One of the most common holiday traditions in our culture is the New Year’s Resolution. According to Forbes magazine, more people make resolutions than watch the Super Bowl. Popular targets include better health (in particular weight loss and exercise goals), general lifestyle improvement, money management, and relationships. In spite of our best intentions a University of Scranton study confirms what you likely assumed: resolutions are rarely successful, their findings suggesting just 8% of resolution goals are realized. Christians too, as the calendar turns, often have goal setting on their minds. Areas such as bible reading, prayer, evangelism, or service are common points of concern for devout hearts. I wonder if our “success” rate is any better than the general public’s? One problem, as I see it, is a dissonance between what we say we want and what we actually believe. The early 20th century British theatre critic James Agate once made this New Year’s Resolution: “To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.” This funny quip exposes a key problem with our resolutions: if our external intentions don’t align with our internal beliefs and motivations our resolutions are self-defeating. This Sunday we will be looking at God’s improvement program as seen in Romans 12:1-2.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In this week and next week’s e-bulletin we will look at the two main instructions in this appeal of Paul’s to the Roman church: present your body, and renew your mind. Paul’s key idea connects these instructions saying:
Christian living is inseparably connected with Christian believing.
In other words, it is futile to expect to live a transformed life if one’s mind remains conformed to this world. How do we present our bodies to the Lord? Well, first note that Paul says present rather than yield or even submit. Yield and submit are two good words, and have their place in Christian living and worship, but present strengthens the theme here of sacrifice. We are to present our bodies in the same way one presents an offering. Even in natural terms would Linda want to hear from me: “I yield to you as I give this gift”? Of course not, she would want my gift giving to reflect my happy, joyful pleasure in doing so. Likewise, we present bodies to the Lord willingly and joyfully – a living sacrifice by his gracious mercies. Secondly, we note this sacrifice to the lord is living. How many of us would, if required, take a bullet rather than deny Christ, yet struggle in our regular daily attempts to live for God and die to self? All of our lives: Sunday to Saturday; at work, rest, and play; in word and deed – are to be lived as a living sacrificial offering to the Lord. Don’t limit “worship” to that what you sing at the beginning and ending of a Sunday service; it is the whole of life. Ask the Lord to help you see how you are to worship him through every aspect of your life as a living sacrifice. The best part is that we do not have to do this in our own strength. Next week we will look at the role renewing our mind has in carrying out God’s resolutions for us. Hope to see you this Sunday!
 Dan Diamond, Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions., Forbes, 1 January 2013
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.