Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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.”
Paul speaks of spiritual renewal “in view of God’s mercy”, the theme of the previous eleven chapters. Our standing before God is entirely due to His initiative mercy. We “offer” or “present” ourselves; the aorist tense indicating once-for-all time, like the commitment of a bride and groom…or like a soldier; our response to God’s mercy is giving up our old life and reporting for duty! We are set-apart for God, at His disposal, to work through us.
Why are we “living sacrifices”? Or perhaps a better question, What is a living sacrifice? R.C. Sproul notes: “There is a New Testament sacrificial system. It is not a sacrifice that we give in order to make an atonement, but a sacrifice that we give because an atonement has been made for us.” We respond with gratitude to the One who gave His all for us, Who provided all we need for this life and for the next. The faith-response is commitment.
What hinders us from doing this? Our priorities; God doesn’t have 1st place in our lives; we haven’t died to self; “my will” is #1; we haven’t committed to living for God.
Paul wants us to “conform” to God. As military personnel, we’re accustomed to conformity. But as followers of God, we are non-conformists. We have a distinctly different worldview & lifestyle.
The Phillips translation renders verse 2: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” We live in culture; we're affected by it, yet warned in Scripture against it. We live and function in two worlds--the Kingdom of God and the fallen world about us…these are at odds with one another frequently, and we at times have to appraise to what extent we have become “worldly”. We’re so well-adjusted to our culture that we may fit-in too well.
To be “transformed” means to be changed from the inside-out…an indicator of true conversion. Paul uses the same Greek word used to describe Christ’s transfiguration, where we get our word metamorphosis. Not conformed but transformed. Do we have a distinctive spiritual identity, or have we adapted to a secular worldview? We need to be counter-cultural; in the world but not “of” the world.” By God's grace, we can.