(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
19th April 2007
In the first 11 chapters of his letter to the church in Rome, Paul writes systematically about all the major spiritual issues. It's an amazing, wonderful, logical piece of divinely inspired writing. He ends this with a tremendous outpouring ofpraise to God:
God is absolutely wise and knowledgeable. Compared to his knowledge, the collected learning of every human scientist and philosopher is tiny. God is the creator of everything that exists. He is totally self-complete, lacking nothing. He doesn't need our advice or our help. He is omnipotent - totally powerful, omniscient - all-knowing, and omnipresent - everywhere in the universe, all the time. We owe him everything we have and everything we are.
Paul then writes:
Note the word therefore. Because God is awesomely powerful, wise and knowledgeable and because is the creator of all things, the fact that He shows mercy to people like you and me is all the more remarkable! He doesn't need us, we can't give Him anything that He doesn't already have, or that He didn't create in the first place. And yet He shows us mercy. He is totally without sin, and we are sinners, and yet He shows us mercy. Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, indeed!
And, because God's mercy to Christians is so remarkable, so undeserved and so complete, Paul urges us to respond by offering our bodies as living sacrifices.
In the Old Testament, God's ancient people offered sacrifices - bulls, birds, lambs and so on. The animals were killed and laid on God's altar. Now, in the New Testament, we are urged to present a different kind of offering: not animals, but ourselves, and not dead but living. As living sacrifices, we go on day by day as offerings to God, from the day we're saved until the day we die. We are now dedicated to God, we are no longer our own:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
1 Corinthians 7:22-23
This day-by-day sacrifice of our own selves is what Paul calls our "spiritual act of worship". It's not enough for us to do religious things, to go to church meetings and sing songs and mouth prayers. The worship God wants is firstly and most importantly spiritual. It comes from inside; it's not merely external. It's the opposite of the attitude of those people Paul described to Timothy like this:
2 Timothy 3:5
Spiritual worship includes, of course, singing and praying and going to church. But it means laying ourselves on His altar, acknowledging His sovereignty, every day. It's about living for Him, not for ourselves. When we were first saved, it involved repentance as well as faith. Saving repentance means more than a mental assent to the idea that from now on, we will live God's way, not our own way.
We are to be transformed day by day. Another word would be metamorphosed. We're not supposed to stay as we are; we're to be radically altered. And this happens by the renewing of our minds. Think about this. To have our minds renewed is to have what we believe changed. That is, to admit that some of what we believe is untrue. This is a humbling experience. And how do we know that we're wrong? By reading the Bible and accepting that when we don't agree with its teaching, then we're wrong. There's no other way.
But as we do this, as we choose to accept that God knows better than we do, that His written word is perfect, and that we decided at the point of salvation to live God's way, then we get a choice: Do we obey God's will or do we obey our own?
Some Christians go years without any serious conflict between what they want and what God wants. But - sooner or later - we want something that God forbids us to have, or God requires of us something we don't want to give. This can become a real crisis in our lives.
It's not always easy to obey God. At such times, remember that you are a living sacrifice dedicated to God's service.
And, as we choose obedience - even at great cost, we are promised that this will prove that God's will for us is good, pleasing and perfect.
The next thing the apostle writes is:
Don't think you know better than God. Don't think your circumstances are so special that what the Bible teaches doesn't apply in your case. And don't think you're clever enough to get one past Him. Rather, trust Him, and prove that His will is good for you - better for you than your own.