Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 28 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Living Sacrifices.”
Today’s episode is Part V of the six-part series, “Studies in Romans: Saved by Grace, Powered by Love.”
Last week I shared the concept of the “Resident God” moving from the Wilderness Tabernacle to Solomon’s Temple to the re-built “Second” Temple to the Word in human flesh to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart of every believer. This provided the groundwork for understanding Paul’s teaching that followers of Jesus must live for his glory.
Today, we’ll move into the next few chapters where Paul talks about presenting our bodies as “living sacrifices” to God—which he says is our “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1 KJV).
But, as we begin, let’s glance back at the road we’ve traveled since the beginning of this series
- Man is a sinner, saved by grace.
- The just shall live by faith.
- There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
- If God is for us, who can be against us?
- Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Here is our base text for this study:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.Romans 12:1-2
You might want to open your Bible to that passage as we continue. Also, as we work our way through this study, keep in mind the theme we are following that . . . .
“The purpose of a temple is to glorify the deity that dwells within.”
So, Paul’s appeal to present our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God” is directly related to the Holy Spirit dwelling within our spiritual heart. God—in the person of the Holy Spirit—lives in YOU, the temple of His presence in the world today. You are the carrier of divine love into the streets of chaos, confusion, conflict, and crying needs. To that end you are His ambassador to those who do not yet understand the Kingdom of grace. You reveal God to the world through your life and conduct. As someone once said, “You may be the only Jesus someone ever sees.”
The second item in Paul’s appeal is for believers to “not be conformed to this world,” but to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2).
Again, what is the purpose this counsel? Paul is clear: “That you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” In other words, in order to rightly represent God (the Deity who dwells within our body temple) and His Kingdom, we need to experience an ongoing renewal of not only bodies, but also our mental abilities and our knowledge of His truth.
I’ll talk more about that in just a moment. Before we go there, however, we need to explore what Paul means when he says we need to be “transformed.”
To be “transformed” means we are changed from something we were previously into something new.
In electricity, for example, a transformer changes the voltage between an incoming circuit and an outgoing circuit. The power in lines servicing an entire region or community is far too strong for individual homes, or even industrial facilities. To be safe and useful it has to be reduced—changed—“transformed” into a lower energy level. At the appropriate strength for the local application the power can then be used as needed.
Paul says we must not be “conformed” to this world, but be “transformed” by the renewing of our minds.
To be “con-formed” to the world means we take on the ideas, attitudes, philosophies, and practices of social standards which often do not honor God.
Basically, what we could say is that conforming to the world is just doing what comes “naturally.” We are all born into Adam’s flesh. By nature we have a predisposition to self-centeredness—an orientation towards sinful thinking and sinful living.
But, when Christ comes into our lives—by our invitation and freewill choice—we become transformed over time more and more into the spiritual image of Jesus. Paul writes, We . . . are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
As we are transformed we become conformed to the be like Jesus. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be *conformed to the likeness of his Son*” (Romans 8:29).
The transformation of our character entails two parts—God’s part, and our part.
God’s part is His provision for salvation and redemption—the gift of eternal life—to every son and daughter of Adam.
Our part is (a) to believe His promise, (b) accept His gift, and (c) act on our belief in faith.
That is the beginning. Following our conversion we enter a life-long journey of growing in God’s grace through the renewal of our minds. To that end we need to study, learn, and expand our knowledge of God and His Kingdom of love and grace.
Here are some practical admonishments from Paul to the Roman believers to help them in their daily journey of growing in grace (See Romans 12:9-21):
- Really love others – don’t just pretend to love them.
- Hate what is wrong.
- Hold tightly to what is good.
- Love each other with genuine affection.
- Take delight in honoring each other.
- Don’t be lazy.
- Work hard.
- Serve the Lord enthusiastically.
- Rejoice in hope.
- Be patient in trouble.
- Keep on praying
- Be eager to practice hospitality
- Bless those who persecute you.
- Pray that God will bless your persecutors.
- Rejoice with those who rejoice.
- Weep with those who weep.
- Live in harmony with each other.
- Enjoy the company of ordinary people
- Never pay back evil for evil.
- Act honorably in everything you do or say.
- Live in peace with everyone as much as possible.
- Never take revenge.
- Feed your enemies if they are hungry.
- Give your enemies something to drink if they are thirsty.
- Don’t let evil conquer you.
- Conquer evil by doing good.
WOW! What an incredible list is that! At least 26 commands from Paul in 13 verses—I may possibly have missed a couple, too!
What we see here is Paul teaching the Roman believers—and us—how we need to conduct our lives so that the Deity who dwells within our body temple will be glorified!
I can’t help but think of the many, many stories of individuals through the centuries whose lives testify of God’s transforming power. Not only people whose lives are mentioned or detailed in the Bible, but also countless saints from the time of Christ until now.
In the New Testament story, Paul himself was changed from persecuting, self-righteous Pharisee to an ambassador of grace and God’s agápe love.
Peter was changed from the impetuous, rough fisherman to a powerful preacher of hope, and a humble counselor of faithful courage.
James and John were changed from “sons of thunder” to peaceful advocates for truth in loving relationships.
There are dozens of others, of course whose stories could be cited. In addition, over the course of 20 centuries since the time of Jesus, literally millions of lives around the world have been changed—transformed—by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
And, by the grace of God, I also can add my name to that list.
In my younger years my life was a stream of continuous hypocrisy. In Revelation 3:9 Jesus has a scathing rebuke for those who make a profession of being something they are not. That was me. I look back on those years now in shame. How grateful I am for the love, acceptance, mercy, and forgiveness of God!
God described Himself to Moses, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and sin” (Exodus 34:6).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
Through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence, we can move from shame-based living to grace-based living. In our body-temple, as priests of the new covenant, we can represent man to God through intercessory prayer, and we can represent God to man by living godly lives for His glory, and by serving the needs of others in the Name of Jesus.
And, that’s really no sacrifice at all.
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll share Part VI—the concluding episode—of this special six-part series on the Book of Romans. Next week’s title is “The Kingdom of God.” In that study we’ll explore Paul’s teaching in Romans 14-16 as he finishes writing to the church in the heart of the empire.
Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!
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