Are you trusting Christ this morning with all your plans?
The Lord is certainly moving, working and blessing and we’ve seen it during our Easter series. We’re in a series of sermons called Love Reigns. So let me invite you this morning to turn in your Bible to Romans Chapter 12 we’ll be looking at 2 verses, one and two, Romans 12:1-2.
Today we continue that series, Love Reigns, and we’ve looked at how love is reigning over our past, last week. We’ve all made past decisions. We’ve all made things that we feel like hinder us from being able to follow Jesus. What we saw last week is that Christ and His blood is greater than our past. There’s nothing in our past that can separate us or stop us from the love of God when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
Today, we’re going to look at how Love Reigns in our present circumstances. Now I want to do something I’ve never done anything like this since I’ve been here, so I’m asking you up front, participate. It’s a little interaction. So first, how many of you remember the game, Simon Says? OK, I’m gonna ask you to play with me. OK? A little bit of Simon Says this morning. I’m Simon, you’re you have to do what I say. That’s kind of cool ’cause I get to have all the power and you know that’s not my reality at home or anywhere else, and so this is kind of cool. But if you don’t know the game when you hear Simon Says, do something, that’s what you do. If you don’t hear the words “Simon Says”, then you don’t listen to the instructions, so we’ll just go through this.
Simon Says “clap your hands.”
Simon Says “stop.”
Simon Says “stomp your feet.”
Simon Says “stop.”
Simon Says “shake your head up and down like this.”
Simon Says “keep moving your head up and down like this.”
OK, like half of you stopped and Simon didn’t say. Now some of you, see, some of you are competitive and I just learned a lot. Simon Says “stop moving your head by the way.” So what I just saw was people who stopped moving their head and then realized Simon didn’t say so they started moving again, they didn’t want to be caught, that’s called cheating. So we may need to do a sermon on that at some point. But thank you for participating, and you may like what is he talking about? Simon Says is a game of instructions. Now Simon Says is a test of your ability to listen to the commands. Now if I was going to be real tricky, I would have gone really fast and tried to stump you, but that wasn’t the point of what I was trying to do. The point was that you are given instructions and you have a choice to listen or not to listen.
When I was young a teenager, we would do games like this in youth group. Often I was kind that shy kid didn’t want to play those games. Or honestly I thought I was too cool to play those games, but I really wasn’t. I just thought I was. I would intentionally choose not to listen because I wanted to sit down. We had this choice, this decision to make whether we listen or not to listen. Well, do you know that’s how we live every day of our life? That’s how we live our present circumstances each and every day, hundreds of times, thousands of times a day we have to make choices to do things and a lot of times we struggle with those choices. A lot of times we don’t struggle with those choices. A lot of times our choices are based on the instructions that we are given. You know a lot of times, the decisions that we make are based on the influences in our life, and there’s a lot of influences in our life. I mean, the world is noisy. We have influences on college campuses through college professors, who are influencing a whole generation, in my opinion, most of the time negatively.
We have TikToK people. How many of you know TikTok? I’m glad some of the youth do. All of you should. I have no idea what a TikTok is. Larson asked me all the time to have a TikTok and I don’t know what that is, but they they do. I know that people watch those videos. They’re influenced by what they see through that. We have YouTube channels. Any YouTube people here who have their own channel? Anybody making money off of you? Did you know that there’s a lot of money to be made off of YouTube channels? I’ve worked with students and young adults who go to these YouTube channels. That is where they get a lot of their information. They’re being influenced by what those people are saying.
Bloggers. I’m more of a reader so I know what a blog is. We read things. We’re influenced by things. I love reading the blogs of some pastors that I look up to, some church planters who I follow. Those blogs give me information and that information is formulating decisions that I make. The news we see on TV, the Radio, our friends and the newspaper are all things that influence us and those influences formulate our decision-making process. It’s the old saying back in the computer days, garbage in, garbage out. What is inputted will be outputted. So, with all these influences, it’s important for us to know what is the primary or what should be the primary influence of our life.
The Apostle Paul has a lot to say in all of his writings about living your life under the influence of God. He has a lot to say about aligning your worldview with God’s view of the world. Paul frequently focuses on this idea and here’s why. He knows that followers of Christ have to live in a world that is vastly different. He knows that Christians are bombarded with information, even back then, with information contrary to the information we need to live our lives too. And so he’s always talking about allowing the Spirit to work in you. Allowing God to influence you. Allowing God to work and lead you in your present set of circumstances. So what I want us to see today as we read this, is that the decisions we make determine who we are following. Does that make sense? The decisions we make determine who we are following, and Paul tells us that our decisions need to be based on our following of Jesus Christ.
Here’s what he says in Romans 12:1-2. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
So there’s three things that Paul points out to us about being able to live our life, making decisions based on our following of Christ. The first one is Live your life in light of God’s mercies. Live your life in light of God’s mercies. We all view life through a lens. I don’t know if you know that, but there’s always a lens that you’re looking through to view your circumstance.
The best way that I can illustrate this is through something called Snapchat or Instagram. Anybody know that one? Young people do? Yeah, a lot of tech references in the sermon today. It just worked out that way. I love Snapchat. I don’t do it like on my story or anything, but I’ll do the silly stuff. The filters with the silly faces and the silly voices and I’ll send it to my brother. Those who know my brother will appreciate this. I did one where it gave me a bald head. I looked just like him, it was identical. I remember looking at it and I sent it to Jennifer. And I sent it to my brother. My brother’s response was, “hey, you upgraded.” Jennifer never responded. That lens or that filter changed the way I was viewed.
You know, you go to the zoo, right? At the zoo, the elephants or whatever are really far away when you’re in that area. You go to these little silver things and you put a quarter in. I don’t know why they charge a quarter and maybe they charge more now, but you put a quarter in and it lets you zoom in or see far away; the elephants or the animals that you want to look at. That is a lens that changes your viewpoint. The way we are to view the world, the lens in which we are to view, Paul says, is through God’s mercies. Everything in life, every decision we make, our present circumstances need to be viewed through the lens of God’s mercies. That is one thing that you could change your life today.
If you’re grumbling or complaining or feeling down and out about your circumstances, view them in light of God’s mercies, and that will change your perspective on thing. You know, if you don’t like, or if you’re not happy with where you’re at in life, view it and view your present and even your future through the lens of God’s mercy. Now you may be sitting there thinking what is God’s mercy. Well, here it is. It is not getting what we deserve. That’s what mercy is and mercy and grace worked together. I know Paul addresses mercy here, but in other places he addresses mercy and grace. And so we view life through the lens of mercy and grace. Grace, the fact we did not get, what we deserve.
What is it that we deserve? The Bible says death. The wages of sin is death. Our rebellion against God means we deserve punishment. We deserve death, but God, who is merciful, gives us life through Christ. We are not getting what we deserve and grace is getting what we have not earned. So Grace is the gift of God which is eternal life through Christ. So we view life through this realm of ‘hey we don’t get what we deserve.’ We deserve death. We deserve punishment but yet we have, which is mercy, we don’t get that. Grace says we get eternal life. That is how we need to view our circumstances; through grace and mercy.
Now I’ll illustrate it like this and if you have kids you can understand it. There are times when our children disobey us. Maybe there’s times you disobey your parents. In my house there are punishments for that. Some of them are pretty severe, some of them are not. We’re at the stage now where the punishment that seems to work the most is just taking away electronics. That usually gets people to straighten up pretty quickly. Here is how mercy and Grace works in that situation. I set a rule. My kids disobey it. Consequences? They lose electronics. Instead, what I do, as a parent from time to time, is I sit them down and I tell them you are not going to experience the punishment. You can still have access to your electronic device, and I might even give him a donut or a cake. Now, you say why do you do that? They need to learn. Well, yeah, there is time for consequences. There is time for punishment. There’s also time to teach about God’s grace and mercy. So, what I am teaching in that moment is that they’re not getting the punishment that they deserve, and I’m giving them a reward or I’m giving them something that they did not earn. So that gives me as a parent an opportunity to say what I just did represents God’s grace and mercy and then you go into the Gospel presentation.
That is what we’re talking about here. And that is how we are to view the life that we have been given. Now when we look through the lens of the Gospel, the lens of grace and mercy, then Paul says offer yourselves as a living sacrifice. In view of God’s grace and mercy, live your life as a living sacrifice. What is that?
The best way to understand it is to go back and understand what is a sacrifice to begin with. A sacrifice was usually an offering that involved the shedding of blood of a goat, a cow, a bird, something that you were offering to God, this is Old Testament, as a sacrifice, and that blood atoned for your sin. That’s a dead sacrifice.
Jesus, on that very first Easter Sunday, on that very first Good Friday, He became the ultimate sacrifice. He gave Himself as the one and only sacrifice. His blood was shed for us. Paul is not asking for a dead sacrifice. He’s asking for a living sacrifice because Christ has already done that work. We don’t need to kill goats. We don’t need to kill birds. We don’t need to kill pigeons or anything else anymore to atone for our sins. Christ has done it. So we offer ourselves now as a living sacrifice. What does that look like?
Psalm 51 I think explains it well. The Psalmist writes, “You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, oh God.” Psalm 51 sheds light on 2 areas of a living sacrifice. A broken heart and an obedient or humble heart or spirit. And here’s what I mean by broken. We have to come to a point where we realize our sins have broken the relationship between us and God. We need to come to a point where our sins have broken us because when we realize we are broken because of sin, then and only then will we go to God for restoration. That is, when we offer ourselves. We just take our brokenness, our living sacrifice or taking all of our mess, all of our filth, our broken relationships, all of our brokenness between us and God, and we just say we fall on our knees and we say, “God, I can’t fix this anymore. I can never fix it, I’m broken.” That is the sacrifice, admitting our brokenness and then giving it to God, who will restore it through Jesus Christ. And when we give our life to Christ, we have to give all of it, surrendering, becoming obedient, having a humble, obedient heart to God. That is what Paul says. In light of God’s mercies because God sent His Son to die for you, that is how you view your life. Now offer your life as a total surrender to Him. That is what it means to view your life in the right way.
But Paul continues into verse two, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Here we get to changing your patterns, will change your life. Or a better way to say that is allowing God to change your patterns, will allow God to change your life.
Is there anybody here who’s a creature of habit? Or maybe you know somebody who’s a creature of habit. I want to tell you how bad I am at this. I have the same morning routine. You can probably relate to that. I drive the same way every time I’m going somewhere. So much so I have driven from Mount Pleasant, where I grew up, to Jennifer’s house where she grew up thousands of times in 15 how, how long have we been together? 15-16 years? OK, I’ve made that trek the same way for that long. The other day I was going from my house to her old house. 3/4 of the way there I realized I had no idea where I’d been. Anybody ever zoned out while you’re driving? I mean, it’s just muscle memory took over and I’m like how did I get here? Now I knew where I was going. I mean I wasn’t like spaced out completely. But yeah, I was probably thinking about a sermon or I was listening to a sermon or a blog or not to blog, vlog. I’d like to watch videos when I drive. Probably not a good thing. 16-year-olds, don’t do that, that’s bad. But I was so in a routine of making the right turns that my body just took over and that’s it. I’m a creature of habit. Jennifer will say I don’t like to go anywhere or do anything, because I’m a creature of habit.
How hard is it to break those patterns? Hard, very hard. I don’t like going a different way once I find a way, I like. It took me, when we moved here, I went four different ways to come here. Once I found the way I like, I have traveled that exact same way every day since and I will continue as long as I’m here. I don’t like to break my patterns. I don’t like to break it. Patterns are hard to break. Patterns are hard for us to break.
But the patterns in our life that are sinful, need to be identified and we need to allow God to work in us to break those habits. Those old sinful habits are really hard to break. The world is squeezing us, I said it last week, the world is conforming us and trying to conform us. Some of us have been living in those sinful habits for so long, we may not even know we’re living in them. Many of us have been doing the same things for so long, we don’t even realize they’re wrong because they feel right.
So what’s the solution? Let God transform you. Stop conforming and be transformed. How do you do that? Spend time in your Bible. Open this Book. I said this quote last week in our Sunday nights, but “dusty Bibles equals dirty lives. Dusty Bibles equals dirty lives.” As you’re reading and studying this, allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you and identify the old sinful patterns that you need to break. And then allow the Holy Spirit, which lives inside of all those who believe in Christ, that gives you the power to stop doing those things. You have the power that lives inside of you. Stop conforming and be transformed.
If you notice in your life that you have a pattern of telling lies to people around you, stop lying. Stop, and tell the truth. If you notice a pattern where you are lazy, stop being lazy and work. God wants us to work, by the way. If you have a pattern of giving in to addictions, of whatever nature, allow the Spirit of God to work in you and break those habits. If you have a bad habit of getting on the computer and looking at things that you shouldn’t look at, or Instagram, Snapchat, whatever it is, your phone, allow the Spirit to work in you, so you stop doing it. You have the power living inside of you to obey God and to let the Holy Spirit transform you.
And here’s the result, now listen. When you do this, when you say, I’m going to view life through the lens of God’s mercies, I’m gonna offer my body and total surrender; my life through as a living sacrifice, completely surrendering to God, and I’m going to change my patterns, allow God to change me from the inside out, here’s what will happen. The results will be, Paul lays it out, your will will be God’s Will. You will trade your will and your desires for God’s will. He says, “so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.” The ultimate outcome of sacrificial living, and a renewed mind is the ability to distinguish God’s Will in the present life.
There are many of you here today who are probably struggling with a decision that you have to make immediately. You are probably struggling with something that could affect your future and you don’t know what direction to go. When you offer yourself and you begin to allow Christ to transform you, now listen, those decisions will be clearer. I didn’t say clear. I said clearer. It’s hard. A lot of you are faithfully following and you’re still struggling to know what God’s Will is. That’s OK. It’s not always easy. It’s not always a sign in heaven that says “oh, you have to do this.” At some point, you just have to know you’re living faithfully. You have to make the decision that God has laid on your heart and you just have to trust in His will as an outcome.
It does take faith, and it does take trust. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Let me ask you this. Are you trusting Christ this morning with all your plans? All of it. Your school plans, your friendship plans, your work plans, your family plans. Are you trusting Christ? Are you seeking Him every day for His will? Have you surrendered your life, as a living sacrifice, viewing every decision you make, through the lens of His mercy and grace? You know, I think the most difficult thing for me, as a parent, as a youth pastor, or as your pastor, is gaining trust. Right? Same thing for you. Some of the most difficult things in your life is gaining trust. When I tell my kids, they can’t go do something, that makes them mad but they have to trust that I know what’s best for them. When I do something that may make people mad, but they have to trust that I know what’s better, whether it’s at work or at home, wherever it is. When God tells us to do something that we don’t think we should do, we have to trust that His ways are better than our ways. We have to trust that He is working for our good and for His glory. We just have to trust God.
Today, you may be in a place where you haven’t been trusting. You may be in a place where you’ve been trying to live your life based on your own worldview and not the world view of the Bible. You may be in a place where you’re not offering every ounce of your life to God as a sacrifice, a living sacrifice. Do you need to come and just give it to Him today? Do you need to come and surrender to Him? Do you need to say God, “this is a hard decision for me. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. I don’t know what the future is going to be, but You do and I know that You’re leading me because You have a good and perfect will for my life.” Do you trust it? Are you willing to trust Him as your Lord and as your Savior? As we stand and sing, I want to invite you today in a very specific way. I want you to offer up to God all of your old patterns. I want you to offer up to God all the decisions that you are facing today in your life and I want to invite you to trust Him. I want to invite you to respond in faith.
Now you can come down here and pray. I know it’s kind of concrete. The Lord will give you the strength to pray, if you need to pray. Pray where you’re at, pray as you’re singing, go home this afternoon and pray. Trust the Lord for everything that you have to face in the present circumstance, because He is faithful to lead you in the right way.
Let’s pray together.
Father, I thank You so much for Your faithfulness. I thank You for your goodness. I thank You for Your love and Your grace and Your mercy. I thank You that even though we are all sinners, we’ve all fallen short of Your glory and that the wages of sin is death, that You have given us a gift of life through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to live a life in response to His sacrifice in obedience to You, surrendering every ounce of who we are to You, letting You transform those old patterns and help us today and the present, to let Your love reign in our life. Father, if there’s anybody here who’s never made that decision to follow You, I pray that they would step forward and step out on faith today. That You had put it on their heart, that You would make their palms sweat, but You would pick them up and bring them down here and let them give their life to You on this day. Because it’ll be the most impactful decision they ever make. Father, we pray if there are those who have never been baptized and that they’re ready to take those next steps, that You would lead them to do that as well. We pray for those who are feeling led to join this congregation, that You would lead them to be a part of the ministry that You are doing here and that You will continue to bless all that we do, as devoted disciples committed to making disciples all for Your glory. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen and amen.