Read This Week: Acts 4
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. – Acts 4:8, 11-13 NIV
The definition of being ordinary is to have “no special or exceptional quality; to be commonplace.” Ordinary is a familiar word used to describe human beings in our world. We often hear sayings, speeches, and even songs proclaiming that we are just moving along as ordinary people. Some even see an ordinary life as something to aspire to. If one is ordinary then they are not strange or mysterious or someone to scrutinize. Ordinary is viewed as good because ordinary is considered normal.
Even if we are not be considered extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination, or as people, others have a hard time remembering our name, there is still something exceptional about us. There is someone that makes our stories quite incredible. There is someone who takes ordinary people and accomplishes extraordinary things through them. By the world’s standards, our lives can be nothing special, but when Jesus Christ enters the picture, we can move to a whole new level.
This evident transformation and extraordinary power seen in the lives of ordinary believers are on full display in Acts 4. Peter and John are standing before the Sanhedrin being questioned about the miracle healing of the lame beggar. This was an official meeting for the sole purposes of examination and determining whether any religious laws had been broken.
Peter stood up, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and proclaimed the miracle healing before the Sanhedrin as a work of God through them and evidence of the resurrection power of Christ that they condemned and killed. At this point, the council was trapped. They could not deny the miracle because the once crippled man was standing in front of them, and they could not deny that Peter and John were untrained, uneducated, and ordinary men who had done something extraordinary. Verse 13 tells us that they recognized that the exceptional power came on them from someone else and that someone was Jesus:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
After the incredible testimony of Peter and John, we see other examples of God’s extraordinary movement in the lives of ordinary people. We see it in verses 23-31 as the believers prayed and believed God to do His work among them. They lifted their voices in unity to declare and believe God not to make their lives better but to empower them to do his extraordinary will. Verse 31 says:
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Lastly, we see extraordinary things in community. As they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they became extraordinarily generous (vv. 32-35). In our day and age, it seems almost unbelievable to read how the early Christians cared for one another. We see that no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. There were no needy persons among them. At any time in history, this type of love and favor toward one another can be seen as extraordinary.
Jesus always has and always will make ordinary things extraordinary for His glory. He can accomplish the extraordinary through ordinary people like us so that others will have no choice but to recognize His power and worship Him. We simply get to be a part of His amazing work.
Read This Week: Acts 3
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:6-10 NIV
A name is a primary way we identify ourselves to strangers, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and the world at large. We lead with our name because it is the gateway to our person. A name, however, speaks to much more than simple identification. It carries with it reputation, character, and in some cases, influence and capacity. We all desire our name to mean something and be worth using.
In Acts chapters 3 and 4, Luke emphasizes the name of Jesus. He underwrites the narrative of the church and the individual acts of the apostles with the power and authority of Jesus’ name. The name of the Lord has all capability and preeminence in heaven and on earth behind it. His name is above every name and at the mention of it, deserves worship, reverence, and obedience. The book of Acts shows us that the early Christians were intent on bringing glory to the name of Jesus, indicating that believers today should have the same desire.
There is no better example of the salvation and power of the name of Jesus than the beginning of Acts 3. Peter and John come upon a man crippled from birth who is begging in front of the temple. The man then asks Peter and John for money, and Peter uses this as an opportunity to not only meet his physical need but his spiritual one through the life-changing power of Jesus’ name. He says in verse 6:
“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
This beggar had two needs: healing for his body and salvation for his soul. Money or wealth could not provide either one of those for him and the disciples knew this. Only through the power of Jesus and the speaking of his name was the man completely healed and his deepest needs met. When this happened, the man was so excited that he jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
This story is not only an illustration of salvation, but a testimony to the supremacy of Christ to meet the needs of man over anything this world has to offer. When Peter said, “What I do have I give you,” he was emphatically saying that what he was about to give the man was all he would ever need. The beggar was born crippled as we all are in a spiritual sense. We are in desperate need of something we cannot accomplish on our own. He was poor as we are all unable to pay the debt of sin. But, he was healed by the grace of God through the power of the name of Jesus, as anyone who believes is and can be.
It is all in the name; the name of Jesus. The name of the Son of God that is exalted above all others. The name that holds all authority and transcendent power. The name that will one day cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11). The name that saves, heals, restores, and causes broken things to be whole again. The name that causes others to look on in wonder. The name that deserves honor, praise, and glory then, now, and always. The name is all we need in life to satisfy our greatest longings.
Read This Week: Acts 2
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God, and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47 NIV
The last section of Acts 2 brings to mind some of the lyrics of Jack Johnson’s song, Better Together. It says, “It’s not always easy and sometimes life can be deceiving, but I’ll tell you one thing, it’s always better when we’re together.” It wasn’t always easy for the followers of Christ in the first century, and life was challenging, but they demonstrated that God’s design for His church was that it is always better when we’re together.
The word fellowship in verse 42 actually means “being together.” It is fundamental in the establishment of the Christian church for believers to be and do things together and celebrate what they have in common, namely, a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The six verses of this passage outline a week in the life of the early Christians and all the family of God did together:
• Bible Study (v.42)
• Prayer (v.42)
• Corporate Gathering (v.46)
• Fellowship (v.42, 44)
• Service (v.45)
• Meals (v.42, 46)
• Worship (v.47)
• Outreach (v.47)
These believers were not content to meet once a week for “a church service.” They met daily, served daily, cared for others daily, witnessed to unbelievers daily, studied God’s Word daily, and grew in spirit and number daily. Their faith and desire to be together was a daily reality motivated by love and commonality, not an occasional routine out of obligation.
The first two chapters of Acts show us that we must change the trajectory of the modern church to reflect the Biblical model of togetherness. We must harness the power of the Holy Spirit, contribute to the global movement of the gospel, and value being The Body. As the church is threatened by division like never before, and the culture becomes increasingly more antagonistic toward Christianity, we need each other. We need to be in harmony and in sync while on mission.
All the references to the church in the New Testament are communal and applied to everyone in the family of God. Through Jesus, people of all backgrounds, races, cultures, talents, gifts, and experiences unite for His glory and purposes. We were never meant to do this alone (v.44). So let’s do it together and make a difference in the world for the glory of God.
Read This Week: Acts 2
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. – Acts 2:1-4 NIV
It has been said that the global church is not going to move or change the world by criticism of it or compliance with it, but by the power of the Holy Spirit within the lives of God’s people. The life-changing power of the Spirit through the church is the way the Lord has chosen to impact the world from the beginning.
The early believers that we see in the book of Acts didn’t have all the resources that everyone says is essential for success today. They didn’t have slick media, buildings, money, political influence, or social clout. Yet, the gospel spread rapidly throughout the known world, thousands of people came to faith in Jesus Christ, and many local churches were planted and established. All of this happened because the church had the only thing it needed – the transcendent power of the Holy Spirit propelling and enabling its ministry.
Luke opens Acts chapter 2 at Pentecost and one of the most pivotal events in the New Testament and the catalytic moment for the movement of Christianity. Pentecost was one of the three major feasts on Israel’s annual calendar and marked the fiftieth (pentekoste) day after Passover. Jews from all regions were in one place on that day, and Jesus positioned the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Spirit to come on them. Then the power move happened. Verses 1-2 says:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
The Holy Spirit had been active before this. He had worked in creation, in Old Testament history, and the life and ministry of Jesus. But Pentecost marked two changes and differences in how the Spirit would work and move going forward. God’s Spirit would dwell in people, not just come upon them, and His presence would now be permanent in the church and not temporary among the people. This presence and power are what Jesus told them in Acts 1:8, and it was now coming to pass.
In a display of God’s might, the Spirit came upon them and did miraculous signs and wonders. Sounds of a mighty rushing wind were there (v.2). A magnificent fire was seen (v.3), and the gift of speech happened where the believers were empowered to speak in different dialects and languages they had not previously known and were understood by those standing nearby (vv.5-12). The Holy Spirit had come in an incredible display and foreshadowing of God’s movement in the world like never before. It was a divine power move.
The Apostle Peter then stood up to preach to the people and declared this word to them and over them about the Holy Spirit’s ministry in verses 17-21:
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men, and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This moment marked the beginning of a new covenant and time where God would complete His plan of salvation for man. Jesus finished the work of redemption on the cross, and now the Holy Spirit would move in and through the church to share that good news with the world. The family of God now had divine momentum and power to spread the message of Christ to the ends of the earth.
The same Holy Spirit that came down at Pentecost is available to us today to live for Jesus and be His witnesses in our concentric circles of influence, just like the early Christians. The ministry of the Spirit is to bring glory to God in the life, expression, and testimony of the believer. The more we understand what happened at Pentecost and draw closer to that same Spirit, the more we will relate to Him and experience His power move in our lives and the world.
Read This Week: Acts 1
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:8-11 NIV
God is all-powerful and ever-present. Jesus is alive, and as we just learned in Romans, at the right hand of God interceding for us (Rom. 8:34). The Holy Spirit is empowering and active in the lives of those who believe (1:8). All of these things point to the fact that life with God is not meant to be inactive, dormant, or just talked about. It is a living, vital movement of people bearing witness to the life-changing power of the gospel and accomplishing God’s purposes now and throughout eternity.
In the book of Acts, Luke builds a bridge between his gospel account and what happened after the believers left the temple praising God. He does so by taking us to this scene where they are gathered around Jesus after the resurrection. He is teaching them about the kingdom of God and their mission to advance the gospel around the world. Jesus then tells them how they will accomplish this; how the movement will not only begin but how it will keep going through the ages. Verse 8 says:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After saying this about the Holy Spirit’s transcendent power on their lives and what is to come, Jesus ascends into heaven in a display of majesty and might. Then something curious happens. The people, who had been sent to change the world and promised supernatural ability to do so, just stood there gazing up into heaven. Jesus gave them the ultimate assignment and assured them of the capacity to accomplish it, and they got caught standing around looking. Verses 10-11 tells us what takes place next:
Suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
This is a key moment because it communicates what Christians should be about in our lives. We have a commission from God to live for Him, share His gospel, banner His truth, and love and serve others. But we often get caught standing around looking. It is fine to talk about what the Holy Spirit can do, yet we must not fail to engage the very mission that the He has equipped us for in the first place.
Like the early Christians, we need encouragement to not stand there looking, but to be an active part of God’s movement in our community and the world every day. The message of Acts is that the power of the church comes from God, and we experience repeated fillings of His Spirit as we face new opportunities, challenges, and obstacles. Ordinary people are able to do extraordinary things because of the Spirit’s work in us and in every environment we find ourselves.
Every Christian can be a faithful and powerful witness to the Savior if we don’t just stand there. Doing church or going through the Christian motions is not very effective. Being the church, building the kingdom of God, and seeing the world change for his glory is not only successful, but eternal, and worth it all.
Read This Week: Romans 16
Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
– Romans 16:25-27 NIV
In life, we are constantly asking questions of ability. Can we do it? Can we make it happen? Whatever it is, we are regularly examining whether we are able or up to the challenge. When it comes to our spiritual lives and living for God, it is natural to ask the same questions of ourselves. Can we fulfill our purpose? Can we make a difference in the lives of others? Can we keep walking with Jesus in a world that is growing increasingly complex and hostile to people of faith? Are we able to be used to spread the gospel around the globe?
The answer to these questions is yes and no. No, we can’t fulfill God’s purpose for our lives on our own. No, we don’t have the power to bring glory to God on earth in and of ourselves. No, it is too difficult to live for Jesus in our finite strength. But, there is a resounding yes to all of these questions too.
Yes, God has given us an eternal purpose, and what He began, He will finish (Phil. 1:6). Yes, God’s Spirit fuels us with the power to bring glory to Christ in every situation (2 Peter 1:3). Yes, we can not only live for God in the world, but He can use us to do and accomplish more than we could previously imagine without Him (Eph. 3:20). The ultimate answer to our questions of ability is that God is able. Therefore, in Christ, we are able.
This message is Paul’s summary of encouragement in the last chapter of Romans. After commending a lady named Phoebe, a deaconess in the church at Cenchreae and the potential carrier of Paul’s letter to Rome, greeting many others who had been a blessing to him, and issuing another warning against false teachers, he enters into his final words. These words constitute one long sentence that begins with this statement:
Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed…
It is fitting that Paul finishes his letter by praising God and talking about the purpose and power of the gospel. His main point is to give the Romans confidence in the transcendence of Christ and their capacity to do great things in God’s strength as they stand by the word. They should have no doubts about God’s message through Paul and His power to both establish and sustain them.
These truths are still as effective in the present as they were for the ancient believers. As we trust in God and His promises, we will be secure in Christ and able to fulfill His purposes. We can do His will and complete His plan for the glory of Jesus just as those called long ago. Though we may suffer and face hardship, we can do big things for God as we conform to the likeness of Christ and trust in His gospel. We are able because He is.
God is able. His purpose and power are there when others fail us and doubt surrounds their repeated promises to change. God is able when we feel stuck in life, lose a job, and when our loved ones and family members pass away. God is able when our kids make poor decisions, stray from their upbringing, and break our hearts.
God is able when we feel marginalized, ignored, and like we don’t have a friend in the world. God is able when we’re tempted and moral and ethical dilemmas compound our day. God is able when we’re frustrated, confused, and jaded. God is able when we’re in pain, exhausted, and when life is just fine.
God encourages us, guards us, watches over us, and attends to our every need. He picks us up when we fall and propels us to keep walking when we want to quit. He is the Maker of heaven and earth and He has limitless power that is available to us every moment of every day. His salvation is eternal, His gospel is peace, and His word is true. Like the Roman Christians, we can do it because God has established us. He is able.
Read This Week: Romans 15
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, to bring praise to God. – Romans 15:1-2, 5-7 NIV
In our lifestyles, activities, words, and freedoms, we often fail to be mindful of and regard others, especially those who are weak or may be suffering from a lack of maturity. Having the mind and attitude of Christ in our freedom and knowledge is humbling ourselves for the sake of other people and their wellness. It is being conscious of and recognizing both where we are on the faith journey and where someone else might be.
In Romans 15, Paul identifies mature people who have an awareness of the needs of others and know the responsibilities we have to stand with and fight for each other as the strong. He says the strong do not patronize the weak or show frustration at their seeming immaturity or knowledge. This action does not serve the lifelong debt of love for one another. Instead, the strong is to be patient and bear with those who are weak while encouraging, supporting, and building them up in their faith. Verses 1-2 plainly state:
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
It is the mark of a mature follower of Jesus to walk with other people and relate to them beyond one’s own desires. Paul teaches in this chapter that the key to bearing with and building up the weak is following the example of Christ in how he denied Himself to please God the Father and served others for their good, not his own. Jesus properly handled his freedom for the sake of those who were weaker and therefore, we should too. Verses 5 and 7 communicate this truth:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had… Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, to bring praise to God.
If the mature ignore the influence of their actions on the immature, they are no longer acting out of love. Love willingly sacrifices freedoms that cause another to stumble. If we fail to empathize with someone in their weakness when we exercise our freedom, it could cause that person to be destroyed by our actions. Freedom and love must go together. The strong should look out for the weak.
We need God’s help to bear with each other. If we have the attitude of Jesus, we can be an incredible bridge to learning and meaningful conversation while helping others grow in their faith. We can listen instead of arguing; seek to understand instead of posture; disagree without being disagreeable, and be more desirous of being in the right relationship with God and our neighbor than always being right on a subject.
Read This Week: Romans 14
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. – Romans 14:13, 17-18 NIV
Relationships can be messy sometimes. As we do life and interact with each other, particularly around subjects of disagreement and controversy, intentions, comments, and words can be easily misinterpreted. Things can get misconstrued and dicey, especially online when we can’t physically see each other in a conversation or detect tone and intent.
While we’re not ultimately responsible for how someone receives and reacts to us, we can be mindful of how we judge them, speak, and take nothing for granted about their relational experiences, or what could be going on in their life. This thoughtful and Spirit-driven approach will allow us to not get in the way of another’s spiritual growth or hinder their relationship with God by our treatment of them.
In the latter half of Romans, Paul talks a lot about how Christians should give themselves wholly to God, and this commitment should be evident in relationships and the interaction between people inside and outside of the Church. This devotion and love for others should also be apparent to those with whom we disagree on disputable matters. He sets the tone in verse 1 of chapter 14: Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.
It is clear from this passage that some relational problems were arising between the Jews and Gentiles around peripheral issues like food laws and special days. But Paul wants them to experience Christian love, especially those who are weaker in the faith. He makes it plain that no one should hinder another with their thoughts and actions regarding personal preference.
The passing of judgment and mistreatment of another over things that don’t ultimately matter or impact the gospel can get in the way of a person’s true worship and spiritual development. It can also prevent God’s family from living in harmony with one another. The Scriptures teach us here that none of us are better than any other believer; we are all saved by God’s grace and have been welcomed into His family through mercy and love. We cannot look down on our brothers and sisters and create obstacles to their faith. Verse 13 says:
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
The “stumbling block” in this chapter is interpreted as spiritual destruction and we should all avoid being the cause of that in anyone’s life. Disputable matters, even if we may be right on them, should not take precedent over love and encouragement to seek the truth. We should focus on guiding and building others up for the kingdom and staying out of the way of what the Holy Spirit wants to do in their lives. Paul says in verse 17:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
When we make the eternal purposes of God our priority rather than arguing over minor disputes, we will express God’s righteousness, peace, and joy that transforms lives and relationships. Compared with this, our minor differences of opinion become irrelevant and of little consequence. We instead please God and do His will as a community. And when we please God, we don’t get in the way. Those around us are blessed, encouraged, built up, and their path to truly serving the Lord is not blocked by unnecessary obstacles.
Read This Week: Romans 13
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other commands there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does not harm a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10 NIV
Debt, in any context, is usually seen as something negative that needs to be stopped and eradicated. We spend a lot of time, energy, and resources each year learning about how to put an end to personal and collective debt. However, Romans 13 tells us about a debt that we should never pay off. It is the unpaid debt that will probably never be mentioned at a financial seminar but is vital to living in freedom.
In this chapter, Paul instructs believers to pay their debts as is their moral and civic duty, but then makes one exception to the rule. He says the debt that we cannot pay in full is our command and obligation to love one another. The love of God in our hearts that is to be freely given and poured out to others is the singular, permissible unpaid debt. Verse 8 states:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
The point here is that in our life with God we are bound, like a debt, to the fulfillment of these essential truths: love for our neighbor (any person we come in contact with) as well as love for God. The love that we share with the world is a debt that we are to continuously pay and never satisfy throughout our lifetime. We will always owe one another this wholehearted devotion.
Paul evokes the words of Jesus from Matthew 22:37-40 and tells us to follow his example of love in our lives. He reiterates that Jesus said the underlying principle that governs all commands and human behavior is to love God and our neighbor. Verses 9-10 says:
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other commands there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does not harm a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Those who genuinely love people will not break the law or violate directives that hurt, damage or exploit others. Those who follow and say they love Jesus but don’t extend that love to people are exposing an improper, misguided understanding of God’s principles of love. Paul is making it clear that a tangible indication of loving Jesus is found in loving and serving others and never stopping.
This passage teaches us that the key to a successful life – being a good citizen, living in a society with honor and respect, fulfilling our responsibilities, having moral integrity, and not being overcome by sin – is properly loving God and allowing that to underwrite, inform, and empower the love we give to other people. When we are filled with God’s love, we will not harm our neighbor (v.10) and will not even think about how to gratify the desires of our flesh (v.14) while making a consistent payment of eternal impact every day.
Read This Week: Romans 12
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will. – Romans 12:1-2 NIV
The biggest challenges we often face in life are internal. A lot of times, we fail to win the battles on the outside because we do not address the war going on inside our heads. We must understand that the mind can be our greatest strength and danger, and to find success on the journey, we must renew and change our thoughts.
In Romans 12, Paul brings us to a pivotal point in his letter. After 11 chapters of theological teaching, he begins a section of practical guidance. He shifts from instruction to exhortation. That is not to say that his earlier writings are not full of encouragement, it just means that he is now going to focus on various areas of daily living and the characteristics of a life of obedience to the gospel. He has outlined the purpose and will now speak on the functional power of living as a Christ-follower.
Interestingly enough, Paul begins this part talking about the importance of the mind and summarizes the entire chapter in the first two verses. He writes that we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. We should be holy, acceptable, and reasonable in our worship to Him. Verses 1-2a says:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.
The key to a life that is pleasing to God is to reject the way of thinking that is prevalent in the world and allow the Holy Spirit to renew, change, and formulate our minds. To break free from the patterns of thinking that are not set on truth and God’s word is to adopt a Christ-centered perspective. A renewed mindset leads to a new person. A person that sees life, family, work, relationships, and choices from a new vantage point.
Verses 3-21 practically lay out how the person with a new mind lives in the world. This person does not think more of themselves than they should. They are humble and sincere in their love and devotion to God and others. They are passionate about doing what is right, serving the Lord, and growing in their faith. They are joyful and express hope through their handling of difficult circumstances, practicing hospitality, and giving to those in need. A person with a renewed mind prays, is a blessing to people, and lives in harmony with those around them. They are not overcome by evil, but instead overcome evil with good.
Paul sets the tone for the rest of the book by connecting a new mind to a new life and future. He tells us that when our thoughts are changed and restored, it is then that we can know what the will of God is and live out what is pleasing to Him. When we see our lives and the world from a mind that has been changed by Christ, we will see God’s perfect intention for us and a path ahead that is good and worthy of Him.