First, how did your first week in the Topical Memory System go? How did memorizing Scripture affect your daily life? Was it something you looked forward to, or something you dreaded? Was it something you went out to conquer for God (or yourself), or something in which you yielded to God’s work within you?
Those questions are one way we might approach this week’s verses which speak to obedience – and the difference of God’s call to obedience as opposed to legalism.
Two years ago, we wrote a series of posts on this very subject of obedience vs legalism. In one, we wrote: “Where legalism attempts to earn God’s grace by following his commands (or the rules we have instituted in lieu of those commands), obedience is the following of God’s commands that flows from God’s grace. We cannot earn God’s grace with our “obedience.” That would be to assert that we are able to be “good” first, apart from God. Yet Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18b), and in John 15, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me… for apart from me you can do nothing.” Indeed, we can only be obedient because of God’s grace.”
We aren’t called to go this alone – it is Christ’s work in us that does the work. Remember your first two verses from last week. 2 Corinthians 5:17 promises that if we are in Christ, we are new creations, and Galatians 2:20 tells us that it is Christ who is alive in us! Trying to do this on our own power, or seeing Scripture memory as an achievement rather than the gift of discipline (2 Tim 1:7), is to live that old life in the flesh that we are told has passed away.
As we begin our study this week, make sure to read the context (the workbook suggests Rom 11:32-12:2). As you do, hear some of the truths of this passage:
- God has allowed us all to be disobedient… and because of this he can offer mercy to all! (11:32)
- Praise God that we rely on his resources and not ours! His riches are deep, unsearchable, and inscrutable (impossible to understand fully). (v33-34)
- Obedience is not a payment to God, as if we could ever repay him for our sins or for his blessings! (v35)
- Everything is from him, through him, and belongs to him. (v36)
- Obedience then, is not payment, but the reasonable and expected response to God’s mercies. (12:1)
- Instead of molding ourselves to the call of the world, we are given the gift of God’s grace to be transformed by the renewing of our minds through God’s power, so that we can discern his will and what perfect good he has called us to! (12:2)
On to our memory verse:
Obedience to Christ, Romans 12:1
“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.”
Right from the beginning of this verse we see that obedience is “by the mercies of God,” not by some goodness of ourselves. Even worship – giving praise to God – is a gift he gives us, as none of us can draw near to him in worship except if God calls us (Jn 6:44)!
“God never tells us to give up things for the sake of giving them up, but He tells us to give them up for the sake of the only thing worth having, namely life with Himself… It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a ‘living‘ sacrifice – to let Him have all your strengths that have been saved and sacrificed through Jesus (Romans 12:1). This is what is acceptable to God.”
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for his Highest
So again, where do you find yourself today? Overwhelmed? Proud? Intimidated? Accused? Guilty? If so, know that these feelings are not from the Spirit. They are signs that we are trusting in our own power rather than His. Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Mt 11:28-30). Scripture tells us that we are to boast not in ourselves but in our weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon us (2 Cor 12:9). And remember that we are MORE than conquerors (Rom 8:31-39), and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1)!
Praise God for the gift of his Spirit, and for the power and other gifts that he gives us through Christ to be obedient for every task to which we are called (Phil 4:13)!
One gift God has given us for this journey is discussed in the workbook this week. It is the gift of other Christ-followers. As you go through the section “How to Review Memory Verses with Someone Else,” think about who that person might be. When you’ve found that person (or persons), don’t just review Scripture together. Discuss how you can keep each other accountable to being obedient rather than legalistic!
So again, how can we help? What have been your toughest struggles? How have you seen God change your life? What is the next step of faith you believe God is calling you to take in this journey? How do you see him giving you the grace to take that step?