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Romans 12:1,2 – Live to worship God
“What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?” a woman asked a pastor. Holding out a blank sheet of paper, the pastor replied, “It is to sign your name at the bottom of this blank sheet and let God fill it in as he wills”, and do that
Worship is our response to the reality of God in every aspect in every circumstance of daily living. It’s his agenda. Worship is giving all of myself and everything I am and have to God. Worship is more than what we do, it’s who we are. For that reason, we don’t pop in and out of worship, worship is what we’re constantly doing, that at least is what God wants worship to be.
Looking back I have to admit heading into Bible College almost 20 years ago I knew about worship, but was worship my life? I can say now part of this was identity issues. Up to this point, my identity was almost exclusively tied up in what I did, selling building materials and playing rugby. I said all the right things, knew how to put the appearance on, really, was just going through the motions though. Because of this every now again my character flaws would show themselves, particularly with Karyn and the kids.
Well, at Bible College, because of the environment it was, only a few weeks in I’m confronted with the reality of how flawed and fake my worship life and identity in Jesus was. I’ve been attempting every day since to put that right…
Augustine wrote: a Christian should be an alleluia from head to toe. I think he’s right. We know God sees us. He knows the state of our hearts and how genuine we are, or not. Our verses today show us that we are and will always be students of worship, learning and growing in worship all the time, whatever point we are at. But in the end he wants all of us, every aspect, every nook and cranny of our lives are measures of our worship.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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.”
These verses introduce us to the attitudes and actions which should set Christians apart from the world in which we live. Jesus is the one we follow and worship over the ways and things of the world. These verses are a call to worship, a call to a commitment to be worked out by a whole new way of thinking and behaving. Here, Paul reminds us nothing should have greater love or affection than Jesus.
For a little context now: these verses are a transition between what Paul has taught in chapters 1-11 and what comes after.
A quick sample of what comes before Romans 12…
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin… (3:20)
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… (5:1)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death… (8:1)
So Paul’s teaching is that God has found a way to be merciful and to extend grace to people through the person of Jesus
What follows from Ch. 12 on, that starts with Paul’s “therefore I urge you”, is what life looks like when Christians live a life of worship in response to his mercy. That, in turn, also extends the mercy and grace shown us, to others:
Give generously, contribute, share, encourage, love, be hospitable, bless those who persecute you, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good, bear with the failings of the weak, accept, one another, Glorify God in unity
These few samples and verses 1-2 of chapter 12 ought to leave us in no doubt what worship is…
1.The Reason to Worship God
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
The Mercies of God
To define…Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve, and grace is God is giving us what we don’t deserve. Our reason to worship and serve God is simply in response to God’s mercy to us in the person of Jesus. We need no other reason!
Our true and proper worship, in view of God’s mercy, is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. The extent to which we comprehend and understand his grace and mercy determines how we give ourselves to God as his sacrifices. (sit with that for a moment)
If we are unconvinced, unsure or doubtful about what he’s done, what is worship?
Remember we are not accepted as God’s people because we are good people. We are accepted because of God’s mercy…
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9: 15-16)
God’s mercy then is both the source and reason for our worship, and our worship of God – as living sacrifices – is the reason for our mercy and grace toward others
(Therefore) Worship that pleases God is…
…voluntary. It is because we want-and-will to please him. It is intelligent and rational…heart, soul, mind and strength…In other words, Christian worship is based on understanding who God is, what he has given us in the gospel, and what his expectations are of us.
“Vagueness about the object of our praise inevitably leads to making our own praise the object. Praise, therefore, becomes an end in itself, and we are caught up in our own ‘worship experience’ rather than in the God whose character and acts are the only proper focus.” – Michael Horton, A Better Way
So when Paul says “offer our bodies…living sacrifice” we are to give our whole selves as a full and voluntary and willing sacrifice to God for his service, for his mission, to him and him alone. Why? Because of his mercy to us! We need no other reason!
Paul says similarly back in chapter 6…
Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Rom. 6:13)
Paul’s mention of sacrifice is a deliberate link back to the Old Testament.
….animal sacrifices…let’s think about this for a moment: animal on the altar, killed, blood poured out, it became, then, an acceptable sacrifice to God, there was no halfway point between life and death, it was only acceptable to God in its death…the animal gave its whole life for God’s pleasure….
Jesus Christ, who gave his whole life, offering himself as a full and all-sufficient sacrifice for our sin. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Heb. 10:12)
So it follows, there is no semi-sacrifice…we have or we will, either give our whole selves to God, or choose, not to…all my life, all my decisions, my work, my finances, my body, my relationships, are not my own, all are laid on “the altar” as a ‘living sacrifice’.
Being Christian and unwilling to sacrifice our lives for him cannot co-exist. Being Christian and being unwilling to change and be transformed, cannot co-exist. Being Christian is to lay down our lives, end of story!
For the rest of our living days because of God’s mercy to us, sacrifice our lives to worship God and let our living show we love, him, and that we love others.
2. Living a Life of Worship (verse 2)
We are either conformed (in agreement with or shaped by) to the world or we are transformed (for the purposes of God). To not conform means a ruthless, full-hearted resistance to worldly ways and sinful practice….and a putting off of attitudes and behaviours that are unholy. Our worship is to be holy and pleasing to God.
What is the pattern of this world?
Thankfully Paul helps us again, here is a summary of patterns of the world; values and conduct that are opposed to the holiness of God
Galatians 5:19-21, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
Ephesians 5:3-4, “But among you, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”
Whether a behaviour a vice or a habit is listed here or not (think of things…), all of us young and old are faced with the daily temptation of sin, and the pressure to conform, squeezed (often subtly and unwittingly) into a mould that stands opposed to the holiness of God.
…on the job, at the gym, in our retirement villages, at our cups of tea, through our behaviour, our sexuality, how we treat others, what we do with hands and feet and voices…God would say “do not conform”. God wants what we do with our whole selves, to be holy and pleasing to him
Oh how much this truth needs to sink in, so we are content, certain and secure with who we are in Christ and not pressured to conform to that which is not of God…salt, light, in a dark world, we don’t need to ‘fit in’, we don’t need to look the same
I am deeply concerned for our young people particularly…the pressure, peer pressure, to fit in, to be liked, accepted, how they present externally is everything, how they dress, behave, and look, music they listen to and are influenced by….and how that pressure (to conform, to fit in and be accepted) leads…to all manner of real, and present serious disorders…worst, for some, suicide.
We…need to help our young people be strong in their identity in Christ. That being morally and spiritually beautiful, strong and robust is what honours God…we need to model Christlikeness, model being morally and spiritually strong and encouraging our young people where and when we can.
…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..
It is a process, it takes time and relentless vigilance, however, the means by which we accomplish any transformation in conduct from the old self to the new self, (see Romans 8:29) is by the “renewing of our minds” (see also Ephesians 4:22-24; 2 Corinthians 4:16)
Hopefully, my spiritual orientation is a little more accurate…Jesus makes it easy, he says to follow him…
Renewing our minds is an adjustment of our moral, ethical and spiritual compass toward Jesus, away from self and worldliness. A new way of thinking leads to a new orientation in behaviour and the result of that is a transformation that pleases God.
What we dwell on in our minds (powerful organ) will shape the way we live our lives.
What you set your mind on shapes your character and behaviour…
Romans 8:5-8 helps us here…
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God.”
Two options here, minds led by the flesh (don’t please God), or minds led by the Holy Spirit (pleasing to God).
To set your mind is more than pondering something. It means to be totally preoccupied with that thing. Wherever our minds go most naturally and freely when there is nothing else to distract it—that is what you really live for. That’s what you are preoccupied with, and God, wants that to be himself.
Bible says to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
Do these characteristics describe the things you’re allowing into your mind?
What we allow our minds to dwell on – we watch, read, things we participate in – affects our character and behaviour and will impact our holiness.
For example, if the only message we hear on matters of sexuality is in society and from the media, that goes into our minds, determines our behaviour and shapes our worldview. But if we learn about God’s perfect and holy design for matters of sexuality and marriage, take that truth into our minds, it’s more likely our behaviour will line up with that thinking.
Can I acknowledge that even among well-meaning Christians many of these matters are complex, though the bible is clear to some it is not to others? There are differences in interpretation. Though at times difficult to mine from scripture, there is only one truth. God is Holy….measured against this. Seek the truth, extend grace to all…
… those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
It is for himself who God wants us to live, have our minds set on…
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will
The evidence of a renewed mind
When Paul calls on Christians to engage in this renewing of the mind it is in the knowledge and grace it does not automatically happen the moment we believe. Our thinking itself does not in most cases (exceptions?) instantaneously change. Many of us have ruts, old habits, old ingrained ways that are difficult…in the natural…to break free of.
Even Paul said (Rom. 7) the things I want to do, I don’t do, the things I don’t want to do, I do…who will rescue me? Thanks be to God, Jesus…
As God’s Holy Spirit lives in us, as we relinquish control, we build a new orientation in our thinking. Our minds renewed, means behaviour and lives renewed….the evidence and fruit of a renewed mind is being able to live out God’s will.
So what are we filling our minds with? God and his goodness, his truths or something else?
Perhaps we need to stop and think about what we’re thinking about.
A very practical thing to do is write a list of all the things you do that “feed your mind” – see how that sits alongside time in prayer, word and Christian fellowship.
Think about the things that are negatively consuming our minds. About the things that stand opposed to the truths and principles of the Bible. Identify them, name them and set about dealing with them. How, by filling our minds with God’s word. Feed our minds on him and his values.
Ask God to show us where our minds are deviating. We’re asking the Lord to reprogram our thinking in line with the values of the kingdom. The Holy Spirit will never send us off in a direction or affirm a decision that doesn’t align with the word. Why? Because his will is good, pleasing (to him) and perfect.
Surround ourselves with mature Christians…….why important? Because of the world we live in and our sinful nature we are prone to interpret God’s Spirit for our own selfish advantage, which is why we need fellow mature believers…
Only a renewed, switched on to God at all times, given to the Holy Spirit mind will hear and do what God wants and therefore please him.
“If God really is who he says he is, he deserves our worship. But if we are who he says we are, he demands our worship.”
That Christ died for you is the only reason and is reason enough, to worship him. What has worship become when it mostly consists of our experience on a Sunday morning?
Only the Holy Spirit can transform us, but how we cooperate with His work is by feeding our minds with truth. If we want to be a church spiritually strong, uncompromising and who live lives of genuine worship….we learn to respond to his mercy toward us.
Let’s be bold enough to ask God to show us where our thinking is out of line with His truth. Let’s ask Him to renew our thinking and transform our spiritual health. And let’s cooperate with Him in practical ways.
Worship him because of his mercy and grace.
Think about what you’re thinking about.
Feed our minds on God – prayer.
Feed our minds on his word.
 Heart, soul, mind and strength