February 23, 2014
by John Ulrich
“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.” (Romans 12: 1,2)
Romans 12:1-2 is a core passage on discipleship. If we look at it, we can see many things:
• There is process here. Because Romans 12:1-2 is the undoing of Romans 1, we can see that discipleship is a process, not a light switch.
• There is vision here. Romans 12:1-2 are the basis of our vision statement, and emphasize the need for inside-out faith.
• There is a cycle here. We will look at the overall cycle described above, which takes us out of the world as worldly people, and puts us back in as loving witnesses.
But maybe more than anything, there is risk here. There is a risk to putting yourself at God’s disposal. It’s risky because you are giving up control of your life. That means you could miss out on some pleasure…it means you could expose yourself to pain. But more than anything, it means you won’t fit the pattern of this world any longer. This can be a scary thought but it is the logical result of worship.
In these two verses, we learn how to undo this twisted world: with God’s mercy. Paul tells us that this mercy logically/reasonably leads us to worship of God. We now have a clear vision for ourselves and for our church: to grow together in a faith that makes sense, where transformation drives our life style.
In this passage, the apostle Paul calls Christians to take spiritual risks. Risk is a call to do something that might not work out. This is the answer to the question of how we can grow in discipleship at Grace Community Church.
1. The risk of putting ourselves at God’s disposal
Paul gives us the image of offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom.12:1). “Living” sacrifices, suggests a continuing process of offering ourselves to God, which is “holy and pleasing to God”.
The risk is that we are fearful God might call us to do something we do not want to do. He might ask us to give up stuff, change relationships, wreck our “bucket list”, or cause us to miss out on something that we want (e.g. “fun”). God’s call in Rom. 12:1 is to get on board wholly. It is not to stick a toe in the pool, but to let go, jump, and let Him catch us…and keep doing it.
2. The risk of not fitting in
Paul in Rom.12:2, tells us not to conform to the pattern of this fallen age where God’s presence is not obvious with all our upside down values. We are to live as if God is in charge, whether we see the results now or in a future age. We are called to be “in” the world but not “of” it. We will not totally fit in this world if we think according to God’s pattern, His thinking.
This is not a call to self-improvement or more morals. When we continually offer ourselves to God, our thought patterns actually change (transform) and our thinking is changed from the “pattern of this world” to His way, His thinking, His will (Rom. 12:2).
With all that we are (body, mind, emotions, etc.), who is the Lord of all these areas of our lives? Why take scary risks in turning to God?
Because Jesus truly is Lord, the wrath of God still exists for disobedience to His words. Yet in addition to God’s wrath, Rom. 12:1,2 shows us that we should also take risks because of the mercy of God who freely gave that which was most precious to Him (His Son).
If we really look at God’s mercy and believe that the story of His Son is true, then the only course of action that makes sense is to commit every area of our lives to Him in worship for continual transformation. Only then will we experience “His good, pleasing, and perfect will” for our lives (Rom.12:2).