Epiphany 1 – January 12, 2020 Sermon Notes:
Romans 12:1–5 (ESV): “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This week marks Epiphany 1. The first full week of 2020 – marks a brand New Year, a New Decade and a New Season of life. We’ve just finished another frantic Christmas, where demands and highest expectations can push us too hard, leaving us feeling empty and rushed. We can become disoriented and oblivious to the significance of a new year and it’s symbolism.
Let’s Slow things down. Let’s agree to NOT give into that false pressure to move on, to move past the calendar without a glance. Today, we need to prepare our hearts for a new year. Not with precise planning and preparation, but with a pause. A moment of reflection and time to process.
Glancing back at 2019, what has been the overall “PACE” of your life?
Have we been pushing too hard, moving too fast, filling our calendar too full? Is that what we want for this new season ahead? Today is a time to ask why? Are we running from something or to something? Are we losing the gift of the present…?
We shouldn’t enter this new season dragging along our OLD mindsets, nursing past regrets and aging grudges. We need to drop our tired attitudes, open ourselves up to the possibility of something different and new. Entering a new season challenges us to release our regrets. If we don’t, the past can become a figurative prison locking out the present and a threat to our future.
We all say we want a fresh start, to move on… but how do we actually accomplish that? Where in the scriptures can we find help in turning over a new page in our stories?
Today’s passage in Romans 12 is such a practical passage. It holds the key elements for leaving the past behind, a biblical approach to helping us move on, a how to guide – for “out with the old, and in with the new”! It even offers us a chance to preview the future and see Gods plans for our new lives.
So, if your ready for something new – and tired of the weight of the old… let’s jump in!
1. Who doesn’t want a new life?
It challenges us with its practical approach to embracing the NEW, as promised by Christ. This time each year… annual “resolutions” appear – our buckling down to make changes in our lives, healthier habits, simplified priorities, new goals. Each new resolution will mean a change of habit – a leaving the old for something different.
We ALL know how that usually goes – Planet Fitness is never busier than the second week of January – but by Easter things have slowed way down.
Weight watchers commercials are running non-stop right now. Capitalizing on our need to change our appearance, to drop excess weight and regain our self esteem. Psychologists and doctors all agree, to see an exterior change, we must have an interior realignment – a life adjustment that begins within and works itself outward over time. The same is true of our spiritual life.
But what about the deepest part of us? How to we change our thoughts, our obsessive compulsive behaviors, our cynical expectations, our ragged beliefs?
How do we change the thoughts and agreements we have about ourselves, each other, about our God. How do we resolve to change the things deeper inside? To truly experience a New Season, to enter the fullness of Life that is promised – we will need to be transformed from the inside-out.
2. Leaving our past (old) requires surrendering our future (new). A living sacrifice. Consider the imagery here. A Hebrew reality, animal sacrifice was very familiar to the Jewish readers, a cow or goat, sheep, or dove, all were “given” to God as sacrifices for sin, atonement, guilt, uncleanliness.. etc.
The cost of following Jesus requires us to surrender our lives for His will. “A Living – breathing – active – choice to allow our old self to die, and His life to take over.
To move beyond our past, we will have to trust GOD with the old issues that seem to stick to us like glue – we have to let go of our wounds. A releasing of our “right to be wronged”.
We must release those old regrets – we can’t retain grievances if we are to move on. We must lay them down at the altar – we must relinquish control – we must surrender all our independence and need to exact justice.
The painful experiences of our past can rob us of life in the present, and any hope for our future. It’s clear the only way we can safely transition from the old to the new requires a cutting off, an abandonment of our carefully guarded hurts for His wholeness.
We sacrifice ourselves – (our personal plans and preferences) on the altar of worship – we let Him chose our future for us. This is a Key first step in finding our way – without this surrendering we can’t experience the transformation of our minds – and discover the will of God for our life.
3. Making the old new – A re-new-ed Mind is the essential element for being transformed from the old / past to the new / future. It reverses the trajectory of our lives from repeating our past mistakes and resuming old and painful habits to embracing the new and hopeful – to seeing our life with the eyes of Faith.
“Be ye transformed by the re-new-ing of your mind.”
Easy to say, impossible to do. The Holy Spirit is an essential catalyst for a changed thought life. For new patterns of thinking and living.
Do not be conformed = συσχηματίζεσθε (syschēmatizesthe) Verb – Present Imperative Middle or Passive – 2nd Person Plural. Strong’s Greek 4964: To conform to. From sun and a derivative of schema; to fashion alike, i.e. Conform to the same pattern.
Christ is offering His mind and His thoughts for ours. A trade if you will. We exchange our old, tired, negative obsessive mindset for His new, invigorating, optimistic, and calm view of our life.
As we consider the distinct difference between this worlds “thinking” or logic, vs. the wisdom of God we can clearly determine the polar opposite perspectives each is offering us. As Christ-followers we must un-learn what we think we know and ask for Wisdom that comes from above. James tells us that there is an earthly or fleshly wisdom and a heavenly wisdom.
To be transformed we will need a shift in our thoughts – from an earthly to a heavenly perspective. Jesus tells us that as the heavens are above the earth so are his ways above our ways. The pursuit of Gods will requires us to understand and trust in Gods ways.
James 3:13–18 (ESV): Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
We have the opportunity to re-wire our thinking. To reset our default programming from manic, uncertain, unstable, irrational, self-destructive, and cynically protective…to something brand new, confident, wholesome, and eager.
This new spiritual mind allows us to see things we’ve missed before. To increase our capacity to trust and hope where we couldn’t muster the courage before – it unveils the path laid out before us and marks the steps we should take in every aspect of our lives – we are no longer self made or independent from God, we are dependent and abandoned to His provision and pace. We are freed from the past and allowed to experience the present fully.
4. Moving Forward – Pursuing the New. As our minds are renewed – We are no longer stuck in our old ways and past wandering – we are no longer swept along by our circumstances and environment, we are no longer “conformed” to the world (ways and values and principles of our culture) – we can see the way forward clearly.
When we are “freed” (1) from the bondage of our past, (2) renewed in our patterns of thought, and begin to live (3) unaffected by our circumstances, we have the opportunity to “see” our lives clearly!
We begin to understand, and discern (test) the will of God, allowing us to sense and find the will of God for our individual and corporate lives. Able to see “ahead” as to what we’re called to do and be. Instead of living by our wits – we have a new, divine, clarity as to where and when and what to do.
5. A Prescription for Wholeness. This new mind offers us a new life, an exchange of our will for His, and when we do, life becomes remarkably different… and NEW.
It marks a powerful new beginning for all who chose it, an entering into – a covenant with God – the Old Testament equivalence of being “circumcised” (Genesis 17) repeatedly emphasized in the Old Testament books.
In the New Testament this physical act is replaced with a “circumcising of the heart”.
A metaphorical and more precise description of the earliest sign of covenant, the removal of the “old” and dead sin nature for a new and cleaner life in Christ is the powerful symbol and proof of a life lived in “Newness”.
It leads to the Hebrew promise of Shalom. Or Wholeness – completeness. Fulfillment and contentment, peace and plenty, all wrapped up into a single idea. This is the fullness of life Jesus has offered to all who follow Him.
6. Getting Real:
We all get to choose how we will enter this new season of our life. We can keep doing the same things we did in the past, or we can pause, reflect, and reconsider how we are going to live in 2020.
For those who long for more… we can learn and follow the precise will of a God for our lives. We can experience “wholeness” and completeness, maybe for the very first time. Our future can be a bright horizon, full of renewed optimism and properly placed confidence in our Saviors plan being infinitely better than the one we had.
Let’s agree to “circumcise” our hearts – once and for all. To cut off the old ragged parts of our past, and agree to sanctify our lives, our ambitions, desires, and plans by surrendering them to God.
We do this Symbolically now at the beginning of our year / decade/ season… and then regularly as we go through the year / decade / season ahead. We want to reset our PACE of life to match Gods.
This year let’s resist the temptation to run at overcapacity- let’s decide now, we will consciously chose to slow down and simplify our lives – to intentionally make space, new room in the margins of our life for God. If you do, be prepared for Him to invite us into something new. That new “something” is going to be really good for us and our families.
—–This Blog post contains Fr. Brad’s sermon notes for his Sunday service sermon at St. Margaret’s Anglican in Conway NH —- Strong’s Reference material was obtained from Biblehub.com –