Last night, I was teaching Romans 12 to my high school class. We’ve been rolling through the letter Paul wrote to a church in Rome since late August…and we moved into the last major section of the book, which deals with what our response should be to the mercy and grace show through God’s provision of salvation.
In verse 1, (which is written in the aorist tense in the Greek, suggesting a one-time act) Paul says that the spiritual life is to be lived as a living & holy sacrifice…our spiritual service of worship. The contrast of a living sacrifice that we offer would’ve blown the 1st century reader’s mind since their sacrifices, offered by a priest, wound up dead. It all starts with a decision.
In verse 2, (which is present tense in the Greek, suggesting continuing action which would maintain the previous one-time decision) Paul starts that section with a negative & a positive: Don’t conform to this world & do transform by renewing your mind. Don’t let the world squeeze you into it’s mold. Then, metamorphosis will take place as you begin to think about this life the way God thinks about this life. This is the prerequisite for experiencing God’s will.
And, before I taught this section, I thought back on the times I’ve thought this section in the past and the lives I’ve seen transformed.
She’s now serving as a pastor at a church in Colorado.
He writes curriculum for a very popular financial advisor in our Tribe.
He’s with the Lord.
He and 4 she’s are all in seminary right now. My seminary, too.
She is a full-time missionary.
They planted a church, and he pastors it.
He’s an elder in a church.
He’s a full-time young adult minister.
They (making 7, with 4 new ones who applied for this summer) are all summer counselors at Pine Cove in addition to their day-jobs as college students.
She’s a wonderful wife and mother after a tumultuous high school life, and she’s joyful now.
She’s an incredible elementary school teacher.
She’s a great coach.
They’ve become parents who are serious about Godly parenting, and seeing growth in their children.
She’s become a successful business woman.
He’s a firefighter.
He’s a good husband and embarking on an engineering career.
He’s a full-time youth minister.
She’s an art instructor.
He works for a popular Christian music group.
She’s trying to figure out what it’s supposed to look like but joyfully seeking.
I could go on.
And I looked out at my students waiting to learn last night…
She came to know Christ this summer.
He is at the top of his class.
He is at the bottom of his class, but serves in our ministry and led one of his teens to Christ a month ago.
She goes to art school.
She is highly involved in drama.
She is a dancer.
He is a good athlete.
She had to drop her extracurriculars to get a job.
He visited for the first time.
He has asked me about what it would take to be a youth minister.
She has no idea what she wants to do or be, but is trying it all to see what she likes.
He serves in the children’s ministry.
He started coming because his friend comes and likes what’s going on.
He sits in the back and pays little, if any, attention. Or so it seems.
She comes because her parents make her. Or so it seems.
She comes from a broken home.
He is clueless that the girl sitting next to him wasn’t by chance.
I could go on.
And as I sat there doing that thing where you look busy between the time you made the announcements and were getting ready for them to turn in there Bibles to what you’re studying by shifting your notes on the music stand we use for a podium, I was reminded about how powerful the…
…that little reality that if they’ll make the one-time choice of verse 1, and the continual choice of verse 2, then they’ll have the humble attitude needed for a meaningful ministry in the Body in verses 3–8.
…then they’ll love without hypocrisy and abhor what is evil.
…then they’ll be devoted to one another.
…then they’ll serve diligently, being Spirit-led.
…then they’ll rejoice in hope, persevere in trials, devote to prayer, contribute to the needs of the saints, be hospitable.
…then they’ll bless their enemies, and live at peace.
…then they’ll rejoice & weep with those who rejoice & weep, or what we call doing life together.
All that stuff rounds out the chapter.
And I thought what a cool job I get to do: Watch people move from the 2nd little list to the first little list–both of which could be a lot longer.
And I said a prayer before I started that they’d move from that 2nd list to the 1st list because of what they heard tonight…
And I said a prayer that I’d be sensitive to how I could serve them along that little journey…
And I said a prayer that He’d remind me to be thankful when I saw it happen…
And I said a prayer of thanks that I have probably the coolest job in the world…
Because I major in transformation.