Thursday, 13 April 2017 17:41

Romans 12:1-8 Humility – “Not More Highly”

Vs 2 – Christians are expected to act like someone who has received a second chance that they did not deserve!   Let God do the things He wants to do in and through you

*Shortly after being released from 19 years of hard labor prison, (for stealing bread and repeated attempts to escape) Jean Valjean, the ex-con protagonist in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”, is caught by the police after stealing the silver “holy” articles of a Catholic church. 

The priest there, Bishop Myriel, had taken Jean Valjean in, and had fed, clothed, sheltered, and treated him with great kindness. Still, Jean Val jean had betrayed that kindness and taken the church’s silver. When the police apprehend Jean Valjean with his incriminating bag of silver articles from the church, and they hauled him back to the church to be identified, Bishop Myriel lies to the police and tells them that the articles of silver were a gift.  Jean Valjean is allowed to leave with his stolen silver, a bewildered and forever changed man.  He uses his “second chance” to become a virtuous man of honor and integrity, benefactor to the poor and the unprotected.

Les Miserable appears to be based upon the ultimate redemption story. The ultimate redemption story is the personal story of Christ-followers everywhere.  We were as good as condemned, every one of us.  The justice of God had us dead to rights!  Yet, simply by throwing ourselves upon the mercy of God made available to us through the work of Christ on the cross, we were allowed to escape that terrible justice - saved by the very same God we had betrayed!  In Christ we have been given a second chance!  A second chance Is all about a new start – doing things differently– being a different version of ourselves – being the new creation, not the old one – not going back to the same ol’ song and dance but with a new song replacing the old – our lives becoming a living worship song to the Lord!  It makes all the difference in a person’s life.

Vs. 2 – “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”

The blind see, the lame walk, the leper is made clean.

The world is boiling with other less obvious problems – internal injuries to the brain - where the self lies. These injuries are self-inflicted or inflicted upon us by others.  The lies we tell and the deceptions we promote, the rage  we indulge in, the cruelties that we either  perpetrated or suffered, every illicit sexual experience from toddler to the grave, the theft we have done, every rejection or  betrayal that we have done or that has been done to us, the sibling rivalry we were  involved in, the many rebellions against authority or the rules, every time we ignored the obvious needs of the weakest or somehow increased their sufferings, for beatings and insults we took from our parents, or their inability to give the love and affirmation we needed. 

All of these things (and so much more) that are common to humankind, injure our brains and make us walking talking wounds, hidden by skin, fake smiles, humor! It is the human condition. 

What is a “sober” self-assessment, according to God?

Cor. 11:31 – “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment”                                                                       

  God wants us to be able to see ourselves as He sees us, no makeup, no “turning a blind eye”, no selective amnesia, everything ON the table, no exceptions! 

  • We are sinners, condemned by a God that sees all!

  • We sin, do wrong things, make bad choices, do stupid, and cater to our weakness!

  • We have an overwhelming tendency to keep secrets, leading to glaring and ugly hypocrisies!

  • We are far better at ID-ing and unmasking other’s sins than our own sin!  

After the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, He went to the temple and became enraged by the excessive profiteering he saw going on in the temple courts. This “money changing” and selling of sacrificial animals had been going on for many years. Everyone was used to it.  No one saw it for what it was – deeply imbedded corruption and an abomination to God!  It was sin hidden in plain sight!  When it was called out for what it was, the people were incensed rather than grateful! 

This is the nature of imbedded sin. It has been there for so long that we don’t see it – the way dust-webs in the upper corners of the room escape detection.

We need some honesty – self-clarity!

Seeing through the eyes of God!

Then we would not be so prone to judge, to envy, and to speak of someone else’s flaws and faults. We would be too preoccupied with Christ’s work in US!

Vs. 4-8 - Gifts – the reality of being different, having different gifts/talents/abilities/ temperament, leads to being used in the church differently. This can often be a source of discord.  Envy occurs, then criticism, then factions develop, and harmony is gone.  This grieves the Holy Spirit, ruins morale, and destroys momentum.  Then nothing gets done in the church without criticism or second guessing, and turmoil ensues.  Everyone is walking on eggshells, trying (without success) not to offend. 

There are visually prominent positions in the church. There are positions where important decisions are made.  Some in the Roman church were evidently coveting such positions.  We can speculate that some of the Jews thought they deserved their old positions of leadership back - positions now held by gentiles. 

Paul asks them to cease and desist. It was not about them!  It was about Jesus and His mission!  So he is encouraging them to serve Christ without personal ambition.  To take personal inventory and truly know ourselves is to stay humble.  Humility helps us not get in the way of God’s purposes, and that is essential!

Flourish where God has planted you! This is key!  Abandon personal ambition!   It’s everywhere, but it does not belong in the church!  We have one ambition – to promote the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world that desperately needs Him, by whatever means within our grasp.

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Clintonville, WI 54929

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