Romans: Day 30

A Living Sacrifice

by

Today's Text: Romans 12:1-8, Hebrews 13:15-16, Ephesians 4:1-16

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-8, Hebrews 13:15-16, Ephesians 4:1-16

Personal discipline isn’t one of my stronger giftings. To put it another way, I stink at it.

I’m the one in my family who excitedly asks, “Who wants to go get ice cream?” rather than stick to our sensible meal plan. I’m notorious for drafting a shiny new routine that lasts for three days before I’m ready for spontaneity again. Despite my best efforts to implement structure in my life, I’m all over the place. I’ve come to accept that flexibility is just part of who God made me to be.

But here’s the truth. For me, that acceptance spills over into a lack of spiritual discipline. The world tells us that fulfilling our every desire or whim in the moment is a sign of happiness, success, and freedom. But I can say from experience that ignoring spiritual disciplines only leads to chains, not freedom.

Paul warns us, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” and I find myself staring longingly at his words (Romans 12:2). I want that. I want my body—my whole self—to be “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (v. 1).

I tried renewing my mind by attending church, but I didn’t make time to engage with God at home. I’d sit half-dazed in front of my computer, reading about fall fashion trends rather than reading my Bible. I’d watch one more episode of my favorite show and skip my prayer time. I wanted to read my Bible and pray and live out Romans 12:2, but my propensity for distraction and gluttony grew. I couldn’t control them on my own, no matter how guilty I felt or how many times I vowed to change.

I’d forgotten that only God can transform my heart. And that transformation takes place in the context of the body of Christ, His Church—not just out here on my own, accompanied only by my best intentions.    

Maybe your struggle is the opposite of mine, and routine and productivity are the desires that take the place of true renewal. Or perhaps your days are bound by a structure that you don’t want God to bend, a rigidity where spending time with Him in Scripture and in prayer are items on a checklist rather than intimate interaction with your heavenly Father. Whatever your personality, spiritual disciplines are tools that lift our eyes from our circumstances and desires and focus our hearts on God’s presence. Prayer, fasting, Bible study—they’re all disciplines that renew our minds and refresh our spirits. But unlike a resolution, a diet, or an exercise regimen, they aren’t sustained by our willpower.

True spiritual growth is rooted in the Spirit’s work in us, not in our effort. God is the Giver. We are the recipient. He empowers. We surrender. We do this individually, as God’s daughters and sons, and we do this corporately, as His children and Church.

May we truly worship the Lord today by offering Him our whole selves, surrendering our desires to His will and our efforts to His strength, “according to the grace given to us” (Romans 12:6). Amen.

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Jill McDaniel is a northern girl who married a southern gentleman and settled in the Midwest. With coffee in her hand, she coordinates her church’s Sunday preschool ministry, homeschools her two older kids, and plays babies with her youngest. You can find more of her writing at jillmcdaniel.com.

  • michelle Benson

    Oh thank you! I’ve never encountered someone EXACTLY the same way I am. It’s not a matter of the wanting, it’s a matter of distraction and the struggle to keep from the distraction. I’m deeply grateful for your words as I know I’m not the only one going through trials such as these.

  • at this point my body might be denied……I am a 3 dayer myself. 3 days and I’m off to something else. i really need the Lord’s intervention on this one.

  • “DONT JUST TAKE ME TO IT LORD
    MAKE ME DO IT!!!” Not real biblical,
    But my prayer for today!!

  • You know… God truly DOES have a sense of humor. As I’m sitting in bed, sipping my twice-reheated cup of tea, I was about to open Netflix up and watch an episode of my favorite show to “relax” before bedtime. To my surprise, the app was re-downloading and taking what seemed 5 years. I thought to myself, hmm…it’s been about a week since I opened my Romans plan. Low and behold, I certainly received the message God was sending. We must all take time and sacrifice (so-to-say) what feels good to our worldly selves, in order to make space for God. Thank you, She Reads Truth for this reminder!

  • God always has a rhyme and reason for things. I was behind in my group bible study and catching up before we meet to discuss. Today, the day I broke down over my struggles with my own self-discipline and will-power, to read this – how can I NOT see God in this??? SO powerful – and exactly the reinforcement and support I needed today.

  • I’m good about getting here physically but my mind, my mind is always somewhere else. All over the place. I loathe routine and love to live for the moment, which unfortunately results in a lot of mornings where I’d rather obsess over instagram or the day’s agenda ahead of me or the activities of the night before, instead of opening my bible and heart before the Father. Shame doesn’t begin to cover it.

    But. GOD. He gave us free will and choice and also direction on how to use both — when we choose to surrender our hearts and thoughts and agendas to His ways, we are richly rewarded with deep connection and spiritual growth, more able to withstand the darkness of this world, with an increased capacity to love the people around us. Isn’t that what we want?? I have to remember this! More of Him, less of me, that I may resist conforming to the ways of the world and be instead transformed by the renewing of my mind. Thank GOD for this most vulnerable place where we women study the word together – I’m not sure who I would be without this amazing community & all your comments and insight!!!

  • I do agree, but this seems a bit lacking in personal responsibility. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13. God is the one who does the work, but I am responsible to cooperate, submit, and take the way of escape He has provided.

    • Kylee

      The final few paragraphs of this devotional speak to that. “True spiritual growth is rooted in the Spirit’s work in us, not in our effort. God is the giver. We are the recipient. He empowers. We surrender.” Our personal responsibility is to surrender, which as we know is the hardest part. I rarely WANT to surrender my will and ways to His, but every time I do I see deep connection and spiritual growth. Jill is saying the same thing you are saying, the work on our part is to cooperate and submit. But God does the heavy lifting in our hearts!

  • Great devotional! It felt like it was me writing each word. Feeling convicted about my distractions in spiritual discipline, but also appreciate that the author states “flexibility is how God made me to be.” And if he made me that way, he knows just how to help renew my mind to be more focused on him.

    • Kylee

      Amen. I loved that, too, especially since I tend to rake myself over the coals for how all over the place I am!

  • This devotion spoke to me on so many levels this morning. I too, get easily distracted with Instagram, TV, books, and a host of other things. I too want to have the transformation of my mind, to discern the will of God that is so good and pleasing. I am a currently a baseball mom who frets and worries and stresses over ball games that my son is playing, begging God to let my son do well and help our team win. I found peace in what Jill said about how God is the giver and we are the recipient. He empowers. We surrender. I am going to go out today and surrender all my worry and fretting and let him empower. He is at work and it’s not in my effort to do a thing. I realize this is trivial but it is where I am and I felt God pushing me to share it. I love SRT and how it speaks to each of us right where we are, in the big and little things that we face each day. Thank you for continuing to open my eyes, through God’s word, to his many many truths.

  • Jody Heavenrich Hensley

    This devotional and these comments are why I LOVE the SRT community. I am ‘cramming’ my five days of reading the study on my Grace day (my typical pattern) and this devotional hits home to me. I love that others have shared their struggles with distractions/check list markers. I love the feeling I get after my cram session and wonder why I don’t want that feeling everyday verses just one day. Saturday mornings at my dining room table with a mug of coffee, my SRT study book, The Message, and my lap top are my favorites, though. Love to you all for being a part of my spiritual journey. I could not thank you enough for helping me grow in my faith!

  • Dana Moore

    This resonates so much with me. I struggle a lot with personal responsibility vs. the Spirit’s ability to change, where that line is… I haven’t found a way to be consistent in any discipline without having to be almost legalistic about it. Right now I struggle feeling joy in the spirit. I’m showing up every day to read my Bible (thanks, SRT), but my mind and heart are elsewhere. Ugh…there’s so much more, but anyway, this post meant a lot to me. I’m just not sure how to return to the joy of my salvation.

    • Evie

      I hear you. I’ve also struggled in the past between being legalistic and being complacent. I found that just starting with prayer allows the Holy Spirit to change the discipline into a date with the Lord. Now I come to the word as an invitation instead of a regimen, praying for God, my lover, to speak to me as I speak to Him the desires of my heart. That’s what Jesus bought for us, intimacy with God. Hope that helps you Dana. Praying with you and for you.

      • Lara

        I love that. Coming to the Word as an invitation, not a regimen. Prayer too. Thanks for that Evie. I hope that is helpful to you too, Dana

    • Ash

      Dana, I too have been asking God to return to me the joy of my salvation, and that for my husband as well. I feel like we are in a spiritual desert and I don’t know how to get out of it. I know that if I could just lay hold of Romans 12:2 I would come out of it, but I am consistently inconsistent in my efforts to do so. After reading this devotion I was nodding in agreement but still asking myself what to do.

  • Oh Lord keep our hearts and minds on you the author and perfecter of our faith. Lord keep me away from any distraction that may cause me to drift from you. Surrendering all Lord. Your spirit prayers for us for we don’t know sometimes what to pray for in the quiet times. I just want to pray for your will to be done. For me to hear the calling of the spirit. To be prepared to do your preordained will for me. To not be too busy to miss it. Take me to that secret place Lord where you can bend me to do your perfect will. I am willing amen

  • I’ve been thinking about these readings for a couple days and am feeling like Paul is saying to me to “be mindful … the world is a busy chaotic place. Don’t get so drawn into its chaos that you lose sight of being still with God, developing your spirit and relationship with Him, taking time to be aware of your own special power to do His will. Develop it, exercise it, realize that it is only one part of your community’s Gestalt, and for goodness sake, don’t get all full of yourself. Remember who is with you and who has given you all that you have been bestowed. Remember to praise Him .. to Him goes the glory.” Thanks Paul. Words to keep us humble …

  • Diane Coscia O'Connor

    Wonderful Jill!! This is me. I start out right and drift off course. After a while, I feel like I am towing upstream with two small sticks. I want to stay the course with the Holy Spirit leading. Thank you for sharing your heart!!

  • This is so me. But I still need help with this. I still fall into those temptations and am struggling to maintain a relationship with Him. I’d appreciate any advice and prayers please!

    • Michelle

      I thought it was just me!! My whole life I have been on a Merry-go-round with God…I’m on I’m off, on and off…….how to remain firmly on my horse, looking forward, moving closer to God daily. Any help appreciated.

  • Tara Davis

    Thank you for this, what a true relief to know that I am not the only one who struggles in this area!

  • Melanie Bisson

    This lesson spoke to me the most of all the Romans so far. I grew up Catholic and spent 9 years in a Catholic school. I strayed (but let’s be honest, I wasn’t taught about relationships with God anyways). I was married to an amazing man who I betrayed many times and after finding what I thought was an incredible relationship, I had my heart broken. I was at the bottom and my ex husbands words about God still calling for me an a friends invitation to church brought me to salvation. Fast forward and my husband and I are together again and re married and the Lord is now the head of our three fold cord. I give you this background because after so much disobedience and disarray, I now find myself desperate to know the Word as fast as I can so I can share it with others and find my calling. But I can’t do that- only the spirit can and this was the reminder I needed. To relax. I, like the writer Jill, am always all over the place and what has been rewarded in this world, does not serve well for spiritual rhythm. I recently deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone because I would awake and instead of going to my devotionals and bible, I would look at social media for too long. It’s only been a week and I already feel renewed in my walk. Anyways, all of that to say AMEN to this lesson and THANK YOU for all you do at She Reads Truth.

    • Irina

      Amazing story. Thank you for sharing. God bless your marriage and renewed you!

    • Michelle

      Love your redeeming love story.

    • N R

      It’s been a moth since your comment and the odds of you reading this are slim but you have shared my story almost completely. I was not raised catholic, I was born in a very Evangelical environment. Daughter of a pastor, leader of the youth group and kid ministry, involved with missions, very active in my church. Everything changed after my parents got divorced I married a non believer and turn away from God. I’ve betrayed my husband many times, he forgave me and then here I’m again hear broken by someone I thought was going to be my “salvation ” to my loneliness and my problems. After many years praying for my husband to visit church and blaming him for every single frustrating in mi life, one day out of the blue he decided to go to church with me and my kids. For the first time I was not going to be alone with my kids at church, something I was really upset about. I felt alone in our journey not having him with us every Sunday. And while God answer one of my long time prayers I was still involved with someone who was taking away this important moment in our lives. I decided to let him go. I felt embarrassed, ashamed of what I’ve done. The way I behaved and things I said to this man, not my husband. Today I open my heart and went on my knees and prayed to the Lord to save me from my sin. A sin I’ve been carrying for so long many times in my life. Betraying the beautiful marriage I have and taken from granted just because he is not saved. There so much to my story but today I felt God’s grace over me. I’m saved by grace redeemed by love. He has taken my loneliness, sadness and frustrations from me. He is helping me see what I have in front on me. I get so distracted with what’s around me. I’m ready to put everything away from me and like you I decided to delete everything that take away a from me my time with the lord. I want to eat, breath and live everything the Lord has for me not what I want to have for me. I’m ready to start my calling one that have been knocking on my door forever and I’ve been pushing always because of how ashamed I was. I want to live a life that reflects the love the Lord have for his people and I want to share that with my husband, kids, my family, with everyone I encounter in this world. I don’t know how much time the Lord will allow me to be part of this world but I want to make sure that everyday the Lord let me be part of another morning I want it to be for his glory.

  • Diane Huntsman

    “Maybe your struggle is the opposite of mine, and routine and productivity are the desires that take the place of true renewal. Or perhaps your days are bound by a structure that you don’t want God to bend, a rigidity where spending time with Him in Scripture and in prayer are items on a checklist rather than intimate interaction with your Heavenly Father.”

    Structure that I don’t want God to bend.. bingo! This is me! Whilst you struggle to make time I make time because I HAVE to check it off my list to feel like a good christian girl.. ugh.. both are unfortunate for us to fall prey to.. I so desire to be truly intimate with Jesus out of sheer love and not duty.. I long for this relationship to be one of love, only motivated by knowing my desperate need for Him.. oh how hard it is to remove personality from relationship.. my personally is check list and get it done.. Lord help me and all my sisters who struggle with both extremes to just simply be in love with You and find utter joy in Your presence and in Your love letter blue print to us.

  • Janie Coz

    Just this morning I read about being given a soul of strength and thought:”I have not been given that! I have an unordered weakness!”. And there’s your message as if you heard me! I am praying to start again to give myself over to Him who has it all.

  • So good! So convicting. True transformation isn’t going to come from us, but from HIM

    http://Www.in-due-time.com

  • Thank you for these words. I have felt God’s call for me to do just this and have been finding every possible reason not to follow His will. Like Goldilocks, the *fill in the blank* was never just right. No more. Thank you again.

  • “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”…. Our minds are a spiritual battlefield. For sensitive souls like myself, this is where we see the enemy at work daily. Since childhood my mind has been an inner hell, dragging me down to the deepest depths, dragging my physical body along with it at times, enslaving and drowning me. But – that does not have to be my story. Two years ago, my anxiety grew out of its years-old roots and began to consume my life. It was only in March, recently married and jobless, that I sat down for an hour every morning with SRT’s Isaiah study and slowly, day by day, began to transform my life by the renewing of my mind. While anxiety or mental battles may always be a hallmark of my life, I’ve told the Lord I am fine with that being a part of my story for His glory so long as it does not consume my life as it once did. I love today’s reminder to engage in the spiritual disciplines not out of obligation but out of love for the Savior, for the renewing of our minds. And sometimes, in the midst of the battle, in the darkest of hours, this daily discipline is our lifeline and our only hope – and it will not fail to save us.

    Ladies, I’d like to ask for prayer for my family and myself. My mom is slowly dying from cancer and it is heartbreaking to watch. I’m only 25 and know she won’t be there for much longer and (if God blesses us) I may have to go through the next stages of life without her leading and guidance. I’m lonely, feeling that my friends are too busy for me, and aching at the deepest level. Thank you.

    • Stacie

      Amylou, praying for you and your family. I lost my dad to cancer when I was 30 and expecting our 2nd child – while those days were so painful I can say that God’s mercy and grace sustained us and held us. It’s a lonely and scary time but a time to hang on tight to Jesus who never leaves us – in my darkest moments He was there- when there was no one else to talk to or cling to – He was there. He took away all my fear of losing my dad and gave me a peace I can’t really describe. He holds you- He holds your mom and He holds the future. You can trust Him always – even when you can’t see the road ahead. I pray you’ll know how much He loves you and how much He hurts for your pain and how He longs to be with you every moment. You are loved. Hugs and prayers.

    • jessiechatchat

      Praying for your mom, amylou. For her body and spirit. Praying for you, too. ❤️

    • Jolet

      Amy, I’m here praying for you and with you this morning. I know firsthand that anxiety can be debilitating and lonely. Well-meaning spouses and friends may ask, What are you anxious about? Which brings on further isolation. Please know you are not alone, God can and will redeem it and use for your good and His glory. (I have to believe that He’s doing the same for me or I would lose hope). I’m sorry about your mother and I will pray for both her comfort in this time as well as your family.

    • Loretta

      Amylou, I am sorry very sorry you are going through this. I was 19 when I lost my mom. She went to bed one night, and just didn’t wake up. Take all the moments and times you have left and cherish them. Think of things that you can ask her that maybe you might need down the road. Talk with her and tell her how much she means to you. Write things down. The Lord is faithful and he will carry you through this. Ask Him to give you strength and don’t be afraid to cry out to Him. He can take all that you are feeling. Even after being gone almost 27 years, I still miss her, but I have also seen God’s guidance all these years. It’s hard sometimes to understand why such tragic things have to happen, but in those times, I am reminded that we live in a very fallen world and that this isn’t our home. I have to keep my eyes on Christ and live in light of eternity.

      My heart breaks that you have to walk through this and that you feel so alone. But know that you are not alone. I am praying for you.

      Psalm 91:1-2 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God in whom I trust. “

    • J

      Just want want you to know that another heart has lifted you, your sweet mother, and you husband up in prayer today, Amylou. I cannot fathom all that you must be experiencing, but I do know the One who holds you and cares so passionately for you, your mom, and these circumstances. May you continue to trust the Lord during this incredibly challenging time, and may He in His kindness bring a loving network around you to support and care for you – special souls and friends who will be an extra sweet example of the love of Christ that will bless your heart and spirit. I ask these things and intercede for my friend Amylou in the precious name of Jesus.

    • Alyssa

      My heart and prayers to you friend. You’re never alone

    • amylou

      Thank you, thank you sisters for the responses and prayers today ♥️ God is answering prayer through you all. I value the reminders that I’m not alone and that many of you have been here as well and we all get to support one another. Much love ♥️

  • On this Independence Day, I think about freedom. I keep going back to “ignoring our spiritual disciplines only leads to chains, not freedom.” This statement hit me like a ton of bricks. When I follow my own checklist and do my devotionals daily, spending time with the Lord, I tend to rush it like I do everything else in my life…finish the dishes as quickly as possible so I can sit down and relax after a long day of work, wifing, and mothering. In reality, my time with Jesus should he the thing that allows me to relax. He has broken my chains. He has set me free. I pray that this will be clear to me as I check tasks off my checklist — that Jesus never becomes just a task for me.

    • Jenny

      I feel the exact same way, Kristy! It’s like every day is one giant checklist from morning till night. I try to get up early before the kids and read my devotionals so that I’m not feeling rushed and can actually sit in silence and peace and devote that time to God. Early morning is my only “me time”. At night I’m way to exhausted and tend to skim over things I read instead of really understanding them.

    • Emily B.

      That line stuck out to me, too, as I also can have a tendency to just check my quiet time off of my to-do list instead of simply enjoying being in the presence of the Lord. Thank you for sharing part of your story today. :)

  • “True spiritual growth is rooted in the Spirit’s work in us, not in our effort.”

    YES. Like Jill, I also tried to renew my mind by attending church. But at home I didn’t make time for God. I wanted to, but when I did read my Bible, it felt like another thing on the checklist. A few years ago I discovered She Reads Truth, which helped me to understand the Word in ways I’d never been able to. The Holy Spirit worked in my mind to show me that salvation was never something I had to earn. It is a free gift from a loving and merciful God, who wants us to accept it and allow Him to do the transforming work in us.

    A little over a year ago, I began to spend intentional time with God daily. I had been reading SRT, but I knew that wasn’t enough anymore. I needed to do some digging of my own. Using the SRT studies as a guide, I spent time with God in daily Bible study and prayer. And something amazing happened – I could feel my mind being transformed and renewed with each day that passed. I woke up with scripture on my heart in the mornings. I began to automatically think of things I’d seen or heard through the lens of scripture. An addiction that I’d never been able to give up was gone! I found myself so eager to share what the Spirit was doing in my life that I started testifying at church services – something my stage fright and nervousness had always prevented me from doing more than once or twice a year.

    If someone were to ask me why I believe in God, I need look no further than my own life for my answer. Only God could do that transforming work in me. I’m still far from where I want to be, but I hold on to the promise of Philippians 1:6: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Amen.

    • Sarah

      Amen!

    • amylou

      Beautiful testimony – thanks for sharing!

    • J

      Thank you SO much for sharing this, Kristi. What an incredible and practical and real encouragement today! Praise the Lord and Him alone for all that He has done in your life – it has allowed me to believe that this wonderful transformation can be done in mine, too. Glory to Him for using your words to affect others. May He continue to do such a rapid and powerful work in and through you as you commit your time to Him, and may He continue to teach you and grow you (as well as all of us!) in His marvelous and beautiful ways. Blessings to you and yours!

    • SB

      Amazing testimony! This gave me encouragement! Bless you!!

    • redeemedsarah

      wow! thank You, Lord! what a powerful testimony!

  • ValriAnne

    I have really struggled with surrendering ALL of me to God, especially the past few months. I haven’t been intentional. I have used the excuse of a new diagnosis and just life getting in the way to what’s meaningful to slip some. I know you don’t drift into having personal growth, it must be intentional. The past few weeks the gap between who I want to be and where I’m at are pretty wide. This past week I made a commitment that I do surrender ALL. I will submit. I will obey not just partially but fully. And I will trust Him in all of it. So thank you for the encouragement of today’s devotion.

  • Tammy Schroeder

    This was so good and words my heart needed.

  • churchmouse

    “In view of the mercies of God”, which are endless, I am to present my body (and my mind and my gifts) as a living sacrifice (oh, I’m alive so I can crawl off that altar if I want – or I can choose to willingly place all of me on that altar). Through this offering, this daily surrendering, I will discern the “good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” In that and through that, there is tender and deep fellowship. The “presenting” could be called discipline. It is also called love. Oh Lord, help me to love You well!

  • LivingJoyfully

    I relate to the flexibility and spontaneity being big pushes in my life. Start a plan only to last a few days? Yep. All good intentions to start a routine? Yep. Those tendencies are a blessing since my husband works different days every week due to his work as a firefighter and paramedic. I have to live in an against-the-culture schedule. Carving out time to at least read SRT has place a guide post in my day. It forces me away from the pick-up, put away and clean, wipe and fold to a place of reflection. I still struggle to make time for intentional prayer, but I know God is working on me and reminding me to come away with Him.

  • Amen

  • I keep thinking of the song “I surrender all”. All to thee my Blessed Savior, I surrender all.

  • This really speaks to me now. I love that part in Romans! And I’m doing both, hanging on my phone on the weekend, getting distracted by everything and having a busy schedule during the week where I can’t find enough time to spend time with him. And then on Sundays in church it’s so clear what my priorities actually are, that I want to surrender to him. So good we don’t have to do anything out of our own strength. Father, please transform me!

  • Jen Gladwell

    Wow, just before reading the study I was listening to the Bethel song, ‘Have it all’, which reminds us to submit and surrender.
    And then the reading again reminding us to be a living sacrifice – submit and surrender in everything we do. So hard to do on our own, but thankfully as the SRT author says, we are meant to be doing it in context, with others. Help me stop trying to be more and to be a “better Christian”, but rather to lay myself down and allow the Spirit to move. Amen

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