Questions That Will Shape Your Life
How Can I Change?
Text: Romans 12:3-21
Proposition: When we consider the ‘Of, Through, and To’ statement of Romans 11:36, and recognize that ‘Through’ references the way that Christ Sustains us by His grace and power, then the deeper question we need to ask is, “Can I Change”
Introduction: Pastor and Author, Robin Boisvert describes something he calls the ‘gap trap’. He refers to a time when he had spoken at length about anger and then invited those people who wanted to address this in their lives to come to the front of the church. He said that what surprised him was not the good number of people that responded but that the majority of the people were young mothers. They were solid Christians who knew what their lives ought to look like and yet there was in their minds this glaring incongruity. Such differences can make us question our integrity as believers, he said. This is the gap trap, if we don’t recognize the ‘trap’ aspect of it we can become ensnared in a variety of nonproductive and paralyzing responses to it. We can feel like hypocrites and the feelings of guilt can be crushing. But let’s be frank, there is in every person in this room something that they would like to change in themselves in terms of what it means to grow as a Christian. When you think about your own character what is it that needs to change? How long have you thought that? Perhaps there is an element of the ‘gap trap’ we all need to address. There is a compelling quote from Martin Luther that goes like this:
“This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end, but it is the road, all does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.”
What Luther is describing is the change that occurs in a persons’ life as a result of knowing Jesus Christ and seeking to serve Him. The term ‘sanctification’ refers to the process of growing in knowledge, understanding and obedience so that the result looks more and more like Jesus. Though it is our responsibility to do this we don’t do it all by ourselves. Yes people also nudge us along but it is God Himself Who is at work in us, an incredible thought to be sure. The gap trap misses this understanding of sanctification, it under estimates the process and over estimates the implications of what salvation is. Like a sculptor God is continually chipping away the pieces that don’t belong to the truth of you are as one made in His image. Last week we looked at the first question that shapes our lives, How Do I Fit? Let’s read Romans 11:36 to 12:2 as we consider the next question that we all have asked.
II. How Can I Change?
The statement of Romans 11:36 says, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to whom be the glory forever. Amen.” This would mean that the ‘all things’ includes my behavior, it includes my thoughts and actions and that through Christ I can change so that the outcome does point to His glory forever, Amen. In the next couple of verses of Romans 12:1,2 , Paul points us to the importance of being a living sacrifice, which we looked at last week and this morning he points us to the process of being transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Transformed, that’s an interesting word choice isn’t it? He distinguishes it from conformed, which intimates an outward change, a behavior adjustment that looks good but is lacking the inner heart of change. The well meaning world will tell you that ‘to change’ means you just start acting like the person you want to be and people respond positively to that and before you know it you actually are that person. Conformity is usually after the approval of others so that my self can continue in its true desires for acceptance and power. Transformation on the other hand seems to be talking not about behavior modification but rather about your mind, particularly the renewing of your mind. Have a look at the word ‘transformation’ that Paul uses in the original Greek, it cues us to the essence of the meaning of the term. In the Greek it is the word “metamorphoo”, you recognize some English cross over no doubt. The word is used in the Present Tense – actually happens right now; the Passive Voice – represents the subject as being the recipient of the action; the Imperative Mood- expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding. So ‘be transformed’ is something that actually happens, it’s something done to you not by you, you’re the recipient and it’s a command by One who has authority over us. So transformation, deep inner change, occurs by the Spirit of God in me as I grow intent on renewing my mind. When you check out the meaning of the term “renewing your mind” you’ll see that it refers to a renovating of what used to be into something that is new. We could call this the “Great Soul Makeover”. In the next verses Paul gives a series of directions as to what a renewed mind ought to look like, let’s check them out as we consider verses 3- 21.
1. Faith is directly related to humility – this is moving from a ‘yes I can’ mindset to a ‘yes He can’ mindset. It chooses not to think more highly of myself than I ought to. Have confidence in yourself but more so have faith in Christ. That will renew your mind.
2. Recognize that interdependence in Christ is better than self sufficiency, we are members together of one body, it’s extremely hard for the toe to scratch your back or for the nose to write a letter. The whole body is meant to work together as one not only to get the job done but so that Christ would seen as the job is done.
3. Use your spiritual gift, whatever it might be. Every person who is a Christian has received something from God which was not there before they became a Christian. So a spiritual gift is not a talent, it’s not a skill in terms of work or craft. A spiritual gift is something that Jesus has as a character trait and He has now taken that particular trait, wisdom, prophecy, teacher, leader, exhorter, the merciful One, the giving One, the loving One, and He has given one or more of these traits to each one who believes in Him as their Savior. If you are a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, here this morning, then you have at least one spiritual gift that is meant to be used to strengthen the local church as it expresses itself in the local community as the body of Christ.
Transformation will occur in you as you renew or renovate the way you think through faith, humility, interdependence and discovery and use of the trait of Christ in you. But Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on to list 12 actions of what a renewed mind will look like. Here’s the kicker, it’s as you obey this ‘twelve step’
program that you are being transformed. Perhaps you’re thinking that you are not that strong a person, that this is only for ‘A’ type personalities. I heard a great quote from Adrian Rogers that said, “Holiness is not the way to Christ, Christ is the way to holiness.” What he means is that actions don’t move us closer to Jesus, you are at this very moment as close to Jesus as you ever can be in this life, His love for you could not be greater, His Spirit is in you! Rather what Rogers means is that Christ wants to work in me, to teach me holiness, to learn from Him. That’s a process, it’s what the term sanctification means, Christ is the way to holiness.
Are you ready to renew your mind? Are you willing to let God be the one who transforms you as you do so? Then let’s take a moment to pray and ask God which of these next twelve things do I need to renovate in my thinking, then watch and see, write down the observations, agree with the Spirit of God about the changes that He wants to take place in your life and be transformed ‘Through Him.’Let’s read verses 9-21 and consider the renovation that needs to take place.