Tangible Teachings for Terrible Times

maxresdefaultI am getting prepared to teach my Sunday School class this week. For a little over a month now, we have been walking through the book of Exodus. Some of the previous lessons are:

  1. Answering God’s Calling
  2. Hardening of heart to God’s Calling
  3. God’s Calling and Leadership
  4. The Purpose of the Law
  5. Rebellion against God

This week, we are going to discover the secret to victorious living in the midst of difficult times. We want to live for the Lord but, it seems to be too difficult. Why is it so difficult and what can we do about it? Let’s find out from three different passages of Scripture. The Apostle Paul teaches us in his letter to the church in Rome:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

All that we have in the Scriptures is profitable to us and when understood and applied, gives us hope. Let’s take a look and see what needed instructions we can find to give us hope in this desire to live for the Lord in the midst of difficult times.

I. Commands

Our first passage to consider is also from the book of Romans. When studying the book of Romans, one quickly discovers that there are two distinct segment division. Chapters 1-11 deal with the doctrine (theoretical teachings) that the Apostle Paul felt that the Roman Christians needed. Chapters 12-16 deal with the practical application of doctrine to every day life. Let’s take a look at some of the practical teachings that the Apostle Paul gives so that we can live victoriously in the midst of difficult times.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

There are four verbs, two of which are commands, in this passage that we must understand if we are going to live victoriously in the midst of difficult times. First, we will begin with two of the verbs that are not commands and then we will look at the two verbs that are commands.

The Verbs that are not commands:

  1. Present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God.
  2. Prove/Live out the will of God.

The Verbs that are commands:

  1. Command number 1 – Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world.
  2. Command number 2 – Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

The first verb is “to present” your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God. The verb is presented in the infinitive form in English. In Koine Greek, the verb is presented as a completed action in the past with present implications. It could have been translated, “since you have already presented your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God” now do the following. The Apostle Paul is writing to people who have already accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They had already given up the leadership of their own lives and turned that leadership over to Jesus Christ. In order to be able to obey the two commands that follow, this first event has to have already taken place. Only disciples of Jesus Christ are able to obey the commands of verse 2. Let’s examine those commands now. The first one is “do not be conformed to the pattern of this world“. This is a direct command but in Koine Greek, Paul tells the audience “you have to do this but you cannot do it in your own strength, you do not have the ability, you need an outside source to help you“. If you are not aware and if you are not intentional about your actions, you will automatically be conformed to the pattern of this world. Temptation is all around you. You have a sin nature in you that wants to respond to that temptation and lead you to sin. If you are not intentional about your attitude and actions then, you will cave to temptation and sin. Being aware is not enough. You need help from an outside source to keep you from caving to temptation and sin. The second command reveals the outside source that can help you. The second command is “be transformed by the renewing of your mind“. The way this reads in Koine Greek is “you cannot transform your mind, you can only have your mind transformed from an outside source“. The outside source is what reveals the will of God. In other words, the Word of God is what is going to renew my mind so that I can cry out to God for help and not give in to temptation and sin. Once I understand my need for help and I cry out to God for help, I am able to do what the final verb reveals in this passage. I am able to prove or, in other words, live out the will of God. This will is good, acceptable, and perfect.

So, even though you want to walk with God and be victorious in the midst of difficult times, it is impossible on your own. First, you must be a follower of Jesus Christ. Then you have to realize that if you are not aware and intentional, you will automatically be conformed to the pattern of this world, that is, giving in to temptation and sin. When you expose yourself to the Word of God, It renews your mind and gives you the ability to cry out to God for help. God will help you accomplish His good, acceptable, and perfect will. This was not the first time that we see this in the New Testament. This is the pattern that is set from the very beginning of the formation of the Church. Let’s take a look.

II. Practical Example

We can see this in Acts 2. Let’s examine the passage and see if we can discover any similarities to what we saw in Romans 12.

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:41-43, 46-47)

There are 6 things that we need to understand from this passage.

  1. Bible Study
  2. Fellowship
  3. Lord’s Supper
  4. Prayer
  5. Worship
  6. Favor with people

As a result of continually doing these 6 things, the Lord was adding to the number of people being saved every single day. These people were having their minds renewed daily by studying the Word of God with the Apostles. They encouraged one another to godliness by partaking in Christian fellowship daily. This gave much needed accountability. The early Christians were intentional about not being conformed to the pattern of this world. They did not want to give in to temptation and sin. As a result of this, they were able to live out the will of God. This caused others to take notice. The new believers were sharing what they were learning with others and new people were coming to know Christ daily.

Is this part of your daily life? Are you aware of the fact that the world around you is on a mission to conform you to its desires? Are you intentional about not being conformed to the pattern of world? Are you intentional about not giving in to temptation and sin? Do you study the Scriptures daily? Do you study the Scriptures with others so that they can encourage you to live godly and give you the accountability that you need? Is your mind being renewed through the Word of God? Is the will of God something that you seek to live out moment by moment, day by day? Do you pray for others and are others praying for you? Are you seeking to share this “Good News” with the people around you? May the Lord help us live out on a daily basis, what this message teaches!

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