We would do well to constantly keep in mind those words of encouragement and exhortation. That word reasonable means rational. Based upon what we know, based upon the hope set before us, based upon the ultimate sacrifice that was made on our behalf, to live our lives, as a living sacrifice is indeed the rational outcome. We are no longer our own, we have been purchased at a great price. More than this we were dead and are alive in Christ. Our past life should be gone, the old man must be crucified and the new man grow in the image of Christ. Paul wrote:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” Phil 2:5
Paul was uncompromising in what he wrote. There are no if’s and but’s, no could or might, but a definite this is what you should do! There is a tendency in our day and age to avoid confrontation, to avoid directness and sometimes the result can be a dilution of the message. Paul however makes a very clear declaration as to what our correct attitude of mind must be.
Now this concept of our lives being living sacrifices is further expanded in verse 2, ‘be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. Now conformed means to be in harmony, to be in submission. That is something we plainly cannot be for there is no harmony with, and no submission to the world and its ways. There are no halfway measures, no compromise. Yet conformity and compromise is what we naturally tend towards. Our human nature tends towards the world and all it holds, for such things are natural to us.
On the other hand our minds need to be transformed, changed and remodelled. This is a process as Paul states by the renewing of our minds. The antagonism between what is natural and this renewal process is the inner battle that we all face daily. Paul wrote eloquently of that inner dialogue in Romans 7:14-25. Paul writes:
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Rom 7:14-19
O how we can all echo those sentiments! What we know to be right, what we want to do, we do not do. What we know to be wrong, what we desire not to do, those things we do.
Wretched indeed is our state, unless we offer our lives as a living sacrifice, unless we are transformed in our thinking and attitude. There is no mystery as to how we do this; there is no mystical way it will happen. The manner of our renewal is perfectly clear, put on the mind of Christ! To do this takes effort. As we read the scriptures, as we understand and learn, as we grow in love for our Master, that transforming process will take place.
On the other hand if we conform to the thinking and ways of the world, we shall be ‘still born’. The transformation will not take place and our lives will have been lived in vanity.
The principles of scripture are directly opposite to the conformity to human nature. Paul writes:
“I say (through the grace given unto me) to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.”
Now conformity to the world teaches self-elevation, ambition, self-assertion, self-reliance and self-confidence. The transformation by taking on the mind of Christ teaches, humility, trust, faith, self-effacement and service. It is an attitude of mind that carries out honest self-examination and weighs self against the example of Christ. Nevertheless, this is only the beginning of the process, for self-examination must then lead to action by making the necessary adjustments to change our disposition to be more Christ like.
In other words we must “think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” No matter what we consider to be our abilities, skills, knowledge or status in a worldly sense, we have come to Christ and a measure of faith in spite of these, not because of them. Further, in a spiritual sense, we have no abilities, skills, knowledge, or duty that has not been given to us! What we most certainly do not have is status!
It is well within the capacity of every single brother or sister, no matter what his or her abilities, to keep the Truth bright, alive and shining in their lives. It lies within the capacity of all to have a living faith. That living faith will be an example to those about them, both within the Truth and without. A living faith manifested by giving that ‘reasonable service’ Paul speaks about will be demonstrated by the works of faith. James states quite plainly that faith without works is dead!
Our Heavenly Father is just; He has not called us to failure, but rather to inherit eternal life. He has seen fit to extend His mercy towards us, to call us out to have a part in His purpose. He will not test us beyond that which we can bear, He is not willing that any should perish. The only source of failure is us! Yet we all have the potential to be transformed from something ignoble, into a vessel fit for use.
Now we need to be clear that to live a life as a ‘living sacrifice’ does not imply a disregard for temporal things, for indeed diligence in daily life is part of our reasonable service. Indeed Paul tells us “to provide things honest in the sight of all men.” We need to provide for families, for work in the Truth and for all the many things needed in service to the Lord. But we do these things recognising that ultimately it is God that provides and in all things giving thanks unto Him. In all that we undertake, we must act as ‘ambassadors’ of the Truth setting an example for those about us, but at the same time maintaining a distance from conformity to the world.
If we daily contemplate the mercy and blessings that our Creator has graciously bestowed upon us, being thankful for each new day of life and opportunity, then that transformation of mind will gradually take place. Our perspectives will change, our values will change and our aspirations will change. We will live each day of our lives as ‘living sacrifices’ to the Lord our God.
The effort required now, will pale into insignificance when compared the eternal joy of being invited to take a place in that glorious Kingdom to come. When we are permitted to see the Masters smiling face and “to see the King in all his beauty and view that land that stretches afar” it will be all worthwhile.
Therefore despite our frailty and weakness let us all hold fast, continuing instant in prayer and striving to be faithful in all things, for great indeed is the life set before us. Life as it was meant to be. Life in harmony with our Creator, life in harmony with His great purpose, life in harmony with creation. When we consider how undeserving we are, O how we are moved to say with Paul:
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” Rom 8:33-36