A Living Sacrifice
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 29th, 2018.
Let us begin this morning with our July memory verse. Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways.” Let’s say it one more time.
Our memory verse is actually a perfect transition into our study this morning from Romans 12:1-2, so let’s not waste any time this morning and jump right into our text. Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
Last week, during our mission trip in Guatemala, I had several opportunities to sit and talk with others Christians while riding on a bus to and from our destinations. One of those individuals that I sat by was named Rudy. Rudy was one of our translators. Rudy is a missionary in Guatemala and is originally from Mexico. He is 25 years old and is passionate about living his life for Jesus Christ. While speaking with Rudy, the story of Adoniram Judson came to my mind. Adoniram was a Baptist missionary from America in the 1800’s. His mission field was Burma, today known as Myanmur, a nation just East of India.
What came to my mind while speaking to Rudy was the story of Adoniram asking his future father in law’s permission to marry his daughter. Adoniram asked his permission by writing him a letter. I would like to read that letter to you this morning:
I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair.
What kind of man writes this kind of letter? What kind of women accepts this kind of marriage proposal? What kind of father willingly gives his daughter to this kind of life? I will tell you, ones who have embraced the truth found in Romans 12:1. Ones who are overwhelmed by the grace of Christ who “left his heavenly home, and died for [them].” Ones whose hearts beat in sync with their Savior and with every breath aim for the glory of God in all things and in all nations.
When Adonirum died in 1850 there were 100 Churches in Burma at approximately 8,000 Burmese believers. And in this current moment those Burmese believers are not weeping in Hell, but are standing in a “world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to [their] Saviour.”
It needs not be said, that the Body of Christ needs more husbands like Adonirum, more wives like Ann, and more Father-in-laws like Mr. Hasseltine. But how is this achieved? How are hearts stirred to such great a degree that we become inflamed with the exultation of our Redeemer and count the cost and joyfully surrender our lives for the sake of His name? It is really quite simple, and Romans 12:1 contains the answer. So let us turn the eyes of our heart to this text.
I have broken down these verses into three categories: 1) The Goal, 2) The Grounds, and 3) the Glory. The Goal, the Grounds, the Glory. Let us begin with the goal.
We see in verse 1, our author, the Apostle Paul, appealing to the Church in Roman. You will notice that the Apostle Paul addresses them as brothers. This is the world aldelphos, and it can be used to address both brothers and sisters. The use of this word is to draw the Roman’s attention to the equality of their position. Both the Apostle Paul and the believers in Rome have the same Father, God almighty. It is God who fathered them. It is God who gave them a new life in Christ. It is God who birthed them into Spiritual existence. John 1:12-13 captures this idea when it says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” It was the will of God that caused Paul and all believers in Rome to believe. We cannot take credit for our birth, we were passive. It is simply something that happens through the sovereignty of God and the effectual power of the Gospel. We have already been taught in Romans 8 that those whom he foreknew, he predestined; and those whom he predestined, he called; and those whom he called, he justified; and those whom he justified, he glorified.
Therefore, all men and women in Christ are on equal ground. Paul is not better than the believers in Rome; no matter their gender, no matter their occupation, no matter their wealth, no matter their age, no matter their maturity. In Christ we are all standing upon the same grace of the righteousness of Christ.
And it is from this posture of spiritual equality that Paul’s makes his appeal to his spiritual siblings, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers.” This word appeal is also an interesting word, for Paul could easily command it, for he is an apostle, given the Word of the Lord for the building up of the Church, but yet he appeals. The word appeal is parakaleō, which can be translated to appeal, or entreat, or beseech, or even to beg.
Just to give you a sample of how parakaleō is used in another context, in Mark 7:32 it says, “And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.” The word begged in Mark 7:32 is the same word as used in Romans 1. Paul is begging his brothers and sisters. He is pleading with them. But what is he pleading for?
Brother Paul is pleading that they “present [their] bodies as a living sacrifice.” To understand the full weight of this plea, we must see this appeal through the lens of the Old Testament. The people of Israel, prior to Christ’s coming, were commanded to bring offerings to the Temple. One of these offerings was the burnt offering. This offering would be an animal from your livestock. It was to be without blemish, and it was to be brought to the temple alive and handed over to the priests. The priests would then kill the animal and pour its blood upon the altar. The animal was then to be cut up into pieces and a fire kindled under it. In Leviticus 1:9 it says, “And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”
Paul, using this Old Testament imagery, beseeches Christians to offer themselves as a living sacrifice. To come to the Temple of God, which is Jesus Christ, and surrender your life to the Lord, not just some of your life but all of your life; complete and utter surrender. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the call of a Christian life, to be entirely abandoned to the will of the Lord. Luke 9:23-24, the verse that changed my life, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
We live in a post modern Christian world that treats Jesus as an accessory to our lives. We tend to only put him on when it makes us look good. But what does Christ say to you today? Jesus says, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33).
Have you renounced all that you have? Have you surrendered your entire life to serve the one and Holy God of the Universe? Have you cast off the sins and the weights of this passing world to sit at the feet of the Master? Have you, with joy, sold all of your possession so that you can obtain the treasure of the Kingdom of God? Are you a living sacrifice to God? If not, why not? What are you still clinging to? What is your idol that you are still bowing down to? Your business? Your reputation? Your dreams? Your children? Your life? Here the Words of the Lord this morning and tremble, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Scripture is clear. God is not playing game. The goal of a Christian life is to present yourself as a living sacrifice. It is to this end we are to strive. But how do we achieve this?
For this answer, let us turn our attention to my second point, The Grounds. What are the grounds of such radical living? What is the catalyst that sets us in motion to joyfully let go of the things of this world? What is the force behind a life abandoned to the Glory of God in all things, and all areas of our life?
What does it say in verse 1?, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” “By the mercies of God.” The power behind such reckless abandonment are the mercies of God. The mercies of God is the fuel that feeds the fire that was lit by the Spirit. But what are these mercies of God?
The mercies of God are the first 11 chapters of Romans. Do not forget what we have studied. Do not forget what we have spent almost one year unpacking. We have been gazing upon the mercies of God. It began in Romans 1, 2 and 3. Where we read about the Holy justice of God, who rightfully and justly holds sinners accountable for our transgressions against him.
And as the Apostle Paul clearly states, we are all sinners; every one of us.
This is a description of us all. This is who we are at our core. We are totaled depraved. We are sinners with dead rebellious hearts, speaking lies and hateful words to our fellow man, quick to put ourselves before others, hostile towards God, and scoffing at the Day of Judgment. If anyone deserves Hell it is us. And if we received it, there should be no complaint, for it is what justice requires.
And it is this point, that I fear so few people understand, or at least feel the weight of in their lives. We are all guilty of sinning against a God who is the Creator of all things, a God who is benevolent; a God who has given us all things, and we have committed treason of the highest order against him. We deserve the outer darkness, the gnashing of teeth, the weeping, the unquenchable flames, the eternal torment. We deserve Hell, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved-- “ (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Christ has taken Hell upon himself at Calvary and died the death that each of us deserve and rescued us from eternal damnation and replaced it with eternal joy. These are the mercies of God, and this is the grounds of presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice. It is because we have been saved that we surrender our lives to our savior. It is not the other way around. We do not sacrifice ourselves to be saved, for Christ is our sacrifice. We are saved through faith in Christ, therefore we respond by becoming a living sacrifice.
To give you a simple illustration of this teaching, imagine that you had incurred an insurmountable financial debt. You reach a point in your life that you know that there is absolutely no hope off getting out from under this debt, and your creditors are coming, ready to throw you into debtors prison until the last cent is paid. And at the deepest moment of despair a man steps in and pays your debt, every last cent; wipes your record clean and satisfies your obligations. And not only does he pay your debt, but he adopts you as his own son and daughter. And this man is not an ordinary man, but he is a king with treasuries that are full beyond your comprehension, and all that he has is now yours.
Now imagine, after your debt has been paid, after you have been adopted, after you have been promised a glorious inheritance, he comes to you one day and requests that you run an errand for him? What do you do? Do you ignore him? Do you say that you are too busy? Do you say “I will think about it?” Do you say, “that errand really isn't my calling?” Or do you say yes?
I fear too many of us, fail to say yes. We are too wrapped up in the dust of this world, we are too focused on our own passions and desires, and we effectively tell the Creator of the Universe who has eternally loved us to stopping bothering us and leave us alone.
We must wake up and realize that “you were bought with a price.” And this price was the blood of the Son of God. And this is the grounds of our sacrificial living.
Which leads us to our last point. We have looked at the goal and the grounds, and now let us to to the glory. Verse 1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” A life fully surrendered to the Lord is worship. We tend to think of worship as what we do on Sunday's, which it is, but worship is more comprehensive than just singing songs, corporate prayer, and the teaching of God's Word. Worship is to be every breath we take. I just quoted to you first part 1 Corinthians 6:20, “for you were bought with a price.” The rest of the verse says, “So glorify God in your body.”
This is why God created the the Universe, to receive glory, to receive worship. This is the purpose of all things, including you. A verse that I commonly quote is Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” God is looking for those who will worship him. John 4:23, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” The question for us today, is when he looks down upon your life will he find a worshiper in Spirit and Truth, or will he find an idol worshiper?
You exist for one singular ultimate, and glorious purpose, to glorify God. Not just when we lift our voices in praise, but in all that we do. 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
So what shall we do? We know the goal, to present ourselves as living sacrifice. We know grounds, the mercies of God. We know our purpose, to glorify God. So now what?
Hebrews 12:1-2, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We look to Jesus, the incarnation of the mercies of God, and recognize that what he did in the leaving of Heaven, in becoming a man of sorrow, in being beaten and hung on the cross, he did for you.
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