Progress Toward Perfection
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will accept. When you think of what the has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” (Romans 12:1-2)
These two verses are ones I like to return to frequently. Not only do they remind me of how a Christian should progress toward perfection, but they also remind me of how doing so is a work of God and not of myself. It also provides a way to assess my progress and decide what adjustments need to be made.
The process for doing this lies, simply, in breaking the verse down into four points for reflection, answering “yes” or “no” for each, and reflecting on why I answered the way that I did. Below each question are the thoughts and questions that might drive a reflection for this portion of Scripture.
1. Am I allowing myself to be a living and holy sacrifice?
Comfort is not the goal. The goal is living for Christ in every area even if it makes me uncomfortable.
Am I willing to give up comfort? Am I pushing through fear and doubt and trusting God for not just the outcome but what happens in the process that creates it? Am I giving all of myself in every area? What exactly is a living sacrifice? Can it be defined? Is it different for everyone? What changes do I need to make to live more as a “living and holy sacrifice”?
2. Am I living counter-culturally?
This is about not getting wrapped up in the superficial of the culture and not becoming polarized and emotional. It means being honest with yourself and remaining disturbed with untruth and dishonesty becoming normalized.
Am I pursuing a quiet, unhurried life even if it makes me not fit in? Do I feel guilty about pursuing the life that God calls me to pursue? Do I let the voices of culture influence me more than the Spirit of God? Where am I too comfortable with culture? Do the people I spend most of my time with influence me toward culture or God?
3. Am I letting myself be transformed?
Being transformed means progressively changing as you mature. It involves making a thorough or dramatic change in form, appearance, or character.
Is my mind being continually renewed by God’s word? Is it changing how I think, or is culture having a bigger influence? Am I focused on Godly values and ethical attitudes?
4. Do I know God’s will?
The more you do God’s will, the more you’ll know God’s will. Reading and reflecting on Scripture are essential as is sitting under the Godly teaching of others if you want to know God’s will.
What does God really want? What is his plan and purpose? Instead of operating in the flow of culture, am I making decisions that honor God?
In addition to reflecting on the main points, I also consider cross-references to help deepen my understanding of God’s intentions in these verses. Cross-references for Romans 12:1-2 include: Ezra 10:11; Psalm 50:14; Matthew 13:22; Romans 6:13, 16; Ephesians 4:23-24, 5:10; and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
Aiming Toward Progress
I then like to end with an overall reflection that basically looks at moving forward. Asking the following questions can help with this overall reflection and aim toward progress.
- How does God want me to live specifically?
- Do I need to simplify my life to let mind renewal happen?
- How do I know when to speak and when to stay quiet?
- How can the opportunities and motivations before and within me better direct the activity of my life? Are they driving me toward God’s will or distracting me from it?
- If I’m distracted, how can I become less so?
- How have I made progress toward perfection recently? How can I continue in that progress today? Tomorrow?
- How can I live more according to God’s will and less according to culture?
- What do I need to eliminate or add to be able to know and do God’s will?
One last point of application for making this process as fruitful as possible. Write out your thoughts by hand. Capture them on paper. The act of writing down what you’re thinking is powerful. It slows down your thinking and forces you to focus on what you’re writing since it’s not possible to be actively thinking about something else and writing your thoughts at the same time. This approach, writing down your thoughts, can be transformative if you commit to it regularly.