‘And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable.’
Romans 12 vs 1: NLT
I always believed this verse was highlighting the importance of living a sacrificial life of holiness and obedience to God. But on reading it again a few days ago, I realised it isn’t at all. Indeed, to do so would not only be tantamount to a life of ‘works’, but rather contradictory to what our Lord Jesus has already done for us.
The only sacrifice that is pleasing and acceptable to God has already be made by Jesus Christ.
Look at it this way – if Romans 12 was about obedience and holy living then surely it would have devoted more than one verse to it!?
But, rather than dwell on holiness and obedience, Paul encourages us to be who God created us to be ( verses 6 to 8 – ‘In his grace, God has given us gifts for doing certain things well….’), and to love and serve with humility.
The key to understanding Romans 12 lies in verse two.
‘Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.’
Romans 12 vs 2: NLT
The obvious meaning of the first half of Romans 12 verse 2 is to resist worldly ways; to not think and behave as the world does. There is however, so much more to this verse.
Before delving further, I have a question for you.
‘If you and I were to spend our lives focusing on resisting worldly ways, which after a while would most likely make us conceited and judgmental of both the world and fellow Christians we deem to be beneath us, would we have the bandwidth to grasp what God’s will for us is?’
I don’t think so.
The constant focus on what we mustn’t do would result in our minds being closed-off to all semblance of revelation. Fear usually produces nothing but anxiety and more fear.
But when we surrender our hearts and minds to the truth of God’s unfailing and unconditional love for us, we are able to connect with who he is and who he created us to be.
‘by changing the way you think’
In other words, changing from ‘how can God possibly love me after all the things I’ve done??’, to ‘I am God’s child, and because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, my father in heaven loves me now and for evermore, no matter what.’
From ‘Everybody knows about my faults and failings. I dare not even try’, to ‘Yes, I have faults and I have failings, but my God loves me anyway. He created me and he knew about my faults and failings before he established my purpose.’
From, ‘I’d better just do as they suggest and be happy to belong’, to ‘my God gave me these talents and desires for a reason, and I will do what I believe he wants me to do, despite what people may think or say.’
The world’s love is conditional.
In-fact, whether or not we like to admit it, and no matter how often we say the word ‘agape’, the love of most Christians (you and I) is also conditional; on whether one behaves in a certain way; whether one is a member of a particular church or group; whether one accepts the ‘box’ he or she has been placed in. For so long as we’re human, we will most likely judge others and place terms and conditions on the nature of our relationships.
A knowledge of God’s unconditional love through Jesus Christ gives you and I the courage to be true to ourselves, regardless of what others may think or say.
By focusing on God’s unconditional love for us rather than what we must or mustn’t do, we are better able to connect with who he is and who we are. My use of the word ‘bandwidth’ is not a play with words, but very much intentional. I’m sure you’ve heard about Mark Zuckerberg’s tendency to wear the same type of clothing on most days; and that his reasoning is he doesn’t want his brain clogged up with trivial matters such as ‘what clothes shall I wear today?’. In other words, he wants his mind to be free of clutter, so-as-to fully utilise it for creativity and planning. In the same way, when we free our minds of the worries of whether or not we’re doing enough to earn God’s love, and rest in his unconditional love, we’re better able to hear and see clearly.
‘Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.’
Romans 12 vs 2: NLT
It is important to remember that God gave you talents with which to serve him.
When I say serve him, I’m not talking about church activities, which of-course are good and very worthwhile. I’m talking about everyday life. Think about it this way – we go to church once, maybe twice a week. Are we to say our talents are only to be used twice a week??
Your service to God is one of every day. In other words, your day to day work.
It is not God’s wish for you to be miserable at your place of work. Otherwise the verse would say, ‘his tough and miserable will for you’. His will for you is a ‘pleasing’ and ‘perfect’ one; not one of discouragement and self-pity as a result of day after day of misery (yes, I know God said we would labour and toil after Adam and Eve fell, but that was before Jesus came).
This is not to say there won’t be challenges. Of-course there will be. But you were created to enjoy using your talents to serve others daily.
Again, the key is to throw out the clutter – surrendering to and resting in his unconditional love, so-as-to hear what he’s saying.
I conclude with Jesus’s instruction to his disciples.
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
John 15 vs 4: NLT
To remain in God means to remain in and rest in his love. This, for many of us, is a rather challenging thing to do; to never doubt for one second that God is forever at peace and in love with us.
In the words of Joseph Prince, ‘RIP – Rest is Power’.
As we learn to rest (remain) in his love, we become more productive.
It is as you do so that those talents you’re so blessed with begin to flourish.
Because the more you abide in his love the more Jesus takes center stage.
Permit me to break this down for you.
The bible tells us we are in Christ and that he is in us.
Who gave you your talents?
Where did those talents come from?
So, who in effect do those talents belong to?
This is why we should never boast. Our talents are not ours, but Jesus’s. When we align ourselves with who we were created to be, we simply allow Jesus to take center stage so that he can use his talents in us to do God’s pleasing and perfect will.
A comment by a friend of mine during a telephone conversation some weeks ago encapsulates this point.
“By the way Segun, you’re a phenomenal writer! You really are. In-fact, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m pretty sure that when you’re writing it isn’t you writing at all, but God.”
I couldn’t agree more. The talent belongs to God, not me.
1. God loves you unconditionally
2. He wants you to surrender to his unfailing and unconditional love so that your mind is free from unnecessary clutter.
3. As you surrender more and more to his love, Jesus takes center stage, thereby enabling you to have the same desires as he does, which ultimately leads to him utilising his talents in you to serve others.