The Lord Jesus has led me to write a series of devotions on the subject of the church. This will be the fourth in that series, as I am looking into what the church should look like and how we should function as the body of Christ.
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. Romans 12:1-2 ESV
As I was contemplating this passage of scripture, it came to mind that I often write on these first 2 verses by themselves, or separately from the following section which talks about the body of Christ. And, then I usually continue on beginning in verse 9. And, that is often due to the subject matter at hand, and because vv. 3-8 seem to be on a different subject.
But, there is a reason that Paul wrote what he did in the order he wrote this, so I want to look at vv. 1-2 in light of vv. 3-8, and vice versa, and see why Paul wrote this the way that he did, in this particular order. So, with that in mind, I want to now examine vv. 1-2 in that light.
So, first I am going to move ahead just a little to get the context here. For, in vv. 3-8 it speaks much on the subject of humility in our relationship with the rest of the body of Christ, particularly in the use of spiritual gifts and in ministry, one with the other.
And, this is really critical if we are to work together in unity in the Spirit alongside one another, that we don’t see one another as competition or as less (or greater) than us. And, it is critical, too, that we are not jealous of one another’s gifts or roles within the body of Christ, for God made us all uniquely different, and he uniquely gifted us, as well. So, I am not to be you, and you are not to be me. We are to work in harmony, though.
So, if we are going to be humble, and if we are going to be in harmony and unity with one another, then we need to first of all be in unity and in harmony with our Lord. And, that is what these first two verses are about.
For, our salvation is not just about our sins being forgiven so that we can go to heaven when we die. It is about us dying to our old lives of living for sin and self, us being reborn of the Spirit of God to new lives in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and it is about us living to Christ and to his righteousness – all in the power and working of God’s Spirit who now dwells within us who are His.
But, this is not something we do just one time. This is something we are to do every day. Every day we are to give our lives to Jesus as living sacrifices on his altar of praise. And, this means that daily, and sometimes moment by moment, in the power of God’s Spirit, we have to say “No!” to our flesh, and “Yes” to God and to his righteousness, his holiness, his truth and his purity.
For, this is our true worship of God. This is our true praise and thanksgiving to our Lord. It is not so much with words, but it is with our actions. It is in us yielding control of our lives over to the Lord one day at a time, separating ourselves from the ways and the patterns of this sinful world, and allowing the Lord Jesus to transform us in our thinking, in our beliefs, in our attitudes and in our behaviors.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3 ESV
Only when we bow the knee to God are we going to be able to have the proper self-evaluation of ourselves. For, as long as we are still running the show, and we are doing what we want, we aren’t going to have an honest look at our own lives, and we aren’t going to be in the practice of bowing the knee, and so we might get a higher opinion of ourselves than what is warranted.
Basically, if we think we are who we are because of what WE did, then we have already failed the test. If we are in the habit of taking the credit for what God does in our lives, and maybe because we are embarrassed to give God the glory, because we are concerned about what others will think of us, then we already are thinking too highly of ourselves.
So, to have the correct perspective of ourselves, we need to see ourselves through the eyes of God. Without him, without Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we are nothing. We were sinners, born into sin, without God and without hope, when Jesus gave his life up for us, and when he reached out to us in love and he invited us to believe in him and to receive his salvation from our slavery to sin. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. Only by his grace and by God-given faith in him can any of us be transformed from death to life and have the hope of eternal life with God.
So, when we understand that it is only because of God’s grace that we are even here, and that we have salvation, and that we are filled with the Spirit, and we are given spiritual gifts for the glory of God, then we can have the right mindset for serving alongside other followers of Christ in the body of Christ in ministry to our Lord.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:4-8 ESV
Again, I am not you and you are not me. We are all different. God made us all different and so he uses us all in ways which are unique to us, and to who he called us to be, and to his unique giftedness that he put within our lives.
We will cover this in more detail when we get into 1 Corinthians 12, but we are not to think everyone should be like us, or that everyone should fit into some institutional church model of the ideal church worker. For, God doesn’t work inside an institutional box. He often works outside the box (read the gospel accounts of Jesus and his encounters with the Pharisees, for example). So, don’t get locked inside a box that limits who God is and what he can do through us for his glory.
The only confines we should work under are the confines of God’s boundary lines which he laid out for us in scripture.
So, let me give you just a few examples from my own life. I had one pastor tell me that if I volunteered for ministry that I must be doing it because I want to be seen by others. Well, he obviously did not know me at all. Wasn’t it Isaiah who said, “Here am I. Send me!” The call of God to ministry is already there. We just need to be willing to answer that call.
On another website I wrote on several years ago, I had several women chide me because the Lord includes songs in every one of the devotions he has me write. Since they had never seen any examples of that being done before, they assumed that could not be of God. But, how can singing songs of praise to God not be of God? And, doesn’t his word commend us at least twice that we are to speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs?
So, just saying, don’t let people intimidate you into not following God, and don’t reject other people’s giftedness just because it doesn’t fall into your preconceived notions of how God works. For, he is going to work in different ways with different people, and he is not going to work in all the same ways in all of us. But, whatever he does in and through us, it will be in agreement with his character, with his will for our lives, and with His Word.
So, allow God to do unique things in your lives, and don’t limit him in your life or in other believer’s lives by institutional boxes which say God doesn’t work in that way. Just make certain that what you are doing is in line with God’s Word, and with his character, and with his will for our lives.
A Believer’s Prayer
An Original Work / July 31, 2012
With my whole heart, Lord, I pray
To be Yours, and Yours always.
Lead me in Your truth today.
May I love You, and obey.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
When I sin, may I confess;
Bow before You when I pray;
Live for You and You always.
Love You, Jesus, You’re my friend.
Life with You will never end.
You are with me through each day,
Giving love and peace always.
You will ne’er abandon me.
From my sin You set me free.
You died on that cruel tree,
So I’d live eternally.
Soon You’re coming back for me;
From this world to set me free;
Live with You eternally.
Oh, what joy that brings to me.
I will walk with You in white;
A pure bride, I’ve been made right
By the blood of Jesus Christ;
Pardoned by His sacrifice.