Five ways to be a living sacrifice

Bible Reading: Romans 12:1-21

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.

Conclusion

As we can see from these things being a living sacrifice is about:

  1.     Renewing our minds to line up with Kingdom thinking
  2.     Using our gifts well
  3.     Living at peace with those around us.
  4.     Really loving and serving others.
  5.     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.

Let’s pray

Five reminders from the Apostle Paul

Bible Readings: Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 8:31-39

The title of my message today is “Five reminders from the Apostle Paul”. We are going to mainly look at the first 10 verses from Ephesians chapter 2 and briefly touch on our second passage from Romans 8.

In chapter one of Ephesians we see that Paul really set the scene of who they are in Christ. He tells them they are chosen by God, redeemed by Jesus and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Then he gives thanks to God for them and prays a wonderful prayer for them that talks about knowing who they are in Christ and having spiritual insight and wisdom.

In chapter 2:1-10 Paul gives the church five reminders for the Ephesians that I think can encourage us today. They will come up on the screen as we go.

Message Points

1. Paul reminds us of our old way of life

Verses 1-2 says – Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil–the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.

These two verses tell us of our condition without Christ. We were dead because of our sin and we followed the ways of the world or as some translations put it, the ways of the devil.

Paul wanted to remind the church that now as Christians we are alive in Christ. We have a new life in Christ, and we are a part of a new Kingdom. However, he doesn’t want them to forget where they came from. Remembering where they came from was very important to Paul.

As Christians today we need to remember where we have come from and what Christ has saved us from – eternity without God. Romans 3:23 tells us we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death. Before Christ we followed the ways of the world, not the ways of the Kingdom.

So, Paul reminds us of our old way of life.

2. Paul reminds us of God’s intervention

Verses 4-5 – But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God\’s grace that you have been saved!)

We were sinners, but God intervened because of His rich mercy and His great love.

I believe two of the greatest words in the Bible are “but God”. I did a search on my Bible software for the phrase ‘but God”. It appeared 64 times. It says things like…

• but God heard their prayer,
• but God did not let them get harmed,
• they meant it for harm, but God meant it for good,
• but God knew what would happen,
• but God formed the earth by His power,
• but God raised Him from the dead (about Christ)

As Christians we can never forget who we are and where we have come from. We can never forget that for salvation to take place there are three things – a need, a provision and a response. We need to be saved because we can’t save ourselves from our sin; we have a provision of Christ’s death on the cross for us; and we need to respond in faith – we need to believe in Jesus and accept what He has done for us.

Paul wanted to remind the Ephesians church and by extension us today, that we were alone and utterly helpless, but God intervened and brought us salvation in Christ. We can never forget this.

3. Paul reminds us of our new seating in Christ

Verse 6 – For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.

The Bible tells us that when Jesus returned to heaven He was seated at the right hand of the Father. That is the highest place of honour in the whole universe. There is no greater place than being seated next to the Father.

The good news today is, if you are in Christ Jesus (that means walking in relationship with Him, trusting Him for your salvation, and have received Him as your King) then you are spiritually seated with Christ in the heavenly realms! You are spiritually seated with Him in the highest place in the universe! I will just let you soak that in a bit!

Because of this great news you no longer have to walk around with your face pointing to the ground or your shoulders hunched over. You and I no longer have to feel unworthy. We have high standing and high honour with the King and Creator of the universe! You and I are seated with Christ.

Paul wanted to remind the Ephesians where they were seated. Today I want to remind you.

4. Paul reminds us of God’s grace

Verses 8-9 – God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can\’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

In one of my Bible dictionaries it describes Grace as the unmerited or undeserving favor of God to those who are under condemnation. But one of the best descriptions of grace is the G.R.A.C.E. acronym – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

To dig a little deeper in to the definition of God\’s grace, it helps to understand the original Hebrew and Greek words behind this term. A prominent Old Testament word describing God\’s grace is Chesed. This word speaks of deliverance from enemies, affliction, or adversity. It also denotes enablement, daily guidance, forgiveness, and preservation. The New Testament word is Charis. It focuses on the provision of salvation through God\’s grace and Christ\’s work on the cross.

We know that we were utterly helpless to save ourselves and God intervened. We also saw in my first point about our old way of life. But God’s grace saved us and God’s grace also keeps us in the palm of His hand. In our second reading from Romans we saw things like “If God is for us, who can can be against us?”, that Christ is seated next to the Father interceding for us, and it also tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. This is both sides of God’s grace in action. By His grace He saved us and by His grace He keeps us in the palm of His hand.

Paul wanted the Ephesians and us to remember God’s grace.

5. Paul reminds us of our new purpose

Verse 10 – For we are God\’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

In Ephesians 2:10 it tells us two great truths. You are God’s masterpiece. God didn’t just slap you together quickly. You are His masterpiece. Like the world considers the Statue of David and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel a masterpiece, God considers you a masterpiece that He knit together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 119:13). You are a masterpiece!

The second great truth is that God made you with a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says God made you a masterpiece, He created you anew in Christ Jesus, and He has a wonderful purpose He planned for you long ago.

Imagine with me for a moment, God having you on His mind before the foundation of the world. You are not here by chance. You are here with a good purpose to make an amazing difference in this world. Each one of us here is called, gifted and sent out to make a difference. We do this by our prayers, our encouragement of others, by living faithfully to God and doing what we can do today. Church I want to say to you that you are good, and your purpose is good. Because both you and your purpose were created by God. We are God’s masterpieces for God’s master works.

In chapter 1 of Ephesians Paul talks about God choosing us before the foundation of the world. In chapter 2 it says God chose us before the foundation of the world for good works. We are chosen for salvation and chosen for good works.

Paul wanted to remind us of our new purposes today.

Closing summary

Today we looked at Ephesians 2:1-10. We looked at five things the Apostle Paul wanted them and us to remember. They were…

1. Paul reminds us of our old way of life
2. Paul reminds us of God’s intervention
3. Paul reminds us of our new seating in Christ
4. Paul reminds us of God’s grace
5. Paul reminds us of our new purpose

Amen

Let us pray.