We saw last week that God’s plan and purpose is to unite all things under Christ. That’s where history is headed. And church is vital to that, as we gather to declare God’s purposes, and are equipped through God’s word to serve and speak the truth to one another in love, the church grows up to look like Jesus, acting as his hands and feet at his direction as he would act. But what does that look like in the everyday? What does that mean when we face decisions and choices?
Phil asks you to meet him for a walk. As you walk he tells you that he’s been offered a new job. He loves where he is. He’s got a good team, his work life balance is good. But this new job is a promotion with a team of his own, should he take it or not? He’s just not sure, both are good, but how does he know what God’s will is?
On zoom after church Ellie, who is about to go to university, shares that she’s not sure which of her offers to accept. All are good uni’s. All have good CU’s and a number of good churches near by. But how does she decide? How does she know which one is God’s choice for her? And what if she gets it wrong?
What would you say to Phil and Ellie? What questions would you ask? Is there a right or wrong answer? Is there one choice? Is God’s will like a secret code we need to decipher? And how do you know?
And what about the smaller choices, the everyday choices we make. The vast majority of choices we make aren’t major changes of direction in life, but they do set our course degree by degree. Does God care about them? And how do we discern God’s will for us?
Disciples follow Jesus, but what does that look like when it comes to our decisions?
Disciples live all of life in view of God’s mercies
In Romans 1-11 Paul has been reminding the Roman church of the sheer wonder of the gospel of grace. Now he urges them “Therefore… in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”
The phrase “in view of God’s mercy” is Paul’s summary of all of Romans 1-11. God’s compassionate mercy means that although no-one was righteousness, and all sin and fall short of the glory of God and deserve his wrath, God provided Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for sin. Christ died for the ungodly so that they are justified – declared innocent – sanctified – made holy, and redeemed from slavery to sin, adopted as sons of God, sealed with the Spirit and given a glorious inheritance. Nothing can now separate God’s people from the love of God. All of it because of God’s mercy, none of it deserved.
How should they respond to such mercy? How should we? By offering “your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…” Redeemed, freed, Spirit-filled followers of Jesus live to please God. Not to try to earn it, not trying to work off a debt. But out of gratitude and love for the amazing undeserved, un-earnable, mercy of God. Such lavish costly love frees us by grace to live by grace, responding to God’s love with love for him.
God’s mercy changes everything – it can’t not! We know we’re loved, that God is for us, that he is THE good Father and we know that joy is found in living for him. That our greatest joy is found in his plans and purposes and so we offer our bodies as living sacrifices.
We don’t make a sacrifice every so often. We live as a sacrifice because we’ve been bought at a price. We live to please God because we love God and we’ve tasted his love in his mercy.
There are 168 hours in a week. Take out time for sleeping and you have 112 hours left over. Our society divides life into sacred and secular. You do your sacred stuff in your hours with church, but the rest of your time is your own – it’s secular. It’s really easy for us to fall into that mindset, in fact we’re pressured to do just that. But Paul is saying something revolutionary. Worship isn’t just about what happens in church but in all of your 112 hours, in fact in all of your 168 hours – God cares even about our sleep.
Society encourages us to think of life as two boxes. A secular box and a sacred box. You put this is here and that in there and never the two meet. But God says there is only one box and you can worship me in all of it. My mercy applies to all of it, so live in view of it. God cares about our cooking and cleaning, our work, our changing a nappy, our reading a book, watching a film or Netflix, our marriage, our family and friendships, our leisure time. All of it is to be an offering to God.
Jesus didn’t just redeem part of our lives. He didn’t die on the cross to purchase a timeshare. He redeems all of us. That means everything matters. That’s great news because worship isn’t another thing to fit into our already busy days, it’s not an extra to do. It’s great news because it tells us God cares about all of our life nothing is insignificant to him. We can worship God as we play sport, as we work, as we eat and enjoy his goodness in food, as we laugh with friends, even as we rest.
Perhaps this morning though we need to begin by confessing that we’ve been thinking of life as two boxes. Living for God in some areas of life and not in others. Or not even thinking about what it looks like to please God in our playing sport, or work, or parenting, or marriage. God is merciful, he is compassionate, he waits ready to forgive, he wants us to realise Christ has redeemed all of us, he wants all of us. Repent and find forgiveness and rest, taste God’s love and goodness, keep God’s mercy in view and from it flow lives lived in gratitude not constrained by guilt.
But that raises another question doesn’t it? If all of life matters then how do I please God in all of life? How do I know how to please God, to choose his will, when I’m facing the big decisions like Ellie and Phil and the everyday decisions?