Today we finish up Romans, reading chapters 12-16. We have not walked leisurely through this amazing book; we’ve sprinted through it in four days! There’s so much treasure along the way that we’ve barely glanced at, and it surely requires another visit soon at a slower pace, so I can dig for those jewels of wisdom and insight we’ve missed.
These last chapters are full of practical wisdom. Romans 12:1-2 are worth pondering, as Paul finishes his letter by putting hands and feet to the spiritual truths he’s shared about the gospel. I would call this section, “Living in Response to the Gospel.”
“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. 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 has spent 11 chapters showing us the many facets of God’s sovereign plan of salvation, the gospel. He reminded us that both the “do-gooder” (the one who follows the law) and the “rebel” (the one who makes his own rules) are accountable to God and that all those who expect to enjoy heaven for eternity will only enter by taking on Christ’s righteousness through faith in His work on the cross. He’s made it clear that no one can work their way to heaven, and that salvation is a gift of grace. He’s explained the “Spirit-filled” life and shown us why we struggle to obey God even after we have believed. Yet, even though our flesh is not redeemed, we have the power of the indwelling Spirit of God to overcome sin and live holy lives that are pleasing to Him. He’s taught us much about the sovereignty of God and His continuing plan to redeem His chosen people, Israel. He’s reminded us that we are “grafted in” as Gentiles (non-Jews), and we owe our roots and spiritual heritage to the Jews.
Now, he wants us to respond, “In view of God’s mercy.” Because God has made the way of salvation and called us into His family, we now have a responsibility to “live in response.” He sets out three things we must do in these first two verses, which will be the foundation for all the practical advice to follow.
Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.
Do not conform to the world.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
We give up ourselves, our lives, just as Christ did for us. We no longer live for this world, and we turn our efforts and attention to allowing the Spirit of God, through a committed study and obedience of God’s word, to change how we think, feel and act. Simple, right?
The process is often painful, and the learning curve is long, but it really is that simple. When we realize that everything in life is about God, we begin to understand Jesus’ words of warning to His disciples: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24, 17:33; John 12:25)
There’s a reason all four gospel writers included these words. God wanted to make sure we got the message. The gospel requires a response, and that response requires your life.