Mercy Deep Enough to Redeem the Mind
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Sunday, December 14, 2008 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1230
Pastor Don Horban

Romans 12:1-2 - ďI 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.Ē

If the Christian walk is perceived as a task or assignment it will always be forced in terms of carrying it out. And if the engine driving the walk with Jesus isnít pleasurable and delightful, only the most strong in will-power will carry it out continually. The easiest way to reach the human will and capture it eternally isnít with duty, but with delight.

This is why we should pay particular attention to the way Paul finishes the two verses in our theme text for this series. The good news is Paul ends his famous appeal in Romans twelve one and two with his description of living in the will of God as being ď....good, acceptable and perfect.Ē The bad news is, for many, this is not an accurate description of the process of living the Christian life.

If you donít believe me just ask yourself why in the world would we have to expend so much effort and energy encouraging and pleading and begging people to keep going and growing with God? Why do people have to be nudged into something that is not only good, but absolutely perfect?

Thatís the issue we want to address in this teaching. If people are to live the Christian life properly they must perceive it properly. In other words, you donít just ďget savedĒ and bolt out of the starting gate. That initial energy may or may not carry you very far down the track. Thatís why we took a whole week studying the ďThereforeĒ at the beginning of our text. The renewed mind comes from somewhere not nowhere. There are foundations and reasons that make everything else work properly.

Romans 12:1 - ďI 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.

Paul focuses in even more tightly on what he has in mind. ďThe things Iím calling you to now live out canít just be done because Iím telling you to do them. They need fuel to get off the ground. And the fuel is the mercy of God. But I donít mean just experiencing the mercy of God. And I donít mean just believing in the mercy of God. Iím talking about your mind and how you soak it in the mercy of God!Ē

The truth of the abounding mercy of God in Christ Jesus is to your mind what uranium is to a nuclear reactor. When you ponder it prayerfully you will cherish it. And when you cherish it it will become fuel in the renewal of your mind. Soaking your mind in the mercy of God will draw your will with thankful, humble delight rather than drive it in mechanical duty.

This is exactly why Paul directs his readersí attention backward to Romans 1 through 11 before he directs them forward to Romans 12 through 16. These first eleven chapters of Romans are a tale of the mercies of God. Even the chapters that donít, at first glance, appear to be about mercy at all really do resound with mercy when you consider them fully and deeply. Romans 1 and 2 seem to hold out nothing but a sad tale of our sin and rebellion against God. Everything is black and hopeless. And theyíre meant to be like that because only the truth about our actual situation, our utter bankruptcy and hopelessness, sets the stage properly for the mercies of God.

Itís for people the likes of us - people who couldnít possibly earn their status or favor before God - for whom the righteousness of God has been made freely available through Christ - Romans 5:6-10 - ďFor while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous personóthough perhaps for a good person one would dare even to dieó [8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.Ē

Do you see the wonderful, hope-filled news in those words? Never let anyone tell you that you werenít so bad apart from Christ. Those who try to build your esteem with false flattery do you no favor. Youíre being cheated. Let the Bible speak its own message. The worse we are without Christ the better. Because I was so lost and sinful and unworthy of Christís grace then, when He came and died for me on the cross, I know that I need never worry now about qualifying for His grace either: Romans 5:10 - ďFor if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.Ē

Perhaps Jesus, more than anyone else, expanded on the very thing Paul is telling us in these two verses from Romans 12. Listen very carefully to a simple incident from the life of Jesus. Try to pretend youíve never heard this account before:

Luke 7:37-47 - ďAnd behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, [38] and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. [39] Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner." [40] And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "Say it, Teacher." [41] "A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. [42] When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" [43] Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly." [44] Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. [45] You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. [46] You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. [47] Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgivenófor she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."

Take note. Jesus uses a decidedly non-religious person in His story to teach something important to a highly trained and seriously devout Pharisee. Surprisingly, the Pharisee in Lukeís account isnít as moved to serve Jesus as this ďsinful woman.Ē And this cuts to the core of the reason Paul turns to the mercies of God as the motive for renewed minds and transformed lives. The Pharisee, who is prompted by every religious system and rule and regulation you could imagine, was never drawn to devotion to Jesus by the call of duty. This sinful woman, who knew none of the rules and regulations and religious duties of the Pharisee, was openly drawn to worship and serve Jesus. Why? What was working in her life that wasnít working in the Phariseeís?

Jesus tells us. She understood she had been forgiven much. She was drawn, warmed, and delighted to adore Jesus because her mind and heart were steeped in the rich mercies of God. And, just like Paul said, the mercies of God will motivate you far beyond religious duty.

Back to us. I know we all believe in the mercies of God. I know we could all recite the basic theology of grace and forgiveness. I know we all understand and agree with the Biblical premise that weíre sinners saved by grace. But Iím not talking about any of those things. Those things, in themselves, carry no renewing power. Iím asking you how many times a day - while youíre at work or driving your car or cleaning your house - how many times do you pause, get purposely still and quiet, and back up your brain, and just consider the mercies of God to you in Christ Jesus. How regularly do you recall the mercies of God? Paul says thatís where the power for godliness comes from. Jesus says so too.

2) THE MERCIES OF GOD ARE THE ANTIDOTE TO THE THINGS THAT MOST FREQUENTLY WEAR CHRISTIANS OUT AND PULL CHRISTIANS DOWN SPIRITUALLY - We are called to renew our minds daily in Godís mercies and we are called to glorify and extend Godís mercies - Romans 15:8-9 - ďFor I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, [9] and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy...."

This is the whole object of the gospel. We are to renew our lives daily in Godís mercy and we are to help others marvel at Godís mercy. We are called to reveal Godís mercy to others in both our words and our actions. This is how Christianity spreads and grows. Jesus came to make Godís mercy look great. Jesus saved you and filled your life with Godís mercies to make them manifest through you to others.

But it doesnít always happen. Iíve been around the church long enough to realize that many Christians profess the mercies of God more than they extend the mercies of God. And this kind of hybrid spirituality burns people out long before their time. Iíve seen it over and over. People get miffed because someone is ministering on the platform and they donít think that person has treated them fairly. Another person gets upset because he sees someone else raising their hands in worship and they donít think that person was honest with them. Someone quits working with children because someone else spoke too harshly to their kids. Another person leaves the church because one of their friends didnít get along with one of the department leaders.

All of those true stories have one thing in common. The mercies of God were not taken into consideration. We all get so much like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. If the only idea Jesus were driving home in this parable was the wonderful, mind-bending grace the father gave the son Jesus could have told the story with only two characters - the wayward son and the merciful father. But thereís obviously something else intended here. Jesus injects a third character, the older and obviously miffed brother.

The context of the parable tells us why. Itís a story directed to the Pharisees because they were offended Jesus was associating with flat-out sinners. They couldnít stand to see Jesusí favor - His mercy - extended to these undeserving reprobates. Thatís why Jesusí story has an older brother in it. Weíre meant to see ourselves. Weíre meant to see how, little by little, inch by inch, we poison our souls and starve our hearts when we donít share in the Fatherís mercy.