Generally, people reach a point in life, when they begin to recognize their sinfulness (wickedness in their hearts) and when they come to know about Christ Jesus and what he has done for sinful humanity by dying on the cross 2020 years ago, we accept him as our personal Savior and Lord.
But many of you will agree that though you had accepted Jesus as your Savior, it took some more years before you made a total surrender of your life before Jesus and allowed Him to exercise His Lordship in all areas of your lives.
I had a similar experience – Initially, in the early years of my life, I had acknowledged the fact that I needed a Savior to save me from my sins, and eventually I accepted Lord Jesus as my personal Savior. But I was still acting as the boss or the one who was the ‘in-charge’ of my life. Gradually I realised that I was not able to run my life in a non-destructive way and I was convinced that I needed to surrender the control of my life to Jesus.
And as we look into Romans 12:1-2, we find Apostle Paul appealing to make a similar surrender to God.
Now before exploring the text, let us bear in mind that Paul here is not addressing unbelievers, but to those who have already believed upon Lord Jesus as their Savior. So, it is possible to live lives as Christ-followers without making a total surrender of our lives to God –
This must come to us as a Warning!!
CAUTION!! Because you may be a believer and yet not be a disciple of Christ!!
Today’s message, we shall consider THREE MAIN EXHORTATIONS OR APPEALS to the followers of Christ:
- Continually Offer your bodies as living sacrifices
- Not to be conformed to the patterns of this world
- Be transformed (in Your attitude and Thinking)
Let us now look at each one of these three main points:
1. Offer Your Bodies As Living Sacrifices
– In other words, the Holy Spirit through Apostle Paul is encouraging to give the control of our lives to God.
In other words, Paul is encouraging that believers to live as if they were no longer living. And Paul was not just asking others to do it, but remember what he said in Gal. 2:20?
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Jam. 4:7(a) Submit yourselves to God.
On what basis is Paul appealing the disciples to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice?
In the light of God’s mercies! Let us look again at all the mercies of God about which Apostle Paul has spoken in chapters 1-11.
- Rom. 3:21 – Because of the Gospel in which the righteousness of God has been revealed. And what did we learn about the nature of this righteousness? It is a righteousness that causes God to take the first initiative to save the sinners. This is what happened when God sent His only begotten Son, so that whoever might believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
- Rom. 5:11 – Because through the death of Christ – the death he endured because of our sins – we have been reconciled with God.
- Rom. 8:17– We have not only been reconciled with God, but we have been enabled to call Him as our Father.
- Rom. 8:9-10 – Because, we not only call God Almighty as our Father, but His Spirit now lives inside us.
- Rom. 8:35-39 – because nothing (no event, no human power, no evil powers, not even death) can separate us from the love of Christ; and as if all this is not enough, let us find one more reason:
- Rom. 8:28 – Because God works out all things well for those who love Him and have realised God’s calling upon their lives.
How does my ‘life’ as a living sacrifice become ‘holy’ and ‘acceptable’ before God? – 1 Pet. 2:5
[Remember – the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. The offering of Abel was accepted and Cain was rejected. We have wondered why Cain’s offering was rejected. Sometimes our questions about one Bible passage is clarified as we read some other Bible passage. When we read 1 Pet 2:5, we find that God accepts sacrifices not because they come out of a sincere heart, but because they are offered through Lord Jesus Christ.
you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
This is exactly what Paul says in Gal. 2:20, when he says that he had been crucified with Christ – it is through the death of Christ we can offer sacrifice of our lives so that it might be acceptable to God.]
1.1 – Rom. 1:1 – WHY OFFERING OUR BODIES to GOD IS IMPORTANT?
1.1A– Rom. 12:1(b) – Because, this is the kind of worship that God accepts. Sometimes, we think that we worship God when we lift up our hands, or sing very loudly, or sing with our eyes closed, or when we speak in tongues while singing, but though these are not bad things, these actions do not make our worship acceptable before God. The true worship that is acceptable to God is when we offer our bodies as ‘living sacrifices’ through Lord Jesus Christ.
This implies that the worship that God accepts is not just what we do on Sundays, but it is something that must carry on every single moment of our lives – because you cannot be dead only on Sundays, and alive during the rest of the week. Correct?
1.1B – Because, only by offering our bodies as living sacrifices can we move towards the state of existence that Adam and Eve experienced before they rebelled against God’s revealed purpose for their lives.
What was the ‘fundamental essence’ of the sin of eating the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3:6-8?
It was placing oneself at the center of one’s life and purpose.
1.2 – WHY OFFERING OUR BODIES IS NOT ONLY IMPORTANT BUT ALSO NECESSARY?
In 1 Cor. 6:19-20, Paul gives one more reason regarding why we must offer our bodies continually as living sacrifices before God as an act of worship, when he says that, because:
“You have been bought with a price.” You are not your own anymore. So now we are under obligation to glorify Lord Jesus Christ, who rescued you from the eternal condemnation (=fires of Hell) by paying the price through His own blood.
2. Rom. 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world:
Why should we not be conformed?
2.1 – WORLD IN ITS PRESENT CONTEXT, IS OPPOSED TO GOD AND HIS KINGDOM
Let us read two passages:
2 Cor. 4:4 – And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The phrase – god of this world – points to the evil powers in this world that have a strong influence over this world. Likewise, 1 John 5:19 clearly shares about the condition of the present world.
1 John 2:15 asks us not to love the world or the things of this world – Why? Whatever attracts us will eventually influence us! And the Word here in verse 2, ALERTS US so that we (our mindset) might not get influenced by these earthly powers. TWO EXAMPLES OF LIVING ACCORDING TO PATTERNS OF THIS WORLD:
– Peter went to Jesus and rebuked him and said “It should never happen to you.” – Mt. 16:22
– Demas because he loved the world forsook Paul (and more seriously, forsook God) –2 Tim. 4:10
–1 John 2:15-17 –
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.
If we are very much attracted to something, eventually it begins to influence us. In the same manner, if our lives are focused/attracted to the things of this world (=opposed to God), eventually it will begin to influence us. In this section, the Word gives two additional reasons why we are not supposed to love the world:
- We cannot love the world and love our Heavenly Father at the same time. We must make a choice!
- V. 17 – The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. If this world is going to fade away then why should anyone conform themselves to its patterns – to its way of thinking and living?
2.2 – Here in verse 2, ANOTHER REASON WHY WE SHOULD NOT CONFORM TO THE PATTERNS OF THIS WORLD?
Because when we do not conform to the patterns of this world but keep living our lives as living sacrifices, IT WILL ENABLE THEM TO DISCERN GOD’S WILL – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Here is a BIG PROBLEM with most of us – We want to know God’s will first before beginning to doing it. But here is the problem with this thinking –
- First, we are called to offer our lives as ‘living sacrifices’ not after knowing God’s will but in the light of God’s mercies.
- Second, because so much of God’s will is already revealed in the Bible, and if we are not living according to it, then we will also not be fulfilling God’s specific will that He may reveal through a dream or a vision.
3. Rom. 12:2 (b) – Then what are we supposed to be doing?
THE ONE KEY STRATEGY: ALLOWING God to bring about CHANGE in our MINDS!
I. BE TRANSFORMED (=allowing God to transform us): Greek word ‘metamorphosis’ – taken from the caterpillar! It refers to change in form and nature that is brought about by supernatural means.
What is the nature of this transformation?
- What exactly is Paul referring here that needs transformation?
- it does not refer to the transformation of our bodies (which will happen when Christ comes to take His people),
- It refers to transformation in the way we think ~ the spirit of our minds. Regarding, the spirit of our minds, Piper says refers to our ‘mindset’ and he says,
“our mind has what we call a “mindset.” It doesn’t just have a view; it has a viewpoint. It doesn’t just have the power to perceive and detect; it also has a posture, a demeanor, a bearing, an attitude, a bent.” – this ‘MINDSET’ needs fundamental transformation!
- This transformation is possible by a CHANGE in our worldview = CHANGE in Basic fundamental beliefs about life.
- For instance, in case of Peter in Jesus in Mt. 16:22, both were looking at the same reality (of Jesus impending death on the cross), but from two different ‘mindsets’ or worldviews.
Lord Jesus’ Mind-set
Peter’s life was centered around himself
Jesus’ life is centered around God the Father and His purposes.
Peter is trying to use Jesus to fulfil His desires.
Jesus is allowing to be used by His Father to fulfil His greater purpose.
Peter is living with earthly things in mind (in the flesh)
Jesus is living with heavenly things in mind (is the Spirit).
Peter is full of himself
Jesus is full of the SPIRIT
He was deeply oriented with living based on his own wisdom. It had so much become a part of it that even when Jesus revealed him about the information from heaven, his mind was not willing to accept it.
Jesus was deeply oriented with living based on the wisdom of His father. It has so much become a part of it that even when one of his closest disciples tried to influence him based on the earthly wisdom, he was not willing to accept it.
- This is divine passive – this transformation is not carried out by me or my strength, but by the power of God. We must surrender to God.
- This transformation is not once for all – but gradual and moment by moment (2Cor. 3:18). That is why it requires us to constantly live a life that is fully surrendered to God. This brings us back to where we started today’s message 🡪 to offer our bodies ‘CONTINUALLY’ as living sacrifices before God – because ONLY if we are ‘CONTINUALLY’ living a life as a living sacrifice, will God be able to transform us in our thinking and behaving – so that we may be conformed into the image and likeness of Christ
Dr Vikas Ram is a Researcher based in Bangalore.
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash