A Living Sacrifice
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Chapter 12 marks the big transition from Paul's laying out the doctrine of the Christian faith in chapters 1-8, the plight of his Jewish brothers and sisters in chapters 9-11, to the practical implications of what it means to respond to the mercy we have been given through Jesus Christ.
The big transition word is "therefore". Again it means in lieu of the instruction of the previous chapters, this is then how you should live. First it says, "in view of God's mercy". This makes it clear that our discipleship is completely fueled by what God has done for us. Grace is our fuel for the Christian life. As we look at our response to God's grace, we all need to remember this, lest our obedience it become legalistic.
Then, Paul calls this a, "living sacrifice", as opposed to the dead animal sacrifices prescribed in the Old Testament. Since there was no forgiveness without the shedding of blood in the Old Testament, the innocent lamb had to pay the price for man's sin with its innocent blood. So what does it mean to be a living sacrifice? Obviously it is not the same as the animal sacrifice. A living sacrifice is offer our bodies back to God. We give our bodies, which are a temple of the Holy Spirit, to God. What does this mean? Our body fuels us and gives us energy to do the things God has given us to do. If we don't take care of our bodies, it limits what we can do. It also moves us away from vanity, which we see so often in our culture, as the body is worshipped in all kinds of ways.
This is worship. Why? Because worship is giving worth to God. To offer our bodies back to God is to give him our worship with something so personal, our bodies.
Next, he tells us not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renweing of our minds. Meaning, don't be squeezed into the world's mold, but let God transform you into the mold you were originally made for before the Fall. Simply said, we are transformed more and more into Christ-likeness as we give ourselves to God.
What is the key for this to happen? Our minds! Any action is always proceeded by a thought. If you have ever developed a sinful pattern or habit, it is because it became engrained into your mind almost as if you had no other options. This is how addictions happen. But God can transform minds, as we put godly input into it. I.e. Garbage in, Garbage out. This means what we watch, the websites we visit, the music we listen to, and what we read. Basically anything we put into our mind.
Paul says in 1 and 2 Corinthians, "Make your thoughts captive to Christ". And, "We have the mind of Christ!"
What is the result if we follow Paul's teaching. Our lives will show forth God's will. We will be living the way He wants us to live, and it will have a positive result on everyone around us. Finally, my favorite part is Paul says God's will is, "Good, perfect and pleasing." You can look up those words, but they are all very positive and all very good for us. As Jesus says, "I have come to give you life and life abundantly". God didn't come to steal our joy but to give it to us. This joy is better than the fleeting happiness of the world.
A big change in my life came when I realized God didn't want to take all my fun i.e. the partying lifestyle. But he wanted to show me how to truly live. Although I still make mistakes and sin, I know God's will is simply the best way to live.
As my Grandpa used say, "Try it, you will like it!"