Be like Jesus
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Because of Jesus, Paul begs the church to be like Jesus by thinking like Jesus.
Good morning, Gateway Chapel!
It’s good to be back with you all! As you can see I’m wearing my Acts29 swag from a conference that Rayce Whitson and I attended nearly two weeks ago. I think I brought back a shirt and COVID so thank you for your prayers for me and my family we are doing much better. Rayce didn’t get it cuz he has more muscles than me I think is what the doctors said.
The conference was great, as you guys know we partner prayerfully and financially with Acts29 because of our shared theological and missional convictions that because of Jesus…we are a part of the grand story of God. And that grand story of God involves local churches linking arms to plant more churches and make more disciples who hear, love, and obey Jesus.
I was encouraged by the reminder that there is nothing better to be a part of than the church. Jesus loves the church. Death cannot stop the church. And even though in the Pacific Northwest we live in a post-Christian, maybe a never-Christian context (although here in the south sound we live in as close to the Bible belt as you can be in the Puget Sound) God is moving around the world. Churches are exploding in places like Brazil and Africa, and we even made good friends with pastors of churches in Ireland, where the gospel soil is even harder than here but those men and women are working to make disciples for generations to come.
So had does that affect you? Every month you give to Gateway Chapel, 3% of that goes to Acts29 to help plant churches so people around the world can have what you have here: belonging, being fed from God’s word, support, and experiencing the love of Jesus.
And I brought back some books! I have three books from the conference: Before you share your faith, Before you open your Bible, and Love your Church by Tony Merida. These are free on the Lending Library.
I remember where I was when we realized COVID was going to change our lives. Do you remember? It’s like this generation’s 9/11.
It was February 29th, I looked back in my calendar. It was a Saturday, and I was holding my one week old daughter watching golf, just starting the discipleship process with her.
And I’m watching golf on King5, and all of the sudden it says, “We interrupt this program for breaking news...” And on the screen is that fateful press conference where they announced the first death from COVID-19 just up the road at the LifeCare facility in Kirkland.
And I’m just sitting there, holding Isabelle thinking, “Things are going to change…"
Because of COVID, so much has changed. It is a clear marker in the 21st century that resulted in a change in how we do so many things.
In a way far more joyful, powerful, and eternal, the Christian worldview sees the cross as the moment when everything truly changed. Because of Jesus, nothing is ever the same. While there are pivotal moments in history, 9/11, COVID, the Mariners comeback win against the Blue Jays last week…nothing rewrites the very fabric of the universe like Jesus did when he died and rose again.
Because of Jesus…that’s the title of our new series we’re in, and essentially it’s how we’re couching the entire New Testament. We’re finishing up our Year of Biblical Exploration, and we’re in the New Testament, which essentially looks at life and says “Because of Jesus…here’s how we live.”
Here’s a super simple drawing of the story of the Bible.
The Old Testament points forward to the Messiah who would come to restore God’s world. The New Testament points back to him and says “Because of Jesus…here’s how the story unfolds. Because of Jesus, here’s how we live.”
So to see how the New Testament does this, we’re going to spend some time in Romans 12. Romans 12 is a famous “Because of Jesus” passage where Paul transitions in his letter from doctrine to practice. It’s fitting too because if you remember Gene Poppino preached on Romans 12 back in 2020 right when COVID started so it ties in with our opening illustration this morning. Because of Jesus…here is how we are to live as the people of God. And we’re beginning this morning in Romans 12:1-2 where Paul says “Because of Jesus, let’s live like Jesus.” How do we do that? Let’s look at the passage together.
Like moths to a flame we’ve been hovering around Romans a lot lately, and for good reason. Romans is perhaps the greatest letter ever written because its subject is the greatest subject: God and his gospel, and its writer is perhaps the most influential writer in world history: Paul the apostle.
Paul is going to do in Romans 12 what he does frequently in his letters, make a transition in thought from “Because of Jesus” to “Therefore…here’s how we live.” He does this in Gal 5, Eph 4, Phil 2, Col 3, to name a few.
Some people think the Bible is a serious of if/then statements.
If you obey these rules, then you’ll be loved.
If you read your Bible, then you’ll be a good Christian.
If you don’t swear...
But really, the Bible and Romans is more a series of Because/Therefore statements.
Because Jesus died, rose again, and gave us his spirit, therefore we can live godly lives.
Because Jesus gave himself for us, therefore we don’t have to give ourselves to sin.
If we’re not careful, we can open to passages like that and read statements on morality like, “Don’t get drunk” or “Don’t have coarse humor” or “Don’t sleep around” and think, “Great the NT is just a new list of rules.”
The Bible is not a book of rules. It’s not a book meant to control you. To take you from being dirty and mean and out of control, and put you in a uniform and place you in a nice and clean and presentable box. In the words of NT Wright, we have boxes to put people in and they’re called coffins. The Bible is not primarily rules but a story about a God who because of Jesus, frees us and brings us into his family, and allows to live, think, and love like we were meant to.
Let’s turn to Romans 12...
Romans 12:1 (ESV)
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God...
Paul is speaking to men and women of the church, and says “I appeal to you therefore.”
We always ask ourselves, “What is the therefore there for?”
Like starting the Harry Potter series with the 5th of 7 books, we’re starting Romans in the 12th of 16 chapters. Throughout Romans, Paul is writing a Christian manifesto on the gospel. Here’s some famous texts to name just a few:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And like a gospel freight train, Paul is gaining momentum until he reaches a crescendo in Romans 11.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
There is much more to Romans, but Paul is hammering the “Because of Jesus!” drum. Look at who he is and what he has done.
I appeal to you brothers and sisters…by the mercies of God. What are the mercies of God?
The compassion and kindness of God in Jesus. Paul is saying, “I appeal to you brothers and sisters, Because of Jesus!”
Other translations say, “Think of God’s mercy!” Do you think on it? Do you treasure it? Do you meditate on it?
As I was rereading Romans this week Romans 5 and the goodness of God hit me in a new way. God allowed me to think on his mercy.
What is Paul’s tone here? I appeal to you…I beg of you…is he a scolding parent. “If you don’t do better…then...” No, this isn’t in if/then thing, it’s a because/therefore. Not, “If you love me…then you will clean your room.” But, “Because I love you, I want to serve you.”
I think Paul’s appeal is invitational language. He’s inviting us into the party that’s being thrown because of Jesus.
My mind goes to the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. A father has two sons, one son tells him “I wish you were dead!” Runs off, spoils the family wealth on Fantasy Football bets, Gentleman’s clubs, and endless growlers at Top Down brewing. And he comes to his senses, realizes his need for his father, and turns back for home. And while he was still a long way off, his father debases himself and runs and kisses him and embraces him and says “My son is home!”
But there’s another son. And that other son never spent a dime on Fantasy Football, has never looked at porn, and thinks grape juice tastes better than wine, but this son is bitter. “Why are you throwing a party for my idiot brother?” And what does the father do...
28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,
I entreat you! I appeal to you! Come in and enjoy the party. Do you see how Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is playing the part of the Father.
Paul is looking at us today and saying, “I appeal to you, I beg of you, come and get in on this.” Because of Jesus, everyone is welcome. No matter how badly you’ve squandered the good things God has given you, no matter how much you’ve spit in God’s face, no matter how much you’ve wrecked your life, because of Jesus, dying for full forgiveness of our sins, grace is given to you.
I appeal to you by the incredible mercies of God! Think on God’s mercy to sinners like you and like me.
Oh the depth and the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
Paul is appealing to us…to do what exactly?
Romans 12:1 (ESV)
1 ...to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Paul wants us to
Be like Jesus...by serving God no matter what.
Be like Jesus...by serving God no matter what.
Because of Jesus, be like Jesus. In what way? By serving God no matter what.
Paul says it this way in Eph 5:1-2
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Paul is using temple language, talking about sacrifices and spiritual worship…which in my ESV Bible says, “Rational Service.” He’s using sacrificial language and priestly language. And the Bible says Jesus was our great High Priest, and the NT calls us a kingdom of priests. Because of Jesus, our great high priest, who served God no matter what - even though it cost him his life - we are to be like Jesus - priests who serve God even if it’s costly.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The story of Abraham and Isaac going up the mountain comes to mind. You remember this story? God promises Abraham, who is super old, that he will give him a ton of children and make him into a great nation. God delivers and gives Abraham a son named Isaac. But one day God asks Abraham by faith to offer Isaac up as a sacrifice. It’s craziness. Human sacrifice isn’t God’s thing, that’s Satan’s thing! But Abraham by faith follows.
7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
Why does Isaac follow Abraham to his death? Because it’s his father who loves him. Who he can trust. And what happens? God delivers again and provides a ram to take Isaac’s place. And thousands of years later, Jesus trusted his father, and many believe went up the same hill and died to take away the sins of the world, serving God even though it cost him his life.
And so you and I are called to same kind of risky discipleship. You’re probably not going to be martyred for your faith. But it feels pretty risky having a gospel conversation with a friend, right? Because of Jesus, we’re called to be like Jesus by serving God no matter what. You may not be called to move to Africa and give up your life here in Sumner, but it takes major sacrifice to institute a weekly Sabbath and prioritize rest in your life. You’re likely not called to sell all you have, but generosity involves dying to self in order to give to others.
All of this is because of Jesus. And it says in my Bible this is your spiritual worship or rational service. It only makes sense if we truly grasp what Jesus has done for us. How do we grasp it? By thinking on the mercies of God.
Because of Jesus, be like Jesus by serving God no matter what.
Let’s read on...
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Be like Jesus…by thinking like Jesus.
Be like Jesus…by thinking like Jesus.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world...
Lego illustration. Any lego fans in the house? The Whitson clan have an incredible LEGO collection. Landyn has this one LEGO that is a working old school television that you can play Mario on. It’s kind of hard to explain because it’s so cool, but as complicated as it is, all Landyn did was follow the pattern given to him when they bought the set and he made this incredible LEGO set.
In the same way, there is a pattern to our world. For Paul’s readers in Rome it would’ve had to do with going to the local temple and worshiping the gods of the city, or honoring Caesar as Lord.
For us today, there is a pattern to follow. We don’t all follow the same pattern in our lives, school, job, career, marriage, house, kids, car, second house, retirement…but apart from Jesus the pattern of this world creates behavior that does not mirror Christ.
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,
But because of Jesus, Paul calls us to be like Jesus, not like this world? How? By the renewal of our minds.
Outward behavior changes come from inward renewal.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
Inner renewal produces outward change. Because of Jesus we want to be like Jesus, not like the world.
Think about the story of King Solomon. King Solomon had an amazing mind, according to Scripture he had the best mind in the history of the world other than Jesus. He had this famous prayer where he asked God for wisdom and to be someone who could know God’s will, know good from evil and deal wisely as king.
And yet Solomon began to be conformed to the pattern of the world, and became like kings of other nations.
He accumulated ridiculous amounts of wealth and it says all his cups were gold.
Maybe you guys know Cathy Loden makes mugs…super cool, you can buy them downtown. Solomon’s like I don’t need to pottery I got gold!
Not just wealth but
1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.
Are we like Solomon? Have money, sex, and power, corrupted our minds? Is it any wonder that every day, thousands of people leave the church in the west, and tens of thousands come to faith in impoverished parts of the world like Brazil, Asia, and Africa?
Have you ever thought how hard it is to actually change someone’s mind?
Paul is asking us to have our minds renewed. That sounds nice, but is it possible?
Think how hard it is to change someone’s mind.
Billions of dollars are spent on advertising…do you actually change your spending habits?
I really don’t like black licorice…I can’t imagine how you would go about changing my mind on that.
If your friends didn’t agree with you about masking and vaccination…did anyone actually change their mind?
Think about all the bumper stickers and yard signs for election season…do those work? Is it possible to change someone’s mind?
Think about Paul. Paul was Saul...a violent, murderous Jew who thought that anyone who followed Jesus was a heretic and a threat who needed to be cut down. Paul was unconvinced of Jesus as Messiah.
What changed Paul’s mind?
Jesus. Paul met Jesus. And because of Jesus, Paul saw the story of his whole life in a brand new way.
Because of Jesus, Paul saw that he was under grace and not law because Jesus fulfilled the law. Because of Jesus, Paul changed from a man who squashed his enemies with violence, to a man in Romans 12 who says frustrate your enemies with kindness. Paul no longer saw his worth in his knowledge of religious information, but because of Jesus Paul says in Philippians now all he wants to know is Christ.
Because of Jesus, Paul invites us to be like Jesus by serving God no matter what, and thinking like Jesus.
How might you consider living this out this week?
Based on the text, consider praying the Lord’s prayer as a way of offering yourself to God each day, dedicating your life to him no matter what.
In the Lord’s prayer we pray, “Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
What would it look like to offer your whole life to God each day?
Being like Jesus means being available to God like Jesus was. Giving ourselves over to God’s will like Jesus did, even if it’s costly.
To think like Jesus, think about Jesus. Think on God’s mercies in Jesus. Think about the beautiful reality that you have been chosen by God to be a part of his family. Think about the wonderful truth that all your sins, not just some or most of them, or the ones that are more socially acceptable, all of them, have been forgiven. Think about the fact that God didn’t have to save you, but he did. Think about the amazing beauty that Jesus is Gentle and Lowly in Heart and cares about you and the pain you’ve experienced. Think about the promise of God to renew all things, not just our minds, and one day send Jesus to set the world right. Think about the glorious future that awaits us when we are fully renewed - mind and body - and spend eternity with Jesus.
Because of COVID, so much of our lives have changed. But not everything. Because of Jesus, we are called to be like Jesus - serving God no matter what, and thinking like Jesus.
In the famous book, “Les Miserables”, Jean val Jean, a hardened criminal, steals precious silver from a priest, but instead of being imprisoned or worse for his crime, the priest instead gives val Jean the silver, and through his grace changes the criminal’s life forever. The priest says:
“But remember this, my brother, see in this some higher plan. You must use this precious silver to become an honest man. By the witness of the Martyrs, by the passion and the blood, God has raised you out of darkness. I have bought your soul for God.”
Because of Jesus, who went into darkness for us, through his passion and his blood on the cross, and was raised on the third day, because of that Jesus, God has raised you out of darkness and purchased your soul including your body and your mind. Go and do likewise, because of Jesus.
Think about Jesus...
“If it wasn’t me sitting here but Jesus, what would he say to you?”
Be in the story like Jesus