Romans 12:1 [O]ffer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
Sacrifice was an important part of Old Testament worship, and a constant reminder of sin. But animal sacrifice came to an end with the death of Jesus Christ, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Hebrews 10:14), says Hebrews. Instead of offering animals, we offer ourselves in service to Christ. We do not do this in order to be saved, but out of thankfulness for being saved.
An old Roman coin had an image of an ox that was facing an altar and a plow. The inscription said, Ready for Either. Comfortable Christians need to be reminded that Christianity is a sacrificial religion. God sacrificed his Son for our salvation, and we sacrifice our lives in loving service to him.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
If Paul could teach believers to think differently, he knew it would transform their lives from the inside out. Instead of thinking about whatever comes into our minds, we can tell our minds what to think about: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 2:8), wrote Paul.
By one estimate, people have about five thousand separate and distinct thoughts every day. One of the easiest ways to improve our lives, therefore, is to improve the quality of our thoughts.
When I came to Christ, I began reading the Bible with a stack of note cards on my desk. Whenever I came to a verse I wanted to memorize, I wrote it down and added it to my collection. I reviewed them often, and they started coming to mind throughout the day. My thinking became more godly, and I grew in my love for Christ. We do not have to be slaves to our thoughts. We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Romans 12:3 Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.
Studies show that most people rate themselves more highly than they are rated by their peers. If you give yourself a seven in terms of your looks, personality or intelligence, your peers probably give you a six. But others think too little of themselves, and suffer from self-hatred. The Bible gives us the right perspective. It helps us think well of ourselves, without thinking too well of ourselves.
An art museum received a painting which they thought had little value, so they put it into storage. Years later, they discovered it was by a famous painter, and the value went up dramatically. As creatures made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we are his self-portraits. We have incredible value to God even though we fail him. We should not think too highly of ourselves, or too lowly of ourselves. [T]hink of yourself with sober judgment.
Romans 12:10 Honor one another above yourselves.
This is one of the most practical lessons that can ever be learned. It will dignify those around you, and improve the quality of your life. It will earn you a good reputation, and keep you from regret. Since everyone wants to be honored, all we have to do is honor others above ourselves.
Two men came to a parking spot, and neither was willing to yield. They both got out of their cars and exchanged words, then blows. One went back to his car, pulled out an ax, and began to chop the other person’s car. That is where the conflict stopped, but we can imagine even worse.
The best way to handle conflict is not by force, but by honoring others above ourselves. This is the culture of heaven, and God is bringing it to earth. If practiced in the home, it will transform the home. If practiced in the workplace, it will transform the workplace. If practiced in the world, it will transform the world. Honoring others above ourselves is nothing less than relational genius.
Romans 12:11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
It was not uncommon for spiritual fervor to wane, even in the early church. Many began the Christian life with zeal, but gradually grew cold. Paul saw this pattern emerging, and warned believers against it.
Top performing professionals were studied to discover what made them successful. They came from various backgrounds, had different personalities, and various levels of intelligence. The one thing they all had in common, however, was passion. The most effective Christians maintain their spiritual passion.
The ancient Greeks had an athletic event called the torch race, in which the runners carried a torch as they ran. The winner was not the first to cross the finish line, but the first to cross with his torch still lit. The goal of the Christian life is not to merely finish, but to keep the flame alive.
Reflection and Review
Why is it important to think good thoughts?
Would you rather think too highly of yourself, or too lowly of yourself?
Why should we honor others above ourselves?