Monday, April 12, 2010

R12: What does God really want from you?

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

The first section, or "unit" of Living on the Edge addresses the first relationship in Romans 12, our relationship with God. There's an exhilaration that comes with having a relationship with the Creator of the universe, and eagerness to soak in His Word, and a compulsion to rid ourselves of the sin that plagued our past. That's how Chip Ingram opens his first chapter. Though his second paragraph begins with "But..."

But... If it were only that simple. Eventually some of the old sins and old habits return. Sometimes new character sins are revealed. (For example, I became a Christian before I was married or had children. Both life-changing events have uncovered flaws in my character that were either new or that I thought were gone long before.) We approach crossroads in our faith where we either choose to fight against our sinful nature or conclude the fight's not worth it, that it's just who we are. Marriage, career, children, etc all face the same crossroads: keep fighting to change, to grow, or concede that it's just the way it is so I better learn to deal with it.

Of course, God does not intend for us to live this way. Jesus promised, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) He further challenged the church in Ephesus, "You have forsaken your first love... Repent and do the things you did at first." (Revelation 2:4-5) As we mature in our walk with God, we forget that feeling when the Holy Spirit was fresh in our hearts. We settle for Jesus our Savior and forget about Jesus our Lord. And we are either content in our circumstances or we find ourselves struggling against God's will. Romans 12 begins with "Therefore... "and the opening thought concludes, "Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is- his good, pleasing, and perfect will."

So how do we get there? Romans 12:1 instructs us to "offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship." No, this passage is not asking you to go sacrifice yourself on an altar. It is asking that you live your life holy and pleasing to God. "Holy" means "set apart" and of course we want to live lives that please our creator. So what is this sacrifice? It is our will, our sinful nature, our selfishness, our pride, our whole selves for it is these things that keep us from experiencing God's best for our lives.

That leads us to the "s-word" of the first relationship in Romans 12: Surrender. It sounds harsh. It sounds intimidating. But it is the only way to tap into what God has in store for our lives and the only way to truly live as the lights God intends us to be on this earth. To quote from Chip's first chapter, "If you're tired of all the rules, all the formulas, all the religious activities, and even well-meaning church programs that promise transformation but don't deliver, I invite you to join me on a journey of grace, faith, and relationship that leads to genuine transformation." He asks us to trust him, but more importantly to trust God.

Each chapter concludes with TRUST ME as an acrostic for: Think, Reflect, Understand, Surrender, Take action, Motivation, and Encourage someone. I'm going to follow that same format here by paraphrasing the same questions as in the book. I encourage you to answer these questions in the comments if you feel comfortable to do so. You can carry on the conversation over on FB as well.

Think: Do you relate with the "crossroads" I describe above? How so?
Reflect: Does this stir something inside your heart? If so, why do you think that is?
Understand: How does this make you feel, encouraged, scared, convicted?
Surrender: Pray about this. Tell God how you feel, what you desire.
Take action: Come back tomorrow for Chapter 2
Motivation: Watch the first video on Surrender here.
Encourage someone: Pray for someone who you know is going through these same struggles. Pray for all those reading this book or going through an R12 small group, that God encourages them to fight on.

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