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With your finger on this page, trace with me the spiritual transactions below that you have had with Jesus:

In love Jesus invites you to come to Him. You go closer.

He tells you about the cross. You weep in sorrow for causing Him such anguish.

He explains forgiveness. You confess.

He offers you newness of life. You submit to death of self and are born again.

He offers you His traits of character. By faith you accept transformation.

He offers power and guidance as gifts of the Holy Spirit. You learn to walk in step with the Spirit.

He sends His Son to dwell in your heart. In faith and love you open your inner sanctuary to be His abode.

Have you had all these experiences or only a few?

These spiritual transactions are bathed in our Heavenly Father's love, mercy, and grace. If we continue to listen to His voice and respond in love and dedication, we will become more and more like Him.

Holiness: Change in the Making

Paul wrote about these divinely appointed transactions between God and each one of us in these words: "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. 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" (Rom. 12:1, 2). These sentences contain a triad of practical steps we should take as we pursue holiness: (a) to present, (b) to choose, and (c) to allow. Present yourself to God as a living sacrifice. Choose to become a nonconformist. Allow the Holy Spirit to transform you from inside out.

This scripture passage places before us the key provisions for setting ourselves apart from the godless ways of society in order to devote ourselves to His will for us. Each deserves our daily attention, for they are a menu of nutritious food for our daily Christian diet.

Let's set the stage by reading together once again this foundational command of Jesus: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30). No part of our personhood is to be left out as we present ourselves to be holy sacrifices to our Heavenly Father.

Making a Present of Ourselves

"Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, . . . which is your spiritual worship."

Using our Spirit-guided imaginations, let's approach the throne of God, having no gift to offer Him as a sacrifice except ourselves. We carry no purse or wallet, nor do we hold in our hands the keys to our powerful pick-up. We might have wished to write Him a check or relinquish our kitchen appliances to Him, but we stand before Him without any of the symbols of our things-oriented daily life. As our "spiritual worship" we have brought just ourselves. Nothing else.

As we glance around the throne-room, we see no altar where sacrifices are burned, for He has not requested a lamb or a bull. He has requested us, just us. Our sacrifice is not to be slain. It is to be "a living and holy sacrifice." Our sacrifice is a transfer of ownership of all that we are-heart, soul, mind, and strength-to Him. We are to be His servants.

Nonconformity: a Crucial Choice

"Do not be conformed to this world."

John the beloved wrote: "Do not set your hearts on the godless world or anything in it. Anyone who loves the world is a stranger to the Father's love. Everything the world affords, all that panders to the appetites or entices the eyes, all the glamour of its life, springs not from the Father but from the godless world. And that world is passing away" (1 John 2:15-17, NEB). Clearly worldly attachments and interests are not consistent with offering our bodies to God in an act of full devotion.

Are we perplexed about what is "worldly" and what is not? We can find no better resources than a day's television programing and the Word of God. One portrays "decadent" foods and all that pleases the carnal senses. The other portrays the bread of life and all that pleases God. The first portrays the thoughts and actions that have brought misery and death to the inhabitants of this world. The second portrays an abundant life now and the sure promise of life eternal. The distinction between godliness and worldliness is graphically clear.

Concerning the infiltrating evils of our society, Paul wrote: "You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:22-24). These words call for us to make a crucial choice.

Transformation From the Inside Out

"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Our text begins with the sacrifice of our bodies, where lust lurks. Now we turn our attention to the mind, to the transformation of the mind. This transformation does not begin with a believer's activities or with what he says or with how well he conforms to Biblical commandments. This change of mind begins when a believer in Christ sets as his aim to have no mixture of carnal and spiritual in his inner sanctuary. It continues as he allows the Holy Spirit to work this transformation in him.

Ancient scientists called alchemists dreamed of finding a way to transform common materials into gold. No such discovery was made. For centuries great thinkers have tried to find ways to transform the evil human heart into a noble, selfless heart. Have philosophers found success? Only the Holy Spirit can produce the change, and it is dramatic, as in the case of King Saul. Following his anointing, Samuel told him: "The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall . . . be changed into another man. . . . Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart" (1 Sam. 10:6, 9, NASB). Unfortunately his transformation did not have staying power. Here's why: "It must be remembered that such a change becomes permanent only with the daily reaffirmation of the choice thus made." (1)

Our continuing interactions with our Divine Mentors will produce lasting results. Looking to Jesus, "all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor. 3:18)

To Know God's Will Better

 

Paul's writings are sometimes hard to understand, as Peter admitted. The final clause of Romans 12:1, 2 is an example. In telling us about the benefits of following his instructions, Paul writes: "So that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect." What does this mean? It's puzzling. We can see that this spiritual benefit has to do with you and me and our understanding of God's will. Yet, his description is vague.

Let's turn to Phillips' paraphrase: "So that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good." This wording supplies the connection between the Christian and God's will with these two words: "for you." Now let's add this phrase, "for you," to our NRSV reading: "So that you may discern what is the will of God for you--what is good and acceptable and perfect."

"The result of this transformation is the ability to prove, to discern in actual experience, what is the will of God. With a new sensitiveness of insight we discover in our actual situation what God would have us do, and in the process we learn more fully the nature of his purpose for us." (2)

Putting It All Together

If we now want to know why a Christian should present himself or herself to God as a sacrifice, why he should choose nonconformity, and why he should subject himself to transformation, we will find the reasons in this very text of Scripture. Here are the two attractive reasons: (a) because of God's mercies and (b) in order to have a fuller understanding of God's will for us.

When we who have chosen total dedication heed Paul's guidance, our heavenly Father receives this benefit: His "people" advance toward victory in His conflict with Satan. And how do you and I benefit? A great peace settles over our once-jumbled life. Instead of disharmony, contentment swells in our inner being. We are now in tune with God's will for us.