Behavior Follows Belief
After climbing an enormous theological hill in the first 11 chapters of the letter to the Romans, Paul shifts gears in chapter 12. The first 11 chapters provided the basis for our belief, but from chapter 12 to the end of the book, the apostle supplies a basis for our behavior. First doctrine, then duty. This is how Paul always attempted to connect with his listeners.
Throughout 2023, we here at LowCountry Community Church, have been studying the book of Romans. If you are interested, you can view all of the messages at lowcountrycc.org/messages. But today, I want to take just a few moments to focus in on the first verse of Romans 12.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Romans 12:1(NASB)
As good Bible students, we know that anytime we see the word “therefore” in Scripture, we pause and ask this question: “What is the therefore there for?”
Paul pleads with his Romans friends, I urge you, brethren, based on God’s mercy, to lovingly surrender yourself to the Lord. He urges them to respond in four ways. He argues that these four acts provide the logical response to God’s grace in worship. He knew this was a tall request, but he spent 11 chapters building a foundation for the big ask.
If you are a leader, please pay close attention to what Paul is doing here. Leadership expert John Maxwell suggests that leaders who connect with people touch hearts in a big way, then ask for a big response. And that’s what Paul’s doing here. “I’ve connected with you for 11 chapters, pouring out my heart and downloading doctrine. Now, here is the big ask: Will you synchronize your behavior to match your belief?”
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God - or, in view of God’s mercy. God could have disowned us but instead He chose us, He adopted us, He redeemed us, He elected us, He sealed us as His very own. Since God has been so merciful to us, our priority or to be to please Him, not to impress people.
To present your bodies – God, through Paul, is here teaching us there is not a separation of body from soul. When Paul uses the word “body,” he means the whole of us: physically, emotionally, psychologically.
Are we to present to the Lord a body that has performed works of hatred, violence, and immorality? Are to bring to God a tongue that has spoken hurtful things? Are we to present to God hands that have reached out to attack? Should we present to God feet that have walked away from the poor and the needy?
May it never be! Your body and mine should become the means of spiritual worship. So don’t think of the Christian life as primarily a matter of keeping a terribly demanding lawgiver at bay; rather, think in terms of your ardent desire to honor and praise God with your body. We are to present our bodies as…
A living and holy sacrifice - Paul uses the idea of a priest who offered a sacrifice — the sacrifice had to be a perfect animal; only then would it please God. (Leviticus 1:3, 9) The word holy means literally means “to set apart.”
How do we give expression to that? Let’s look at the other side of the coin. Our feet we should go where God wants us to go. With our hands we should give practical help to other people. With our ears we should listen to other people’s problems. And with our mouths we should speak to encourage other people and to tell them the good news about Christ.
Which is acceptable to God – Our lives are to be fully agreeable to, and acceptable unto, God. The right use of the body will be like the perfect sacrifice that pleases God. Therefore, worship is not simply a ceremony or a religious ritual. This is the essence of true spiritual worship. Total commitment is the reasonable service God asks of us.
Which is your spiritual service of worship - This is the act of giving one’s self without reservation as our spiritual worship. The Greek words here could also be translated as “rational” or “reasonable” service. The reason they are translated as spiritual worship is that the same words are used elsewhere in Scripture to describe a priestly worship activity.
But let’s consider the words “rational” and “reasonable” for just a second. If God made us to know Him and find our fulfillment in Him, and if that is the only way our soul will ever be fulfilled, and that is the path to true joy, isn’t it also a rational, reasonable service to surrender our body to His service? Of course it is!
When it comes to worship, dear ones, the question is not, “Did I like the music today?” “Did the service please me?” “Was the preacher good?” “Did I enjoy it?” The real question is this: “Is my worship, both on Sunday morning and throughout the week, pleasing to God?” Our purpose is always to please God, not ourselves.
 John C. Maxwell, Exec. Ed., The Maxwell Leadership Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Bibles, 2002. 1380.