Just how weak are we?
This post is not a reflection on any personal or church experience – let that be noted.
I have spent the last 2 mornings reading and meditating on Romans 12-14. Last week, I attended a preaching workshop at Westminster Seminary and heard Bryan Chappell speak on Christ-centered preaching. Among many things, he was emphatic on how the gospel must be the motivation for all holy living (from his book, Holiness By Grace). Good stuff. Romans 12:1-2 was a case in point. The text says, in view of Christ’s mercy (because of your receiving it), present your bodies as a living sacrifice… And yet, he unfortunately revealed how we often live our lives – or worse, preach from the pulpit – as if the text said, if you desire to receive Christ’s mercy, present your bodies as a living sacrifice. May it never be said or implied so!!! The entirety of the Christian life of sacrifice is in response to the perfect sacrifice of Christ’s life/death already having been received with pleasure by the Father on our account!
So it sent me reading and reflecting on the latter chapters of Romans. And once again, staring me in the face was the reality of the weakness over which Christ’s grace and mercy have covered – in my life and the lives of believers I know. The text of Romans 12 moves past v.1-2, in my opinion, to show us that we are so weak that only Christ’s sacrifice unto death could free us to try to live as living sacrifices for the glory of God. And its still not easy! Consider Romans 12:3 – for by the grace given me I say to everyone not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. OK, we’ve heard that before – but Paul references grace again because Christ has laid down the perfect sacrifice for his prideful self, such that he can now seek to be a living sacrifice by soberly judging who he really is – weak and prideful and redeemed.
Then in 12:9 – Let love be genuine. Wait. I must be reading too fast. Let love be genuine. I have never noticed such an odd sentence! Why does it even need to be written? Is there any other kind of love than that which is genuine? Woah. Apparently this is but a glimpse into the difficulty of presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice! Our tendency in life is not to love. When we love, we must be reminded by command to make it genuine! What a weak people we are! Thinking too highly of ourselves. Loving, but not really. How could we ever live as if our “living sacrifice” could perfectly please God and so move him to show us mercy! We can’t. Not genuinely at least.
Thanks be to God that our loving and living and sacrificing is in view of Christ’s already perfectly given mercy to cover an ungenuine lover like me!
O God, do the mighty work of transformation in your church that we might become genuine sacrificers of self in love toward You and others – and may we find it to be the most beautiful and freeing motivation to look upon the mercy and genuine eternal love with which you have ALREADY PERFECTLY moved toward us! Amen.