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. 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.
This entire chapter has long been one of my favorites in the Bible. Not sure if I am allowed to admit that. Yes, even someone who has a seminary degree has favorite parts of the bible. If we are honest, we are all drawn back to certain familiar words that do something just a little bit different in the depths of our soul. It’s like God meant these words, not just for the world as a whole, but also, somehow, as if he knew, or put something in us, that recognizes meaning and love in those particular words.
I wish I felt this way about the entire bible, but I don’t. In my more honest moments, I can admit that there are parts of the bible that I really struggle with, not in a vague, disquieting or subtle way, but in a Jacob-wrestling-all-night-with-God-and-ending-up-with-a-permanent-limp kind of struggle. But I do love it, all of scripture, all the more because of the struggle. But I return to the familiar passages, the ones that connect with my soul over and over, in new and familiar ways; God continues to teach me in written words that mean more to me than the world.
Romans 12 is one of those familiar, beautiful, lovely passages packed with so much meaning and truth. Most people know the first two verses: “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. 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.”
Just those first two verses! There is SO much there, starting at the end: Knowing God’s Will. I am one of those people that desires a plan. Not just for today and tomorrow and next week, but I want a five-year, or better yet, a ten-year blueprint of life.
I remember praying as a college student, in desperation, for God to reveal his will for my life, terrified that if I somehow missed it that I would screw it up. God does not work this way. Imagine the relief my theologically-bent, but incredibly anxious college-aged self was when a mentor told me that God’s will was bigger than my failure to see the whole plan; that God intentionally does not give us the roadmap to life, because he desires us to rely on him doing big things in our lives rather than us forcing it out of ourselves.
This same person also told me that if we are seeking to be in God’s presence, we are already in his will. Sweet relief! Freedom from worry! This fantastic individual also taught me that God has already revealed his will in scripture. It’s there in scripture and in seeking him. Micah 6:8 says “What does the Lord require of you? To seek justice; love mercy, and walk humbly with your God!” God has said what he wants. How well have we done at this, church? Not very well. It’s time to get to work.
But Romans 12 says that the way to discern God’s will for our individual lives is by knowing Him and being willing to have transformed minds. Transformed. That only happens by letting the Holy Spirit in, humbling ourselves- getting out of the way of the work he would do in our lives. I must admit this one is especially difficult for me. I am so very prideful, of my own wisdom and intellect, of what I have to offer the world, proud of my achievements. Oh wait, it’s not and never has really been about me. Right.
It’s about the work God would like to do in and through me. In order for that to happen, I need to surrender that crap, get out of the way and let God do the work I desperately try to force out of myself.