Who Is Shaping Your Life?
Romans 12:2; 1 Thessalonians
In an article entitle Shaped by the Bible
the writer said, "Because we have been so willing to accommodate the message
of the Bible to the limitations of contemporary culture, the modern world
does not regard the church as a threat; I suspect that it regards us as
merely boring. We are giving the modern world less and less in which to
disbelieve because it senses no difference between what the church is saying
and what is being said by a variety of secular voices. Thus, the modern
world is not called up actively to decide for or against the church, because
it sees so little against which to take a stand. The world which once imprisoned
our Christian ancestors now responds to an utterly enculturated church
with mere indifference." (Shaped by the Bible. Christian Today).
Douglas Taylor-Weiss, rector of St. Andrew’s
Episcopal Church in Dayton, Ohio, has proposed a new set of Ten Commandments
based on his observations of our culture:
Have a good day.
Have a happy family
He forgot 11. Get in touch with your feelings
This gives us an idea of how our culture
affects our lives more than God does. Only a fool would argue that
the church should change its doctrine to keep up with the times. One does
not arrive at moral judgments by counting noses. Nor does one derive ethical
systems from surveys. (Andrew M. Greeley in America Christianity Today).
We have a real problem in this country when
it comes to values. We have become the kind of societies that civilized
countries used to send missionaries to." William Bennett. Interviewed on
the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour. Christianity Today.
Living Sanctified Lives
When the world encourages us to get
in touch with ourselves it seeks to deprive us of God’s power to make something
out of us. The Bible’s instruction is given to put our physical
bodies in touch with our soul.
For the grace of God that brings
salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness
and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives
in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing
of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem
us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his
very own, eager to do what is good. NIV
Christians are called to live sanctified
lives. This simply means that
we must separate ourselves from this worldly view of life in order to allow
God to take control of our lives. Salvation takes place at baptism, but
sanctification requires setting our lives apart for God’s service. It is
a life long work as we seek the help of God to live up to his holy calling.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
May God himself the God of
peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and
body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Sanctification has to do with setting our
lives or bodies aside or apart for God. It comes from the Old Testament
as the priest sanctified or set the utensils of the temple apart for service
to God. Paul is asking us to sanctify our lives.
Accomplishing sanctification requires
offering our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view
of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing
to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer
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."
Sanctification is accomplished as we
allow God to transform our way of thinking into his way of thinking.
Paul calls this renewing your mind. The purpose of renewing the mind is
so that we can get our physical lives in touch with God. This is the most
difficult part of salvation because it requires each of us to present our
physical lives as a living sacrifice to God.
When the world looks at a Christian
it should see dead men/women walking. During an Army war game a
Commanding Officer’s jeep got stuck in the mud. The C.O. saw some men lounging
nearby and asked them to help him get unstuck
"Sorry, Sir," said one of the loafers, "but
we’ve been classified dead and the umpire said we couldn’t contribute in
The C.O. turned to his driver and said, "Go
drag a couple of those dead bodies over here and throw them under the wheels
to give us some traction."
The best way to live a sanctified life is
to throw our dead bodies into the work of the Lord so that he can resurrect
us to a new life in Christ.
God wants our bodies as living sacrifices,
not corpses. A sacrifice is an offering placed before the Lord
so that he can make something of it. A woman named Stacy
Allison was the first woman who climbed Everest’s summit. She said, "You’ve
got to decide sometimes in your life when its okay not to listen to what
other people are saying----if I had listened to other people, I wouldn’t
have climbed Mt. Everest."
Christians are lured to view the themselves
as the world views itself—uncritically and without a basis for understanding.
Many of us find ourselves "getting along by going along" And the Christian
community slowly, imperceptibly "moves two inches a year toward total decline.
(Don McCory in Eternity.)
We have lost the idea of a living sacrifice
because we are too busy demanding our rights. Kurt Bruner said,
"We have seen a gradual change over the past several decades in our society
from emphasizing individual responsibility to emphasizing, almost glorifying,
individual rights." (Kurt Bruner in Responsible living in an Age of Excuses).
Paul Tournier said, " Christianity is not
one ideology over against other ideologies. It is a life inspired by the
Holy Spirit. Its victories are nothing but victories over itself, not over
others. It propagates itself through humility and self-examination, not
through triumphs." Paul Tournier, The Whole Person in A Broken World. Christianity
There is no greater victory than victory
over self. This is the kind of sacrifice God uses to change an
evil world. Mohandas Gandhi said, "The willing sacrifice of the innocent
is the most powerful answer yet conceived by God or man to insolent tyranny."
Put to death, therefore, whatever
belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil
desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God
is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage,
malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each
other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have
put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of
its Creator. NIV
How much energy of our physical body
is used to serve our animal instincts or psyche or should we just simply
say the flesh? Most are encouraged too seek salvation, but the
real battle is sanctification. Sanctification has to do with channeling
the desires of the physical person through the reasoning of the immortal
soul as it receives God’s instruction. Receiving salvation is easy, but
the battle begins when we seek to live sanctified lives.
Son: Dad, did you go to Sunday school when
you were a boy?
Dad: Never missed a Sunday.
Son: Bet it won’t do me any good either.
This happens when we fail to live sanctified
lives. Sanctification has to do with channeling the animal psyche
of the person to accept God’s holy purpose for living.
Sanctified Through and Through
Paul prayed, "May God himself the God
of peace, sanctify you through and through."
The key to living a successful Christian life
is bringing harmony to body, mind and soul. My psyche desires
to reduce my life to the level of physical animal instincts. The soul desires
to renew my life in the image of Christ. This is the source of life’s greatest
battle. I feel like Paul as he was tested and tried and found wanting.
Notice what Paul says of his own struggles.
Romans 7: 14-20
" We know that the law is spiritual;
sold as a slave to sin. I do no understand what I do. For what I want to
do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to
do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who
do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me,
that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good,
but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do;
the evil I do not want to do this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do
not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me
that does it.
I am forced to identify with Paul’s
assessment of his own life for the struggle is as impossible for me as
it was for him. I thought when I became a Christian I had nothing
to do but just to lay my oars in the bottom of the boat and float along.
But I soon found that I would have to go against the current—not just against
the current of the world around me, but against the current of my own personal
desires from within.
Paul was crying out like David in Psalms 51:10
after David’s adultery with Bathsheba. David cried: "Create in me
a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast
me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the
joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
The animal part of us says, "If it feels good,
do it!" "If it makes me feel good buy it!" "If it enhances my self-image
invest in it!" When we give in to these desires our soul cries out, "O
wretched man that I am." This is especially true when the credit card bills
start rolling in.
David prayed for God to give him a willing
spirit to sustain him, but before God give us a willing spirit he must
have a willing sacrifice. It is little wonder that Paul admonishes us to
present our bodies a living sacrifice.
Submit yourselves, then, to
God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and
he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your
hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter
to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and
he will lift you up. NIV
We must allow God to renew our inward being
or else our physical lives will end in frustration and failure.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed
day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an
eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what
is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what
is unseen is eternal.
There comes a crisis, a moment when every
human soul which enters the kingdom of God has to make its choice of that
kingdom in preference to everything else that it holds and owns.
How does the world see us? We
were made to glorify God. Are we conforming to our world, or are we transforming
our world into the image of Christ? Does the world see the difference we
make by the way we dress, speak, and act, or does the world see me as one
May we conclude with Paul’s prayer for the
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
May God himself the God of
peace, sanctify [each of us] through and through. May [our] whole spirit,
soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ?