Living Sacrifices - Rom. 12:1-2

Romans   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:41
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It’s hard to believe, but we have come to the final section of our study in Romans. As we reflected last week, Romans can be divided into two main parts (Chapters 1-11 WHAT TO BELIEVE) and (Chapters 12-16 HOW TO BEHAVE).
Paul lays out for us in the first 11 chapters what we are to believe when it comes to our relationship to God.
In Romans 1-3 Paul gives a proclamation of the Gospel and how we are created by God and have broken His law. Our nature is inherently sinful and in turn at enmity with Him. The picture painted in the first 3 chapters of Romans is that all of humanity is hopeless in their own efforts to be made right with a holy God.
Then in Romans 4-5 we learned of How God provided righteousness through the Gospel. Although we are inherently hopeless in our sinful nature, God provided a way to be made right with Him through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Also in Romans 6-8 we saw the Power of God’s righteousness in the Gospel, as the indwelling Spirit now enables a different kind of life. No longer are we bound to live under the deceitful kingship of our old master of sin, but now have everything provided to us to live under the authority of Christ. Paul concluded chapter 8 with the beautiful reminder that the love of God toward those who are His is everlasting.
And last week, we finished up our 5 week mini-series in Romans 9-11, where we learned that God has every right to extend mercy and to harden whomever He pleases. Likewise, we learned that the miracle of God’s Sovereign extension of grace and mercy, is that He would extend it to anyone at all! Through this perplexing section of Romans, Paul clarifies the hard antinomy of God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility and the plan God had to incorporate non-jews into His family.
Romans is known as Paul’s deepest theological letter, and for good reason. In it we find deep truth that both challenges the mind and nourishes the soul.
Friend, God is trustworthy and is at work in the world bringing about His purposes, even when you can’t see Him.
This is not just a truth we find in Romans, but throughout the whole bible - especially in Esther that we are studying on Sunday evenings. (insert not-so-subliminal ad here)
We finished last week with Paul’s doxological finale of chapter 11. Look with me there if you would, where he writes:
Romans 11:33–36 NKJV
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” 35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
Paul reminds us that we have no place to claim understanding of God’s mind, counsel for His will, or repayment for a debt He owes. God works according to His own will and is sovereignly in control.
And the reason this is so, is because (according to v. 36) our existence is received from God, sustained through God, and for the purpose of God’s glory.
This past week, we as a faith family dwelt on this truth:
God created me and sustains me. I exist for His glory!
And as Paul transitions from what we believe to how that effects our day to day lives in how we live, he begins with the first two verses of Romans 12, that frankly, have the potential to completely transform your marriage, your parenting, your career, your entire life!
In fact, if you were hoping to check church off your list of to-do’s today, and not be confronted to change, you picked the wrong Sunday! And if you’ve come today, recognizing the greatness of God and wanting Him to speak to you today through His Word and by His Spirit, He is going to do that today!
You see, Paul says:
Romans 12:1–2 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.
In these two short verses, Paul gives us two imperative responses to the greatness of God and they deal with heart of presenting ourselves to God and the transformation needed in our deepest parts.
You will notice this:
1. Presentation (v.1)
As Paul begins in verse 1 with an appeal.
He says, “I beseech you, or beg of you, therefore...”
Remember when you read a therefore, you need to find out what it is there for. And this therefore is referencing what you just read up to this point.
All of what we have learned about our relationship to God to this point of Romans culminates in the fact that we are from God, through God, and for God. And because of this, Paul begs of the believer to respond in a specific way.
He says, because of everything God is and has done for you, I appeal for you to:
Present your bodies a living sacrifice.
Let’s define a couple of the words so we can get the whole picture well.
That word Present means to:
παρίστημι (paristēmi)- to make available or accessible; provide or furnish
Literally, this is a decision of providing fully furnished access of our whole selves.
And that’s what the word bodies means. It is:
σῶμα (sōma) - both the physical and immaterial parts of yourself
This includes the things you can see and the things you can’t see
So, your eyes and ears to your feet and hands
but also, your affections, your feelings, your thoughts and your plans.
It involves what you do on the outside, yes, but infinitely more intimately it involves who you are on the inside.
This fully furnished access of our whole selves to God is offered as a living sacrifice - literally meaning:
ζάω (zaō) - to be alive
θυσία (thusia) - sacrificial offering
Those to whom Paul is originally writing would have known the OT sacrificial systems well and were able to relate to what He is referencing. Much better than we do today.
However, as we understand the OT system of sacrificing sheep, goats and so on is no longer necessary, there is still a NT sacrificial system. As RC Sproul put it: It is not a sacrifice that we give in order to make an atonement, but a sacrifice that we give because an atonement has been made for us.
R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 195.
Our total, sacrificial, fully accessible presentation to God is because of, not in order to.
John Phillips said:
Exploring Romans: An Expository Commentary C. The Body as an Unbiased Sacrifice (12:1)

All other faiths make sacrifice the root, Christianity makes it the flower.

The life of sacrifice we are called to, is not based on the hope that we may earn the favor of God, but because the favor of God has been placed upon us.
So Paul calls believers who have already experienced the manifold grace of God through the Gospel to make available everything about them, seen and unseen, as a living gift back to our gracious God.
And Paul says, this all access approach to giving God a living sacrifice in response to His grace has two applications:
1. We aren’t to be put to death like the OT animal sacrifices were.
All of the OT sacrificial systems were pointing to Christ as the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin. Christ has come, and accomplished what He came for, so in this context, physical death is not in view.
Not only are we to present our physical lives, but Paul has in mind that we are to present our spiritual life too. You see:
2. We aren’t dead sacrifices, because we have been given new life with Christ.
Remember back to Romans 6 where Paul said that believers are dead to sin and alive to God. And just as Christ who died and took our sin upon Himself, in his resurrection, demonstrated that he has defeated both sin and death.
And with this victory of Christ in mind, Paul writes:
Romans 6:11–13 NKJV
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
Christ has provided us life. He brought us from the death of our sinful nature to new life in Him. And the life that we now live is empowered by the Spirit, not by the flesh.
In other words, the call of Romans 12 is not to figure out how to change yourself. This presentation is not to be rooted in you. This living gift you are to present to God is rooted in the life giving, enabling grace of God!
You see, this is not about you being independent of your dead life before Christ, it’s about your dependence on God in your new life in Christ.
Friend, you don’t need to fight your flesh harder, as much as you need to rest in God more. And as you submit to and delight in God more, He will do the work of change in you and through you, you could never accomplish on your own.
And this presentation of your complete self to God, that delights in His enabling grace and life giving gift, is holy, acceptable to Him, and is a rational response in worship.
First, we note that this type of dependent Christian living is sacred and pleasing to God. God delights in those who delight in Him. And as you set your affections on Him, and pursue Him, and depend on Him, He is pleased to set you apart.
And this dependent presentation is only rational in your spiritual worship to Him.
CT Studd put it this way, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.”
Studd understood that a proper view of God, produces a proper response of worship.
Isaac Watts, a great hymn writer of the 17th-18th century, wrote from His view of God these words:
“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my heart, my life, my all.”
And He was right! This all access presentation of everything about me is the reasonable and rational worshipful response to Who God Is, and what He has done for me.
That thought, that hobby, those people, that car, the career, those passions, that word, those plans, these kids, that addiction, THEY ALL ARE TO BE BROUGHT BEFORE GOD.
In response to the greatness of God toward the Romans, Paul pleads with them to lay everything they are (physical and immaterial) out on a silver platter and present an all access pass to every bit of it to God.
And to some of you are like YES, God have it all! I am all in!
While others of us here today, we think yikes! I’m not sure I can buy into what Paul is saying here.
And I think that’s why Paul addresses not only the heart of why we would make a presentation like this, but also speaks into the transformation needed behind the how to do such a thing.
2. Transformation (v. 2)
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.
Believers for centuries have been seeking what the will of God is for their lives.
They desire as Paul says here, the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.
Many who are pursuing God like verse 1 talks about, understand the why of giving our all to God.
The simple conclusion is, “He is God, and it is reasonable worship to do so.”
But how that takes place begins in v. 2.
Paul gives us two thoughts - one negative and the other positive.
First, he says, don’t be conformed to this world - literally in the greek this age.
In other words, “Don’t let the culture around you squeeze you into its own mold.”
On this journey of presenting our complete selves to God, we must not align ourselves to those things that are contrary to God’s holiness.
But as RC Sproul encourages, we must be careful with the business of conformity and nonconformity. There are christian distortions that add extra-biblical details where the bible doesn’t speak and can produce a nonconforming spirit that isn’t Christ-like at all.
Sproul writes, “Often Christian ethics is determined simply on the basis of antithesis—if the world wears lipstick, the Christian doesn’t wear lipstick, to show that she is spiritual rather than worldly. If the world goes to movies, Christians don’t go to movies, to show that they are more spiritual, more pious. That’s nonsense, that’s the kind of attitude the Pharisees had, which distorted the truth. Christ calls us to a special kind of nonconformity: a refusal to conform to the sinful patterns of the world, to patterns of disobedience.
R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 196.
so there is a negative prohibition in Paul’s teaching, but notice with me the positive affirmation also.
He says, don’t allow your culture to formulate how you live, but rather, in your presenting of yourself to God in every area of your life:
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
To be transformed means to be changed from one thing to another. And that is what God wants for you.
God’s desire is not that you would remain in the conformed state of your current culture, whether secular or religious, but that you would be changed into godliness through renewing your mind.
This is not so much a call to drop out of society and culture as much as it is a call to dedicate our entire lives to the glory of God.
So don’t seclude yourselves into monasteries and refuse to see those of the culture of our day, but involve yourselves as much as is needed to love people to Jesus.
Don’t partake of sin, to reach the sinner. But build a bridge of grace to them that can support the weight of the truth we all desperately need.
This transformational change we all need comes through the renewal of our minds. We have to relearn things from a new perspective. We need new values. We need to train our minds so that we begin to think God’s thoughts after him.
And as we develop our minds to think godly thoughts and view life from a godly perspective, we will be able to test and approve God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.
Friend, do you want to know what the will of God is?
You have to study the Word of God. You have to have a new mind that thinks like God thinks. And this is only attainable through intentional, purposed study of the Bible. There is no magical way to know the will of God, apart from knowing the Word of God.
God calls us to sacrifice our whole beings to Him. Why? Because of Who He Is and What He has done.
This includes the physical and the immaterial. This is our physical bodies, and our immaterial minds.
Friend, God has created you as a human being, not a human doing. What we do matters, but who we are matters first.
So, how will you respond to God’s word today?
Has God brought to mind a specific area you have yet to submit to Him?
Is there a presentation problem evident in your life?
Or perhaps it is the submission it take to be transformed. Would you commit to studying God’s Word like never before?
If so, you will find that God’s word is true. As you draw near God, He draws near to you.
Will you take that affirming step today?
Perhaps you are not a believer and today you need to trust in Jesus by faith.
There is no better time than now.
Weekly Focus just before we dismiss:
Because of God’s grace to me, I present everything I am and have to Him. Renewing my mind in His Word is vitally important today!
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