Psalm 113: 1 – 3
Praise the Lord.
Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.
You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139: 1 – 10)
Father, we thank you that even though you know us so well, know us better than we know ourselves, you still love us! We can only come to you as we are – in your presence, we can’t pretend to be anything other than sinners in need of your grace. We confess that we have sinned in what we have said and done, and also in things left unsaid and undone, and as we come and ask for your cleansing and forgiveness, we come in the assurance that if we confess our sins, you are faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Father, we thank you most of all for Jesus, for the price he paid for us, taking the punishment we deserved, so that we could be free.
Father, we bring to you our hurting world, still so incredibly beautiful, but so far from how you intended it should be.
Reading Romans 12
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.
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 measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practise 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 everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath; for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We are probably all familiar with the saying, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ Unsurprisingly, that was not part of Paul’s instruction to the new Christians in Rome! The Roman Empire was known to be brutal. Paul urges the Christians there to live differently.
Romans is a long letter. The first eleven chapters explain the gospel – how all mankind is deserving of God’s wrath and is in need of salvation, and how Jesus Christ paid the price, took our sin, and made it possible for us to live in a right relationship with God. Then in chapter 12, Paul goes into the practical application – how to live in the truth of that theology. If God has done all this for us, then what should be our response? How does it affect the way we live?
This is relevant to all Christians, in every generation. It is very easy to fall into one of two traps – either we keep on doing things we’ve always done, in the way we’ve always done them, without questioning their relevance or asking ‘why?’ Or we reject everything from the past as out of date, and adopt new ways to fit in with the world today. The only way to avoid falling into those traps is to keep coming back to God’s word. The first doctrine of the Salvation Army is ‘We believe that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the divine rule of Christian faith and practice.’ The Scriptures are not old and stale – they come to us fresh and new as we allow God to speak into our lives through his word. God doesn’t change – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. People are basically still the same – still sinners in need of salvation. But we are also people of our time, and we have to adapt to living in an ever-changing culture. The world today is very different from what it was a generation ago. So what do we allow to shape our lives? How should we live as God’s people in this generation? The first two verse of Romans 12 are a direct challenge – this is how The Message paraphrase puts it: ‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.’ Another translation says, ‘Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould.’ We sometimes tend to forget that we have an enemy – ‘the god of this world, who has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 4: 4). Sadly, believers are sometimes drawn into the same deception – allowing the world to squeeze us into its mould. When that happens, it’s easy to lose sight of God’s will – his ‘good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Instead of being conformed, we should be transformed – changed from the inside out!
The rest of Romans 12 is concerned with living out this transformed life – using the variety of gifts God has given in harmony, not competition, and living a life of love, so that we can be channels of God’s love to the world.
One of the promises made by Salvation Army soldiers is ‘I will make the values of the kingdom of God and not the values of this world the standard for my life.’ That is a daily challenge!
Ask God to show you any areas of your life that are still in need of transformation, and give him permission to start.
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. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Thank you for reading
Prepared by Majors June & Ernie Huby