Pastor's Note - April 22
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul calls us to lay down our whole lives as an act of worship. This serves as a transition from the theology of Romans 11 to the application of 12-16. These first two verses somewhat summarize all of what Paul is about to say. And the big theme is that we are to lay down our lives – “by the mercies of God” – as a living sacrifice to God. It’s interesting that Paul calls us to lay down our bodies. There is a physical element to this sacrifice. It is not just a spiritual sacrifice, or an alignment of the mind. The Christian life calls for laying down our whole selves. That physical element may also be contrasted with the physical sacrifices that were made by Israel. They once sacrificed bulls and goats. Now Christ has sacrificed His own life and body, as an atonement for all time. Therefore, we too sacrifice our whole bodies, as Christ’s sacrifice was bodily. Christ’s sacrifice was to save. Our sacrifice is an offering and act of worship, in response to that salvation already given. This in contrast to (or fulfillment of) the sacrifices of bulls and goats in Israel. And if we are to sacrifice our whole selves, it means that we are totally devoted to the Lord – transformed in mind, not conformed to the ways of this world. This is huge! To be Christian means that you live and think differently than the world around you. We are not conformed to the political movements, social causes, educational priorities, or artistic or humanistic endeavors of this world. That doesn’t mean that we won’t agree with them from time to time. After all, God’s common grace falls on all human endeavors, and good is found in His image bearers in all spheres. So we may find ourselves aligning in some ways with the ways and movements and thoughts of the world around us. That is well and good, and we should anticipate that – and even use these points of alignment as a way to build bridges and connection points for gospel witness (see Paul in Acts 17). However, we should never be conformed by the ways of this world. They should never determine our thinking. No political party should have a hold on us. No scientific movement should have our whole, uncritical devotion. Test everything, and discern what is the will of God. How do we test? Fortunately, God has given us His Word, by which we may conform ourselves. That is what Paul wants us to consider as we offer our lives to God, and not to the world around us. May we be ethically, socially, spiritually, mentally, and physically devoted not to this world, but to God who teaches us by His Word. Paul will then go on to talk about what this looks like in practice.