It was a warm summer day in July 2006. My wife and I stood in family court before a judge that was going to make a decision about the future lives of three children that we had welcomed into our home. They had been orphaned twice—the first time by their biological parents who were unable to raise them and the second time by the sudden deaths of their adoptive parents four months apart from each other. We stood powerless before the judge. He had the position and the authority to determine the physical and spiritual directions of the children’s lives. I had never felt so powerless. A judge, who probably had read the case notes in his chamber five minutes prior to entering the court room, was in charge.
The Apostle Paul could have pulled this kind of rank and authority when he addressed the Roman believers in Romans 12:1. After all, he was the Apostle to the Gentile, an eyewitness of the resurrected Lord, and a prolific New Testament writer! However, guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul chose to “appeal” to the believers to offer themselves as “a living sacrifice.” The Greek word that Paul used, parakaleo, comes from para from which we get our English word “parallel” and kaleo, often translated, “appeal, invite, encourage, urge or exhort.” It literally means to “call to one’s side.” Paul was not pulling rank, but was inviting believers to join him in the journey together with him in offering our lives as “a living sacrifice.” There is no “do as I say” dictate here but rather “come along-side with me so that we can help each other become living sacrifices.”
The next word Paul uses is crucial to how and why we can join his invitation. “Therefore!” As first year Alaska Bible students learn in our Inductive Bible Study Class, when we come across a “therefore” in the scriptures, we must discover what it is there for! This conjunctive adverb connects what is mentioned before with what is stated after and serves to argue that what comes before is the reason to embrace what comes after. Paul’s appeal for us to join him as “a living sacrifice” is based on the “mercies of God” or the “kindnesses” of God. According to the prophet Jeremiah, God’s mercies “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). We get a fresh dose of God’s mercies every day, so it will not be hard to count His kindnesses every day. As the old hymn says, “count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” I have found that if I do not count His kindnesses every day, I tend to lose my gratitude and embrace entitlement and discontent. As we focus on God’s mercies, we get to give ourselves to Him as “a living sacrifice,” which is the only way we will ever flourish spiritually.
Have you counted His kindnesses yet today? If not I invite you to join with me in doing so each day. It will serve as a compelling motivation and empowerment to be the “living sacrifice” that God has designed us to be!
– President Dave Ley