God has called each of us as individuals, and called us to respond to Him in the unique way He’s called each of us… but that doesn’t mean we’re in this alone. As we’ve already discovered, God has allowed us to experience some incredible things—even if they seemed hard at the time. There are probably even things in our lives that we wish God hadn’t allowed. But as we’ve seen, God can and will use everything for His good, even those things that seem lousy and unexplainable to us—if we’ll trust Him. Furthermore, God wants us to share what He’s done and give Him the glory for it.
This should be true of our Christian relationships as well—or perhaps, especially. However, the trick isn’t to pursue relationships with other Christians, but to pursue Jesus together as Christians. The two things sound similar, but there’s all the difference in the world between them. When Jesus is our focus, suddenly all the little things that often get in the way in our relationships don’t seem so important. When we pursue Jesus together, our relationships naturally become closer and deeper—because Jesus sets the tone. And Jesus is never going to steer us the wrong way.
We’re going to take an in-depth look at Romans 12, and use it as our roadmap from the individual to the corporate. In some ways this chapter seems all over the map, but as we work through it we’ll hopefully begin to observe the connections between who we individually should be before God, and how Jesus wants us to serve the world together as His Body.
Read Romans 12:1-2, repeatedly. Reflect on your time spent on this retreat so far (this, of course, assumes you have — view the previous 2 entries to get an idea), and then take at least 10 minutes to respond to these questions:
- Based on what’s gone on between you and God so far, how do you believe He’s called you specifically to “present your bod[y] as a living sacrifice”? What do you think your next move actually looks like?
- When do you find it easier to try harder, or “be conformed to this world,” to get things done, than to be “a living sacrifice”? What would God’s “good and acceptable and perfect” will look like in those situations? (And if your answer’s “I don’t know,” what do you need to change in your thinking to find out?)
Read verses 3-5, again repeatedly. Then take at least 15 minutes to reflect and write concerning the following questions:
- Why is it important to remember that we’re part of a body—and only one part? Come up with at least one example to illustrate your answer.
- Likewise, why is it important to remember that God has given each member a measure of faith?
- When have you seen a healthy church body (or group) work together? What made it work so well?
- On the other hand, when have you seen God’s purposes thwarted by His body? Complete this sentence, “If only….”
- What was your part in that “If only…”—or what should it have been?
Before beginning your next reading, take two or three minutes to think of all the commitments you’re responsible for in a given week, and write them down as they come to you.
Now, read and re-read verses 6-10. Take at least 15 minutes to journal on these questions:
- Where do you fit into this “short list” of spiritual gifts—or wish you did? How else has God gifted you that’s not listed here?
- Who exhibits some of the gifts that make you say “that’s so not me”? How could working together with that person or people benefit both of you, as well as benefit those you’re serving (or would like to serve)?
- Stay on those people you just thought of. How does showing mutual love and honoring those people help smooth over those places where it’s painfully obvious how different you are? Can you think of an example when that’s happened? Write that down as well.
- What would mutual love and honoring look like, specifically, in your life right now?
- Look again at the list you made earlier. How does this passage, and your responses to it, help you keep “your” work for the Lord in perspective?
Go on to verses 11-20. Read it, then re-read it. Take 10 more minutes to reflect and respond:
- Which of these commands—if any—do you look at and say, “Hey, no problem”? On the other hand, which of these commands just make you cringe? In both cases, why?
- Reflect once more on your co-workers from the section above. What, specifically, could that person or persons teach you that you lack?
This session has probably brought up a lot of current struggles. The good news is: God wants to help you in those struggles, and so do the people you thought about during this session. More than you know, or likely suspect. And now’s the time to invite God in (and if you’re in a group, others as well).
Which section resonated most with you as you studied and journaled? Spend time talking to God about it. Ask Him for wisdom, and for people to walk alongside you, as you pursue God’s “good and acceptable and perfect” will for your life. Also ask that your heart be changed toward others, so that you may “[l]ove one another with brotherly affection” and “[o]utdo one another in showing honor.”