Do Not Conform, Be Transformed

In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul has led us to see the good news of the gospel, how we have all fallen short of the glory of God, how we each owe a debt that Jesus paid on the cross and because of that we can never be separated from the love of God. Romans not the easiest or shortest of Paul’s letters, it is easily the most challenging of the epistles. I avoided and dreaded it, saying I hated it. That is not good so, I decided to wrestle with Romans and share my findings. This should be a good thing for both the reader, and myself, yet I am coming to see that this is becoming more and more comforting and troubling. Yes, both! I am torn. Part of me wants to be done with this study; another part wants to continue to see this to the end. Even if I walk away with a limp, it will be good to finish this study.

Today we begin the twelfth chapter.

Paul begins Romans 12 this way—

I urge you in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Paul is urging us in this verse to respond to God’s love and grace in holy and God pleasing ways. He is very aware that there are different ways to live and if we are to respond rightly to God than our lives are worship. By doing this, we will see more clearly what God’s good, pleasing and perfect will is and do it. If we are to be saved, blessed, and graced, it will be seen in our life.  Our sleeping, eating, working, interacting should be an open-armed offering to God. We are always offering up something by what we do and say. Paul is saying that our saying and doing, our offering is meant to be our true worship. Everything we do should be done in gratitude and awareness to God. Embracing what God does for us and is doing not aligning ourselves to the world, but fixing our attention on God will change us from the inside out. Eagerly knowing what God wants and directly responding to it. God brings the best out not the worst.

Our life is to be lived in deep gratitude and awareness for the blessings God lavishes on us. Jesus went to the cross and died for us, now as his followers we are to live radically and wastefully for him. Not just in any way. We are to live as Jesus did. We are to live as followers of Jesus. The life of Jesus matters because it shows us how to live here and now. The life of Jesus shows us what a life lived with God really looks like. We are to love and care for the least. Saved, blessed, and graced, we are to share and extend the same to others. Embrace everyone without exception. Every genuine act impelled by the love of Christ is itself worship a way of reflecting back to God the radiance of his being.

A living sacrifice is about aligning our hearts, souls, and lives to Jesus who showed us what it looks like when heaven comes to earth. It is not about punishing or curbing our desires or sectioning off parts of our life, but living life to the full in God’s love and grace. Desire is not a bad thing. It is what we do with our desires, how we satisfy them that is good or bad. Presenting ourselves, as a living testament of God’s redeeming love is the most coherent and astonishing pursuit. This way of living is diametrically opposed to self-centered living, life is not about I alone, life is about God and others, life is both personal and communal.

Not conforming but transforming our self is all about how we approach life. It is not about willfully causing a stir, but becoming who we really are, who God created us to be. The old self is the false self. The new self is who we really, really are down deep. This is about authenticity and transparency. We stop conforming to what others want and transform into who we’ve always meant to be. This will upset some. Some will walk out of our life. We will be naked before God, ourselves, and others. We will see all the ways we have hurt others and lied to ourselves. It is only in transforming into our real self that we will live life to the full.

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