“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12: 1,2).
Presenting these bodies as a living sacrifice means we are giving up our own self-improvement plans according to our knowledge of good and evil in favor of God’s plans for using us. It is a choice we make to quit trying to control our lives and allow Him to take control by the indwelling Spirit. Even though the new persons we are in Christ have the righteousness of Christ, our natural bodies have not yet changed at all. That means that all the conditioning, habits, coping strategies, lies, and unbelief we had as the old person we were is still contained in these mortal bodies. The Bible refers to this conditioning as the flesh and makes it clear that the new persons we are cannot overcome its power of sin in our own strength. We desperately need God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to him is the only viable option.
Presenting our bodies to God is simply letting Him use them for His purposes. We not only give up our own plans for our lives but earnestly seek to be used by God to fulfill His high calling to love others like Christ. Paul refers to this as our “reasonable service” since it is the only logical thing for us to do. We have been
- joined to Christ,
- created as a new person in Christ,
- quickened together with Christ,
- raised up and seated in the heavenlies with Christ,
- crucified with Christ,
- resurrected in Christ,
- married to Christ,
- indwelled with the Spirit of Christ,
- given the mind of Christ,
- are called to do the work of Christ,
- are members of the body of Christ,
- are hid with Christ in God,
- and have the very life of Christ.
It is only logical that we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God so that he can use us to be Christ in this world.
In connection with presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to God Paul tells us to quit allowing ourselves to be pressed into the mold of this world. By this he means that we are to reject the natural conditioning of this world to save ourselves by our own efforts whether good or bad. Such a selfish focus on our own life prohibits any possibility of loving others like Christ. Instead, Paul tells us to allow ourselves to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Personal transformation from a naturally self-centered taker to a compassionate giver is only accomplished as our minds are renewed. Spiritual growth and maturity come only through the work of the indwelling Spirit changing the way we think about God, ourselves, and others. This change, referred to as the “renewing of the mind,” occurs when we chose to believe what God says about us rather than what we have been conditioned to believe by the world we live in.
The renewing of our minds changes the way we see God. Rather than view Him as an impartial judge we see Him as a loving father. Rather than seeing only His righteousness revealed in the demands of the law, we see His love revealed in the grace and truth of Jesus. Such changes in the way we see God is a result of the change in our relationship to Him. Rather than seeing Him as a threat because we are separated from Him by sin, we see Him as our only source of life and wisdom because we have been reconciled in His Son.
As our image of God changes, we also see ourselves differently. We begin to see ourselves as brand-new persons and are able to make a distinction between our sinful flesh and the righteous persons God has made us to be. We are encouraged to rely on the power of the indwelling Spirit to “put to death the deeds of the body” and “wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” We no longer feel compelled to earn God’s love through religious ritual and effort, but receive it as His beloved child in whom He is well pleased. In short, we are able to develop a healthy self-image believing we are one with Jesus.
The transformation of our own self-image allows us to begin to see others around us in a different way as well. Instead of depending on and seeking their approval we are free to begin to actually care about them and recognize their new identity in Christ. Seeing others like God sees them helps us to tolerate or forbear them in love. Knowing that the same grace that is transforming us is also at work in them gives us the patience to endure their weakness in the flesh. We can confront their fleshly behavior without condemning them personally. We can comfort them in their suffering without enabling their dysfunctional flesh. Finally, our view of them in Christ allows us to support them in their efforts to believe without attaching any expectations.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” – 2 Corinthians 3:17,18
John Glenn is the executive director of Alpha Ministries, Inc. He pastors Church in the Woods at Freedom Ranch in Okeechobee, Florida. This article was originally published in Alpha Ministries newsletter and is used with permission. https://www.churchinthewoodsokeechobee.org/ Title and concluding Scripture quotation added