44. Romans 12:1-2
A Living Sacrifice
In chapter 12, Paul moves from theological teaching to practical application of the eternal truths about God and salvation he has outlined in the first 11 chapters. He begins with the most fundamental command: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”
Paul “urges” his readers to certain responses in two other places in Romans. In 15:30 he says, “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” Again in 16: 17 he says, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.”
As he ends this “greatest letter ever written,” Paul urges his readers three time. First, in our passage in 12:1-2, he urges them to live lives of self-sacrifice to God. He is not asking them to sacrifice themselves for or to other people; he is asking for complete surrender to God. A believer’s focus is never to be on what he can do for other people directly. Only as a person surrenders one’s desires, time, and entire selves to God will he begin to discover His call. He assigns the work He prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
In Romans 15:30 Paul urges readers to join him in his struggle for the gospel by praying for him. Even though Paul is the one God called to be the apostle to the Gentiles, all those whom he served had a part to play in his ministry. They could intercede for him. Finally, in 16:17, Paul urges his readers to be on guard against false teachers. Just as he has explained in Galatians and also in Colossians, he reminds the Romans not to give ear to teachers who cause division and who teach requirements that put obstacles in a Christ-follower’s way. The gospel is clear and direct: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; repent and be baptized, and be saved. They are not to consider the addition of any requirements other than the gospel Paul explained. All else is dangerous, divides the body, and is self-serving.
In Ephesians 4:1-3 Paul also urges his readers to respond to God by living lives worthy of the calling they have received. They are to be completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love. They are to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. In other words, as Christ-followers, we are to give up our natural tendency to protect our own interests and focus instead on mediating the Spirit’s power and compassion toward other brothers and sisters, not causing trouble but keeping unity among each other by commitment to the Holy Spirit’s bond of peace.
Peter also urges his readers to live “good lives among the pagans that they may see your good deeds” even though they accuse them. By choosing to be submissive to the Holy Spirit even in the face of mistreatment and slander, a Christ-follower will bring glory to God by his obedience to live lives of good deeds among unbelievers. In the same passage Peter admonishes his readers to submit to every authority established by God. Even if the authority is a pagan, Christ-followers are to submit respectfully and glorify God. He will redeem their commitment and His glory will be victorious over the evil that attempted to discredit God’s power and presence.
This urge for believers to offer themselves as living sacrifices to God, committed to compassion, good deeds, and trust in Jesus even in the face of mistreatment and opposition, is our true worship. When we face the overwhelming reality of what God has done for us in Jesus, our response cannot be less than giving Him our entire selves, allowing Him to live out His will in and through us. We do not belong to ourselves; we belong to Him. He will fill us with the knowledge of His will, and He will glorify Himself through our lives and situations.
Offer Your Body
The New Testament offers many insights into what it would look like to offer one’s body as a living sacrifice. In Romans 6:12-13, Paul talks about one aspect of such an offering. Don’t let sin reign in your body, he says, and don’t offer parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness. Instead, we are to offer ourselves to God as grateful people who have been brought from death to life, giving Him our parts as “instruments of righteousness”. Paul further points out that we become slaves of whomever we obey, and as Christ-followers we are to offer ourselves as slaves to righteousness and obedience instead of to sin. Interestingly, Paul does not say we will feel desire to obey God and offer ourselves to righteousness; he merely says we are to do it.
This admonition is not a commentary on achieving salvation. Paul is talking about our response after already being saved. Our response is to be one of obedience to Jesus even if that response seems difficult or if we can’t see how we’ll be able to complete our task. He doesn’t ask us to “see”; He asks us to obey by faith that He will work His will in us.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul further asks if we don’t realize that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in us. We are not our own; we were “bought with a price,” and we must honor God with out bodies—which, at any rate, belong not to God and not to us.
Peter reminds us that as God’s people, we have been rejected by men but chosen by God. We are being built into a holy priesthood who offer “spiritual sacrifices” which are acceptable to God.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul comments that he eagerly expects and hopes that Christ will be exalted in his body, whether by life or death. Paul’s goal was not the preservation of his physical life; he always understood that his physical suffering and even death for the cause of Jesus and His gospel was an appropriate offering to God.
Another way we offer our bodies as sacrifices is through committing our lips to praise. Hebrews 13:15-16 commands us to “continually offer to God sacrifices of praise” which are “the fruits of lips that confess his name.” Further, we are not to forget to do good and to share with others, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
Every part of our lives, once we know Jesus, belongs to Him. Our thoughts, speech, and actions are our offerings to Him. We do not live for ourselves any longer.
Roman 6:4 clarifies that we were buried with Him in baptism and raised to a new life, just as Christ was raised from the dead. In 7:6 Paul further says that we were released from the way of the law so we could live in the new way of the Spirit, not in the old way of the written code. Everything about our lives will have a new focus when we are in Christ. “If anyone is a new creation, “ Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “the old has gone, the new has come!”(2 Corinthians 5:17)
In Ephesians Paul describes in some detail what a sacrificial life would look like. It involves putting off our old selves which are being corrupted by our deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of our minds, and to put on new selves being created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (4:22-24). Further, we are to speak truthfully to one another; we are not to sin in our anger but to resolve it before the sun goes down so as not to allow Satan a foothold. We are not to steal, but we are to work with our hands so we may have something to share with those in need. We are not to allow any unwholesome talk to come out of our mouths; we are to speak only things which are useful for the building up of the body. Even further, we are to get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander and malice. We are to be kind and compassionate and forgiving of one another (4:25-32). We are to imitate God and live lives of love as Christ loved us and gave Himself as a fragrant sacrifice. There must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking among us. We must be full of thanksgiving, not being deceived by or even participating with people who deceive with empty words (5:1-7).
To the Colossians Paul wrote that we must not lie to one another since we’ve taken off the old self and the old practices and put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge and in the image of God.
Being a living sacrifice means that we must surrender all of our natural self-serving, self-protective impulses. Instead, we offer to God all that we are: our mental and physical abilities, and we commit ourselves to living for Him and to mediating His presence to those around us. Our lives are not our own; we now live for Christ Jesus, and He manifests Himself to the world in and through us.
According to the New Bible Dictionary by Intervarsity Press, the word “worship” “originally referred to the action of human beings in expressing homage to God because he is worthy of it. It covers such activities as adoration, thanksgiving, prayers of all kinds, the offering of sacrifice and the making of vows.” Now, however, the word “includes not only the human approach to God but also the communications of God with his people, and the whole communal activity that takes place when the people gather together religiously. Such activity is the formal expression of spiritual attitudes which should characterize God’s people at all times (Rom. 12:1).”
When we are born from above, our entire lives belong to God. Our reasonable, spiritual worship is to offer ourselves completely to Him for His purposes. We don’t give Him only our “hearts” and our “minds”—but we give Him our entire bodies. The ancient Greeks perceived the body as distinct from the spirit; the spirit, they believed, was the only permanent, important part of reality. Physical realities, they believed, were temporary and ultimately unimportant. Therefore, what happened in the body—whether a person abused or indulged himself—had no effect on the eternal spirit of a person.
Christianity, however, teaches something very different. God redeems not only our spirits by bringing them alive through the Holy Spirit; He redeems our bodies as well. We will spend eternity in glorified resurrection bodies, and even the heavens and the earth will be redeemed and made new.
As physical human beings indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we would be compromising our commitment to God if we tried to give Him our spiritual side without giving Him our bodies. Our spirits function in and through our bodies, and we cannot separate them nor their effects on each other. Because we are physical, we must offer God our bodies as sacrifices to Him in order to give Him access to all of us.
Offering our bodies means that we not only surrender our beliefs, loyalty, and commitment to God, but it means that we submit to His will for our activities, our work, even our health. Offering our bodies means that we trust Him with what happens to us, and we surrender to Him as the Lord of our entire selves, trusting Him to redeem our circumstances and reveal Himself and His will to us.
Offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, says Paul, is our “spiritual act of worship”. In the time of Israel, worship was clearly prescribed by the law. Rituals, sacrifices, festivals, and Sabbath days provided the framework within which God’s people were to honor Him, foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus and the salvation of humanity. Now that Jesus has come to fulfill the law, however, worship is different. Mark 10:45 explains what Jesus did to change the “face” of old covenant worship: “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus personally fulfilled the rituals and sacrifices of the Old Testament. He, the One to whom those sacrifices had been offered, became human and became the sacrifice Himself. He relieved His people of the need to shed animal blood on behalf of their own sins; He shed His blood for them. He offered Himself as a Living Sacrifice for us.
Hebrews 10:1-7 explains further that the law, which governed worship before Jesus came, was only a shadow, not the realities themselves. The law with its required sacrifices could never make a worshiper holy or take away sin. When Christ came, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me…Here am I, as it is written I have come to do your will.” Jesus made the law obsolete by offering His own body as the fulfillment of the shadows of the law.
Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that a time was coming and was now here when “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” because “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24). No longer, He was saying would people have to worship in holy places such as Jerusalem—or during “holy time” as determined by the law. True worship is not anchored in the external physical world or in the written ordinances of law; it occurs in our minds as we allow truth to change us and transform our understanding of reality. It also occurs in our spirits, the part of us that knows God and is brought to life by the indwelling Holy Spirit. In other words, no longer do God’s people worship Him symbolically, using metaphors and ceremonies to honor Him. Now we worship Him directly with our hearts and spirits because He has fulfilled all those shadows and metaphors. Now we are made intimate with Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and true worship occurs in our minds and hearts and is anchored in truth and nourished by knowing Jesus personally.
In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 Paul chastised the Corinthians for their arrogance and pride. “Your boasting is not good,” he wrote. “Don’t you know a little yeast work through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast as you really are. For Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” Paul is reminding the Corinthians that now, since Jesus has been sacrificed as their Passover Lamb, they different. Because they have claimed Jesus as their Savior, they are new—a new “batch” of dough made without the yeast of sin. He asks them to let go of their pride and arrogance and boasting. Self-centeredness taints the whole person, and they are now a new batch of dough made without the leaven of sin.
In this admonition, Paul is addressing the Corinthians’ position in Christ. In spite of their boasting and sniping at each other, because they have accepted Jesus, they truly are a “new batch”. They are in Christ instead of in Adam, and they need to live according to the spiritual reality of their new birth and their position in Christ. They are secure in Him, saved and hidden with Christ in God (Colossian 3:3), but their duty is to honor Christ by living according to their new identity with the power of His Spirit which is in them.
Later in the same book, Paul speaks more of the Corinthians’ corporate worship. In his discourse on gifts of the Spirit, he stresses that the spiritual gifts are to be practiced in an orderly fashion for the benefit of other worshipers. For example, if one of the church is prophesying during a worship service, an unbeliever coming in will be convicted of their own sin upon hearing the insight from God and His word being spoken forth, and he will be convicted and fall and worship God, acknowledging His presence among them. (See 1 Corinthians 14:24-25.)
Another glimpse into worship among the early church members occurs in Acts 20:7. Paul was at Troas. The believers gathered on the first day to break bread, and Paul spoke to them. Because he was leaving directly, he spoke until midnight. On this occasion a young man fell asleep sitting in an open window and fell to the ground and died. Paul “threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him” (v. 10), and the young man came back to life.
This passage shows that corporate worship now focuses not on shadows and rituals foretelling a coming redemption. Rather, it now consists of believers who know Jesus and are experiencing salvation joining each other for mutual fellowship and admonition and for instruction in the word of God. Further, Paul’s resurrection of Eutichus demonstrates that true worship also includes acting on the power and gifting of the Holy Spirit, willingly offering one’s own body to be the means of God’s power and ministry.
New Covenant worship is no longer focused on a future promise but on the accomplished reality of Jesus and His completed sacrifice and resurrection life. Now we worship God not with rituals but by offering ourselves as His body, allowing Him to nourish us as He ministers to the world through us. We offer our lips to speak His praise and to express our love; we offer ourselves to be His hands and feet and heart.
Transformed from conformity
Offering oneself as a living sacrifice includes turning away from the natural, habitual self-indulgent behaviors of the world. Unregenerate humanity lives for self—it is self-protective, self-indulgent, self-punishing, and creates its own religion. Instead of surrendering one’s spirit and mind to Jesus in worship and surrender, a natural person maintains tight control over his “rights”, behaviors, and space. Rather than give up the illusion of being the master of one’s own fate, the worldly person vainly juggles self-indulgence with self-restriction, gratifying his or her emotions or desires on the one hand while punishing herself on the other in an attempt to assuage both guilt and a deep sense of emptiness or fear.
Paul reminds his readers that when one is in Christ, this yo-yo of indulgence and punishment must stop. It is worldly and has no power to change a person. In Ephesians 4 Paul focuses on this question of transformation. He reminds Christ-followers not to live as Gentiles, in futile thinking with darkened understanding and separated from the life of God because of ignorance born of hardened hearts. This separation from the life in God and this darkened spiritual state results in indulging sensuality and impurity “with a continual lust for more” (4:17-19). True Christ-followers, he continues, are to let no unwholesome talk” come from their mouths. They are not to grieve the Holy Spirit who has sealed them, and they are to get rid of all bitterness, rage, slander, malice, and instead be compassionate to one another, forgiving one another as Christ forgave them (v. 24-32). Further, they are to indulge in no kind of sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking and must not be deceived by “empty words” (5:3-7).
In 1 Corinthians 1:20 Paul illuminates another worldly deception that seduces many Christ-followers: the lust for knowledge and the arrogance of believing one has superior wisdom and insight. True wisdom, however, is not found in worldly knowledge or intellectual pursuits. He asks where the wise men, the scholars, the philosophers of this age are; “has God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” he asks. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned,” he explains in 2:14.
In 2 Corinthians 10:2-4, Paul further exposes still another facet of the Christ-followers difference from the world. “We don’t wage war as the world does,” Paul states, even though we’re in this world. Christ-followers’ weapons are not of this world; rather, they use divine power to demolish strongholds. Human cleverness cannot break down evil. Only God’s power can destroy demonic power. As Christ-followers we are aware that our real battle is not with flesh and blood, and we place ourselves under the power and protection of the Holy Spirit who guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Peter also admonished God’s people not to conform to the evil desires they had when they lived in ignorance. “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:14-15). John also warned, “Do not love the world or what is in it.” Everything in the world—the cravings of sinful humanity, the lust of one’s eyes, the boasting of what one’s done—these things do not come from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires, John reminds us, will pass away, but he who does the will of the Father lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).
When Paul wrote his warning in Romans 12:2 that a Christ-follower should not live any longer in conformity to the world, he was acknowledging that once a person is saved, he has a living spirit still inhabiting a dead body (Romans 8:10). Even though the power of sin’s claim on us has been broken by our spirits’ coming to life by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we still have the sinful patterns and inherited weaknesses of our sinful flesh—which influence our minds. Before we were born again we had no power to resist temptation and sin. We had only our own intellectual strength and will power to fight the spiritual forces of wickedness under whose claim we were born.
Now, alive in Christ, we have new power and potential. Now we can choose to yield to the Holy Spirit when faced with temptation. We don’t have to weakly fall into our old habits and addictions. Now we can surrender the broken places of our hearts to Jesus, inviting Him to heal us and place His Spirit in the spots where we previously were slaves to sin.
In Christ, we have the possibility of completely new lives in Jesus.
In verse two of Romans 12, Paul asserts that we are transformed from conformity to the world through the renewing of our minds. He addresses this issue in his other epistles also. He reminds the Ephesians that they came to know Christ by being taught the “truth as it is in Jesus” They were to put off their old self which is being corrupted by evil desires and to be made new in the attitude of their minds. They were to put on their new self which was created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24).
Earlier in this letter, Paul explained how to begin the process of being renewed in the attitude of their minds. He said he prayed that the Father would give them “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” that they would know Him better. He prayed that their eyes would be enlightened that they would be able to know the hope to which He had called them, the “glorious riches of His inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17-19). In other words, the renewing of our minds begins with seeking the revelation of God into the mysteries of our inheritance in Christ.
In one of his prayers for the Ephesians, Paul further reveals how our minds become renewed. “I pray that our of his glorious riches, [the Father] will strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith. And I pray that you, together with all the saints, will have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19). True renewal of our minds comes from our submission to God. The entire Trinity is involved in transforming us, and the result is that we will know the love of Christ—a knowledge which surpasses knowledge. This “knowing” sounds like an oxymoron—but spiritual knowing transforms our minds, and we know Him and are filled to the measure with the fullness of God. True renewal of our minds can only derive from this kind of submission to God, allowing Him to fill us with Himself and the knowledge of His eternal love.
Another part of the renewal of our minds is God’s spiritual gifting to the church. It is He who gifts some to be apostles, some to be prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, that the body of Christ might be built up and brought to unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God and will attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. God asks us to submit to His teaching and to His gifting in the members of the body. He reveals His truth not only through the Bible and the personal teaching of the Holy Spirit, but He reveals Himself also through His work in each of us. His gifts to us are for the purpose of building each other up, holding each other accountable, encouraging and teaching one another. We are not merely individuals responding to God—we are also living stones being built into a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. (See Ephesians 4:11-13; 2:21-22.)
Paul admonishes us in Colossian 3:1-3 to set our minds on the things above, “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Twice he emphasizes that we are to set our minds on things above—a decision we make to surrender to God’s will and purpose instead of pursuing what we personally desire. Related to fixing our minds above, Paul says (Col. 3:5) that if we are raised with Christ and fixing our minds above, then we must consider our earthly bodies dead to immorality, impurity, passions, evil deeds, and greed. When we submit to God in surrender of ourselves as living sacrifices, we give up our previous drive to indulge ourselves with sensual stimulation. He continues in verses 8-10 to instruct Christ-followers to rid themselves of anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, and lying to each other. These things have no place in the life of one who has “laid aside” one’s “old self” and put on a new one which is “being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”
The renewal of our minds is closely related to the choices we make through the power of the Holy Spirit to surrender our fleshly desires to Christ. The Holy Spirit makes us new and gives us the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). This new spiritual knowing results in our being able to surrender to Him our normal habits and temptations. Our mental renewal is linked to our coming to life spiritually, and this new life and understanding gives us the ability to choose to allow God to take the indulgences we formerly loved and to give us a new focus and a new reason to live.
In 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 Paul explains that we have received the Holy Spirit so we will understand what God has freely given us—the saving gift of Jesus and His imputed righteousness for all who believe. Without the Spirit, Paul says, a person cannot accept the things of the Spirit, for they are “foolishness” to him. Such a person cannot understand these things because they are spiritually, not rationally, discerned. When we are filled with the Spirit, however, we have the mind of Christ.
John also spoke of how a Christ-follower learns and knows eternal truth. Jesus told His disciples that He no longer called them servants, but friends, because servants don’t know their master’s business. Jesus, however, had told His disciples everything He had learned from His Father, and He promised that the Holy Spirit would come and teach them all things, reminding them of everything Jesus had told them (John 15:15; 14:25-27). The Spirit of truth, Jesus said, will guide us into all truth. He’ll speak what He hears and will tell us what is to come. He’ll bring glory to Jesus by taking from what is Christ’s and making it known to us (John 16:12-15).
God transforms our minds by teaching us His truth through the Holy Spirit. As we submit ourselves to Christ and His word, we become changed. As we learn to submit and surrender ourselves and our desires and temptations and decisions to Jesus, He changes our minds and hearts and gives us the desire to honor Christ with our lives.
The word “transformed” in Romans 12:2 is the same Greek word as that translated “transfigured” in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ transfiguration with Moses and Elijah. It is also the same word used in 2 Corinthians 3:18 where Paul says that we, with faces unveiled from the law of Moses, “reflect the Lord’s glory” and are “being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
The transformation of our minds is a miracle of God. It is of the same character as the transfiguring of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah when they reflected the glory of God in unbearable light. As we submit to Jesus in every area of our lives, our minds increasingly reflect the glory of God because He is changing us into His likeness. This change is not based in our noble works. Rather, it is the result of our offering ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice, willing to be and become whatever He wants us to be. Our transformation is not primarily behavioral, although our behavior will be affected. It is entirely the process of Christ becoming our all-in-all. We allow Him to live His life in and through us, and we become His glory and His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).
Test and Approve
Paul states that when a believer allows God to transform and renew his mind, then he will be able to “test and approve what God’s will is…”(v. 2). The transformation described above makes it possible for us to recognize God’s will for us. His will is not the same as what seems right to natural people. Often, in fact, some teachers (who could be called “false teachers”) encourage Christians to expect God to fulfill their wishes and dreams for material comforts and benefits. In exchange for saying the right words or contributing the right financial support, people are led to expect that God will prosper them and give them cars, houses, and comforts that they desire.
Christ-followers, though, are asked to submit these dreams to God and allow His will to replace their own wills. We are asked to allow God to become our all-in-all, to be the One who fills our emptiness and satisfies our desires.
God’s will for us is described throughout the Bible. Ephesians 5:8-12 asks us to “live as children of light.” The “fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” We are to find out what pleases the Lord, and we’re to have nothing to do “with the fruitless deeds of darkness” but are, rather, to “expose them”. Further, in verses 15-18, Paul tells us we are to speak the truth in love and grow up into Him who is our Head because in Him the whole body is joined and held together. In Him it grows and builds itself up in love.
Paul prays in Colossians 1:9-12 that God will fill the Colossian “brothers in the Lord” with “the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in every respect, to bear fruit in every good work and to increase in the knowledge of God, strengthened by all power according to His glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.”
To the Thessalonians Paul wrote that it is God’s will that they should be sanctified. They should avoid sexual immorality and stay in control of their own bodies in a way that is holy and honorable—not in passionate lust like the heathen. No one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him, for the Lord will punish such sins.
This sampling of texts describe a Christ-follower’s obligation to knowing God’s will. We are not only to live as children of light, but we are to expose evil. We are to grow up in Jesus and allow Him to integrate us into His body where we will grow in love as we function as part of the organism of Christ-followers. We are to allow God to fill us not only with the knowledge of His will but with all spiritual wisdom and understanding—a “knowing” that does not come from the intellect but from the Spirit. This knowledge and understanding will enable us to please the Lord, to live godly lives, to bear good fruit and to increase in the knowledge of God. It will also give us strength from God Himself, and this divine strengthening will develop in us steadfastness and patience. We are to live honorable, moral, holy lives, being fair and honest with our brothers.
The way we come to internalize this knowledge of God’s will is by allowing the Holy Spirit to change our attitudes and minds. 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 says that a man’s natural spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. Things from the Holy Spirit are spiritually, not intellectually, discerned. The person who is filled with the Holy Spirit, however, is not subject to natural man’s judgment because a natural man does not understand the working of God in him. But a spiritual man makes judgments about all things. As Christ-followers, this kind of spiritual knowing is possible because through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God actually gives us the mind of Christ.
God is asking you, as a Christ-follower, to offer yourself to Him as a living sacrifice. He wants you to offer your body and yourself to Him for His purposes, allowing Him to change your attitudes, your tastes, your feelings, and your behaviors.
God wants us to surrender to Him our blind spots, the places where we rationalize ungodly attitudes and behaviors. He is asking us to open our hearts to Him so He can convict us of the ways in which we gossip or entertain gossip, manipulate, treat people disrespectfully and without honoring God’s authority in them. He is asking us to be receptive to His revelation of our self-centeredness and our desire for power, of our critical spirits and our weaknesses for flattery.
God desires to renew our minds so our lives and attitudes reflect Jesus instead of natural human responses. He is asking us to allow Him to remove our self-deception and to teach us the reality of our own lives and of His sovereign power to change and heal us. He wants us to embrace His charge to us to humble ourselves before His divine “surgery” of our souls. We are to offer ourselves actively to Him for His purposes, allowing Him to change us and to work in and through us for His glory.
It is our ultimate act of worship to Him to offer ourselves to Him, surrendering our desires to cling to the ideas and the roles we love. It is an act of worship to allow God to reveal our hypocrisy and our rationalizing, our comfort zones and our resistance to change and loss of control. God asks us to hold loosely all that He gives us, trusting Him to change and replace everything we value with Himself and with things of eternal consequence.
God is faithful to complete what He begins in us. He will fill us with Himself and will transform us into His image. Praise God that our offering of ourselves to Him is an act of worship in which He delights. He gives value to us when we offer ourselves to Him, covering us with His own righteousness and promising to reward us with the inheritance we have in Him.
He is faithful. He is our life and our meaning, and He is our mediator.
We can trust Him forever.
Paul has finished his most meticulous theological discourse describing the administration of the new covenant. Now, following a typical pattern for his letters, he moves into practical teaching about how to live as a new covenant Christ follower. The word “therefore” in verse 1 refers to the great truths expounded in the first 11 chapters. Paul urges his readers now, in light of the reality of God’s saving us by His mercy and giving us righteousness that is not our own nor based upon our performance, to live in a way that honors His name and reflects His Spirit in us.
1. The word “urge” is a strong word asking readers to take his following admonition absolutely seriously. Where else are readers urged to respond, and how are these urgings similar and different? (see Ephesians 4:1-3; 1 Peter 2:11-17)
2. What are the implications of offering one’s body as a living sacrifice to God? What would such offering “look like”? (see 6:13, 16, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 2:4-5; Philippians 1:20; Hebrews 13:15-16; Romans 6:4; 7:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24; 25-28; 26-32; 5:1-7; Colossians 3:9-10)
3. The word “spiritual” in verse one can also be translated “reasonable”. Look up the word “worship” in a good Bible dictionary. What does it encompass, and how does offering our bodies as living sacrifices qualify as “worship”?
4. References to human activity in worshiping God are rare in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, “worship” involved rituals, sacrifices, and adoration of a transcendent God. What new understanding has the New Covenant yielded, and how has this knowledge changed worship? (see Mark 10:45; John 4:21-24; Hebrews 10:1-7; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8)
5. Paul is speaking to Christ-followers, not the unconverted, when he says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” What exactly is the conformity to the world against which Paul warns these Christians? (see 1 Peter 1:14-15; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 2 Corinthians 10:2-4; 1 John 2:15-17; Ephesians 4:17-19; 29-32; 5:3-7)
6. What does Paul mean by “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”? How does one renew his mind? (see Ephesians 4:20-24; 1:17-19; 3:16-19; 4:11-13; Colossians 3:1-3; 5, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 2:12-16; John 15:15; 14:25-27; 16:12-15)
7. The word “transformed” is the same word used in Matthew 17:2-8; Mark 9:2-8, and 2 Corinthians 3:18. What does the context of “transformed” in these verses suggest about its meaning for Christ-followers in this Romans passage where Paul talks about transforming our minds?
8. Paul connects the renewing of one’s mind with being able to test and approve what God’s perfect will is. What is the will of God to which Paul refers, and exactly how does one “test and approve” it? (see Ephesians 5:8-12; 15-18; Colossians 1:9-12; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
9. What would (or does) it mean for you to offer your body as a living sacrifice to God?
10. In what ways do you tend to conform to the world?
11. How have you noticed your mind being renewed and your life transformed?
12. Thank God for saving you in Christ Jesus and ask Him to show you how to offer yourself to Him as a living sacrifice. Ask Him to teach you with His Spirit and to renew your mind and transform you into His likeness. Ask Him to make you willing to offer yourself and to be open to understanding and responding to His discipline and teaching in your life. Praise the Father for rescuing you from the dominion of darkness, for transporting you to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13), and for guaranteeing your future with the seal of His Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).
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