Lay your plans for this day and the week ahead before the Lord. Ask God what he might want to reshape, underline or add to your living sacrifice this week.
A living sacrifice
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. 2 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.
Humble service in the body of Christ
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
In Romans 12:1,2, Paul challenges us to remember all that he’s been teaching throughout his letter (‘in view of God’s mercy’), even as he calls us to respond in worship. That worship is a living sacrifice – living because it’s the offering of our whole selves, the meaning of ‘bodies’ in verse 1. Key to that offering, is the challenge to refuse to be shaped any longer by the world. Here, the sense is of actively resisting external pressure, while choosing to be transformed internally by God’s mercy. As verse 2 is part of the same sentence in Paul’s original writing, we need to recognise they’re tightly bound together: our living sacrifice cannot be pleasing to God without our being transformed in this way.
Our living sacrifice also requires a right humility. We mustn’t reach for a calling or a gift that isn’t ours, but recognise how we fit together with others in the whole that is Christ’s body. The tone of the adverbs (generously, diligently, cheerfully) reminds us that our service must always be wholehearted.
For such an individualistic culture as ours, it’s noteworthy that Paul anchors our living sacrifice within the body of the church: this is something we must do for ourselves, absolutely, yet it’s something we cannot do alone.
Where are you feeling the greatest external pressure? Ask God to help you resist.
Deeper Bible study
‘Take my life, and let it be / consecrated, Lord, to thee.’1 Consciously bring each aspect of your living today to God.
‘Therefore’, writes Paul. This word often marks a moment of transition in his writing. He has been explaining the gospel to a diverse church made up of Jewish and Gentile believers. It was hard for some Jewish Christians to accept that the coming of Christ had superseded the old ways of reliance on Old Testament Law and Temple worship. It was hard for some Gentile believers not to feel a kind of superiority because they were accepted without those regulations. Now, Paul moves on to the nitty-gritty of living out the implications of what he’s been teaching.
You thought you knew about proper worship? Yes, it is no longer about correctly offering dead animals, but it is about offering the whole of your lives – the daily living sacrifice of everything you are – body, mind and spirit. Paul shifts our view from our time-bound cultural awareness and moves our understanding towards God’s perspective on how we are to live as his people: ‘be transformed’ (v 2). Now, we are ‘in Christ’ (v 5); this fundamental new reality underlies and makes possible the authentic outworking of our faith.
So, in verses 4–8 Paul begins to raise the question of what it means – with all our individual differences – to be the body of Christ. The discussion may bring to mind Paul’s similar teaching to the Corinthians.2 Here, there is less emphasis on the gifts we might think of as supernatural and more focus on everyday giftings, such as encouragement and showing mercy (v 8). It is not a question of being better than someone else (v 3). Our gifts need to be received thankfully and used purposively for the good of the whole ‘body’ (vs 4,5). We have different gifts, but living as the body, together, we are enabled to live out our ‘true and proper worship’ (v 1).
What gifts and abilities has God given you? Deliberately offer these to God now.
1 Frances Ridley Havergal, 1836–79 21 Cor 12
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: 2 Samuel 11,12; Psalm 51
Pray for Scripture Union
Local Mission Partner C4E, with the help of local worker Joseph George, is planning a Christianity Awareness Week in two colleges in North Wales this week. Please pray for each conversation to be an exciting move forward in the faith journey of every young person contacted.