Preached at Riverview Park in Cascade, IA on August 19th, 2018.
Good morning. First, let me begin by welcoming all of you to Worship in the Park. On behalf of Cornerstone Church here in Cascade, we are glad you decided to join us. I also want to take a moment and thank the committee for Cascade Hometown Days for asking Cornerstone Church to be a part of this weekend. We really enjoy helping out and being a part of the fabric of this town.
For those who are not familiar with Cornerstone Church. We are located just down 1st Ave on the Northeast side of town, right across from Brothers Market and right next door to Cascade Café. We have been there for going on 6 years and during that time the community here in Cascade has been very supportive of us, and we appreciate it.
If you are interested in knowing more about us, I would encourage you to come and talk with me and ask any question that may be on your mind. Also we want to encourage you to stop in sometime and join us for Worship. Our worship services are on Sunday morning at 10:00 and our services are casual in attire and a mix of contemporary music and hymns. And of course, if you want you can check us out online to get some more information, or follow us on facebook.
Having said all that, if you really want to know what Cornerstone is all about, you just have to open up the Bible, for that is our heart beat. Just as the Bible is about Christ, we are about Christ. Each week we open up God’s Word and allow God to speak into our lives and change our hearts. One of our favorite verses in the Bible is found in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 which says, “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
At Cornerstone Church we truly believe this, that the exposure to the Bible leads to salvation through faith in Jesus and equips you to become more like Jesus. Therefore, this morning, we are going to do what we always do, open up God’s Word and see what God has to say to us.
This morning I will be preaching on Luke 5:27-32. If you have your Bible, please turn there with me. If you need a Bible we have some available for you this morning, and if you want to keep it for your own, we would be glad for you to have it. It is our gift to you. We desire all people to have the Word of God in their homes.
Because it was a fishing town and fisherman brought their cargo to the shores of Capernaum, it was also, therefore, a place of business, and as we all know that where there is business there is money and where there is money there is government. And it was no different in the days of Jesus. During this time, Israel was under Roman rule, and there were many things that Rome did well and one of those things was to tax its people. As you can imagine, the Jews did not appreciate Roman occupation or its heavy taxes upon them. Roman taxes were a means of oppression towards the Jews, keeping Israel poor and making Rome wealthy.
As it relates to Capernaum, because there was such a constant flow of taxable commodities, primarily due to the fishing trade, the town had a permanent taxing location. You can actually see that in our text for today when it mentions that Levi was sitting at the tax booth. This tax booth was the brick and mortar location for the Roman bureaucracy. This was the point of contact or the face of Roman rule and oppression for those who lived in Capernaum. Most likely, people like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, as fishermen, were very familiar with this taxing booth. Most likely, every day they would have had to present their catch of fish to the powers that be and be taxed for their daily catch. What a great way to end a long day’s work.
This tax booth was not only the sitting place of Rome, it was also the sitting place of greed. Tax collectors were notorious for taking advantage of people, and this was completely acceptable to the Romans. Tax collectors could double, triple, and even quadruple the Roman required tax. This is how tax collectors made their living, by increasing the local taxes to line their pocket.
In the collection of these taxes, Rome was not stupid, they hired Jews to collect taxes from their fellow Jews. This meant that Jewish tax collectors were directly participating in the political oppression of their fellow Jew. As you can imagine, this did not make them popular people amongst their Jewish communities. The tax collectors were considered to be outcasts of Jewish societies. Tax collectors were ostracized. They were excluded from the fellowship of the Jews. They were not allowed in the Temple and they were not allowed in the Synagogues. They were for all extensive purposes considered unclean to all other Jews.
Which brings us to the person of Levi. Most of you know Levi by his other name, Matthew, one of the 12 disciples and the author of the Gospel of Matthew. Levi was a tax collector who lived in Capernaum. Day after day he sat at his tax booth and effectively stole from his own people, the people of Israel. His greed was the vehicle to his wealth, taking money from people so that he could live a comfortable life. To the people of Israel, he was the lowest of the low, daily sitting upon the thrown of Babylon to steel from God’s chosen people.
But Levi was not the only person who lived in Capernaum during that time, the Son of God, Jesus, also lived in Capernaum. One of the reasons that Jesus lived in Capernaum was because Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, tried to kill him. So much for Hometown days! We read about that story in Luke 4. The reason that Nazareth tried to kill him was not because he was a criminal, not because he was a physical threat, but because of his message that he is the savior of the World. Nazareth did not like the words that Jesus was proclaiming so there solution was to destroy him and his message.
A Divine Appointment
And now in Capernaum these two people, the wretched Levi and the Righteous One of God, Jesus, cross paths. Now what is interesting is that this crossing of paths was not random. It was not as if they were both walking down the road and bumped into each other accidentally and struck up a conversation. What happened is that Jesus went out and saw Levi. Levi was just doing his thing, minding his own business, collecting taxes, raking in the money and Jesus sought Levi out, and only him. The tax both district would have been crowded with people, men women, blue collar, white collar, devout Jews, nominal Jews, and Jesus set his eyes upon Levi and said two words, “Follow me.” Jesus, the Son of God, was caling a wretched, low life, tax collector to be his disciple.
And before those two words spoke by Jesus, “Follow me” Levi had done absolutely nothing to qualify for this position. He was not praying, he was not reading the Bible, he had not given any money to the Temple, he was not helping the poor, he was not fasting, he was not doing one single religious ritual. The only thing he was doing was taking money from people to fill his own coffers…yet Jesus sets his eyes upon Levi and says “Follow me.” Why?
The answer lies in verse 32, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” In the eyes of the world, there was no great sinner in that moment than Levi. Levi was a transgressor, disobedient, a lawbreaker; he lived his life in rebellion to God’s good and holy law and lived his life his way. The world knew Levi's sin and Levi knew Levi's sin. And Jesus says that he, as the Son of God, took on flesh and came into this world so as to call people like Levi, a sinner, out of the domain of darkness and into his beloved Kingdom.
And Levi is not the only sinner whom Christ calls. The call to follow Christ goes out to all men, for all men are sinners. Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—“ All humanity at their core is Levi. You are Levi, I am Levi, your family is Levi, this town is Levi. We sit at the tax booth of our lives and live out our own passions and desires, and this morning, Christ is calling you to repent and follow him. The question is, will you listen?
Not For the Self-Righteous
In our story this morning, there were some who did not listen. They did not have ears to hear that message of Jesus, and they were the Pharisees and Scribes. This group of people were the religious people of Israel. They went to the temple, they participated in the ceremonial cleansing, and they believed that their good works before God was enough to save them on the Day of Judgment. The Pharisees and the Scribes were what we call self-righteous, they were righteous in their own eyes.
The problem with their religious self-righteousness is that, on the Day of Judgment, when they stand before God and give an account of their lives, their opinion about their righteousness is not relevant. The opinion that matters is God’s opinon. And we are told in Isaiah 64:6, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” All of the religious work of the religious people during the days of Jesus, the Priests, the Scribes, the Pharisees, they were like a polluted garment. Their garment of religion that they wore so proudly was stained with their sin.
If you want to read more about this, you can read through Matthew 23 where Jesus repeatedly says, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees” and rebukes them publicly for all of their empty, hypocritical, self-righteous religion. Jesus says to them things like, “call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” And “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” And “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Does this sound familiar? It should, for there is nothing new under the sun. Every community, during every age, displays, at least partially, a false self-righteous religion. A self-righteous, works based religion that will not save a person on the Day of Judgment. And Jesus warns the self-righteous that he did not come for them. Look at verse 31, “And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Who is Jesus talking about? Who are the well? Who are the righteous that Jesus did not come for? They are the religious snobs, the Pharisees, those who put their trust in their religion. Jesus is telling them, as long as you think your religion will save you, then I am not here for you. Jesus is telling them that if you continue to trust in your sacraments, in your temple attendance, in your penance, than I cannot heal you. Christ came for repentant sinners, not the religious self-righteous.
Jesus came for Levi, who heard the voice of Jesus, felt the weight of his sin, left the world and put his entire trust in the person of Jesus Christ. The question I have for you this morning is, “Will you?” Will you recognize that you are a sinner, dead in your trespasses and sins, and destined to stand before a God who is Holy, Holy, Holy. Will you be a Levi or a Pharisee? Because there are only two roads that are available? Road one is to trust in the righteousness of Christ, who is perfect in every way, or road two is to trust in your own righteousness, which God sees as filthy rags.
Just to drive this point home, let me read to you Luke 18:9-14, which sums up this mornings entire message.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 12th, 2018.
Let us begin this morning with our August memory verse, Romans 12:1, “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.” (Romans 12:1).
This morning we are going to take a break from our sermon series through the book of Romans and we are going to examine the topic of Baptism. We are doing this because we have a couple of people who have expressed their desire to be baptized as believers and we have a time scheduled to baptize them on the evening of August 26th at the Monticello pool. Therefore, I thought it would be wise to preach on the topic of baptism anchor ourselves in what we are doing when we baptize a person.
The text I am using this morning is a text that I have never preached on, at least not in my memory. Over the last 6 years I have preached on baptism, but never from 1 Peter 3:18-22. Perhaps it is because of the general difficulty of the surrounding text. But as I am slowly walking off into the sunset, so to speak, here at Cornerstone, I would hate to not preach a text due to its difficulty. So here we are, 1 Peter 3:18-22. So let us stand, read our text, pray, and then see what God has for us as it relates to the ordinance of Baptism.
While on his journey to Myanmar, he was working on translating the New Testament from Greek into the Burmese language, and he found himself attempting to translate the word baptism. He found that he could not twist baptism into the meaning sprinkling, for the word baptism means to immerse, not to sprinkle. So he threw himself into the study of the ordinance of baptism and found that it is always associated with personal faith, therefore faith must come first, and baptism must follow. During this time, his wife came to the same conclusion and in a letter home he wrote these words, “the immersion of a professing believer is the only Christian baptism. In these exercises I have been alone. Mrs. Judson has been engaged in a similar examination and has come to the same conclusion. Feeling, therefore, that are in an unbaptized state, we wish to profess our faith in Christ being baptized in obedience to his sacred commands." Adoniram believed, even though his parents put him through a ritual of sprinkling water on his head when he was a year old, he was unbaptized. Why? Because it was not his profession and it was a Biblical baptism.
I tell this short story to point out that we must be careful in drinking the Kool-Aid of our teachers, denominations, and traditions. We must hold everything we do up against the Word of God. This is true for Baptism, and for all things. Everything that I teach, and everything that I preach must be held up to the measuring rod of the Scriptures.
As it relates to baptism, Adoniram is not alone. Jeff and Phil Owen, and I have been studying Church History. One group that we read about is the Anabaptists. This group sprung up after the Reformation, after ordinary people were given the privilege to read the Bible for themselves, and you know what they saw? The same thing as Adoniram. They saw that baptism always follows faith, and what did they do? The same thing as Adoniram, they considered themselves unbaptized and were baptized for the first time as believers.
The Baptist denomination, which is not directly connected to the Anabaptist, had the same sort of beginning. Around the time of 1609 people, once again, were reading the Bible in their own language and reached the same conclusion; that baptism always follows faith, never before. After reaching this conclusion, they did the same things as Adoniram, they considered themselves unbaptized, and were therefore baptized for the first time as believers.
In a similar, yet not similar way, the same thing happened to me. I was raised in a Church that did not baptize infants or believers. I was born again when I was 22 years old, but it wasn’t until a number of years later that I was baptized. Why? Because of the Scriptures. I could not get past the reoccurring command of God throughout the New Testament to be baptized after believing in Christ. I think the text that struck me the most, was the baptism of Jesus. Of all people, Jesus did not need to be baptized, yet when John the Baptist hesitates to baptize him, Jesus says, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” As a follower of Christ, I thought it was also fitting that I be baptized, as my Lord was.
And it is my hope that today, with the preaching of God’s Word, others in this room, who have put their faith in Jesus will likewise choose to be baptized as a believer. And for those who already have been, that it will remind you of the truth behind baptism and fill your heart with gratitude for what Christ has done
Triumph in Christ
As I stated, this text is a very interesting and difficult text. And because of that, many people miss the main point. People get too caught up in verse 19 and 20 which says, “in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared.” The question that arises from this verse is what is meant that Jesus went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison? Because it is our text, I will quickly go over the two most like options, and then move on.
Option 1. The spirits in prison is a reference to the men and women who lived during the days of Noah. And the proclamation of Jesus was not directly from Jesus, but was through his prophet Noah. This preaching took place over the 120 years that it took Noah to build the Ark. That it was a preaching through typology, meaning that the ark was a type pointing to the future coming of Christ.
Option 2 believes that the spirits in prison are demons who were sent to the Abyss after they left their natural position as angles and engaged in sexual relations with women and created the unnatural race of the Nephilim. The text that is used to support this is found in Genesis 6:1-4. Because I know everyone is curious, I will quickly read it to you, “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4The Nephilimb were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” Option 2 believes that between Jesus death and resurrection, Jesus went to the Abyss and actually proclaimed to these demons his triumph over sin and death.
Which one is the best option? I don’t know. However, I have to admit, as weird as option 2 sounds, I think an honest evaluation of the relevant verses support it better than option 1.
But for today’s sermon, I do not believe it matters. What matters is found in verse 18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” This is the core of this text and this is the core of the gospel.
Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one of God suffered one single time for sins. How? By dyeing on the cross. This was a one-time historical event. In fact, all of history flows to and from this point. Calvary is ground zero for all of creation. If you don’t recognize this, you are missing the entire purpose of your existence.
Why did Jesus have to suffer? Verse 18 tells us that his death was “the righteous for the unrighteous.” Who is the righteous? That is Jesus. Jesus is the Righteous One. And by one, we mean one. He is the one and only righteous man ever to exist. His is the righteousness of God revealed through his incarnation. So who are the unrighteous? That is us, all of humanity. We are the unrighteous. Remember Romans 3:10, “None is righteous, no, not one.”
Therefore Jesus died on the cross as a substitute. He took our place, and we took his. He became sin, and we became righteous.
Why would Jesus do such a thing? Verse 18 again, “To bring us to God.” Yes, our sins are forgiven, yes we have eternal life, yes we become new creations, but ultimately, as it relates to us, Jesus died so that we can be reconciled to God. This is the ultimate gift of the gospel. God is the gospel.
And it is only through Christ, and Christ alone, that this reconciliation is achieved. And this is true for all humanity, whether you die today or died during the days of Noah, which is the point that Peter seems to be making in verse 19 and 20. That Jesus is the one and only person who has triumphed over sin and death, and if you want to get to God, Jesus is the only way. He is the door into God's presence.
Baptism Does and Does Not Save You
Now let us turn our attention to baptism and how it relates. Look at verse 21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you.” Isn't that interesting? If someone came up to you and said, my baptism saves you, many of you would immediately say, “No it doesn't it.” Perhaps not realizing that the Bible tells us this directly.
So what does that mean that Baptism saves us? Well, Peter quickly tells us what he doesn’t mean. Peter tells us that baptism does not save us “as a removal of dirt from the body.” What does Peter mean by this? He means that the water used in baptism has no holy power. The water does not cleanse the dirt off your sinful heart. There is not something in the water, as Carrie Underwood sings.
There are so many people who have a wrong understanding of baptism. They think that the physical act of being baptized saves them, that there is something special about the water, that it is magical, or holy. Peter tells us that it has nothing to do with the physical. Peter is telling us that you can’t take a baby and sprinkle them in water and wash away their sin.
So what does be mean? Look at verse 21 again, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Peter is saying baptism saves you because it acts as an appeal to God for a good conscience. But what does this mean?
To help us understand what this means, Peter ties baptism to the story of Noah. Look at verse 20, “because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.”
The story of Noah and the flood is perhaps one of the most popular Biblical stories in the world. It is also, perhaps, the most mis-taught Bible stories in the world. We tend to teach our children the story of the Flood with a cute little boat full of a giraffe, a lion, a monkey, and elephant and a smiling Noah with the Sun and a rainbow directly over their heads. What we don’t teach our children is that at that moment the world was a graveyard.
No one knows for sure what the world population was at the time of the flood, but some estimate 1 billion, others say up to 17 billion. No one knows for sure, but what we do know is that every single person, except eight individuals, died by drowning; people of all ages, babies, toddlers, young kids, teens, mothers, fathers, grandpas, grandmas, rich poor, everyone…dead. Everything was killed. Why? Because of sin. Peter uses the phrase disobedience, which is what sin is, disobeying God.
And as we have already studied in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.” God brought judgment upon mankind because of their sin, this judgment brought death, and the means by which this judgment and death came was by water. Water was the tool by which God brought his wrath upon sinners. The story of Noah is not some cute story about animals and a boat. It is a story of God’s actual, historical, universal wrath against wretched sinners scattered across the globe.
But God’s wrath did not kill all of humanity. As our text says, eight people were saved. It says they were brought safely through the water. How? The Ark. For approximately 100 years Noah and his family worked on building the ark; day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year building an ark. And then, before the flood came, what did they do? The got on the Ark. Why? Because they had faith in God’s Word. They believed God when he said that judgment was coming and the Ark would save them. And their faith in God was displayed by building and getting into the Ark. Their obedience in building the ark was an outward display of an inward faith. It was their appeal towards God.
And their faith in God paid off. For the rain came, the flood waters rose, and they road above God’s wrath and were brought safely to the Mountains of Ararat. Their faith in God’s warning and God’s rescue plan proved true.
So what does he mean when he says that Baptism saves you? Baptism is our appeal to God. It is a physical display of our inward faith in God. Just as Noah and his family appealed to God to save them by building and getting into the Ark, we appeal to God by turning from the world and being baptized. Our baptism show God that we trust in Christ to bring us through God’s judgment and safely to the Mountain of God. Our baptism proclaims to God that we trust in his Son Jesus Christ to save us. Our baptism is our profession that we trust in Christ as our Ark to save us from perishing.
Is this the only aspect to baptism, an appeal to God? No. Romans 6 tells us that it is also a proclamation to ourselves of what we put our faith in, specifically Christ. Baptism reminds us that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ. We are to think about our Baptism and the commitment of faith we have towards Christ.
In addition, baptism also proclaims our faith to unbelievers. Just as Noah built an ark and displayed his faith to the lost world, our baptism displays our faith in the death and resurrection of Christ to bring us safely through judgment.
Therefore, baptism has three levels of proclamation: 1) A proclamation towards God that we trust in Jesus for our salvation, 2) A proclamation to ourselves of being dead to sin and alive in Christ, and 3) a proclamation to the world that judgment is coming and Christ and his defeat of Sin and death is our hope.
When we fail to be baptized as believers we miss out on all three of those components. This proclamation can only be made by you, it cannot be made by your parents, and it is God’s desire that you obey all that Christ commands and be baptized, not because baptism can wash away your sins, only the blood of Christ does that, but as an appeal towards God that your trust in Christ to safely bring you to God.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 5th, 2018.
It is a new month, therefore a new monthly memory verse. This month’s memory verse is last week’s sermon. Romans 12:1. The reason for this is that Romans 12:1 is a verse that you should say to yourself every morning before you get out of bed. Romans 12:1 is the compass of the Christian walk. Therefore, it behooves us to set it to memory. So let us do so now. “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.” (Romans 12:1).
As I stated, last week we examined verse 1. Today we will examine verse 2. These two verses are obviously related, but verse 2 takes the command of verse 1 and puts some more meat on it. But let us begin, like we normally do and stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word this morning Romans 12:1-2.
So let us being with “The Don’t”. “Do not be conformed to this world.” To begin, it would do us well to remind ourselves, what is underneath this prohibition. Last week we examined the command to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God, and we saw that the catalyst behind this presentation were the mercies of God. What mercies is the Apostle Paul talking about? The mercies that were laid out in Romans chapters 1-11. Paul has spent 11 chapters unpacking the mercies of God, unpacking the gospel. And it is the gospel, the truth about a Holy God, the truth about sinful man, and the truth about what God has done towards sinners in Christ that causes us to gratefully, joyfully, sacrificially offer ourselves to the Lord. Therefore it is fundamentally important to recognize that the don’ts of the Bible are preceded by what Christ has done.
With that said, let us look at “the don’t.” Do not be conformed to this world. Let us take this apart. What does Paul mean when he says “this world.” When we think of the word “world” we think of the planet earth, a big ball of rock and dirt rotating around the sun. Paul means something significantly deeper than that when he uses the word “world”. The Greek word is aiōn (ī-ō'n).
Who am I to question the people who translate the Bible, but I think a better translation of the word aion is age. This is, in fact, how it is translated in Matthew 12:32 when Jesus says, “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” The word age is the Greek word aion, which is the same word in Romans 12:2. In Matthew 12:32 Jesus seems to be indicating there are two ages, this present age, and age that awaits us.
And I think that the Apostle Paul is talking about here in Romans 12:2. He is saying, do not be conformed to this present age. But let us take this deeper, and explore what Paul means by this present age. If we look at another letter written by Paul, specifically Galatians 1:4 we see Paul using the same word aion, but he adds a word to it. Galatians 1:4 says that Jesus, “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.” So this age that we are currently living in, this present age, Paul sees as an evil age. It is an age that is not righteous, it is an age of unrighteous, it is an age that stands against the will of God.
This then leads to the question, why is this present age, the age that we are now living in, an evil age? Paul tells us in another letter, 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world (aion) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” This age is evil because of spiritual blindness that is brought on by the god of this age.
Who is the God of this world? Satan. He is the god of this world. He is the one who plunged humanity into darkness. Jesus, right before he lays down his life upon the cross, speaks of Satan’s position as god of this world; John 12:31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”
This world, this age, is an age ruled by Satan. This is what makes this age an evil one. We live in a fallen, sinful world. Each day that comes and goes brings about wickedness. And we, before we repented and put our faith in Christ were once a part of this present evil age. Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
In summary, this world is an age of self-centeredness, beginning with the fall of Adam and ending upon the return of the second Adam, Jesus the Son of God. This world is a world that is consumed by personal passions and desires, doing things in accordance to our will, not the will of God. It is a World full of lying, stealing, cheating, hating, slandering, gossiping, blaspheming, murdering, and coveting. It is a world that God described in Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
And it is with this in mind that the Apostle Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world.” Why? Because, by the mercies of God, we have been delivered from this present evil age through faith in Jesus Christ. We are no longer blind to the glory of God in the face of Jesus. The truth of the gospel has set us free from the bondage of Satan’s dominion. Jesus says to his disciples in John 15:19, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Christ has chosen his followers out of the world, he has delivered them from the present evil age.
But here is the problem, despite our deliverance from the present evil age spiritually, we continue to live in this present evil age physically, and we will do so until death frees us, or Jesus returns. In a sense, we are living in two ages, the current age and the age that is yet to come. It is an already, but not yet. We are sojourners in this age, in this world, but our citizenship is in Heaven.
During Jesus’ High Priestly prayer he speaks of this reality of two worlds; John 17:14, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Jesus is praying to God for protection because his disciples have been taken out of the world, and are no longer of the world, yet they will continue to live in the world.
And that prayer of Jesus is not just for the disciples, for in John 17:20 Jesus continues in his prayer by saying, ““I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,” That verse is a prayer for you and for me. Jesus was praying that you would be kept from the evil one, protected from this present evil age. Jesus was praying that you would not be conformed to this world.
But as we see in our text today, it is not just a prayer by Jesus, it is also a command by God, “ Do not be conformed to this world.” And just so you can feel the full wait of this command. It says very bluntly in James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” So in summary, that is the don't. Don't be conformed to the world.
Now let us look at “The Do.” Verse 2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed.” I want you to notice the choice of the Apostle Paul and the Holy spirit to use a totally different word. Paul could have said do not be conformed to the world, but be conformed to God. He could have said that, but he didn't. Why not?
The reason is that the word conformed is the idea of being squeezed into a mold, and outward force. The word “transformed” does not involve an outward force, but instead an inward force. The Greek word for transformed is metamorphoō (me-tä-mor-fo'-ō). As you can guess, this is where we get the word metamorphosis, which many of your are familiar with from 5th grade science. Through the process of metamorphosis, a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly. The caterpillar is not conformed by the world, in fact, it separates itself from the world so that it can be transformed into something beautiful, and the reason it is transformed is because of the inward power of what it is to become. Therefore, every time you see a butterfly, think of Romans 12:2.
Which leads to the question, what is a Christian transforming into? Look at the end of verse 2, “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” A Christian is being transformed into someone who knows and does the will of God. A person who walks through life doing what is good, what is acceptable in the eyes of the Lord; doing things that please God, not displeases God. A Christian is being transformed into perfection.
And what is the picture or example par excellence of human perfection? Jesus. A Christian is being transformed, from the inside out, into Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. And we have already studied this is Romans 8, if you recall. Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
For the Christians, our destiny is to become like Jesus. This is what we are moving to; with each day we are becoming more like Jesus and less like the World. But let me ask, when you examine your life, do you find this to be true. Do you resemble Jesus with each passing day? In our study of 1 Corinthians 11 today, we read in verse 1, Paul say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Do you look more like the apostle Paul or more like your unbelieving neighbors? If you have more in common with your unbelieving neighbors than you do with the Apostle Paul, then have conformed to the World, and you need to repent. Which leads to the question, then what? If we have been cheating on God with the world, and we repent, then what do we do next so that we are transformed instead of conformed?
This leads us to third and final point for this morning, “The How.” How are we to be transformed into Jesus? Verse 2, “ be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The How of being transformed is through your mind being renewed.
If you recall, back in Romans 1:21, Paul spoke of the condition of an unbeliever. He said, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” An unsaved man is an ignorant man. I don't care what degrees he has, what books he has read, without Christ, he is a fool. He lives in the dark. All that he does in life is futile, for his mind is not centered upon Christ which is the entire point of the Universe. This futility of the end comes to an abrupt end when the light of Christ shines into our hearts. We become new creations, with knew minds. Our thinking as been redeemed. We now recognize that the chief end of man is not the passions of our flesh, but it is to glorify God. We begin to think rightly about existence and purpose.
However, this knowledge of God, sin, Christ, purpose, is not a perfect knowledge. When we are born again, we are born as infants in Christ. We have a lot to learn. We must learn to crawl, learn to eat, learn to walk, learn to talk, learn to run, learn to work, learn to love. This does not happen overnight, it is a process.
In fact 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Becoming like Christ in in all areas of life is a change of degrees, little by little by little. Some of you forget this. You think that perfection should come like a flash, but that is not how God designed your sanctification. Becoming like Christ takes a lifetime.
But how does this process work? Are our minds renewed automatically? Is it something that just happens by sitting around and being a Christian? Unfortunately, the Church is full of people that think that becoming like Christ is something that is passive. They think they can surf facebook, go to work all day, engage in worldly conversations, talk with their family, watch a little T.V., mow the lawn, do housework, and somehow, someway through these worldly endeavors they will be sanctified. Is this what it looks like to renew your mind...to keep doing what you were doing before you were saved?
Absolutely not. The way our minds are renewed is through reading, studying, meditating, and praying the Bible. To renew our minds takes active participation on your part. It is not a passive transformation, it is an active transformation. This is why it is a command in Romans 12:2.
Earlier, I quoted John 17:15. Do you remember it? Jesus was praying to the Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Do you remember that? Guess what Jesus says in the very next verse, verse 17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
The way that we are not conformed to the world, the way that we are transformed into being like Jesus (i.e. sanctification) is through the truth of God's Word. Our minds are renewed by reading the Bible. When we read the Bible morning, noon, and night, we begin to think differently about our mornings, our work, our family, our money, our time, our purpose, our health problems, our every waking second. We begin to approach every situation in a way that Jesus would approach it.
We begin to have the ability to test things, to weight them in the balance, to know what is God's good, acceptable, and perfect will is. If you are tired of the sin in your life, if you are tired of constantly falling short, the answer is simple... read your Bible, not just once a week, but every single day, multiple times a day. This is how God has designed your sanctification by the renewing of your mind.