On Keeping the Cart Behind the Horse

By J.D. Walt

Prayer of Consecration

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.

Jesus, We belong to you.

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17–21 (NIV)


Consider This

I know . . . I know . . . I have done an injustice to Romans 12, the Jesus Manifesto, or maybe not. Even though we have not made it past the second verse, there is a massive message bursting through the approach we have taken. Here’s the message:

The success of verses 3 through 21 depends entirely on the secret of verses 1 and 2. 

Here’s what I would like to say about verses 3 through 21. There are thirty-nine (count them: thirty-nine) commands in these nineteen verses of scripture. There must be more command density in this text than even in the Old Testament Law. Note though this is not so much of a “thou shalt not” set of commands as it is a “you must do” set of marching orders. 

Let me repeat. You and I have no hope of obeying these thirty-nine commands across these nineteen verses (vv. 3–21) unless we grasp verses 1 and 2. More plainly: verses 3 through 21 are the cart. Verses 1 and 2 are the horse. I will repeat those first two verses yet again for emphasis. 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:1–2)

The great problem of modern Christianity is we want to skip straight to the wrong question, “What are we supposed to do?” and right over the most crucial matter, “Who are we intended to become?” In other words, we want to put the cart before the horse. The text could not be any more clear. It is “being transformed” which leads to the ability to “test and approve” and ultimately do the will of God. 

The first verse reveals the path of consecration. The second verse reveals the way of transformation. 

The bottom line of vv. 3–21 comes in the two little Greek words in verse 9: anupokritos agape. Translation: real love. Real, as in not fake or feigned. Love as in the love of Jesus. Everything else in the chapter, the letter, the New Testament, the whole Bible—is a commentary on these two words: real love. Once we live into verses 1 and 2 verses 3 through 21 flow out like an unstoppable river. And yes, everywhere the river flows it brings life to dead places. 

Real love. You see, the issue for people like us is not so much “no love” as it is fake love. Fake love is another way of saying self-interested or self-serving love, which is not really love at all but manipulation. The concept here comes from the theater and points to actors playing parts rather than real human beings being their true selves. 

Real love. This is who we are becoming in Jesus Christ and this is how we are becoming it—through Jesus Christ in us. Real love is the most simple and satisfying reality in life. It is the most comprehensively creative force in the universe. It is not hard, but it is demanding as it requires significant unlearning and letting go of former ways of being (i.e., the patterns of this world). In the end, it will be all that matters, which means it’s all that really matters right now. It’s why we keep saying:

Wake up sleeper! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!



Abba Father! Real love! That is who you are. This is who Jesus is. This is who the Holy Spirit is. Not soft and fuzzy and sentimental love but real hard-core love. Your love goes beyond feeling. It transcends emotion. It is unconditional and unwavering—even for our enemies; even in the face of hatred. It is impossible for us yet already realized in Jesus. Come Holy Spirit and realize this real love in us through Jesus in us. Keep us at the altar of consecration that we might walk the path of transformation and that we might live a life of real love for the glory of it all. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.