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. (ESV)When we see the word "therefore," we need to look back at what has come before in the text. In this case, "therefore" refers to the first eleven chapters of Romans, where Paul has presented a masterful theological exposition. When he talks about "the mercies of God," he is talking about our redemption. In the wake of God's righteousness and his wrath against us, he has shown mercy and redeemed us, justified us, and adopted us. In the first verses of Romans 12, Paul tells us about worship.
He uses some words that would be familiar to Jewish audiences, "present" and "sacrifice." When we read those words, we think of the Old Testament sacrifices, and the role of the priests in presenting them. While there was prayer, praise, and singing in Old Testament worship, animal sacrifices were significant. However, there is a radical difference with the sacrifice Paul talks about here. He says we are the sacrifices. We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. In the New Covenant, everyone is a priest, and is to offer himself as a sacrifice.
In verse 1, the word for "spiritual" is the Greek word logikos, meaning pertaining to reason. The KJV uses the phrase "reasonable service." My ESV has a note, calling it "rational service." The word for "worship" is latreia, which carries with it the idea of divine service. The worship is not an empty rationalism, but it is "reasonable" in the sense that it is what God deserves. When we meditate on who God is and what he has done for us, it is only reasonable that the response is to give him our lives. Every day, every moment, every breath is offered to him because that is what he deserves. Should this reality not make a huge impact upon us? Will it not significantly influence what we value, what we think, and what we do?
Paul continues in verse 2 with the exhortation to resist being conformed to the world, but rather be transformed by the renewal of our minds. Worship involves body and mind. Paul sets the transformation our minds against being conformed to the world. If our minds are conformed to the world, they will not live in light of the mercies of God. When our minds are conformed to the world, we may worship anything else but God. Anything we do as an act of worship begins with a transformed mind.
Worship does encompass things such as the gathering of God's people, music and singing, praise, prayer, and the sacraments. But those are only a part of it. Worship is holistic; it is not piecemeal, confined to a location, a time, or an activity. It is about our whole life.
Everyone worships something. We were created for worship. Even someone who says he does not believe in God will worship something. Our choices reflect what we worship. What will our decision be? When we look at the mercies of God, revealed to us in the Word of God and in our daily lives, will we present ourselves as living sacrifices, both mind and body? Will we wake up every day and say, "Lord, I give this day to you for whatever you want me to do?"
As I studied to write this post, my thoughts were drawn to a hymn by Frances Havergal, "Take My Life and Let It Be:"
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moment and my days;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
This is my desire. Is it yours?