Some people give a gift, while others present a present. Gift or present, the idea is that it’s something freely given.
Maybe you’ve done what one man did to his brother. One year he received a Christmas present of a pair of trousers. He wore them once and didn’t like them. So he gave the trousers to his brother for a birthday present. That’s the kind of gift you don’t mind giving. Another situation we may find ourselves in is when a gift is required. We are reluctant and we don’t want to give, but we feel compelled. It’s a sacrifice.
We’ve read in Romans 12 verse one about our bodies being given to God as “a living and holy sacrifice”. That’s a gift to God of our bodies. We are presenting God with our bodies.
What kind of present is this. Is it one given only because we don’t want our bodies? Is it one we give because we have been ordered to?
Paul does not say ‘yield’ or ‘surrender’ your bodies, but ‘give’ or ‘present’ them. To yield or surrender is a picture of reluctantly and hesitatingly submitting to a demand.
The picture in Romans is the same as a picture of me giving a gift to my wife because I desire to make her happy and I’m willing to present her with a pleasing gift. It’s my joy and pleasure.
Paul uses the word ‘parakaleo’. This word is not a command or an order. Paul does not tell us we ‘must’ present our bodies to God. Parakaleo is a word that carries a sense of urgency. It is a strong word, a powerful word. But it is a word of encouragement. It is a word that urges us to do an important and good thing. It’s a word that carries a sense of pleading or begging, or even prayer.
The noun form of parakaleo is ‘paraklete’. This is the word is used to describe the Holy Spirit who comforts, encourages, and exhorts.
Paul says “I plead with you to give your bodies to God” in a tender appeal for us to do an important but voluntary act out of love and freely in response to the great mercies of God.
Our motivation is to be grateful. How many people attend church from the wrong motivation? How many are there who have spent years dutifully doing good works to earn their way into heaven. How many times have we striven to be worthy of a blessing. How often did we give in order to have our prayers answered. Paul urges us to give from a heart of gratitude for God’s great mercies. That is the motivation that is best for us. It is the motivation that will lead to long lasting change in our lives.
The Bible’s way of teaching holiness begins by reminding us who we are, what we are, and what we have. Who are we? We are the children of God with all of the power of God working on our behalf? Where are we? We are in the kingdom of God and have died to the dominion of sin. What do we have? We have the Holy Spirit, we have Jesus’ intercession working for us, and we have the power of God ready to come to our aid.
We are motivated by God’s love for us, shown in what God has done for us. We rise to the challenge of responding to that love appropriately.
This is truly the way to worship, to give our bodies to God. Paul gives us in his letter to the Romans an example of what is a false way to worship. People can easily believe in God without worshipping him truly. Paul has not written a letter urging people to believe in God. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul describes what we were once like. Please turn with me and read from chapter 1 verse 21.
“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.” (Romans 1:21–25)
This was wrong worship. This was disordered worship. At our core as sinful humans we once were people who worshipped self instead of worshipping the one true God. False worship exchanges worship of the Creator for worship of the created. That’s the fundamental problem at the core of all of our beings. It’s a worship problem.
And this worship problem is directly tied to the mind. What did we just read? We read in verse 21 that “they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God”. And that as a result of this false worship “their minds became dark and confused”.
Hearts and minds and worship are connected. We know that in our sinful nature, in our flesh, we have self-worshipping minds. We have minds that worship self. Our minds are not naturally inclined to worship God. We know this by experience. We find it so much easier to focus on the things of this world, don’t we?
Flip forward now and read with me in Ephesians 4:17–18. Paul is writing to believers and churches in Ephesus who are living like the rest of the world. You couldn’t tell the difference in Ephesus between the Christians and the world.
“With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.”
Hardening of the heart results in an ignorance of thinking and a darkened understanding.
There is a direct connection between how you worship and the state of your mind. Who I am at the centre of my being decides how I think. Sinful man is by nature self-worshipping instead of God worshipping, and that causes problems with the way we think. Darkened hearts lead to foolish minds, and that causes sinful desires, which results in sinful behaviour.
After we start to worship truly as Paul urges us, he commands us not to copy the ways of the world. What happens next is that God fills us. We are given new minds when we give God our bodies. When we trust in Jesus he not only gives us a new heart, he gives us a new mind.
In Romans 12:2 it says, “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” This is a metamorphosis, which is the exact word Paul uses, that starts with true worship.
It results in a renewal of our minds. We don’t change our thinking first. We change our worship first and then God changes our thinking. As a result of that Paul says, “Then you will learn to know God’s will for you.” It is not an instant transformation, but it takes time. This is a process that proceeds on the basis of true worship, the giving of our bodies to God.
Do you want to know God’s will for your life? Of course you do! God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect.
You are desperate to know what God wants you to do. Here is the answer. True worship will reveal the answer as God brings about a metamorphosis of your mind. You will be transformed by the power of God. Your mind will become open. The darkness will be dispersed. Your thinking will become clear.