Therefore

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1 ESV

“Therefore.” We use this word when we desire those listening to act or at least realize something based on what we just shared.  It is a form of cause and effect. Because I said this, you should accept or do this. Because of this situation, you should behave in this particular manner. Therefore (pun intended), when Paul begins chapter 12 with “therefore,” it is imperative we look back to what he just shared. For what he just shared directly correlates to the message he is about to deliver.

So what did he just share? Well, the chapter preceding Romans 12 is a chapter focused on God’s wisdom in the hardening of some hearts and the softening of others. Paul reminds his readers that God can and will use the disobedience of the Israelites to bring salvation to the Gentiles and then the obedience of the Gentiles to lead the Israelites back to obedience. He points out that God has a plan for both the Gentiles and the Israelites–that neither is worthy of salvation, but both will receive salvation.

Paul then ends the chapter with the following declaration:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33‭-‬36 ESV)

Did you catch what led to Paul’s appeal in verse one of Romans 12?

For from and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever….Therefore.

Because God is God. Because His ways are higher and more intricate than our finite minds could ever comprehend. Because nothing we could ever do or say could ever earn what God has freely given to us. Because God deserves glory through everything–yes everything. Because of who God is and who we are (and are not), we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices. Every moment of every day we are to submit ourselves to Him. When we don’t understand–when our hearts are hurting–when our world is crumbling before us–we are to submit. We are to get on our knees and cry out, “Thy will be done.” And even when life is good and all is well, we are to submit–we are to offer ourselves to Him with humility and reverence.

Why?

Because He is God and we are not. Because from him and through him and to him are all things. Yes, all things. No, God doesn’t cause evil. No, God does not send us temptation. But He can use it. He can use that neighbor’s hardened heart. He can use that sweet little girl’s horrible illness. He is more than able and more than willing to use anything–and anyone–for His good pleasure.

Therefore, I urge you as Paul does in Romans 12: present yourself to God as a living sacrifice today. Whether or not you like and whether or not you understand your current circumstances, bow before Him today. Bow before Him and say, “Here I am, Lord; use me. Use me in my brokenness. Use my hurting heart.” Or if all is well, cry out for God to use your comfort to comfort others. Submit your well being to the One who deserves the glory for it.

Now I am not sure what you are going through today. I am not sure where you have been or where you are going. I do not know the things you have suffered, the pain you have endured, or the heartache you are currently experiencing. I cannot even fully understand the joy, peace, and contentment that may be overwhelming your soul this very moment.

But God does. God knows it all. He knows each of us intimately. He knows each of us more than we know ourselves. And He knows exactly what you are thinking and exactly what you need this very moment.

So rest in this today. Rest in the knowledge that God is God, and you are as child. And regardless of whether or not you understand what is happening to you or going on around you, submit. Present yourself as that living sacrifice–a sacrifice made holy and acceptable by the grace of God. For in so doing you are worshipping. You are praising. You are giving glory to the only One who deserves it. You are not being conformed; you are being transformed–“...that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:2 NKJV).

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Speak

And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
Ezekiel 2:6‭-‬7 ESV

Be not afraid. Three times God repeated this command to Ezekiel. God exhorted Ezekiel not to fear the people of Israel–neither what they said nor what they did. For God knew what was coming. God knew the house of Israel was rebellious. God knew not everyone would heed the warnings spoken through Ezekiel. God knew the nation needed to be warned by someone–but God also knew that someone had to be willing to be bold enough to speak despite rejection. To speak despite ridicule and persecution. To do God’s will regardless man’s response. By telling Ezekiel to fear not, God was reminding Ezekiel–and in turn reminding us–our obedience to God is our concern; the obedience of others is theirs.

Let me explain. In Ezekiel 3:17, God spoke to Ezekiel:  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.” This means Ezekiel was called to speak and to share the messages God gave to him, but he was not responsible for what Israel did with those warnings.

You see, in Old Testament times, a watchman’s post was on the wall looking out. His purpose was to help protect the people and the city by diligently keeping an eye out for anything and anyone who could possibly threaten the well being of those he was charged to protect. The watchman did not concern himself with the battle that may or may not come based on his report. The watchman did not focus on how the people might handle the news he shared; the watchman just shared. The watchman reported what he observed. What the people did with that report was not his responsibility.

The same went for Ezekiel. God explained to Ezekiel,   “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 3:18‭-‬19). In other words, Ezekiel was charged with obeying God’s voice. He was not responsible for the willingness or ability of Israel to heed God’s message conveyed through him.

What gets a watchman in trouble is not the actual message he may give, even if it is one of impending disaster; it’s the failure to convey the message to begin with. If a watchman were to see something unusual and not report it, he would be held accountable, even more so if his failure to report led to the downfall or death or defeat of a people or a nation. A watchman must report what he sees, but he then must not be afraid to leave the response up to those with whom he has shared. The potential response does not change the necessity to report. “They may not like what I say,” or “They may not believe my report,” would never keep a watchman from warning the people.

And it should not affect us either.

How people respond to the message of hope–the  message of salvation we are called to share–should never stop us from sharing. When we get to heaven, God’s not going to say, “Well done, people listened to you.” No, He’s going to say, “Well done, you obeyed my voice; you served Me.” Our faithfulness to God does not and should not depend on what others say, do, or think about us. People cannot affect our destiny. No words or actions done by man could ever change the relationship between God and His child–unless the child allows it to.

We do not have power over people. And we should not allow them to have power over our relationship with God. If God calls us to go into the world and preach the gospel (which He does in Matthew 28), then we are to go. Go to our families. Go to our friends. Go to our workplace, our neighborhoods, our grocery stores. Go to the uttermost parts of the world and preach. We are to share the good news with those around us. Sure, not everyone will receive what we share. We may even be persecuted for what we share. But what people do with what we share is not our responsibility. Our responsibility–our service and our duty–is to God alone. He is the author and finisher of the faith. He is the beginning and the last. He is the one we must serve. He alone.

So today, whatever it is God has asked you to do or to say, I encourage you to obey. Obey His voice without hesitation and without fear. Whether or not your words or actions are received is not the point. The point is you have a relationship with God. And to obey Him is worth far more than the praises of man. Man may make your time on earth unpleasant, but God is yours for eternity.  Therefore join me today in choosing to live our lives in the light of eternity–to obey God’s voice regardless the repercussions.

Let us speak the truth in love. Let us do all things without complaining. And as much as depends on us, let us live peacably with those around us (Romans 12:18).  Yet as we walk out the words of Jesus today, remember, not everyone accepted the message of Jesus. Not everyone received the words spoken by the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And not everyone will receive you either. But that’s okay. God doesn’t call us to control others; He calls us to serve Him. So serve Him today. Serve him faithfully and  diligently. And whether you are received or rejected, remind yourself of this: He who is with you is greater than he who is against you. Man’s words fade away, but God’s Word is eternal.