Romans 12: 1-2  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Happy New Year!  I hope it is a happy new year for my brothers and sisters at Dongshin English Service.  But if you’re like most people on this earth, I’m sure many other words could be used to describe this year.   Challenging and busy. Trying in someways.  Delightful in others.  Followers of Jesus, however, are not to interpret life’s ups and downs as the world interprets them.  We are not to respond to life the way the world responds.  Instead, our knowledge of the Creator, our sinful state and the Holy One who saved us changes us from average people to the transformed people.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I don’t feel all that different from my unbelieving friends or coworkers.  They’re living and breathing creatures as am I.  They like to eat.  I like to eat.  They like to read good books and watch good movies.  So do I.  They complain about stuff at work.  So do I.  Or maybe I’m the chief complainer…as far as I can tell among the English complaints.  (I’m the only foreigner at my workplace.)  They sin.  I sin.  We both sin.

In Romans 12:1, Paul, the prototype of a changed life, urges us to live sacrificially and dramatically different lifestyles from the world.  Saul, who was born from the tribe of Benjamin, viewed as an important intellectual, and a persecutor of followers of The Way, became a new man with a new name when he was knocked off his ass by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.  Saul was set against Christ, not because of some huge conscious decision that Jesus was evil, but because of simple common reasons like upbringing, training in Jewish law, and culture socialization.  Brother Ken told us Sunday that even well-intentioned training can fix us in opposition to the ways of Jesus.

At Dongshin English Service, we’re all tuned in to the distinct differences in culture–be them Eastern, Western or somewhere in between.  The good news is in Christ, no matter how different our cultures, we are one in Him.  Jesus is supracultural.  Therefore, it’s our duty as Christians to examine our culture and take note of the ways that the ways of our countrymen led us astray.

As an American, one of the most interesting phrases I learned in Korea was “Sugaseyo”–a farewell meaning “Work hard!”  It was particularly ironic when juxtaposed with the American farewell “Take it easy!” meaning “Don’t work too hard.  Relax. Have a good time!”  Yes, Americans like to take it easy.  Koreans like to work hard.  Where is Jesus on this continuum?  Well, he stayed up all late ministering to people and then rose early the next morning for prayer.  (Mark 1: 32-35) He certainly had a good time, too, but for my personal application purposes, I’m gonna say Jesus was a hard worker.  For a few weeks, I work industriously to plan my lessons and require excellence from my students…but as an American, it’s so easy to let laziness seep in.

Americans complain a lot, too.  Complaining is just a regular conversation piece when you’re a young adult in the states.  But as a foreigner, I quickly saw the negative effects of my needless negativity on those who were desperately trying to give me a good time in their country.  Philippians 2:14 says “Do everything without complaining or arguing” so that we can become blameless and pure before God.  These are just a couple of ways that American culture fails to embody Christ’s character.

So we’re on a mission to change our minds to that which is on God’s mind.  How do we do that?  No clever blog post could have changed Saul’s mind that day on the road to Damascus.  No spiritual exercise could have made him realize that maybe killing Jesus’ followers was not a good idea.  No encounter with a super nice Christian would have helped.  It was Jesus who knocked him off his ass that day.  And it’s Jesus alone who can help us live free from the confines of our culture.  Beseech the throne and ask for help to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Ask to see the world through his eyes.

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