Some view life as a meaningless existence. Steven Lloyd paraphrased Ecclesiastes 1:4-7 with these words, “We go to bed late, we get up early, we go to work, we drive home, eat and go to bed, to get up early, to go to work, to come home, ad nausea. And, as if that were not enough, we are plagued with making ends meet financially, fighting off the latest virus, hoping to avoid some dreaded disease, mistreated at work and abused at home, and then we die. Every aspect of life seems vain and like striving after the wind” (Coping: A Biblical Approach, p. 8). Thirty times in Ecclesiastes the term “vanity” appears in some form.
Some view life entirely selfishly. They say, “It’s my life. I will live it my way. It’s my body. I will do with it as I please.”
The Christian should approach life differently. Life has purpose (Acts 17:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Philippians 1:20-21). Paul reasoned that we should live differently because of “the mercies of God” (Romans 12:1). God has been so merciful to us. When one considers what He has done for us, it should motivate one to live differently. Let’s notice…
1. Relationship with God
“I beseech you, therefore by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
Unlike animals that were killed in devotion to God, God wants us to live in devotion to Him. Who is to do the presenting? You are. What is to be presented? Your body (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20). The idea takes on back to earlier words in this same book: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). Our lives are to be dedicated to God. “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live / All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow; worldly pleasures all forsaken, take me, Jesus, take me now / All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee; fill me with Thy love and power, let Thy blessings fall on me” (Song: All to Jesus I Surrender by J.W. DeVenter).
2. Relationship with Sinful World
“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” (Romans 12:2).
We are to be radically different from the sinful world. The word “transformed” is metamorpheo. It is from this word that we get our word “metamorphosis,” which is used to refer to the transformation a caterpillar goes through becoming a butterfly.
This change does not start externally. It starts internally, in the mind. We must develop a will to do His will (John 7:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:10b). We must learn God’s will, and discern between right and wrong (Hebrews 5:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). A change of mind will produce a change of action (Proverbs 4:23; Mark 7:20-23). God’s word “effectively works” in believers (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
3. Relationship with self
“For I say, through the grace given to me (miraculous grace, inspiration, apostolic authority (cf. Galatians 2:9; Romans 1:5; 15:15-16 – B.H.), to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…” (Romans 12:3).
When one understands that it is only by the grace of God that one is saved, such ought to have a humbling effect. Paul remarked, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Again, he said, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). We are to gird ourselves with humility (1 Peter 5:5b).
4. Relationship with brethren
“Let love be without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9).
Brotherly love is taught repetitively in the scriptures (e.g. Romans 12;9; 12:10; 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 3:8; 1 John 2:10-11; 3:10-18; 4:7-11; 4:19-21; 5:1-3; 2 John 5-6). Our love is not to be faked but genuine (Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 1:22). Our love is to be demonstrated in action (Galatians 5:13; 1 John 3:16-18).
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).
Roy Deaver commented, “’Preferring’ is the Greek ‘proegomai,’ and means to take the lead, to go before and show the way. The point is, in having an attitude of love and respect and high esteem for others, Christians ought to be examples to each other” (Romans: God’s Plan for Man’s Righteousness, p. 476). Foy Wallace Jr. commented, “Here it means leading one another on in honorable things. Inducing – promoting – exemplifying honor” (Commentary on Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, p. 58).
“Distributing to the needs of the saints” (Romans 12:13).
Christians are to be charitable people. We are to be “ready to give, willing to share” with those in need (1 Timothy 6:17-19). We are told, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).
“Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble” (Romans 12:16).
Some people think themselves too important to associate with the lowly, or even the common man. Robert Taylor Jr. commented, “Too many members are FAR more comfortable in the company of the elite… than they are with down-to-earth Christians” (Studies in Romans, p. 222). This should not be. Christians are to be people persons. Christians are to love their brethren, even those of humble means and humble intelligence.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
We are to be part of one another’s lives. “We, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5). “If one member suffers, all members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). “’When a thorn,’ says Chrysostom, ‘enters the heel, the whole body feels it, and is concerned: the back bends, the fore part of the body contracts itself, the hands come forward and draw out the thorn, the head stoops, the eyes regard the affected member with intense gaze. When the head is crowned, the whole man feels honored, the mouth expresses and the eyes look gladness” (McGarvey, Commentary on Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans, p. 126).
5. Relationship with others.
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).
Christians are to be a peace-loving people. We are taught, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Robert Taylor Jr. commented, “Attitudes of antagonism may make it virtually impossible to be at peace with them. This is why Paul injected a qualifier here. But the lack of peace should be their fault – not due to cantankerous dispositions and sour-on-the-world attitudes and actions” (Studies in Romans, p 223).
“Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath” (Romans 12:19).
We must not take the matter into our own hands. God has authorized governments to execute wrath (Romans 13:1-7). Moreover, we should remember that if the government does not repay, God will one day (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
We are not to let another’s evil to cause us to do evil. “Do not say, ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me. I will render to the man according to his work” (Proverbs 24:29). Instead, we are to seek to win the evil-doer over with kindness. We are to use kind words instead of cursing (Romans 12:14). If our enemy is hungry or thirsty, we are to use this as an opportunity to show kindness. Good deeds may soften hard heads, as coals of fire do metal. Whether our good deeds change the person or not we are having “regard for good things in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17).
Conclusion: When one truly gets the mercies of God it will change how he relates to: God, the sinful world, self, brethren, and others. It will change one’s entire life.