Message for Sunday 23 August 2020: “Transformed Within”

Today’s message centers on Paul’s discussion in Romans 12:1-8, where he described living sacrifices, implying that Christians are to live as symbolic offerings to God. Unlike butchered sacrificial animals, people are not to be literally slaughtered (thank goodness!).

Paul emphasized peoples’ holy status, like the way an animal might be set aside because it is being prepared for a special purpose. Paul claimed that perceiving yourself as a living sacrifice contributes to “spiritual worship,” suggesting a special connection to God (Romans 12:1).

Paul’s use of the term sacrifices reveals that he lived in a world where both Jews and Romans made sacrifices to their gods. Judaism was a profoundly sacrificial religion, where categories of carefully raised animals were taken to Jerusalem’s Temple for butchering and burning. The thinking at the time was that God wanted people to sacrifice to obtain forgiveness. The Romans made sacrifices of foods, mostly, but they also performed occasional animal sacrifices to please their gods.

Many modern people of faith believe that killing for religious reasons is wrong and even more so because closeness to God doesn’t require it.  Aside from living sacrifices, it seems that Paul’s writing about being holy and acceptable to God is timelessly relevant. It’s not that Christians should be striving for a holier-than-thou attitude, just that the desire to serve God can better motivate people of faith to think and act in productive ways.

Next consider Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. . . .” This is a powerful perspective, a fantastic bit of advice. Followers of God strive to not mimic the world but rather to seek renewal through transformation of thinking and behavior. Often, this type of renewal occurs through an inside/out process. Have you experienced such a life-change as this? In modern terms, you might call this holistic wellbeing, which is health in body, mind and spirit.

Paul invited readers to change their perceptions by renewing their minds. This is great advice because people fall into all sorts of mental traps and dysfunctional thinking. Living a great life requires, among other states, a combination of personal faith and critical thinking. Too much of one at the expense of the other creates imbalance, which leads to further problems.

To capture the best of both faith and reason there is mindfulness, which is a marvelous way for you to regain control of your inner life. Mindfulness contributes to better conscious choices, through enhanced awareness and the courage to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. All of this is closely tied to cultivating a godly conscience, which is God’s spiritual essence guiding your decision-making.

It’s helpful to consider yourself as a vital faith community member, gathered in a supportive church equipping you for sharing God’s love. Joyfully do your part in strengthening you church while evolving your attitudes and behaviors for a better life. The tremendous results will produce a blessed state of personal transformation. In this way, you are poised for a new beginning.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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