12 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. 2 Do not conform any longer 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.
We looked at these verses three weeks ago. In response to the grace which saves us on the basis of Christ’s atoning death on the cross, in response to the free gift of eternal life, in response to God’s love which never lets us go, in view of all God’s mercy we should offer ourselves to God to be living sacrifices. Our lives should be a continuous stream of loving actions continuously offered up as our worship to God. We should let God change us to be like Jesus, so that we will be different and stand out from the crowd as our thinking is reshaped.
J.B.Phillips Don’t let the world around squeeze you into its own mould, but let God remould your minds from within.
In this way we will live according to God’s will, following God’s perfect plan for each of our lives. This is our appropriate response to God’s love – to become living sacrifices. Now in Romans chapters 12 to 16 Paul spells out in practical terms what it means to be a living sacrifice. He begins with our life together in the church – how should we behave and relate to each other as fellow believers?
EACH BE HUMBLE
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Being a living sacrifice becomes much easier when we get rid of any misguided ideas we may have about how important we are. We are loved by God and precious in His eyes – but that doesn’t mean that any of us are important in the church. It certainly isn’t the case that God NEEDS us!
Have you noticed that in all of the Psalms he wrote, great King David never once mentions his victory over Goliath? Not once! We live in an age of superlatives – the greatest evangelist, the greatest preacher, the greatest theologian, the greatest minister. In the world people chase after dignity and position and title and celebrity. And this attitude can creep even into the church. Contrast that with the apostle Paul who called himself and saw himself as “the least of all the apostles.”
A young American student visiting the Beethoven museum in Bonn was fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it and for a large tip the guard agreed. The girl went to the piano and played out the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. She said, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.”
The guard shook his head. “The famous Polish pianist Padarewski was here a few years ago and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.”
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” It was the sin of pride that got Satan thrown out of heaven. Pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins. So Paul urges the Christians at Rome to be humble – to view themselves as God does. In C.S.Lewis’s Narnia books, Aslan says to Prince Caspian, “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve – and that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar and shame enough to bow the head of the greatest emperor on earth.”
How do we avoid pride? I came across a little article entitled “How to be perfectly miserable.” It listed a few things we can do which will not only make us miserable but keep us that way.
1. Think about yourself.
2. Talk about yourself.
3. Use “I” as often as possible.
4. Judge yourself entirely by what other people think about you
5. Listen greedily to what people say about you.
6. Expect to be appreciated.
7. Be suspicious.
8. Be jealous and envious.
9. Be sensitive to slights.
10. Never forgive a criticism
11. Trust no one but yourself.
12. Insist on consideration and respect.
13. Demand agreement with your own views on everything.
14. Sulk if people are not grateful to you for something you have done for them.
15. Never forget a service you may have rendered.
16. Be on the lookout for a good time for yourself.
17. Shirk your duties if you can.
18. Do as little as possible for others.
19. Love yourself supremely.
20. Be selfish.
Let that be a checklist of sins to avoid! “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,” Paul warns us. Be completely humble – that is just the first step in being a living sacrifice in the church. Next we should
TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER
4 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 who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Paul will expand on this later in Romans 12 and in Romans 13 he will talk about loving your neighbour as yourself as the fulfilment of the law. In Romans 14 Paul will explain how this should work out in practice when Christians disagree and how loving each other will mean not judging each other. Everything Paul will say about loving each other rests on his understanding that together as Christians we form Christ’s body here on earth. “Each member belongs to all the others” in the Body of Christ, says Paul. We will learn much more about loving each other in weeks to come, but for tonight here is a simple question. Here in North Springfield Baptist Church how true is it that “each member belongs to all the others”? Do we really see each other as parts of the same body?
If I cut my hand my eyes look to assess the injury. My feet take me to the first aid box. My other hand applies the Savlon and Elastoplast. In the church how successful at caring for everybody? Are any neglected? Do some fall through the net? At the same time – are we all prepared to belong to one another? To open up and share our lives with each other and allow other people to help carry our burdens? Taking care of each other in the Body of Christ is another part of what it means to be living sacrifices in the church.
EACH PLAY YOUR PART
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
God gives every one of us natural talents and spiritual gifts. That gifting may change over time but we are all accountable to God for the ways we use the gifts He has given us and to make sure we do not waste them. Sometimes people say, “It must be nice to be a minister.” Some people spend lots of time and energy wishing they had different gifts and different roles in the church. But it is God who chooses what we are good at and what He wants us to do for Him. So we should each get on and play the part God gives us to play, serving in the ways He has chosen for us, which all depends on the gifts God has given us.
If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
God still speaks to His church today in prophecy, words of knowledge and words of wisdom, in pictures and dreams and visions. Sometimes we don’t recognise God’s words to us. On the other hand, sometimes people think God is speaking to them when in fact it is only their own wishes and ideas. So with prophecy we always need discernment – let him use it in proportion to his faith.
7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
Some people think that teaching is more glamorous or important in the church than serving. Paul puts them together and in fact neither is more or less important than the other. Both teaching and serving are equally vital for the life and growth of any church.
8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage;
Every church needs its encouragers, its Barnabas, its Son of Encouragement. Some churches have more than their fair share of sons and daughters of DIScouragement. Some Christians believe they have been given a ministry of discouragement and criticism. But I am delighted to say that we are spared from such people here!
if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;
Generosity is not about large amounts. The widow’s mite was a generous contribution. But parts of being a living sacrifice are sacrifices from the wallet or the purse or the bank account.
if it is leadership, let him govern diligently;
The responsibility of leading a church shared by Minister and Deacons demands our best efforts and continual diligence.
if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Sometimes people can help others in a grudging or resentful or grumpy fashion. Every church would benefit from an outbreak of cheerfulness among the people of God!
We all have different gifts and different jobs to do. God calls each one of us to play our part in the Body of Christ – because if we don’t the body will stop working properly. And there are so many ways in which a body can go wrong!
Most of you know that I enjoy doing things with computers. Not just programming them and creating websites but also taking them apart and fiddling with the electronic bits inside. Taking a computer apart is very easy. Anybody can do it. The tricky bit is to put them back together again so they are working better than they were before. That’s the fun part! Because if just one component is not working properly the whole thing is useless. It’s the same with cars. With just one bit not working the car rattles or screeches and it can become extremely dangerous, or just stop working at all. The human body is so much more complicated than a computer or a car, and so is the Body of Christ the church. God calls us to work together as living sacrifices, to be completely humble, to take care of each other and to use the gifts God has given us for His glory. But we each have to play our part!