Two Part Response

In my last post, one of the verses that has gotten me thinking about doing something tangible to put feet to my faith was Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore, in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed 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.

Most pastors will tell you that when you see a “therefore” in scripture, you should look back to see what it’s there for. Meaning, what preceded these verses that leads us to conclude what these verses say?

Here, the “therefore” is probably referring to the entire first 11 chapters of Romans — which, in good detail, sets out God’s plan for salvation. Boiled down (very much) these chapters say:

(1) we are all sinners and deserve, because of our choices in life, to be eternally separated from God
(2) God provided a way for us to be with him in eternity — Jesus Christ’s death on the cross
(3) by faith in Jesus we are justified before God and our sins are not counted against us
(4) our faith does not make us ‘free’ to sin, but frees us to live a Spirit-filled life, fighting against the desires of the sinful nature.

And, immediately before the ‘therefore’ in chapter 12, Paul bursts out in poetic exclamation:

Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge and glory of God! How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36).

Therefore, in view of God’s mercy offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1).

I love it! We are not required to just up and offer ourselves to the Lord ‘because. In this respect, God is not like the parent who says to a child, “do such and such.” And when the child says, “why?” The parent says, “because I SAID SO.”

No, instead, our God has given us a glimpse into the depths of his character, we can plumb the riches of his wisdom, knowledge, and glory without ever coming up dry. It is because of his mercy — of only a part we understand — that we WANT TO offer ourselves in worship. It’s not just because he said so, it’s because he’s shown us and our natural response is to worship.

But, what is ‘offer[ing] [our] bodies as living sacrifices’? What’s spiritual worship?

Sacrifices in the Old Testament were dead things: dead doves, oxen, lambs — harvested grain … etc. And sacrifice is giving up something. Right? So, what’s a living sacrifice? A spiritual act of worship? Does this mean I have to go up to every altar call at every church service I attend? Does this mean I have to attend every worship service I can in my spare time? I have to listen to praise and worship music in the car and really mean the words to every song?

I’m coming to understand, I think, that part of what a living sacrifice is, is our actions. Our faith lived out. In the every day.

But, how does one live out their faith? This is one of those areas where the answer will be different for every person, from day to day–but, where the answer starts is the same for every person: Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2).

First of all, we have to ground ourselves in God’s word. We have to allow our minds to be transformed by reading the Bible, meditating upon it and praying. Then, as we are transformed we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2b).

In the American Church we think of God’s will as some great, mysterious thing for our lives. We have to pray upon his will and seek it out. We chase our tails trying to figure out God’s will for this or that big decision in our lives. We put out our golden fleeces, we set tests, we look for open doors or windows … I think we get it wrong here in America a lot, this concept of what God’s will is and how it’s up to us to ‘find’ it and (implicit in the whole attitude of the search) make it happen.

Right here Romans says that the way we know God’s will is by transforming our minds. Dwelling on Him. And, I think, out of this transformation, we will offer our bodies – our actions – as living sacrifices. God’s will in not only the extraordinary events and once-in-a-lifetime choices, but also the ordinary things every day. Maybe more so the ordinary everyday things.

So, our two-part response to God’s character revealed through His salvation of humanity? ONE worship with our lives by … at least, among other things, our everyday actions and what God reveals to us. TWO, to get to know God by reading His word, dwelling on it, praying about it, letting it transform us so we know how to worship with our lives and maybe also what big things He’s planning.

So, I feel like I have a lot of head-knowledge. Not that I’ve been completely ‘transformed by the renewing of my mind’ … but, I’ve got a lot of head knowledge. My primary focus right now needs to be on response number one – worshiping with my actions.

It’ll be interesting to see what this looks like … I’ll try to remember to update on this as things happen … But, I wonder, have you glimpsed God’s will recently – through the ordinary or the extraordinary?

2 thoughts on “Two Part Response

  1. Awesome writing, Becky.

    I think God really speaks to me through my circumstances. When I am not feeling good, it is usually time to start taking better care of myself. When the finances are tight, it is time to be more disciplined. When my heart feels so full and happy over my marriage I am reminded of His love for us, (and I need to praise Him!)

    great thoughts here!

  2. That's too cool Roo – I think God speaks to all of us through our circumstances, but sometimes we're just too busy or wound up to listen to what it is He's telling us! I happen to fall into that category a lot and just try to muscle my way through instead of pausing to think … Now that I've had such a long pause, maybe I can be better about thinking more often so I don't have to have such an imposed pause again!

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