“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice. …”
Paul wrote this statement in his letter to the Romans. He called this “holy, acceptable, and reasonable service.” How are we to serve the Lord? This great missionary and theological mind told readers that it starts with the body.
A statement such as this ran contrary to the philosophies expounded during Paul’s era. Then, the physical body was viewed as something of a cage for the human soul and spirit. These needed to be sprung to freedom. For this reason, the reality of the Resurrection of Christ and those who believed in Him represented a radical departure from the prevailing moods of the day. At that time, people strived to free themselves from the captivity of their bodies through a variety of ways — some became extremely ascetic, others ran wild into sensuality. Few expressed interest in a faith that promised an eternal existence in renewed, restored, revived bodies.
If we pay attention the earliest writings contained in the Bible, we see that the Lord created spaces that were meant to be filled. In the opening chapters of Genesis, the heavens were made and filled with stars and planets. The seas were made and filled with fish and whales and crabs and lobster. The earth was made and filled with flowers, trees, plants, and animals. At last, man was formed from the dust of the earth and filled with — amazingly — the breath of God.
Temples for the Spirit
We’ve been called jars of clay, but this, also, might represent too low an estimate of what we really were made to be. In 1 Corinthians, Paul admonished believers who were giving themselves over to sinful and harmful practices with this question: “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?” (See 1 Corinthians 6:18.)
Remarkable and magnificent structures — cathedrals and basilicas and tabernacles — have been fashioned for the purpose of honoring God. These things, made by hands, capture our imaginations, but may inspire the wrong kind of awe.
God desires our hearts. Proverbs declares that the spirit of a man is the candle the Lord. He wants to fill us with His Light and Love.
Our bodies are very real and very present. They make their demands for necessities — food and clothing — and for satisfactions and comforts — hugs, kisses, etc. They are quick to inform us of their troubles with aches and pains, fevers and coughs.
“Present your bodies” — that is, direct them; tell them where they are to go. How are we to do this?
Paul told us up front in Romans 12:1 — “I appeal to you … by the mercies of God. …” This is the secret to proper presentation of our bodies. His mercies move us.
By His mercies, we learn that church is good place to spend a few hours a couple times a week. Sure, local assemblies are crowded with imperfect people, some of whom may stir feelings of discomfort and unease. The grace of God does this, I must say. It draws together the walking wounded and the lost and the lonely. Those who know they are undone train their ears to hear the finished work message of Christ.
Small, Practical Steps
A simple way for some of us to heed Paul’s instruction may be to find a local church and commit to it. Let’s purpose to put our bodies in the pews and listen to sound Bible preaching and teaching.
Jesus said often, “Let him who has ears, hear …” (see Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). We should be sure our ears have something sound and certain to listen to.
We tend to diminish the role routines and habits can play in our spiritual lives. Fearful of legalism, we buck against suggestions that steady practices actually make a difference. This is a form of despising small things.
Think about it, musicians spend hours learning the scales and chord progressions that form the melodies and harmonies that lift our hearts, help us grieve, bring us a sense of peace, and stir us to action. Basketball players practice and practice shooting, passing, and dribbling. Writers labor under tedious lessons on grammar, vocabulary, and style. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders, et al. all move through an apprentice process to hone their skills and expertise.The little things matter and I think this is what Paul meant when he wrote 'present your bodies.' Click To Tweet
The little things matter and I think this is what Paul meant when he wrote “present your bodies.” Get down some simple practices and you will be on your way to powerful spiritual living.
Romans 12 outlines a progression of sorts. Keep the body from conforming to the world’s ways and the mind becomes more ready for transformation and renewal. Face it, we can let our bodies drive a lot of the decisions that we make. But if we present our bodies to Him by His mercies, we can begin to develop a frame of reference that can inform our decision making.
We will be inclined to think with God rather than react with impulse. We will become people of discernment, the capable spiritual practice of making right choices. We will discover how to be led by God through the Holy Spirit.
In time, our hearts become fixed and centered on what’s good, acceptable, and perfect.
For more on this subject, check out “Ordinary Measures and the Will of God,” a message from Thomas Schaller, Pastor of Greater Grace Church in Baltimore.