Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:1-3 NAS
Paul, as one of the natural Jewish branches, is writing to the unnatural Gentile branches who, by a mysterious and extravagant gesture of kindness and grace, God has grafted into Jesus, the deep and rich root of the olive tree. How big of a deal was this to Paul?
“Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! …For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.
Anyone, like Paul, who has gone from being the chief detractor to the chief advocate with no hope of earthly gain other than suffering; a man whose passions compel him to stretch human language to its limits in conveying His new reality, bears my complete attention. What is the passion that is driving Paul? I believe it is to see Jesus, who apprehended Him, being glorified through the working out of “the good, acceptable and perfect will of God”. Paul is urging us to listen as he explains how this must happen. He carries the burden of a man who knows what others must discover. The consequences in either direction are too great to not proclaim with as much force as he can muster.
If men in Paul’s day heard the word “sacrifice”, their minds would likely conjure images of sacrificed animals whose blood was offered to appease a deity including YHWH. Paul throws the Romans a curve when he tells them they are now to become the “living” sacrifices. He tells them that in their living they would be fulfilling their calling as worshipers. No longer was the primary act of worship going to be limited to ceremonies and rituals. Worship’s primary expression, from this point going forward, was going to be the living of life.
“Take your everyday ordinary life, your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking-around life, and place it before God as an offering.” (MSG)
Paul goes on to reveal a major (if not THE major) roadblock to this transformation that God desires for us. The hindrance is the false ideas that we hold about Him, ourselves and the world. This collection of beliefs represents our reality. That is why change is so difficult. “Our reality” is our foundation. It is what has become familiar and therefore sacred. We have learned to make life work-out (at least to some degree) from our “worldly-conditioned” mindsets. Touch these foundational ideas with new ones and we tremble or retreat, fearing our whole superstructure will topple. To see God’s ultimate version of reality (His good and perfect will) it our reality that we must let go of.
This is another reason that Jesus said, “Blessed is he who is not offended with Me”. Jesus words and the words of His apostles run counter to the philosophies and values that drive this world, which have infected most of us without us even knowing it. This is the nature of this world’s prince who oversees a vast network of well coordinated lies. This is the kingdom of darkness out of which God is calling the sons of Light.
By what possible means am I going to abandon the foundational “codes” I have come to operate by? It is by the renewal of the mind (a close relative to repentance) and “that measure of faith” that God has allotted to each man. In God’s unsearchable wisdom and in His unfathomable ways, He has given us “faith” that we must choose to exercise in order to embrace a kingdom and its “codes” which will first appear to us as unnatural and, most likely, threatening.
Father, may we not forget that there is still an original place in Your heart for the natural branches; that we gentiles have a season of grace to respond to You. As the beneficiaries and heirs of such extravagant grace, may our daily, walk-around lives serve to prove out Your good and acceptable will. May our new lives in You radiate so brightly as to be an attraction to the Jews and a validation of Jesus’ rightful status as Messiah. And ….may we not so quickly run from the ideas that threaten any of our vain and false speculations about reality. Amen.