The Scripture After the Scripture: Romans 12:2
Have you asked anyone to open the bible with you this week, talked with anyone about Jesus or invited someone to church?
One of the most appealing things about the scripture from Sundays lesson, Romans 12:2, is the promise of transformation. The ancient origin of the self-help genre is evidence that personal transformation is universally appealing. Have you read any self-help books, Christian or secular? What were the results?
1. In Sunday's lesson Luke said that true transformation cannot come solely from ourselves, and is impossible without God's intervention. A lot of what the Apostle Paul wrote is dedicated to correcting disciples who struggle to understand this. These are examples from his writings that help demonstrate the futility of trying to transform ourselves by human will alone.
Colossians 2:20-23 (New International Version)
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Why does he say human commands and teachings fail to restrain sensual indulgence?
Do you think human led attempts at self-improvement (diet, self-help, education) conflict with our spiritual renewal in Christ? Why or why not?
Romans 7:14-25 (New International Version)
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
This passage tends to generate some controversy over it's exact meaning. Whether or not we agree about the meaning of this passage or even completely understand it, the frustration and futility of man's struggle to do good is communicated perfectly. Is there a period of your life as a disciple or specific struggle that particularly connects with this passage? If your comfortable, sharing it with the group may encourage us all in our own struggles.
How could such a frustrated confession of powerlessness from an apostle of Christ be a source of inspiration or encouragement for disciples?
2a. We learned Sunday that there are two important parts to transformation: the mysterious and the mundane. The mysterious element of transformation is the supernatural power of God's Spirit working in and through us. It shouldn't come as a surprise that God's role can be difficult for some to recognize, understand, or explain; Jesus himself illustrates this difficulty in his conversation with the pharisee Nicodemus
John 3:8 (New International Version)
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Have you recognized or experienced God's supernatural role in your ongoing transformation or a major change in the life of someone you know?
What helps you to have faith in God's involvement when it is sometimes difficult to recognize or understand?
2b. Our response to spiritual transformation works itself out in the practical, or mundane, acts of obedience taught throughout the bible. The Apostle John teaches in that these commandments aren't a labor for which we're paid, but an opportunity to live the life of victory that God has granted us.
1 John 5:3-4 (New International Version)
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome, because everyone born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith.
Bringing it Home
What is one thing you want to transform in yourself? What is one act of obedience to God you’ve been neglecting?
Are you involved in any Bible studies this week? Please share so we can pray for God's supernatural redeeming power.