Romans 12:1-2 NET - Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.
Imagine you see red and blue flashing lights in your rearview mirror as you are being pulled over for speeding, again… What emotions emerge? Fear? A sick feeling? Regret? Anxiety? Foolishness? Disgust with yourself? You know you were speeding - by a lot, and the police have radar evidence confirming it. Thoughts of a large fine and increased insurance rates race in your mind. There will be time spent in traffic school or perhaps a suspended license. The inevitable question comes: “Do you know how fast you were going?” Do you pretend ignorance? Do you get angry at the police? Do you try to make excuses to rationalize why you were breaking the law? Instead, you humbly acknowledge, confess, and apologize for your crime. You are not entitled to mercy, even if it were your first offense - which it is not. Yet, the police choose to give you a verbal warning with the request that you drive properly. No ticket. No traffic school. No insurance rate hike. Nothing on your record. What emotions do you now experience? If you are normal - gratitude, appreciation, joy, and hopefully a desire to do right in view of the mercy you received. Only a selfish fool would be annoyed that the police request that you drive properly. Instead, gratitude and appreciation motivate your kind words toward the police and new actions as you drive away. Awareness of mercy is incredibly motivational.
Romans 12:1 begins - not with rules - but with a reminder. It is the “Why” that explains the “What”. Paul appeals first for an awareness of the mercies we have and are constantly receiving from God. And we don’t have to keep the 613 Old Testament Laws to receive this mercy because we receive it by genuine faith in Jesus Christ. If we are not careful, we may tend to feel more gratitude and appreciation for a merciful traffic cop than for the One who will judge every human word, deed, and motivation! Perhaps we take for granted - or feel entitled to - God’s mercies? Perhaps we lack awareness of how holy God truly is - which makes us unaware of how deadly our sin problem truly is? Perhaps we overestimate our own goodness or holiness while blinded to our natural state of lawlessness? Regardless, before the Apostle Paul encourages Christians to live Christlike (“drive properly”), he reminds the Church to be aware of the mercies of God. God’s mercy must motivate us to live Christlike while God’s grace must empower us to live Christlike. Whatever clouds or distorts your awareness of God’s mercies will lessen your desire to live Christlike. Practicing personal reflection, gratitude, and appreciation is key. It is the “Why” that fuels “What” we do in order to please God.