Monday 15 October 2018

Romans 12: God’s New People #5 – An Amazing Possibility

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.
Romans 12:1-2

It’s a gloomy picture, and it doesn’t make for pleasant reading, but Paul won’t have it any other way. Back in the early part of his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul writes about bodies being degraded, minds being darkened, and men and women suppressing the will of God. All this, he makes clear, amounts to a refusal on the part of humanity to glorify and serve God, to worship God acceptably.

But what we have here at the start of Romans 12 is a reversal of that story. With the gospel comes the remaking of human beings – bodies and minds and wills – into God’s new people. And when God puts us back together, he does so in order that we might worship him, might give him his proper due.

The prophet Jeremiah looked forward to the day when God would make a new covenant with his people by putting his laws into their minds and writing them on their hearts, when all would know him (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Likewise, Ezekiel spoke of God putting his Spirit in his restored people and moving them to follow his decrees and keep his laws (Ezekiel 36:27). Paul’s language here echoes these promises and invites us to see that what the prophets looked forward to has now come to pass in the creation of a new people – Jew and Gentile – in Christ.

As we might expect, there is continuity as well as discontinuity with what went before. Christian life and worship is no longer focused on the sacrifices in the temple, and no longer determined by the law. There is still sacrifice, and there remains a desire to know and do the will of God; but these now come through the ongoing sacrifice of our whole selves, through the constant renewal of our minds, and through the alignment of our wills with God’s will – ‘his good, pleasing and perfect will’.

The vision offered here for working out the will of God is not following a list of dos and don’ts, but of God’s people – individually and together – walking in God’s ways.

As John Stott wrote, ‘if God has a purpose for the lives of his people, and if his purpose is discoverable, then nothing could be more important than for us to discern and do it’.

The apostle Paul holds out that amazing possibility.

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