“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God that you 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.” Romans 12:1, 2 (ESV)
Paul gives us a way to discern God’s will for us. He starts out by urging us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, an offering to God that is both holy and well-pleasing to Him. But how do we do that?
First, let’s look at what our body is. We were created in God’s Image and because He is Spirit, we are spirit beings. Genesis also says that the Lord formed us out of the dust of the earth. Since He didn’t form our spirits out of the dust of the earth, Genesis is talking about our bodies — that part of us that returns to dust when we die a physical death. Our bodies are formed in our mother’s womb as an earthly house or tabernacle (2 Corinthians 5:1) for us to live in as animate beings.
As such, we are able to relate to two realms: the material world that is temporal and is passing away, and the spiritual world which is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). The temporal world is perceived through our body’s senses while the spiritual realm is comprehended through the senses of our spirit. From conception, we are ushered into the physical world, and we rapidly grow accustomed to relating to it through our ability to touch, hear, taste, smell and see. Our mind quickly forms our concepts of reality based on our perception of the physical world.
Since God created us in His Image we also function like mirrors, reflecting in our character whatever we focus on. If we focus on the physical world, our physical senses will develop much more than our spiritual senses, and our rational mind will dominate our understanding of reality.
But if we focus on the Lord in prayer, worship and the study of His Word, God will begin to open the eyes of our heart to His reality and His character so that our spiritual senses will become more adept at perceiving His world. Jesus said, “My sheep HEAR my voice. They follow me and I give them eternal life” — not just over-in-the-glory life, but eternal life in His eternal dimension as He opens our spiritual ears to hear Him. He also says “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall SEE God.” Again, this is not only for the sweet by-and-by. It is for right now — an expectation that as we focus on Him, we will also develop our spiritual eyes.
Paul says that as Christians, we have a choice. On the one hand, we can be conformed to this world by relying on our body’s strengths, abilities, intellect and senses to determine what is real. If we choose this path, the things of the Spirit will seem foolish and irrational to us, and we will refuse to believe the promises the Lord gives us. Or we can immerse ourselves in His Word, recognizing that because He is the same yesterday, today and forever, His Kingdom, revealed in the the Bible, is available for us to live in as well.
Of course, these two ways of perceiving reality will often be in conflict with each other. But as we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and learn through that relationship that we can trust Him to accomplish what He says He will do. When the conflicts in perception come, Paul urges us to present our body’s senses, strengths, intellect and abilities to God as a sacrificial offering of worship. In this act, we are saying “Not my will — not my perception of reality — but Yours be done.” His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Since our perception of the world, if pursued, would cause us to turn away through unbelief, Paul calls us to sacrifice our body’s discernment on His altar and trust by faith our spiritual comprehension of the reality that He reveals to us.
This posture is not a one-time event but a journey of growth into Christ. This continual, living sacrifice will allow the Lord to remake our minds over time as we walk with Him, and through this process, transform our whole nature into the person He wants us to become. As we learn to trust our spiritual senses, we will be able to discern the will of the Lord for us — what is good, acceptable and perfect.