I tend to bounce ideas in my head pretty fast. Especially if I really want to dig. I had an obsession to keep reading and keep digging until I find out what it means.
This is the same when I have a passage stuck in my head.
I have a tendency to read the Bible in sections. Rarely do I quote one line. Sometimes I find it hard to share with others because I already done a lot of thinking and processing in the back end. To simply to love one another, for example is good. But Paul spent most of his epistles explaining..then he ends with..therefore..love one another....etc etc.
On my Google Chat Status, I put down the following:
Conforming to His Will
The word, conform, reminded me of what Paul said in Romans 12. So I went straight to Romans 12. If you are the type that memorize Scriptures, you probably already know Romans 12:1 which is...
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. (NIV)
In verse 2, it reads:
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.
So I found the word, conform, then I thought about, what's the pattern of this world? What was Paul trying to say?
Paul explained very well in the rest of the chapter....
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (v3)
I am going to put in bullet list. It is much easier to read:
- Love must be sincere
- Hate what is evil; cling to what is good
- Be devoted to one another in love.
- Honor one another above yourselves.
- Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
- Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
- Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
- Practice hospitality.
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
- Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
- Live in harmony with one another.
- Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
- Do not be conceited.
- Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
- Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
- Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I highlighted one another because (of course, this is based my own experience and my walk with Christ and in church) most of us don't enjoy loving or caring one another. There's always someone in church or fellowship which we have an offense towards. Maybe they said something that offended us. Maybe it was something irritable they done. And this is a reminder to myself. I can't consider myself as living for Christ if these ill feelings are causing relationship issues with my Christian brothers and sisters.
The list above is what Paul considered as offering our body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
If you read my blog, you will notice that I have a tendency to poke at Christian at how we often define Christians as one who goes to church a lot, read the Bible and books a lot, goes to many conferences or serve in leadership role or multiple ministries. Though I think these are some signs of someone growing in Christ. For me when I evaluate myself, I am starting to evaluate what Paul wrote in the list.
To be honest, what Paul wrote in the list is so much harder than just doing stuff and running programs.
For example: when was the last time I try to live in harmony with someone I have an issue with at church? When was the last time when someone rub me the wrong way or insult me or 'attack' me, I don't take revenge? Instead, I do good to that person instead?
Reading this passage, especially in verse 3, reminded me that I am not really that good. This is a good reminder when someone will come by and say...oh Cliff is such a good Christian because he _____ (insert something I do). I suck. Before the Lord, I suck. But by His Grace I have the honor to be His servant...
Anyways, I continue to read the next chapter (chapter 13).
Paul wrote about obeying the governing authorities (government). They are established by God so therefore we must submit to them (v1-8). The next part is about loving your neighbour in fulfilling the Lord (v8-10). I found it very interesting how Paul pulled the Law (the Ten Commandments) when in the earlier chapters, he stated that the more we tried to follow the law, the more we see sin in us and that caused death (Romans 7:10). I probably have to think about this some more as to what Paul is trying to say in Chapter 13:8-10.
In the end of the chapter, Paul wrote that salvation is coming and therefore we should put on the armor of light....there's more guidelines:
- let us behave decently
- not in carousing and drunkeness
- not in sexuality and debauchery
- not in dissension and jealous
In verse 14, Paul wrote:
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
So when Paul mentioned fleshly desires, they are the things listed above: carousing, drunkenness, sexuality, debauchery, dissension and jealousy. We are to put these things aside. I must admit I can feel myself getting tempted by lust, getting upset over what someone got and I don't have (jealousy) and at times had thoughts to create conflicts instead of bring harmony. As Paul said, let put these darkness deeds aside and put on the armor of light. I love how Paul uses darkness to depict the fleshly desires. These are the secret hidden things which we won't say or do publicly but do it in our private leisure....simply awesome metaphors.
I keep going to chapter 14. I like this part too because I can relate very closely with it.
Paul wrote to accept those whose faith is weak and not quarrel over minor things (Romans 14:1). How often, do I get into a fight or say something to cause conflict over minor points. In Paul's letter, in his situation, what does he consider as minor?
Food, for one (Romans 14:2-3). And sacred days as well (Romans 14:5-9). Paul really makes this clear. Who gives you the right to judge one another? It is God who judges (Romans 14:4).
Sometimes we think these are important. Maybe even church tradition or how much to tithe or other matters. To Paul, none of these really matters. What truly matter is living in the Kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). This is of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. This also relates to each other as well (Romans 14:13, 15, 18).
A verse like 15 is huge...
If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.
This means that how I act, even if I have the right to act means nothing if the way I act is distress to other brothers or sisters. As Paul said, do not become a stumbling block for a brother or a sister (Romans 14:13). What does this mean? If we read the previous chapters, we know that we should act in love. This also means that we should encourage to one another grow. Sometimes I get worry when I use some fancy Christian terminology and it causes some brothers and sisters to feel they are inferior Christians or not as 'spiritual' (if you read the whole blog, you see Paul considers spiritual through the love and harmony of one another). That might cause them to stumble. They might think that they are not good enough to be a Christian. It all goes back to what Paul wrote in Romans 12:3...
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
I actually start going back to reading Romans 11 and 10 as well. If you notice Romans 12:1 starts off with the word, therefore. This means all the things Paul wrote prior to chapter 12 is trying to explain what I just covered. The grafted tree, the oliver branch, rejection by the Israelites...all are used to explain chapter 12 on.
Funny how in my mind I was able to process this so much faster. Definitely faster than jotting it down on today's post ;o)
Key take aways for me...
- when was the last time I encourage others? (Romans 14:13)
- have I forgive and do good to those who wrong me? Can I leave the vengeance to God? (Romans 12:17)
- Have I tried to live at peace with EVERYONE (this include those I do not like, I don't agree with, those who 'wronged' me, those who tick me off, those who I found annoying...) (Romans 12:18) - I don't like it sometimes. It is so much easier to hold a grudge. Everyone else is doing it...oh wait what did my Google Status said again? Conform to His Will...right. His Will. Not mine :O.
- am I still conforming to the pattern of this world? Loves evil, cursing others, loves conflicts...or do I offer up my body and be transformed by the renewing of my mind? Peace, in harmony with one another, not be a stumbling block...(Romans 12:1)
For me, these are probably a better indicator of how much I have grown through the years....If I harbor ill feelings of another brother, sister or someone who doesn't know Christ, then I totally don't understand what Paul is saying....