The Great Shift
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
There are many great shifts in tone and focus in the scriptures. Perhaps the two most famous are found in Isaiah, from chapter 39 to 40, and in Romans, from chapter 11 to 12. In Isaiah, we have 39 chapters of history and prophetic words about God’s judgment. Then we have ‘“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned”’—surprisingly lovely words that speak to God’s redemptive heart. These words remind us that for His people, judgment, chastisement and exile are never the goal, but restoration and unhindered relationship are.
In Paul’s great shift in Romans, we see a pattern we often find in Paul’s other books, and which describe a dynamic we need to see in our own lives: teaching followed by application. In Romans, Paul is summing all he has taught the readers in his previous 11 chapters, powerful words that have revolutionized people and nations. He then “hits the subtotal button,” metaphorically speaking, and says in essence, “OK, we’ve learned a lot about God and truth—now how does that translate into action?”
Then Paul spends the rest of the book telling us how the marvelous truths he expounds earlier help us to live. These truths translate into godly action in the areas of Christian relationships, love, service, human government, and of course, our relationship with the Lord. (Take a look at Ephesians. Three chapters are devoted to the expounding of mind-blowing eternal truth, followed by these words in the beginning of chapter 4: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” See the trend?) What we learn is supposed to be translated into action. In fact, it’s really only “learned” when it’s absorbed enough to work its way out again in some kind of expression.
Our challenge is two-fold. One is to absorb truth as deeply as we can, to meditate, consider, pray about what we’re learning, and allow God’s Spirit to move away any and all obstacles to fully receiving God’s truth.
The second challenge is allowing God to take information and make it revelation, transformation, and finally, godly action. As a former business trainer, the author is wary of application that’s too fast; I used to tell my clients enrolled in a week-long program that they were not allowed to think of application until Thursday afternoon. Too many began to make application on Tuesday morning, only to learn things in the next few days that completely undid their thoughts on how to apply what they’d learned. They may have moved too quickly at times, but they had the right idea: What they were learning needed to find an outward expression. We can learn from that!
Prayer: Lord, thank You for what You teach me in church, Your word, small groups and personal relationships. Help me to fully receive what You show me, and may everything You show me end up being expressed outwardly in loving, obedient action.