Are Our Lives Moulded By The World Or Christ?
Romans 12: 1 – 8.
The Apostle Paul, having clarified the main tenets of the Christian faith with the Roman believers in the preceding segments, now turned his attention to its outworking: having trusted in their Lord, their behaviour ought to match it. His use of a ‘living and holy sacrifice’ motif was thought provoking, given the mostly Jewish members’ background. Sacrificial animals were meant to be permanently put down, and its life taken for atoning purpose by the sinner. Sin demanded a life in exchange for forgiveness. But this peculiar voluntary Christian ‘living sacrifice’ had no end, as it continued with a life of holiness (‘I urge you’; Rom 12:1). Only Jesus Christ’s atonement made this a possibility; for by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Heb 10:14). On a human level, this spiritual conundrum is perplexing: the crux of Paul’s message was that believers are to live life as though they are being continuously ‘sacrificed’ to God. An impossible posture! But being in Christ is an impossible calling, except for the grace and power of God. The issue is that the human capacity for individualism is so intrinsic to our being that our flippant grasp of our position ‘in Christ’ makes nonsense of Christ’s sacrifice, in our attempts to be His followers.
Paul was purposeful when he declared that it is the finite ‘body’ (Rom 12:1) that was his focus, the embodiment of human behaviour; as our thoughts and attitudes are only concretised through our expressions and behaviour (c.f., Matt 15:18-20). The gospel propounded by Paul demanded every compartment of life to be transformed by the renewing of the mind (i.e., bringing ourselves under the transforming influence of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God; c.f., Heb 4:12). The holistic orientation of the human psyche towards worldliness begins innocuously at our birth, and without fail, it progresses along tramlines that inevitably mould us into products of the environment we live in. Paul was concerned that others were shaping the believers’ priorities, attitudes, and deliberations despite their regenerated position in Christ. Their internal discourses on issues of the day, the choices that they made, and how they spent their time, energies and money belie who or what was moulding them. The believers were meant to trust God implicitly and take their hands off their own lives. In a strange way, they were only totally free when they trusted God unreservedly (Rom 12:2; c.f., Jer 17:9-10), where their identity in Christ inimitably determines their self-image. Paul spent the rest of his Letter, addressing the believers’ behaviour.
This progressive working out as ‘a living sacrifice’ in every area of life, inevitably has a radical transforming effect – the believer will become a servant, the very epitome of Christlikeness (Rom 12:3-8). It will affect the totality of our being and our service within the community of faith and outside it, as our gracious gifting enables us. What this implies is that our understanding of our position and focus in life, our calling resulting from laying our life down, has fundamentally changed (c.f., John 12:24-26), where we are no longer the lord of our own lives. Jesus continues to be our model of the ‘living sacrifice’ (John 10:17-18). When He had laid down His life for His sheep, ought we to do less for Him, Whom we gladly acknowledge as Lord (c.f., John 13:37-38; John 15:12-14).