” 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.“
We spent the last few weeks in chapter 9-11, and as we were speaking, we were seeing in the news the enemies of Israel begin to sign treaties with them. Now, I cannot think of one commentator that thinks that President Trump is the anti-Christ. As I understand the scriptures, he is too old, not Jewish and is the head of a country that has never been a part of the Roman Empire. He is also too well known; as far as I can understand, the anti-Christ is a nobody. He just comes out of nowhere and helps broker a deal with Israel and her enemies that includes rebuilding the Temple. No such treaty has been signed. But make no mistake, these small victories, small doors opening, are the key to the big one that is to come.
If you were to go back and read the end of Romans 8 and then skip ahead to Romans 12, there would be continuity. Once we have been assured of our security in Jesus, then the great Apostle Paul can beseech us to be transformed. Security in Jesus is the catalyst for true transformation. This is a very important doctrine to grasp. We do not transform to be saved; we seek to be transformed because we are saved and secure in Jesus. This is so important.
I have children, three to be exact. I love them dearly; they are mine. Two of them were born to my wife before my wife and I even met, the third during our marriage. I introduce all of them as my kids. I love them and they identify with me. They have security to know that even when they fail, I love them. Now, there are times when I fail and I have to ask for forgiveness of them. My littlest is no more my kid than the other two. Most people who meet us for the first time cannot deduce that the first two are not mine by blood. They have security, and I as a dad have security with them. Now that there is security, I have the right as the dad to expect certain things of them and they of me.
In the passage we are about to look at here in Romans 12, we will see that we have the same situation because of our security in Jesus; go back and read the end of chapter 8. Now, Jesus expects something of us, and we expect something of Him. He expects us to surrender our bodies to Him, and we expect Him to transform us first by renewing our minds, verses 1-2. In verse 1, we find that the surrender of our bodies to Jesus, to give Him absolute control over our bodies, is a reasonable service. Paul, via the Holy Spirit, is not asking us to do something that is unreasonable. The least we can do, based on the security we have in Jesus, is to give Him control of our bodies. This is a reasonable request that is made of us.
When I was 17, I answered the call into the ministry. When I left home that Sunday in the spring of 1984 to go to a Fifth Sunday Youth Service, I had no idea that I would come home heading to seminary and not to a secular university to study accounting. But during the invitation, I felt the leading of the Lord to go and surrender to the ministry; I have never looked back. Sometimes I feel as if the Lord made a mistake, but that is an impossibility.
I have recently finished my Ph.D. in Theology and look forward to learning more. It was a reasonable request for the Lord to ask me to enter the ministry. It was a reasonable request for the Lord to ask me to give up the perceived security of the secular degree for seminary degrees. It was reasonable for the Lord to ask me to leave my home, my family, and travel far away to a Biblically conservative seminary so as to be equipped for the work ahead. The call on you is no less reasonable. Whatever God has called you to surrender your body to is reasonable when we consider the salvation and eternal security we have in Him.
In turn, Jesus will transform us. The word that we get the English word transform from is the root word for metamorphosis. We understand this process best in the caterpillar. It cocoons itself and emerges a short time later as a beautiful butterfly. No one erects caterpillar sanctuaries, but we have a rather large butterfly sanctuary not far from my home in Niagara Falls. But, without the caterpillar, there are no butterflies. Once we have presented our bodies to Jesus for His service, He then transforms us, and this first happens in the mind. If you can change the way a person thinks, you can change the way they act.
We have all met people and, sadly, one of those people is the man or woman in the mirror that can act a certain way but think another. We have all made assumptions about a person’s mind by the way they think, only to be surprised later as we get to know them more. Jesus wants to illuminate this discrepancy. He wants the way we think and the way we act to be the same, so the first transformation must be in the mind.
Most churches spend forever working on the outside, and we conservative Baptists are the worst for that. Some of the things that have gone on in conservative churches, from sexual trysts and deviation to just about anything you can think, is testimony that unless you change the mind, no amount of acting will work. Sooner or later, they all find out that you are acting and not truly transformed. The mind is transformed by the Holy Word of God and the Holy Spirit; they work hand in hand to change the way we think. For the butterfly to live, the caterpillar has to die; they cannot co-exist. The same is true for us; we must die to self and put aside all of our dreams and hopes for Jesus and His ways only. Anything that gets in the way has to go, and this is not an easy task.
In verses 3-8 we are told that there are some things that we will become as we are transformed. First of all, humility is the most important thing. One of the first things that Jesus will change through the Bible and the Holy Spirit is how you see yourself. You and I are nothing without Jesus. You and I are just a part of the absolutely gargantuan family of God. We need each other, and none of us are more important than the other. There are no big “I(s)” in the Kingdom. Each has a God-ordained part to play, and none are more important than the other. Jesus is the only Superstar.
Think of all the ‘great’ preachers that have died; from Billy Sunday to Billy Graham to Jack Hyles, and someone else has taken their place. We are all replaceable. If you do not want to do God’s work, He has others that will take your blessings and take your place. The world system has conditioned us to think that we are important; we are not. Jesus and His way are important. Too many of the Lord’s churches are people-centered and not Jesus centered. If the church you attend can only survive if the pastor stays, then Jesus is not the Head and Center of your local church. I tell my people often, preachers leave in U-hauls or hearses, but they always leave.
We need each other. We are supposed to be helpers to each other. We are to carry each other and serve each other. We all have strengths and gifts. I am not an emotional person, most of the time, but my wife can empathize and cry with everybody. She is strong where I am weak, and vice-versa. I need her. She completes me as a minister and gives me the help I need to serve and reach more people for Jesus. This is what verses 4-8 is about. We all, via the transformation brought about by Jesus, are called to do certain things. Now, some of us will have several of these strengths, but one or two will be dominant. We will all have a way to serve in the Kingdom. No one gets left out; God will give you one of these callings to be transformed with. Notice that they all include serving others:
“4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Even leadership in verse 8 has to do with others; one has to have someone to lead, and anyone who has done leadership right will know that the essence of good leadership is serving. You see the progression; give your body as a sacrifice to Jesus, He transforms you in your mind and you humble yourself, then you become a great servant. This is the Christian transformation; sacrifice, humility and service. Come, let us old caterpillars die so we can be butterflies in Jesus. I leave you with Philippians 2:5-8 (MEV):
“Let this mind be in you all, which was also in Christ Jesus,
who, being in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.
But He emptied Himself,
taking upon Himself the form of a servant,
and was made in the likeness of men.
And being found in the form of a man,
He humbled Himself
and became obedient to death,
even death on a cross.”
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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