Reflections of Our Savior
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [Romans 12; NIV84]
Dear Members and Friends of Our Savior:
Let’s consider some New Year’s resolutions worth keeping. (I guess that’s sort of an oxymoron...wouldn’t any resolution be “worth keeping”?)
Let’s consider these:
- I resolve to eat more...exercise less.
- I resolve to spend more...save less.
- I resolve to smoke more, or if I don’t I’ll start.
- I resolve not to go to the doctor, I’ve made it this far.
- I resolve to live for myself, “me first” is my motto.
- I resolve to be self-centered, contrary, critical, uncaring, unhelpful.
- I resolve not to acknowledge the Lord’s will in my life.
- I resolve not to grow stronger in faith and knowledge of his love.
- I resolve not to go to church, I’ve made it this far on my own.
The first six are laughable right? I’ve just taken examples of common New Year’s resolutions and turned them around and made them negative. But the spiritual ones, the next three, are not so laughable. They are common among those who gradually fall away from what is really important---attending to their spiritual needs.
Now look again at Romans 12. If I took the positive commands from Romans 12 and turned them around and made them negative, they would look like our sinful nature.
As far as our life as Christians is concerned, and even our life in this congregation, all of our problems that we bring on ourselves and others are the exact opposites of what the Lord through the Apostle Paul commands us here. We see in these verses our sins of failure to live as the Lord calls us to live. The “law” of these verses show us our own sins.
Yet there is someone who did all of these things perfectly: our Savior Jesus lived a life worthy of these words. He is more than pattern and example. He is our perfect substitute in life as He is in His death. The forgiveness He provides, free of cost or burden, and the Holy Spirit He sends us through Word and Sacrament, enables us to view these as resolutions for us, worth keeping, and worthy of our striving in the year ahead.
The strength and ability to live as Christians described in Romans 12 comes from the gospel of forgiveness through our Savior. We strive to live according to God’s will out of thankfulness to our God for His love and mercy. Living each day in repentance...and faith...is the basis for living as the Apostle described in Romans 12.
Happy New Year!