Simplicity Series #35

Living Thankfully

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 [worship]. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable will of God.” Romans 12:1–2

The Greatness of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is the beginning of true greatness. To be grateful, especially in times of trial and adversity, is the mark of a great soul. To be thankful for our blessings is a fine thing. We ought to give thanks for all the wonderful family and friends in our lives and for things like freedom, health, and possessions. These may form the beginning of thankful living, but all these are of the elementary level of gratitude.

Here, Paul calls on us to live thankfully, without even using the word “thanks.” These verses are the “hinge,” so to speak, between the doctrinal and the practical portions of the book of Romans. In these two brief verses, Paul encapsulates all that has gone before—and introduces all that will follow.

I would encourage you, at this Thanksgiving season, to consider the grandeur and the power of thankful living.

The Foundation of Thankful Living

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God …”

From the very first chapter of this weighty epistle, Paul has been focused on the infinite and unsearchable mercies of God. These are all summarized by the phrase “the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16). This “good news” reveals “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16b). Furthermore, “in it [the Gospel] the [justice] of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:17, emphasis added).

You will note that I have placed the word “justice” in place of the common translation “righteousness.” This is not arbitrary. First of all, righteousness and justice are inseparable.

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne …” Psalm 97:2

Further, the word dikaiosune, which is translated “righteousness” here, is the same root word for “the just” in Romans 1:17. Furthermore, later in Romans 3:26, we read, “to demonstrate His righteousness [justice], that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Here, the words “righteousness … just … justifier” all come from the same root. This is critical because, as Paul makes clear in His theme statement (Romans 1:16–17), it is because of the justice/fairness of God that he is not ashamed.

The Gospel message reveals not only God’s power to deliver (whether initial salvation or later sanctification), but also reveals His justice and fairness in that it is offered to all who will believe. Because Christ died for all, all mankind will be judged on the basis of their response to the “Good News” of His finished work (Romans 2:16). It is of interest to note that the words “mercy” and “mercies” do not occur in the book until Romans 9:15, and are used a combined ten times through Romans 12:1. This section deals with the history of Israel—Paul is stressing the ingratitude of the nation to God in light of His offered mercies.

The Focus of Thankful Living

“… that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service [worship].”

The picture Paul sets forth for thankful living comes from the language of the priesthood. It was the priest in Old Testament times who drew near to the altar to make a sacrificial offering. The same figure can be found in Hebrews 10:22:

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

It was essential in Old Testament times that the priest wash himself at the laver of cleansing before he “drew near” to serve. Just as the sprinkling of the ashes of the red heifer ceremonially cleansed all uncleanness (Leviticus 19; Hebrews 9:13–14), even so we have been cleansed forever by the “sprinkling” (application) of the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:2) and continue to be cleansed by the “washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

What is the evidence of our gratitude and thanksgiving to God for His matchless grace given to us through Christ? It can be nothing less than the unconditional offering of ourselves to Him in service. Paul calls this our “reasonable service.” The word “reasonable” is logikos, from which we get the word “logical.” The word for service is from latreuo, which is translated as “serve, service, or worship.” In the book of Hebrews, the emphasis is always on priestly service and worship (Hebrews 8:5; 9:6, 9, 14; 10:2; 12:28; 13:10). Because every believer in Christ is a priest (1 Peter 2:5–9), we all are called into “full-time Christian service,” as we daily offer our lives to the fulfillment of His purpose.

It is not by accident that many translations use the word “worship” in this verse. The figure of the offering of self takes us back to Genesis 22, where Abraham, the father of believers (Romans 4:12, 16), was called upon to offer his son Isaac on Mount Moriah—the very place where, two thousand years later, Jesus Christ, the “only begotten Son” (Hebrews 11:17), was offered by the Father on behalf of all mankind. It is here, in the 22nd chapter of Genesis, that the word “worship” first occurs in the Bible (Genesis 22:5), highlighting what Jesus later proved through the offering of the poor widow (Mark 12:42–44)—that even the poorest and weakest among us, can give offerings acceptable to God if we but give of ourselves first (see 2 Corinthians 8:1–5).

The Function of Thankful Living

“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.”

Our reasonable and perfect worship to God is also His greatest blessing to us. Once we are in Christ, we are no longer of this world (John 17:16; Philippians 3:20). We will never again “fit in” in this world. Therefore, we are called to a gradual and increasing transformation into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29:2 Corinthians 3:18).

This transformation comes about through the “renewing of [the] mind,” and this is the work of the Holy Spirit—using the Word of God as we receive it—to conform us to the Savior and, therefore, to the character of God Himself (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). By our spiritual hunger for God’s Word and the inner ministry of the Spirit of God, Christ is gradually formed in us (Galatians 4:19). As a result, while we walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16)—which is to say, “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7)—Christ lives in and through us (Galatians 2:20), thus continuing His ministry of extending the grace of God to a world held captive by the devil. We then, as we live lives of gratitude and thanksgiving, become the agents and ambassadors of His kingdom, offering His liberation to those who are spiritually enslaved. In short, living in gratitude for the mercies of God makes us the avenue of His mercy to those still in darkness.

I pray for a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving for each of you, and that we all will unite, in an increasingly dark and evil world, to prove out “what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” Hebrews 12:28

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 106:1

In the gratitude of His grace,




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