Is what you’re living for worth Christ dying for? Romans 12:2 is a classic scripture in the Bible that says, “Do not conform to the ways of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Part 4 of this Romans series will cover chapters 12 & 13. These two chapters teach us how to practically live under grace through mind renewal and every day action. Being a Christian is a two-fold process. The first step is the one-time decision to get saved. Romans 10:9 states that if we confess with our mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and believe in our heart that He rose from the dead, we will be saved. The second step, however, is a life-long commitment to renewing the mind to the Word of God and “walking it out” in our every day lives, hints Romans 12:2.
Jesus did not give His life just so we can live at the same level we did before salvation. We rise above the world’s ways and live on a higher plane. What does this mean? It means we are not under the control of sin or subject to sickness, disease, poverty, fear, offense and unforgiveness, human bias, self-effort or any other thing that tries to block God’s will for our lives. While the concept of living according to the Word is simple, doing so is not always easy. Ironically, living a free life has a price. But in all fairness, a life of bondage comes with its own hefty price tag as well. Begin by making a decision to follow Christ no matter what. The reward is incredible, far more than what you can fathom. A Hollywood director said, “Whatever you can dream for yourself, God always dreams bigger.” A person who lives totally “sold out” to Christ is hard to come by. Although they allow the Holy Spirit to work through them in powerful ways – such as healing the sick, raising the dead and destroying strongholds in people’s lives – this kind of life is not easily obtained and does not happen overnight. But it is more than worth it! How do we get there? How do we become those people? Two words: Hear and Do!
Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself. I can do only what I see the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also.” Jesus was totally led by God, who is the Word (John 1:1). He is the model that all Christians should follow. And if He submitted to the Word of God, why should we operate any differently? James 1:19-25 does a wonderful job of expressing the importance of doing God’s Word. It urges us not to just hear the Word, but to allow the Word to dictate our actions. Those who only hear the Word and do nothing with it are deceived and generally powerless over things that oppose or test their faith. Unfortunately, the average Christian hears the truth, but it seldom gets down deep enough to make a difference in their lives besides having a ticket stamped Heaven on it. I strongly believe that this is the prime reason why two major things are happening with Westernized Christian faith. The first thing is that the unsaved world views Christianity as a bit of a joke. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that the Christian faith is for those who are weak-minded and unintelligent. Christians talk a big game, but when it comes down to it, there are no results of what they proclaim. The second thing is that Christians are flexible in what they believe. The reason why the world hears us saying one thing yet doing another is because we can quote scriptures we’ve heard or even read, but we don’t exercise the Word in our daily lives; thus, never nourishing and growing our faith for anything to get done. We claim that Jesus is Love and Love lives inside of us, but “Christians” can have a reputation for being mean, hateful and nasty. We agree that marriage is forever, but there is more divorce amongst believers than there is amongst unbelievers. We say that Jesus has freed us from sin yet we commit as much sin as those who don’t know Christ at all. It’s no wonder the world does not buy into a Christian lifestyle and dismisses us the moment we open our mouths. I personally believe, to a great degree, where there’s no power there’s no testimony. It is fine to speak to people about God’s Word even if you don’t have a personal experience with that particular circumstance. But for those who love to speak extensively about the things of God and have no evidence of it working in their lives, your testimony is weak. We may walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7), but the world – who is unsaved and needs our help – walks by sight and they need to see some things.
James 2:18-20 boldly states that faith without works is dead. What good is a bunch of talk if there is no evidence to back it up? Bottom line, faith and living as a Christian is best expressed through actions. Getting in the Word, by hearing it or reading it, and then executing it is the only road to success in this life. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17) and it will be our faith that moves us to live right. Without the Word, you absolutely cannot live as a Christian. “But wait, Kirby, this sounds like works and self-effort.” It does, but remember, because we are free moral agents (1 Cor. 6:12), we have to give God permission to invoke His power in our lives. As I mentioned in previous entries, we cannot live this life through our own will power. It is the Holy Spirit, who we allow to work in us, that ensures God’s way of living. Lasting change can only occur from the inside out. This is the thing that separates those living for Christ from those who just wear a façade. Jesus said, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commands (John 14:15).” So, if He’s giving us tasks in the Word, then we should be doing them, right? God even esteems obedience over sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). Obedience to the Word is the true test of the extent you’ve received Christ.
Your mind will be renewed to the degree that the Word influences your daily behavior. If you spend 5 minutes in the morning doing your devotional – but you go through the rest of your day not being mindful of the Spirit and allowing your flesh to control your actions – you can only expect 5 minutes worth of renewal over a 24-hour day. Five minutes of 24 hours (1440 minutes) is .35% of a day, meaning the other 99.65% of your day is feeding everything that has very little or nothing to do with God. Let’s reserve 8 hours (480 minutes) for sleeping. This leaves 16 hours (960 minutes) in the day. Five minutes of 960 minutes is .52% of your day. What about the other 99.48%? Now, think about how much time you spend watching TV or interacting on social media. Personally, I’m a huge fan of YouTube. I would spend 3 – 4 hours watching all kinds of music videos and concerts, and maybe 30 minutes to an hour with the Word. Matthew 6:21 says that where your treasure is, your heart (desires and that which your life centers) will be also (AMP). I don’t want to turn this into a moment of condemnation or a legalistic issue, but it does put things in perspective. If we want to see an increase of Christ in our lives, we have to increase our time with Him.
Being a Christian is not about living for yourself. Our purpose is to serve and bring people into the knowledge of Jesus Christ, so that they influence even more people (Mark 10:43 & 16:15). How we go about spreading the Gospel is tied directly to the path God has chosen for each of us. Everyone isn’t called to be the pastor of a church. Our paths are diverse, including everything from medicine, education, culinary, writing, politics and care-giving to design, cosmetics, entertainment, engineering, hospitality, banking and beyond. The Church, meaning Christians, is one Body and we all have a part to play. When there are many pieces missing, however, the operation of ministry is more challenging. Being content with your given role plays a huge part in the success of the Body. Don’t try to be something that you’re not or branch off in an attempt to be the head honcho or a “boss.” This is Christianity, not a corporation. Your part in the Church is so much more important than you “proving yourself” to shallow-minded people. Think of the human body. If a hand decides to branch out on its own, what good is it by itself? The result is that the hand is useless and the body is handicap. In the end, there is no benefit to either. If you are having trouble being content in your role, I encourage you to find another member of the body to confide in. If you believe you can trust them, be honest with them. There will be times when we need to lean on each other. Never isolate yourself and sulk in your guilt about anything that concerns your life. Get another person involved. Just as our relationship with Christ is the key to a successful Christian walk, so are the healthy relationships we have with one another.
Finally, one major thing to keep in mind as you journey through life as a Christian, you must never give up as you combat evil with good. Do not grow weary in well-doing; the harvest is coming (Gal.6:9 & 10). Of course, this means we will have some challenges ahead. And some concerning issues we least expect. Chapter 13 is all about living an honest life while honoring those in our world, especially those in authoritative positions. The full issue of honor is something I will explore further in a later blog post. However, this could not be a more hot-button issue in America then it is today. Unfortunately, our culture does not hold honor in the same regard as it use to. Respect and value have diminished greatly in society and it has hurt us tremendously. Marriages are crumbling quickly, kids are challenging parents in ways that are previously unheard of and, as adults, we’re not setting the best example because of the way we speak about other adults. Adults talk so freely around the kids, trashing one another like it’s nothing. We also show a deep lack of respect to our bosses and government officials through our actions and what we say about them.
Many people these days argue that those in American government don’t deserve respect and I would agree with you … if I was not a Christian. Do I applaud all of the ridiculous things going on in government? No! However, these are the people who are in an authoritative position and, though we may not agree with the policies and scandals, God expects us to still show respect to our leaders and pray for them. If Christians believe in the power of prayer, and it’s our go-to in hard times, then we should never cease in prayer for our government. Talk about hard times! American government is a perfect opportunity to see the result of prayer and how the hand of God moves to create change. Besides, they don’t “deserve” respect any more than we “deserve” grace, but we still got the grace, right? You may not “feel” like praying for those who have offended you or those you love but pray anyway … and stay in the Word. Eventually, the offenses will have lost its sting. This is true for any situation you may face. We never want to get locked into offense, unforgiveness and bitterness. It only keeps us from God’s best; and how can we move forward if we’re stuck in one spot?
In addition to honor, we must be law-abiding citizens. Laws are here to protect us, not tick us off. And truthfully, the only people who are offended by the law are those who simply try to “get over.” Unless the law requires us to go against the Word, it should be followed. As much as it stings, pay your taxes and be honest about your income. Try not to rack up huge debts and please pay your bills on time. Again, God sees your honesty and your trust in Him and He is NEVER forgetful when it comes to blessing you.
In closing, the hardest part about Christianity is not its concept or even getting in the Word necessarily; it is living the Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to do a work in you. Though we have free will, relinquishing total control over our lives and inviting the Word to influence all decisions is where our relationship with Christ and our faith in Christ is best expressed. I hope that I’ve given some clarity to our role as Christians living under grace. In the next and final piece of the Romans series, I will explore our role in this world and the impact we can have on humanity. I’ll see you next time!
Kirby N. McKinney