Spend the week studying Romans 12:1-2. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members and their openness to God’s Word.
FOCUS ON THE MAIN POINT | Being a “living sacrifice” means daily surrendering to Jesus and His lordship over your life.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
What does it mean to experience God’s best for your life? This is a critical question for believers, and it’s the focus of our Reset series. Every week we will explore the wide-ranging scope of Romans 12:1-2 and what it means to experience God’s best for your life. And we’re calling this series Reset based on the truth that transformation comes when we align our lives around Jesus and His Gospel.
We are thrilled about this study, because we believe there is a lot of meat on the bone in Paul’s words (after all, we’re devoting four weeks of study to just two verses!). Romans 12:1-2 is practical theology, because our beliefs about God (theology) inform our everyday decisions and relationships (practice). In that sense, it is very practical.
Far too many Christians are experiencing less than God’s best in their lives. The reason for this is that there’s a fundamental breakdown in their theology. Through this series you will see that experiencing God’s best means understanding who God is and what He’s done for you. Only then can you see the pleasure, power and purpose in your relationship with God.
Recall the last time you had to make a sacrifice. What did you have to give up, and how did it make you feel? What did you learn from the experience?
How would you define the term practical theology in your own words?
Select 3-5 questions to discuss as a group.
So what does it look like to love your neighbor as yourself? To answer this question, we need to define what love is and who our neighbor is. First, let’s explore how the Bible defines love.
The Motivation: God’s Mercy
In Romans 1-11, Paul builds a theological foundation for his readers. That is, he addresses the major components of Christian theology, such as sin, salvation, sanctification and divine sovereignty. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul shifts focus to practical application. Essentially, Paul is saying, “Now that you have the truth, this is how you live by it.”
Paul begins the practical section of his letter with some motivation. He “urges” his readers to consider God’s mercy in light of everything he addressed in Romans 1-11. For Paul, understanding God’s mercy creates the foundation for daily living.
Why is it difficult to achieve something without motivation? How does motivation enable you to achieve or change things in your life? What are your greatest motivators in life? How do they relate to your spiritual life?
The Command: Be a Living Sacrifice
So what does Paul tell his readers? To be a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” God’s mercy has brought us from death to life (see Rom. 6:13; Eph. 2:1-5). We have been set free to live the life God always intended for us—a life with Him at the center. Being alive in Christ enables you to be a “living sacrifice” to Him.
Paul’s use of sacrificial imagery recalls the Old Testament sacrificial system. That system looked forward to the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin by Christ. Now that it has been made, the “living sacrifice” we offer now is our devotion and thankfulness to God.
What are the main barriers that keep you from being a “living sacrifice” to God?
How could you cultivate a more thankful attitude in your life?
The Reason: Worship
Being a “living sacrifice” is an act of worship. The kind of worship Paul refers to in this passage incorporates the whole self. Paul has in mind the total person—heart, mind and soul. Worship is not just for Sunday mornings. It’s a lifestyle of giving regular praise to and finding your ultimate satisfac- tion in God.
What Paul teaches echoes Jesus’ teaching on the Greatest Commandment in Matthew 22:34-40. Jesus calls you to be all-in as His disciple. Anything short of that will keep you from experiencing God’s very best in your life.
Consider someone who lives a lifestyle of worship. What is characteristic about them? What can you learn from him or her?
Read Matthew 22:34-40. How does the Greatest Commandment relate to Paul’s command in Romans 12:1-2?
Select 1 question from this section to answer.
Seeking a Relationship, Not Religion
In order to experience God’s best for you, there must be application of God’s truth in your life. Otherwise, you’re living for a religion, not a relationship. If you understand all God has done for you, you will see the value and joy of a relationship with Him over and above anything the world offers.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
In your daily life you make thousands of decisions. These decisions—whether big or small—reveal something about your view of God. Ultimately, we sin because we don’t believe a life with God is better than a life apart from Him. We doubt God’s goodness and the promise that what He offers is better than what the world offers. Paul directs his readers to see God for who He truly is—good and merciful. And he exhorts them to make their daily decisions based on God’s saving character and actions.
How does Romans 12:1-2 protect you from believing the lies of sin and this world?
Discuss the statement, “Ultimately, we sin because we don’t believe a life with God is better than a life apart from Him.” What do you learn from this statement about the nature of sin?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
Power to Transform
Our faith is based on the historic life, death and resurrection of Jesus. What Jesus accomplished at the Cross actually happened. It wasn’t just a story to inspire us, but an event that points to God’s sovereign authority over our lives. Jesus defeated sin and death for us, and He invites us to live in light of his victory. And He has sent the Holy Spirit to give us power to transform our lives (John 14:15-31; 15:26-6:11).
The Christian life is all about living out the Gospel story in your life, and it’s the way you experience God’s best for your life.
How should you live in such a way that others see God’s love, mercy and compassion in how you live and relate to others?
A Lover’s Delight
Lovers delight to please one another. They will go out of their way, make great sacrifices and do everything possible in order to bring joy to their beloved. This is the type of sacrificial love Paul is writing about in this passage. Our relationship with God is a love relationship. And it is worship as well. In the same way a lover praises his or her beloved, we should praise and adore God with our lives.
How can you (and your group) be more proactive in living out the Gospel in your relationships with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers?
Take time during your group to pray and offer praise to God. Allow group members to thank God for who He is and what He has done in their lives. Worship God as the Lover of your soul, and share the things about God that fill you with delight. Consider God’s mercy towards you and how you can extend that mercy to others.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Ask group members to begin each day of the next week by writing three things they are thankful for (with no repeats). Ask for feedback from the exercise at the next meeting.
Memorize Romans 12:1-2 and reflect on what it means to be a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.”
Paul The Pastor
Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:1-2 is deeply personal. He is urging his readers to live in the power of the Gospel and by transformed by it. In Romans 1-11, Paul flexes his intellectual muscle as a theolo- gian. But, from Romans 12 to the end of his letter, he reveals a pastoral heart that longs for believers to experience God’s best in their lives.
A different sacrifice.
Paul’s imperative to be a “living sacrifice” reverses the pagan sacrificial practices of his day. Pagan religions sacrificed in order to receive mercy. Paul exclaims that God’s mercy has already been given to us. Therefore, believers should respond to God’s mercy by sacrificing their lives to Him.
A holy and pleasing sacrifice.
The words “holy” and “pleasing” denote the type of sacrifice God desires. To be a “holy” sacrifice is to acknowledge God’s character as directly opposed to sin; that is, everything God is and does contrasts with sin’s essential nature and consequences. To be a “pleasing” sacrifice is to live in a way that delights God. How do you do this? By living in obedience to God, because you trust that His commands over your life are for your good and growth.
Jesus as Lord.
God’s grace is freely given to us, but it requires a total surrender to Jesus as Lord. You cannot make Jesus lord of your life if He doesn’t have lordship over everything. This total surrender is a daily activity; it’s not once-and-for-all surrender without struggle. Why? Because sin, our flesh and the world continue to pull us in the direction away from God. Making Jesus Lord is deliberately acting on the belief that being a slave to God is better than being a slave to sin and the world; it’s believing that Jesus truly is the Good Shepherd that gives you a life to the full (John 10:1-18).