Pastor's Weekly Newsletter

Each Friday, Dr. Daniel Hagmaier posts his weekly newsletter. Catch up on what's happening and plan ahead.

ROMANS 12:9-21 | TRUE LIFE IN CHRIST

TRUE LIFE IN CHRIST

ROMANS 12:9-21

SEPTEMBER 3, 2017

 

 

REMEMBER HOW YOU HATED IT WHEN YOU’D WALK INTO CLASS AND THE TEACHER WOULD ANNOUNCE A POP QUIZ?

 

THERE’D ALWAYS BE AUDIBLE SIGHS AND GROANS, AND A FEW UNDER-YOUR-BREATH CHOICE WORDS FOR THE TEACHER.

 

(WELL, I AM NOW STEELING MYSELF AGAINST YOUR ANGER EVEN AS I SPEAK.)

 

BECAUSE WE HAVE SOMETHING OF A POP QUIZ THIS MORNING.  IT’S ON THE INSERT IN YOUR BULLETIN, AND I’M GOING TO ASK YOU TO TAKE JUST A MINUTE OR TWO TO MARK THE BLANKS.

 

AS YOU’LL SEE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE, PLEASE USE A CHECK MARK FOR THOSE YOU ARE DOING; AN X FOR THOSE YOU AREN’T; AND A QUESTION MARK IF YOU’RE UNSURE, OR IF YOUR ANSWER IS SOMETIMES YES AND SOMETIMES NO.

 

THIS’LL ONLY TAKE A MOMENT OR TWO; AND HERE’S THE GOOD PART – YOU KNOW HOW THE TEACHER WOULD ANNOUNCE THE POP QUIZ; THEN YOU’D TAKE IT – SWEATING OUT HOW WELL YOU’D DO…

 

ONLY TO HAVE HER ANNOUNCE AFTERWARD THAT THE QUIZ WOULDN’T AFFECT YOUR GRADE – THAT IT WAS A “PRACTICE TEST” TO SHOW YOU WHERE YOU NEEDED TO STUDY MORE…?

 

WELL, I’M ANNOUNCING THAT EVEN BEFORE YOU TAKE THE QUIZ – SO HAVE NO FEAR – THE QUIZ WON’T BE ON YOUR PERMANENT RECORD… WELL, AT LEAST NOT WHERE I’M CONCERNED – I CAN’T REALLY SPEAK FOR GOD.

 

[TAKE QUIZ – THERE ARE PENCILS IN FRONT OF YOU IN THE PEW, BY THE WAY, IF YOU CAME TO CLASS UNPREPARED – HA!]

 

SO, HOW’D YOU DO?  I’LL LET YOU GRADE YOUR OWN PAPER.

 

PERHAPS, IT’S UNFAIR TO TURN THIS PORTION OF SCRIPTURE, THIS WRITING FROM THE APOSTLE PAUL INTO A QUIZ – A CHECKLIST ON HOW WELL WE ARE DOING, BUT THE FACT IS, PAUL WAS FOREVER GIVING INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW WE ARE TO ACT AS CHRISTIANS.

 

AND NOT JUST AS CHRISTIANS, AS BELIEVERS; BUT ALSO, AS SPOUSES, PARENTS, CHILDREN, MINISTERS AND CONGREGATIONS, AT WORK, AND AS CITIZENS IN RELATIONSHIP TO OUR GOVERNMENT.

PAUL BELIEVED, AND HE BASED THIS BELIEF ON THE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST, THAT A CERTAIN CODE OF CONDUCT WAS TO BE PRACTICED BY THOSE CALLING THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS.

 

YOU NAME IT, AND PAUL HAD SOME ADVICE ON HOW WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BEHAVE IN THAT ROLE – AS A CHRISTIAN.

 

AND IT ALL BEGINS IN THE SECTION JUST BEFORE WHERE I STARTED TO READ THIS MORNING IN ROMANS 12:1-8; WHAT’S CALLED THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST.

 

AND WHILE THERE ARE SEVERAL VERSES HERE, THE WORDS I WANT US TO HONE IN ON FOR A MOMENT ARE THESE:

 

“DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MINDS, SO THAT YOU MAY DISCERN WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD – WHAT IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE AND PERFECT.”

 

BEFORE I SAY MORE, PLEASE NOTE THAT PAUL USES “RENEWING” AS IN AN ONGOING PROCESS – NOT ONCE AND FOR ALL, BUT FOREVER RENEWING.

 

NOW WHAT I THINK PAUL MEANS HERE IS THAT CHRISTIANS – THOSE WHO HAVE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST – WE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE (CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD);

 

NO!  INSTEAD, WE ARE TO BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF OUR MINDS…

 

TRANSFORMATION – CHANGED – ALWAYS CHANGING – DIFFERENT THAN WE WERE BEFORE WE BECAME A CHRISTIAN.

 

AND WHY?  SO THAT WE MAY “DISCERN WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD – WHAT IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE AND PERFECT.”

 

AND, IF YOU READ THE REST OF THAT SECTION, AND THE NEXT – THE SECTION I READ FOR US THIS MORNING – WHAT YOU WILL SEE IS THAT A NEW LIFE IN CHRIST NOT ONLY CALLS FOR THE RENEWING OF OUR MINDS;

 

BUT THE USING OF OUR GIFTS, GIVEN BY GOD;

 

AND A COMPLETE CHANGE IN HOW WE THINK, OUR ATTITUDES, AND HOW WE ACT.

 

TO PUT IT MORE SIMPLY: WE ARE TO CHANGE OUR MINDS – SO AS TO CHANGE OUR ATTITUDES – SO AS TO CHANGE OUR ACTIONS.

 

AND THIS IS WHERE OUR POP QUIZ COMES IN.  THESE ARE THE MARKS OF A TRUE LIFE LIVED IN CHRIST.

 

I’LL ASK US AGAIN – WITHOUT TAKING UP OUR PAPERS – HOW DID WE DO?

 

YES, YES, I KNOW GOD GRADES ON A CURVE, WHAT WITH ALL THE MERCY, FORGIVENESS, AND GRACE, BUT JESUS WASN’T WITHOUT SETTING CERTAIN BENCHMARKS FOR OUR BEHAVIOR.

 

IN FACT, AMONG THE MANY THINGS HE SAID WAS, “BE PERFECT AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS PERFECT.”

 

NOW, THAT MIGHT BE ASKING A BIT MUCH FOR MOST OF US, BUT YOU GET THE IDEA, AND PAUL HELPS US WITH HIS CHECKLIST HERE; HE SHOWS US WHERE WE NEED TO STUDY HARDER.

 

YOU SEE, IF BEING A CHRISTIAN DOESN’T CHANGE HOW WE THINK, OUR ATTITUDES, HOW WE ACT, AND TREAT OTHERS…

 

THEN WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?

 

PAUL’S POP QUIZ – HIS MARKS OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN LIFE – AREN’T EASY, BUT THERE NOT SURPRISING EITHER; MOST OF THEM ARE COMMON SENSE.

 

“LET LOVE BE GENUINE; HATE WHAT IS EVIL, HOLD FAST TO WHAT IS GOOD;” –  THAT’S PRETTY STRAIGHTFORWARD.

 

“LOVE ONE ANOTHER WITH MUTUAL AFFECTION; OUT DO EACH OTHER IN SHOWING HONOR;” – IN OTHER WORDS: BE MORE RESPECTFUL THAN THE NEXT PERSON.

 

I WAS WATCHING THE FINAL GAME OF THE LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES LAST SUNDAY.  A JAPANESE PLAYER WAS AT BAT, WHEN THE AMERICAN PITCHER ACCIDENTALLY HIT HIM WITH A PITCH.

 

NORMALLY THAT WOULD MEAN THE BATTER WOULD TAKE FIRST BASE AS A HIT BATSMAN; ONLY, IN AN EFFORT TO GET OUT OF THE WAY, THE BATTER SWUNG AT THE BALL, MAKING IT JUST A STRIKE.

 

THE JAPANESE FIRST BASE COACH, AND THE TEAM’S MANAGER, CHALLENGED THE CALL; ASKED FOR CLARIFICATION; TALKED TO THE UMPIRE FOR A MINUTE OR SO; AND WHEN THE ISSUE WAS CLARIFIED, BOTH SHOOK THE UMPIRE’S HAND.

 

THAT’S OUTDOING OTHERS IN SHOWING HONOR.

 

“DO NOT LAG IN ZEAL, BE ARDENT IN SPIRIT, SERVE THE LORD.”

 

IN OTHER WORDS, BE ENTHUSIASTIC, BE PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO, AND USE IT TO SERVE THE LORD.

 

“REJOICE IN HOPE, BE PATIENT IN SUFFERING, PERSEVERE IN PRAYER.”  HOW CHRISTIAN IS THAT?!

 

AND HOW OFTEN IS IT THAT THOSE WE ADMIRE MOST IN THE FAITH, ARE THOSE WHO DEMONSTRATE THESE QUALITIES: HOPE, PATIENCE, PERSEVERANCE, PRAYER.

 

“CONTRIBUTE TO THE NEEDS OF THE SAINTS; EXTEND HOSPITALITY TO STRANGERS.”

 

THIS IS THE VERY DEFINITION OF OUR MINISTRY WITH EACH OTHER, AND OUR MISSION TO THOSE BEYOND OUR FAMILY OF FAITH.

 

“BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU; BLESS AND DO NOT CURSE THEM.”

 

AS SOMEONE ONCE SAID TO A PREACHER, “WELL, NOW PAUL’S GONE FROM PREACHIN’ TO MEDDLIN’.”

 

WITHOUT A DOUBT, THIS, AND ITS COMPANION VERSES ABOUT “TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK,” “LOVING OUR ENEMIES,” AND WHAT PAUL SAYS AT THE END OF OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING ABOUT NOT SEEKING VENGEANCE ARE SOME THE HARDEST THINGS WE’RE ASKED TO DO AS BELIEVERS.  GOD HELP US!

 

“REJOICE WITH THOSE WHO REJOICE, WEEP WITH THOSE WHO WEEP.”

 

THIS IS THE VERY DEFINITION OF THE CHURCH; OR AT LEAST, WHAT IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE.

 

“LIVE IN HARMONY WITH ONE ANOTHER;” – AMEN!

 

“DO NOT BE HAUGHTY, BUT ASSOCIATE WITH THE LOWLY;”

 

THIS ONE NOT ONLY CHALLENGES US TO GET OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE; TO EXPAND OUR CIRCLE OF ACQUAINTANCES, FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS;

 

IT ALSO TESTS OUR PREJUDICES; AND DARES US “NOT TO BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT BY THE RENEWING OF OUR MINDS, TO BE TRANSFORMED…”

 

TO THINK, ACT, AND TREAT OTHERS DIFFERENTLY THAN WE MIGHT, OTHERWISE.”

 

“DO NOT CLAIM TO BE WISER THAN YOU ARE…” A LOT OF US COULD LEARN FROM THIS ONE.

 

YOU MAY HAVE HEARD PEOPLE SAY: “I’VE ALREADY TOLD YOU MORE THAN I KNOW…” THAT PROBABLY GOES FOR MOST OF US, AS WELL.

 

“DO NOT REPAY EVIL FOR EVIL, BUT TAKE THOUGHT OF WHAT IS NOBLE IN THE SIGHT OF ALL.”  IN OTHER WORDS, WHENEVER POSSIBLE, TAKE THE HIGH ROAD.

 

AND, “IF POSSIBLE, SO FAR AS IT DEPENDS UPON YOU, LIVE PEACEABLY WITH ALL.”

 

MOST OF US WOULD BE AMAZED AT HOW PEACEFUL OTHERS CAN BE, IF WE PRACTICE BEING AT PEACE WITH THEM.

 

BUT IF THEY WON’T… LIVE PEACEABLY WITH US, THAT IS, PAUL’S GOT THAT COVERED AS WELL.

 

PAUL SPEAKS OF VENGEANCE, AND OUR NOT SEEKING IT, BUT LEAVING IT TO GOD, WHICH WE ADDRESSED EARLIER, AS ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS WE’RE CALLED TO DO;

 

BEFORE, AGAIN, REMINDING US TO CARE FOR OUR ENEMIES…  (PAUL’S GETTING DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO MEDDLIN’ AGAIN);

 

AND THEN, HE ENCOURAGES US TO “HEAP BURNING COALS” ON THE HEADS OF OUR ENEMIES, AND THOSE WHO ARE MEAN TO US, BY BEING EXTRA NICE TO THEM.

 

BY THE WAY, WHEN WE DO THIS, GENUINELY, THAT IS, BEING TRULY NICE TO THOSE WHO ARE MEAN TO US;

 

IT’S THEY WHO WIND UP HEAPING COALS ON THEIR OWN HEADS, BY CONTINUING TO BE MEAN IN THE FACE OF BEING TREATED KINDLY.

 

AND FINALLY, ONE OF THE BEST LESSONS OF ALL TIMES, AND UNFORTUNATELY, ONE OF THE LEAST PRACTICED:

 

“DO NOT OVERCOME EVIL WITH EVIL, BUT OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD.”

 

TWO WRONGS STILL DON’T MAKE A RIGHT, AND THE WAY TO TRUE PEACE RARELY COMES WITH A SIDE OF EVIL.

 

LET US OVERCOME EVIL, NOT WITH MORE EVIL, BUT WITH “WHAT IS GOOD, AND ACCEPTABLE, AND PERFECT.”

 

IN OTHER WORDS, LET’S OVERCOME EVIL WITH THE WILL OF GOD.

 

SO, THAT’S ABOUT IT.  WANT TO TAKE THE QUIZ OVER AGAIN?  WANT MORE TIME TO STUDY BEFORE TAKING IT AGAIN?

 

MANY OF US WILL PROBABLY JUST LEAVE THE QUIZ, ALONG WITH OUR BULLETIN IN THE PEW THIS MORNING WHEN WE LEAVE.

 

OTHERS WILL PROBABLY CHUNK IT IN THE GARBAGE OR RECYCLING BIN WHEN WE GET HOME.

 

BUT LET ME CHALLENGE US, ALL OF US, BY THE “RENEWING OF OUR MINDS” TO NOT FORGET THE LESSONS LEARNED HERE THIS MORNING FROM THE HANDS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL.

 

LET’S NOT ONLY RENEW OUR MINDS, BUT IMPROVE OUR ATTITUDES, AND PERFECT OUR ACTIONS…

 

OTHERWISE, WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?

 

 

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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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