Paul provides a template for practical Christian living: mercy, worship, and process. In the previous message, we explored the significance of mercy and worship in the life of a believer. By first relying on the mercies of God we endeavor, by God’s strength, to completely give our lives to God in worship. Now we begin the process of actual renewal and spiritual formation. Christian living is a continual process of transformation. Spiritual renewal is not the immediate result of conversion to faith in Christ, but the journey in which we become more like Christ with each step.
Here are 3 aspects of spiritual renewal:
- A deliberate renouncing of worldliness
- A constant receiving of grace
- A resolve to “do” the Christian life
Dallas Willard had this to say about spiritual transformation:
“… spiritual transformation only happens as each essential dimension of the human being is transformed to Christlikeness under the direction of a regenerate will interacting with constant overtures of grace from God. Such transformation is not the result of mere human effort and cannot be accomplished by putting pressure on the will (heart, spirit) alone.”
As we receive grace, we go and do the work that God has for us. We do this not out of legalism, but from a new and regenerated heart that constantly receives God’s grace. Transformation that involves the entire person begins internally and is expressed externally. We grow in discernment as we “do” God’s will, fueled by grace, following the pattern of God’s kingdom.
The emphasis of the passage is for us to now go put into practice what Paul has taught us about grace in chapters 1-11. This is a very helpful emphasis for us and sets us up for chapters 12-16 where we taught what that practically looks like.
The tendency to spectate in the Christian life (and to not “do”) stifles transformation and mutes our understanding of who we are in Christ. A robust understanding of our identity in Christ flows from whole-life discipleship that always involves doing, obeying, putting trust into action. It is not “doing” alone, but it is not less than doing. We needn’t fear legalism every time we hear the challenge to put our faith into action. To say that transformation begins internally is correct, but internal change should never terminate before expanding to include external practice.
The resolve to put discipleship into daily action will inevitably raise awareness of our need and push us back to God to constantly receive grace and mercy. This is how change takes place. This is what transforms us and empowers us. It is the grace of God, or in the language of Romans 12:1, the mercies of God. We discover this most when trying to put it into action.
In the end, these two things:
- turning from following the world’s pattern and
- a moment-by-moment reliance upon God for grace.
These two things, when joined to a commitment to action and obedience to Christ, together is the process resulting in real transformation. The product according to Romans 12:2 is the power and discernment to live a beautiful life, a “good and pleasing and complete” expression of the will of God.”