Sunday, December 18, 2016, 7:01 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 12:1-2 (ESV).
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. 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.
What is a living sacrifice?
Well, a sacrifice is something you surrender, that you give up or you let go of. It is living, because we are living, and we are the sacrifice. So, if we present our lives to God as living sacrifices, then basically we are giving up ownership of our own lives, and we are surrendering them to God to be used for his purposes and for his glory. This is basically what takes place when we accept God’s invitation to his great salvation, and the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us. We are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (See: Eph. 4:20-24; Ro. 6:1-23).
The problem, though, is that we still live in these flesh bodies, and so we still have a propensity to sin, and a tendency to want to take back ownership of our own lives. Since we are a living sacrifice, it is possible to take ourselves back off that altar, too. So, that is why Jesus said that if we want to come after him that we must deny self, take up our cross DAILY (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him (Lu. 9:23-25). And, it is why Paul said that if we walk in the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Ro. 8:1-14). DAILY we must offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to him. DAILY we must surrender our lives to our Lord.
So, why is it important that we offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices? It is because of Jesus’ mercy to us in dying on a cross to save us from our sins. Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died to radically transform our lives away from living for sin and self to living for God and for his purposes. Jesus came to the earth to turn us from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy) by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18). Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:14).
What does it mean to be holy and acceptable to God?
To be holy means to be set apart (unlike, different) from the world because we are becoming like Jesus. Although we must live in the world, we are not supposed to live in the same manner as the world does. We should not take on the world’s character, mind, behaviors, attitudes, values and actions, though many Christians do. So, why do they, or why did I? Well, for one we still live in flesh bodies, and we are still drawn to sin, although Jesus died to free us from slavery to sin, so it should no longer be our master. But the other big factor, I believe, is that so many Christians are daily consuming the world’s character, etc. via TV, movies, music, games, etc.
You have probably heard the saying, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” If daily we digest the world’s values and mindset via TV, the internet, social media, games, secular music, and sports, etc., not to mention TV commercials, it is what is going to direct our lives instead of the Lord Jesus directing our lives, especially if we spend 2 hours or more a day digesting the world while we spend little time each day, if any, in God’s word and in prayer. If we give our lives to the junk of this world, but we give Jesus only a passing nod, the world is going to be what wins out, “hands down,” as the saying goes. So, if we want to live holy lives, pleasing to God, then we need to reevaluate how we are spending our time each day, and what kinds of things we are daily taking into our minds, eyes and hearts. And, we need to yield to Jesus.
To be acceptable (pleasing) to God in our daily lives, we need to then find out what pleases him, and then do it. Many people today are saying that God is pleased with us no matter what we do, and that he delights in us even when we are steeped in sin. Wrong! That is not what scripture teaches. In fact, it teaches just the opposite. It has much to say on living holy lives pleasing (or acceptable) to God. Some of what pleases God should be quite obvious to us, like we should cease from living daily for sin and self, and we should, instead, set our minds to live to God to do his will, his way. Then, we should spend more time with him in prayer and in his Word, listening to him speak to our hearts, so that we know his will, and so we can do what he says, and then we need to do it – in the power and working of the Holy Spirit, who now lives within us.
What is spiritual worship?
Today’s modern institutional church has often given Christians the wrong concept of worship of God. They present “worship” as collectively singing songs of praise and worship to God during a song service in a building called “church.” Now, certainly singing songs of praise and adoration to our Lord is part of our worship of him, but there is a sequence of events which must first take place for true worship to also take place.
First of all, since much of the “church” regularly invites into their meetings the people of the world, and they also regularly conform their “worship services” to do what is pleasing to the world, so that the world will want to come back to their meetings, then these times of “worship” are often more geared to the world than they are to be pleasing to God. God is not in first place in many of these “worship” services. So, for true worship of God to take place, the worship itself must be as God designed it to be, according to what is pleasing to him, not according to what is pleasing to the world.
Also, we can’t worship God if we don’t know him, or if we are not living for him. So, we must first of all come into genuine relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, via repentance and obedience (submission and surrender to God). We must die with Christ to sin, and we must be born anew of the Spirit of God to living now to God and to his righteousness. And, we must give our lives over to God as living sacrifices and make Jesus truly Lord (owner-master) of our lives, living holy lives pleasing to God. This is true worship of God! We can sing songs and raise or clap our hands, but if we are still living for the flesh, and we are doing what pleases us, instead of what pleases God, then we are not truly worshiping God.
How are we transformed in the renewing of our minds?
So, instead of living to please ourselves, doing things our way, or living our lives in accordance with the ways of this sinful world, we are to be transformed in the renewing of our minds. So, how do we do that? We do that through submission and surrender to our Lord, to follow him in obedience to his will and to his ways. We are not just hearers of the Word who walk away and forget what we look like, but we are doers of the Word, not in legalistic and ritualistic adherence to a set of rules, but in humble and contrite obedience to our Lord whenever he speaks conviction to our hearts. And, we do this in the power and working of God’s Holy Spirit within us, as we cooperate fully with that work of grace in our lives.
We also do this via put offs and put ons (See: Ephesians 4-5). For instance, my husband and I used to watch a lot of movies. We went back and forth on this issue for many years, and then one day we examined all that we were watching against Philippians 4:8. We found that most of what we were watching, even things we thought were pretty innocent, didn’t pass the test. And, so we threw out most all our movies, and eventually all of them, as well as we chose to get rid of our TV. That was 8 years ago. I don’t miss them at all! And, I found I had a lot more time for God, and for his Word, and I didn’t have all that junk from the world fighting against what God was doing in filling my mind with himself and with his righteousness.
So, for our minds to be transformed and renewed, we have to cooperate with God, and with his Word, and with his Work in our lives by removing from our lives and our minds what is junk, and what is contrary to his teachings, so that we can fill our minds and lives with what is holy, righteous and pleasing to our Lord. Then, we are able to discern what the will of God is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. For, it is really hard to discern his will when we are filling our minds with the junk of this world. So, I would encourage anyone reading this today to prayerfully examine all that you are doing, and all that you are taking into your mind and life, to see if it is pleasing to God. If it is not, then I pray that you would remove all from your life which does not bring glory to God, and that you will begin to fill your life and mind with God, with His Word, and with doing his will, his way.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.