This is the third post from my word for the year—linger.
What does a true follower of Jesus look like and live like?
I ask that question often, especially as I read—and linger–in the Word God.
Today I was in Romans 12—which is abounding with words that unveil the beautiful, character-growing transformation that God has promised to do in our lives.
A Living Sacrifice
The chapter is brimming with instructions to encourage us to surrender to God’s labor of love in our lives. So we will take a brief look at just verses 1-2, and hopefully continue through the chapter in later posts.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, NLT)
Paul is addressing you and me as well as the believers in Rome: brothers and sisters—all of us! What he wants to say to us is so vital and essential that he pleads with us. Because of all God has done for us, he reasons, we must give our bodies to God.
This giving of ourselves is no small matter—we are to give ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice. A living sacrifice? Clearly something different than the sacrifices of animals. What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? (Here’s a hint: We will find out what that looks like as we encounter the verses that follow in the rest of the chapter.)
And a holy sacrifice? Me? You? Holy? Only because we have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus. And acceptable to God? Again, only because we have been bought by Jesus’ death on the cross.
How does our Father receive our very personal sacrifices? As worship. Perhaps this giving of our living selves is a more desirable worship than even our singing praises and giving and serving.
It’s About Transformation
Then Paul gets down to some specifics: This isn’t about behaving better. It’s about transformation. Don’t look and live like everyone around you. Don’t be conformed to the world. In an old translation, J.B. Phillips put it this way: Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within.
When my daughter Michelle was quite young, she received a balloon at a party. Not wanting to lose it, she decided to keep it safe in her lunch box. Watching her try to squeeze that balloon into that lunch box was entertaining—and it reminded me of how often I try to squeeze my life into the shape of the world.
God, however, has a better mold for us—He makes us into new people who look and live like Jesus.
How? That seems like an impossible transformation.
Elsewhere we learn that God actually gives us new hearts that desire to do what He desires:
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart….I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people… I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds. (Ezekiel 36:26; Hebrews 8:10; 10:16)
A New Heart and a New Mind
He changes our hearts, growing His desires in our new hearts. Often, though, desire is not enough. He tells in the verses above and in Romans 12:2 that the mind must also be made new. Here’s the key—it’s a joint project between God’s Holy Spirit and us.
He instructs us to “be transformed” (NIV). He accomplishes the transformation, which is something only He can do. But we are told we must cooperate—“be” makes it an imperative verb. We must allow God to bring the new mind alive by His Holy Spirit and He will change us—to look and live like Jesus.
Thinking Like God
This made-new mind enables us to do the impossible—to learn to think like God. We know that our natural mind does not think like God thinks. But now, with a new mind, our thinking is transformed.
The result: Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
My response: Oh Father, thank You. Thank You for giving me a new heart and a renewed mind. I have offered my body as a living sacrifice as an acceptable act of worship. Please take this heart and mind and, by the transforming work of Your Holy Spirit, make me into a new person. May I live and love like Jesus, proving to myself and to a needy world around me that Your will is good and pleasing and perfect.
What about you? How is God renewing and transforming you?
C2017 Judy Douglass
Learning to Linger
What Happens When I Linger in God’s Presence