Challenging teens and young adults.
In our last post, we talked about how the thought of becoming a living sacrifice for God will assist in breaking the negative stereotypes of our generation. While people respond to a life that is willing to be sacrificed for God, people will also respond to a life that is distinctly separated from the world. As Paul writes to the Christians in Rome in chapter twelve, he begins by pleading with them to become a living sacrifice to God as we have already discussed. In verse two, we find that we are given yet another way to break the stereotypes of a culture.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Have you ever considered why you do something? For instance, why do you wear a certain style of clothing or a certain brand? Why did you choose to get on social media? Why do you strive for certain achievements or a particular status? Many times, our reasoning behind some of these decisions is because we were influenced by someone making it sound great. While there is nothing sinful or inherently wrong with any of the above examples, there is an example of the power of a trend. If you can make something feel or look cool enough, many people will get involved.
Our flesh has a magnetic attraction to the world and sin, but according to Romans 12:2, we are not to be conformed to the world. The world has a mold that it wants to place you in. The world wants you to believe that purity before marriage is impossible and that everyone lives for money. When we choose to fall for these lies, we have placed ourselves in that mold and conformed to the world and the culture around us. If we are going to break a generation or culture, we must not fall for conformation, but rather, focus our lives on transformation.
For every counterfeit the world offers a Christian, there is an alternative. Satan offers you conformation to a mold, but God offers transformation from the world. If you want to stand out in your generation, not only must you not fall into the mold or template of the world, but you must be something totally different than the world. Living for self and chasing the next big thing in this world is conformation, but living a life with a higher purpose is transformational. Showing love to those around you is transformational. Saving yourself for marriage is transformational. All of God’s alternatives, if we choose to do them, are transformational in the eyes of a culture who has been told the only option is conformation.
Hopefully, you’re sold on living a transformed life! If you are, you probably have some questions. For instance, “How do I transform?” Or, “Why would I want to transform?” God actually gives the answer to both of those questions in Romans 12:2.
How do I transform?
The only way to transform is to get a new mind. Start saving lots of money cause I can imagine new minds are pretty expensive. Fortunately, God has given us a free option for renewing our mind through His Word. Our minds have been so inundated with the world and our culture that God’s Word and truth found within are transformational. The Bible says God’s Word is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Not only does the Word of God have the power to change us according to Hebrews 4:12, but the truth found in God’s Word is a sanctifying agent as well.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Have you let God’s Word change you lately? When you open God’s Word, do you ask God to show you something to change in your life? If we are going to be transformed it starts by getting a new mind and the only free way of receiving a new mind is by opening God’s Word and getting the mind of Christ through the truth.
Why do I need to transform?
Have you ever felt like you weren’t smart enough to prove something? I know I have. I may have an assumption about something or maybe even something I know is true, but I am just too dumb to be able to prove it. Why is transformation necessary? Because your life can prove something to a lost and dying world! Here’s a scary thought – someone that is headed to Hell could base their decision on eternity on the proof of your transformation. Wow! When I consider the fact that there are lost people who are looking at the impact Christ has made in my life and deciding whether or not they want to be a Christian, that is scary in so many ways.
Are you a Christian who is so different from the world that people are attracted to Jesus Christ as a result? Or do you make people turn their backs on Jesus Christ and the Gospel? By becoming a transformed individual, you are proving God’s will. By becoming different from the culture and the world, you are showing the world what God can do with a transformed life.
So here’s the question, will you choose to fall into the mold of the world and conform to the culture? Or, will you choose to be a picture of God’s will by transforming your mind through God and His Word? Breaking the negative stereotypes of a generation requires some people who choose to transform instead of conform.
There has never been a generation surrounded by more hype than the millennial generation. Campaigns have been launched, blogs have been posted, articles have been written, and even whole books have been written trying to peg this generation. All of these different facets have created a generation of stereotypes. Unfortunately, many of these stereotypes tend to lean toward the negative side rather than the positive. In the midst of these negative assessments, there is still some who find this generation to have a huge upside. The most common word used is “hope.”
As a Christian millennial, we must understand that while there are many negatives, yet still some glimmer of hope in our generation, the only true source of hope for any generation is found in Jesus Christ and the Gospel. So how do you break a whole generation? How can Christians rise to the top in one of the fastest up and coming groups of people our world has ever seen? God’s Word answers these questions in Romans 12:1-6.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith.
As the Apostle Paul begins to close out the epistle to the Church of Rome, he gives them a pretty clear way to stand out in a culture that was not distinctly Christian or even religious at that time. The following three posts are three ways we will discuss three ways that we can begin to break a stereotyped generation. In today’s post, we will consider the thought of our sacrifice.
We must become a sacrifice to God.
Paul is writing this to the Church at Rome. While many believe heavy persecution for Christians at Rome did not occur until several years after this epistle, the Christians at Rome were challenged and even begged by Paul to stand out by providing their bodies a living sacrifice to God. Do you think these words may have rang out in their minds several years later as they stood on the arena floor of the Colosseum ready to give the ultimate sacrifice? While Paul may not have fully known why God inspired Him to write these words, God saw into the future and knew that these Christians would be faced with a choice whether to live for their faith or die for their faith.
Just as God saw the future of the Christians at Rome, He sees us today. Many Christians today have placed their faith low on the priority list of life. They have punched their ticket to Heaven and chosen to enjoy their time on earth for themselves. If we, as Christian millennials, will choose to stand out and reverse a whole generation, it must begin with a life that is willing to be sacrificed to God.
Paul qualifies the sacrifice with several adjectives. First, he ask them to be willing to present their bodies as living sacrifices. If you have ever studied the Old Testament practices of sacrifice, you understand that God always asked for the best lamb and the best offering. Too many times we are giving God something that neither of us want. If God did not want the sick or near-to-death lamb in the Old Testament, He does not want us to give our left overs. What if we were a generation that became characterized by giving our best to God? Too many generations before have given Jesus Christ prominence but not pre-eminence. What if your job was just another way to share your faith? What if your social media was controlled by the thought of God? What if your education was another form to glorify God? To reverse a generation, we must begin with a sacrificial life that will be lived for and influenced by God.
The people who are looking at the Christian faith do not need to see any more people who have been saved by Jesus Christ living for themselves. Rather, we need to be living our lives in contrast to the rest of the world. The greatest contrast to selfish living is sacrificial living. Besides, according to Paul, this “sacrifice” is reasonable when we consider all that God has done for us! Would you consider making this reasonable sacrifice and living your life for God?
26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
27 And he arose and went:and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away:and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water:and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still:and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more:and he went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip was found at Azotus:and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
After salvation, God calls us to the daunting task of the Great Commission. Many Christians have been very active in this task at some point of their spiritual life, but many stop because of a lack of results.
For us to fully appreciate the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, we must go back and grab some background material from chapter eight. In the beginning verses of chapter eight, we see that a guy named Saul was involved in the persecution of the church at Jerusalem, specifically he was “consenting” to the death of Stephen. Because of this persecution, many Christians began to scatter to other areas. Like good Christians, upon their arrival in other cities, they began to preach Jesus. Philip was one of those who left Jerusalem and began to see a great revival in Samaria locate to the north of Jerusalem. In fact, God was doing such great work in Samaria that the apostles sent Peter and John to Samaria to help according to verse fourteen.
All of this leads us to verse twenty-six and the five characteristics of a Spirit-filled witness:
A Spirit-filled witness follows God’s leading. (vs. 26)
When we consider the great work that God was doing in Samaria through Peter, it makes this trip to the middle of the desert even more astounding. Philip could have said, “God look what is happening here in Samaria, why do I need to go to the middle of the desert?” Sometimes God will lead us in ways that we may never understand. Our job is not to lead God, rather it is follow God’s leading. When the Holy Spirit prompts you to share the Gospel to someone, do not ignore His voice. God may lead you outside your comfort zone or to a place that does not make sense, but He is doing it for your good and His glory.
A Spirit-filled witness cares about the one. (vs. 27-29)
God calls Philip away from an audience that is growing in Samaria to one man in the middle of the desert. In our human minds, this does not make sense. Why leave a city that has begun to listen to God’s Word to go to the desert for one person? What if Philip would have gotten discouraged when he saw one guy? What if he would have gotten frustrated with God or thought about how his soul winning numbers were going to go down?
We do not reach others to gain some holy notch in our belt. We do not reach others to be able to report numbers. We reach others to simply bring them into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ and to see them escape the fire of Hell. Several years ago, someone coined the phrase, “Each one; reach one.” You may not have a job that allows you to stand and speak and see thousands saved, but you can reach a neighbor or co-worker. Reach the one that only you can reach.
A Spirit-filled witness feels a sense of urgency. (vs. 29-30)
After the Holy Spirit showed Philip the one that he had been sent there to reach, Philip wasted no time in verse thirty. When was the last time that “the one” you have been placed in a position to reach forced you into a sense of urgency? When was the last time you felt compelled to share the Gospel with someone because life is short and Jesus is coming soon? We do not have time to waste filling our lives with the temporal. Ask God who “the one” is for you, and run with the Gospel to them.
A Spirit-filled witness prepares for witnessing. (vs. 32-35)
There are some verses in the Bible that absolutely send chills down my back thinking about how great the Gospel is to every creature; verse thirty-five is one of those verses! The Ethiopian had some questions like most who come to faith in Christ. Philip took him from his questions and the Bible says, “he preached unto him Jesus.”
Our culture is asking spiritual questions. Sadly, most Christians today don’t know the answers to the questions and the curiosity of the culture. According to I Peter 3:15, we are to be ready to give an answer.
I Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
The closer we get to the return of Christ, the deeper we must dig into God’s Word to answer questions about our faith. Sooner or later, someone will stump us and we may not be able to run to our top five favorite verses, but we are still commanded to reach people. Begin to prepare for those you are called to reach so that we may take them from their questions to a meeting with Jesus!
A Spirit-filled witness continues to preach the Gospel. (vs. 39)
Following the incredible salvation experience of the Ethiopian eunuch and his willing baptism immediately following, Philip leaves. Philip reached his “one” plus some if we included those in Samaria, but we do not find him in retirement following these salvations. Philip continued in other cities reaching more people.
If we could add a little bit to the phrase,”Each one; reach one,” I think it would have to be something like “Each one; reach one, and another, and another, and another, and another until God calls you home.” Obviously we lose the conciseness of the phrase, but we should have that philosophy. May we never feel that the job is complete because we saw our “one” come Christ. May we feel compelled to go and find another and another and another. Where are the Christians who are praying for God to bring them new people to reach?
I would challenge you to take the time to read Acts 8 and study the distances Philip traveled to see this Ethiopian accept Jesus. It is a miraculous story in that context, but it would have never happened had Philip not been responsive to the leading of God. Today, are you a clear picture of Jesus Christ to the world as a result of your obedience to the Holy Spirit? The world is watching to see how you respond to what God is asking you to do. If you try to have it your way and God’s way, the world sees, but when we are empty and clean of ourselves and the things of this world, we are a clean and clear picture of God’s work in our lives.
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