A family from a remote area was making their first visit to a big city. They checked in to a grand hotel and stood in amazement at the impressive sight. Leaving the reception desk they came to the elevator entrance. They’d never seen an elevator before, and just stared at it, unable to figure out what it was for.
An old lady hobbled towards the elevator and went inside. The door closed. About a minute later, the door opened and out came a stunningly good-looking young woman.
The Dad couldn’t stop staring. Without turning his head he patted his son’s arm and said, “Go get your mother, son.”
It’s just a joke, but transformation is what we’re dealing with today. Not just change, but more than change, transformation, metamorphosis; the conversion of our hearts and minds and souls.
That’s where Paul takes us in Romans. After receiving God’s grace there is still the struggle of living in a holy manner. In Romans 7, Paul discussed the difficulty of receiving grace and not living by grace. “I do the things I don’t want to do and I don’t do the things I know I should do.” As long as we continue to live in the flesh, we will have that struggle. What’s the solution?
Let’s start with God and the beginning of all things by going back to creation. God made everything and this is God’s estimation of it:
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” Genesis 1:31. (NIV)
“It may seem obvious at first, but this statement is actually quite radical. By claiming that creation is good, the Bible places itself in contrast to a number of religions and philosophies that hold that this earth upon which we live is, at best, irrelevant, or, at worst, evil.
Biblical faith however, declares that the world God has made is good. Creation is very good, not evil. It is the environment in which God created us to prosper and thrive” (Mark Sayers, The Vertical Self); this is the home that God created for us to live in with him and the whole of creation. Yet, sin removed us from the good and moved us into the bad and as Romans 9:19-22 tells us, the creation is suffering because of human sin as well.
Things were good until sin entered the world and corrupted everything. As we said before, you weren’t born with sin. Sin is not your natural way it’s not in your spiritual or physical DNA. You didn’t inherit it from Adam and Eve, but like Adam and Eve, you had a choice and you chose wrong. You sinned by choice and that is how sin entered the world and how sin became a part of your life, by each and every individual’s choice.
In Christ, through his death and resurrection and by means of your faith, you are freed from sin, and set apart able to live a holy and righteous life pleasing to God. But until we get to heaven, we still struggle with temptation and sin and don’t always accomplish the will of God in holiness.
Paul gives us the solution beginning with chapter 12 through the rest of the book. It’s here that he gets really practical.
CLIMB UP AND BECOME A SACRIFICE – Romans 12:1 “
We are to be “living sacrifices.” That’s kind of a contradictory term. The sacrifice is usually killed and prepared before it is sacrificed. The life of the sacrifice was the sacrifice. Its death was the substitution for the person’s sins it was sacrificed for. But we are to be living sacrifice. What’s that mean?
Begin with this thought: Reconciliation rarely occurs without sacrifice. By giving his one and only Son, God took the initiative in healing our broken relationship with him. He made the supreme sacrifice for us that we might be reconciled to him. Jesus’ death was the sacrifice for your sins, yet he lives. His death makes it possible for you to be saved, to be reconciled to God, to fix the broken tie that sin caused between you and God.
Remember, you were dead in your sins, but in Christ you have life. You were dead and buried in baptism and coming out of the water came out alive, reconciled to God. You are now his child, you have been saved by God’s grace. You gave your life to God; you are a living sacrifice, pure and holy – holy and pleasing to God (as the verse tells us).
That is a decision, an attitude, and a determination.
You can’t be a living sacrifice unless you choose to be. It is your decision. You have to choose to be holy to God. As we will see, he will enact the transformation with your decision and your effort and you will become this living sacrifice and will show God’s holiness.
Unless you are holy, you cannot be a sacrifice to God . . . at all. We see this in the story of Israel. God called his people for a special purpose. Israel was to be a holy people whose embodiment of God’s values would speak to the nations of the world. He called Israel to be a living example of the way he wanted the world to be.
Christians, the church is spiritual Israel and we have the same purpose in this world, to embody God’s holiness as a witness to the world. Yet, we have to decide to become what God has wanted to do in us all along.
At the same time you have to want to be that way. You can decide something all day long, but if you don’t want to do it or be that way, you either won’t or your heart won’t be in it. And if you do it, you are just going through the motions. It has little or no meaning to you. You’re just “doing it,” not “being it.”
Your attitude, your motivation matters. It is so much more than doing the right thing, it is having right attitude, the correct motivation just like the Sermon on the Mount teaches us. See if these words capture the right attitude?
- Thankfulness and Gratefulness
- Mission and ministry
- Who you are in Christ
And with the elements of choice, attitude, and determination to become who God wants you to be and calls you to be, while he works in you – you also work through his strength, his gifts, his Spirit, and as we shall see from verse 2, his word.