“Holiness is neither automatic nor inevitable” (John Stott). For this reason, we need exhortations to move on with our desire to become like Christ.
Paul gave the church at Rome an exhortation to move toward holiness that has blessed the Christian church throughout history. “I appeal to you therefore brethren, 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 you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice (as compared with the sacrifices of Israel) is our spiritual act of worship. The word translated “spiritual” can also be translated as reasonable and rational. It is an act of intelligent worship in which our minds are fully engaged. Paul is using the background of the Old Testament sacrificial system, but he is moving us far beyond the old ceremony.
Having looked previously at the first verse, today we move to the verse two. If you would like to read about verse one view the explanation of Romans 12:1 here.
In various ways and across the centuries, God calls His people not to be conformed to the ways of the world. Jesus told His disciples not to be like the Pharisees and pagans, and Moses told the people in the wilderness not to follow the practices of the Canaanites.
The verb form for conformed and transformed calls for continuous, repetitive action. In other words, keep on refusing to conform and keep on being transformed.
The word for transformed is quite interesting. It’s the same verb which is used to describe the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2-9). Mark described a complete change that came over Jesus. His garments glistened, becoming intensely white. Paul gave his explanation of how the verb applies to Christians. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 he gave the meaning of what is happening to us: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Based on these verses, John Stott described transformation as “a fundamental transformation of character and conduct, away from the standards of the world and into the image of Christ himself.” This occurs by the renewing of the mind, which we will explore next Sunday.
May God bless you.
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