I had so much fun picking Ephesians 4:26-27 apart a few weeks ago that I ended up doing it again. (With a different set of verses, of course…) Once again, I’m going to have to number the different paragraphs. (Sorry about that. I hate numbers too, but it *does* make things so much easier.) Let’s get started, shall we? [warning]This is going to be a little longer than said post I linked to up there.[/warning]
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, 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 renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~ Romans 12:1-2
1. By the mercies of God. Some versions say “In view of God’s mercies” instead. But the gist of it, looking at what comes before it, is more like “Because of God’s mercies [which we just described to you]”. Hence, What God has done for us is the direct reason for Paul’s appeal about being living sacrifices. After all that God has done for us, the very least we can do is be completely His.
2. Present your bodies. Literally, all of the physical you. But more than that. Paul of course, with his Jewish heritage, was referring to the ancient sacrifices that are a part of Judaism. With those sacrifices, they became holy because they were sacrificed. And there were certain things you could or could not do with them because they were holy. In the same way, our bodies are holy because we are presenting them as sacrifices. That means that there are things we ought and ought not to do with them. And that translates into presenting all of our actions, thoughts, etc. as sacrifices right along with our physical bodies. Because what you do with a holy thing needs to be holy as well. But more on that in a second.
3. As a living sacrifice. Emphasis on the sacrifice part. No point in whining about giving things up for God. Duh. It’s a sacrifice. And since it’s a living sacrifice, that means the sacrifice keeps happening as long as you’re alive. I think sometimes we (especially those in wealthy nations) tend to forget that sacrifice (along with suffering and persecution and pain…but that’s better kept for a different post) is an inherent part of following Christ. We tend to feel sorry for ourselves when He asks us to give something up. No, sacrifice is and will be a part of our faith as long as we are on this earth.
4. Holy and acceptable to God (which is your spiritual worship). Being “holy and acceptable to God” is how you worship Him. You don’t need a nice band playing nice songs that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside to worship God. (Sorry, that’s also a subject better kept for a different time.) But really. One way the Jews worshiped God was by offering holy and acceptable sacrifices. Thus, seeking holiness is a way to directly worship God by honoring Him with your living sacrifice.
5. Do not be conformed to this world. This is actually almost a reiteration of the sacrifice part. One of Noah Webster’s definitions (Or rather a piece of one of his definitions. They’re each rather wordy, so I try to condense them when I can.) of holy is “consecrated or set apart to a sacred use, or to the service or worship of God”. Set apart to a sacred use, like a sacrifice. Set apart. Meaning, you’re *going* to look different from the world, and further, you are commanded to be different. You cannot stay inside the moral, intellectual, spiritual box the rest of the world locks itself in. You’re supposed to look and think and consider whether commonly-accepted behaviors, beliefs, etc. honor God or not. If they do not, you are not to do them, regardless of the consequences that will earn you. Similarly, you must obey God’s commands whether or not they are acceptable in the eyes of the world, whether or not they cause people to think you’re being offensive, strange, or just ridiculous. As a holy sacrifice, your first priority is to honor God no matter what the world says. One of the practical ways this has translated into my life in recent months is movies. Movies, in general, are considered by most Christians to be fine. They’re just entertainment. But for me, I see a good deal of content that does not honor God in the least. Plus, they’re often a waste of time. *coughnotthatIshouldlectureonthatsinceIstillwastetimeotherwayscoughcough* (Note, please, that I said *often* not always. I’m not bashing every single movie. There are still some good ones that are worth watching.) The result? I don’t watch nearly as many as I used to. So for me, I’m having to learn to give up movies for the most part. (I say this after watching a rather weird and maybe stupid one last night that I wish I hadn’t. I did say I was still in the process.) All of that to say that part of not conforming to this world can be giving up things that “aren’t really bad” but just aren’t good. And you’re going to look weird for it. And you might offend someone. Because you don’t look like the world when you do that.
6. But be transformed. Emphasizing the “but”. (I know that’s a touchy word to emphasize, but I can’t overlook the grammatical importance here.) Do not be conformed but be transformed. Meaning, that transformation is the opposite of conforming. What are you transforming from? The old man. The old sin nature. The old nasty yick that can’t be good to save your life. (Literally). Meaning, if conforming is the opposite of transforming, that to conform to the world is to stay that old man (or woman) controlled by sin. The Bible condemns Christians who do that (hint: they’re generally called fleshly or carnal Christians). Whups. So Paul says to pick the opposite and instead be transformed into a new man in Christ, one who has power to reject the old clingy sin nature and live in the power of the Holy Spirit and move mountains and honor God.
7. By the renewal of your mind. The transformation occurs by (or because of [see paragraph #1]) the renewal of your mind. How do you accomplish this renewal? It happens by dumping out the old shattered junk you used to keep in your brain/heart/mind/whatever and filling it with new shiny stuff that actually works. Aka, replacing everything in your brain that belonged to the old sin nature with that which comes from the Holy Spirit. Like cleaning out your closet, this doesn’t happen overnight. After all, there’s a lot of junk to clean out of there! It’s going to take time. It’s a process. And you can’t do it by yourself. (Because that would just be your old nature trying to do things your old way, and that doesn’t work when you’re throwing out your old stuff.) “Renewing your mind” starts at the feet of your Creator. Daily at least. It means soaking up His nature and surrendering your old nature to Him, piece by piece. A great place to start is studying God’s word, and a great place to go next is pouring yourself out in prayer. Remember, you can’t learn to be like someone if you never spend time with them. The more often and long you are around someone, the more you will start to speak, act, and think like they do. (Take married couples for example. After fifty years or so, they get pretty good at that.) Transformation starts with renewing your mind, and renewing your mind starts and ends with exchanging your human thoughts with God’s.
8. That by testing you may discern. Continuing with the married couples analogy, generally if you spend enough time with someone that you speak, act, and think a lot like they do, you’re going to know what their will is. The more you spend time learning to speak, act, and think like God, the more you will recognize His will. When you spend copious amounts of time with God regularly, you will learn to test situations, decisions, etc. against what God says in His word to see if they align with His will. Thus, you will discern it.
9. What is the will of God (what is good and acceptable and perfect). God’s will is good and acceptable and perfect. Which means, that as you renew you mind in His presence, you will learn to recognize what is good and acceptable and perfect. Because that’s what you have been regularly filling your mind with instead of the old nasty junk.
(Whew! That was longer than I anticipated. High five if you made it through all of that! Thank you for reading! 🙂 )