So much of our society today tries to avoid pain and personal sacrifice. The life of a Christian is one who is able to sacrifice. Are you a sacrifice?
[Steve Myers] Sometimes it can be a little challenging to understand exactly what some areas of Scripture really mean. One of those areas that was kind of on my mind this week was this concept of being a living sacrifice. Because I was thinking about the kids and families and as parents, we sacrifice for our children. And when we think of what God’s purpose and His plan is, what He wants us to be as His family, I couldn’t help but think of Romans 12. If you want to make your way over to Romans 12, I suppose you could call this the scripture of the week. Romans 12 speaks to that very point and paints a really vivid picture. When you stop and think about it, Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×, probably a very familiar passage, but there’s so much to, even just this first verse that really jumps out, especially on a day like today with all the beautiful singing and the beautiful children and families that we got to see today and hear blessings pronounced upon them.
We have here a duty as God’s people that’s spelled out in Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×. Paul writes, “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.” That’s what it says in the New King James. And it begins to bring this visual picture to mind. What comes to your mind when you think of this? What would an audience of the day, back in the first century, would have thought when this was mentioned, to be a sacrifice?
Well, you might think of the Old Testament. Maybe images of people bringing sheep and cattle to the priest to be given on the altar. There they were to be slaughtered and die. And of course, we know that those sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ. But, not only that. Paul didn’t intend that to be the only thing that would come to mind because certainly, in Old Testament times, a sacrifice, yes, there were sheep and goats and bulls and doves, all kinds of different things, even grain offerings, but they pointed more to the fact, first of all, that there was something valuable here. This wasn’t a cheap proposition. This was something that cost the one who was sacrificing something. It wasn’t a freebie. And so it was something that was given that was valuable but also completely turned over to God. It was completely given to God.
And so by giving that sacrifice that became an act of worship. It was a worshipful action. And as we begin to think about those things in the connotation of this particular passage, that should begin to bring some modern-day spiritual applications to mind as well. Because as what Paul wrote here to the Romans, he says that this is a reasonable service, is what New King James says. Some of the more modern translations probably give it a little bit more accurate when they say, “This is spiritual worship.” This isn’t a physical sacrifice that you’re giving, bringing an animal to the priest, but there’s something more valuable, something more important going on here. This is spiritual worship. That’s what New Revised or the Amplified say.
In fact, when you look at what the E.S.V. says, “This is your spiritual sacrifice. Your spiritual worship.” So we could a spiritual sacrifice is spiritual worship. Becoming a living sacrifice is spiritual worship.
So how do you do that? Exactly, how do you become a living sacrifice? Or we should ask ourselves, “Am I a living sacrifice?”
Now, as Paul described this to the Romans, he doesn’t really give us a series of steps like to do this and then do this too and add this to it. When he gets to the second verse here, it’s not a second command, it’s not an addition to that. Instead, he says, “Be a living sacrifice. Do this. And when I say that here’s what I mean by that. Here’s what I mean by being a living sacrifice.” And he gives a practical way about how to bring that command about, how to make that happen, how to present our bodies a living sacrifice.
And rather than being a burnt offering or being that kind of a sacrifice, we’re to be one that’s living. And so he describes it as a spiritual thing. Did you notice what he says here? Verse 1, he says, “This is a sacrifice it’s not a dead one.” Because that’s probably what came to your mind. But instead of that, this is a living thing. It’s alive. And like a sacrifice. It is an act of worship. But not like the act of worship in the Old Testament. Today, as a spiritual creation in Christ, this act of worship is not just something we do, it’s something we are. That our life should be an act of worship. So it’s who we are, not just something that we do.
And yeah, you know it to be true. This is going to cost you something. This is going to cost you something. This sacrifice is a special sacrifice because it’s set apart, it’s holy. That points to the fact it’s consecrated by God, and it’s not just a partial thing, a one-time thing. Well, when I feel like a kind of thing or a Sabbath thing. No, this is something that’s whole and complete and thorough, given to God absolutely completely, to be dedicated to Him. And not merely that one-time Old Testament “I brought my goat and that was the end of it.” But we’re talking about a continuous lifestyle.
And so when you put those things together, Paul is getting at here in verse 1, our life, we should have a lifestyle of worship. Our life should be a living breathing example of ongoing worship to God, not just a one day a week kind of thing, not to be that at all. He says in verse 2 then, “Don’t be conformed to this world,” here’s how you do it. Here’s how you do it. “Don’t be conformed, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
And of course you read that verse and it’s kind of interesting in the way that it’s structured because it starts out, “All right, here’s something not so good. It is a negative thing. Don’t be conformed to this world, but on the other side here’s a positive thing.” So he says, “This is bad, this is good. But here’s the result.” Here’s the result. So those three parts are in verse 2, negative, positive. Now the result. And he say, “Don’t do this, instead do this.” And when you do it, notice what’s going to happen. Notice what’s going to happen.
So let’s break it down just a little bit. When he says, “Don’t be conformed to this world,” the word for “world” is not the world you might normally expect. When he says the world it’s not the cosmos, it’s not the universe, it’s not talking about those kinds of things. This word is the word aiōn . It’s aiōn in the Greek. So he’s not talking about geography or the world we… the physical world, the universe, anything like that. He’s talking about this age.
So we use this word, you know, in our modern talk when we say something like the age of reason. Or you might say that the age of industrialization, that time period, in other words. So when Paul uses this word here that we’re not to be conformed to this world, he’s really telling us don’t be conformed to the way of this world. To the way this world thinks.
So when you read this in the New International Version or the Common English Bible, it says, “Don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world.” Good News says “the standards of this world.” Living Bible even says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” That’s not how we’re supposed to be. And so when we understand that to be the case we got to recognize we can’t allow that. Why can’t you allow it? That’s wrong ways to think. You can’t think like that. It’s wrong, to begin with, and it’s a wrong way to think.
But it’s also wrong because this age isn’t going last. This age is passing away, this age is temporal, it’s temporary. The way of man and his government, his ways are temporary right now. And that’s part of the reason we cannot allow that way of thinking. So if we’re to be a living sacrifice, first, foremost, quit allowing ourselves to be constantly shaped by this present evil age. That’s what he’s telling us. First and foremost, if we’re not going to be conformed, we can’t think like this world thinks.
In fact, Phillip’s translation, I think really gets it right. It says, “Don’t let this world squeeze you into its mold.” Doesn’t that give you an image to think about? Don’t be squeezed in about the way this world thinks. Voice Translations says, “Don’t allow this world to mold you into its image.” And boy, isn’t that something to think about? That’s what this world wants. That’s what those that are working against us want. We know that there is evil in high places. And it would love to mold us into the image of this world and its ways. But God says you can’t allow this. You can’t allow this.
So I’ve got to think then to myself, “How am I conformed to this age? How do I allow myself to be shaped and pushed and molded into the wrong kind of image? How does that happen?” Well, when I begin to think, this is something that is absolutely essential in this life. I begin to view the temporary things as though they are important. As though they’re critical. And so I have to have them when in reality that’s not essential. That’s not necessary. That’s not even important. And so in my thoughts and my motivation is characterized by the things that the world thinks, what it’s motivated by, what it thinks is important.
When I look at things the way the world looks at things, then I’m being squeezed by the world. I’m being trained by the world. When my opinions, when my motivation, when my dreams, my hopes, you know, the American way of life, the bigger car, the better house, the six-figure job, when those things are most important to me, I’m being squeezed in the world’s motivation, in their way of thinking. And that’s being conformed instead of transformed.
You might even write down 1 John 2:15 1 John 2:15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
American King James Version×. 1 John 2:15 1 John 2:15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
American King James Version×, the apostle John defines this age, this world into three things. And you know what they are. He talks about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. It’s a different way of talking about the things that the world squeezes us into its mold, its way of life. Because the lust of the flesh, certainly, everything that appeals to us, our eyes, our appetites. Yeah, it can literally come down to what we want to eat, excessive desires for food, drink, sex, anything else that satisfies itself physically. It that the world is squeezing us into its mold, you better believe it, you better believe it is. Self-indulgence, a different way to think about it, a different way to say it.
“Well, I don’t have time for that, for what’s truly important. I don’t have time for my mate. I’m worried about what I want. I don’t have time for my kids. It’s what I want. It’s about my job, it’s about providing myself a living.” Well, wait a second. Where is the thought of being a living sacrifice? You see it works against that. That’s the world’s way of thinking, that’s the world’s mold. What’s selfless about it? What’s altruistic about it? What’s self-sacrificing about it? You see, that’s what the lust of the flesh is. It’s opposite of what God would have. And then, of course, there’s the see, the eyes, that go right along with it. That’s the American way, materialism. Things that I want. The things that I deserve, what I earn. So I covet things. Things I don’t have I want. Things others have, that I want too. And so that’s all included in that being squeezed into the mold of this way of life.
And then there’s just the fact that the pride of life that John talks about. That’s that same thing that Paul talked about, being conformed to this age, to this world. When you think about that, any kind of ambition that becomes a prideful one that puffs us up, we take God off the throne of our life. And who do we put in charge me? Me. We put ourselves in charge. But that’s not what God wants.
You see, most of this world wants to protect us from the difficulties, “Oh, that’s too hard to do. You don’t want to do that. You should do what makes you feel good.” And so when I think I’m so great, I think I’m so gifted, I think I’m so talented, that attitude is one that conforms to this way of life, that’s the pride of life certainly defined by that ambition that puffs us up. That puts me in charge of me. And so the world says, “You don’t have to deal with that trouble. You don’t have to deal with that pain. That’s not what you have to worry about.” And so oftentimes the world anesthetizes itself.
“Pain, I’ll do the things that take the pain away, so I can get into my own little world.” And whether that little world is bingeing on Netflix, bingeing on video games, maybe it’s porn, maybe it’s sex, maybe it’s drugs, maybe it’s alcohol. Whenever the world confronts us and says, “You don’t have to deal with those things. Whatever it makes you feel good that’s what you should be about.” And so we override any possibility of sacrifice or pain. But God says, “That’s being conformed to this way of life.” When God says, “No. You’re to be a living sacrifice.” I mean, is it true or not?
When we remove sacrifice, when we remove pain, when we remove the challenge, we remove spirituality, don’t we? Doesn’t it? God tells us, “Come, follow Me.” Some sections of Scripture calls, you’re called to suffering. But that’s what God says, “Come and follow Me.” The world says, “Hey, I’ll make you feel better about yourself. You don’t have to worry about that. We’ll dull your senses with any kind of pleasure, any kind of thought you want.” But yet, God says, “Don’t be conformed, don’t let this world mold you into its image. Don’t let it squeeze your mind into its kind of thinking. You can’t be that way.”
And we know why. In fact, Romans talks about why throughout the 11 chapters that precede this. If you were to look at Romans 1 all by itself, you could do this sometime later, it talks about all the reasons why we shouldn’t allow that to happen. We know ultimately God’s going to pour out His wrath on this world. That’s going to come against everything that’s ungodly, against everything that’s evil. We don’t want to be included in that wrath. We don’t want a part of that. We know that this world doesn’t glorify, they don’t honor, they don’t praise God. That’s too much trouble. Not going to do that. And so they trust in the temporary.
Romans 1 certainly brings that up, trusting in physical things rather than looking to the immortal God. We know the why we should be this way because God has open our mind to His truth. And He condemns all of those other actions that are contrary to His way and His way of thinking. And so Romans talks a lot about the normal everyday carnal physical way of thinking. And it rails against it. Talks about every kind of wickedness that man is normally everyday living. And he says this is unacceptable.
And so it points us to the fact we need a different way of thinking. We need our minds renewed. Because yes, our minds are flawed. We have a flawed way of thinking. And it conforms us and molds us and squeezes us into thinking like the world thinks, this evil age that isn’t spiritual. And all too often, we take on a little bit of spirituality, but a lot of the world when we think, “You know, I’ll compromise but I won’t sacrifice.” Do we find ourselves in that position where we compromise, but it’s not really a sacrifice?
You know, I heard a story of man and wife who were in a little discussion, “Well, I’d like to go out to eat tonight.” “Well, I’d rather go to the movie.” So the wife wants to go out to eat, the husband wants to go to the movie. He says, “Listen, let’s compromise. Let’s go to the movie.” Well, wait a second, that’s not a sacrifice. Well, what’s the difference? You see, all too often we’re into compromise but not sacrifice. And God’s called us to a life of sacrifice. A life of sacrifice.
So how do we do it? Well, He gives us concrete applications right here in these first two verses. Right here in these first two verses, did you notice the application here? First, he says, “By the mercies of God, by the mercies of God.” Has God been merciful to us? Has God been graceful to us? He’s poured His mercy. He’s poured His grace out upon us. And if you look through the book of Romans, He tells us, “Build your life on mercy.” That’s emulating God. That’s following His example, not just try to be merciful to others but he says, “Sink your roots into God’s mercy. Out of your life should flow mercy toward others.”
And in this chapter, it kind of oozes mercy, doesn’t it? If you just kind of glance over the following verses, we show mercy with cheerfulness. “Let love be genuine. Give. Bless those who persecute you. Associate with the Holy. Repay no one evil. Don’t avenge yourself. If your enemy is hungry…” He’s saying, “Build your life on mercy and become merciful.” It’d be something great we could do. Maybe this week do a study about mercy, God’s mercy. Because it helps to lead us to that transformed way of thinking because it’s the principle about how we think, not being conformed to this present evil age.
So it should help us to realize, “If we’re going to renew our mind, change my way of thinking, I have to step back and ask myself, what do I really think of myself? How important am I? How important is what I think, what I believe? What do I think when it comes to me?” That’s certainly one aspect of considering this application here. It also includes how God pours His mercy out on everyone. What does God think of the Body of Christ? What does He think about the Church? What does He think about other believers? What do I think about it? Do they align? Do they match up? How do I look at those among us who are weak? How do I look at practicing and putting love and mercy into my life? What about using the gifts God has given me? What do I think about unbelievers? What do I think about the government? All of these things lead us to consider our frame of mind.
How we look at life. How we think. Because the renewing of our minds and considering how we think are most critical. They are most critical. If you do a study of Romans from here to the end of the book, you’ll find this concept of how we think mentioned over and over. The word “think” pops up and a lot of the derivatives of that word pop up at least 10 times from now to the end of the book. And so this concept of renewing our minds really comes home when it becomes a living sacrifice. Because a living sacrifice brings us to recognize we must let God’s Word be driven home in our minds and in our hearts rather than what the world says, rather than what the world thinks.
And so if we’re going to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, we’ve got to allow God’s Word to do that. That means we’ve got to do all those things we know we should be doing. We know. We know we should be reading it. We know we should read the Bible, God’s Word. It’s transformational. We know we should be hearing it, listening to it. We know we should study it. We know… Hey, it even says we should memorize it. We should memorize the Word of God. Do you know the Ten Commandments? Can you tell them to somebody else? Here they are, one, two. Okay, summarize. You can’t do that? What are we molded into? It says we’re supposed to think on it. Do we meditate about those things?
You see, by the power of God’s Word through the Holy Spirit we can be transformed from the worldliness, that’s all surrounding us, to being a true living sacrifice. And God requires it. God requires. No matter where we are in our spiritual walk, He reminds us we all need to be complete. Not just partial, but Paul reminded Timothy that His Word it completes us so that we’re “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We all need that. We all need that.
And as we consider this aspect of being a living sacrifice there’s something else that’s critical. Something else that’s important in this that maybe we haven’t thought about it. The blessing of children certainly reminds us of this because not only do we ask God’s blessing on that little one, not only do we ask God’s blessing on the parents and the grandparents, but we also recognize there’s a collective responsibility for the Church to be involved in this baby’s life, to help them, to set the proper example. And that ties into this whole concept of being a living sacrifice. Because it’s not just about me. It’s not just that I’m a living sacrifice. Yes, I need to be, no doubt about that. We see that in changing our way of thinking, not being pressed into this world.
But if you go back to verse 1 again, notice Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×, he says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, you present your bodies a living sacrifice…” Okay, now read it really quickly, we might miss it. It says, “present your bodies a living sacrifice…” Paul is not saying, “you yourself,” but he’s talking to the church in Rome, he’s talking to us by extension. “You, all of you, present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” So we have a plural “bodies” with a single sacrifice.
What is he saying? We don’t do this alone. We don’t do this alone. Even though I have a personal responsibility to be a living sacrifice, we, as the Church of God, have a responsibility. So God doesn’t want me just individually, just to be one individual living sacrifice while you are another sacrifice, no. This passage becomes clearer in saying what’s acceptable worship to God is that we as a collective Body of Christ, are a living sacrifice. All of us together.
So the people of God come together and we offer up one living sacrifice to God. Together. It’s our collective form of worship and it is spiritual worship for us collectively to do that. And it says God is pleased with that sacrifice. Why? What a statement when you think about it, isn’t it? Are we unified? We need to be. We’ve got to quit the bickering, quit the arguing between ourselves, “Well, they do that and we do this and I don’t like this and this isn’t so great.” It says we honor God by being united as one people. That’s the kind of living sacrifice God desires. He wants that unity. And so we have to live in that devotion to God by loving Him, serving each other and collectively we bring that living sacrifice, that sacrifice of praise to God.
And the rest of this passage demonstrates what that looks like. Collectively, what does that look like collectively? Well, look at verse 3, don’t think so highly of yourself. As a body, we can’t be doing that. Verse 4 or 5, we’re like parts of the same human body. So collectively we’re like the human body. Verses 6, 7 and 8, use the talents, the gifts that we’ve been given selflessly for the benefit of the Church, for the benefit of God’s people. Verse 9, “Love without hypocrisy. Hold fast to the things that are good.” Verse 10, be devoted to each other, be united. It can’t just be a name. It has to be who you are. Give preference to one another. Verse 13, give to those in need, be hospitable. Verse 14, bless and pray for those that give you a hard time. Verse 15, rejoice and weep when others are rejoicing and when they’re weeping. Verse 16, be of one mind, don’t be proud.
You see those are all attributes of this united sacrifice that we are to God. And so we have this powerful theme of love and devotion, first and foremost, to God. Secondly, love and devotion to each other. And so we truly honor and glorify God by our unity, by who we are as a people. A living sacrifice is a collection of believers. Now you can say maybe a group, a community of Christians who set self aside.
We set self aside and we make it a priority to honor God in love and we serve one another. And so it’s not some warm fuzzy-gushy sentimental kind of a thing. It’s not a fake one that puts up a front, puts up with bad things just so we can get a little… That’s not what it’s talking about here because it’s clear verse 9 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what’s evil. Cling to what’s good.” Part of our devotion to one another, it’s for the purpose of holiness, for the purpose of honoring it. So we encourage and we train and we instruct, and when necessary, yes, we will rebuke, we correct. Why? Because we love each other. We care about each other. We want what’s best and that’s what God wants. That’s what God does.
And so it’s an act of love. And ultimately, what does it become? An act of worship. It becomes an act of worship to God. And that’s what God most wants for us, to be a living sacrifice. So let’s determine to be a part of that one living sacrifice. To be committed. Yes, individually, to give our whole life to God. To fulfill that baptismal covenant that we made with Him. And yet, collectively, to be His people. So that we can truly say, “I’m giving my life together, with others, to God as one offering.” We’re devoting ourselves individually and collectively to be that living sacrifice, to be an act of worship, not just something that we do, but it surely shows who we are. It’s not about just our actions, but why we do those things.
It’s about who we are. We are totally and completely given to God, not just one day a week but continually and constantly for the remainder of our lives. That’s transformation. That’s truly transformation. That is a dedicated lifestyle of worship.
As a result, well, what does Romans 2 say… or Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×? It says it will “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” So let’s be that living sacrifice.