May 15, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV)
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.
If our imaginations are going to be used for good, we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. As God restores our mental capacities – including our imaginations – we are able to discern God’s will with greater accuracy and clarity. Thus, we can evaluate wisely the things we imagine. And we can live each day as an act of worship to God.
This devotion is part of the series, Imagination: Redeemed and Redemptive.
The first eleven chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans display the wonders of the gospel of God’s grace in Christ. Thus, when Paul gets to the end of chapter eleven, he exults, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! . . . For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33, 36).
Then, beginning in Romans 12, Paul lays out the implications of the gospel for how we live each day. At first he urges us to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (12:1). This offering of our bodies to God isn’t something we do only when we gather with other believers in church. Rather, it’s how we are to live each moment of each day, in every location and situation. We are to worship God by how we live at work and at home, in our neighborhoods and cities, in our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and even enemies.
Thinking about worship in this way, as something we do in every part of life, would not have been intuitive for the recipients of Romans. They would have envisioned worship in light of their culture: something one does on special occasions in temples and at public religious festivals, but that’s about it. So, if the Christians in Rome were to live out their salvation each day, they needed to think in brand new ways. Thus, Paul continues in Romans 12, “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.”
If we are going to be able to discern God’s will for our lives so that we live each day as an ongoing act of worship, then we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This renewal affects every mental faculty we have, including our imaginations. As we are transformed by God’s Spirit, we will imagine new things in new ways. We will “see” as we have not “seen” before. Moreover, we will grow in our ability to “discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Thus, when we imagine something, we won’t take it uncritically as necessarily true or helpful. Rather, we’ll evaluate it in light of God and God’s truth.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, for example, we saw someone let his imagination dictate his behavior, with distressing results. Abram imagined that the Egyptians would kill him because they desired his wife, Sarai. But he did not adequately “discern what is the will of God” with respect to what he had imagined. Abram needed to be transformed by the renewing of his mind so he could wisely judge what his imagination dreamt up.
The good news for us is that the renewing of our minds is something God does in us through the work of the Holy Spirit. As we live each day in relationship with God, we are being transformed, every part of us, including our imaginations. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, italics added). Of course, we don’t physically see the Lord’s glory in an actual mirror. Rather, we see with our hearts, or, you might say, with our renewed imaginations. Thus we see not only God’s glory but also ourselves on the way to being transformed into the glorious image of Christ. The more we imagine ourselves in this way, the more we will be enabled to present our bodies to God as we worship God in everything we do.
Can you think of ways that God has renewed your mind? If so, what are those ways and how did the renewal happen?
Do you ever feel a tension between thinking in the ways of our culture vs. the ways of the gospel? If so, what do you do with this tension?
Are there areas of your life for which you need a renewed imagination?
Ask God to renew your imagination, so that you might see in new ways and live each moment as an act of worship.
Gracious God, thank you for the good news of your grace in Christ. Thank you for the invitation to live my whole life in response to this grace, worshiping you in all that I do. Thank you for being at work within me, renewing and transforming my mind so that I might know and do your will.
Today, Lord, I ask you to renew my imagination. Help me to see in new ways. Help me to envision that which you already see. Help me to imagine how your redemptive love can take shape in my life and in this world.
As I see with new eyes, O God, may I live in new ways, worshiping you through everything I do. Amen.
Banner image by Dollar Gill on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Be Transformed by the Renewing of Your Minds (Romans 12:1–3).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.