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Monday, 23 February 2015

not conformed but transformed - by faith

Sermon Summary for Epiphany 1 - 2015 presented by Fr Matthew Kirby

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.  For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:  So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:1-5)

"be not conformed to this world"
 
World = the systems and culture of man, insofar as they are founded and formed in disobedience to God. Not everything in culture or institutions is included in this, it is not referring to that which is morally neutral or virtuous for E.g., styles of cooking (if they do not directly cause gluttony) or clothing (if they do not encourage impurity) these may usually be conformed to, and laws forbidding murder must be.
 
But we must not follow the pack when it comes to customs and practices that are sinful. It is primarily the responsibility of the individual adult Christian to identify and avoid immoral actions even if they are common and to self-censor when it comes to reading, listening and watching, according to their (divinely assisted) conscience. (No Index of Prohibited Books for Anglican, or even for Roman Catholic now!) But sometimes the Scripture or the Church will explicitly forbid certain culturally accepted practices. E.g., abortion in our society, polygamy in some others.
 
"but be transformed by the renewing of your mind"
 
As I have said before, we do this primarily by reading and meditating on Scripture (or other edifying literature) and by prayer, but also by the practice of obedience. So there is both the negative (avoiding worldiness) and the positive (fostering godliness). Both are necessary. The positive attempted with the negative allows too much muddying of the mental waters. The negative without the positive makes for ineffectual, miserable Christians who only know "don'ts". Also, the ability of our conscience to filter out the bad is enhanced by the positive.
 
"according to the measure of faith"
 
If we want to not only transform ourselves but build up others, we must use our gifts of the Spirit to minister in the Church. But we do this to the extent we trust in the Giver of the gift and the gift itself that he gives. To play our part in the Church, to activate our gift, requires faith. It requires the confidence or courage to act, trusting that God will then act through us and around us, and asking for that very thing.  

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