How does “the world” try and conform us to its image? Give examples

  4. What temptations from the world are the most difficult for you to resist or fight against? Why?

  5. How can we be transformed as disciples of Jesus Christ?

  6. Why is our mind so important to our Christian faith? How are our minds renewed? What does this mean?

  7. How can I know God’s will?

  8. What does it mean to “test and approve what God’s will is”? How do we do that?

  9. How are we to view other brothers and sisters in the church? How can we do this on a practical, daily level and live this out?

  10. How can we think of ourselves with “sober judgment”? Give examples.

  11. The church in Rome was very diverse with Jews, Gentiles and people from different cultures. Why does Paul write about the many different graces/gifts offered by each believer and the need for interdependence?

  12. How are the gifts of God exercised in our church? What do we do well? Where can we improve in becoming one body?

  13. What adverbs does Paul use when describing how our various gifts are to be used? How does this inform the attitudes and ways that we share our gifts with others?

  14. Meditate on Romans 12:1-2 again this week and ask God to continue to renew your mind and enable you to worship Him in ways that are pleasing and holy to God.

The Mercy of God

Notes for Sept. 17, 2017
Romans 1-11; 12:1

An Outline of Romans

A. What to Believe (1:1 – 11:36)

  1. Sinfulness of mankind

  2. Forgiveness of sin through Christ

  3. Freedom from sin’s grasp

  4. Israel’s past, present, and future

B. How to Believe (12:1 – 16:27)

  1. Personal Responsibility

  2. Personal Notes

(from the Life Application Bible)

Biblical Background on Romans 12:1

  • “Appeal” The Greek word translated as “appeal” is not as strong as a command, but rather is a very strong admonition, exhortation that carries with it the weight of fervent emotion.

  • “therefore” – When you see this word, you must ask, what is it “there for?” In this case, it is signaling that the previous 11 chapters have spoken of “the mercies of God.” Our understanding of God’s mercy should then bring out a response to this amazing gift from God.

  • “Mercies” - Someone once said, “Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve.” God in his mercy has taken upon Himself what we deserved, the punishment of death for our sin. Christ became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. That is mercy.

  • “Present your bodies” – Many of the ancient religions including Judaism, as well as many religions today require you to offer a sacrifice to the gods or God to make atonement with God. In the time of Paul, the Greeks would sacrifice animals and at the temples of the gods – these animals would be “presented” to the gods. In the Jewish temple, the people of Israel would present animals to be sacrificed on their behalf. The clear difference here is that God is asking us to present our bodies, rather than an animal’s body to be presented on the altar.

  • “Living Sacrifice” – The good news is that we are to be a “living” sacrifice. In other words, since Jesus already presented his body as the ultimate sacrifice on the cross for our sins, we do not have to die for our sins. We are exhorted, however, to present our bodies (our whole being – body, mind and spirit) before God as a “living sacrifice.” In other words, all that we are, have and will be should be given to God.

  • L. Moody quote: “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off of the altar.”

  • John Calvin observes, “By bodies, he does not mean only our skin and bones, but the totality of which we are composed . . . for the members of our bodies are the instruments by which we perform our actions.” Calvin’s Commentary on Romans

  • Spiritual Worship: We tend to equate worship only with singing praise and worship songs in church. Paul is stating that worship is much more than that – it involves surrendering all to the Lord and offering up your total self to God – all that you are, do, say and want to be.

  • C.S. Lewis quote from Mere Christianity, “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our ‘hole.’ This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance.”

Discussion Questions

  1. Watch the 3-minute video summary of Romans.

  2. What do you know about the apostle Paul? Share his life story.

  3. What do you know about the church in Rome – the church Paul is writing to in Romans?

  4. Romans 1–11 describes “the mercies of God.” What are the “mercies of God”?

  5. What does it mean to present your body to God?

  6. What does it mean to be a “living sacrifice”?

  7. What is holy and pleasing to God? How does this play out in everyday life? Give examples.

  8. What is spiritual worship? Define it and give examples.

  9. How does Paul’s definition of worship differ from what is commonly called worship in the church?

  10. Take time to memorize Romans 12:1-2. Write it out and put it around your house, office, and in your car. Then chew on it, reflect on it, meditate on it slowly and allow the Lord to make these two powerful verses something that you know not only in your mind, but also begin to grasp in your heart.