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In Romans 12, Paul speaks of God’s expecation of surrender. That expectation of my surrender to God is based on two things: knowledge of His Person and acknowledgement of His work on my behalf.
In light of the incredible work of God in saving men that will believe, and in light of the astounding Mastery of God over all, He expects that I will surrender to His plan and not try to “write a better plan” for my life.
Look again at Romans 12:1 and read it carefully with me as I translate each word from the original language with some additional fullness:
Therefore: because of all that I have told you about God’s magnificent person and His wondrous saving work for you.
I urge you brethren, I come beside you, as a paraklete—“one brought alongside to brace.”. Don’t forget that he addressed them as brothers—a term Paul uses of other believers. The call to inspection will not work for someone who does not know Jesus personally already.
by the mercies of God: based on the mercies or “oiktirmos”: pity or compassion. In the Modern Hebrew version the translators used the Hebrew equivalent word “racham”—a word that implies the bonding with a mother. It is related to “rechem”—the word for the womb. If that choice was accurate—as I believe it was—the mercies of God mentioned here and in 2 Corinthians 1:37 are the deep comforts of God that flow from His bond to us as from His own “womb connection.” That sounds strange, but it makes sense if you think about it. We call Him “Father” because we came from Him, and were “birthed” from within His mind.
to present your bodies: present is the Greek term “paristaymee”—to “place beside.” The idea was vivid in the mind of the Hebrew worshipper like Paul who had been to the Temple in Jerusalem. On the north side of the Temple proper (the Hekhal building) a chamber called the “chamber of the lambs” was used to hold animals before sacrifice—a place of holding and inspection before they were taken to the final inspection pen near the slaughtering place. It was given water to drink from a golden cup so that it would be easier to skin.”
Beside the altar were additional pens for inspection. The point of the command by God to “present your bodies” is a call to voluntary complete inspection. It is not a call to be sacrificed—but to be inspected for eligibility. The inspection is not simply of the body, but of the sound state of the whole being—it includes the body. Practical purity matters as much as theoretical theology.
a living and holy sacrifice: This life matters—not just the afterlife. The terms “living” (zao—alive) and “holy” (hagios) remind us that we are to become an offering while alive by being distinct for God’s purposes. Either we embrace the purpose of our life is to serve God, or we live life to serve self. It is our choice.
acceptable to God: Mature believers know that PLEASING GOD is the goal, a fulfilled life is the mere byproduct of it—not the other way around! We don’t serve simply to GET, we get because we live to SERVE Him.
which is your spiritual service of worship: Paul even exclaimed it was “a reasonable plan” from God. The word “spiritual” is the LOGIKOS—it is logical. God thinks rebellion is ILLOGICAL based on the reality that He made everything, connects everything and stands at the end of it all.
Maybe it is time for me to offer the most basic concept from God’s revealed truth—there is nowhere to turn in eternity but to Him. He is not One of many. That is at the core all that God said in the Law. He made clear over and over again this simple but powerful truth. He felt so strongly about it He etched it out on stone with His very finger before Moses:
You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. (NASB, Exod. 20:3–7)
It is as though God said simply this: “I am God. You can look, but you won’t find another real alternative. There isn’t anyone else. Buddha didn’t create anything—he was a guy with an idea under a tree who died and realized he was wrong. Mohammed was a man with an ability to tell stories, but he died as well. Confucius offered some interesting nuggets of wisdom, but he was not around when I created everything. To think that I will perhaps not notice your rebellion, or somehow you will be able to talk me into how you are actually right when in your heart you know you are selfish is a pipe dream. It’s not going to happen. I was there at the beginning, I am working a plan in these days—and I will be there, alone as King of the Heavens—at the end of it all.
Let’s say it clearly: Unhindered worship only happens when I surrender every part of me to God. A softened spiritual heart that is living in sexual sin won’t do. A pleasantnatured person that is in church every Sunday morning but denies God’s right to call the shots at your work place isn’t going to work. A tearfilled eye in worship won’t negate a hardened heart when it comes to choices that honor God outside the sanctuary. It doesn’t mean that I am perfect and do everything correctly—it means that I am laboring intensely at allowing God to access every room of my heart and rearrange the furniture in each. One door left closed to Him denies Him His right to everything.
The bottom line on God’s expectation is this—you have to vote to let Him place you in the inspection cage or pen—every part of you. You must yield and surrender to Him—a whole life, not just the “religious” part. Any partial vote will not be counted.
Expectation Two: “Right to Expect”—We need to recognize that God wants to reconstruct our thinking to see things correctly on our way to walking correctly.
God is in the remodeling business. The Word reminds: Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world… . Look at the phrases—don’t gloss over these familiar words.
We must recognize that the “default” setting of our life is to become “conformed” (syschēmatizō is from “sun”—the word “together with” and “schematic”—to assume a certain form or figure as in a schematic sets the design of). The term “of this world (aion)” are actually “of this age”—a time related term. The term “not conformed to this world” is literally “not conformed to this age.” The call to distinctiveness is a call to look different than others in our time. We are to live as those with prophetic voices, not try to become public relations officers for our Creator.
Let that sink in … the call to distinctiveness is a call to look different than others in our time.
What God has said, then, is that He has an expectation that He can and will inspect our lives. Further, He desires us to intentionally shun becoming what everyone else is.