Our congregational theme for 2017 is “TRANSFORMED.” This word comes from the text of Romans 12:1-2 where the apostle Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (NKJV).
In order to better understand why these verses are so relevant for us to consider it is necessary to briefly consider their context and content. Notice first the word “therefore.” This is a summary statement that reminds readers that because we are in Christ we are now to be different. Next Paul “beseeches them.” This implies his apostolic authority and the urgent subject matter he is addressing. He has a right to urge or exhort readers, even in a city he had not yet visited! Notice next the word “brethren.” Paul was addressing Christians here. This message is for us. In the racially-divided context of Rome and in our divided context, all Christians whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, young or old, black or white, etc. are to give heed to the message. Next Paul appeals to the “mercies of God.” Over the past eleven chapters Paul has shared many ways in which God’s mercies have been revealed. He has been merciful to those who did not deserve mercy by sending His Son and the Spirit, justifying the guilty, and extending His grace to both Jews and Gentiles.
Based on the mercies of God, Paul pushes us to take two primary actions. First, Paul urges us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God (12:1). Perhaps Paul wanted his readers to think about OT sacrifice. Think back to the days of the old law. Worshippers at the Temple under the Law of Moses knew what kinds of sacrifices were acceptable and what was not. Sacrifice was a spiritual act. In this same way we present ourselves as living sacrifices on a daily basis wherever we are. Don’t be a dead sacrifice, but a living one. Don’t just lie on the altar. Offer yourself in every moment of every day.
Secondly, Paul urges us to not conform to the world, but be transformed (12:2). Moses had commanded Israel not to do as the nations around them had done. Jesus had preached for his disciples not to be like those who were hypocrites. It is our nature just to blend in where we are. Paul says give up on being like the world and be transformed. We should not conform to the will of the majority but be transformed to the Word of the Messiah. As Paul wrote to Christians living in the world’s largest city he encouraged them to resist the temptation to settle for the way the world expects things to be. Instead, the inspired apostle urged his readers to “be transformed” for the purpose of living according to God’s will.
Over this year we pray that every sermon and activity at Estes will help us to be “transformed” in our work in at least six areas: our devotion (preaching emphasis from January 1-March 5), our worship (March 12-May 7), our families (May 14-June 18), our fellowship (June 25-August 20), our outreach (August 27-October 22), and our service (October 29-December 31). Join us as we seek to become more and more what God intended us to be. What can God do through us in 2017? Let us seek to be “transformed” rather than simply be conformed to the world around us.