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Bryan Clements - New Sacrifice

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Romans 12:1-8

Do you like change?  I don’t know too many people who do.  When the boss comes in and says “we have come up with a better way of making our product and we are reorganizing the company” you don’t see too many people jumping up and down with enthusiasm. The usual answer when someone says they have a better way is, “We’ve never done it that way before.” 

One of the hardest things about change is the fact that we have to let go of something familiar in order to take hold of something that is unfamiliar, unknown, and just different.  Even when we think that the change might be for the better it is still sometimes hard to let go of what we are used to.  But if we expect to see change happen we have to move out of our comfort zone. Sometimes God gives us the nudge that we need.

Paul wasn’t looking for change when it happened in his life.  He was comfortable, well educated, had a good job.  He was tops in his field, he was the best Christian catcher there was.  And then he had an encounter with God on the road to Damascus.  God had other plans. Change was coming.  If anyone knows what radical change is about it is Paul.

I think that this is what Paul was doing to the church in Rome as he penned the letter to the Romans.  I want us to take a little time to look at Romans Chapter 12.  We are only going to look at the first 8 verses.  Let’s read this together.

Someone read:

Romans 12:1-8 (NKJV)
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,
5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;
8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

This passage starts with Paul using the word “therefore”.

Indicator that we need to look at what comes before.

It points to the entire 11 chapters before.

Paul has spent 11 chapters presenting the gospel and telling of God’s mercy and love.  How we have all sinned and fall short… (3.23)  How upon believing that we are united with Christ (chap 6)  and then at the end of chapter 11 Paul sums this all up by saying

Romans 11:36 (NKJV)
36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.


Paul shows that there is nothing that man can do on his own to rescue himself, but God took the initiative to save man and sent His son Jesus, as a righteous sacrifice on our behalf. (Rom 5.8)

We can’t fix ourselves. No matter how hard we try it is not going to happen.  We know what happens when we try to fix things ourselves. It just doesn’t work. 

Paul tells the church that because of everything that I have explained to you about how great God is and how much He loves you, you should do the things that I am about to tell you.

Then Paul urges the Roman believers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

Paul’s readers were mostly converted Jews. They were familiar with sacrifice, it was a way of life.  But Paul calls them to a new kind of worship; A worship where they are not merely offering up possessions to God. 

Paul introduces a new manner of worship where their very lives are the sacrificial offering and their minds are transformed.

I am sure that some of the hearers of Paul’s letter muttered, “We’ve never done it this way before.  What was wrong with the old way? It has worked fine for years.”

Everybody resists change.

Paul urges this “by the mercies of God.  Paul is saying that “on account of” God’s mercies, because of God’s mercies that he has just told them about in the preceding chapters they should offer themselves.  We should offer ourselves because it is our responsibility based on what we know about God.

The sacrifice is described as holy and acceptable.  Paul is using language that his readers would understand. He is showing them that their living sacrifice is compared to that of the OT.  The whole sacrifice was offered to God.  The Jews could not offer part of a bull, or part of a lamb.  They gave the whole sacrifice to God. This is a picture that we need to make sure that we do not miss.  Our living sacrifice has to be totally dedicated to God.  Nothing in our lives is to be held back from God.

Now, we know that the sacrificial system ended with Jesus. He did what the law was not able to do.  His once and for all sacrifice paid the price for sin, it didn’t just cover the sin.  Our sacrifice as Christians is not out of obligation to a ritual it should come as a response to forgiveness not seeking forgiveness as the Jews were.

There is another significant difference in the OT sacrifice and the new sacrifice that Paul is urging.

OT – sacrifices to God were at certain times of the year, and these ceremonial activities took time out of their normal routine of life.  The new sacrifice of the believer’s life is continual, and worship is fused into every aspect of life. 

Priest presents vs we present.

Then Paul adds the short little phrase, “which is your reasonable service”.  Paul isn’t asking anything outrageous here. He is not asking for something far more valuable than what we have received.  In fact he says this is our “reasonable service”,

Logikos – where we get our word logical from.  Paul is simply saying that when you think about it, it is the least that we can do.

He’s not done here, verse two starts to show us what this living sacrifice should look like:

Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

There are 3 things that we see in this verse.  1. Not conforming to the world. 2. Transformation of the mind. 3. Results of the transformation.

Do not be conformed…  This is the original call of the OT.  God has never meant for his people to look and act like everyone else.  Standard bearer, example.

We live in a world that is not our home but which tempts us to set aside the glory of God for our own glory.  It is tempting.  It is a natural longing to want to fit in, but we have to remember that this is not where we want to fit in.  We want to fit in with God. 

We are called to be transformed.  We are saved in an instant, but then we spend the rest of our lives being transformed into the image and likeness of God.  As our minds are transformed our actions will be transformed.  Actions that come from a holy heart will conform to the will of God.

If we are so transformed that the only thing that we do is worship and glorify God then we will be in the will of God, that will that Paul describes as good, and acceptable and perfect.

The next three verses give us a picture of what the church looks like when its members are transformed.  When our minds are transformed we have a total change in worldview.  We don’t go through the world thinking that we are the center of the world. It’s not all about you or me.  We stop putting ourselves above other people.  Paul says, “don’t think of yourselves more highly than you should.”

We don’t have anything to boast about.  Everything that we have has been given to us by God.  We are blessed.  He saved us.  He drew us to him.

Jesus taught this same concept.  Remember Jesus said when you go to the banquet don’t assume that you get to sit in the place of honor.  You might be embarrassed when the host ….  Instead be humble and let the master give you glory.  “Come up here!”

Paul reminds us that we are different and unique people who come together to make up the body of Christ.  We don’t all have the same function

Paul gave an expanded version of this teaching in an earlier letter to the people of Corinth:

1 Corinthians 12:13-41 (NKJV)
14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.
15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?
18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.
21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.

If you have ever stubbed/broken your toe you know this is true.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

We each have different gifts, according to the grace that God has given us.  It is our obligation to exercise these gifts.  This ties back to vs 3 where we are called to humility.  We are to use our gifts with humility.  We should rejoice in the diversity of gifts that are present in the body. We are not competing with each other.

There should be no competition between the members.  And

There should be no competition between churches.  We are not competing with the churches around us, we should be working with them.  They are part of the body of Christ. And when one part of the body suffers, the entire body suffers. When one part of the body rejoices, the whole body rejoices.   We are all in this together. 

Competition can breed disunity. But we are not in competition; we are free from the bondage that competition can create.  

We are called to serve with the gift that we have been given.  We are not expected to major on every gift in the church.  There are many things in the church in which all Christians are expected to participate, such as the ministries of giving, service and evangelism.  We are not excused from these ministries, but if you are gifted, truly gifted in one of them you have a responsibility exercise that gift to the level it has been given you. 

God chooses our gifts as well as the measure of grace that we receive in order to use them, and as a result we are accountable to God in how we employ our gifts to edify the body of Christ.

The use of our spiritual gifts is one instance of how we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices in worship to God. 

God isn’t glorified simply because we serve other people.  He is glorified when we serve others as a response to His love towards us and when the goal of our service is to share His love with others.

We are called to a life of worship that is carried out as a member of the body of Christ.

Our challenge is to be holy, set apart for God; to look like His people and not the world.  We are to serve and worship in such a way that people can’t help but see that there is something different about us.  We want people to see the gospel lived out in our lives, not just hear us tell them about it.

As we close I want to leave with you same challenge that Paul gave the Roman church:

Because of the mercies of God, present your bodies as a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice to God.  It is the only logical, reasonable thing to do.

AMEN

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