1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
When the Bible talks about worship, often times it is indistinguishable from service. Moses first asked for Pharaoh’s permission to let the Israelites worship God in the wilderness, then he asked for permission to let the Israelites serve God in the next round. Worship and service is not supposed to be distinguishable here. Here in Romans 12, Paul says, “[that] which is your reasonable service,” (KJV) He really meant “[that] which is your spiritual worship.” (NRSV) If we look at worship as a form of service, we may gain some insight about worship. Only when we sacrifice our own body for the service of God, we can truly worship God. What we offer and sacrifice to God is not only a mentality, a desire, but rather what is done through our physical presence. Only by our physical presence our worship becomes real and is practiced in our lives.
Often times people reduce worship to a spiritual experience; something we can feel in our hearts or are emotionally connected. So we may ask ourselves if we feel the presence of God in worship. We also ask if we “gain” anything from the Word of God in worship. By itself, these are legitimate reflections, however, they are just not the totality. God expects us to worship and serve Him as a whole person. Paul purposely pointed out offering our body as a living sacrifice because the Holy Spirit works in our bodily beings. The moment we offer our body to God, the work of the Holy Spirit begins.
The next verse tells us our offering has to have substance. God has a requirement of our offering. To a lot of people, the requirement is a big ask (a tall order). Renewing of the mind is demanding. Transformation by renewing of mind means we have to be vigilant at all times. We have to be vigilant to guard against corrupted ideological trends. (Not all ideological trend is corrupted) In this post-Christian era. It is easy to follow the current trend because everybody is doing the same, talking the same, believing the same. Following the societal trends make our lives so much easier. There will not be conflicts and struggles in our schools or work places. Renewing is not exactly renewing from the old or renewing from my father’s way. Renewing could be renewing from what we are accustomed to in this society. But if we need to constantly examine what we are accustomed to do, to think, and to say, that requires tremendous effort. Transformation by renewing our minds is not comfortable for we may change what is already comfortable to us. The more comfortable we find our lives are, the harder to make transformation. However, we are admonished to seek God’s pure and acceptable will without following the trend and the crowd. In the past few years, we witness a president who keeps on lying yet still be embraced by a sizable population. A leader who boasts of his immorality being supported by the most conservative evangelical Christians. How could that be? It is the trend of the society; a self-serving society leading a group of comfort seeking but renewal resisting Christians to surf in the promise of easier Christian life. Living against the tide is more difficult than flowing with the current. God wants us to break out of complacency. That is why we are called to discern the pure and acceptable that is the perfect will of God by renewing our minds. This is a demanding exercise. This is true sacrifice.