Formations 09.18.2022: Spiritual Worship

Romans 12:1-12

Have you ever noticed the progression in today’s passage?

Paul begins with the bottom line: Christians must worship God rightly, presenting our bodies to God as a living sacrifice (v. 1). That’s what the life of discipleship is all about.

But how do we do that? It’s hard to offer ourselves to God when we’re so easily led astray by the values and priorities of the world. We face the danger of walking through life with a skewed self-understanding, and therefore we end up living by the wrong standards. That’s why Paul warns us against being conformed to this world (v. 2). Rather, we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds so we can discern the will of God.

So, how are we to listen to the right voices? How are we to discern God’s will? As is often the case in matters of the spirit, we begin by examining ourselves. In verse 3, Paul says that doing this requires a mature and realistic evaluation of ourselves. In the apostle’s words, we must think about ourselves with “sober judgment”: not more highly than we ought—but certainly not less, either.

To do that, we need language that will let us claim our strengths while admitting to our weaknesses. Paul gives us such language in verses 4-5 when he describes how all of us are parts of one body. But more than that: we’re all different parts of one body. Each of us has their own contribution to make, and we are not all the same. We need each other precisely because we have our own unique strengths and weaknesses.

To that end, Paul describes the role of spiritual gifts in verses 6-8. Being part of the body means we play to our own strengths and rely on the strengths of others where we fall short. In short, we must embrace our gift and give it our full diligence. We invest ourselves in one thing—or a small number of things, or one thing that finds expression in a small number of ways.

And what is the result? When we find our place, when we are comfortable doing what we can do for the good of others and receiving from them in return, we end up living in a community of oneness maybe before we even realized it. Therefore, verses 9-12 set out some basic moral teachings about how to do this.

It would be easy to package these verses as “Six Easy Steps to Christian Maturity,” but I’m not sure that’s accurate or helpful. They do, however, set forth a path, a way of life that can lead us deeper into our relationship with God and others.

Instead of six steps, what if we boiled it down to one? “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice,” Paul says, “holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (v. 1). Do that, Paul says. That is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. That is what God calls us to do.

Discussion

• What does it mean to present one’s body as a living sacrifice? What makes this an act of “spiritual worship”?
• How do your gifts give you confidence?
• When have you been appreciative of someone else’s gifts?
• How does your community of faith help you serve God?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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