David Jeremiah - The Decision That Can Save Your Life
I never thought I'd see the day, when marriage was talk to be obsolete by so many people. I never thought I'd see the day, when the Bible would be marginalized in our culture, in our government, but more tragic than all, in our churches. I never thought I'd see the day when atheists would be so angry. So everywhere I go, people ask me this question: "Dr. Jeremiah, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. How am I supposed to make this work in this paradigm in which we're living? How am I supposed to live for Jesus Christ when everything around me seems to be disintegrating and even sometimes my own church doesn't stand up for the things that I've always believed"? And I have been forced to answer that question because I've raised the issues.
And I was reminded when that question kept surfacing of a passage of Scripture that I heard preached since I was a young person. A passage that was written to another generation of people who were living in a very similar time. Paul wrote these words to his Roman Christians who were living in the Roman Empire when the Roman Empire was extremely hostile toward Christianity. After teaching in his letter the doctrines of the faith and explaining the place of Israel in God's plan, he began the second half of his book with these familiar words from Romans 12: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God".
If I could have asked the Lord to send me an answer to the question, "What must I do in the midst of this confusing time," there could be no clearer answer than these two verses. For here in Romans 12 we are given some marching orders, some instructions, if you will. First of all, we are told that we must make a radical decision. Say that with me. A radical decision. He begins by helping us understand that this is a crucial decision. He says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren". In other words, I beg you. One author has said, "I put my arm around you and I urge you to make this radical decision to present yourselves to God". And this is one of Paul's favorite expressions when he wants to make something come through as vitally important. What he is saying is this: "As you look back over your lives as Christians and the mercy and the kindness that God has shown to you, it is time for you now to step forward and be counted for your faith. I urge you to make a radical decision".
The secular world, according to J.I. Packer, never understands the Christian motivation. Faced with the question of what makes Christians tick, unbelievers maintain that Christianity is just the practice of self-serving purposes. They can't comprehend that we might love our God so much that we are willing to put ourselves in his hands. But that's what Paul has asked us to do. We can stand around and argue about all the things that are going wrong in our world and in our nation but, really, before we can worry about all of that, maybe we need to take a good look at ourselves. The Bible says that if we're going to make it through this confusing time, we have to start with a radical decision on our own interest in our own part.
This word "present" is a word which means to bring your offering to the Lord and it's a picture of Old Testament sacrifices where they would bring their sacrificial offering in their hands and present it to God. Paul uses that and he says, "I want you to take yourselves and I want you to present yourselves to God". When he speaks of our bodies, he's not talking about just skin and bones. He's talking about the totality of who we are. He's talking about coming to the Lord and saying, "I don't know what's going on out there in this world. I don't know how I'm gonna get through it but, Lord, the only way I'm gonna get through it is, if I am totally in your control and at your command. So I present my body totally to you for you to take control of my life". This decision is also very costly. This is not for wimps. This is not a walk in the park, my friends. This is not easy believism.
Notice what he says. "A living sacrifice". You say, "Well, Dr. Jeremiah, that's a misnomer. That's a disconnect. That's an oxymoron. Sacrifices don't live. They die". In the Old Testament, sacrifices were dead animals but in the New Testament, sacrifices are living believers. And God says just as that animal was totally consumed because of its worship to the Lord, we are to be consumed by our commitment to Jesus Christ. And I am passionate about this because I realize we're in a very vulnerable place as a nation and in our churches. If we continue down the road of just trying to be Christian enough so that we can get counted on the roll, we are going to be victimized by the culture in which we live. It's a crucial decision. It's a comprehensive one. It's a costly one. And the Bible says it's a creative decision. It says we're to do this so that we can serve the Lord. What are you doing for the Lord? What are you doing right now?
You say, "Well, I'm waiting for God to show me his will". No, you will never find it that way. Do the will that he has called you to do right now. It may be a simple thing. It may be something you think is insignificant but if you will do what God tells you to do today, he will open up the entire vista of your tomorrows and you will be in the will of God. And then the Bible tells us that this is also a very credible decision. I love the way the Scripture just unfolds this. It says when you come to the Lord and you present yourself to him like this, it says this is logical. This is credible. "It's your reasonable service". Say that with me. "It's your reasonable service".
And you know, the word "reasonable" in the language of the New Testament is almost exactly the word "logical". That's the word. It's logical to present your body to the Lord Jesus Christ. It's logical to make this radical decision. Have you said to the Lord, "Lord, everything I am and everything I hope ever to be, I give it to you". If you want to have one foot on one side of the fence and one foot on the other side of the fence, you wanna be a Christian over here, but live in the culture over here, you are in for a very discouraging and defeating experience. It is not possible to do that. So here's the first thing. Make a radical decision. Here's the second thing from Romans 12: make a rational determination. Notice what it says in verse 2: "And do not be conformed to this world".
Let me explain to you what that means. There are two words in this text. One is conformed and the other is transformed. Conformed means that you are allowing the world to pressure you into being like they are. Isn't it interesting, men and women, what we tolerate today that we would never have tolerated in another time in our lives? How does that happen? That happens because we allow the world around us to squeeze us into its mold. The Bible says in order for us to get through this situation that we're in we have to determine in our minds that we are not going to let the world push us into their way of doing things. That's something that happens up here. That's where this battle is fought and I just want to say to all of you parents who have young kids if you are not monitoring what is happening in your family through the television and now through the Internet, you are just setting the enemy free to pressure your children into doing the things that the world wants them to do.
So first of all we have to make a radical decision, don't we? We have to determine that we're going to put our lives in the hands of God with no reservations. Then we have to make this determination first of all that we won't be conformed but that we will be transformed. Let me tell you the difference between conformed and transformed. Conformed is from the outside in and transformed is from the inside out. If you want to keep from being conformed to the world you have to take care of the inner space of your life. This all begins with a radical decision. This radical decision is I'm presenting my body to the Lord. It continues with a rational determination: "I will not be conformed. I will be transformed". And that's all good theology and it's good to know but now we get down to where the rubber meets the road and how this affects you and me and what this means to us.
We come thirdly to this rigorous discipline. How many of you know that discipline is a word that's falling out of our vocabulary? Nobody likes that word. But notice what it says. "By the renewing of your mind". You are transformed by the renewing of your mind. Now if you look up the word "renewal" either in the English dictionary or you follow it through to its meaning in the text of the language of the New Testament, you will discover that the word renewal means renovation. That's what it means. We may not understand renewal, but we do understand renovation.
How many of you have ever renovated a house? When you renovate a house, what do you do? You take out all the old stuff and you replace it with some new stuff, right? Usually, you buy the new stuff before you get rid of the old stuff and you have the new stuff ready so that on this particular day when everything's done and the paint's on and the carpet's there, you take out all the old stuff and you get rid of it and you bring in the new stuff. You renovate your house. And this is what happens when we have our minds renewed. We take all the stuff that previously occupied our minds and we replace it with that which is in line with God's plan for our lives. Now, here's what happens.
Here's how the renewal process works. First of all there are two agents involved. There's the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, we are told, is a renewing agent. Titus 3:5 says: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit". Ladies and gentlemen, you cannot become a Christian without the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. It's impossible. You say, "Well, I don't". You may not have known that was happening but everyone who's a Christian is a Christian because of two things: the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. And get this, you cannot be renewed in your mind without the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. In fact, in the New Testament, you keep running into this theme. Ephesians 4:23 says: "Renewed in the spirit of our minds".
The Word of God is taken in by listening the Word of God, and when we do that, the Word of God gets into our system and it begins to renew us. Two agents, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, and two actions: there's an outside-in action and an inside-out action. What's the outside-in action? Well, we've talked about that. That's the Word of God coming from the outside, into your system. Now the Word of God is coming into your life and that's the outside-in action. But what about the inside-out action? Well, that's important too.
There's an inside-out action and let me say it this way. If you take the Word of God in and you're not prepared in your heart to receive it, if God has not done a work to plough up the hard soil of your soul so that it's willing to accept the Word of God, then nothing will happen. But I want to express to you that the Bible is going to do this and if you allow God to give you a submissive attitude toward his Word, that outside action of his Word will come in and it will stir you up inside until you become a new person.
What is it the Bible says? "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passing away; behold, all things are become new". If we allow this to happen, if we make this radical decision and this rational determination, and adopt this rigorous discipline, there will be some routine demonstration in our lives. Notice what it says. If we do this, we will prove what is the acceptable and good and perfect will of God. How do you prove what is the acceptable and perfect will of God? It's not done in a vacuum. You do that by the renewing of your mind, by the teaching of the Word of God and the processing of the Word of God in your heart. And as you do that and it becomes a process, you begin to understand what is the will of god for your life. Did you know that if we want to know the will of God, that he will show us what that will is? After you learn the will of God, you'll start to live the will of God.
It says that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. How do you prove it? You live it, you do it. How many of you know that when you take a step in God's direction, when he tells you what he wants you to do and you do it, inevitably he will demonstrate and affirm that in your life. That has certainly been true in my life. Ultimately, you will love the will of God. Isn't that true? What is good and acceptable and perfect. How's that to describe a good life? "How's your life going"? Well, let me tell you my life. My life is good and acceptable and perfect. "What are you doing, Jeremiah"? I'm just living the will of God.
Here's what I've learned over these years. That God's will for your life is more exciting, more challenging, more thrilling, more fun, than anything you could ever dream up in your best and most creative moment because God is your Creator. He is your Maker. He's got your DNA all programmed into his master computer and he knows when you get locked into that circuit, you are on your way to the most exciting and thrilling things God could ever do in a person's life. And if we don't get back to that understanding of how the Christian life works, we are going to continue to be pressured from the outside into being the weakest example of the church of Jesus Christ. Think about where you are. Have you allowed the world to press you into its mold? Have you given up some of your commitments in order to be accepted by your peers? Have you moved down the road away from the things of the Lord instead of toward them?
Here's something I've learned in the last few months just from a study of the book of Hebrews. Listen to this. Nobody drifts toward holiness. Nobody. We drift away from holiness. To be holy we have to be proactive in our own lives and determine this is what God has said to me and this I will do. If we did that, we would turn this whole community upside down. If we became Christians not just in name only but by the grace of God everything God wants us to do, if next Sunday we went to our pastor and we said, "This week, God spoke to my heart and I wanna give God everything there is of me to give. Show me how I can help". After he faints and gets up off the floor, he will put you to work and you will decide that this is something you should have done a long time ago. Let's quit complaining about all the problems we have. Let's be knowledgeable about them but then let's say, "Lord God, thank you for trusting me, for putting me down in this generation to serve you, and by the grace of God, that's what I'm gonna do, amen?
And you wonder, "Well, I'm not even a Christian, Pastor. What do I do"? Well, the first thing you do is you become a Christian. First thing you do is, you give up the things that have been so disappointing to you 'cause I know this. 'Til you know Jesus Christ, you don't know what joy in life is. If you keep chasing all those things you're chasing to try to find happiness, you'll never find it because, you see, God created you with a God-shaped vacuum right about here. And until God is at home in that place, you will never be fulfilled. Stuff sex in there, stuff drink in there, stuff dope in there. Stuff whatever you want to in there, it will always leave you empty. But when you find Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and he comes to live within your heart, then you are a fulfilled person, amen?