I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to 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 renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
There is a saying: “God loves you just the way you are, but God loves you too much to leave just the way you are.” In other words, the gospel is about love and it is about transformation. We can do nothing and need to do nothing to earn God’s favor – God is already on our side. But God’s desires for our lives far exceed what we can do on our own so God is also investing a lot of energy into transforming us into even more effective versions of ourselves.
This week’s guiding principle is “deepening faith to strengthen our discipleship.” It is about the hard work that it is to use the gift that God has given to us in Christ.
Often we ask for useful gifts for our birthday Christmas, etc. When we open the package and there is a tool we have needed for our shop or a gadget we have wanted in the kitchen, our face lights up and we are delighted to see the new addition to our gear. But if the gift is really a good match for us, look at it later and you will see signs of wear – scuffs, scrapes, etc. The best gifts don’t just make us smile when they arrive. They also get used to make good things happen. And depending what it is, you may even need to practice a few times before you get things right
Faith is like that. It is a gift and it comes from God freely and given with joy. God wants you to believe, trust and know that you are loved. But faith that does what God hopes it will do also changes us and calls us to put it to good use. And that takes practice.
Each of us should be taking time to nurture and deepen the faith that we have. Bibles should look worn – pages torn and discolored from lots of use (maybe even some highlights and underlines and margin notes of favorite spots). All of us are invited to make time to pray, both in ways that speak our thoughts to God as well as making time for silence and listening to God’s words to us. Adding other spiritual disciplines like contemplation, meditation, time in nature, service, etc. can also add life and value to our lives.
In the end, God isn’t just looking for “believers.” God wants disciples – people who are living out the faith they have each and every day. So, if you have faith, be sure to say thank you. But don’t live with your faith “on the shelf.” Exercise it and practice using it every day. That way you will never be bored because God will always be up to something in your life.