Monday Reverb – 28August2023

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The theme for this week is individual and communal callings.

The selected passages:  Psalm 124:1-8; Exodus 1:8-2:10; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20  

  • The call to worship Psalm is a communal thanksgiving song in response to God’s deliverance.
  • The Old Testament reading from Exodus recounts the oppression of the Israelites by the Egyptians, and the beginning of God’s deliverance with the birth of Moses.
  • The epistolary text in Romans carries the three themes of our relationship with God, our relationship with the world, and our relationship with fellow believers.
  • In the Gospel reading from Matthew, we read of Peter’s revelation that Jesus is the Messiah, and Jesus’ revelation that Peter is the rock the church will be built on.




Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • How did you understand the statement that Jesus is the savior of the personal?
  • In your own words how did you understand the video’s description of what it means to be a person?
  • What are the dangers of viewing personhood in terms of autonomous individualism.


Mercies of Freedom

Romans 12:1-8 (ESV)

Today for our lectionary passage we encounter a shift in Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Paul has spent eleven chapters in his letter talking about who God is and the grace he has for us.  It’s from this buildup that Paul will “appeal” to his brothers and sisters on account of God’s mercies to be a “living sacrifice.”  That’s why our passage begins with a “therefore” statement.  Everything Paul wants to say in this section rests on what he previously established in his letter.  That is an important pattern in scripture to be aware of.  The commands and admonitions found in scripture always rest on a foundation that supports them.  Namely, the heart and character of God is the foundation of all the commands we see in scriptureIt is on the basis of who God is and what he has done for us that we obey him.

So, we see that God’s commands are not arbitrary or given to us to rob us of joy and life.  Quite the opposite. God’s commands are invitations to live out the life of love and joy that he is giving us in Jesus ChristWhen we come to see who God is in such a way that we can put our full trust in him, we find obeying him to be a joy and delight.  Why would we not want to listen and follow the words of the one who loves us best and gives us everything?  He is not an ogre God to avoid, he is the author of life to embrace.

Notice the passage begins with the words, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God.”

Paul has already listed these “mercies of God” in the first eleven chapters.  He has already argued that justification comes by grace through faith.  God has done something in Jesus Christ that sets the world on a whole new basis, and it’s not something we did, or could ever have done, on our own merits.  It is all by God’s mercy.  To state it in simple terms Paul has concluded that by God’s mercy we have been set free to live in righteousness.

Before this act of mercy in Jesus Christ, we are slaves to sin and its power.  And slavery is not something you free yourself fromIt is something that requires rescuePaul holds freedom central to what God’s mercies have rescued us from:

  • Romans 5 – we have freedom from death.
  • Romans 6 – we have freedom from sin.
  • Romans 7 – we have freedom from the law. (This freedom from the law gave rise to some criticism of Paul’s teaching that accused him of promoting an anything-goes type of morality.)

Starting with today’s chapter and beyond, Paul will show these accusations to be a misunderstanding of what it means to be set free.  And we should keep in mind a few other arguments that Paul has made before we proceed.  As we set out to live in the freedom God has given us, we do so, not on our own, but in union with Christ.

  • Romans 8 – we receive the gift of the Spirit and see God’s plan to bring believers to conform to the image of his Son.
  • Romans 11 – we are reminded of God’s faithfulness to keep his promises.

So, we are not in a situation where God has set us free to live apart from him.  That would not be the freedom we were created for.  We have been freed in Jesus to be in relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit, a freedom that will set us free in all our other relationships as well.

On that note, we will explore this passage by looking at three relationships that God has set us free to live out: our relationship with God, our relationship with the world, and our relationship with fellow believers.  On account of God’s mercies setting us free to live out the freedom God has given us in Jesus Christ, we can see in Paul’s exhortations an invitation to live as God intended, not as slaves, but as his beloved children.

Relationship with God

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. (Romans 12:1 ESV)

Only on account of what Jesus has done can we have such paradoxical statements such as “living sacrifice.”  Shouldn’t a sacrifice be dead?  Being a living sacrifice is Paul’s way of speaking of our response to the overwhelming grace and mercy held out to us in Jesus Christ.   In Jesus we have been embraced and included in the very life of the triune God.  For Paul, worship is embracing this embrace in every aspect of our everyday lives.  Or we could say, worship is living in the true freedom of what we were created for.  And notice that this life of worship is carried out in bodies.  If slavery can be defined by one major hallmark it would be the loss of control over one’s own body.  A slave’s body was the property of their owners.  On this ground, a master could use a slave’s body for labor or profit.  Slave owners could treat the bodies of slaves with assault of any kind without repercussions.

Slavery to sin also takes place in an embodied existence.  Have you ever found yourself doing things with your body that you wish you hadn’t?  Paul spoke of his own experience of this in chapter seven.  That’s the power of the slave master of sin.  That’s what the mercies of God has freed us from.

Now, on account of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are free to “present” our bodies in all that we do in worship of God.  That is the way we were created to relate to God.  To worship God is to enjoy him and truly live in freedom.  And this worship entails sacrifice.  But this is not a sacrifice that amounts to death but rather is a way of “living.”  Paul is clearly using the word “sacrifice” in an entirely new way.  The normal religious sacrifices of the day would amount to death as the body of the sacrifice was cut into pieces and the blood was drained.  Not much chance that any life will come from that.  The way Paul is using sacrifice implies living sacrificially.  Jesus’ teachings were pregnant with the same admonition.  Jesus spoke of laying down one’s life for a friend, and he told parables such as the Good Samaritan that had much of the same theme.  Memorable statements like, “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” may come to mind.  The sacrifice we now offer is dying to the sinful, self-willed self and living for another, namely God, which leads into living sacrificially towards others.  We are free from living in the prison of having the world revolve around our wants and needs.  There is incredible freedom to turn our inward gaze outward to others, seeking their best in light of the gospel, and using our bodies in ways to bless others and glorify God.


Relationship with the world

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. (Romans 12:2 ESV)

Embracing the life we have in Jesus means we will be free to think differentlyOur minds must go through a renewal process.  Before Christ, our minds were captured by “this world.”  And to be clear, the word for “world” here is better translated as “age.”  It is referring to the present evil age and the ways of thinking that pertain to it.  Perhaps we can envision the “pattern of this world” as a box of bondage that Jesus climbed into in order to set us free.  If our thinking conforms to this box, we will find ourselves hemmed in by the walls of fear, guilt and anxiety.  But Jesus has destroyed these walls and has set us free to think outside the box.  As our minds are renewed, we are transformed to live out the life of Father, Son, Spirit, a life that scripture articulates as faith, hope and love.  This is the mind of Christ and the life he is sharing with us in the Spirit.

What marvelous freedom we have to move from conforming to transforming.  We no longer let the world set the agenda.  God’s word to us in Jesus Christ is our new calling and missionAs we are transformed by this Word, we will be better equipped in testing and discerning what God is up to, freeing us from the evil snares set before us in our world.  In this discerning we are set free to relate to the world in a way where we can be a blessing.  We serve as a witness to the world by not conforming to its walls of fear, guilt, and anxiety; rather, we live a transformed life of faith, hope, and love.  Our witness can point to the good, acceptable, and perfect Lord and Savior who has set us free to relate to the world with the mind of Christ.


Relationship with the church

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:3-8 ESV)

From here Paul speaks of the church – still referring to how our thinking must change.  Paul points out that instead of aspiring beyond one’s gift, believers should recognize each member is part of the body and functions in collaborationWe are “not” to think in ways that exalt ourselves over others.  That would not be the freedom Jesus has brought us into.  This is a thought life of faith, hope, and love where relationships with one another flow out of the relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit.  As believers who embrace his embrace, we live out this life in community with others as one body with many members.

Paul goes on to speak of spiritual gifts that are given to the individual members in the body.  The phrase,  “the measure of faith that God has assigned” does not indicate our faith can be measured or quantified; nor does it indicate that God predetermines and limits our faith to a measured amount or degree.  Understanding this phrase in context shows it refers to the spiritual gifting that has been measured out according to grace, whether that gift be in speaking, serving, teaching, giving, or comforting others.  God has so shaped the church in her mission to the world that it must work from the ground of relationship that it is called into.  There are no Lone Rangers in the church.  No single member has all the gifts needed to fulfill God’s mission through the church.  We are gifted in such a way as to share our gifts one with another in order to engage in the mission of proclaiming the Good News to the world.  If the life of relationship found in the triune God has been poured out on God’s children, it is only fitting that the proclamation of this Good News would be heard from a body of believers who are living in relationship.

Here in chapter twelve Paul has certainly not lived up to the accusation that his teaching on justification by grace through faith amounts to a lackadaisical or immoral lifestyle.  On the contrary, by showing what we are set free from and set free for, we are given a supremely high calling to live outIt’s a calling that demands our bodies and minds be completely devoted to the LordIt’s a life turned to God in worship and turned to others in serviceThere’s no room for self-justifying or self-serving agendasWe are set free to live in ChristThis is the life of freedom for which God’s mercies have set us free.


Small Group Discussion Questions

From the Sermon

  • Discuss the importance of grounding the commands in scripture on the foundation of who God is and what he has done for us.
  • How is “freedom” often understood in our culture?
  • Compare and contrast the freedom we have in Christ with the concepts of freedom in the world.
  • Discuss what Paul meant by being a “living sacrifice.”
  • Discuss Paul’s emphasis on the body in his exhortation to be a living sacrifice.
  • How would you explain worship being a sacrifice?
  • What are ways our minds can be renewed?
  • Can you think of any examples of not conforming to this world?
  • How do the various gifts to believers free us to live in relationship as a church?
  • Share any final thoughts you have on what freedom truly means in light of Paul’s teaching in Romans 12.





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