Romans 12 (NRSV)
In chapter 12, St. Paul teaches the true liturgy and makes all Christians priests, so that they may offer, not money or cattle, as priests do in the Law, but their own bodies, by putting their desires to death. Next he describes the outward conduct of Christians whose lives are governed by the Spirit; he tells how they teach, preach, rule, serve, give, suffer, love, live and act toward friend, foe and everyone. These are the works that a Christian does, for, as I have said, faith is not idle.
–Martin Luther, Preface to Romans
The New Life in Christ
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Just as the old covenant believer would bring an animal sacrifice in order to maintain a right relationship with God, we are to come as living sacrifices as a reasonable response to the unconditional relationship we have with God, which He has mercifully established. All the Old Testament sacrifices anticipate the final, central sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. His death makes the Old Testament sacrificial system redundant. It is superseded by Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the cross. As a result, His death makes the other New Testament sacrifice — the sacrifice of yourself — totally reasonable.
Hymn writer Isaac Watts put it this way:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
This is the ancient Greek word metamorphoo– describing a metamorphosis. The same word is used to describe Jesus in His transfiguration (Mark 9:2-3). That was a glorious transformation!
The only other place Paul uses this word for transformed is in 2 Corinthians 3:18: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. For Paul, this transformation and renewing of our minds takes place as we behold the face of God, spending time in His glory.
3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Spiritual gifts —
–are for helping and strengthening others. “Lord, let me strengthen people’s faith today. Grant that at the end of this day somebody will be more confident of your promises and more joyful in your grace because I crossed his path.”
–and the faith to exercise them are given to us by God in varying measure. “Lord, let me not think too highly of myself today. All I can do for good is done only in your power and by your grace. Let me serve my neighbors and you with humility.”
–are to be shared with generosity and simplicity. “Lord, let me not make this too complicated. If I see a need, let me offer to help meet it. If I see an opportunity to speak for you, let me open my mouth. If I feel a nudge to do something kind, even if it is inconvenient for me, let me put selfishness down and be a living sacrifice, to serve others.”
Marks of the True Christian
(While you are reading these verses, think about the Sermon on the Mount — how well Paul knows Jesus’ teachings!)
9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
“Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”
–Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
“Hospitality should have no other nature than love.”
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
“Let there be such oneness between us, that when one weeps, the other tastes salt.”
16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
“A smile is the beginning of peace.”
19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
“I don’t care what problem you face; it has no power to defeat the cross of Christ.”
–Jay E. Adams
An old hymn about total commitment to God, written by Frances R. Havergal in 1874, and done HERE by Chris Tomlin. “Take My Life” is a prayer for every day.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.