On the basis that God’s mercy is for everyone, Paul here in Romans 12 turns and pleads with his readers to give your bodies to God. Why? Because of all that he has done for us. He has saved us, adopted us, made us his own people.
But what does Paul mean when he urges us to give our bodies to God? Well, he restates it in terms of us letting our bodies be living, holy sacrifices; the kind that God will find acceptable. I think what Paul is pleading for is that we worship God in everything that we do and everything that we are. Which doesn’t mean, necessarily, that we have to be singing the latest Hillsong ditty all day. No, Paul is much more everyday than that.
As Christians, we are called to not copy the ways of the world. We have been saved from the prince of this world by the Son of God. It certainly does not bring glory and honour to God to thank him by emulating the lifestyle and practises of our old master’s followers. No. We are to be different. We need to be changed by God – transformed into a new person.
Note that we need to let God transform us. He doesn’t force his will on us. And sometimes, to be honest – I don’t want to. (Think back to Romans 6-8!) But that is where the sacrifice bit of our worship comes in. Am I so grateful to God that I will give up my old way of life – and allow God to transform me. I need him to do it… there’s no way that I can change the person I was and am. I need to have my thinking rewired. The habits and patterns and addictions that sin has laid down in my neurons time and again need to be replaced. I need to relearn how to think, to learn how to focus on Jesus. That’s a large part of what the Spirit does – he brings Jesus to mind.
And as God changes how I think, I slowly can begin to know God’s will for me – which is good and pleasing and perfect. That doesn’t mean I necessarily know the details of what God wants me to do. But I do start to see something of the big picture. I believe that the Bible teaches that God’s will is for me to be like Jesus. As he changes my mind, transforms my person – God shows me more and more what that looks like.
And of course, I’m different from you. In the church, God had given each one different gifts. The point being that we all need each other – and that we all together form the body of Christ. You and I both becoming more like Jesus doesn’t necessarily make us homogenous. But it does make us more united.
In practical terms, being a living sacrifice means living like Jesus. Means using God’s gift to the best of my ability. Means loving genuinely. Means working hard. Means serving God enthusiastically. Means being patient during difficult times, and keeping on praying.
It means showing love for the other members of Christ’s body in practical ways. It means showing love to even those outside the church who are my enemies. I need to bless them, not curse. I need to be there in their joys and sorrows – like Jesus was. I need to be humble, to live harmony with others, to overcome evil by doing good.
This is what it means to worship God with my life. Not to earn salvation – but because I’ve been given it.
Lord – renew my mind. Make me more like you – starting with how I think, and stretching to what I say and do. I know there’s a lot of broken thinking in me still. And it explodes out in broken talk and broken actions. Change me, I pray. You have done so much for me. I can’t earn any more of your love. But I trust you, and I think that it’s worth my giving over all of my life to you. Take it, I pray… make it new.