This morning, as we enter the season of Lent, we do so with the book of Romans at our side. As a church, we believe we have been called to reflect the light of God and much of that vision that we have affirmed comes right from these verses in chapter 12.
So this season, this time in the wilderness, will be a time of exploration for us. We will dive deep into this chapter and discover together just where and what God is calling us to.
Today, we start with verse one – which Zoe read for us a bit earlier. I want to share it with you again from the Message translation:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. (MSG)
Take your everyday ordinary life…. Every moment, every second, every action… 100% and give it to God.
I want to share with you a prayer… and you tell me if you think this describes the kind of faith Paul invites us into:
Prayer of a Half-hearted Christian
I love thy church, O God;
Her walls before me stand;
But please excuse my absence, Lord;
This bed is simply grand
A charge to keep I have;
A God to glorify;
But Lord, don’t ask for cash from me;
The glory comes too high.
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb?
Yes Though I seldom pray or pay,
I still insist I am.
Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No Others, Lord, should do their part,
But please don’t count on me.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below
Oh, loud my hymns of praise I bring,
Because it doesn’t cost to sing
We just finished singing, “I surrender all,” but so many of us… including myself… don’t really surrender all. We surrender some. We surrender on somedays. We surrender ourselves half-way… but not all.
In fact, many of us are like this dimmer switch up here. We waver in how much light we let out into the world. Our lights are not off completely – but neither are they shining at 100%, 100% of the time.
I did some research on how these dimmer switches work. Specifically the old style knob dimmer switches – where you turn the dial and the lights get brighter and dimmer.
It turns out what makes these switches work was something called a variable resistor. The resistor doesn’t conduct electricity well and in this design, the resistance is increased or decreased by moving the contact arm.
Right here, the arm is all the way on the right, and so it has to travel through all of that resistance to complete the circuit. As the charge works its way through, it loses energy, the voltage drops, and then the light is dimmer.
(you can play with a flash version of these images here. Thank you to “How Stuff Works” for helping me with my sermon!!!)
Now… I find that these old styles of dimmer switches really help us to talk about our faith. You see, we put up all kinds of resistance in our lives. Just like the person in the prayer I read for you, we make excuses, we want to stay where we are, we think living out our faith costs too much. And on different days and different seasons, the amount of resistance we put up varies.
Some days we want to shine brightly and we are very open to God. We remove obstacles and barriers and let God’s love shine through us.
But some days, we throw every barrier in the world before God. I’m too tired. I’m too old. I’m too poor. I’m not going to listen, God.
What is amazing about these older styles of dimmer switches – is that no matter how much resistance we put up, and how dimly the light shines – it still takes a considerable amount of energy.
The input on the right side is at 100% power. That energy is being used to heat the resistor and then it is lost, dissipated, gone.
In the same way in our lives. God gives us everything. He is right there beside us, shining into our lives, calling us into his service. And every barrier we put up, every bit of resistance that we give, takes all of that God energy and it is used up, dissipated, gone.
When Paul calls us in Romans 12:1 to become a living sacrifice, he isn’t talking about dimmer switch faith… he is inviting us to throw out the resistor – and to let all of that amazing love and power and grace of God to shine through – 100%, 100% of the time.
In our weekly Lenten study this morning (and again on Tuesday night for those who want to join us) we are taking apart that verse piece by piece. But for this morning, I want to explore just what this means for our lives.
I think one of the best ways to understand this idea of going all in is to look at our gospel reading for this morning. As we walk with Jesus, we can see how he lived out this idea of a living sacrifice.
First of all, our passage starts with his baptism. As Jesus rises up out of the waters, the voice of God speaks – This is my son, the Beloved.
Before we can even begin to think about being a living sacrifice, we have to remember God’s mercy. We have to remember what God has already done for us.
God has created us, claimed us, named us, called us and saved us.
Through Jesus Christ, we become the sons and daughters of God and we too hear the voice calling out – You are my beloved. You are mine.
God’s love and grace and mercy are flowing into our lives at full power. It’s there without us having to say or do anything.
But we don’t stop with the baptism. We don’t stop with our declaration of faith.
No, as soon as Jesus hears that voice, the Spirit of God whisks him away into the wilderness. There, for forty days and forty nights, he is tempted, the wild beasts surround him and angels take care of him.
Jesus didn’t try to plan ahead. He didn’t back an emergency kit. He didn’t give excuses for why he couldn’t go. He went and completely and utterly put his life in God’s hands.
We, too, are called to dependence. We are called to place our lives, our time, our energy, our resources in the hands of God.
This time in the desert – this time of living and holy sacrifice – is us taking away all of the barriers, all of the resistance. We relinquish control… because we trust that God will take care of us.
You see, this time in the wilderness, this act of living sacrifice ONLY works if we believe the first part…. That God loves us and forgives us and gives us life.
And then, after he had experienced absolute dependence upon God and let all of his temptations and resistance go, Jesus came out of the wilderness and went straight to work.
Placing our lives in God’s hands mean that all of that power is flowing directly through us… and we can’t help but shine.
Our worship and our service and our ministry are one and the same thing. In every moment of every day, we are responsive to where God wants us to go. We serve him. We let him shine through our hearts.
As Lent begins, we are invited to walk with Jesus. We are invited to enter the wilderness, knowing and trusting that the power of God is 100% behind us. And we are called to let shine.
Give up any resistance you might have in your life. Because of the amazing things that God has done for you already – trust him. Know that he will take care of you. Let go of your worries and your resistance and let him have your life. Then your light will shine brightly for all the world to see, 100%, 100% of the time