Here is the turning point that I mentioned when we started the Book of Romans: beginning with Romans 12, the remainder of Romans, plus all the remaining epistles prior to the Book of Revelation, focus more and more on behaviors of perfect unity and disunity.
Paul has brought us to this point where we are all under the same umbrella of grace, and therefore we should strive for and practice perfect unity, out of gratitude if nothing else. Grace should lead us to behave differently. Keep this in mind as we move forward:
“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” (Rom 12:1-2).
In the powerful presence of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God, our first instinct to stand firm in the faith (see previous blog) is to present ourselves as a living sacrifices to God. Does this mean we replace that ram or bull on the altar for immediate slaughter? No, Paul has something far more beautiful in mind. The sacrifices of the Law of Moses are swept away and the altar is no longer a bloody mess, but rather a beautiful place in immediate proximity to God himself. We are to be living sacrifices, not dead ones. This leads to three principles of worship:
- Our purpose at the altar is spiritual worship of God with bodies that are holy, not defiled;
- We no longer conform to the world, but rather transform ourselves by the renewal of our minds; and
- We use our minds, constantly attuned to testing and discerning the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.
“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” (Rom 11:3)
The key element is the measure of grace given to each one of us that leads us to think of ourselves with sober judgment as we really are, not more highly than is appropriate. The question becomes how much faith has God assigned to me?
“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” (Rom 11:4-8).
Ask yourself, “Am I the one who (fill in the blank)?” What is the function God has given you specifically? Now think of that function as just one member of a complex body: “Am I the brain?” “Am I the big toe?” Even the belly button that holds the body together in perfect unity?
The point is that each member of the body by itself is pretty unimpressive, but tied together by the astonishing grace of God, the body is a thing of awesome beauty and power as proportioned by God to each of us.
Our function in the body of Christ is the gift of God’s grace as we stand firm in the faith with other members of the body.
Let’s go work out together in perfect unity and build up some muscle! As the belly button, I need to focus on spiritual ab crunches to test and discern God’s will for me! How about you?