Living Sacrifices

Following is an English transcript of the message today.

Coming into chapter twelve, Paul says “therefore.” It’s always useful to understand the transition from one thought to the next. Whenever you find a “therefore,” take the time to understand what came before to better understand what follows.

In our study of Romans, I tied chapters nine and eleven together. Those two chapters discussed God’s choosing of Israel as His special people, followed by Israel’s rejection of God; that led to God’s choosing of the Gentiles. Chapter eleven closes with the thought that although we Gentiles are chosen by God and have somewhat replaced the nation of Israel as God’s special people, we have no reason to be proud because we did nothing to deserve God’s mercy and grace.

If God cast out His special people Israel because of their disobedience, we need to realize that He will likewise cut off the Gentiles if we are disobedient. We have no reason to be puffed up in our ego and think we are above God’s judgment because it is only His mercy and grace that have provided a way for us to be saved.

Therefore… Therefore, give yourself as a living sacrifice to God. If we understand clearly how undeserving we are and how great God is, we should have a sense of gratitude and reverence that leads us to offer our lives to God.

Let’s read Romans 12:1, 2.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Can you comprehend what a great gift we’ve been given? We have all sinned. We know and understand this on some level. We can understand how a just and holy God would demand righteousness from His people and how He would mete out judgment on the disobedient. But God has loved us so much that He gave His only Son Jesus to die as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. This makes a way for us to be free from sin and to come to God as His adopted children.

Therefore, it is only reasonable that we would give our lives back to God, not to earn our salvation, but as the minimum we can give to show our gratitude for His great love. It is a natural response that if a friend gives you a gift, you then feel an obligation to return some gift or service to show your gratitude. The same holds true here.

And how should we give our lives? They are to be holy and acceptable to God. And they are to be living, which means we do not wait until the end of life to make an agreement with God. No, no, no. We give the best of the life we have to Him. A holy life that is acceptable to God. That point is important because many people try to live a holiness or a good life that they feel is acceptable to themselves. Here we understand, and it is taught through Scripture, that God is the one who decides the standards of holiness, not man.

So what is acceptable to God? What is holy? The rest of Chapter 12 teaches us. In fact, the remainder of our study in the Book of Romans will be looking at what an acceptable offering to God looks like. That is to say, we will be looking at the characteristics of a holy life.

Verse two holds a key to holy living: Do not take on the appearance or values of the world but be transformed into God’s perfect will. The sad truth is that the vast majority of people will reject God and His way. Therefore, if you look like the majority of the world around you, if you talk like most of the people around you, if you enjoy the same pleasures as many of the world around you, you should be concerned. If we are molded into the same shape as the world around us, we are definitely not molded into the image of Jesus.

That transformation begins in the heart or in the mind. We must first change the way we think. We must exchange our former selfish and sinful desires for what God wants of us. In another place, it says we must put on the mind of Christ. And then we can prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Let’s read Romans 12:3-8.

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:3-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this section we are specifically looking at how believers work together in the body, that is to say the church. These verses are directed to the workers within the church, and we understand that each member in a body works to some degree to support the life of the body. All members of the body of Christ must work together in harmony in order to maintain the health and life of the whole.

And one of the quickest killers within the church is pride. Pride is a common and deadly disease. So it is not surprise that Paul begins this discourse by warning to avoid pride and to think humbly of ourselves. God equips each believer with a gift to use within the body to bless the body. But if we take pride in that gift, we actually become a danger to the church.

And as not all members of the body are the same or have the same influence, so the members within a group of believers will have varying abilities and responsibilities. Paul lists a few types of gifts in these few verses, and with each gift he encourages us to give our best strength and diligence to that responsibility, not out of pride buy out of service.

Believers need other believers. It is very difficult to be alone without a body of believers to give you the necessary strength and life. In the church, we are members one of another. In whatever gift we have, we are to use it in humble service, simplicity, gentleness, mercy, and cheerfulness. If you cannot serve with those characteristics, you need to reexamine your mind. Remember the first step? We must ask God to renew our minds. We must crucify our selfish and sinful desires; that is to say, we must kill our old man and put on the new man.

Colossians 3:9, 10 speak of this.

“Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Colossians 3 has one of the lists of things that we are to put off and other things that we are to put on. Again, these are not attempts to pay for our salvation, but they are the least we can do in service to our Redeemer and God. The last several verses in Romans 12 also go over a list of things for us to do.

Let’s read Romans 12:9-21 verse by verse. I will comment on each verse as we go along.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.”

V.9: Our love must be genuine, not hypocritical. Sincere love does not give someone a hug and flowery words only to later to talk harshly about them to others. True love doesn’t act sweet and kind to your family when you have company only to yell at them in anger when no one is around.

The only hate we are to have is to hate what is evil. And the evil we should hate the strongest is the evil we find in our own hearts. One man said, “Hate evil as much as you would hate the hell it leads to.” Hate evil and cleave to what is right. Grasp it as if your life depends on it because it truly does. Be glued to the truth. Make it a part of your daily life by immersing yourself in God’s Word and by fellowshipping with God’s people. Do not mix with evil.

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

V.10: This is speaking again to relationships within the group of believers. In the church, Christians should learn to love each other as brothers and sisters. If a believer is closer to his earthly family than to his spiritual family, he needs to work to improve his love for the church. Because of our ego, this love will be tested often. But we strive to show honor and respect to our spiritual family, placing them above us.

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.”

V.11: In our work, we must not be lazy, we must not do things halfway or sloppily. Rather, we should be diligent and hardworking. God commanded us from the very first week of Creation that we are to work six days and rest the seventh. This is the pattern He wants us to follow. And our work will be as it should when we fervently work in all things as if the Lord Himself is our boss.

Doing our work with fervor as unto the Lord makes many things clear. For example, God would not permit dishonesty or poor workmanship. He would not allow cheating or deception. He would not have us work with selling or using things that harm others, for example beer. If God is our boss in our daily work, our work changes.

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”

V.12: When life brings hardship, the believer can still rejoice because he has eternal hope living within his heart. If trials and sufferings or even persecutions come, the Christian can endure patiently and faithfully because his heart is fixed on the hope of Jesus. And Scripture says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Our hope is secure. However, in order to maintain that hope, we must maintain a connection to the Lord. We do that by continual communication with Him. Perseverance in prayer produces endurance through life.

“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”

V.13: Part of our genuine love for our brothers in Christ is to be aware of their needs and to give as we can. And how can we know if our brothers are in need? That requires a close relationship. Close relationships don’t happen automatically. We must take the time to cultivate a relationship. If we are showing our brothers love as verse ten says, then we will be aware of any needs that arise, and we can help one another.

Our homes should always be open to giving to others, particularly when they are in need. The greatest enemy of hospitality is selfishness. If you prefer time to yourself and work to avoid others, you are not using the mind of Christ who continually devoted Himself to others.

“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.”

V.14: Verse thirteen is likely easier than verse fourteen. It should come naturally to give to our fellow believers. Loving each other in the body of Christ is a basic Christian skill. But to bless your enemies, that takes another layer of love. Has someone done you wrong? Have they taken advantage of you or deceived you or harmed you in some way? Perhaps they have injured you in business or some other agreement. Maybe they abuse you emotionally or mentally through insults or by spreading false rumors against you.

Love them anyway. Bless them. Do not speak ill against others, even if they deserve it. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. If you find it easy to say negative things against others, then you do not have a heart of love. You are not filled with the love of Jesus. Put those bad thoughts away and replace them with blessing for others. When your heart is so filled with compassion for your enemies that you can honestly cry to God, “Father, forgive them for what they are doing to me. They don’t understand,” then you have realized the love of Jesus.

“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”

V.15: This is a practical verse and sounds easy to do, but always pride gets in the way. Sometimes it is hard for us to rejoice with others when they have success, and we do not. Envy and jealousy spring up and choke out the joy. Then when they fail, we may be tempted to feel pleased at their comeuppance. That is not God’s way. When others rejoice at success, rejoice with them and lift them up. When they fail, your heart of compassion should feel their pain, too.

“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”

V.16: God’s children do not fight to get to the top. We are not concerned with being at the top or having the most or owning the best. Believers can live in peace with others because they are not seeking to push others down. Rather, we work to humble ourselves. If we cannot interact with the lowest ones in society, we have pride that we need to get rid of.

“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.”

V.17: Do not try to get back at others when they hurt you or go against you. If someone irritates you, the selfish man looks for ways to irritate the other person, to pay them back in the same way. This is the eye for an eye approach. If they do something against you, they deserve the same in return.

But God’s people do not respond this way. Our hearts and minds have been transformed. When evil comes against us, we look for ways to bless. To everyone we meet, whether they are bad or good to us, we must respond in kindness and goodness.

“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

V.18: If it is possible. This is not saying if we can restrain ourselves. No, this means that sometimes there is nothing we can do to make peace with others. But we come to that conclusion only after trying everything we can. If someone is angry with us or there is some disagreement, do all you can to give of yourself and to sacrifice of your resources to make peace with that person.

Most times there is a way for you to make peace with others, but many times you will be taken advantage of in the process. We must be willing to be the servant in those circumstances. If we are honoring others as greater than ourselves, this step will come more easily.

“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.”

V.19: Again, we are reminded not to take vengeance, but here he goes further to lift our minds from whatever difficulty we might be facing and to focus on God. There is coming a day when all those who ever wronged God’s children will face His terrible wrath. We do not need to concern ourselves with vengeance. God will judge. Our job now is to walk in love and peace.

“Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.””

V.20: We do not take vengeance on our enemies. We are not looking for ways to punish others. This fits with other Scripture where we are taught not to take others to court. We don’t sue for our rights. Rather, we look for ways to bless. If our enemy has a need, we try to fill it.

And it may be that by showing love in this way, we may bring a sense of shame and gratitude to them that will open their hearts to God. By our sacrifice, they may be able to see the way to Jesus. And by His sacrifice, they may be saved. That is the ultimate goal.

“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

V.21: In all these things of life, we must be on our guard. Evil is everywhere around us. We see it in trials, and we see it in temptations. How can we overcome this great evil, especially considering that the good is only a small minority? The only way to overcome evil is with good.

The only effective response to hate is love. In the end, love will always win. But we must have a heavenly perspective. Did love win for Jesus? Did His blessing His enemies keep Him from suffering? No, He suffered more than any man. But His goodness overcame evil. Though He was killed on a cross, He rose triumphant. And God has placed Jesus in the highest place of honor. Because Jesus humbled Himself and gave Himself as a living sacrifice to God, God has put all things under His feet. There is no name greater than Jesus now.

So let us not be conformed to this world. Let us not respond in evil and selfish ways to the wrong around us. But let us be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Let us put on the mind of Christ, and we will be overcome by evil. We can overcome evil with good.

Meditate on these words this week. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, and He is Lord and Savior of your life, then you are called to live in obedience to this teaching. If you see you are failing in some way, don’t be conformed to this world. Repent and ask the Lord to transform your mind.

Remember, we are living this way in response to the “therefore” of the previous chapter where we are warned that the disobedient will be cut off and cast away from God forever. Knowing this, offer your life as a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable to Him.

Esmeralda and María Gracia came to church.
Alicia came, as well!