Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will. — Romans 12:2

Did you ever meet people who before reading a book have to go to the last chapter to find out how it ends before they start reading? I completely don’t understand these people. For me, the journey to find out how and why something happens is just as important as the result, perhaps even more so. When it comes to personal transformation, we can’t skip to the end of the process and say, okay here I am…I am ready for the Shazam. Transformation doesn’t happen that way. The sooner we grasp and embrace that reality the sooner the process and blessing of personal transformation will take place.

You will notice in the Scripture quoted above I have included verse One. Though we have been focusing on verse two for the past 10 devotionals, it’s time to consider verse one so we can better understand the beginning of the story of personal transformation. Though it was good to skip to the end of the story and contemplate the transformation Paul writes about, let’s pause now and consider the context in which renewing of the mind and personal transformation take place. That context is revealed in verse one. The context of Worship. True Worship. Worship in Spirit and in Truth. Worship leads to the renewing of our minds and consequently transformation.

Verse one of Romans 12 is a pivot verse…a transitional verse…a new beginning verse. A verse to start a new stream of consciousness from the Apostle. In the previous three chapters, 9, 10, and 11, Paul has spent time painstaking unraveling the mystery of his anguish over the nation of Israel’s condition and how God’s sovereign grace chose them yet they ultimately turned away.  Paul is so passionate about his people finding faith in Christ he writes he would even be accursed so they may be saved. He notes that because they are stuck in the law and ritual they missed the Messiah when he came. He then explains God opened the door to the Gentiles and “grafted” them into His “good olive tree” so that through their salvation and blessing the Jewish nation might be provoked to jealousy and once again cry out to God. This mystery Paul reveals is so profound and so inspirational, he wraps up this incredible argument in chapter 11 by ‘throwing his pen down (at least that’s how I imagine it happened) and saying,

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”

It appears he blew his own mind. He then ends this revelatory discussion with the doxology, “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

It’s right here that we read the pivot verse, Romans 12:1, the verse to launch everything that is to follow, including personal transformation. What is the Kingdom reality Paul chooses to launch out with and transition this seminal letter with?  The revelation of WORSHIP! Not worship as in a 30-minute ‘song service’, but WORSHIP as a lifestyle, a lifestyle that happens to include music and singing songs.

“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.”

The difference between a “song service” and a “worship service” cannot possibly be overemphasized. Authentic WORSHIP that leads to a renewing of the mind and personal transformation, starts with laying down our lives as an offering to God. As a sacrifice of everything that we are so, we might receive everything that He is. A place where an exchange takes place, our life for His. A divine exchange. Anything else is simply an exercise at best and entertainment at worst.

In this remarkable verse Paul is referencing his own Hebraic cultural understanding of WORSHIP as practiced by the Jewish people for 1500 years, a practice where animals were offered to God as part of their worship. Here in Romans 12:1, Paul is overlaying the Old Testament understanding of Worship with New Testament revelation. As Christ-followers there is still an offering that takes place, however, under the New Covenant WE are the offering…we are “to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice” so that we can truly engage in and experience WORSHIP.  God wants all of us because He desires to give us all of Him, as Paul writes in Ephesians, “…that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:19)

There is not a more central and fundamental truth in Christianity. That to truly experience the life of Christ we must lay down our lives. This is the life of WORSHIP that Paul is “urging, beseeching, admonishing, encouraging every Christ-follower to embrace so the process of transformation will become normal Christian life.  A life where our minds are being renewed day by day.  No wonder Jesus tells the Samaritan woman by the well in John 4 that “the Father is looking for worshipers who will worship Him in Spirit and Truth.” He was giving her the secret of personal transformation that she was so deeply longing for.  May we be so desperate and choose to offer our lives a “living sacrifice”.

Exercise: Take the time to memorize Romans 12:1-2. If renewing of the mind and personal transformation is connected to a life of worship, how can you more fully offer your life a “living sacrifice?” If offering our lives as a living sacrifice is “true and proper” worship what does that look like for me?

Prayer: Holy Spirit I desire to worship in Spirit and Truth but am not sure what that looks like for me. I ask You to lead and guide me into a fuller understanding of what a life of Worship is.  I ask that You reveal to me how in my devotional and everyday life can be a “living sacrifice,” one that is “pleasing to God.”

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. — Isaiah 43:18-19