Have you ever found yourself on the other side of a situation, asking yourself why you said those hurtful words or used that ugly tone? Maybe you’ve been frustrated that you didn’t speak up about Jesus when an opportunity presented itself. Perhaps you don’t talk to Him or listen to Him anymore. Other times, maybe you want to grow, but you don’t know where to start or how to change, and you lose your resolve long before the ‘resolution’ has been accomplished.
Sometimes, I think we lose our way because we lose our why.
Romans 12:1-2 is a familiar passage in the New Testament. You might even know what is says before you read it below:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
As Christians, we are called to something bigger and better than ourselves. We are told to completely transform (metamorpho?, to change into another form). In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Christians don’t live for self anymore; they live for Jesus. We go from being dead in sin to alive in Christ! This is a complete transformation. Even our very thoughts are brought under His ownership. This is an inside-out, total change. But wow, growing pains much?
This transformation is hard. The living sacrifice that we are called to offer is hard. Getting the world out of our hearts and telling ourselves no, those are difficult tasks that require maturity and a lot of practice. When we take the concept of transformation as a whole, it can seem daunting and overwhelming, sometimes leaving us wanting to throw in the towel. That is why Paul starts where he does in Romans 12: “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God” (emp. added).
The therefore seems to be in reference to the final discussion of Romans 11, which is all about the amazing grace and mercy of God toward both the Jews and Gentiles. It may even be in reference to Paul’s entire discussion on God’s love from the first chapter up to this point. All along the way, the apostle has been building an argument of God’s infinite mercy. We are sinners, but God became Just and Justifier by punishing our perfect, innocent Savior instead of us (3:21-26). We didn’t have the strength to save ourselves, but that is why Christ came and took our place (5:6-11). We earned death, but we received the free gift of life in Jesus (6:21-23). Even when we try to keep the law, we aren’t perfect law keepers and we can’t be. God sent His Son to be the perfect fulfillment for us, and now we receive no condemnation (8:1-4). As Paul concludes Romans 11, all he can do is cry out in praise to God for the indescribable wisdom and knowledge and greatness and mercy He has given. Paul ends in an eruption of praise: “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever, Amen.” (v. 36).
Romans 12 begins there, with a look backward at all that God has done and appeal to Christians to completely hand over their minds (ie: their will) to Him. That appeal is given “by the mercies of God.” Yes, giving yourself as a sacrifice seems big. But in response to God’s mercy? It isn’t big enough! God has already given us the biggest and most precious sacrifice. He has held nothing back in His great love for us. Why would we hold any part of ourselves back from Him?
So think about where we started: do you ever lose your way? Maybe you’ve lost your why. Paul tells us that our why is God’s mercy. The motivating factor to living the Christian life is God’s great love. When we are feeling discouraged, God’s mercy is where we should start. When we lack motivation, God’s free gift of grace can help ignite our zeal. When we are tempted to lash out at people, thinking of God’s love for us while we were enemies will help us to rethink our interactions with others.
If we will spend time dwelling on all that God has done for us, we will be different. After all, you can’t dive deeply into the love of God and remain unchanged. When we will look into God’s amazing plan of salvation, that existed before the foundations of the world, we will freely give our entire selves to Him in response. We will give our time and our energy; we will give our words and our interactions, understanding that none of this life is about us, but is instead “of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.”
Praise be to God for His indescribable gift! Though we were enemies, He made a way for us. And He has a plan for us; a plan to thoroughly and completely change us and mold us into the image of Jesus so that we can have an abundant and eternal life.
What will you do with the mercy of God? May we all use it to motivate us to greater faithfulness.
by Emily Hatfield