It is interesting to note that Paul juxtaposes personal sacrifices with the renewal of the mind in Romans 12. In the preceding chapter, he tells in no uncertain terms that our salvation is dependent on our obedience by faith in God. The lack of faith or the failure to exercise faith to obey Him is equated with unbelief, which, if unaddressed, will be our undoing.
So, he starts, in Romans 12, “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.” So — therefore — because of what He will do to the disobedient, Paul urges us to obey God, which would require us to make some sacrifices.
What Paul actually means can be best described by what he says in Romans 13: 14: “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” Living sacrificially is simply NOT gratifying the flesh. To do that really takes faith. When all around us people are doing exactly what they please, indulging in whatever they want, it requires faith not to do as they do.
But, obeying by faith isn’t just sacrifices — denying ourselves. That smacks of emotional, spiritual or psychological suicide — we give so much of ourselves in obedience that we don’t have anything left for ourselves! If that is what sacrifice means, then, most people would give up their faith! Neither is obeying by faith the same as following the dos and don’ts without thinking. That is simply obeying by rote, doing what is expected of us because we are Christians — not because we understand and want to exercise faith in that area and enjoy the outcome.
Paul understood the need to merge the inner understanding with the external act that reflects it. And, that is why there is verse 2 of Romans 12: “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.”
Faith must first renew our minds so that we are transformed by His Word. It makes it easier for us to obey and not to conform to the world — even when everyone is freely doing whatever! Our minds are renewed, we understand and know what we want and we obey because we choose to. Then, obedience is no longer hollow, an act by rote, which after some time, we abandon because it doesn’t make any sense anymore!
It is because the mind is not renewed that many Christians can’t obey by faith and they miss out on the joys of experiencing the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives. How do we renew our minds? By being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit as we contemplate on Scripture. It is He who brings us all to an understanding of truth. “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)”
As we are mentally renewed, we will begin to have the mind of Christ and will make decisions about our lives that are consistent with Scriptures. Being human, we may make mistakes or overlook something, but we can correct ourselves, and in doing so we work out our salvation and His will — His good, pleasing and perfect will!
There was a time in my life when I gave all sorts of men chance! I was desperate so I gave chance even to those men who I would normally not have given a second look! I was, of course, disappointed. As I prayed about this, I realised I was making decisions without faith and that was why this had become such a problematic area in my life. I was giving men chance not because I really liked them but because I was desperate! Once I realised this, I changed. I stopped encouraging them. But, because we talked, both sides knew exactly where we were in the relationship and we could make decisions that were good for both. It also meant that I may not find someone of like mind. But, in time, I discovered a peace that passes all understanding. There is no man in my life, but I am happy. Isn’t that the work of the Holy Spirit?
Obedience by faith as a result of the renewal of the mind is the transformation and changed lives that the Holy Spirit brings about!