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.
Humble Service in the Body of Christ
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[a] 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,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love in Action
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Paul is now offering a conclusion based on his previous premises: that we are wild olive branches grafted into the root, that we have been graciously saved by God through faith in Jesus Christ, not by our own merit, that it was only by God’s great mercy that we were granted salvation at all! His plea is that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Paul states that this is our true and pleasing worship to God.
I think it would be instructive to turn to Psalm 119:9-16 and review the psalmist’s prayer to God.
- First, that keeping your way pure is accomplished by ‘guarding it’ according to God’s Law
- second, to seek Him with your whole heart, trusting that He will keep you from sin
- third, he memorized scripture to combat his own propensity to sin
- forth, he praises God, and asks Him to instruct him in His statues
- fifth, he spoke God’s Word with his mouth
- sixth, he counted God’s Word as more valuable than all riches
- seventh, he meditated on God’s Word, and fixed his eyes on God’s ways
- eighth, he delighted in God’s Word, and did not let himself forget the Word
(vs. 9) Since the beginning of time man has asked this question: how can I get to heaven? That is ultimately the question in view here. To be pure is to be blameless in God’s sight. Each of us desires to know the answer to this question, and each culture or religion has provided their own rituals and ways to set themselves apart as blameless… but there is only 1 way that God will approve. God wants you to live according to His word – the Bible. This ancient book has it’s roots set at the beginning of time, and it’s purpose (as it explains) is to make us aware of the work and persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – 3 in person, 1 in substance = GOD. It is about Him, and what He requires from you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. – Deuteronomy 6:4
(vs. 10-11) The psalmist has his heart set on knowing and understanding God’s word, but he knows his weakness to wander. He asks for God’s hand to keep him from straying from His commands. The psalmist knows the laws set forth under Moses in the desert, and as commanded keeps them close at hand. His heart is to obey and to follow the law, but the law was spoken to expose the sin in our hearts – in that we are unable to quench sin’s thirst. He has taken God’s word, and by faith that God will provide a way, has hidden it in his heart.
With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. – Matthew 19:26
(vs. 12-16) The psalmist happily relies on God to teach him the law, though he can read it – it is not cemented in our hearts until God does that work. He meditates on them, he repeats them, he memorizes them. He rejoices in the knowledge that he holds the key to righteousness in his hands. What an amazing privilege to have God’s very words in your hands! It is cause for celebration, and cause for reflection… why? Why did God give us His word? Why would a holy God condescend to a people who are inclined to disobey? We certainly could not rise to Him and derive the way of holiness.. no.. He had to come to us; we who despise Him for wanting to rule us. What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? – Romans 9:22-24 How amazing to be called – and called to worship the Creator. For this reason I say with the psalmist: I will not neglect your word.
How can we implement these eight techniques into our own lives?
- We must know what God requires of us, and use that to guard our hearts.
- Instead of focusing on cleansing ourselves from sin, we need to affix our gaze on Jesus Christ and God’s Word.
- We can memorize scriptures that apply to those areas in which we are weak or struggling.
- We can praise God’s strength in our weakness, and ask Him to give us wisdom and to teach us.
- We can speak God’s Word aloud over the situation. Sometimes saying it aloud helps to reinforce the Word in my own mind.
- We can esteem God’s Word above all other things, making it a priority in our minds and hearts.
- We can meditate on God’s Word, meaning that we contemplate its meaning, turning it over in our minds to really grasp what the Creator of Heaven and Earth has revealed to us.
- Take pleasure in the Word, and make it sacred in your heart and mind, do not let yourself forget it!
We are not to conform to the image of this world. If we were placed next to the average person in our society, what would we look like? Would we be obsessed with earthly pleasures, seeking to please the flesh, or would we be sojourners, seeking a better country (Hebrews 11:16)? Would there be enough evidence to convict us if we were on trial for being a Christian and the legal definition was if we looked like Christ?
How do we not conform? By being transformed through the renewing of our minds. For if we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, we will be able to know God’s good and perfect will! Isn’t that something worth striving for, worth running a good race for?
Paul points out that a characteristic of a godly servant is humility! He cautions his readers to not think more highly of themselves than they ought – advice we would all do well to adhere to as well. He says that instead of thinking too highly of ourselves, we should be sober-minded about our abilities according to our faith, after all, I may have a great oratory skill, I may be charismatic, I may be very intelligent, but all of that pales when I consider my unearned salvation through Christ. Even if I were, to borrow from a well-known boxer, ‘the Greatest!’ I was unable to save myself, and in God’s sight my righteousness was as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Look at how fast God puts Job in his place (Job 38). In light of my unmerited salvation, I can not boast in my abilities!
Paul puts the matter in even greater perspective by drawing the comparison between our bodies and the Church body. As he points out that our bodies are a sum of all its parts, and each part is needed to form one body; so the Church is a sum of many parts, and together the parts form the Church, and each of us belongs to each other, we do not stand alone. Rather, we are obligated to the health of the whole body, not just to ourselves. Paul then gives examples of gifts and that no matter which one the Holy Spirit has given you, you are to do it to the uttermost of your ability in accordance with your faith in Christ.
The key to this kind of service is love! We must remember that love is not a feeling, no matter what our society tells us, but rather love is a verb, an action, that we set our minds to perform. This love is described as being sincere, hating evil, and clinging to good. We are commanded to be devoted to one another, and to honor one another above ourselves. We are to remain full of zeal for God, keeping our spiritual fervor for our faith.
How do you remain zealous, and keep fanning the flames of your faith?
We should be joyful in hope, patient in affliction or suffering, and faithful in prayer. We should be sharing with other believers who are in need, and being hospitable to those around us. What a different society from our natural one in the United States!
We are commanded to bless those who persecute us – not just to not curse them, but bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn; these are actions, not feelings, we need to be willing to share in community with those whom the Lord has placed in our lives! Live in harmony, don’t be too proud to hang out with people that society views as being losers; but make them part of your lives, live life with them! If someone does evil to you, do not repay them with evil. We are commanded to do what is right to those around us, to live at peace with everyone as much as is possible.
Let me break it down for us: if we have the power to live a peace with those around us, we have been commanded to do so. If someone has wronged you, you are still commanded to not only not repay them with evil, but to do everything you can to live at peace with them! What a difference this would be in our society! Do not take revenge for evil, it is God’s right to perform vengeance for wrongs, not ours. We should follow the example given us in Proverbs 25:21,22; and to not let evil win the day, but to overcome evil with good.