In our community group we are launching into a new season where God is leading us into making His two commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind and all your strength” and “Love your neighbour as yourself“, a greater reality in our lives and not just words that we speak. These scriptures are the foundation of our group. The fuel that He has given us, to propel us towards lives actually living out these commands, is Romans 12:1&2.
Every fire needs three things: Fuel, Heat and Oxygen.
In our case, Romans 12 is our fuel, the Holy Spirit is our heat and Love is our oxygen. Without these three components, this fire that we desire, will not burn. Without these, we won’t even set off a spark! To love God needs God. To love my neighbour as myself needs God. It cannot be done in our own strength. All we can do is make the choice…to present ourselves.
Firstly, Paul says “therefore“. I love the “therefores” of the Bible. Whenever I see a therefore it gives me a clear instruction to read what has come before. In this case Paul adds to this “in view of God’s mercies”. (Amplified: all God’s mercies!”). For us to even have a chance at wanting to make the decisions that are necessary in the following verses, we have to first stop and meditate on God’s mercies in our individual lives.
How we have received the mercies of God seems to be a controversial subject within Christianity, predestination or not predestination and all that. (I’ll leave that for another day!!). As I told the group though, we are not going to get distracted by endlessly debating that topic, what we can all say as believers in Christ, is that we have all received of His mercy. We have all received His grace over our lives and have been made righteous by the blood of Christ and Christ alone. So, therefore, in view of all the mercies of God…….
‘Present yourselves as a living sacrifice‘. This is not a command, but is rather a call. It is Paul urging us, in view of all God’s mercies, to take it this far, to make this kind of sacrifice. The Amplified Bible says, ‘make a decisive dedication‘. This is a move from obedience because ‘God said so‘ into voluntary obedience, a voluntary sacrifice. This is a totally different thing. It is a decision God is placing in our hands. Are we willing, as the message Bible says, to take our everyday life and place it before God as an offering? We often quote to each other that God wants voluntary lovers and not robots, well, this call through Paul, is that quote coming to life!
As a group, the first thing we have been challenged to do, is simply to think on just that. To look at ‘Are we willing?’ As we journey through the fuel of our fire, empowered by the Spirit and motivated by love, we will be challenged in our thinking, our ways, our speech, our motives, our everything, our lives. Are we really willing for that to happen? Are we willing to move towards, in ever increasing amounts, whatever that may look like to each individual? To move from singing about surrender to actually being truly surrendered? May God lead us to that place, is my cry as group leader. There is nothing I can do but to pray for us all, depending on God to work and will in us for His good pleasure.
There is just a little something else to add here about voluntary sacrifice. There is a purpose to it. Errrrr…of course, I hear you cry! But for those who may not be as knowledgeable (yet!) as you Bible scholars out there, turn to 2 Tim 2:20 & 21 with me. It says here that there are vessels for honorable use and vessels for dishonorable use, as in, there are some plates and utensils in your kitchen that you keep for special occasions and some you use everyday. Well, it’s the same principle in God’s kingdom regarding us. God says here though, that ‘if anyone cleanses himself‘, he will be useful to the Master, set apart for every good work. In choosing to lay our lives before God, we are choosing to cleanse ourselves, via the Romans fueled fire, and in doing it, it shall lead us to be set apart, useful to God and ready for Him to work through us in a world that so desperately needs His love.
“This is your spiritual worship“. Our worship to God is not just a song session on a Sunday morning or at the beginning of a group meeting to get us ‘in the mood!’ Our worshiping God is something that involves lifting Him up, exalting His name, in every single thing that we do, with every breath that we take, with all that we are. It was never meant to be a compartmentalized thing. The Bible never promotes that concept. It says in the Word, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” and “In everything you do, do it as unto the Lord”. Song worship is great, necessary, an absolute joy and is utterly commanded of and encouraged by God. Sing, sing, sing to your hearts content, all day long…I do! Just don’t let in the lie that ‘you’ve done your quota for the day‘. Your quota is your life!
Also…take a look at John 4:24, it says that those who worship God (that’s me and you), must worship Him in spirit and in truth. I’ll get to the truth part in a moment, but for now, see that Paul is saying here, this becoming spiritual sacrifices, is our spiritual worship. In living out the call to present ourselves as living sacrifices, we are fulfilling the spiritual aspect of our worship to God.
We then move into what seems to me, the more practical section of these verses. The amplified version of John 4 describes truth as ‘reality‘. I have heard many times over my few Christian years that people will ‘get it‘ or ‘live it out’ once they have had the revelation. A common spiritually sounding statement is (said with appropriate wistful look and glazy eyes) ‘they just need to get a revelation of God’s love and then they’ll be transformed‘.
Whilst it is true indeed that revelation leads to transformation and God desires that we would know the height, the length and the depth of His love etc, we cannot separate the spiritual from the reality.
Our knowledge of God is an experiential one. Revelation doesn’t just come via His voice in our head or our heart, revelation of Him comes through experiencing Him as He unfolds His truth in our daily lives.
One of the main things God showed me in my time seeking His heart on this scripture is that, the revelation and the practical go absolutely hand in hand! I had been asking God, as you do with the human way of thinking, whether there was a ‘structure’ to living out these verses. If we chose to sacrifice, would that lead us to conform less? Did we first have to seek hard after the revelation before we would even be in the place to not want to conform? Is it a domino effect?
The answer was a clear no! There is no set system with our transformation in God. Revelation leads to a practical outworking; practical outworking (even when taken logically, obediently and in blind faith), leads to revelation. The spirit and the reality are intricately entwined in a Holy Spirit tapestry that only He has the pattern for, and each area cannot be isolated or neglected.
As Christ is revealed to us, the desire to lay down more, increases; the desire to conform less, increases; the hunger to be transformed, increases. And, so it is in reverse… As we make choices to line up with love and not the world, we get increased wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God.
Now, before we look at ‘conforming’ and ‘transforming’, we must lay a firm, firm foundation of what this is all about.
It is about LOVE!
We are not setting out on a journey to better ourselves…we can’t…only Christ betters us! We are not going to be laying our lives before God so we can wrongly thing it will earn us more righteousness…it won’t…only Christ can clothe us in righteousness! We are not going to be challenging ourselves to take a truthful look at our motives, behaviours and characters because we believe it will earn us a place with the Father. It can’t…It’s impossible! Grace is a free gift we can never earn. For all those that have received of the sacrifice of Jesus, our place is secure by His work alone. I will never be advocating or encouraging anyone, in trying to add to the finished work of the Cross by their own supposed ‘good’ works.
We are called to conform less, in response for what God has already done for us!…Period! It is a ‘reality’ response to our love for Him. When we are saved, we are then led by the Spirit in us, to practically outwork that love by a desire to come in line with…love! That is what not conforming to the world, but being transformed by the renewal of our mind is all about. Love longing for love, and more of it, in increasing measure. It is you being hidden in Christ and Him growing in you. Christ’s character is love and it will always lead you towards love…for love!
It is imperative that we go into ‘conforming’ and ‘transforming’ knowing that the purpose of it is so that we can simply come out of line with what is not love and move towards that which is love!
Love brings life. Absence of love (evil), brings only death! We need to be hungering after love, for His sake, our sake and the sake of overflowing that on to every single person and environment we encounter.
“Do not be conformed to this world‘. Conformed means to be in accordance/agreement/harmony with..a standard, practice or attitude. Therefore, simply, we are being instructed by Paul to not live lives that are in agreement or in harmony with this world – it’s standards, practices or attitudes. As a group we will be looking into what those are and challenging ourselves to not be conformed with them. And as the weeks progress, I will endeavor to share that with you here.
“But be transformed by the renewal of your mind“. A few verses down in Romans 12, the heading reads ‘Marks of a true Christian‘. There are many many instructions, commands and examples within the Word of God for our protection and our training into godliness. These instructions/commands…to flee sin; to abstain from the passions of the flesh etc are there precisely for the purpose of aiding the renewal of our minds. They must not be overlooked because of our own arrogance, ignorance or apathy, or, because we fear condemnation in seeing that we so often fall short of them.
Complacency kills passion! You want passion and fire for God? Then pursue righteousness! You want to know God’s love? Then choose to become in accordance and acquainted with love and, you will soon know love!
The instructions/commands must be viewed through the perspective that it is a love choice, there is no condemnation and that we shall be depending on the Holy Spirit to empower us to live them out.
And finally… “So that…“. Just as there is a purpose to voluntary sacrifice, there is an overall purpose to taking hold of, and living out, these two power packed verses in Romans. I love how the Amplified puts it… “so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]“.
First thing which I love love LOVE about this and I feel greatly excited about for the group, is that, God has promised them (you, me, everyone), that they will be able to prove…for themselves…what is the will of God!!! As someone with a total heart to make disciples of nations, it just doesn’t get any better than that!!! Seriously, it is the joy of my heart that a person would come to know the will of God for themselves. We cannot live off someone else’s faith! Yes, there is a modelling that does, and indeed needs to take place, Paul said imitate me, as I imitate Christ, but please dear God, I desire that a person have their own walk with their very own God.
Next thing is, the whole purpose of God leading us on this journey…so that…we may know the will of God. Knowing the will of God is not using God as some kind of fortune telling machine to merely let you know what is going to happen in your future all the time. Of course we operate in the prophetic and of course some prophecy is about the future will of God but I would hate that we would limit ‘knowing the will of God’ to that. Prophecy is about speaking the word of God NOW! I want to know the will of God in my everyday, present life!
And I believe that is what this is about. To know His heart, His character, His ways in all that I do, in all that I say and in all I even believe about Him and His love for me and my neighbour…that is knowing the will of God, which is good and acceptable and perfect.
So…how this all happens and plays out in the weeks and months ahead is up to the Holy Spirit! As leader of this group, I’m on a need to know basis, week by week. That’s nerve racking most of the time but deep down I’m very glad of it. I would hate to think I had all the answers. I’d hate to put God in a box and say we’re gonna do this, this and this. “Many are the plans of a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purposes that prevail“. I can think I know what we’re doing and then He leads me anew. It is totally Him orchestrating it all. It is my job to listen real closely and follow where He leads.
I look forward to sharing more ‘Applying The Word‘ posts with you, as the journey towards us loving the Lord our God, with all our hearts, all our minds and all our strength, and loving our neighbours as ourselves, becomes a greater reality in our lives.