“I beseech you (beg, entreat, exhort, urge, but not command) you (us) therefore (remember all Paul, by the Spirit, has taught us about God in the first 11 chapters of Romans and especially about the mercy of God), brethren (he is a loving brother who comes along side to urge us to please our Father and his Father), by the mercies of God (the merciful God we learned about in the first 11 chapters will continue to help us as we desire and act to obey Him), to present your bodies (our new lives in Christ) a living sacrifice (loving joyful obedience), holy, acceptable (well-pleasing) to God, which is your spiritual (reasonable, logical, knowing Who God is) service (loving God with all our heart and our neighbor as our self).” (Romans 12:1 ASV)
As we come to Romans 12 we come to a point in this epistle where we move primarily from doctrine (Romans 1-11) to application of doctrine (Romans 12-16). As seen in the Old Testament psalms especially, the psalmist would sometimes write “Selah!” which means “pause and calmly think about that; carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths.” (E.g. see Psalm 66:4). http://www.gotquestions.org/selah.html When Paul says I beseech you “therefore” – he is telling us to pause and remember all he (by the Spirit) has taught us about God in the first 11 chapters of Romans and especially about the mercy of God. And as we remember the great mercies of God seen in the first 11 chapters we can trust that God’s same mercy will continue to be with us and thus encourage us and assist us as we offer our whole life to Him in loving service. In other words, this exhortation by Paul is an ethic of loving, trusting dependence on God not just dutiful obligation. It is certainly true from all Scripture that God deserves our total obedience because of Who He is and what He has done. But the motivation and enablement to do so is always a response to His loving mercy and grace that both inspires us and empowers us. Scripture calls us to live a life of continually receiving from God so that we can continually respond to Him and His people in loving service. “For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us…” (2 Cor. 5:14) We can surrender our lives to such a God because we know He will be there, before us and with us, extending His mercy and grace as we desire and attempt to please Him with acts of faith and obedience.[“Oiktirmos (mercies) is that quality in God that moves Him to deliver man from his state of sin and misery and therefore underlies His saving activity in Christ. Oiktirmos as used here and in 2 Corinthians 1:3 characterizes God’s actions and feelings toward fallen humanity. Our great hope (certainty) is in fact the provision of the unchanging mercy and boundless grace of our Father. By the mercies of God in the plural is a Hebraism (Ed: Reminiscent of the opening words of Psalm 1 which in Hebrew are literally “blessed, blessed” – as divine blessing is heaped upon blessing, so too divine mercy is heaped upon mercy. PTL!) denoting an abundance of mercy. God is rich in mercy; God has plenty of it, my friend. He has had to use a lot of it for me, but He still has plenty of it for you. “Mercy” means compassion, pity, and the tenderness of God. His compassions never fail. J Vernon McGee http://www.preceptaustin.org/romans_12_word_studies.htm]
You may have heard this analogy about our relationship with God but it bears repeating here as it relates to this passage. Imagine a little three-year-old boy on the side of the swimming pool being urged by his father to jump into the pool. We see the father extending his strong arms toward his son to catch him the second he jumps. The father has always demonstrated loving care and mercy toward his son so the little boy trusts him in the present situation and so he does jump into the pool. Now his “dive” would not get him any points at the Olympics but the father applauds him and rejoices with him and says, “Well done my son!” In other words his little jump was “acceptable” (means “well-pleasing”) to his father. And the little boy delighted that he pleased his father and was quick to do it again and again. Likewise, our smallest acts of faith and obedience please our Father and knowing how trustworthy and caring He is we are encouraged to take steps of faith that please Him and delight us even as it delights a little child when he sees the father’s or mother’s joy for his acts done in love. I brought a picture that our granddaughter Olivia painted for Kristen (Olivia calls her Gigi) when she was a little child and it hangs in our kitchen today, not because it’s a beautiful piece of art, but because it pleases Kristen and it delights Olivia that Gigi says, “well done – I love this painting.” It is not our excellent performance that pleases God as much as our acts done out of a loving desire to please Him. “There are no great things, only small things with great love.” (Mother Teresa) Paul says the same in 1 Corinthians 13. In this sense our God is easy to please.
Remember the story of the lazy servant (see Matthew 25:24-25) who was not willing to invest any of his money because he had a wrong view of God. If he had been the little boy beside the pool he would say to the father: “I’ll never jump into the pool because I can’t trust you to catch me.” Or, “you will criticize my dive and make me do it over and over until it is perfect in your eyes.” Or even worse “you will dunk me several times just to show that you have power over me.” That’s why Paul tells us to remember how God has revealed Himself in the first 11 chapters of Romans showing us how merciful He is to give us His only Son to suffer and die for us because He loves us and will continue to show us mercy as we respond to His love with acts of faith and obedience. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
What is your view of God? Many of us grow up with the wrong view of God because of role models that wrongly modeled the character of God to us. This could be our parents, coaches, teachers, heroes (in movies and sports), etc. Thus we have a distorted view of God as Father in our mind and emotions and subconsciously respond to Him in a wrong way, maybe even like the lazy servant in Matthew 25.
The following are some wrong views of God and the corresponding correct view of God regarding a particular quality that we need to see from Scripture to tell us the truth about Who God really is. If any of these personally speak to you it would be wise to meditate on that truth. Memorize the Scripture that corrects your wrong view of God and pray that He will reveal Himself to you in this way.
CORRECTING OUR WRONG IMAGE OF THE FATHER – FROM FREEDOM IN CHRIST BY DR. NEIL ANDERSON
I renounce the lie that I joyfully accept the truth that
my Father God is …….. my Father God is……….
1. distant and disinterested 1. intimate and involved (Ps. 139:1-18)
2. insensitive and uncaring 2. kind and compassionate (Ps. 103:8-14)
3. stern and demanding 3. accepting and filled with joy and love (Rom. 1 5:7; Zeph. 3:17)
4. passive and cold 4. warm and affectionate (Isa. 40:11; Hos. 11:3-4)
5. absent and too busy for me 5. always with me and eager to be with me (Heb. 13:5; Jer. 31:20; Ezek. 34:6, 11)
6. never satisfied with what I do, 6. patient and slow to anger (Ex. 34:6; 2 Pet. 3:9) impatient and angry
7. mean, cruel or abusive 7. loving, gentle and protective of me (Jer. 31:3; Isa. 42:3; Ps. 18:2)
8. trying to take all the fun out of life 8. wants to give me a full life. His will for me is good, perfect and acceptable for me (Lam. 3:22-23; John 10:10; Rom. 12:1-2)
9. controlling and unforgiving 9. full of mercy and grace, forgives me when I fall (Heb. 4:15-16; Luke 15:11-24)
10. nit-picking and perfectionistic 10. committed to my growth and lovingly disciplines me for my good and His glory (Rom. 8:28-29; Heb. 12:5-11; John 15:1)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. What is your view of God? If God has corrected any of the above wrong views you previously had about Him please be prepared to share how this has blessed and helped you.
2. Which of the above wrong views about God do you still struggle with? What might you say to your earthly father if you were that little boy afraid to jump into the pool because of this wrong view of God as Father?
3. It is not our excellent performance that pleases God as much as our acts done out of a loving desire to please Him. “There are no great things, only small things with great love.” (Mother Teresa) Paul says the same in 1 Corinthians 13. In this sense our God is easy to please. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 and describe what “big acts” man can do that have no value in God’s sight because they are done without love for Him.
4. Jesus said, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15) List some things that are highly esteemed among men. Now try to explain why these things may be detestable to God.
5. “What comes to mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” (A. W. Tozer) Why is this true? Read Ephesians 1:17–19 and 2 Corinthians 3:17–18 and discuss our part in knowing God rightly.