[This is our first devotional entry. An introduction to the series was posted previously, but you will need to scroll down to read it.]
Romans 12:1-2 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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Institutes: Book 3 Chapter 7 Section 1, Part a
“We are not our own masters but belong to God. Even though the law of the Lord provides the finest and best disposed method of ordering a man’s life, it seemed good to the Heavenly Teacher to shape his people by an even more explicit plan [than] that rule which he had set forth in the law. Hence, then, is the beginning of this plan: the duty of believers is ‘to present their bodies to God as a living sacrifice…’ [Rom 12:1] From this is derived the basis of the exhortation that ‘they be not conformed… but be transformed…’ [Rom 12:2] Now the great thing is this: we are consecrated and dedicated to God in order that we may thereafter think, speak, meditate, and do nothing except to his glory. For a sacred thing may not be applied to profane use without marked injury to him.
"If we, then, are not our own [I Cor 6:19] but the Lord’s, it is clear what error we must flee, and whither we must direct all the acts of our life. We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set is as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours.“
Calvin starts this section on the call to self-denial by reminding us of the standard. The standard for behavior used to be the law of Moses, but after Jesus that standard changed. Now the standard is to offer oneself entirely to God as a living sacrifice. On one hand it could be seen as a great duty and burden but in reality it means conformity to the beauty of God’s character. We are called to be “sacred things.” Then Calvin writes with rhythmic urgency. We are not our own… we are not our own… we are not our own. Don’t trust your own reason… don’t seek your mere momentary pleasure… don’t get stuck on yourself.
If I am honest, the call to self-denial is not immediately attractive to me. But then I contrast it to the heavy burden of setting my own plans and making them work. It is a crushing weight to claim autonomy, to try to be my own master… my own God. When I contrast God’s call to be an offering with the unsatisfying quest for self-glory and self-satisfaction, I see that self-denial is the pathway to something more beautiful. Through self-denial I leave behind my plans, my pleasures, my self-focus. Through faith in Christ we grasp hold of the beauty of God’s glory and the freedom of our own self-forgetfulness. You are not your own. (Matt)