Living Sacrifice

Romans 12:1-2 (Amplified Bible)
1 I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.
2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

I’m floored again at the connection between the flesh, the soul (inclusive of the mind), and the spirit. My “decisive dedication” of all my body – flesh and mind – is worship. The word translated spiritual, is logikos which is much more related to the mind and to reason and logic. No wonder verse 12 is about the renewing of my mind as the key to transformation. (See “The Command Center” and “Battleground of the Soul” to get the whole chain of thought…)

Obviously, this is important.

Action Item: Detail “renewing” my mind.  What does that look like?  Is there a scriptural recipie for it?

Abundance of good treasure

Romans 10:8-10 (ESV)

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Lots of words with much deeper meanings that we describe in their English translations here.

heart – the word kardia – means “inner self, never the literal body part called the “heart,” this is a reference to the areas of the inner self, including: the volition, the mind, the desires, etc., though the facility of the intellect make be slightly more emphasized.”  The volition (will), the mind (mind), the desires (emotions) all make up the soul… that battleground between the spirit and the flesh.  This is where we store up good treasure OR we store up bad treasure according to Jesus in Luke 6:45.

Luke 6:45 (ESV) 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

It is the same word used in Luke as is used in this Romans passage.  The interesting part to me in these passages is that heart (kardia) and mouth (stoma) are both used together in the same sentences.  Stoma (the mouth) literally means the fleshly mouth that utters sounds.  So, in a way, it could very well represent the flesh.  That would mean to me that the condition of my soul is reflected in what comes out of my mouth and my flesh.

Back to the Romans passage…

near – can mean “be close to a place“, but can also mean “be close to a time.”  Which changes everything in the context of this verse.

proclaim – means “to proclaim with the goal to persuade, urge, warn to comply”, “to announce publicly”.

word of faith – doctrine, trustworthiness, Christian faith, what can be believed

confesses – According to Strongs (homologeo) – “1 to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent. 2 to concede. 2a not to refuse, to promise. 2b not to deny. 2b1 to confess. 2b2 declare. 2b3 to confess, i.e. to admit or declare one’s self guilty of what one is accused of. 3 to profess. 3a to declare openly, speak out freely. 3b to profess one’s self the worshiper of one. 4 to praise, celebrate.

OK.  THAT is a drastically different meaning than to “utter” something.  I think we’re too quick to assume someone is a follower of Jesus based on our Western definition of “confess.”  I’ve always struggled with this verse because only God can know if a person truly believes in his heart.  The heart and someone’s belief is hidden.  All we look for is someone to say “Jesus is Lord,” and that’s good enough.

What we need to be looking for now is the NEW definition of “confess.”  When someone truly believes and understands the grace Christ afforded them, they cannot help but “confess” Jesus is Lord with praise and celebration and declaring themselves both by word and action to be a worshiper of Christ.  This worship comes from adoration and thankfulness, not out of duty or because someone said so.  Everything about salvation is about relationship, not religion.

I’ll try to tie it all together.  First – His Word is near me- near in location and near in timing.  He wants to use me at any place, at any time to proclaim publicly that which is trustworthy, with the goal of persuading and urging others to the Truth.  However, there is something that can influence my vocal utterances – my heart (my soul, if you remember our definition).  In my heart I can store up good treasure or bad treasure.  That is my choice.  What I store up, is what will come out.

How can I persuade others of the truth, if I’ve stored up bad treasure?

I can’t just put “enough” good treasure in either.  Jesus was very specific in the word “abundance” and it means exactly what it says, “in excess”, “scraps left over”, “overflow”, “plenty.”

So today’s exercise for me is “How do I store up an abundance of good treasure in my soul (mind, will, and emotions)?”

The Command Center

Continuing the the thought of the last post is where Paul picks up in Romans 8.

Remember, I posed the question of why Jesus added the “mind” to the greatest commandment (Mark 12:30), when God himself gave the command (Deut 6:5) without the identification of the “mind”.  Read what Paul has to say about it…

Romans 8:5-6 (NLT) “5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

No wonder Jesus thought it was important.  The mind is the command center of the spiritual battlefront between our spirit (controlled by the Holy Spirit) and our flesh (controlled by the enemy). Wikipedia defines the command center as:

A command center is a central place for carrying out orders and for supervising tasks, also known as a headquarters, or HQ.

Whoever controls the mind, controls the battle.  Note: We can lose a battle, but we’ve already won the war. (Thank you God!) No wonder Paul writes a few chapters later in Romans: “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.” (Romans 12:2 NIV).

So the question becomes, if the mind is the command center and the key to victory, how do I send in reinforcements (to continue the war metaphor)? Verse 6 says by “… letting the Spirit control our mind…,” but what does that look like?

How does one renew the mind? Is it back to what God’s been saying to me over the last several, seemingly unrelated, journal entries? Thus the beauty of journaling… to be able to go back and see how God is speaking in themes… then BAM! He ties it all together. Cool.  Very cool.

Is it back to the spiritual disciplines? Are Romans 12:2 and 1 Cor 9:24-47 related in this way?

Battleground of the soul

I have known for some time that we are made up of three “parts”: the spirit, the soul, and the flesh.  Additionally, the soul appears to be further divided into three parts: the mind, the will, and the emotions.

The spirit-man is what gets saved when we surrender our will to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The spirit IS saved. The soul IS BEING saved and the flesh is the enemies. It’s like the good guys vs. the bad guys (spiritually) all the time in our lives. Jesus has our spirits, the devil has our flesh and they are battling for the soul – the mind, the will, the emotions.

Romans 7 makes it very clear that the remnant of sin from our sin nature is very alive an well in our flesh (Romans 7:18).

Romans 7:22-25 (ESV) 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

It’s like the soul is Hell’s Gate (Lord of the Rings reference). The spirit man is Gandalf, Aragorn and the Fellowship, while the flesh is Sauron’s army of Orc’s. The assault is non-stop. The attack is relentless. Legions and legions of orcs and darkness continually bombard the soul. The mind wants to do one thing, but the flesh wants to do another. (Romans 7:14-20)

I find it interesting that Paul says, “… I myself serve the law of God with my mind…” How does one do that? It the mind – that part of the soul – more closely aligned with the spirit?

The Greek word used for mind, nous, in this passage means “1b reason in the narrower sense, as the capacity for spiritual truth, the higher powers of the soul, the faculty of perceiving divine things, of recognizing goodness and of hating evil.”

Jesus said (Mark 12:30) “30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” It’s interesting that Jesus inserted the word “mind.” The original version (Deut 6:5) only has “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Why does Jesus add “mind” to the list? I think it’s important. I think it goes back to spiritual discipline. Practicing and exercising those spiritual disciplines to have my spirit (and my mind?) stronger than my flesh (and my emotions?). All the spiritual disciplines involve the mind and exercise the will. Pretty soon, I’ll have my flesh outnumbered!