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Feb 05, 2017

True North | Total Surrender

True North | Total Surrender

Passage: Romans 12

Speaker: Jon Graybeal

Series: True North

Category: Weekend Message

Good Morning ZPC!

Well Super Bowl Sunday is upon us….We are in our current series, True North and as Jerry reminded us last week, we started the series back in September and we looked at the things we believe in…God, Jesus, Scripture, the Church, etc. then we took a break from the series for Advent and then started it back up 3 weeks ago now. So we talked about the things we believed in the fall, and we are now discussing our behavior. We’re asking, how do these things that we believe about God, Jesus, Spirit, Church, how do these things effect the way we live? Do they affect the way we live? Should they affect the way we live? And that’s where we find ourselves this morning, asking how we play out the role we’ve been given as Christ followers in His kingdom.

So with that in mind, we’ll look at our text for the morning, Romans 12.1-21. So if you have your bible or the bible app on your phone you can follow along or it will be on the screens as well. Romans 12:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Sacrifice, surrender. Paul says to present ourselves as a living sacrifice. Let’s face it, words like sacrifice or surrender or follow aren’t words we particularly like. Follow, surrender, sacrifice, words like this make a lot of us uncomfortable. We generally associate sacrifice and surrender with losing or giving up and we don’t like to lose or give up, do we? What are we losing, what are we giving up when we surrender, we’re giving up the thing we like most, we’re giving up control. For some of us, giving up control is more difficult than for some and you know who you are. If you’re unsure whether or not that’s you and you came here with family or friends just look to your left or look to your right, I’m sure they’d be happy to let you know. They may be letting you know without words, just by how they’re looking at you in this moment. This now awkward moment. How many of you would be willing and honest enough to admit that there’s probably some area of your life that you like to control.

Maybe it’s something simple, if at home everything has its place and everything has to be perfectly in its place / maybe you color coordinate your closet / if you won’t let anyone else drive your car / if you’re one of those people that when you vacuum the lines have to be just perfect, some of you are so good at this that you can vacuum yourself out of the room so that not only do you have the perfect lines but you have no footprints in the freshly vacuumed carpet / this same sickness applies to mowing the yard, some of us need those nice neat lines and/or patterns in the freshly cut grass / I admittedly have my own control issues…

Maybe it’s not so simple: If I want something done right, I gotta’ do it myself / you micro manage people to make them fit your expectations / maybe it’s a co-worker or relationship or a friend / or let’s get real personal parents, maybe it’s our children that we’re trying to control.

“Mom, Dad, I’m going to get the mail.”

“Do you have your helmet on?”

Maybe not to that extreme but I read an article not long ago that I couldn’t quite believe; the article said that college graduates 25 years of age and younger, 8% of their parents are going with them to their first job interview….what is happening?

We all have our areas, maybe some of us have more areas than others, but we all have our areas, areas that we want to control, areas that we can’t seem to surrender, areas that we can’t seem to sacrifice. 

Quickly while we’re on that word, sacrifice. We need to remember what a sacrifice was. Sacrifice is OT worship language. In the OT, the worshipper would bring a bird, a sheep, a bull or some other animal and it would be sacrificed (sacrificed as in killed and that’s putting it politely) and that sacrifice was an offering to God. This was part of your worship. At the heart of sacrifice was the idea that our sin, or our wrong doings, our inadequacies, etc. demand a punishment or payment. The sacrificed animal represented God’s willingness to accept a substitute so that the worshipper might have an ongoing relationship with God. Here in Romans Paul says we should be a living sacrifice. Not a dead animal but a living being created in the image of God sacrifice. D.L. Moody an American evangelist noted that “the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.” Keep that in mind as we move forward.

I’ve had you do this with me in the past and you were so amazing at it I thought we’d try it again. Pretend with me that we are all good first century Jews. The good part might be more challenging for some of you I know. But let’s pretend that we are all good first century Jews. And as a good first century Jew at about age 6 or 7 you would have started _________, that’s right, you would have started school. The Talmud, which I’m sure you’re already aware being the good Jews that you are, is a Jewish text. It’s the written, recorded oral Torah, what had been passed down from generation to generation and the Talmud says this, “Under the age of six we do not receive a child as a pupil; from six upwards accept him and stuff him with Torah like an ox”. Good, well done. And at age 6 or 7 ‘til about age 10 or 11 you would have begun to learn the Torah, the first 5 books of the bible and not just learn the Torah but memorize it.

So at age 10 or 11 you would have had the first 5 books of the bible memorized. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, memorized.

You guys got that, right? So, at age 10 or 11 ‘til about 14 or 15, you would then go on to the next level of school. In this next level of school, you, as good first century Jews, would go on to study the rest of the OT scripture and again, not just study and learn but memorize. So at age 14 or 15 you would have memorized the whole of OT scripture, Genesis to Malachi….memorized. You guys got that right? Now, here’s where it gets interesting. At age 14 or 15, you would have come to a crossroads. One of two things would have happened. 

If you were top of your class, the best of the best, if you knew scripture, if you had it memorized and knew what some of the teachings of various Rabbis were and really had a grasp of scripture, if that was you, you would then go on and attempt to follow a Rabbi. You would go to a Rabbi that you aligned with, that you wanted to follow and the Rabbi would start asking you questions and questions and more questions so that He could determine whether you really had a grasp of what you had learned. After all the questions, the Rabbi would either say, “Sorry, you just don’t have what it takes, you should probably head home and start learning the family trade” OR the Rabbi would say to the student “Come, follow me.” This was the common phrase for Rabbi’s accepting new disciples, “Come, follow me”, the phrase in Hebrew, literally means “walk after me.” It was a huge honor to be a disciple, to follow your Rabbi, to be asked to follow. Now if school wasn’t your thing, you weren’t the best of the best, you weren’t going to the next level, you would begin to learn the family trade and take on the family business. Keep that in mind.

So take everything we just talked through and keep that in mind as we look at a guy named Peter.

Matthew 4:18 – “As Jesus walked by the sea of Galilee he saw Peter and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea – for they were fisherman. Jesus said to them, ‘Come, follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. “

“For they were fisherman” – Peter wasn’t good enough, he didn’t make the cut. He had gone home to learn the family trade and was working the family business and Jesus comes to him and says, “Come, follow me.” Jesus, the Rabbi, is asking these not good enoughs, to follow him, not the other way around like it’s supposed to be. It’s no wonder they dropped what they were doing and immediately followed him. They were being honored despite not deserving it.

Peter, whether he knows it at this point or not, is being asked to sacrifice, to surrender. He willingly follows Jesus but isn’t at all aware of what that will mean. He’s not good enough, he’s a fisherman and now he’s a disciple. 

Fast forward, Peter has walked with Jesus for nearly 3 years at this point.

Matthew 26:31 – “Jesus says to Peter, ‘tonight, you’ll leave me, you’ll desert me, you’ll deny me.’ And Peter says, ‘I’ll never desert you, even if I have to die with you, I won’t deny you.’”

And we know how the story goes.

Matthew 26:69 – Peter denies Jesus 3 times in the courtyard after Jesus’ arrest. Peter, the fisherman, the not good enough, denies Jesus, denies the Rabbi that came to him and said, “Come, follow me.” The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the table.

And then, to come full circle, after Jesus is crucified, buried and resurrected, He comes to his disciple Peter, the fisherman and after a nice fish breakfast by the sea, Jesus says,

“Do you love me?”

“of course I love you.”

“Feed my lambs.”

“Do you love me?”

“Yes, you know I love you.”

“Tend my sheep.”

“Do you love me?”

“You know everything; you know that I love you.”

and in this first interaction after Peters denial, instead of a slap across the face or a few choice words for Peter, “Feed my sheep, Peter.” (And the last thing Jesus says to Peter, “follow me.”)

Peter had some good days and some bad days, but his worst day wasn’t bad enough and his best day wasn’t good enough. He was invited to follow because he was loved, not because he measured up. We are invited to follow, not because we’ve done anything on our own, not because we’re somehow adequate, not because we measure up but because we are loved. Jesus loves each of us as we are, not as we think we should be. We’re invited to surrender and to sacrifice because He surrendered and sacrificed. We’re invited to give our lives, to become a living sacrifice, because He gave His life.

Peter had built his whole relationship with Jesus on his assumed ability to be adequate. From the moment he was invited to follow, Peter continued to believe that he needed to be adequate, that he needed to be good enough, that he needed to measure up and that somehow he could do that on his own. That said, Peter still followed. He realized, as pastor Kyle Idleman puts it, that "Following Jesus isn’t something you can do at night where no one notices. It’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day commitment that will interfere with your life. That’s not the small print—that’s a guarantee."

If we are to follow and be the people Paul calls us to be in Romans, people not conformed to this world, people who love genuinely, hate what is evil, holding to what is good, if we are to be people who love with mutual affection, who rejoice in hope,

who are patient in suffering, if we are to follow and be people who extend hospitality to strangers, who rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, who live in harmony with one another and are not overcome with evil but overcome evil with good and love, if we are to be a Romans 12 people, perhaps the truest test of our sacrifice is the way we are with each other. How we treat a sister or brother from day to day, how we respond to the marginalized and oppressed, how we respond to interruptions from people we don’t like, how we deal with normal people in their normal life on a normal day may be a better indication of who we follow than a fish on the bumper of our cars or a scripture reference and a nod to Jesus in our Facebook and Twitter posts.

If we are to follow and be the people Paul is calling us to, all we need do is surrender, surrender to the fear of failure, to the idea that we are somehow adequate or good enough, surrender to the idea that we are deserving of what we’ve been given, surrender to the idea that we will not fail. This Jesus is saying, “Come, follow me”, this Jesus is saying, “You will fail”, “You will crawl off the table”, give up the idea that you won’t. Failure is so often the cross we never expected and the one we find hardest to bear. We will fail but we are not defined by that failure, it’s in the midst our failures and our inadequacies that we are invited to follow, that we are invited to surrender.

When we sacrifice, when we surrender, when we follow, the real good news of Jesus is that we can’t lose, which is the thing that we were concerned with in the first place, we can’t lose because we had nothing to lose in the first place. When we surrender, when we slowly shape ourselves into this “living sacrifice” that Paul calls us to be, we stand with Jesus, with all of our scars and our sins and with our failures and insecurities. We’re invited to follow, to surrender and to sacrifice because He surrendered and sacrificed. We’re invited to give our lives, to become a living sacrifice, because He gave His life.

And it’s because of this undeserving grace that we’ve been given, it’s because of this sacrifice that was made for our inadequacies that we come to this table.