We Live for Sacrifice
Bible Passage: Romans 12:1-8
A couple of years ago I went to visit my sister and she suggested that we watch a particular makeover show. Of course, I looked at her askance. I was skeptical. She assured me that I would like it. So she put an episode on. It had everything that most makeover shows have. The person getting makeover told their backstory. The old wardrobe gets culled out. There is a moment where the person breaks down in tears and we realize how their self esteem is incredibly low and they get assured that they are beautiful on the inside and they should reflect that inner beauty on the inside. Wouldn’t have been my first choice of a show to watch, but it was pretty good. Ok I binged some episodes. But I think the reason makeover shows work is because we see ourselves in the individuals. Plus they give us all these warm reminders about ourselves. There are things about ourselves that we wish we could change and we get to, for that 45 minutes, act as if we can.
Yet you have been profoundly changed. Do you ever consider just how profoundly the gospel of Jesus Christ has changed you?
- You have been taken from death to life. You were spiritually dead incapable of helping yourself and you were on a road to eternal death. But Jesus saved you from death and has granted you eternal life.
- You were mired in sin and perfection, you fell short of the glory of God, but in his mercy God gives you a robe of righteousness to wear.
- You were at one time enemies with the Almighty God, but through the death of his Son he has not only made a peace treaty with you, but he has adopted you into his family.
- You are no longer citizens of this world but you have been made citizens of the Kingdom of God.
The mercy that we have been shown is profound and it comes completely from a merciful God. Here is how Paul describes it in Romans 5, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Paul begins this morning by focusing us squarely on that mercy when he says, “In view of God’s mercy.” And in view of all that God has done for us as members of the church today he encourages us to be living sacrifices.
God has shown you mercy, so this kind of sacrifice is not a way for you to get in good with God. You are already good with him. It is not a way for you to cover over your sin, your sin has already been covered over. Presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is not transactional, rather it is a way of life that is motivated by the Lord’s mercy. Living upright lives is not what makes us unique as Christians, there are a lot of people who try to live upright lives, but what makes us different, what is changed for us, is the reason that we do. In fact this life of sacrifice is a life of worship—a way for us to thank God for his mercy.
Regarding this life of worship Paul gives us this encouragement, “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.” In other words this is a reminder for us that we are in the world, but not of the world. There is always going to be something acting upon our hearts and vying for our minds. One area we can become conformed to this world is our view of church. We live in a service specialist society. If we have a need we see a specialist. If your computer is broken, you take it to Geek Squad. If you need help with your taxes, you hire an accountant. And those individuals are there to serve you. And I wonder if sometimes we begin to view church a service—particularly in the way it can help you and what you get out of it. But Paul challenges that idea.
So football season started this Thursday. Why is it that Christians are willing to give up football when “politics” get enmeshed in it, but they weren’t willing to give up football when the time frame conflicted with church? Is it because we are often influenced by our world more than we may think. It is important for us to have a healthy skepticism regarding the way our culture can influence us.
It is interesting that Paul says that we conform to the pattern of the world, but when it comes to the transformation of our mind we are being acted upon. It is the mercy of God acting on us through his word as he opens our eyes to see clearly what his loving will for us is. When you want your kids to root for your team… you model enthusiasm. You teach them. You teach them the history, you teach them the fight songs, you teach them the culture. That is what it is like when we teach our children the Word of God, except that in this case the Word of God is powerful and it changes us to present ourselves as Living Sacrifices. There is always something acting upon our hearts. God’s mercy is primarily revealed to us in his Word and it is God’s mercy which will begin to transform our minds and our hearts so that we can begin to apply God’s will to our lives.
Paul then goes on to describe this life of worship for us he shows three ways this transformation shows itself. Here’s one way, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” I have to admit that there is no one, outside of God, who thinks about me as much as I do. We are all self absorbed, but the Christian faith fights against that self absorption. The Christian faith tells us that we were born sinners and in need of rescue, but it also shows us that we have a savior. The Christian faith helps us to view ourselves with the purpose of offering ourselves as living sacrifices. And that is an appropriate word because giving up what I want, what my desires are, and how I want things to happen is self sacrifice and it can be hard. But as our minds are transformed and we see ourselves in the lens of the gospel we suddenly realize then that there is no work which is beneath us.
It’s suddenly less about me and more about the greater body of believers. Here is the second way this transformation shows itself, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” One of the beautiful things about God’s mercy is that he has planted us among a group of people who are all his children and all of these people have different gifts yet we are all working together with our different gifts for the same cause of presenting ourselves as living sacrifices.
In Christ I am a different person and in Christ I am still the same person. It is not as if an introvert when they are brought into the body of Christ stop being a introvert. At the same time it does not mean that they are off the hook of being an evangelist. But this is why we all have different gifts, because where I may not have natural gifts you might.
And we use these individual gifts in service to the body. Here is the third way this transformation shows itself, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” This helps us think about how we function as a congregation. Very often we start with the program we want to run first and then we try to crowbar people into slots they might not want to serve in or even have the gifts to serve in. So what are your gifts and how can you use them in service to this body of believers. There is not gift too small, there is so no interest too boring. All of our gifts are used to bring glory to God, we use these gifts to point people to Christ.
God has taken you and he has transformed you and it all started with a sacrifice. It started with Christ’s. He gave up everything so that you could be made part of this body. He willingly laid down his life. He never slipped into self absorption. When he was in the desert being tested by Satan he refused to feed hismelf by turning stones into bread. Eh refused to conform to the culture—he ate with tax collectors and sinners and with the teachers of the law. He relied upon his heavily Father for strength. Remember when he was in the Garden of Gethesmane the night before going to the cross and he prayed that he might bear that cross with the strength only God can give. He did all these things in his mercy for you so that you might be shown mercy and transformed.
This transformation looks like people presenting themselves in thankful service to him. It looks like people who no longer think of themselves but of the one who has died for us and risen again. Amen.