Hello, dear friends. I realize that too much time has passed since my last post, but I appreciate your willingness to come back and support my efforts, as feeble as they may be. At the end of my previous post, I mentioned that I would be giving you a “front-row” seat to our church at sea, here on the Carnival Conquest, by sharing with you the messages that have been prepared for our onboard fellowship. In addition to transcending space, you will also be transcending time, as the topics I will be writing go back to messages I delivered at the beginning of the year. However, I truly believe that God’s Word is alive and active, and is perfectly capable of being a powerful tool in your life today, as it was for our crew members two months ago.
The first message I shared with our fellowship was actually inspired by one of my earlier blogs, Hide and Seek – A New Year’s Resolution. The following week I spoke on Romans 12:1-2, exploring what it means to be a “living sacrifice”. I wanted to piggy-back off of the previous week’s message, “Seeking the Lord”, and discuss in more detail how we as believers can accomplish this task more effectively. Romans 12:1-2 says this:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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.” (NIV)
As we discussed in that previous message, the main reason/goal for seeking the Lord is to find Him and enjoy His presence! By finding God and abiding in Him, He also reveals to us His will for our lives. Isn’t that something we would all love to have access to? Of course!
But how do we reach this point of discerning and knowing God’s will? I’m glad you asked…
Paul, the writer of this Biblical passage, begins with the word “therefore”. As a student in high school, I was always taught, “If you see the word ‘therefore’, you need to see what it is there for”. Cute, I know; but this little exercise can help us better understand what Paul is trying to say. Let us, then. look back at the ending of Romans 11, keeping in mind that the original letter to the Romans was not separated by verse and chapter markings. The original audience would have read through the entire book as one continuous thought/message.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen”. -Romans 11:33-36
This is a hymn of praise to God, telling of His greatness. This is the context with which we must approach Paul’s words to us – REMEMBER WHO GOD IS!
Next, we see these words: “in view of God’s mercies”. This serves as Paul’s plea for the Romans to keep in mind the great love and mercy of God. Friends, let us never forget that God loved (loves) us so much that He sent His Son to die for us (John 3:16). He created us, and He knows how sinful we are, but while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ, who was perfect and innocent in every single way, bore the burden of our sin so that we could be in good standing with God the Father (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The second part of our mindset is this: REMEMBER WHAT GOD HAS DONE!
Finally, we see three “steps” to receiving God’s will.
Step 1: “Offer your bodies” – We’re not talking about literal/physical human sacrifice here. It is an inward attitude (supported by outward actions) of ultimate surrender. We must give up control of our lives. Paul is also noted for writing these words: “and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). The great King David put it this way: “You [God], do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).
Step 2: “Do not conform” – To gain a mental picture of this, I suggest imagining smoldering metal that has been melted down to a liquid form. The metal, in this condition, is extremely pliable (flexible) and can be poured into any mold. Upon cooling, the metal will have taken shape into whatever mold it was cast. It will look exactly like the mold. This is what Paul warns us about. We, as humans, are in this world. If we become too pliable, we will “conform to the image of this world”. We will look and act exactly like everyone else. What’s the problem with that? John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, writes this: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (I John 2:15-17). We, as followers of Christ, should be different…which leads to the final step.
Step 3: “Be transformed” – Many of you, I’m sure, have seen (or at least heard of) the Transformer movies that have come out in the last few years. The heroes and villains of this series of films are various vehicles and other electronic appliances that have the power to become giant, talking, sword-yielding, good and evil robots (My sincere apologies to any die-hard Transformer fans I may have offended with such an under-whelming description of the epic-ness that is Transformers). What I’m getting at is this: the cars become robots. They are completely changed into something new. They have new functions and a new purpose. We, as Christians, must be transformed into the image of Christ. We must allow God to change us into new creatures. At the moment we received Christ, we were given His nature (2 Corinthians 5:17), but we must continually fix our minds on this new transformation.
Let’s re-cap. Being a living sacrifice includes offering our lives in total surrender to God, not conforming to the pattern of this world, and earnestly seeking new transformation of our minds through Jesus Christ.
This is NOT an easy task. And, to be honest, it can never be fully achieved – this side of heaven. We will fail…but God still loves us. He will reveal Himself, and His will, to those who seek after Him with all that they are. Receiving His will is only half the battle, however. Once He reveals His will through His Spirit, it is up to us to trust Him and make the decision to obey…that, my friends, is a whole other topic.
Until next time, be blessed, and continue seeking after God.