The great, old one-liner about Romans 12:1 is that the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar. In totally modern terms we might say that such a sacrifice has ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder!
In a recent kids musical performance at our church, the kids sang a great “Romans 12:1+2” song for the program. And they were awesome in their performance! But some of the rehearsals … oh my! I was working with the acting kids, and they would run from side to side on the stage, making up new lines and being, well, wild boys in particular. One of the calm girls would just look at me kinda wide-eyed with amazement at these antics and just shake her head as if to say, “I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this!”
I would guess that God has the same feeling with many of us, much of the time. We are called to sacrificial service within whatever capacities and gifts that we have. But then when it gets a bit difficult and painful to carry out that service for the Lord, like the ADHD sacrifice we’re off the altar and running around aimlessly.
Have you noticed that serving God can sometimes be painful? That is because it involves the totality of oneself. There’s no such thing as being a partial sacrifice. But total commitment is the way to go in life that will yield the greatest of success and satisfaction.
The easiest and most natural way to live life is to conform to the pattern of this world. This involves a great deal of going along to get along, with a strong dose of serving self and personal needs and interests. We fit into this mold quite easily with little contortion or thoughtful discipline.
Paul rather says that the believer should be transformed with a renewed way of thinking. The word for this is the one from which we get “metamorphosis.” So it speaks of being changed from the inside-out. The result will be that such a process confirms God’s will for life – the best way of living well.
Verses 3-8 describe the primary function of living well, that of understanding God’s unique personal gifting and then deploying it faithfully to serve others.
Everyone should be humble in service because though each has gifts to use, none has anything close to having them all. Some gifts may be more dramatic and evident than others, but all are needed in order that together there may be mutual benefit.
It does not matter how incredibly talented a quarterback is if his offensive line does not protect him long enough to find an open receiver for a pass. It is difficult to throw a football with a 300-pound defensive lineman hanging on your arm. And the fastest running back will gain few yards without blockers who successfully keep defenders from dropping the ball carrier before he gets across the line of scrimmage.
Just as it is the team effort of each player performing his unique function successfully, so in the church family there is the need for all of the gifts to function for mutual benefit. Some are more public than others, but the more outward gifts cannot find a platform for successful execution without others performing their role with all-out energy.
So be faithful to use whatever gifts God has given you for the benefit of others. True inner satisfaction comes from serving others, and along the way of living sacrificially, we find that our deficits and needs are met by others who sacrificially gave of themselves as well. So stay on that altar … don’t be crawling off.
12:1 – 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.
12:3 – For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.