In recent years we have seen a number of reality TV shows that demonstrate outward change: “Extreme Makeover”, “Ugly Duckling”, “Loser” to name a few. On these shows, we see a radical change in people and places: a house gets remodeled, a face gets rearranged, a body loses excess poundage. But have you noticed that all these changes are on the surface? Nothing this world offers can truly change a person from the inside out.
The second part of Paul’s radical redefinition of worship in Romans 12 can be found in verse 2:
Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern God’s holy, acceptable and perfect will.
In the last blog I mentioned that worship is more than a song or a service, it is the offering of our whole lives to God, 24/7. That is the worship that God deserves; that is the worship God expects. But did you know that as we offer ourselves to God that something truly amazing happens: we get transformed! And not just a facelift or a makeover, we get transformed from the inside out. How does this work?
As we offer our whole selves to God in worship, we are, in a sense, surrendering our all to Jesus. This allows Him to do His good work in us. This good work began when we first asked Jesus to be Christ (King) of our lives. But it is not a work that is complete at our conversion; it is an ongoing work that God does throughout our lives. And He will complete it (Phil. 1:6), but only as we surrender ourselves to Him in worship. The end result is that we will become like Jesus (1 John 3:2) in our character, mindset and (to a certain extent) ability (Jesus did say anyone who believes in him will be able to do the things that he does; even greater things – John 14:12).
God commands us: “Be holy as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). There are two ways people try to do this. The most popular way is to try to act like God: they do good works, participate in spiritual disciplines, and keep themselves morally clean – to the best of their ability. The Pharisees approached holiness in this manner. But this fails to truly accomplish anything. What results is either spiritual failure (they can’t keep it up) or spiritual pride (which is actually a form of hypocrisy – you act changed when you really aren’t). None of this is true godliness or holiness.
The other approach is “Whole Life Worship”, which starts by offering ourselves to God (as we discussed in the previous blog). It is saying to Jesus: “Here I am. I give myself to You. I can’t change me, but I know You can. Take what I have and what I am and make something wonderful out of my life.”
But too many people leave it there. As a result, they do not see their lives changing a bit. Offering ourselves to God is more than lip-service; it requires acts of faith. Paul says there are two acts of faith that lead to transformation. The first is: not conforming to the world’s mold.
Again, this does not mean we try to do this on our own power. First, we don’t have the power in ourselves to overcome the world’s influence. And second, even if we could accomplish this in our own power, God would not be worshiped – we would end up taking the glory! No. “Not conforming to the world’s pattern” requires a step of faith. It is believing that Jesus has the power to do something in and through us that we could not do ourselves. So much so, that we learn to “let go and let God.”
Let me share a personal illustration of how this works. Years ago I struggled with a powerful addictive behavior. I was totally enslaved by it. I knew it was wrong; I knew it wasn’t pleasing to God and I tried everything in my power to overcome it. But I couldn’t. I was so dismayed that I came to Jesus and said, “I can’t do it, Lord. I need Your help – bad!” To which the soft, still voice of Christ said to me, “I will help you. I will give you the power to overcome this. Here’s what I want you to do: step out in faith and live this next hour free from sin. If you feel weak, then cry out to me and I will give you the power to live the next hour free from sin. You will not see freedom unless you step out in faith and look to me as Your source of power.” And friends, I have to tell you: Jesus gave me victory that day, and the next and the next. Days became weeks and weeks became years. Though I must be on my guard against this “conformity to the world”, I am no longer a slave to it. Jesus gave me victory and transformation through the process of Whole Life Worship.
Successful recovering alcoholics and other addicts have a saying: “I can’t, Jesus can, and I’m going to let Him!” Do you also notice that they are also the most enthusiastic worshipers of Jesus? They understand the process of true transformation; they practice whole life worship on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
We all have our struggles with conformity to the world. It may not be an alcohol or drug addiction. It may be something worse, like arrogance or anger or impatience or controlling others or striving for physical beauty or materialism or self-centeredness (I say “worse” because these are hard things to detect). You could be addicted to sports or your job or the TV or fitness or cleaning. Maybe you know what it is. Or maybe you don’t and need to ask the Lord what it is (and He will tell you, believe you me!) But in any case Jesus wants you to be free and God wants you to become holy (they are the same thing). It begins with Whole Life Worship. Offer yourselves to Him, today.
“Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee” – Charles Wesley