I do not think that you can exaggerate the importance of the inside person and the outside person being the same person. The agony we experience when considerate actions do not come from inward kindness is extremely painful.

A husband is married to a wife who does all the right things. She grocery shops, prepares food, keeps an orderly house, and discharges her management responsibilities faithfully. She respects schedules and schedule requirements. She does her full share of the work. Publicly, her actions look like the actions of a responsible, caring wife. She does all the right things.

And she does. She is very conscientious about doing the right things. But she has no respect or appreciation for her husband. She has no positive feelings for her husband. The wife on the outside does not match the wife on the inside.

A wife is married to a husband who acts in thoughtful, considerate ways. He acts in those ways because that is who he is on the inside. What he does reflects what he truly feels for his wife. The inward husband matches the outward husband.

Virtually every adult understands that reality. To me, this is the amazing thing: we understand that reality in human relationships, but we do not understand that reality in our relationship with God.

  1. Look carefully with me at Romans 12:l, 2 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    1. Consider a common approach that we take to spiritual life and spiritual responsibility.
      1. First, we create an artificial separation between the spiritual and the physical.
        1. The separation of the spiritual and the physical did not exist in Israel.
          1. Read Deuteronomy and note that the physicals and the spiritual are discussed side by side without pigeon hole categories.
          2. Israel knew that God was the God of the physical and the spiritual.
        2. The spiritual and the physical are interlinked in the New Testament.
          1. Being a martyr was both a physical act and a spiritual act.
          2. In the judgment scene of Matthew 25:31-46, people were separated on the basis of their treatment of the hungry, the thirsty, those without a place to stay, those without clothing, those who were sick, and those who were in prison--very physical situations.
            1. Those rewarded received God's inheritance--very spiritual.
            2. Those who were rejected were sent to be with the devil and his angels--very spiritual.
          3. In Matthew 10:42 Jesus said that even a kindness as small as giving a cup of cold water to one of the little ones would be rewarded by God.
          4. The whole concept of stewardship is using the physical to benefit the spiritual.
      2. Second, if we regard something to be undesirable, we label it as being "worldly."
      3. Third, we create lists of "worldly things" and condemned them.
        1. If I do what is condemned, I prove that I am "worldly."
        2. If I physically conform, I am spiritual.
      4. That was the typical spiritual mandate when I was growing up, and that was the typical spiritual mandate that I stressed in my early years of preaching.
    2. I want you to look carefully at Romans 12:1, 2.
      1. This is a primary proof text for demanding that Christians conform.
        1. You are to present your bodies (the physical) to God.
        2. You are not to conform to the world.
        3. You are to be transformed, and transformation is typically focused on the physical.
      2. I want you to look carefully at this scripture.
      3. We are to present our bodies to God by climbing up on the altar.
        1. Does the presentation of our bodies focus on the physical or the spiritual, on the internal or the external?
        2. It focuses on the physicals, the external.
      4. We are not to conform to the world, but be transformed.
        1. Is transformation an emphasis on the physical or the spiritual, on the external or the internal?
        2. Before you answer those questions, look at all Paul's emphasis.
      5. How is this transformation to occur?
        1. We are to renew the mind.
        2. Is that physical or spiritual, external or internal?
      6. What will the renewing the mind do as it produces transformation?
        1. It will enable me to prove what God's will is.
          1. Since I am the sacrifice, since I am not to conform, since I am to be transformed, since I renew my mind, the focus on the "proving" is not what I tell other people but the focus is on me.
          2. I prove to me what God's will is.
        2. The result of understanding God's will is a new comprehension of what is good, what is acceptable, and what is perfect.
        3. Is this a physical process or a spiritual process, an external process or an internal process?
    3. This is what I want you to see for yourself.
      1. In Romans 12:1,2, becoming a living sacrifice is both a physical and spiritual process, both an external and internal process.
      2. Paul does not separate the physical from the spiritual in the process of not conforming and becoming a transformed person.
      3. Paul does not separate the external deeds from the internal renewing of the mind.
      4. A Christian becomes a living sacrifice through what occurs in his or her life both externally and internally.
        1. We cannot claim to be the Lord's internally when we externally commit our lives to the ungodly.
        2. We cannot claim to be the Lord's by doing "the right things" externally when internally we refuse to belong to God.
    4. In Galatians 5 Paul concludes his discussion of Christian freedom by contrasting the desire of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit.
      1. He stated plainly in 5:17 that the flesh and the Spirit oppose each other.
      2. After characterizing the desire of the flesh, Paul declared the fruit of the Spirit in 5:22,23.
        But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Is love physical or spiritual? External or internal? Both.
        2. Is joy physical or spiritual? External or internal? Both.
        3. Is peace physical or spiritual? External or internal? Both.
        4. Is patience physical or spiritual? External or internal? Both.
        5. What about kindness? Both.
        6. Or faithfulness? Both.
        7. Or gentleness? Both (the gentle spirit that produces gentle deeds).
        8. Or self-control? Both.
      3. If the Sprit lives in you internally, you must produce its fruit externally.
      4. The fruit of the Spirit cannot be expressed in your actions when the Spirit does not live in your heart.

  2. If I were to make my personal list of the ten most tragic mistakes that we make, this mistake would be high on the list: we try to create personal spirituality by using a system of physical control instead of a process of inward transformation.
    1. We create the impression that we become spiritual by doing the right acts and rejecting the wrong acts.
      1. We create a control system.
      2. We create a list of definitions and a list of deeds.
        1. We define purity in physical terms, and we make a list of things that are and are not pure.
        2. We define faithfulness in physical terms, and we make a list of the things that the faithful do and do not do.
        3. We define godliness in physical terms, and we make a list of what is and is not godly.
        4. We define holiness in physical terms, and we make a list of what is and is not holy.
      3. Then we demand that Christians conform to our lists.
        1. Those who conform are faithful, spiritual people.
        2. Those who do not conform are worldly.
    2. I am not trying to ridicule or discourage.
      1. Listen to me very closely: I am not talking about the Christian man or woman who struggles against a problem, who wages a personal war against Satan, whose conscience is tender and heart is open.
      2. But I do want to give you some general examples when there is no struggle, no conscience problem.
      3. Why will a person come to the church building without fail on Sundays, but rarely be in the assembly?
      4. Why will a leader in a congregation quietly have an affair or quietly indulge his fantasies in pornography?
      5. Why will a Christian say and do all the right things when with friends from church, but say and do all the wrong things when with friends who do not go to church?
      6. Why have too many of young people concluded that religion is a matter of conforming to certain practices, but those practices have nothing to do with what you do or how you live?
      7. Why can we get so shook up about worship methods that are different but do not violate any teaching of scripture?
    3. Why?
      1. Yes, I understand that there is more than one reason that this happens.
      2. But I also know that one major reason is this:
        1. We convinced ourselves to determine right and wrong by externals.
        2. We convinced ourselves to define spirituality by externals.
        3. We convinced ourselves to measure faithfulness by lists that stress externals.
      3. So we have a large number of Christians who have concluded that being a faithful member of the church is just like being a faithful member of a business organization or civic club.
        1. You do the church thing.
        2. You pay your dues and satisfy basic requirements.
        3. You are physically present to go through the motions.

The bad news: the church is "eating" the crop it planted for decades. We have created too many Christians who place their spiritual security in external acts, but have never developed internally. They are literally afraid of the fruit of the Spirit.

The good news: there is a growing, fresh, renewed awareness of the need for internal transformation in a selfish, indulgent, evil society. More and more Christians are learning that life is found by letting God transform us internally.

To you, what is the good news, and what is the bad news?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 8 August 1999
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