“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Don not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
As I have been wrestled with the book of James and the Gospel of Mark over the years it has occurred to me that one of the themes that they share together is a cross-centred discipleship. James calls believers to live with Christ-centred sacrificial love for one another. Mark calls His disciples to follow Him to the cross where real sacrificial love will be demonstrated for this sin sick world. These same Disciples were then to be called to follow His example in living lives of cross-centred service for this world in all its lostness.
It should therefore come as no surprise that the Apostle Paul’s discussion of the giftedness of the Roman Church should be rooted in imagery that calls believers to cross-centred living. So often we want the gifts of the Spirit as a means of exerting power over others. This is not the Jesus way. His way is one of service to others. So when Paul reflects upon the giftedness that we are given by the Holy Spirit he begins with a call to sacrifice. We are to be living sacrifices. In fact Paul tells us that this is what it means for us to truly Worship God. Until we can follow Jesus to the cross, being immersed into His sufferings, we will never be able to share in His Glory. We will therefore be of very little use in His Kingdom, and we will bear very little fruit for Him. The reason for this failure on our part is because we will still be living for ourselves. This is why the Corinthians were pursuing the more sensational gifts. It was all about their own glory, rather than the glory of the God who had redeemed them. They were unable as a result to build a Christ exalting Church.
To the Romans Paul lays the foundation for real Christian fellowship in the call to the cross. It is at that place of suffering that we find that our desire to conform ourselves to the pattern of this world is broken because we have died to it. We have been given a new orientation in life. This is to live with a mind transformed by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that we are now centred upon His will. Now we live to glorify God by serving one another. In this environment the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in fact the whole of the life of the Church operates as it should, and God is glorified.
In Mark 10:32 we read that Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. He was going up to worship. His altar of worship was the cross of Calvary. His Disciples were following Him, as must we.