HOLY LIVING SACRIFICES

Romans 12:1-11
Key Verse 12:1...  “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.”
 
In chapters 1-11 Paul teaches the Christian doctrines of God’s judgment, his salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, sanctification and finally God’s sovereignty to use Israel’s rejection of Christ to bring reconciliation to the world. Beginning in chapter 12 to the end of Romans Paul now teaches how to use our Christian doctrine to practically grow in our Christian faith. Our new life in Christ is like the birth of a baby. Just like a baby grows from being breast-fed to being able to hold its own bottle to helping around the house to becoming a productive citizen, similarly in Christ we are expected to grow and take our faith in Christ and put it into practical action both in our church and the world we live in. In today’s message we will study verses 1-8. Verses 1-2 will teach what we should do and should not do to grow in a pleasing relationship with God. Verses 3-8 will show how we should view ourselves and others in the body of Christ so we can help the body of Christ grow.

Part I. LIVE LIVES PLEASING TO GOD (1)
 
First and foremost we must grow into people who live lives that please God. In verse 1 Paul teaches how we can use our lives to please God. Let us read verse 1. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” To sacrifice to God means to take something that is precious to us and give it to God. The thought of doing this often makes us uncomfortable. This is why we must keep a clear view of God’s mercy” Romans 5:9,10 teaches we were enemies of God. Every one of us was a sinner. God did not ask us to sacrifice as a means to be reconciled with him. Instead he allowed Jesus Christ his Son to be sacrificed on the cross for our sins. Simply through faith in Jesus we are reconciled with God. It was God’s mercy, which provided this reconciliation. God’s mercy didn’t end here. Romans 8:17 teaches God’s mercy makes us his children allowing us to be co-heirs with Christ in the heavenly kingdom. These days around the world one enemy kills another enemy just because they share the same country. In contrast God not only reconciled us to him when we were his enemies he also made us his children and heirs to his kingdom. Why did he do this? Because of his mercy. We were once wild olive branches destined to be thrown into the fire. Instead God by his mercy grafted us into Jesus the olive root so we could forever feed upon his nourishing sap. What should be our response to all this mercy God has poured out on our life? Again verse 1 reads: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” Our response should be to offer to God our bodies as a living sacrifice. For example my father has done many things for me, which I can never begin to repay him for. Because of this I am more than happy to help him out whenever I can. Similarly God has done more for us than we can ever begin to repay him. Romans 11:35 reads: “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him.” When we offer our lives to God as a living sacrifice we find the fullest meaning and purpose for our life. I knew this one lady who sacrificed everything she had for one man. Afterwards she felt utterly empty. We will sacrifice our lives for someone or something. But if it is for anything but God we will only be left with bitter emptiness.
 
How then can we offer our lives as a living sacrifice to God? We can sacrifice our precious time to God. Paul ends verse 1 with the words: ”This is your spiritual act of worship.” As a reason for not going to church many people say: “I get nothing out of church that is why I don’t go.” Their own words reveal why they don’t get anything out of church. They go to church to get something. Paul teaches our true act of worship is not to get but to give our lives to God as a living sacrifice. Therefore let me urge all of us to come to Sunday worship with the mind to give our lives to God as a living sacrifice. Done with this motive Sunday worship really does become an act of worship. Moreover in whatever way we participate in the work of God we must not see it just as a religious obligation. Instead we must see it as a practical way of offering our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.

Part II.  DO NOT CONFORM TO THE PATTERN OF THIS WORLD (2)
 
In verse 2 Paul talks about being able to test and approve what God’s will is. There is our will, men’s will and God’s will. To distinguish God’s will from the others we must be able to test and approve it. For example in Mark 1:35-39 Jesus very early in the morning, while it was still dark, got up left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Later Peter and his companions went to look for him. When they found him they exclaimed to him: “Everyone is looking for you!” The previous evening Jesus spent the night healing people with various diseases and drove demons from those who were demon possessed. Jesus suddenly became a one-man hospital helping the physically sick, mentally sick and spiritually sick. Just as all hospitals have a never ending flow of sick people coming for help, more sick people the next morning came looking for Jesus. Jesus could have opened a real hospital in that one town. But he went out and prayed. Through prayer he found it wasn’t the will of God. He told Peter: “Let us go somewhere else-to the nearby villages so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” Through prayer Jesus was able to keep his ministry focus in the will of God not the will of men.
 
For us to test and approve what God’s will is first Paul says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world,” John 3:17 teaches Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world. This world needs to be saved this is why we do not want to conform to the pattern of this world. If we conform to the pattern of this world we would literally be conforming to a pattern of behavior that would ultimately be destroyed by God. Lot’s life in Genesis 19 is an example of what can happen to the believer who conforms to the pattern of this world. He lived in the very wicked city of Sodom. He conformed his family’s life to the pattern of life in Sodom. His wife was very materialistic. He allowed his daughters to be engaged with men who had no fear of God and practiced the wicked life style of the Sodomites. As a result of conforming to the pattern of Sodom Lot lost his wife when God destroyed Sodom. His life ended in shame. In Mark 11:15-17 Jesus entered the temple area and found people buying and selling there. He drove them out and overturned the tables of the moneychangers. He would not let anyone carry merchandise through the temple courts. Then he taught them: “Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.” The temple in Jesus’ day began following the pattern of the world. As a result it turned from being a house of prayer for nations to becoming a den of robbers. The pattern of this world is diametrically opposed to the will of God. It is for this reason as Paul teaches how to test and approve the will of God; first we must not conform to the pattern of this world.

What then must we do to test for the will of God? Look at verse 2b: “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.” This renewing of our mind Paul speaks of takes place in us by the power of the Holy Spirit when we study the word of God. Paul says the renewing of our minds transforms us. Only the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of God’s word can transform us. Without these we remain the same. We can never overcome our weaknesses by our own power and intelligence. But when we pray for the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and study the Bible we will be transformed. This will give us the mind of Christ so we can test and approve what the will of God is.

Before one enters the front door of this church they can look to the left and see written on a stone Jesus’ words: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Next Sunday by the grace of God we will be celebrating this church’s 8th anniversary. As we prepare to celebrate it we must renew our minds with Jesus’ words. We must remember Jesus Christ provided us this church to be used as a house of Prayer for the nations. He provided everything needed to build it to provide a good environment for people to come and purely study the word of God.

Part III. Respect Other’s Greatness (3-8)
 
In these verses Paul now shows how we should view our own selves in the body of Christ along with the many other people in the body of Christ. Look at verse 3: “For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather thank of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Paul writes we should not think of ourselves more highly. Especially this means we should not think we are better than other people in the body of Christ. When we think for one reason or another we are better than other people in the body of Christ we become full of criticism towards others instead of being full of grace. Instead Paul writes we should think of ourselves with sober judgment. We can know we are thinking of ourselves with sober judgment when we see ourselves as one of many members of the body of Christ. Look at verses 4-5: “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” We can began understanding how we fit in the body of Christ when we first exam our own body. At first glance each of us are a single person. At closer look each of us are made up of many members such as our mind, eyes, ears, legs, hands and so on. Think for a moment what members of your body you use to accomplish your daily task. Often for me my daily task involves construction part of a fire alarm system according to a blue print. My mind using my eyes reads the prints. Then it tells my legs where to go to pick up my material and tools. My arms and hands then work along with my eyes and legs to construction the portion of the fire alarm system assigned to me. My eyes would be completely useless if they chose to not work as a member of my body. On the other hand when all members work together I can accomplish the task given me. Similarly to be useful to Christ we must see ourselves as one of many members in the body of Christ. Working together we form the body of Christ. Just like the eye helps the hand and the hand helps the eye. Likewise Paul writes each member belongs to all the others. When we see ourselves like this in the body of Christ we are using sober judgment in thinking of ourselves.
 
Look at verses 6-8: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” When we look at all these gifts we see at one time or anther many of us have used them. One day we served. The next time we may have been the leader. One time we have Bible students to teach. The next time we don’t. Does that mean we are useless members in the body of Christ? Not at all! We can still encourage other people’s Bible students, serve them or contribute to the need of others or show mercy cheerfully. Missionary Esther Lee is gifted in being able to talk to her bible students to make them feel comfortable. Missionary Rebekah Lim is gift at quickly preparing delicious meals to feed the bible students. Together Jesus uses the Missionaries to feed his sheep spiritually and physically.  God has given each of us more than one gift so we can always find someway to be useful in the body of Christ. We should remember there is no reason to envy or to be proud because we are all members of Christ body. Our focus should b to use whatever gift we may have at the time to build up Christ body through helping other members in the body of Christ.
 As we live in this world let us not be like a dead log that flows with the current of a river. Let us not follow the easy way of conforming to the pattern of this world. We learn the sign that we are really alive in Christ is when we struggle to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice and continually renew our minds with the word of God. Lastly let us pray God may give us eyes to see we all make up the members of Christ body. In this way we will grow and we will help the body of Christ to grow.