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What's next? she asked.

In a number of weeks, our Footsteps of Paul group will be on the ground in Greece in search of the man, Paul, who unpacked the gospel and taught us what the Christian life is meant to be. We will actually be in the city of Corinth where Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome, the city he longed to visit. Unlike other letters he wrote to churches he had established, like Ephesians and Philippians for instance, he could not visualize the faces of the people in Rome, and yet we sense his passionate conviction for them to 'get' Christianity right.

In Romans 12, verses one and two, finds Paul pleading in the strongest terms possible for Christ followers to give themselves over as living sacrifices to God.  Yes, a living sacrifice could indeed climb off the altar…of that, Paul is well aware!  In reality, that is our problem, isn’t it?  With our mouth, we talk of our love for God, and then we give more time and mental space to many other things before him.

In one Bible translation, Paul urged, in another, he beseeched, and here, he begged. Take a look at these two unparalleled verses, Romans 12.1-2, from the Phillips translation:  With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him.

             Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.  

‘Present yourselves,’ Paul pleads, ‘be transformed, do not be conformed.’  God wants our commitment, he wants our dedication, and total devotion to him and his way of seeing the world—his way of doing things. 

Hmmm . . . it seems we can dedicate ourselves to eating well, we can dedicate ourselves to getting more physically fit, but dedicate ourselves wholly to God?  Hmmm, not so sure.  Really, what Paul says God is after is surrender.  The funny thing is, though, when you tell a single mom who has ‘done it all on her own’ that God is asking her to surrender herself to him, she backs up.  When you tell a ‘self made man’ that God requires that he surrender his will, he bristles.  Yet that is what God wants from you and me.

Are you IN?   Oh, it seems the choice is easy…of course, I am IN—no one has ever loved me like God; no one sacrificed for me but Jesus Christ.  To that, yes, I can surrender.  Yes, I am IN … I surrender.

‘Okay, then what comes next?' she challenged from across the room. Hmmm....  

Paul answers, beginning in verse three:  “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” Romans 12.3-8, New Living Translation

As fully committed to God, Paul says we must think rightly about ourselves, not thinking more highly that we ought. But in that humility, recognize that God has given each of us a spiritual gift or gifts when we made him our Lord, and with those unique gifts, we are meant to serve the community of believers, the church. Can you spell p-u-r-p-o-s-e?

Because he loved us first and gave himself for us, we can choose to love him in return, embarking on a forever relationship with him. God grows us, gifts us and commissions us to tell others about him and serve heartily.

Loved by God -> we surrender to him  ->  are gifted by him  -> to serve.

So that's it . . . that's what's next!

Oh, and the April Footsteps of Paul tour? We have a few seats because a couple travelers had to cancel, should you like to join us.

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