The Pathway to Significant Service
By Matthew Black, Pastor
Text: Romans 12
Date: Sunday, March 1, 2009
Tabernacle Baptist Church
7020 Barrington Road
Hanover Park, Illinois 60133
Introduction: Open your Bibles to Romans 12:1-21. Our message this morning is entitled “The Pathway to Significant Service”. Soon our lives will be over. This morning we are going to see how we can make our lives count for eternity. I don’t want to waste my life. The old saying goes:
“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
I want everyone here today to live a life that has lasting effects for eternity. Let’s stand as we read Romans 12:1-2. After giving the Gospel of Christ for 11 chapters, Paul gets into the practical stuff in Romans 12, and the first thing he does is he beseeches the church—begs them to do something.
Let’s read verses 1 and 2 and find out what that is: “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. 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.”
[Prayer for Guidance]
Introduction: We come to a text that talks about total surrender to God. We live in a time where Christians talk a lot about total surrender but live totally self-centered lives.
I believe the general attitude we have to fight against in our lives each day is a consumer attitude. The world wants you to think everything revolves around you. We all have the temptation to come to church to get what we can get. If you are living life to get what you want, you are living a dissatisfied life. Any Christian who lives that way is going to be dissatisfied and will not want to stay there long.
Are you dissatisfied with your life spiritually? Do you feel like you are trying to get, get, get, and yet you still lack God’s power and blessing in your life? “The key to spiritual victory is not getting all you can get, but giving all you have”.
This morning we are going to see 5 keys to significant service for Jesus Christ, so that when your life is past, your legacy for Christ will last.
(1) Abandonment (Surrender)
(2) Abasement (Humility)
(3) Placement (Empowerment )
I. The first key to significant service is Abandonment. Service takes surrender of your whole self to God. We must abandon our bodies, our mind, and our agenda to God.
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 [worship]”. Remember in John 4:23, Jesus said, “The Father seeks [true worshippers]”. He’s calling out a people to be worshippers who are empowered by the Spirit and who love the truth.
The Mercies of God
It is only by the “mercies of God” that we can do this. We would have no interest in doing any of this had God not sought us and loved us with an everlasting love. Paul explained the vast mercies of God in sending His Son to be a propitiation for our sins, satisfying the wrath of God (3:21-8:29). Because of this there is now therefore “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (8:1).
Our Reasonable Service
The reasonable service Paul is talking about here is a spiritual act of devotion or worship. Paul is saying: abandon yourself to the 24-7 worship of God! Give your whole heart to His service!
Since Christ gave His whole life to you, it is reasonable to give your whole life back to Him! This is your logical or reasonable act of worship. Make your whole life a song of worship to God.
A. What’s the sacrifice Paul is talking about? Paul uses the word “sacrifice” to refer to an Old Testament offering. The whole Old Testament priesthood is an illustration of worship. 1 Peter 2:5 says that we are “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ”. We are every bit as much priests as those in the Levitical priesthood. Old Testament service paved the way to teach us about the true service.
§ In the Old Testament, sacrifice was costly. They brought the best animal they had.
§ In the Old Testament, sacrifice was ugly. They killed the animal.
§ In the Old Testament, sacrifice was satisfying. They ate the animal.
Paul says present your life as a sacrifice to God. It’s going to be costly. You must give your whole life away to Christ. It’s ugly. You have to die to all worldly pursuits and seek Christ’s agenda alone. Yet it is satisfying. It is the best way to live!
Application: The majority of those who claim to be Christian today say that the key to spiritual living is to get more of God’s benefits. You really are blessed if you are happy and healthy and are a positive thinker. Or they say another key to spiritual living is to esteem yourself more. But Paul says the supreme act of worship is to actually present yourself entirely to God without reservation as a living sacrifice for Him to do with you as He pleases.
B. How are we to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God?
1. Present your body to God. Verse 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 [of worship]”.
We are going to see first that we need to abandon the need to be controlled by our lusts and our feelings. This is the old way of living. Now we are to deny those lusts and feelings and reckon those temptations as dead.
a. The body itself is not sinful. These lusts and feelings that tempt us to sin reside in your physical body. When your physical body dies and is separated from your soul, your sin nature will be gone forever. Understand that your flesh, or your sinful nature reside within your body. The body is not sinful in and of itself, but the flesh has nothing good in it. “In my flesh dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). These fleshly feelings and lusts are part of the sinful nature. There’s nothing good in them.
b. Understand that if you are a Christian, your body already belongs to God. Use it for Him. Look over at Romans 6:11-14a, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you”. Use your body for the glory of God. Specifically, what we need to avoid with our body is immorality, sexual impurity at all costs!!
· 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.”
· 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel [control his body] in sanctification and honour”.
Application: You should know how to control your body in purity and honor. Keep yourself pure until marriage, and then keep yourself pure in marriage. This is the very minimum way we should serve God with our bodies.
§ If you are married, do you have a healthy love life? Is your husband happy and content with you? If not, you ought to be very concerned. You are to use your body to satisfy your husband.
§ If you are single, covenant with God to be serve God in singleness. If you are unhappy as a single person, find contentment in God. If you are unhappy as a married person, find contentment in God. Whether you are single or married, contentment will never come from another human being. Contentment comes from being satisfied with God. Contentment with God is essential to offering your body as a living sacrifice to God. And this is not just about staying pure in the area of intimate temptations.
Look back at Romans12:1. Paul is begging the Corinthians, pleading with them for something: “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 [of worship]”. Listen, don’t use your body to satisfy your wicked heart. Use your body for God!
Application: This is very practical. When your body is tempted with fear or sinful anger, or depression or frustration, it is not a sin. You are not sinning by feeling the temptation to lash out or to have an emotional crash inside. Your sinful nature (i.e. “the law of sin”) creates in you the deep desire to use your body for sinful purposes. You will be tempted to tear people up with your mouth (or with your email or blog or Facebook page). You will be tempted to use your body for sinful lust. You will be tempted to use your eyes and ears to waste your time on mindless junk. You will feel the need for a break—and instead of having a desire to go to God you will be tempted to forget Him and forsake Him. Your spouse or your friend will need your help, and you will want to instead serve yourself. It is not a sin to be tempted, but you must deny yourself and as Christ gave His body as a sacrifice for you, so you need to give your body as a living sacrifice to God.
Abandon your feelings. Don’t be controlled by your bodily lusts and senses. Give yourself completely to God. As we read in Romans 6:11, “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Die to self. Live to God. Give your body to God.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I keep under [control] my body, and bring it into subjection”.
2. Present your mind to God. Verse 2a, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”.
Paul says “be ye transformed”. The root word is metamorphosis. It is a radical change in your life. How does that occur? Everything hinges on the way you think. You must conform your thinking to the Bible and act on it if you are to see real change. Abandon your desire to have your own way. Abandon your desire for the world to revolve around you. That battle begins in the mind.
The way to renew your mind is to have a deep daily relationship with God. You want to grow spiritually and be transformed into the image of Christ? Remember Psalm 1 says of the blessed man: “his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:2). You cannot be changed into the image of Christ unless you at the glory of the Lord in His Word, David said, “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). The key is the Word. Get it into your heart and mind.
As we look into the mirror of God’s Word with open face we behold “the glory of the Lord, [and] are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Abandon worthless entertainment that does you no good. Present your mind to God!
3. Present your will (agenda) to God. Verse 2b, “that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”. What you do is up to God. The goal of your life is to do the perfect will of God. By your life you are to prove the perfect will of God. That means you must give your will to God. You must get to the point where you say “I don’t care what I want—whatever is your will, that’s what I want, no matter what the cost, no matter what the pain”. Is that your attitude? If so, rejoice because you are living a surrender life. You are abandoning your life to God.
II. The second key to significant service is Abasement (Humility). “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt [ASSIGNED] to every man the measure of faith” (verse 3). We cannot serve God with just any attitude. He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.
Application: We will never serve God in any significant way with pride. Why are we here in God’s family today? Was it our idea and our plan? No. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
How do we gain that humility? Think in a realistic sober way and be faithful to use the gifts God has given to you.
A. We need to be Serious minded. Paul says we need to “think soberly”. Not every one has the same amount of faith. You may be much more gifted than most. That is all the more reason to fear. “…unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). You need to “to think soberly, according as God hath dealt [ASSIGNED] to every man the measure of faith” (verse 3).
B. We need to be Faithful. “God hath dealt [ASSIGNED] to every man the measure of faith” (verse 3). What you have is given by God. Use it faithfully, not to serve yourself, but to serve others. We need to be diligent to be busy for God in His service. He’s gifted us. We will give an account before Him for all He’s given us.
Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6, “I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” The elders of the church (probably at Ephesus), including Paul, had observed certain gifts in Timothy and they publically laid their hands on him as a sign of approval and recognition that Timothy had pastoral gifting. But Paul says, “stir up the gift of God”. The idea is that of kindling a fire. Move those embers around and watch a flame rekindle. You may have a spiritual gift, but you need to use it and rekindle it! Be faithful with what God has given you.
III. The third key to significant service is Empowerment. We need to see that we are divinely placed and empowered in the Body of Christ for eternally significant service. There are no excuses for a lack of service, for it is God who empowers us for service. Your service affects everyone else. We all have different gifts. You need to exercise your gift. You are not serving for yourself, but to strengthen the entire body.
Verse 5-8, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness”.
Divine empowerment will always put you in the place of divine employment. If God has gifted you, He will also guide you and use you for significant service in His Body. How do we become useful for God? We all want to be used of God as an instrument in His hand.
A. First, situate yourself in the place of empowerment: the Body—the local church. Verse 5, “we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another”.
Illustration/ Application: Think of a car that is missing a wheel. When you got saved God transformed you from a mess into a wheel. You need to get yourself attached to the axle of that car and start rolling! Get into a place of service in the local church. Start serving people. There are many diverse gifts in the church, so we are not all going to be doing the same thing. But before you can start serving, you need to attach yourself in a faithful way to a local church. How do you do that?
· First of all, you need to be accountable to a local church. We naturally chafe at accountability, but remember God has appointed shepherds and evangelists and teachers over the churches. He says things like Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” If you are not a member of a local church, who has the rule over you besides you?
· Secondly, if you want to a functioning member of the Body of Christ, you need to not only be accountable to the local church, you also need to be dependable and consistently faithful to its services. God tells us to do this.
FOR ATTENTION TO THE WORD OF GOD
1 Timothy 4:13, “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” You need to show up. You need to be willing to take on responsibility within the Body and serve. Dependability and consistency are so important.
FOR THE ENCOURAGMENT OF THE SAINTS
Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching”. We attend services to encourage each other. We need the mutual accountability. Are you consistent and dependable in your church attendance? We can all make excuses, but there are those who never make excuses and are here consistently and dependably.
Application: If you are a wheel on a car, it is important to be consistent and dependable. We all like dependability with our wheels. You don’t want your wheels to stay on the axel only 99% of the time! You want 100% dependability.
Transition: So find your place of service in the local church. Be dependable Be consistent. Let people depend on you. Be there for Sunday School, morning service, evening service, and Wednesday night. You are not coming just to hear the Word preached. You are coming to encourage your brethren. If you are one of the many young families in our congregation, if the children are sick, then have one parent come to the services. This is so important.
B. Secondly, if you want to be functioning in Christ’s church, you need to use your gifts of empowerment. There are many gifts, but seven are mentioned in this passage. Here they can be divided into two categories: gifts for expounding the Word of God, and gifts for expanding the Work of God.
1. Gifts for expounding the Word of God.
a. Prophecy: this is the proclamation of God’s Word. “whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith” (verse 6). Prophecy is the gift given to those in the early church to write the Word of God. It was also given to some in the early church before the Word of God was completed. This gift also can refer to the one who has the ability to preach the Word of God.
b. Ministry: practical application of God’s Word. “Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering” (verse 7).
c. Teaching: precise presentation of God’s Word. “or he that teacheth, on teaching” (verse 7). The teacher is one who can compare Scripture with Scripture and can interpret God’s Word in a clear way.
d. Exhortation: poking of the heart with God’s Word. “Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation” (verse 8). The exhorter is the one gifted by God who is like the poker for a fireplace. He is able to gently stir up hearts that are getting cold. He can hit that specific area and burst your heart into flames.
2. Gifts for expanding of the Work of God
a. Giving—“he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity” (verse 8). In other words, giving must be done with singleness of heart. There can be no ulterior motive for giving, but simply a sacrifice unto the Lord for the good of His church. Spirit-enabled giving is a movement of the Spirit of God in the heart when the Christian is enabled week after week to give sacrificially to God.
b. Guiding (Administration or Ruling)—“he that ruleth, with diligence” (verse 8). This is a gift for the overseeing of the work of God. Not every elder is a teaching or preaching elder. There are those lay pastors in the church that have the gift of administration and can oversee and guide the work of God along side the teaching pastor. We need men in this church with this gift to get involved in guiding.
c. Going (Mercy)—“he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (verse 8). This is the gift of those who find themselves always going after those in distress. They are a picture of Christ who saw pitiful miserable sinners and had compassion on them. A person with the gift of mercy goes the extra mile when others see it as a lost cause. Because this is Holy Spirit motivated, the lost cause often turns into a worthwhile cause. Some think this gift is given to those who work at times among those who are in the direst of circumstances. You may help be helping those who are really down and out. But you must not come with a long face. Those with the gift of mercy should minister with “cheerfulness”. It is your reasonable service—a reasonable act of worship to God.
IV. The fourth key to significant service is Temperament.
Verses 9-13, “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer. 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality”.
We don’t have time to look at all these, but you are going to be a person
A. Sincere affection. “Let love be without dissimulation” (verse 9).
B. Radical holiness. “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (verse 9).
C. Heartfelt respect. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (verse 10).
D. A hard-working spirit. “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (verse 11).
E. A joyful spirit. “Rejoicing in hope” (verse 12).
F. A patient spirit. “patient in tribulation” (verse 12).
G. A prayerful spirit. “continuing instant in prayer” (verse 12).
H. A generous spirit. “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (verse 13).
V. The fifth key to significant service is Comportment.
Verses 14-21, “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
A. Bless those that hurt you for Christ’s sake “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not”. (verse 14).
B. Rejoice with those that rejoice. (verse 15).
C. Weep with those who weep. (verse 15).
D. Condescend those with less privilege than you (without being condescending), verse 16, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits”.
E. Repay Good for Evil. Verses 17-20 is summed up in verse 21: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”-
Conclusion: May God grant us the grace to plug ourselves in and be used of Him for significant service. “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last”.
 John MacArthur. “The Believer’s Supreme Act of Spiritual Worship”. Sermon based on Romans 12:1-2.