Many times I hear people asking, “What is it that God wants from me? How can I know that I’m doing things right as a Christian? How can I know that my life is pleasing to God?”
I’ve wondered these questions before, and chances are, you may have, too. It’s sometimes tough to know just what will make a person happy, but fortunately, in God’s case, we don’t have to wonder. God tells us exactly what He wants from us in His Word. Check out the passage below.
“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 (NKJV)
I’d like for us to take a closer look at exactly what this verse is saying to us because I think it will help us answer our question as to what God wants from us. It would probably be best if you grabbed your Bible, too, as you read along, so that you can flip to the additional passages I’ll ask you to look up.
Now that you’ve got it, we’re ready to begin.
I beseech you
First, in Romans 12:1, Paul says that he is beseeching or urging his Gentile (non-Jewish) brothers in Christ for some reason, which the word therefore indicates. To get a better grasp on what the therefore is “there for”, I’d encourage you to go back and read chapter 11 of Romans, but for now, I’ll tell you that it has to do with God’s great mercy in offering salvation to the Gentiles and not only the Jews. That is what Paul is referring to when he says he beseeches them by the mercies of GodGod has been merciful to offer salvation to us, even though many of us are not Jews.
Just like the Gentile people Paul is writing to here, you and I should be overcome with gratitude for the salvation that God has given to us. I mean, just stop and think about ityou once were in total rebellion against God, deserving to go to hell for your sins, when at just the right time, Christ saved you and turned your life around. Now, you have an eternal relationship with the God who loves you immeasurably and abundant life here and now. Not a bad trade at all, considering how hopeless and empty all of our lives were before Him!
So, how do we express our thanks to Him for what He’s done for us? (We’ve definitely established that we owe Him our thanks!) At times, you may feel like you just don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, Paul clues us in with the rest of this verse: present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.
Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God:
What this idea alludes to is the way sacrifices were done in the Old Testament. Back then, animal sacrifices were offered to God on behalf of the people for their sin. The animal had to be without blemish or spot to be regarded holy to sacrifice to the Lord. But, now as Paul points out, the death of the perfect Lamb of God (Jesus!) has satisfied God’s wrath and taken away the sins of the world. In response to that great mercy which God has shown us, he concludes, it is only reasonable or rational that we should seek to be “living sacrifices” for Him, holy, or set apart in all that we do. Paul indicates that this is not too much to ask, and when he says that it is acceptable to God, he means that it is “well-pleasing” in God’s sight.
Bingo! This sounds like the answer to our question. To be well-pleasing in God’s sight, we should live lives of holiness and sacrifice.
Ok, let’s stop and assess: Is your life holy and set apart for God? Can people tell a difference between the way you live your life and the way a lost person lives theirs? Are you standing out as a follower of Christ by your separateness from the world, or are you pulling a “chameleon” act, changing faces depending on the people you hang around? Is your Christian life more like Burger King (“Have it your way”) than the Bible’s prescription for holiness?
Just a word of adviceyou’re better off to please the One who has “saved you and called you with a holy calling” than the friends in your life. After all, it’s only “reasonable” seeing all that He has done for you. And on a practical note, you’ll be a lot happier if you live for God too. After all, God doesn’t pull any punches with us; the wages of sin (the alternative to obedience) is still death.
Ok, I think we’ve got a pretty good start answering our question, but let’s see if verse 2 can shed any more light on the subject.
Do not be conformed to this world…
But what does Paul mean by “conformed?” Let’s see if Romans 1:18-32 can help us, as these verses give a pretty good description of what a “conformed” life looks like. Here, Paul is describing the worldly conduct of those who are in open rebellion against God, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Turn to this passage and read it. Some of these actions may shock you and be hard for you to identify with; others may hit closer to home (i.e. gossiping, disobedient to parents, unloving).
Now read Galatians 5:22-24. (While you’re at it, read vv. 17-21 too.) The point is, which list do you identify with more? Is it the lists in Rom. 1:18-32 and Gal. 5:17-21, or the fruits of the Spirit listed in verses 22-24? Ouch…I wouldn’t want to give my answer for that some days.
Well, the only answer to this obedience problem we often find ourselves having is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, as Paul indicates in the second half of Rom. 12:2.
But what does that mean, and how do we do it?
Transformed and Renewed
The idea of being transformed as Paul mentions carries with it the idea of being “transfigured” or made into a different appearance. Anddon’t miss this partthe change isn’t just an external “cleaning up” of bad habits and outward signs of rebellion, it begins with an inward spiritual change, accompanied by different motives and desires of the heart and compelled to holiness by the love of Christ. Importantly, this kind of change is impossible to take effect in you apart from the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.
“Well, how can this change take place?” you may ask.
Glad you did. First, Paul tells us earlier in Romans 6:11-14 that if you are in Christ, you are no longer a slave to sin, but free from its power over you. Read this passage. You’ll see that holiness begins with a proper perspective.
Next, holiness must have the proper power source. If you’re trying to affect change in your life on your own, I can already pretty much guess that it’s not working for you. Any success you might have is fleeting at best because you’re fighting sin in your own strength rather than in the power of Christ. Read John 15:4, 5, 8, and 15.
Bear the Fruit
These verses tell us that we can’t bear fruit apart from our abiding (inhabiting, maintaining our vital connection) in the true Vine, Jesus Christ. They also tell us that not just “fruit” but “much fruit” is God’s plan for us who are in Christ. That is the “good, acceptable, and perfect will of God” that Paul is talking about.
Bingo again! We’ve nailed itHoly lives that bear much fruit are God’s will for the lives of His children.
What does that look like on a practical basis?
It means that the clothes you wear, the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the friends you hang out with, the language you use, the places you go, and the thoughts you think will all bear the marks of someone whose life has radically been changed by the transforming power of God.
Finally, before we close, there’s one part of this verse that we still haven’t looked at: “that you may prove.” This phrase indicates that you should learn that all of this is true by trying it for yourself. I challenge you to experience God’s transforming power at work in your life by offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him. See if He is not faithful to what He says in His Word. As the Psalmist says, “O, taste and see that the Lord is good!”