Living Sacrifices

Living Sacrifices

What follows is a devotional I presented before a congregational meeting on January 24, 2020. The text is Romans 12:1-21.

The book of Romans is Paul’s summary of the Gospel of God and its implications. Paul follows a pattern in Romans that he uses in his other epistles: the “imperatives” of the Christian life flow out of the “indicatives” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason, Paul sets forth the glory of Christ in His Person and Work, the sin of all mankind (Jew and Gentile), our need for a savior, and God’s plan of salvation for the whole world in Christ. Then–and only then–does Paul set forth our response to Christ and the Gospel.

The last verses of chapter 11 prepares us for what’s next with a note of astonished wonder:

“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…For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (vv. 33, 36).

So, what is our response to the Gospel? This chapter teaches three things:

  1. Offer yourselves to God as living sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise (vv. 1-2). In the Old Testament, God’s people presented animal sacrifices to God in tabernacle and temple worship. In the New Testament, those animal sacrifices are no longer necessary because the redemption and remission of sin they pointed to have come in Christ. But that is not to say there is no longer any obligation to bring sacrifices to God. God calls us in the New Covenant to bring all that we are to Him and to be renewed in the whole man according to the Scriptures—to be reformed by God’s Word and Spirit and to be ready to be continually reformed by His Word and Spirit as we live lives of sacrificial service to God and one another, not being conformed to the pattern of this world, but to Christ in all that we are and in our worship and service to Him, which is nothing more than what is “reasonable” for those who have received such unmerited mercy and grace from God. 
  1. Serve one another in the body of Christ (vv. 3-8). The Christian life involves at its very essence, a denial of oneself. This is what Paul calls in the book of Philippians, “the mind of Christ.” Christ, who is our life, did not consider Himself above stooping down into our sin and misery to deliver us by His death on the cross. And where do we begin to learn what it means to humble ourselves and to esteem others more highly than ourselves? In the church—where we come to see that, having been united to Christ, we are also spiritually united to one another by bonds that are more substantial than the bonds of blood. In the church, we learn that blood is not thicker than water—that water (the water of baptism) is actually thicker than blood. We are the family and household of God, members of the body of Christ and members of one another. God has placed each of us in this body for a glorious purpose, to minister His love to one another as living sacrifices to Him. We’re called to live together in the church as our Savior—who came not to be served, but to serve. 
  1. Be faithful witnesses of the risen Lord by living lives transformed by the grace of God in Christ (vv. 9-21). Paul emphasizes two marks of the Christian life: love and humility. The Christian life is a countercultural life, a life that makes no sense to those who are living only for self and for this present world. Love is sincere, genuine, authentic, without hypocrisy. Love pursues holiness. Love is kind, love does not seek its own. Love is patient, longsuffering. Love turns the heart outward instead of inward, moves us to prayer and to hospitality. So, love is the first mark of a heart and life that is dying to sin and self and alive to Jesus, the crucified, risen and reigning Christ. Love is the fruit of a life in union with Christ. Second, humility. A Christian can live in this world very differently from all other people. Christians respond differently to the fallenness and brokenness and suffering and sorrow of this world. We bless those who persecute us, we enter deeply into the lives of others—rather than focusing on our own misery, rather than giving a place to self-pity, we are called to humility and perseverance. We have the hope of the Gospel. We know that God is working all things together for our good and His glory. And so, we patiently wait on Him, not taking our lives in this world into our own hands, not asserting our “rights,” but living as those who have already begun to experience the life of the world to come. And in that way, by our love and our humility, we testify to the resurrection of our Savior, who first loved us and gave Himself to us, and humbled Himself for us in order that we might give ourselves back to Him in thankful, joyful, sacrificial submission, living lives conformed to and transformed by His grace.

So, by the grace of God, let us offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, serving one another in the body of Christ, and living as faithful witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in a world that is perishing in sin and unbelief.


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