Now that I see the Bible as a love letter from God to me as opposed to seeing it as a book of rules, it seems like each time I read and study it I discover brand new treasure.
Take Romans 12:1 for instance.
Romans 12:1 says,
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. (NLT)
The way I would have read this verse with my old way of thinking, before I understood grace, was this: I better present myself as a living sacrifice to God and I better do it now…or else.
Since I now see the Bible through the lens of God’s grace, recently while reading this verse I noticed something right away that I would have missed before. The Apostle Paul was definitely pleading with us to present our bodies to God, but the motive for doing this is to be in response to what He has done for us. This time the part of the verse that says because of all He has done for you stood out to me.
Someone might ask, what’s the big deal Sandra? I may not have known how to answer that question if I had not lived out the answer these past 3.5 years, spending the moments of my days focusing on all He has done for me. This shift in focus changes everything. It changes our heart and it changes our motives. It gives us the desire to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice! You see, when we focus on what God has done for us we are focusing on His grace. The more we see His grace the more we want to be obedient because seeing and receiving God’s grace causes us to fall more and more in love with Him!
I like this too. I found this reference verse to Romans 12:1 in the Strong’s Exhaustive Bible Concordance online.
Romans 6:13 says,
Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time – remember, you’ve been raised from the dead! – into God’s way of doing things. (MSG)
See there, remembering that we’ve been raised from the dead – all because of Jesus – is huge. It takes us from, I have to present my body to God as a living sacrifice to I want to present my body to God as a living sacrifice.
Romans 12:2 says,
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (NLT)
Again, I love how in this verse Paul gives us a way to be able to do what he is encouraging us to do and that is to let God transform us into new people by helping us change the way we think.
I also noticed that as a result of this renewal of our mind the Apostle Paul says we will learn to know God’s will for us and that His will is good and pleasing and perfect.
How many Christians are there who do not understand or believe that God’s will for them is good and pleasing and perfect? I believe there are still many Christians who fall into this category today. All you have to do is listen to people talk to find out what they believe about God.
Now I’m going to continue pointing out all kinds of examples throughout Romans 12 that will help you see that when the Holy Spirit gave the Apostle Paul the inspiration to write what he wrote, He always also gave the answer as to how it could be done.
Romans 12:3 says,
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. (NLT)
See, I believe when we are honest in our evaluation of ourselves we will not end up thinking we are better than we really are. I am constantly asking myself, am I trusting God in this area or am I trying to take matters into my own hands? The answer is that I am learning to trust God more and more (thankfully) and I’m also learning that when I do trust God things go good and when I place my trust in myself they don’t.
I used to think of evaluating myself differently than the way I think of it now. During my first three and a half decades as a Christian I would constantly go around talking to others about my weaknesses and would often pick myself apart. I’m thankful to say I no longer do this. This doesn’t mean I don’t recognize when I have a weakness in an area because I do, but when I do, instead of becoming self-absorbed and self-focused, if I’m really trusting in God in that moment, I immediately turn to Jesus and become focused on Him. I remind myself that although I am weak, He is strong. (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
It has been very freeing to me over this last 3.5 years to see that what I need to be evaluating about myself is if I am receiving God’s grace through faith in each situation that arises or not. Am I trusting God or not? Do I really believe Jesus has it covered or not?
Let me tell you something – when I was evaluating myself by a list of rules I had a huge problem with thinking more highly of myself than I should have been. I compared myself with others almost constantly. This is no longer an issue for me now that I am evaluating myself by asking one question: Sandra, are you trusting God here?
As a Christian, even when I fail, my job is to turn my eyes directly to Jesus and remember the truth that Jesus already paid for the very sin I just committed. Because of Jesus’ willingness to shed His blood for me on the cross and because I have chosen to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior I can be assured that all my sins – past, present and future sins – are completely forgiven. Do you see how it’s all about us being Jesus-focused instead of self-focused?
I understand that living in this kind of freedom makes some people very nervous. It made me nervous as well when I first began to truly learn about the truth of God’s grace (His unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor) 3.5 years ago. I thought, NO WAY, THIS HAS GOT TO BE TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. At first I was afraid to believe that Jesus had it ALL covered.
Eventually, my husband and my kids and I decided, we’re going with this. It’s the truth. We’re totally jumping into the ocean of God’s amazing grace and we are never turning back.
Guess what’s happened since that time?
– We’ve become more obedient because of God’s grace
– We live a holier lifestyle than ever before because of God’s grace
– We’ve been able to help more people because of God’s grace
– We have a much closer relationship with God because of His grace
– We have fallen deeply in love with Jesus because of God’s grace
– We struggle less than ever before because of God’s grace
– We live in peace the majority of the time because of God’s grace
– We’re stronger people in general because we are living our lives through God’s grace
This list could go on for a very long time but let it suffice to say, we definitely have NOT had a desire to sin more often as a result of receiving and living by God’s grace. It has been the complete opposite!
Romans 12:9 says,
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. (NLT)
It really is possible to genuinely walk in love with others, but again, this is only possible through God’s grace. The good news is, I’ve found out through personal experience that being Jesus-focused also makes us others-focused. When we are spending the moments of our day thinking about God’s great love for us and what Jesus provided for us through His finished work on the cross, we ARE going to be filled with His love; therefore, we WILL be able to genuinely love other people!
I used to think I knew that God loved me and I did in my head, but I definitely didn’t have a heart revelation of His love for me. I’m so changed in this area now. You should be inside my brain and hear what I’m thinking all throughout the day.
Yesterday I was doing dishes and I was purposely thinking about how much God loves me. I do this in some way or another on a daily basis. In fact, I’m addicted to it at this point and have developed a habit of receiving God’s love all throughout the day.
Someone recently sent us a flower arrangement for Christmas and it has a beautiful red rose in the middle of it. I imagined myself sitting on my chase with that rose and pulling one peddle off at a time while saying He Loves Me! (then another peddle) He Loves Me! (then another) He Loves Me! I imagined myself pulling off every single peddle with a big smile on my face each time I repeated, He Loves Me!
Imagining myself doing this actually brought me to tears. Happy tears.
I guarantee you that if you purposely take time to receive God’s love for you, you will find yourself being able to genuinely love others more and more. If you pay attention closely, you’ll also come to find that in those times when you are not walking in love with other people it is because you have succumbed to fear, guilt, condemnation or a whole host of other negative thoughts as opposed to remaining in God’s love for you.
Romans 12:10 says,
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (NLT)
See here, Paul gives a very practical tip as to how we can love each other with genuine affection. We can do this by honoring each other!
Romans 12:11 says,
Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. (NLT)
So instead of beating yourself up by telling yourself, I’m such a lazy person and I’ve gotta stop, consider seeing this verse through the lens of grace. Say to yourself, look at that, God loves me so much that He doesn’t want me to live a lazy lifestyle because He wants the best for me. Wow, He even gave me great advice as to how to keep from being lazy by working hard and purposely serving Him!
Romans 12:12 says,
Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. (NLT)
Seriously, this is so awesome. Right in the middle of this verse the Apostle Paul tells us to be patient in trouble, but he tells us how to be patient at the beginning and the end. First, we can be patient by being the type of people who rejoice in our confident hope and secondly, by continuing to lift up each situation to God in prayer!
The JB Philipp’s translation explains it good. Here it is!
Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently, steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer. (PHILLIPS)
Now let’s skip down to verse 20:
Romans 12:20 says,
Instead, If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads. (NLT)
Andrew Wommack’s Living Commentary notes are really good on this verse.
“These coals of fire are not coals of punishment or torment, but rather conviction. If this was urging us to be kind to our enemies because that would hurt them more than anything else, then that would be violating the context of this verse. Paul was telling us to live peaceably with all people (Romans 12:18) and to render to no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17). God’s kind of love is being promoted, not some scriptural way to hurt those who hurt us.
When we walk in love toward those who hurt us, it heaps conviction on them. They know what their reaction would be if they were in our place, and to see us walk in love under adverse circumstances shows them that we have something special that they don’t have.”
Romans 12:21 says,
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (NLT)
Even in the harsh world we live in today, there is a way we can keep from being conquered by or being overcome by evil. How? We must conquer and overcome evil by doing good! We must love when we feel tempted to hate. We must forgive when we feel we have a right to take revenge. We must let God be our vindicator when we feel like vindicating ourself. We must walk in the way of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control; but the only way we will ever be able to carry any of this out on a consistent basis is in Christ, through Christ and by Christ alone. It’s only possible by His grace my friend. Receive it afresh today… and everyday!
Next God’s Treasure Chest post will be on Romans 13
If you have not yet made Jesus your Savior and received the wonderful joy that His finished work on the cross has provided for you to live in, please visit my page here titled Jesus In The Driver’s Seat. On this page I explain the good news of the gospel and you will have the opportunity to pray a prayer of salvation, making Jesus your Savior! Jesus loves you and His arms are wide open!