is an article of faith in many evangelical churches (including the one in which
this author serves) that an intellectual Christian is, of necessity, a hypocrite.
People who think about their faith are clearly (somehow) incapable of real
Christianity. When asked how this squares with the command to love the Lord
your God with “all your mind,” the answer is some variation on the idea of,
“Check your brain at the door, ‘cause God wants your heart.” One prize
example: “He wants you to love him with all your mind, but you can’t be
intellectual about it.” Today’s passage is another embarrassing one to this
point of view – but don’t worry, a little thought and we’ll have some way to
deny the life of the mind in the Christian.
of the Mind
Romans 12:1-3 NIV
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. (2)
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. (3)
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.
need to begin with a review of what has passed before:
has reviewed for us the history of Israel and Christ, noting that the
chosen people have rejected Christ.
the Gentiles, were therefore “grafted in” to the people of God. Thus, we
didn’t earn it; God took their rejection and made a greater good of it.
There is no credit to us.
we’ve been grafted in, then we can be pruned out.
is in this context that Paul gives us his command.
are two views of the human body with strikingly similar results which we must
expose as being wrong:
is the modern view that the human being is pure animal. Misusing the body
would be considered something like alcohol abuse; but adultery is simply
just another form of sex. The only thing to beware of is damage to the
ancient view was that the flesh – the tangible human being – was evil,
corrupt and passing away. Therefore, whatever you did in bodily form was
perfectly acceptable; only the spiritual could be considered sinful.
the modern accepts adultery as right and good; the ancient thinks it trivial.
Arrogance was a sin to the ancients, but a virtue to the modern. We have
progressed so much, you see.
Christian view is rather different: the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,
to be kept holy. Adultery is, therefore, a sin, for it breaks the marriage
vow. The human being is not just a body, nor a dissociated spirit and body –
but one united organism. (This explains, in one way, the necessity of the
resurrection of the dead). The Christian is therefore responsible for
keeping the body holy.
of the mind
can thus see that the mind, far from being irrelevant, is indeed a major part
of the Christian life. Like all else, it must be brought into its proper
are not to conform but be transformed. This is a mental transformation;
the idea is that the Christian should NOT be thinking like the rest of the
world. (Some thought about materialism might be appropriate here).
is a purpose to this. It is not just so that we will think happy
thoughts, but rather so that we will know the will of God. Ponder that;
the purpose of transforming your mind is so that you will know the will of
God. Have you ever asked for that? Now you know how to get it.
chief obstacle, of course, is pride. If you continue in your pride, how
can you transform your mind into the likeness of the humble Christ? And
if you don’t, how can you know God’s will?
Romans 12:4-8 NIV Just as
each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have
the same function, (5) so in Christ we who
are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (6) We have different gifts, according to the grace
given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to hisfaith. (7)
If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; (8) 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
church as body
of Paul’s favorite pictures of the church is that of a body. We may see these
reasons for the usefulness of the picture:
reminds us that, as bodies are visible, we are the visible presence of
Christ in the world. The church is the body of Christ; our hands and feet
are his in this world.
shows us that there is unity in diversity as there is unity in the
Trinity. There is no “typical Christian” – all races, classes, categories
of any type are in the church. By this we become all things to all men so
that we might win some to Christ.
body is united – we belong to all the other members. A body dismembered
is no body at all. It is in our unity that we show Christ. If we bicker,
who will listen to us?
are some interesting points not usually associated with the gifts to the
church. Paul brings them out here, most likely out of concern for the unity of
the body. Consider; have you heard this about the gifts of the Spirit?
you need to “let” someone use his or her gift. “Let him teach.” The
modern method is not to look for someone with the gift of teaching;
rather, that person is seen as not having the right college degree. Much
better to draft someone from the right school.
(We don’t seem to have this problem with the gift of giving.)
the nature of the gift determines the nature of the service. If you are
to govern, then diligence is an obvious requirement. Form follows
function – a creative artist might say.
– not always – the use of the gift is in proportion to faith. That’s the
case for prophecy, but not for giving, evidently. The connection,
however, is obvious.
they are gifts
need to remember that our gifts are just that: gifts. If you have the gift of
giving or teaching, it’s nothing to boast about. It’s a gift, not an award.
one reason we are taught not to judge others. Who knows what gifts your fellow
Christian might have? Perhaps he is in the wrong place of service, doing his
whatever gift you have, it has one privilege: you can use it for the glory of
Romans 12:9-13 NIV Love must
be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (10)
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above
yourselves. (11) Never be lacking in zeal,
but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (12)
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (13) Share with God's people who are in need.
evil, cling to good
is something quite deep here:
first the character of God. God is love. He is also righteousness. Those who
grow like him will begin to imitate his character.
to love sincerely is to be like God. Since you are a part of the body of
Christ, this is just what should be expected.
may surprise you is that for exactly the same reason you should
grow to hate evil.
do not grow into placid people, but zealous ones. Let me give you a test which
might make this clear to you. Which one describes you:
I object to people
who perform abortions because they don’t think like I do.
I object to
abortions because they are morally wrong – and the people who do them are, as a
practical fact, murderers.
I object to
abortions because they kill children – who God loves, and so do I.
probably don’t fit neatly in any category on this; but there is one thing you
might see. For the Christian, the imitation of God means a definite reaction
to the slaughter of abortion. It’s a part of just who you are.
gives us three ways in which we show our brotherly love in general:
- Devotion to each other. There is a reason the teacher
wants to know if you’re going to be in the hospital. We are supposed to
care for each other; to do that we must care about each other. We’re family.
- Honor each other. To treat your fellow Christians with respect; to
see to it that they are applauded for such good as you can see; to make
sure that they are not just another name on the roster – for Christ never
did such a thing for his church.
- Hospitality and giving. Your brothers and sisters have
physical needs – a place to stay at times; money, food, clothing or just
the loan of a bigger shovel. It is God’s command that you do so. As
Americans, the richest Christians in history, it applies even more to us.
with knowledge, is a good thing. But just exactly how does one love God?
Loving my neighbor is a visible thing; what about loving God?
joyful in hope – remember that your hope is in the return of our Lord. Is
not his return a thought of joy?
patient in affliction – or, quit whining and wait upon the Lord.
faithful in prayer.
I leave you with one thought? Taken as individual commands these seem to be
quite a laundry list. Taken as examples of loving God, and therefore his
children, the matter is much simpler. It starts with the transformation of the
mind, from the mind of sinful man to the mind of Christ.