Romans 12:1-2. Quoted endlessly by those in pulpits who want the Christian to make the “decision for Jesus,” or “take the next spiritual step,” or perhaps “rededicate your life to the Lord.” The point of the passage seems to be much more complex than that, but these calls are not wholly without merit. Starting in verse 36 of chapter 11, Paul summerizes much of what he’s just said throughout chapter 11:
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Within this context we must understand 12:1-2. All things are from Him… through Him… to Him. Everything finds their origin in Him. Everything is sustained by His power. And everything finds their purpose in Him. He is the center of all of history. This is reality. And our purpose is wrapped up in Him. This is how I take Romans 12:1-2… in order that He might receive glory forever, and in order that He would not just be Lord but be seen as Lord, we are commanded to live as a sacrifice.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Our little place in this reality of all things being for God. We are from God, through God, for God. And this looks like us living as a sacrifice. I think it’s really important to see the passage that way. Rather than just us laying down our lives once and then we never have to worry about it (something many assume the aorist verb for “present” denotes here), we are to live as a sacrifice every single day.
What does this have to do with the world and worldliness? The contrast is competing realities. One is true reality… “from Him, through Him, to Him”, and the other is a counterfeit reality, called “this world.” Literally the word means “age.” Do not be conformed to this contemporary age. The word can also be translated as “world,” as it sometimes is in the NT. But think about it with me. This transcendant, eternal reality where everything centers around God, compared to the passing, temporal reality that stands in opposition to this true reality.
This age wants us to deny any one of those three truths about God. The world wants us to deny that God is the origin of all things. The world wants us to deny that God is the sustainer of all things. And most of all, this contemporary age wants us to deny that God has created all things for a purpose… namely to bring glory to Himself. To be conformed to this world seems to imply these things. The opposite of the reality mentioned in 11:36.
Do we succomb to the passing? To the lie that God isn’t sovereign? Don’t be conformed to this world. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The mind is the battleground here. How do you deny in thought, word, or deed that God is the origin, sustainer, and purpose of all things? This denial, in any form, is the heart of worldliness.