Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Call of the Non-Conformist

Today, I want to post something that’s usually not real popular – Sacrifice.  Sacrifice isn’t what we want serving God to be about, is it?  Fellowship, camaraderie, fun and ministry that’s what we want serving God to be about. 

I want to say something about the word serve, as in "I serve God".  It’s not just about stopping things the bad things you’re doing.  It’s not about praying.  If you’re going to serve God you’re going to have to do something.  A servant does something.  Today, I want to post on that from this portion of scripture:

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
12:1 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. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

A Living Sacrifice

Let’s first define the word sacrifice.  Sacrifice is defined by Mirriam-Webster Dictionaries as the destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.  Giving up our sin is a form of sacrifice.  Giving of our resources is a form of sacrifice.  Giving up our "down time" is a form of sacrifice.

But this says “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”  In the Old Testament sacrifices always consisted of giving an animal to be killed and burnt on the altar.  The word altar comes from a word that means immolate or burn up.  If you were a sacrifice you had to die.  There was no living sacrifice.  Of course, animals, not people were sacrificed.

In the New Testament God has done away with animal sacrifice. 

Hebrews 10:10-12 (NKJV)
10:10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,

Because of what Jesus did, the slaughter can stop.  Jesus was the last sacrifice ever at the temple, but our text tells us there’s a new type of sacrifice; a living sacrifice.  You might call it a change of lifestyle.  A living sacrifice is sacrificing the sin that you’ve been living.

This is one of the things that keep people out of the church, though.  There are pastors and leaders who don’t dare preach on sin because it will cause certain people to leave.  People want to be comfortable that they can enter Heaven with the sin that’s in their lives.  Unfortunately, that’s not true.  A pastor that never preaches on sin, your specific sin, isn’t doing you any favors, because there’s no opportunity available for conviction or repentance. 

The reason for their reluctance is that people don’t want to give up their sin.  They like it!  We always think we can control the affects of sin.  No one thinks that they’re going to become an alcoholic when they have their first drink.  They just think that they’re having fun.  No one plans on Lung Cancer when they first start smoking.  No one ever sees the consequences of their sin happening in their lives.

We sin because there’s some reward in it for us.  Maybe it’s fun, or maybe it looks appealing.  That’s why beer commercials make it look like everyone’s having a good time.  The guys are getting the chicks because they’re drinking the right beer.  Everyone is laughing, and happy.  You’re not going to sell a lot of beer by showing some guy dying, or becoming a paraplegic because he was driving drunk.  It’s designed to make it look appealing, so people will buy that beer.

If you’ve ever smoked, do you remember your first cigarette?  Did you feel cool, or just nauseous?  You have to work at sin until you begin to enjoy it.

The problem is that we become attached or addicted to sin.  Sometimes, we just don’t want to stop.  Fornication is like that; it feels good.  Drunkenness feels good.  It’s a sacrifice to quit that – A living sacrifice.  Our text tells us that’s our reasonable service.  That word reasonable means not excessive.  It’s reasonable; within reason. 

Let me tell you what an unreasonable or excessive sacrifice is.  Having your beard ripped out, and your back laid open, then carrying a heavy wooden cross to the place of your execution.  Then being thrown onto that cross, having nails driven through the mass of nerves in your wrist and ankles, and being lifted up to slowly suffocate.  All of that happens and you’re innocent…that’s an unreasonable sacrifice.

All we are called to do is repent; change our minds, give up the carnal, sensual things – reasonable service – and be holy; set aside for God’s use:  Reverent; in awe of God.  This is where the service comes in.

When we talk about service, we often say things like, “I gave up drugs and drinking, I’m serving God.”  The problem is that when you use the word service it implies that you’re doing something.  A servant serves – they’re doing something.  You’re really only a servant of God if you’re doing something that serves God’s purpose or needs.  What are God’s purposes in the world?  To save sinners.  What are you doing to serve God in that area? 

A servant doesn’t look at church like it’s a social club.  A servant doesn’t see church as a place you visit when you want or need something.  A servant prepares him/herself to meet the needs of God.  That Bible calls that our reasonable service. 

It’s not enough just to stop sinning.  The Bible tells us we need to look for what we can do to serve God.  It’s reasonable for God to expect that because look at what He sacrificed to buy us back from sin.  He gave His only Son so that we could walk away from sin, once and for all.  It’s reasonable for God to expect that we would be holy in that new life.

Here’s a spiritual truth in the form of a question:  Why would you want to take the issues and problems of the old life that drove you to salvation, into the new life that you’ve been given?

It’s like the guy who’s been given a new lease on life through a liver transplant risking the destruction of the new liver by continuing to drink excessively and use drugs.

Being a Non-Conformist
 Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

There’s an old joke about non-conformists:  You can’t tell them apart – They all look the same.  That's what non-conformity may look like in the world, but it isn't true of Christianity.  We are called to be different from the world.  Look at this – It’s the vow of nazarite:

Numbers 6:2-6 (NKJV)
6:2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. 5 All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. 6 All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body.

The vow is about separation to God’s use, right?  Verse two says, “to separate himself to the Lord.”   That’s what holy means, right?  The vow sets out the steps to do that.  No wine or similar drink – No vinegar.  Vinegar is the Bible’s way of saying alcoholic wine.  They shouldn’t cut their hair, and should stay away from dead bodies.  This is different from the way non-nazarites lived.  Another way to say that is that the non-nazarites lived like the world lives.  Nazarites don’t conform to the worldly behaviors.

Our text calls us to be modern-day nazarites. “Do not be conformed to this world;” be different.  Our behavior should be different from the people of the world.  People should be able to see holiness or separation in our lives.  “Hey those Christians, they're not like us.”  Think about this – If we’re not involved in all the things the world is involved in, drunkenness, fornication, drugs, and immodesty to name a few. I’m talking about sin or self-destructive behavior.  Sin is self-destructive, “The wages of sin is death.”  If we’re involved in all those things how can we say that Jesus has the power to change lives?

Do you know what one of the most depressing aspects of my old life was?  It was thinking that I had ruined my life:  That I’d never be anything but a drunk:  That there was no hope for change.  I couldn’t see a way out of the mess that my life was in until I met people whose lives had changed, because of what Jesus had done in their lives I knew it was real, because they didn’t live like me.  They were transformed; changed by the renewing of their minds.  They had a different way of thinking.  While  we're involved in sin, we're not in our right minds.  We're involved in self-destructive thinking.  Self-destructive thoughts are not right thinking.  In many cases it’s a form of mental illness, but by choosing not to conform to the world.  By being holy, by separating ourselves to God’s use, which is our “reasonable service” we're transformed.  Their minds are made new, that’s what renew means; to make new again.  We came to ourselves.  We're now in our right minds again.  I’m a non-conformist now.  I’m not like the world.

Continue in Sin

Romans 6:1-4 (NKJV)
6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

So, as we become Christians – followers of Christ – we discontinue the sin we in which we were involved.  It’s a reasonable sacrifice; let it go.  Jesus died to free us from that.  He paid the penalty.  We have chosen to follow Him and in doing that we’ve received the call of that nazarite vow.  We’ve died to sin.

As we pass from the death of sin into a new life in Christ.  We leave the old behaviors, the old way of thinking behind.  We begin to walk in the newness of life.  

Be new.  You have a new life, you can let go of the old one.  I’ve been saved twenty-five years and I still wake up marveling that I feel good.  Before, I started every morning with a curse word. Oh, _____, it’s morning.  I hate morning!”  I was still sick from the alcohol of the night before.  I hated life.  I’m delighted that I didn’t have to bring that into my new life.  Now, I usually wake up cheerfully…usually. 

I sacrificed the drunken behavior.  I’ve taken up my reasonable service.  I’m living for Jesus, and my mind is renewed. 

We think our text is a command, but really, Paul is begging us to do that.  He’s saying, “Try it.  You’ll be transformed. Your mind will be renewed.  I think it’s sad when people go into their new lives in a half-hearted way.

“I’m only going to give this much.”
“I’m not offering my body as a living sacrifice.”
“I’m only giving a part of me to God’s will.”

It’s sad, because if you’re thinking that way, you’ll never experience real transformation.  You’ll always be stuck with a certain part of your sin.  You’ll never know complete escape, and you’ll always wonder why Christianity doesn’t work for you.  The best advice I can give you is from an old television commercial.  The tag line of the commercial was, “Try it, you’ll like it.”

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