Last week I wrote that worship was the way forward for us, and that is exactly where Romans 12 starts. In view of God’s mercies (all that Paul has written up to this point in his letter to the Romans) here’s what we are to do: surrender our all to him! That is our spiritual worship! How do we do that? We become transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that by testing we may discern what is the will of God; that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Paul doesn’t leave us on our own to figure that out. He shows us in the rest of his letter what is good and acceptable and perfect, ultimately, what is the will of God. Discerning God’s will in the commands that follow from verse 3 on, by implication, is a continuation of our spiritual worship! Doing these things is the work of worship—ultimately, transformation is the work of God that happens when we surrender our all to him! So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work, actually let God get to work on us. First, a prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23–24 ESV)
If discerning God’s will is the “how to” of worship, here is the starting point in a long list of the “good, acceptable and perfect” will of God.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone 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 that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3 ESV)
Pride is ugly to God! In fact his Word tells us that he opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6) Pride is most terribly seen in our tendency to be self-centered. In fact Paul’s language here, saying we are to “think with sober judgement,” implies that “conforming to this world” is to be intoxicated with “thinking of ourselves too highly.” When we are intoxicated, we have poor judgement. Even worse, many of us are self-aholics, and in denial. If untreated, our lives become a wrecking ball, wreaking havoc on everything that is close to us, most tragically, our family. God’s family (the church) is the reason Paul tells us to think of ourselves with sober judgement.
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4,5 ESV)
Paul is turning to family matters for the rest of the book of Romans. The reason we are to think of ourselves with sober judgement is because we are part of one body in Christ, each member serving a unique function. The analogy here is of a human body with each organ, each part necessary and needed to be healthy and alive. (see 1 Corinthians 12) If our opinion of ourselves is too lofty, we end up hurting the people closest to us, by devaluing and dishonoring them. Could it be that our pride is at the center of the mess we find ourselves in right now? Are some of us intoxicated with self? I’m feeling a healthy dose of conviction here! Reading on in Romans 12, I read that I should never be wise in my own eyes. (verse 16) I realize that I’ve been thinking pretty highly of my own opinion these days. But I was floored when I read this verse in the NIV translation last week: “Do not be conceited!”
What a relief to know that God has made a way for us to overcome our pride. Humility is the weapon that destroys pride. Christ, humbled himself and became obedient to death on a cross, not just as a model of humility, but for the forgiveness of our sins. This is part of the view of God’s mercy that Romans 12:1 refers to, urging us then to surrender our lives to him. Transformation is preceded by repentance, turning away from sin, not being conformed any longer to the world. Elsewhere, God’s Word instructs us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV) Confession and true repentance takes humility, and that my friends is the way forward for us.