Our Sunday School Class is studying Romans 12 using Chip Ingram's Living on the Edge videos and study guide. Here's an excerpt:
I am learning a ton about the book of Romans, though I thought I had it all figured out years ago. You know what "confused" me the most? It was a result of jumping from one Christian denomination to another in the earlier years.
I was raised a Roman Catholic and stayed there until I turned 20. What did I know about Romans or any other book of the Bible for that matter? When I was saved by GRACE, I began to read, and devour, the Scriptures. But did I truly understand it? No.
At 20, I left the Catholic church to attend a nondenominational country church. There was plenty of good, solid Biblical teaching there, for a while. It became increasingly charismatic - which I am not saying is wrong or bad. The problem, however, is that the church leaders began to focus completely on tongues, prophecy (personal, not Biblical), and other "stuff." Immorality was beginning to abound amongst the church attenders and members, and nobody was doing a thing about it. It seemed to be "normal." (Sound like a lot of feel good churches today?)
I left that church at age 21 and began to attend a Missionary church, which, if I were still in Indiana today, I would still attend. This church focused on HOLY living - sanctification, if you please. I married my husband at that church. We began to raise our family in that church. We were members and were very active in ministry there. We were truly a part of the family of Christ there. I miss it.
After moving to Michigan, we attended a Church of the Nazarene (great on Holiness). Somewhere during that time, we moved to Florida for a year and attended an Evangelical Free Church. It was good, but we never really got very involved there like we should have. I blame it on busyness and having four young boys who took all of my free time. I say MY free time, because my husband was working a job as well as taking college classes. Ugh. My excuses were invalid. Being involved in church is good for families. Taking it to the extreme to the point where families put church above God or family responsibility, is not good, however. Involvement would have put me back on fire for Christ - the way I should have been.
We moved back to Michigan and attended the Nazarene church again for a while. They were having difficulties with the pastor (bad, bad, bad) and we didn't want to become entrenched in all of the unBiblical stuff this pastor was doing. We ended up going to an independent Baptist church in our neighborhood. This was pretty much a bad move on our part. The church's doctrine was based upon Calvin's Five Points with virtually no holiness and sanctification even discussed. We were ridiculed for believing that God has an intended plan for us to follow, and that the plan includes giving Him ourselves and walking away from the ways of the world. When the pastor's wife had an affair with the head deacon (and everybody looked the other way), we had already left.
The next church was a couple of blocks down the road - a community church, again Evangelical Free. The problem was that the pastor was NOT Evangelical at all. He was another Calvinist Baptist - a hard nosed one at that. Sanctification was not the issue for him. He preached long and hard the Election issue, though not the Election that I believe God is talking about in the Scriptures. This man's view is that God loves some, hates some, and will never save some because He decreed that from the beginning these folks are doomed to Hell forever, simply because God does not want them. You know we had to leave.
We now attend another Evangelical Free Church, a very good one I believe. Evangelicalism (working to bring the news of God's gift of salvation to others) and then discipleship to those who are saved by GRACE (that gift of God). They do believe in eternal security for the believer (that God will never take away that free gift). I personally believe that God won't take it away as long as we still want it. If I choose to throw that gift back in God's face, that's my decision, but I can't expect Him to still allow me into the Kingdom as long as I have given the gift back. That topic can be a huge dividing point among believers - and it is.
Back to the Book of Romans and Romans 12. If you read Romans chapters 1 to 11, you will learn all about that free gift of GRACE, salvation - forgiveness of sin and coming into God's family. Having the opportunity and blessing of living forever with Christ. Eternity in Heaven.
Chapter 12 to the end of the book speaks of HOW to live. It talks about Holiness and Sanctification, separating yourself from the world and living as God intends for you to live. Honoring Him with your life and all that you are. It is our responsibility.
Nobody will be won to Christ when the world sees that we are really no different than they are. Miracles happen when we are committed to a life of righteousness. Imperfect people, sinners, who are forgiven and living a life of victory.