1Therefore, 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.
Jesus is the penultimate model for this urge by the apostle Paul. Jesus offered his body as the living sacrifice, holy, and pleasing to God. And such offering is considered as the true worship of the true God. Thus it is not too much for Paul to urge Christians to do the same thing Jesus did. In the book of Romans Paul contends that the humans do not know the true God. They know that God exists, but neither acknowledging him nor obeying him. No one seeks God, Paul argues. And what is worse is that humans are destined to be punished eternally because not only they inherit Adam’s sin but also perpetuating and multiplying sin in the world. The fate of humankind seems gloomy and hopeless. But God does not let humans be doomed for he showers his grace in Jesus Christ. The sacrifice of the Son of God provides
salvation. This is the grace of God.
salvation. This is the grace of God.
This grace of God lives in God’s children. We who call ourselves Christians, little Christ or followers of Christ, are now considered living properly before the Lord of heaven and earth because of the grace in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit that dwells in us frees us from any condemnation resulted by sin. We no longer live according to the flesh, but now we live according to the Spirit. Even though we struggle with sin in real life, we have been freed from its effect. Those who do not honor God think that because of grace they can continue sinning all the more. For in their crooked mind they think that when they sin they increase grace. Paul says about this firmly that their condemnation is deserved. God’s grace is not to be mocked. For the grace of God to be poured out for us, God’s one and only Son has to die on the cross. God does not take lightly the sacrifice of his son. And he implants that grace through Jesus Christ in us. With it we are now no longer slaves to sin, but Paul contends that in that grace we are now slaves to righteousness and justice. And God’s righteousness and justice is Jesus Christ.
In light of this reality, Paul urges us all to offer our bodies as living sacrifice to God, which is the true and proper worship to the Lord of heaven and earth. This worship includes the offering of our bodies to be used as instruments of righteousness and justice. Certainly the truth about God and how we properly worship and serve him ought to govern our mind as we approach his sanctuary and bow down before his majesty. The image of sacrifice must consult the Law of Moses for there God has laid out the rules and regulations for proper worship of the true God. If we read through the Pentateuch we will understand that God takes very seriously how humans ought to worship him. For example, the lamb to be sacrificed must be unblemished one year old. Israel was to follow the rule perfectly. Deviation from the rule were not tolerated. Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, who were just anointed as priests, died because they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord. And so, when Jesus sacrifices himself, he is the perfect unblemished sacrifice for the atonement of our sins. That act of sacrifice is one and for all eternity. God accepts Jesus’ sacrifice and because of that, we are all saved. And now with the perfect sacrifice appeasing God’s wrath given freely to us, we who are no longer under wrath are urged to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just like Jesus offers his body as the perfect sacrifice, we too are to offer our bodies as living sacrifice. But our offering of our bodies is not to atone sin, but as our proper and true worship. We allow God to use us as agents of righteousness and justice, and thus to bring about shalom in this world. In this way we are included in the works of the ministry of the kingdom of God. Now, this also includes how we worship him on every Sunday of each week. Many times when we attempt to interpret this verse, we go directly to our works and ethical conducts in the world without discussing our Sunday worship. But now I want us to pause for a moment and consider our Sunday worship in light of this passage in Romans. When we come to God’s sanctuary willing to worship God, what kind of attitude we are bringing? Do we come to please the Lord or do we come to please ourselves? Do we come to worship or do we come to therapy our psychological disorientation? Do we come to sing praise to the Lord or do we come to vent off our emotional burst? Do we come to glorify God or do we come to find entertainment? Do we come to bring the unblemished sacrifice to God or do we come to mock God by bringing the worst sacrifice we can give to God?
Paul warns us not to be conformed to the pattern of the world, but instead we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. The fact is we have been transformed in Christ. Our mind is renewed when Christ dwells within us. However, if we are honest to ourselves, we fill wind that our Sunday worship has been gradually transformed to become the stage of entertainment according to the pattern of the world. Many churches have adopted the way of the entertainment world and insert it into our Sunday worship. Instead of praising God, many people sing songs to either vent off their dissatisfaction of their lives or to therapy their depressed souls. Many people have changed the church’s sanctuary into a rock concert or a Broadway theatre. Many churches have deconstructed the worship liturgy in order to meet the demands of the people. Church gradually becomes a business which follows the rule of supply and demand. Marketing strategy, supplying the demands of the consumers and customers, shaping the church according to the pattern of the world, are all evident in our world today. How are we offering our bodies as living sacrifice to the Lord if we keep adopting the world’s standard? If we go even further, we will find out that many churches begin or even already considering and allowing for sinful practice to be endorsed in the church, for example the marrying of same sex couple in God’s church, etc. And we call that worshipping and honoring the Lord? Who are we kidding?
The world mocks God. And the church is now also mocking God. It is to the shame of whatever church it is that endorses sinful practice to be carried on in God’s sanctuary. As I have discussed somewhere else, I want to point out that people often confuse God’s love into demanding God to be blind to sin. Using the word love people demand God to tolerate sin. This is the way of the world. God cannot be mocked. Mark my word. If we use the standard of love as the world offers today, we can judge our God and find him guilty. According to the world’s standard of love, God punishing Nadab and Abihu by fire just because they offered an unauthorized fire cannot be considered an act of love. There are many other examples we can find in the Old Testament of which we will find God to be at fault according to the world’s standard of love. For example, when God punished Israel for their sin making and worshipping the golden calf, by allowing 3000 died in the hands of the Levites and the many other thousands who fell by the plague from God. The world, and now many churches, attempted to corner God by the word love in order to force God to tolerate their sinful behavior. They do not want to be punished because of perpetuating and multiplying sin but demand God to love them unconditionally so they can continue their sinful lifestyle. Paul speaks clearly for us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind and not be conformed to the pattern of this world. It is a big problem when God’s church follows the pattern of the world and in the process mocking God’s grace in Christ Jesus.
No wonder many Christians no longer know God’s will. They have deviated from God’s perfect will. The world is for sure ignorant of God’s will, but Christians are supposed to know better. To us is given the secret of the will of God. Jesus has revealed the Father’s will to the children of God. What is more is that Jesus dwells in our hearts and so the will of God is plain and clear for every Christian. But many Christians have abandoned the truth and come back to the way of destruction by suppressing the truth. Israel’s snare since the beginning is always worship. Their inclination is to abandon the proper and true worship to the true God, and to adopt the way of the world surrounding them. When they just came out of Egypt, they quickly deviated from the instruction given by God through Moses and worshipped an image of a calf. When they entered the land, they also quickly adopted the Baal worship and thus abandoned their God who brought them out of Egypt and led them into the Promised Land. And today God’s church gradually abandoned the true and proper worship to the true God and adopted the unauthorized worship of the market. The ancient battle between God and the people live in the church today. Many Christians opt to follow the people instead of God. Instead of consulting God’s word, many Christians today prefer to use business marketing survey model in order to shape the vision and mission of the church. They try to figure out the market demand and then to supply them with what they want. The church, thus, has been enslaved to satisfy the mob. This is the trend of the 21st century church.
When churches do healthy church survey, do they consult God’s will as written in his holy scripture? Isn’t it God’s privilege to determine what is healthy or not for his own church? But instead of consulting God many churches today consult the tools of the world and attempt very hard to crunch the statistical data in order to interpret what would work for the success and sustainability of the church in today’s world. And many of them think by doing so they worship God properly.
As God’s servant I want to remind the church to be careful. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind in Christ Jesus which is the grace of God for our salvation and liberation from the slavery of sin. We are now agents of righteousness and justice. And thus we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifice to God, it is our true and proper worship to the true God.
* The Business of Christian Education LVI
* The Business of Christian Education LVI