I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1
The concept is that somehow we can present ourselves to God, and be acceptable to God despite how we feel within ourselves. Self-awareness of who we are in our conscience can sometimes make us not wishing to present ourselves before God. Questions like what is holiness, what Paul means by living sacrifice, what it means to be acceptable to God and why is this considered spiritual worship, are all raised here, I don't have enough time to go through it all.
Three points I want to bring out of this scripture today. I’ll do them in reverse
When we start looking at this scripture and we see the word, therefore, we look at what it’s therefore. The previous chapter ends with worship it says
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
One thing we know is that Christ is at the head of all things. The proper order of things means putting God first. If you read this passage in context as beginning and ending in a place of worship. This helps us understand what Paul is trying to convey.
When we think of what it truly means to follow Christ who is the ultimate supreme being and the ultimate supreme good. We order our lives in a way that shows whom we worship. Orientating our lives towards Christ as the example we follow, is the ultimate form of worship. it's this kind of life that is spiritual worship as opposed to the sacrificial worship the culture of the day understood. We have something that is spiritual yet transforming and practical in it's outworking.
Holy and acceptable
The second question is what does it mean to present our body as a living sacrifice and be accountable to God. Holy means to be separate, a theme Paul continues in the second verse,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Separate means set apart and different, to describe God as the one and only Holy God, means we understand in him we are called to be different. Live by a different standard to the world around us. Live by a different set of principles.
Paul says again and again to his church not that he wants to teach not just how to behave like these new creations, but why to behave like that.
We have heard it said teach someone to fish and you feed them for life
We can teach a single rule of law, give someone a single ethic to live by, perhaps a hand-me-down ethical maxim such as ‘do not steal’.
However, teach someone to think through from first principles what it means to live in the new age, which was inaugurated by the death and resurrection of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thinking in this way equips Gods people not only for that particular topic or ethical matter for every other question they we may encounter,
This is the kind of thing Paul is doing again and again helping us to think as new creatures.
So if it helps us to see what Paul is doing, as bringing in the kingdom of God, rather than just saying Paul is a teacher of religion and ethics or rather someone who believed that God was at last fulfilling his promises and launching His new age upon the world.
So how do we live in this new world as agents of God bringing in kingdom principles, this new life, new creation hot and acceptable, transformed by our minds being renewed different from the world around us. If we love by a different standard, we won’t want to conform to the world around us. We will, by the mercies of God endeavour to find out, and live a whole life, according to the good acceptable and perfect will of God.
By the mercies of God
It is by the mercy of God that we can live the life we are called to live, a living sacrifice sounds harsh if taken to be literal, especially when you understand the meaning to the Romans of sacrifice.
They begin with their incense offerings, then to animals and then to offer their lives for the service of the empire. In an honour shame culture, such as the Roman world, sacrifice was a powerful image. Here Paul is saying all this is accomplished through and by the mercies of God.
Mercy is often seen as delayed judgement but it is more than a second chance to put things right. It speaks of the heart of God for his people.
Paul writes that the life he lives is a life of Faithfulness towards God and by the faith that he has in this new life, not one of simple blind obedience to law, as if that justifies him.
Living holy by the mercies of God, and the ideology of new creation ethics we come in God new creation as justified people.
Justification for Paul is how we are part of this new creation, our old creation cannot serve God. It's the transforming power of Christ. From his death and resurrection and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that we can live the full life of the new creation we are called to live. Paul writes
it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Through the mercies of God we can present ourselves to God, and and not only be acceptable to God but standing in what we know to be in his perfect will for our lives, despite how we feel within ourselves.
Paul means by living sacrifice, something that brings an end of our old life. The new life, enabled by the Spirit means to be acceptable to God as part of this new and wonderful creation, not as the world expects and it's order of things but one where God is king.
it's this kind of life that is spiritual worship as opposed to the sacrificial worship the culture of the day understood. We have something that is spiritual yet transforming and practical in it's outworking.
Worship as a lifestyle then means it's more than singing songs, worship is how we present ourselves to God, how we honour God by living separate, holy and acceptable lives, being renewed on our thinking and submitting our lives and our will to his good acceptable and perfect will.