The blank sheet of paper taunted me as I walked into the classroom and took my seat. Begrudgingly, I listened as the teacher instructed, “Open your Bibles to Romans 12:1 and take a few minutes to meditate on this verse. Then, rewrite it in your own words.”
Is it too late to see if the nursery needs an extra pair of hands?
Reading Scripture and paraphrasing it afterward was common practice for our Wednesday night group, but that evening was different—my brain went blank and my hands went still. I silently prayed that this time the teacher wouldn’t call on me to share.
Nonetheless, I flipped open my Bible and read Romans 12:1: “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” (NIV).
Glancing over previous chapters, I made a connection: “therefore” referenced back to Romans 11:36, which states that ALL things are from God, through God, and for God. “Therefore,” believers should live their lives in light of this.
Now what, exactly, is God’s “mercy”? It is God sending His only Son to take my undeniably deserved place on the cross. Jesus paid the price for my sin; He took my punishment and by His amazing grace, He saved me from condemnation and the wrath of the holy and righteous God Almighty. Instead, He offered me eternal life in His glorious kingdom.
“Therefore,” I am to offer myself as a sacrifice to Him, to be used as an instrument of worship and service. “Therefore,” according to the riches I enjoy because of God’s mercy, He requires me to be pure and holy as I serve Him through worship, thanksgiving, and obedience.
After completing the exercise of writing Romans 12:1 in my own words, the reality of God’s mercy suddenly overcame me. Words I had breezed through multiple times while reading this passage suddenly transitioned from mere script typed on a page to God’s Living Word tattooed on my heart. A better understanding of His mercy and grace for a sinner like me then raised an inescapable question: how could I live any other way but in complete submission to the will of God?
Thankfully, Paul went on to outline a few practical ways to live in view of God’s mercy, putting faith into action while pursuing righteousness and godliness.
Use Your Gifts
The Lord has given us unique gifts and talents to be used as we serve Him and His church (I Peter 4:10-11). One person’s gift is not better or greater than another’s, and Paul warns us not to boast about such things. God gives each believer perfect gifts, those needed to serve the body of Christ. While the Lord bestows certain gifts to us individually, He desires that we corporately share them through worship and service to the family of God. This brings Glory to God, the purpose of our creation and our being.
Show Genuine Love
Love God, love others—commands repeated numerous times throughout the Scriptures. In Romans, Paul tells us how to demonstrate love by being sincere, hating evil, and clinging to goodness, devoting ourselves to one another, and honoring others above ourselves. Just reading that list causes every muscle in my body to tense. Why? Because loving people God’s way is hard work.
Why are we called to love and to sacrifice? First, because God, Himself, is love, and because of this, He has made the ultimate sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2). Secondly, He commands us to not only love Him but to love others, too (Matthew 22:37-40).
This exceeds much more than a warm embrace, a bouquet of flowers, or a card with sentimental words. Real love is mowing a neighbor’s yard, opening your home to teenagers, or caring for a sick relative throughout the night. When we strive to bring Glory to God through sincere acts of love for Him and compassion for others, the Lord gives us joy and even enthusiasm for tasks we once considered too demanding or demeaning.
For many years (and sometimes now), I have wrestled with the notion that I needed to prove how grateful I was to the Lord for saving me. I kept a running checklist of all that I “did for Jesus” and graded myself at the end of the day on the quality and quantity of my “sacrifices.”
After reading and reflecting on Romans 12:1, the Lord revealed to me that sacrifice isn’t about the right actions but about the right attitude—one of surrender and submission to Christ. Emptying myself of myself, in the knowledge that apart from Him I am nothing, enables me to fully put on Christ, ministering in His name in His kingdom for His glory.
“Therefore,” let us “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12),” as we offer ourselves to the Lord, who first offered Himself to us (I John 4:19). What a fellowship, what a joy divine awaits the heart that pleases God with fragrant offerings and sweet sacrifices of our talent, our tithe, and our time!
About the Guest Author:
Deeply burdened for Christian women who, like herself, juggle marriage, motherhood, careers, church, and community, Laura candidly shares her daily struggles and lessons learned to encourage them to live fully and abundantly in Christ. She and her husband live in Gaffney, South Carolina with their three young girls. Her days consist of playing barbies, drinking her coffee before it turns cold, and figuring out what’s for dinner. Laura is a contributor for Proverbs 31 Ministries, Encouragement for Today, and writes regularly on her blog, www.LauraRBailey.com. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram: @LauraBaileyWrites