Friday, May 8, 2015

The Lifestyle of Spiritual Growth

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” -Romans 12:1-2

We’ve considered where spiritual growth begins and the foundation upon which spiritual growth is built. Now let’s turn our attention to the lifestyle of spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is not so much an event as it is a process throughout the course of your life. I think this is a point of frustration for many. A Christian might expect to follow a few steps from the Bible and then—poof!—spiritual maturity is yours! After all, so much of our society operates this way. Eat this pill—poof!—you lose weight! Buy this new deodorant—poof!—everyone will like you! Pay this new tax—poof!—the country’s problems will be solved! There are even false teachers and so-called pastors today that proclaim that you can have your best life right now! But that is not how God has designed our spiritual growth. God designed growth to be much slower. Growth in your spiritual life is comparable to physical growth. Just as we don’t grow to be physically mature in a day or in a week, we don’t grow spiritually in an instant either. Yes, there may be times of rapid spiritual growth where we have great victories and successes towards maturity. But there are also seasons of slow plodding that may seem to drag on and on. But don’t get discouraged, God is still at work, even in the slow seasons.

Here in Romans 12:1, Paul suggests here that spiritual growth is, in fact, a long process. He urges believers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to God. We would do well to notice that Paul is encouraging us to make a decision that has ongoing effects. Make a presentation of your life to God, then live daily in service to Him. How long should we serve God with our lives? Paul doesn’t put a time limit or a number of days on this command. He simply says, “Do this.” All the days of our lives are to be lived in service to God. Whether it be 5 more days, 5 more years, or 5 more decades, we are to live in service to the Lord.

This offering that Paul speaks of is not like in many churches today where people might give of their money but they want a say in where it goes. That is not an offering. That is manipulation and a struggle for power and control. Presenting our bodies to God means that we place our life before God and leave it to be used at His discretion. An offering means surrendering something to another completely free of charge and without stipulation. We can’t put our life before God and then just as He begins to use it we take it back and say, “No Lord! This is not what I gave you my life for!” or “I’ll let you do this, Lord, as long as you compensate me fairly!” We must place our lives before the Lord and humbly live our lives in a holy and acceptable way.

Paul says living this way is our reasonable service. Some translations say here that it is our “spiritual act of worship”. I like this because it points to spiritual growth. If you want to be spiritual and worship the Lord, then you must present your bodies—your entire lives—to Him. If you want to be spiritual, you must live a holy life. If you want to be spiritual, you must live in an acceptable way before God. What does all this mean? It means that we surrender completely to God’s will in our lives and relinquish all rights and desires to Him.

Isaiah prayed, “Here am I Lord; send me.” We would do well to pray this prayer in response to Paul’s command.

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