I started teaching Romans 12 last night in our Wednesday Night Bible Study class. I’m using a 10-part series by Chip Ingram that is just outstanding. I love Romans 12 and I wanted to take a couple of minutes today to just focus on the first two verses today that could literally change your life!
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform 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.”
Have you ever thought what offering your bodies as living sacrifices to God really means? I don’t think it means making sure you eat right, drink plenty of water, sleep eight hours a night, and hit the gym. If that’s what it means I’m in deep trouble! No there is a more significant meaning here that Paul is trying to tell us that connects with something Jesus told us to do as well.
Sacrificing your bodies to God means doing things His way not your way. It means submitting to God in all things. It means surrendering yourself to God completely. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 16:24-25, “…Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
This is a lot more difficult than it sounds. If you asked Christians you know if they were surrendered to God most would say yes. But when you start to get specific you find out the answer is we all have a lot of work to do. Let me just ask you the questions I asked the class last night. Are you completely surrendered to God? Have you given up things such as:
- Defense Mechanisms
There are more but you get the idea. If you’re honest with yourself, which Romans 12 tells you that you must be, there are things that you’ve not surrendered to God with which you still struggle.
The bottom line of being a Romans 12 Christian is God must be more in your life and you must be less. His ways are right and your ways, I’m sorry to say, are wrong. Even when God’s ways seem unreasonable to you He’s still right! Even when you are scared of God’s ways because you don’t know what that would hold for your life He’s still right.
Dying to yourself – becoming a living sacrifice – is about your attitude toward God. Is He really the center of your entire life or is He just a part of it? Is He a part of all your decision-making (home, work, church, family, friends, et al) or is He just part of the big decisions or just the decisions on which you remember to consult Him?
If you’re like me you know this is a process. I’ve been working intentionally for the past three years on not taking offense as Jesus commands, which really is dying to your own views and seeing things the way God sees them. It’s very hard and it takes time and commitment.
But if you think verse 1 is hard wait until you see verse 2!
“Do not conform 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.”
In other words, don’t do things the way the world expects do things the way God expects.
Again that sounds pretty easy on the surface. It’s when you get into the details of it that it gets very hard. Let me just run down a list of things where the world and God see things differently:
- Graphic sex and violence in movies
- Graphic lyrics of songs
- Premarital sex
- Homosexuality and gay marriage
- Coarse language
- Drinking unto drunkenness
- Oppressing the poor
- Loving Your enemies
- Praying for those who persecute you
- Turning the other cheek
- Considering others better than yourself
- Loving your neighbor as you do yourself
Again, there are more but you get the idea. And I’ll be the first to admit I struggle with liking some of these worldly things. I love violent movies – war movies, space alien movies, vampire and monster movies – all of them. All have gore and violence; most use coarse language, and many contain nudity. Doesn’t even make me blink. Why? Because I am conformed to the pattern of this world. According to this world it’s okay I watch this stuff – everyone watches this stuff. But my God tells me it’s not okay and that I’m filling my mind with trash. And more often than not I tell God I’m going to watch it anyway.
Need another example? During the most recent economic crisis those companies that cheated their way to profits in the home loan arena were bailed out by the government! They lied, the cheated, and they were stealing yet we didn’t blink and instead rewarded them by keeping them afloat. Sad.
The world teaches us we can’t trust anyone; we have to protect ourselves from our enemies; that you deserve to seek “justice” against those who have harmed you; that it’s okay to have a little fun and drink all night; that those old Victorian sentiments about sex are outdated and hooking up is what it’s all about; abortion is a right; marriage is for anyone who loves another person; and the beat goes on.
But do you remember who the “Prince of this world” is? Satan. And his job is to blind you to the truth of God.
Romans 12:2 tells you what that truth is: Don’t do things the way Satan has them set up in this world, do them my way so you will know what my will for you is.
Honestly I think we all stink at being Romans 12 Christians. For some their habits are just too ingrained and they don’t see the need to change. For others it would take too much work and too much personal sacrifice to become a Romans 12 Christian. But it is what we are called to if we want to claim the name Christian.
We had a great discussion last night after our first video presentation. Lots of thoughtful comments about Romans 12, becoming living sacrifices, and what it would mean not to conform to the pattern of this world. When our time together ended, the group tends to mingle and talk among themselves about a variety of things. And there it was – gossip, people saying they were angry with other people; some calling folks they had to deal with idiots.
Jesus told us that following Him would be difficult. I think it starts just as Romans 12:2 says – by being transformed by the renewing of your mind. We must change our attitudes toward the world and people and begin to see things the way God sees them not the way we do.
It’s brutal trying to live as a Romans 12 Christian but I want to encourage you to give it some thought and to pray about what your life would look like if you agreed that God’s ways are better than yours.