After 11 chapters discussing various aspects of the Gospel, Paul now transitions to the practical applications of the Gospel. As Paul wraps up the Book of Romans in the next few chapters, he not only wants us to know more about the Gospel but how to apply it in our daily lives. The first two verses of chapter 12 serve as an overview of the practice of Christian living. Paul desires to provide an outline that will help believers better understand what it means to be a Christian.
Here are 3 key terms that define the Christian life:
- Mercy (the connector that bonds the Gospel to everyday life)
- Worship (the essence of living for Christ that involves dying to self and being present before God)
- Process (the inner and outer transformation that occurs from living the Christian life)
Let’s unpack this template to see what it means to practically live as a Christ-follower.
Mercy is the Connector (Romans 12:1)
Before we are given practical steps, Paul encourages us to rely on the mercies of God. In light of what God has done for us, we should live in a way that brings honor to God. Without a healthy understanding of God’s compassion in saving us, we miss the first step that is crucial in being a Christian. Therefore, it’s mercy that connects the Gospel to practical living. As the connector, it is both the input and the output. Mercy allows us to experience grace and, as a result, grants us the motivation to live for Christ. It is the defining characteristic of what it truly means to live a life forgiven by God.
Worship is the Essence of Living for Christ (Romans 12:1)
Worship can be broken down into two parts: death to self and presenting yourself to God. This is communicated through this radical picture of a “living sacrifice.” This, Paul contends, is not meritorious, but it is the only reasonable response to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and the mercies of God. This is possible only by God’s grace, and yet the devotion of oneself to God completely is at the very heart of practical Christian living.
Jesus calls us to follow him with similar language in the gospels. You see, for example, in Mark chapters 8 and 9 a call to follow Jesus that teaches us to deny self and follow him.
Living the Christian Life is a Process (Romans 12:2)
We will explore this point further in the following sermon. But here are some takeaways from verse 2 to keep in mind:
Paul knows how difficult it is to live for Christ. To achieve God’s will for our life, we need new hearts, a renewed mind, and constant grace from God. Yet we are often tempted by the world to conform to patterns that go against God. Therefore, transformation has to first start internally before it can manifest externally. God is gracious enough to be with us through every step of the process.