Loving God. Loving People. No Matter What.

Setting Standards

By Brandon Sirolli

Co-Author: Lynn Morin

Robert H. Stein wrote in Jesus the Messiahthat “Jesus revealed his own understanding of who he was in three ways: by his actions, through his speech, and by the titleshe used or accepted.” I believe the same set of standards reflect our own understanding of who Jesus is.Jesus actually walked out his life-journey this way as a pattern for us to follow.I wonder about myself sometimes – do my actions, speech, and the way I talk about Jesus in front of others (and even when no one is looking) point people to Jesus as their Lord and Savior…or does it drive them away?

In times of self-reflection, I often think about why the world’s pattern is so enticing.I wonder why so many times, we, who call ourselves Christians, so often conform to the pattern of this world, rather than to the Christ that saves us?Our perspective on Christ and the world affects which pattern we choose to follow. The Apostle Paul thought this as well and wrote to the Roman Christians – and to us – a lengthy letter to help lay out a framework of thinking to guide us into a proper life perspective.

Before we look at what the Apostle Paul wrote, let’s start by looking at the perspective the world teaches. The current, most prominent model of thinking is that life is about “ME”.I may be a teacher of the Word, but I still fight the “me-demons”.It’s our natural inclination as humans.It’s a survival instinct born into us via our sin nature.Three main driving forces in the world, even for Christians, are: Success, Status, and Comfort.These driving forces are all tied together.Success brings comfort, which raises our status; and status and comfort levels prove success in the world.If that’s our driving force, even as supposed Christ followers, then it shows that we’re still modeling worldly behaviors and customs.

What perspective does Apostle Paul wants us, Christians, to have?It’s all about Jesus, not YOU!This is the exact opposite of the world’s perspective. Here are his words of instruction to the Roman Church.

“For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory.All glory to him forever!Amen.And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable.This is truly the way to worship him.Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”(Romans 11:36-12:2 NLT)

Paul begins to lay his framework for the Christian perspective in Romans 11 and wants us to rethink why we even exist.He writes - “For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory.All glory to him forever.Amen.” (Romans 11:36 NLT)

You see, all of creation came about by the Word of God - Jesus (cf. Genesis 1, “and God said…”).The Apostle John writes, “In the Beginning the Word already existed.The Word was with God and the Word was God.He existed in the beginning with God.God created everything through him and nothing was created except through him.The Word gave life to everything that was created; and his life brought light to everyone.” (John 1:1-4 NLT)The creation still exists because He maintains it (cf. Colossians 1:17); and all creation points back to His glory (cf. Romans 1:18-20).

According to Paul, your life – from existence, to sustenance, to purpose – is about Jesus.Because it’s all about Jesus, and who He is to us, there needs to be a shifting of how we view our lives.Standards of achievement or goals to accomplish will no longer be the needs we lay out for our lives.No, these will be rubbish, as Paul thought of his own needs and desires, when compared to seizing Jesus.

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived by the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8-12 NASB)

If you exist because of Christ, your existence is sustained by Christ, and the purpose of your life is to glorify Christ, then Paul’s next statement of instruction in Romans 12 won’t be hard to swallow:

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable.This is truly the way to worship him.” (Romans 12:1)

Worship is more than music.Paul believes that we worship God through how we live.Our lives are worship.This walk of faith is not one to be taken lightly or casually.Christ died for us.He literally died for us because of His eternal love for us.In an act of worship, we ought to give up our lives for Him.Luke shares Jesus’ own words on this subject, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV) What then should our lives be for Him, but “living sacrifices”.

Something the prophet Samuel said to King Saul in 1 Samuel 15 reflects this idea.God sent Saul on a mission to bring His judgment on the Amalekites – to completely destroy them.But Saul spared their king, probably to make him a servant as a sign of stature like the nations around Israel would do. He also spared the best of their livestock.When confronted by Samuel, King Saul tried to get away with disobedience to God by veiling his motives in worship - “We were going to sacrifice the animals to God at Gilgal” (1 Samuel 15:21).Yet Samuel knew the heart issue was not about offering the prescribed sacrifices.It was about a heart that refused to walk in worship to God through being a living sacrifice.King Saul chose what his flesh wanted – stature – over what God wanted – for King Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites, thus being a king that was completely surrendered to God.

There was a time in my life where I struggled to live a life of worship and walk in God’s calling for me to be a teacher of his Word.I didn’t want to take time to prepare a message and stand in front of a crowd and speak.I just wanted to ignore God, play video games, and watch TV.I thought to myself, “I don’t have time for that.I barely have time for me!”

The world calls us to live a life of “me” worship.The world has much to draw us in and there is purpose behind the draw.The enemy doesn’t want us to be drawn to Christ; he wants us to be distracted from Him.The world makes it easy for the enemy to accomplish this.Often times when people compare the world’s life of “me” worship to a life lived in worship for God, many people, including some Christians, decide the world has more to offer than our God does.We then end up shifting our time, talents, and treasures from God’s Kingdom to the world. There’s a story in 2 Kings 16 that illustrates what happens when someone chooses the world’s way of worship.King Ahaz of Judah went to Damascus to meet the Assyrian king and observed an altar to a false god.King Ahaz then ordered his high priest to replicate it in Judah, and he ended up worshiping through this false altar.He takes the commands of God and warps them to suit his desires and ambitions.We do this as well when we try to blur the lines between God-worship and world-worship.In some churches, people are teaching that God wants us to have the world’s pleasures, wealth and fame.In fact, they teach those things as products of faith in Jesus! It’s as if God isn’t attractive or compelling enough on His own.

The Word teaches us to allow God to shift our pattern of thinking from the world’s way to His way. Apostle Paul continues in Romans, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think…” (Romans 12:2)So how do we do this?It starts with repentance.In his letter, Paul uses phrases that were used in the Gospel accounts when discussing the idea of repentance.These phrases mean “to think anew”, “to think differently.”Paul shows that the work of repentance is God’s work, BUT, it starts by us accepting that we need to think differently and accept that God’s way of thinking is right.The world’s pattern fogs our thinking and causes us to wander down roads that lead away from the throne of God and into death and judgment.The world’s pattern poisons us and hinders us from hearing God’s voice clearly.

We need to throw off such poison, and we will hear God much clearer.Paul finishes up his instructions in Romans 12:2with,“Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”And that is what it’s all about; hearing the voice of God directing us into a right relationship with Him and with others.We can’t hear His voice if we drown it out with the influences of the world.If we can’t hear God’s leading in our lives, we will wander into a lost eternity.

Consider Apostle Peter’s words- “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people.Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your souls.Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors.Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.”(1 Peter 2:9-12 NLT)

Ask yourself these questions:Is Jesus everything to you, evident by the way you journey with Him in this life?Do you view the pattern of the world as an enemy’s poison in your life?Do you know the life God wants you to live?If you answered “NO” or “I don’t know” to any of these questions, spend some time with God and ask Him to help you work out these issues.It’s a process, but one that leads us to life.You will have some bad days, but keep going back to the Springs of Truth – God’s pattern of thinking.