1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT – Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.  Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.
I really like the simplicity of above verses. It is simple and straight to the point. There are three things to do and two results.
Paul says make it your ambition to…
1. Live a quiet life.
2. Mind you own business.
3. Work hard with your hands.
These are simple instructions we can all follow. Paul wanted there to be no reasons why people in the city would not come to Christ, so he encouraged the people to live good lives.
The results would be…
1. That those outside the church or faith would respect the believers lives.
2. That they would not need to rely on others to live if they worked hard and made their own way.
Paul understood that those outside the faith watch believers and see if their lives match up with their words. They want to see that someone’s faith is real and it effects the way they live.
Living our faith out in a way that is attractive to those outside the faith is very important. As I said in church last Sunday, I don’t want people to be surprised that I follow Christ, I hope it is obvious to them.
So let us follow Paul’s words today and live a quiet life, mind our own business and work hard with our hands.
The title of my message today is “Five ways to be a living sacrifice”. For my devotions this past week or so I have been working my way through Romans 12. As I did this Romans 12:1 has really stuck in my mind.
Romans 12:1 NLT says, “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”.
In this verse Paul urges us as believers to follow Jesus example in being a sacrifice, but rather die for sin, we die to ourselves and offer ourselves to God. Paul encourages us to be living sacrifices. To give our lives for God’s service. He says that this is an acceptable sacrifice to God and the way we truly worship Him. It is a right response to the actions of a loving God.
But how do we go about being a living sacrifice? What are some of the things it entails? If we read through the rest of chapter Romans 12 Paul gives us a few clues. Today I just want to touch on some of the things that jumped out at me as I meditated on this chapter.
1. Renew our mind
Verse 2 says, “Do not conform 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.
Renewing your mind. This is a vital first step if we are wanting to live a life in God’s service and be a living sacrifice. We need to line our hearts and minds up with God’s thinking.
How do we do this? The primary way is by prayerfully reading, reflecting and meditating on the Bible. As we do this we allow God’s Spirit and God’s Word to enter our minds and sink deep into our hearts. The result of this if we do it diligently over a period of time, it changes our hearts to our minds forever. The result of this is “Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
I find that as the years go by and my mind is renewed more and more, the things of God become easier and more natural to do. It is easier to love others, it is easier to serve others and it is easier to live by Kingdom standards.
In many ways our minds are like the gearboxes of our lives. If our minds are renewed, it is easier to put them in D for drive and go forward in Christ and His will for our lives. If they are not renewed we might be in Park, Neutral or even Reverse. Those who drive an automatic will know that if you are in drive, you only have to take your foot off the brake and you start moving forward.
As I said I will unpack renewing our minds in a deeper way in a future sermon. But today I just want to make the first point that a key to being a living sacrifice is to renew our minds.
2. Use our gifts well
Verses 6-8 – “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Paul tells us to use whatever gift God has given us to the best of our abilities. If it is to prophesy, teach, serve, give, show kindness or encourage we should do the best job we can.
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 Paul also says, “4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”
And in 1 Peter 4:10 Peter reminds us to, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
Using our gifts well is a key part of being a living sacrifice for God. This is sometimes where the sacrifice part comes in. There is work is finding, recognising and developing your gifts. I may be an encourager but we have to work at it. My loner tendencies needed to be overcome so I could be where people were who needed encouragement. I was told I had a gift of teaching, but I had to work to develop my gift with diligent study. I also had to get over my paralysing fear of public speaking. It can be hard and a sacrifice, but there is no greater and more peaceful place to be than being right in the middle God’s will using God’s gifts for the good of others. I wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t work hard to develop my gifts.
3. Really love each other
Verses 9-10 – “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves”.
Both the NIV and the NLT say this well, but I love the way the NLT puts it “Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them”. That is straight to the point!
I remember when our girls were young we put this verse on the fridge. We then had a list of ways we could show we really love someone. It said things like…
Pray for them
Do nice things for them
Share things with others
Listen to them
Speak nicely to them
Give them a hug
Give them a present
One even said by giving them chocolate!
Kids have a way of putting things simply. I have never forgotten these things. They showed me that we love others in practical ways, by helping when they are in need. This is sometimes a sacrifice. But it is well worth it. Because it means we are living out this life that Jesus calls us to live and being a light unto the world around us.
There are a number of other places in the New Testament that talks about the importance of loving one another.
1 John 4:7 – Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:11 – Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
John 13:34-35 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
These verses remind us that we are commanded to love one another, that those who love are born of God, that since God loves us we should love one another and by our love for one another people we know we are Jesus’ disciples. My heart is to be known as a disciple of Jesus, so I need to love others.
4. Live in harmony with each other
Verses 14-18 – “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
In the next section Paul urges us to live at peace with everyone. The NIV says to live at peace with everyone as much as it depends on you.
I remember years ago I worked with a lady who just didn’t like me. No matter what I did or said she just would not warm up to me. She would even go out of her way to make sure I did not receive favourable treatment at work. One day I read these verses and it reminded me that no matter how she treats me I had to live at peace with her. So I prayed and asked God to help me work with her and to ask if there was ways I could bless her. In time I emailed her and apologised if I had offended her without knowing. As a result, we were able to talk and the problem was sorted. We had a good working relationship and were able to talk and we did not a barrier between us.
It really brought home to me that we should try to love and serve others even if they persecute us as Christians. God makes it very clear it is not our place to curse or take revenge. That is a big sacrifice at times and is contrary to a worldly way of thinking.
If you want to be a living sacrifice, you need to live at peace with everyone as much as it depends on you.
5. Conquer evil with good
Verse 21 – “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good”
Paul finally finishes this section with a plea to not let evil overcome us, but we need to press on and overcome evil with good deeds. I remember years ago I was heavily involved in community outreach with our church in Perth. We would go door to door giving away Jesus videos. We were on fire and we wanted to take on the world. Then along came September 11. It is when I let evil overcome me. I was horrified at the evil people could do to each other. It really knocked me and I found it hard to go out every Saturday. I knew there was evil in the world, but somehow it brought it home to me. It took me a few months to get back on tract.
Verse 21 was one of the things that helped me get back on tract. God commands us to conquer evil by doing good.
Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. I think Princess Di used that in one of her famous speeches too.
It can be a sacrifice to have an overcoming attitude. But if we keep moving forward and serving God by serving others the Bible promises we will reap a harvest at the right time. It tells us this is Galatians 6:9.
As we can see from these things being a living sacrifice is about:
Renewing our minds to line up with Kingdom thinking
Using our gifts well
Living at peace with those around us.
Really loving and serving others.
Conquer the evil things that take place in this world by doing good.
And while we do these things we are to keep our hope, be patient when things are going wrong and keep praying faithfully.