Romans 12:1-2 —
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
1 Peter 2:4-5 —
4 As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Greetings, readers! It is Thursday again, and I am excited to be writing to you. I am especially excited to be writing to you about the Word of God.
I have been praying over where to go next in these devotions, and I find my heart and mind focused on the Church and what it means to be a part of it. That led me to Romans 12 where we will be camping out over today and upcoming weeks.
The Church – notice the capital “C”, referring to all believers everywhere (the Bride of Christ) – is a very special organism. You read that correctly, I said “organism” not “organization”. You see an organism is a grouping of parts that come together as a whole life. The Church is made up of all saved people – no matter their nationality or denomination – coming together because of the Life – Jesus (John 14:6). John, in Revelation, gives us a picture of what we will all be like together in heaven as “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). That is a bit different than what we associate in our minds with the word “church”.
We often think of a building or a specific gathering time of people in or around that building (Sundays from 11 to better-hope-he-stops-preaching-at-12). The Covid-19, #safeathome, lockdown has turned that understanding of church on its ears. But the Church has not stopped being the church – whether or not it has or has not physically met together. That is where Romans 12 comes into play.
Romans 12 is a special chapter because it bridges the gap between the theology in chapters 1-11 and the application that follows in the remaining chapters, hence that’s what the “therefore” is there for in verse 1. Hear me clearly on this: theology – the study of God (in Scripture) is very, very important. But that study of God must result in application and obedience. I love the way that the New American Commentary on Romans puts it: “Theology in isolation promotes barren intellectualism. [Activity/application] apart from theological base is impotent to achieve its goals.” The Church needs both theology and application in its activity or else we will stay in the safety of our pews or comfortably padded seating and never impact the world with the Word of God.
Verse 1 sees Paul’s appeal to the Church to “present [their] bodies as living sacrifice[s]”. Any reading in the Old Testament is sure to cross paths with the sacrificial system. This is necessary for our understanding of what God through Paul is asking of us. While he is not asking us to lay our bodies on an altar; he is calling for “living” sacrifices. The fact that it is “living” shows that it is voluntary. God wants us to willingly give our lives to Him – every day that we live.
This imagery is uncomfortable, but it should not be. The Bible is clear that in order to be saved one must confess aloud that Jesus is Lord. Our problem often lies in the fact that we want to share lordship with Him, giving Him the parts we want Him to have and retaining control over the areas we want. That is not how lordship works. If He has bought us, we are His (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He could demand what He wants of us. But rather than treating us as His slaves, He wants us to want to give ourselves to Him.
The best example I can think of is a little personal, but here it goes. The first decade of my marriage was made up of Candice working hard every day at work and then doing the vast majority of the work at home. I would work hard at work, stay late at work, and keep my mind on work all the live-long day.
Candice deserved my service; after all, I am supposed to be willing to give my life for her (Ephesians 5:25). I would – sad to say, seldomly – offer up my help (after she had likely asked repeatedly). But the area I hated the most was the dishes. She informed me one day that I should want to wash the dishes. I was dumbfounded – really, I was just dumb! Unfortunately, it took me a decade to realize that I love her more than work and genuinely wanted to do things for her – not because she needed help or any such foolishness – because of my love for her.
God offered up His life for us in Christ and redeemed us – saved us. We should want to live our life for Him. Living our life for Him becomes less of an act of service than a response of love with love. Serving Him should not be a chore. Sooner or later, we have to realize how blessed we are to get to serve Him and spend time with Him. That realization is a game changer!
More than that, He wants us to be different from the world around us. He commands us to not be “conformed to this world”. He wants His Church – His Bride to be different than the lost world around it. 1 John 2:15a says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” Jesus does not want His Bride to have more than one object of its affection. He will NOT share His affection and adoration.
Instead of being like the world, He calls for us to be “transformed by the renewal of [our minds]”. So many things come after our attention. Now, more than ever before in the history of the world, we are bombarded with more information and advertising than we can appropriately handle. We need our minds set on Christ (Colossians 3:1-3)! There is nothing inherently wrong with work or phones or hobbies, but, if it takes attention away from our spouse, we should know it needs to be taken away to save the relationship. What is there in your life that is trying – and likely succeeding – in taking your attention off of Christ? It’s time to redeem the relationship with Christ!
Having an appropriate focus on Christ, offering ourselves daily to Him (Romans 12:1; Luke 9:23) in an act of worship, and taking our mind off of the world and putting it on Him helps us know His will for us. How can we know that? Is He going to speak audibly? Will I have a vision? While God can certainly do any of that as He pleases, I think Rick Warren put it best: “God’s will is found in God’s Word. Stop looking for a sign, and start looking for a verse.” There is no better way to put your mind on Christ and seek His will apart from His Word.
The 1 Peter passage puts this all into context for us. Christ is saving people, and they are the “living stones” of His “spiritual house”. His Church is made up of people who are living out Romans 12:1-2 every day. They do not need buildings, although they are nice. They do not need priests to speak to God on their behalf. God has given us everything we need to follow Him. At some point, we just have to do it.
Hopefully, it will not take you as long as it has for me to get the picture. But I am sure that many of our spiritual houses are not up to code. Some of our bricks are half-baked with lacking devotion to God and too many distractions. Repentance is hard and it might be a bit of an embarrassment to have to start again. Hear me out: it is worth it all!
My prayer for you today is that you can experience transformation from the renewal of your mind. And I think Colossians 3:1-3 describes that process best:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
May it be so in your life. Get your mind on Christ and be His Church.
 This is a combination of various definitions from Google and Merriam-Webster online.