The Proving Ground
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
We often might think of a sacrifice as destroying a thing, but Paul's words declare that we are to be a "living sacrifice." It's not completely clear in the English what Paul means since both "sacrifice" and "living" could be a verb or noun. We might think that we are to sacrifice life, but it is the other way around here. The Greek original is perfectly clear: The word for "sacrifice" is a noun and "living" is a verb. A sacrifice means something offered to God for His use. Thus, it isn't that we offer our life as a sacrifice. Rather, it is that we are the sacrifice that lives and does so solely for God's use.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
This is the use for which we live and how we live as a sacrifice to God. Note the subtle difference between "conformed" (suschematizo) and "transformed" (metamorphoo). Although similar, in that both describe a change in form, the difference is important. When something is suschematizo it means that it has been molded, shaped, cut and made to fit a pattern. When Paul talks about the "world" it isn't the physical earth he means. It is the "eon" or world-view that people have. That is the world's way - to set out a pattern that supposedly is good and then force the person into that pattern. We are not to allow ourselves to be molded into the world's ways of thinking and doing. Instead, we are metamorphoo, which describes a total change into another form. Whereas "conform" simply rearranges what is there to fit a pattern, "transform" makes something different from what was there before. When the mind is "renewed" we no longer look at things the way the world does. We see things from God's perspective and that produces something new.
The notes in the Geneva Bible put it this way:
"The second precept is this, that we do not take other men's opinions or conduct as a rule for life, but that we wholly renounce this world, and set before us as our mark the will of God as is manifested and revealed to us in his word. "
This is the key point here. Becoming a sacrifice and transformed with a new mind has as it's goal the proving of the will of God. So often the Gospel is preached from the standpoint of our needs. We need redemption without a doubt. But also see it from God's standpoint. His desire is to make visible things of Himself. He desires to demonstrate His power, His glory, His wisdom and unlimited love for man. He desires that His will be made manifest and uses us for that task. We are not saved solely for our benefit but are given His grace that He might prove His word is true and His power unlimited.
To "prove" something is to demonstrate the truth of it. That is what God is doing in and through us. We are justified by the blood atonement of Christ's sacrifice and sanctified by the Holy Spirit in us. It is nothing that we do to merit this. A naive view would think that there is nothing left for us to do but accept the grace of God. Yet, we have a part to play in this and therein is one of the great mysteries of God's plan. By reliance in faith on His power, we become the proving of what He can do. He transforms us. This should be our desire: that by our transformation from sin into righteousness, the will of God is proven good and true.
When Elijah stood before the king and declared that it would not rain, he did not do that for his own benefit. His attitude was that he would rather die of drought and starvation than see the will of God remain unfulfilled. The same was true with Jesus when He prayed in the garden, "Not my will but thy will be done." He showed us the way. It is better to die and see the will of God fulfilled than to live while the will of God lays dormant. This must be our attitude as well. If the word of God is not true and God cannot make His will into reality, what use is my life anyway? A few years of a mixture of pleasure and trouble followed by an eternity of oblivion. But we have an alternative, which is to lay down our own desires, let the Holy Spirit transform us that we might demonstrate the goodness of the Father.
This then is the proving ground. It is the place and the time where we make the choice between our self and God. We must choose "my will" or "thy will" each and every day. By faith, we stand on the word of God knowing that what He has said will be true. We merely need to find the promises He has declared, act on those promises, even if they are in conflict with our circumstances, knowing that He will not let His word return void. He will make us righteous. He will provide for our needs. He will lead us through tribulation in this world and bring us home to be with Him throughout eternity. In and through our transformation He will prove His word is true and His love unlimited.
1 Corinthians 1:5-9 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.