"Be all you can be."
"Follow your dreams."
"Work hard, and you'll reach your dreams."
"Don't let anyone stand in the way of your success."
"Be the best version of yourself."
"Always stay humble and kind."
"Live your best life."
Any quick trip through a home decor store or the decor section of any big department store, and you will find plaques, notebooks, journals, t-shirts, posters, pens, candles, mugs, pillows, and more with all kinds of phrases like the ones I just listed.
While these phrases ring with the promise of accomplishment and success, there's an underlying theme of self-preservation and self-aggrandizement. (Note that all these phrases appeal to you... and not to others.... and certainly not to God.)
I have been working on a memory verse challenge for the summer. I am using the book "Dwell" by the Daily Grace Co. You can find it here: https://thedailygraceco.com/collections/books-guides/products/dwell-growing-in-grace
The first passage I am memorizing is Romans 12. I have wanted to understand the passage better, so I have been studying it while I am memorizing it. I have journaled the first five verses, and have already learned so much from this familiar passage. (Aren't you thankful that the Word of God always has something new to teach us!?)
I have been greatly encouraged by this passage, particularly when it comes to what God has called us to as his children. In verse 1, we read that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. The whole chapter then goes on to explain how we are to live out this sacrificial life in the church and toward others. Upon initial glance through this passage, I felt an overwhelming feeling of, "Wow. How am I supposed to do this?" Phrases like:
"Let love be genuine.";
"Outdo one another in showing honor.";
"Be patient in tribulation.";
"Bless those who persecute you.";
"Don't be haughty, but associate with the lowly.";
"Never be wise in your own sight."
These phrases seem to smack the fluffy, feel-good, self-gratifying department store phrases with an even greater impossibility. Because, honestly, I have no problem satisfying the desires of myself. Or bowling people over to get what I want (whether by my actions or attitudes.) Or saying I am humble and kind when I am really just in it for me. Or loving myself and my wants.
But, here in Romans 12, we are asked to go way above and beyond this. We are asked to do the impossible. It's overwhelming, really.
Because how am I supposed to genuinely love when I constantly love myself?
How can I really abhor evil when my flesh still desires it and makes excuses for it?
How can I really love others with brotherly affection when people drive me crazy?!?
How can I outdo others in showing honor when I want the honor for myself (even though I might not say that out loud...)?
How can I be zealous when my heart and mind and body are so tired?
How can I rejoice in hope when situations or relationships seems hopeless?
How can I be patient in this circumstance when the end is nowhere in sight?
And, how in the world am I supposed to be constant in prayer?! (Paul did not have children.... maybe he doesn't know what he's talking about?!?!?)
And there's more: "Bless those who persecute you; live in harmony; don't be haughty; never be wise in your own eyes; live peaceably with everyone..."
Let's go back to the first 3 verses:
"I appeal to you therefore brothers by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God- what is good, and acceptable, and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith God has assigned."
Two words here have helped me face these daunting tasks with thankfulness:
Here we are faced with an impossible task. But, the task is not impossible because of the power at work within us, both to will and to do for his pleasure.
It is only by the mercies of God that we can present our bodies to him.
We think often of the mercy shown us at the cross, but how often do you consider the daily mercies showered on you so that you can live a holy, acceptable, good life before God? And, then, in that "good life", how can you not think more highly of yourself?
Grace. Because any good thing you possess, any accomplishment you achieve. any relationships restored is only because of and by the grace of God shown to you and to others.
And these things are granted to us daily.
Everyday mercies and everyday grace.
Are you living this way? Humbled by the truth that God has shown you mercy? Granted you grace? Not just for salvation, but for the everyday striving to become like him? You don't have to do this alone!
If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, traded your stony, dead heart for a living heart of flesh transformed by the saving work of Christ, the very Holy Spirit of God dwells in you to move you beyond your fleshly capabilities to a lifestyle that exceeds anything you could expect.
And, the reason for this transformation is not to make you successful or good or better than so-and-so or happy or more confident...
The purpose for a transformed, living sacrifice life is to glorify the One who has transformed it. For the One who gave his very life to give you eternal life. For the One who asks you to trade death and hell and sin for himself.
This is amazing.
Even in my fumbling and failures and foibles, God wants to create this amazing life in me. Not so I look good or can add more to my "Christian qualifications", but so that the name of Christ and the glory of God is exalted, seen, heard, believed.
And, this only happens because of his mercy and by his grace.
Have you seen this at work in your life lately?
Even as I was studying this and feeling so excited about this, along comes the daily challenges to test whether I will depend on myself (again!) or if I will cling to the mercies and grace of God.
So, when the kids are fighting (will I pray and respond in patience?).
When your husband's comment hits that selfish spot and angry words come bubbling out (will I respond in love and honor?)
When that person keeps messaging you or annoying you (will I respond in love or will I think of myself more highly?)
When that situation happens and so-and-so "gets what they deserve" (will I respond with a smug attitude or will I know that I cannot be wise in my own eyes?)
These things are all so hard and happen every single day.
We are daily faced with these moments that test our faith and whether or not we are living sacrificially toward God.
And, thankfully, these impossible tasks are not just another plaque on the wall or another pithy feel-good notebook phrase.
No. These are life-giving, restorative, life-transforming phrases that come from the living God who has granted you mercy and grace.
And, in this, we live humbly.
We live desperate for more of him and his word.
We live to exalt only him- because he alone is worthy of all the praise for how our lives are being changed.
And this transformed life is in anticipation of the life to come where we will live to exalt and praise and glorify him for eternity.
This is why we strive now.
This is why we struggle now.
This is why we seek him now.
This is why we suffer now.
And, he alone will be exalted.
Not our happy little accomplishments.
Not our feel-good lifestyle.
Not our "it's all about me" attitudes.
So, how will you live?
As a living sacrifice to God?
Or, as a dying impossibility for self?
Song for meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axiKx5Rg1vg