Verse one of Romans 12 will stop in in my tracks every time. Do I really offer my body as a living sacrifice to God? I have to ask myself daily.
Most folks wonder how to do that, be a living sacrifice, but what if Paul goes on to tell us how?
1. Be changed by renewing your mind. Don’t find a new job or a weightloss program, renew your mind. Fill your mind with positive thoughts and read scripture.
2. Don’t think too highly of yourself. This includes paranoia. If you think someone is always out to get you, you think too highly of yourself. Not that many people care if you or I fail.
3. Use your gifts for the good of other Christians.
4. Love with sincerity.
And then it starts to really get tough. Perhaps Paul meant this as a progressive list, not a concurrent list. Only after we accomplish renewing our mind can we think rightly about ourselves, and then we can use our gifts and our love. And then, progressing with maturity, we can begin to hate the evil and honor others. Then we can be zealous (zeal without a renewed mind creates a jerk!). That’s how we are joyful, patient and faithful when it’s hard. That’s why trying to help those in need BEFORE we renew our mind can cause burnout. After reading the previous 11 chapters and then looking ahead just a bit, it appears as though Paul has the Christian life all laid out step by step.
As we mature, we will learn how to bless those who persecute us and not repay them with evil. We’ll give up revengeful thinking and spend more time working on good relationships. A renewed mind will enable us to live in harmony with others and not be conceited.
I think it’s important to remember that Paul began this book telling us how to accept Christ and live by the Spirit instead of the flesh. We cannot renew our mind or begin to live like these words without first being saved and then allowing the Holy Spirit to lead. If we attempt to follow these instructions in chapter 12 without first carrying out chapters 1-8, we will become disenchanted with the Christian life. We’ll want to quit, just give up. It’s the Spirit living in us AFTER our salvation that makes the promise of chapter 12 possible.